Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Warren from LA read the Singapore letter below and responded thoughtfully...

This morning you said...

"I'm sure if you ask a conservative, they will tell the liberal US press is mocking President Bush and second-guessing his war plans."

I won't say that, and I certainly qualify as a conservative. I haven't seen or read anything that I would describe as "mocking." What I have seen is front page stories in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, as well as lead stories on the broadcast network news, covering the "massive" war protests of last weekend, as well as the Hollywood Left's efforts to stage a "virtual march" on Washington to make their opinions known.

While your friend from Singapore was right that Byrd's speech did not receive much play here -- largely because speeches on the floor of the Senate make lousy TV -- I think that your response of "the only time the US media covers anti-war sentiment is when they report on crazy hippy protesters or foreigners" is way off-base. I saw no mention of the words "crazy" or "hippy" in the major newspapers accounts that I read, other than the mention of "tie dyed shirts" in the LA Times. This despite the fact that the behavior of the protesters was in fact that of crazy hippies, as follows from the LA Times:

"In a distinctly Southern California event, between 2,000 and 3,000 marchers joined up with 500 meditators who sat cross-legged on mats, incense swirling around them, at Ocean Park Beach in Santa Monica. Theirs was billed as a spiritual gathering that combined American Indian rites, poetry readings and Buddhist prayer to express their antiwar sentiments.

"Breathe in the sound of the ocean, breathe out your wish for peace," said Mumun Algernon D'Amassa, one of the meditation leaders."

As far as "foreigners" go, yes, there is ample coverage of the West European opposition to the war. Try to balance that with the whisper of coverage for the large number of East European countries who support Bush's plan. You remember Eastern Europe --
those people who actually lived under a despotic totalitarian regime less than a generation ago.

Furthermore, check out this story, entitled Most Large Papers Argue for World Support on Iraq.

Meanwhile, the real question is, how much support for the war is there in the US? Should the coverage be balanced according to the actual sentiments of the public or the sentiments of the broadcasters? Obviously, if all you hear is O'Reilly or Sean Hannity, you would assume that all Americans are ready to fix bayonets and go. On the other hand, the major newspapers focus heavily on the protests and lack of UN and European support.

US support is growing, according to USA Today. This was right after Colin Powell's speech at the UN two weeks ago...

"Overall, 63% favor invading with U.S. ground troops to oust Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, up from 58% before Powell's speech and 52% before President Bush's State of the Union address two weeks ago."

So, ultimately, what is balance? Is it achievable? Do liberal newspapers now find themselves wanting to counter-balance the plethora of conservative talk radio and cable hosts?

Many good questions and issues. Warren is right about the Eastern Europe opinion being ignored (as least as far as I can tell). However I think any hardcore media watcher can find the slant against protestors in most coverage. Needless to say, conservatives like O'Reilly and Hannity will just out and out trash them, calling into question the sanity or patriotism of anyone who disagrees with a Republican Administration' war plans. But even in the mastream media, take a look at who gets the air time during protests. From my POV, it's usually black-hooded anarchists or performance art clowns. Sure, thoughtful Senate speeches don't get covered, but wear a giant Bush mask and put on a street play and the cameras start rolling. Why? Well, just as Senate speechs don't play, an impassioned protest discussion about rejecting war is equally as boring to a TV producer. It's a product of the age - the middle isn't well telegenic, so the extremes get the air time.

When they don't cover anarchists or clowns, there's usually a subtext of Those silly soccer Mom protestors just don't get it! The big hint hides in the story tags. There might be coverage of an antiwar protest, but it's often followed by a closing tag like, Unnamed administration officials have reportedly set mid-March as the target invasion date. The effect -- regardless of your silly protest, this war is happening.

And that's one of the big things that bothers me here - I don't think anyone in the Bush administration (Powell excepted) is even mildly interested in avoiding a war. They want a fight. They've spent a few billion dollars moving trooops and gear to the Mideast and now they have to do something with them. It's either start a war or force out Saddam, then take over the country. Remember a few months ago? Pakistan and India were moving troops to the borders and threatening nuclear attacks? When push was about to turn into shove, the US helped talk them down. Unlike those supposedly crazy and irrational nations, the US appears incapable of being talked down. And that irritates the fuck out of me.

Why have we put ourselves in this position? And why so quickly? To combat terrorism? Stop. Terrorism has nothing to do with it. There are a dozen other countries who support terrorists on a greater scale than Iraq. Weapons of mass destruction? Another ruse. Saddam now has a few rockets that could hit Russia. Whoopdie-fucking-do. Like we care? Nope.

I think Bush has a hardon to play world cop, something he vowed not to do during the elections. In that process, he gets a chance to straighten out the Middle East the way he and his friends would like to see it and kick the ass of the guy who wanted to knock off his Dad. Unless Bill "Mr. Padded Resume" Bennett writes the books, I can't see any way an honest historical text will ever look upon this action favorably.

At the core, I think we're going to war to prove to the Arab world that the US can't be pushed around. And that is as doomed an argument as I've ever heard. Remember, exploding bombs didn't win the Cold War. It was Rock and Roll and Capitalism that brought down The Wall. Just ask Hedwig.

One last example of media missing the impact of protestors. A few weeks ago, some South American women got naked in front of the national Wal*Mart office to protest the opening of another Wal*Mart. After showing the clip and package, CNN's anchors chuckled about their stupidity, noting that the Wal*Mart executives never came out of their meeting to see the protest.

The implication was these stupid protestors got naked for nothing. Those CNN anchors were just too dumb (or biased) to realize that the point of the protest was probably to get media coverage and spread word about their cause. CNN covered it, broadcasting it around the globe. How much you wanna bet those Wal*Mart executives heard about the protest and saw the footage? Maybe those naked protestors accomplished exactly what they disrobbed for, hmmm?

Finally, regarding polls of public opinon, take them with a grain of salt. Anyone whose worked in marketing knows poll questions can be framed insuch a way to support most sides of a debate. To contrast with Warren's "63% favor invading with U.S. ground troops to oust Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein", the NY Times reported this morning that in "the US, polls show a majority favor war only with United Nations approval."

No comments: