Whitewashing The Colorful Fringe
When cataclysmic events like Hurricane Rita capture the nation's attention, other significant news stories are pushed down, or off, the news agenda, particularly on television. One potentially big story was the most recent left-wing march on Washington to protest the Iraq war, which was reduced to snippets on some network shows. But the nation's biggest newspapers, with ample space to fill, were there. And based on their stories, it was hard to tell whether they were covering it - or sponsoring it.
The Washington Post won for the best biggest puff piece, a front-page story hyping how "Antiwar Fervor Fills the Streets." Reporter Petula Dvorak began: "Tens of thousands of people packed downtown Washington yesterday and marched past the White House in the largest show of antiwar sentiment in the nation's capital since the conflict in Iraq began."
"Tens of thousands" also marched in the last pro-life march in January, but that story landed on page A-3, which is better than most years. Reporter David Snyder noted "tens of thousands of antiabortion advocates marched on the Mall yesterday as part of an annual protest of the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision guaranteeing women the right to abortion." That's an interesting difference in terms. Pro-lifers were advocates marching against a landmark guarantee for women, not people "packing the streets" to show growing "antiwar sentiment."
The Post's Sunday paper on September 25 gave two whole inside pages to the "antiwar" rally. Inside, the reader was greeted with big colorful pictures of smiling protesters with headlines like "War Protesters Jam Washington Streets" and "For Many, Anger Has Grown Since Start of War."
Dvorak's story didn't get to the unifying message of the rally - pure Bush hatred - until paragraph 23, and she only managed to relate that "Bush and Cheney were depicted on posters T-shirts and makeshift costumes. Several demonstrators wore masks of Bush's likeness and prison jumpsuits. They were often asked to pose for photographs."
There was one story on counter-protesters at the bottom of this big spread. But on the next page, there was another story on grumpy peaceniks who were stranded at a New York train station over an electrical outage. "This has Rove's fingerprints all over it," said one protester, and the Post considered that credible enough to use.
Once again - and this is nerve-wracking because it's the standard M.O. for the liberal press - nowhere in this storyline was any focus on who the protest organizers are. International ANSWER is a project of the Stalinist Workers' World Party. United for Peace and Justice believes it's opposing an America that is perpetually at war in pursuit of a world empire. Kooky? No doubt. Radical? Unquestionably. Anti-American? You bet. Is this important to the Washington Post? Nah.
Almost nowhere in the storyline were the actual words the protesters used from the podium. Cindy Sheehan was quoted in the Post saying, "This is amazing! You're part of history." How nice - and meaningless. She also said (thank God for the Washington Times): "We'll be the checks and balances on this out-of-control, criminal government." The Times story, headlined "Demonstrators Assail President, War on Iraq," described the Bush-hatred in paragraph two: "Speakers at a rally on the Ellipse repeatedly called the president a criminal, a liar, and a killer."
In fact, the Washington Post's reporter Petula Dvorak took the whitewash to a whole new level before the march. She profiled "novice protester" Patrice Cuddy of Olathe, Kansas, who "said she had to pull off her gardening gloves each time a neighbor interrupted her yardwork" to sign up for her protest bus to Washington.
There was a big problem. Cuddy is no novice. A quick Google search for the NewsBusters blog found that the Kansas City Star reported on Cuddy protesting the Iraq war before it even began, in a January 16, 2003 news report. She was quoted as warning Iraqi children were about to be crushed by American bombs. One blogger joked she was a "lifelong novice," since he found Cuddy touting herself on the Internet as a "Life long Labor Democrat, arms-control, peace, environmental activist since the mid 1970s."
The whitewash is so complete that reporters can't even use completely suitable L words - leftist or even liberal - to describe the marchers. New York Times reporter Michael Janofsky wrote that the crowd "heard from old lions of the antiwar movement," like Jesse Jackson and Ralph Nader and Ramsey Clark, who Janofsky did note wants Bush impeached.
The Post and other liberal organs are always trying to change the subject instead of addressing the reality that this is just the same motley crew of America-haters, a very loud and colorful (when not dressed in Anarchy Black) fringe.