The weekend second anniversary of the start of the U.S. invasion of Iraq was marked by demonstrations large and small around the globe, but here in the U.S. you could be forgiven for not knowing anything was happening. In the corporate media, the front pages and TV news programs were dominated by a demonstration of 30 religious fundamentalists opposed to the removal of a feeding tube from the brain-dead Terri Schiavo.
Who had time for tens of thousands of noisome protesters in New York, London, Ankara or Tokyo? Who had time to pause and reflect on two years of a war that never should have happened in the first place, that has taken over 100,000 civilian lives, and that has killed over 1500 American soldiers?
The New York Times, which promotes itself as the nation’s newspaper of record, limited its coverage of the global and national anti-war protests to two inside photos and a short caption on Sunday, which focused more on a small demonstration by two dozen people in Times Square than on a large march and demonstration that began in Harlem, continued to Central Park, and ended up at the mayor’s house. (The Times Square demo, a block from the paper’s offices, was a cheaper assignment, I guess, and had the advantage of touting the paper’s name for free.) The paper’s “Week in Review” shamelessly ignored the protests completely.
CNN ignored the anti-war protests completely too, likewise preferring to blow its daily news budget Saturday and Sunday on the Shiavo flap and the sad tale of the rape and murder of a nine-year-old girl, allegedly by a paroled sex offender.
Most outrageously, no major media covered the remarkable 4500-person protest in Fayetteville, North Carolina outside Ft. Bragg, which featured large numbers of former military personnel marching against the war, including Camilo Mejia, recently released from 9 months in a military brig for desertion from his army unit (he refused to return to Iraq after doing one tour there, saying it was an illegal, immoral war of aggression).
Apparently, like Congress, where Democrats and Republicans alike have spent more time fulminating over and interfering in the issue of when to let poor Schiavo die than on the matter of providing another $82 billion in funding for the ongoing slaughter of innocents in Iraq, the corporate media feel that the sad plight of one lone woman on a feeding tube is more important than the lives of 150,000 U.S. servicemen and 30 million Arabs and Kurds.
In Philadelphia, where several hundred demonstrators from a variety of organizations marched in a cold rain on Sunday from a historic Quaker meeting house to the city’s Federal Courthouse opposite Independence Hall, the city’s main media outlet, the Philadelphia Inquirer, following the Times’ lead, limited coverage of the event in its Monday edition to an inside page of the Local News section. Ironically, the biggest headline on page one was “March On”-about the weekend NCAA playoff victories of the Villanova men’s and Temple University women’s basketball teams. The other banner headline in the Inquirer’s Monday edition was about Congress approving the Schiavo bill, while below the fold was an article-belied by the reality of the ignored protests-headlined “Iraq war fades from student activists’ focus.”
It should more appropriately have said, “Coverage of Iraq war protests fade from editors’ focus,” but then that would have implied that editors at the Inquirer, CNN and the Times and other mainstream media organizations had paid attention to anti-war protests before, which was certainly not the case.
Even the massive rallies and marches by hundreds of thousands of people on the eve of the war and during its early days received scant and grudging coverage in the mainstream media.
Still, the deliberate burying of news about mounting opposition to the war–as evidenced by demonstrations across the country and around the globe this past weekend-represents a new low in the supine complicity of the mass media in supporting Washington’s and Wall Streets’ imperial agenda.
Faced with a government that has ignored public protests, seemingly with impun ity, and with a media that simply blacks out information that it deems to be outside the narrow confines of legitimate political discourse, it is easy to give in to discouragement and frustration, as many have. But perhaps things are not as bad as they seem. The decentralized protests of the weekend, while they didn’t make the evening news or the morning papers, were visible and had impact in the hundreds of cities and communities in which they took place. The alternative media continues to have a growing presence and influence. And somehow, pools show that a majority of Americans now agree that the war was a mistake and that the U.S. should leave Iraq now.
DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled “This Can’t be Happening!” is published by Common Courage Press. Information about both books and other work by Lindorff can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org