Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Protest coverage
One of the reasons I love FAIR - Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting - is the fact that they really lay it out. Here is their latest email about disappearing antiwar protests:

"Hundreds of thousands of Americans around the country protested the Iraq War on the weekend of September 24-25, with the largest demonstration bringing between 100,000 and 300,000 to Washington, D.C. on Saturday.
But if you relied on television for your news, you'd hardly know the protests happened at all. According to the Nexis news database, the only mention on the network newscasts that Saturday came on the NBC Nightly News, where the massive march received all of 87 words. (ABC World News Tonight transcripts were not available for September 24, possibly due to pre-emption by college football.)
Cable coverage wasn't much better. CNN, for example, made only passing references to the weekend protests. CNN anchor Aaron Brown offered an interesting explanation (9/24/05):

"There was a huge 100,000 people in Washington protesting the war in Iraq today, and I sometimes today feel like I've heard from all 100,000 upset that they did not get any coverage, and it's true they didn't get any coverage. Many of them see conspiracy. I assure you there is none, but it's just the national story today and the national conversation today is the hurricane that put millions and millions of people at risk, and it's just kind of an accident of bad timing, and I know that won't satisfy anyone but that's the truth of it."
To hear Brown tell it, a 24-hour cable news channel is somehow unable to cover more than one story at a time-- and the "national conversation" is something that CNN just listens in on, rather than helping to determine through its coverage choices.
The following day (9/25/05), the network's Sunday morning shows had an opportunity to at least reflect on the significance of the anti-war movement. With a panel consisting of three New York Times columnists, Tim Russert mentioned the march briefly in one question to Maureen Dowd-- which ended up being about how the antiwar movement might affect Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential chances.
[Sidebar: This is pretty disappointed of Russert because he sometimes seems like a guy who gets it. Although, he is obsessed with a McCain/Clinton 2008 campaign. Back to FAIR]
On ABC's This Week, host George Stephanopoulos observed, "We've seen polls across the board suggesting that we're bogged down now in Iraq and now you have this growing protest movement. Do you believe that we're reaching a tipping point in public opinion?" That question was put to pro-war Republican Sen. John McCain, who responded by inaccurately claiming: "Most polls I see, that most Americans believe still that we have to stay the course.... I certainly understand the dissatisfaction of the American people but I think most of them still want to stay the course and we have to."
[Sidebar: It's clear that some of these Sunday shows need to find some new folks to put on the panels. Must we always get the same silly inside the Beltway crap? Back to FAIR.]
A recent CBS/New York Times poll (9/9-13/05) found 52 percent support for leaving Iraq "as soon as possible." A similar Gallup poll (9/16-18) found that 33 percent of the public want some troops withdrawn, with another 30 percent wanting all the troops withdrawn. Only 34 percent wanted to maintain or increase troop levels--positions that could be described as wanting to "stay the course." Stephanopoulos, however, failed to challenge McCain's false claim.
(An L.A. Times recap of the protests--9/25/05-- included a misleading reference to the Gallup poll, reporting that while the war is seen as a "mistake" by 59 percent of respondents, "There remains, however, widespread disagreement about the best solution. The same poll showed that 30 percent of Americans favored a total troop withdrawal, though 26 percent favored maintaining the current level." By leaving out the 33 percent of those polled who wanted to decrease troop numbers, the paper gave a misleading impression of closely divided opinion.)
On Fox News Sunday (9/25/05), panelist Juan Williams was rebuked by his colleagues when he noted that public opinion had turned in favor of pulling out of Iraq. Fellow Fox panelist and NPR reporter Mara Liasson responded, "Oh, I don't think that's true," a sentiment echoed by Fox panelist Brit Hume. When Williams brought up the Saudi foreign minister's statement that foreign troops were not helping to stabilize Iraq, panelist William Kristol retorted: "So now the American left is with the House of Saud." (That was, if anything, a more complimentary take on the protesters than was found in Fox's news reporting, when White House correspondent Jim Angle-- 9/26/05-- referred to them as "disparate groups united by their hatred of President Bush, in particular, and U.S. policies in general.")
Another feature of the protest coverage was a tendency to treat a tiny group of pro-war hecklers as somehow equivalent to the massive anti-war gathering. NBC's Today show (9/25/05) had a report that gave a sentence to each: "Opponents and supporters of the war marched in cities across the nation on Saturday. In the nation's capital an estimated 100,000 war protestors marched near the White House. A few hundreds supporters of the war lined the route in a counterdemonstration."
Reports on NBC Nightly News and CBS Sunday Morning were similarly "balanced," and a September 26 USA Today report gave nearly equal space to the counter-demonstrators and their concerns, though the paper reported that their pro-war rally attracted just 400 participants (that is, less than half of 1 percent of the number of antiwar marchers).
In a headline that summed up the absurdity of this type of coverage, the Washington Post reported (9/25/05): "Smaller but Spirited Crowd Protests Antiwar March; More Than 200 Say They Represent Majority." Perhaps this "crowd" felt that way because they've grown accustomed to a media system that so frequently echoes their views, while keeping antiwar voices--representing the actual majority opinion--off the radar."

