The impending execution of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh offers a reminder of how the Clinton era caused a sudden, unexpected outbreak of patriotism. Conservatives, it was said, hated their government, demonized its every action, undermined its tender public image through perpetual, poisonous protests and radio rants. The same people who turned their campuses upside down against "Amerikkka" were suddenly the partisans of "love it or leave it."
The arrival of President Bush has returned the political culture to its much more typical pattern: liberals celebrating the ever-magnanimous advocates of exotic leftist and nihilist philosophies. But where once the leftists Kumbaya'd to bring the world together against America's destabilizing Cold War mentality, now they rage against free trade and economic globalization. Not only have they devolved from universal brotherhood to progressive protectionism, they've been reduced from saving the world from nuclear annihilation to saving the world from Chicken McNuggets.
When President Bush traveled to Quebec City for the Summit of the Americas, the protesters were there. ABC's Terry Moran suggested the Western Hemisphere's leaders were universally clueless: "As the motorcades rolled through the empty streets of this old city, it was clear how much trade continues to divide these leaders from many of their own people."
Let's be clear about these "many people," and what was happening in Quebec. Organizers claimed 20,000 demonstrators showed up, a figure which, even if true, does not exactly sound like a hemispheric uprising to me.
And they weren't the ones generating the press. It was the one hundred or so Marxist/anarchist goons who created the visuals that thoroughly captured the media's attention.
Size doesn't matter if the cause is righteous. Over on CBS, reporter Tracy Smith was highlighting a paltry turnout in New England: "Today, for more than a hundred American protesters, Highgate, Vermont became the next best thing to being there ... These rallies were for people who didn't want to go to Canada or weren't allowed in."
Smith concluded by warmly celebrating the Canadian trek of former Chicago Seven fanatic David Dellinger: "Despite his arrest record, authorities let him through. Organizers in border states say they'll hold more protests throughout the weekend. But so far, they're still a whimper compared to the roar up north." As usual, neither ABC nor CBS referred to these seasoned socialist revolutionaries by any ideological label, not even a whimper of "liberal."
Not to be left out, NBC recently carried another in its series of sycophantic interviews with Doris Haddock, the "Granny D" who marched from coast to coast against corporations ruining American democracy. "Today" substitute host Ann Curry bowed and scraped at Granny D's feet with inquiries about how this courageous arthritic grandmother could have died for McCain-Feingold. Granny D followed up by beseeching the audience to bombard the House of Representatives with pleas to ban more political speech.
You just don't have to have a coherent anti-capitalist manifesto to receive honor from the national media. Stephanie Simon of the Los Angeles Times presented the riots over police brutality in Cincinnati as a glass at least half full: "And while no one wants to say the riots were good, there was on Friday an undeniable sense of relief that the mayhem - the kids hurling stones, shooting at police, dragging innocent motorists from their cars with pounding fists - had laid bare Cincinnati's fissures."
Just how out of touch with the American public is a reporter when she finds mayhem offers relief? Just who is finding such joy at the eruption of police hatred and racial hostility?
The Washington Post is another media outlet that witnesses left-wing activism up close and personal, and yet can't find ideology anywhere. In a front-page article, reporter Frank Ahrens profiled young, well-scrubbed leftists going to Quebec to smash the global capitalist menace. But he suggested they were surprisingly devoid of any ideology.
And when the National Organization for Women held an Earth Day rally across the street from the U.S. Senate, Post reporter Carol Leonnig suggested "the column stretched around the Capitol on its north, east, and south sides ..." The Post couldn't tell the truth: the demonstration was so miniscule it didn't fill a single city block. So much for that "movement."
The liberals' warm memories of big '60s protests are just that - memories. But wherever a few aging radicals can put a few hundred people on a street corner, the media are still finding an idealistic landslide.