Here is Steve Iskovitz's take on it:

I'm stuck in New Jersey en route back to Boston from the weekend's protests in DC, but there's a computer here, so I'll make the best of my time:
Saturday's demonstration was strangely peaceful. There were hardly any police around, and they kept their distance. Apparently this is due to a lawsuit that ANSWER won against the DC police over incidents at a demonstration here last fall in which police behaved similarly to last summer's RNC in New York, with pre-emptive arrests and all that.
As a result of this lawsuit, the court ordered the police to keep their distance, and forbade them from wearing riot gear. Without police harassment, the demo went incredibly smoothly, and shows, I guess, what demonstrators can do when left on our own, to simply demonstrate. How many were there? I don't know. The police said 150,000, so it was likely more, how much more I can't guess.
On Sunday the IMF-World Bank met. There was supposed to be a demo or action against that. I didn't get into the city until around 1 pm that day, and I walked the security perimeter and didn't see one single protester, but something might have gone on in the morning.
Monday morning there was apparently an action at the Pentagon. I wasn't there, but I did go to the action at the White House.
About 250-300 of us met at a church at 16th and P.
Cornell West said, "Katrina, Rita, Povertina..."
Coincidentally, as we left the church to begin the march, a bus from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center drove by. The police gave us a lane and otherwise left us alone as 250-300 of us marched toward the White House. Only one helicopter flew far overhead. It's strange to see a decrease in police presence and harassment, after pretty much a steady increase over the past few years.
We march past the White House to the Ellipse. A small group of women chant, "Not my son, Not my father, You want war, Send your daughters." Someone announces that over 370 people have signed up to get arrested in front of the White House.
We split into two groups and march in either direction around the White House. Only two cops, on bikes, ride alongside us up 17th St. Police heat picks up only a little during the march. The two groups of marchers reuinite at Lafayette Park in front of the White House.
Only a handful of cops guarded the White House gate as 400 or so of us arrive. As more of us get closer to the gate, some more police arrive. People hang cards with names of war dead over the wrought iron gate of the White House. Clergy and Gold Star families (families who've had a relative killed in Iraq or
Afghanistan) proceed to the front. Several of them, including Cindy Sheehan, ask to meet the President and are denied. Police give three warnings to leave, and then begin arresting one by one.
I had to leave shortly after this to catch my ride back, but up to the time I left everything was calm, and the arrests were orderly. I've read since that Cindy Sheehan was among the arrestees. I've also read that the Americans were fighting Sadr's troops, and that the British are going to start withdrawing troops next year. The whole thing appears to be caving in on Bush fairly quickly, although where that will all lead is anyone's guess.

'Cesspools in Eden'
EPA Testers Privately Telling People New Orleans is Off the Charts
CBS News is running this blog from one of their guys down in New Orleans, which includes, in part:
"The teams working in St. Bernard Parish, which is now an enormous toxic waste dump, are waking up with sore throats and other respiratory ailments. Privately, the EPA testers have told them that all the pollutants and environmental toxins are way off the scale. No one is looking to stay there long."
If this is true, there must be an immediate stop to any plans to repopulate and an immediate fullscale investigation into the EPA and what they are holding back.
Meanwhile, the Associated Press is reporting in this story that the sludge and everything else was stirred up by new flooding in New Orleans due to Rita, and they have no idea if there were any breaches at any hazardous sites. Just more reason to slow everything down.

One nation [supposedly] under God
Many Towns Turned Away Evacuees, Leading to Days-Long Bus Trip by Aron Kahn
SAN ANTONIO - A group of Hurricane Rita evacuees were forced to remain on buses for most of a bewildering, days-long trip to San Antonio because they were denied shelter in several cities, passengers said.
The exhausting trip also was extended because the evacuees were returned to Beaumont, their starting point, halfway through under the mistaken belief that it was safe to go back.
Though accounts from the fatigued passengers sometimes conflicted Monday, this general picture emerged:
Evacuees from several Gulf Coast cities - including some Hurricane Katrina evacuees - boarded Beaumont city-transit and school buses Thursday night. Along the way, some found shelter, and remaining passengers were consolidated.
As they headed northwest, they were turned away from shelters in several small towns, said David Jones, a 39-year-old Beaumont construction worker who made the trip with his pregnant wife and 2-year-old son. In some cases, fire marshals said the buildings were full.
Water and a few snacks were offered along the way, Jones said. The bus tried to return to Beaumont early in the weekend, but was stopped outside town. At one point, the manager at a motel that had no vacancies allowed passengers to sleep on the dining room floor for a few hours.
The trip was grueling for the elderly, the ill and young who were aboard. When they arrived in San Antonio on Sunday morning, 41 passengers were transferred to a shelter for people with medical problems.
The shelter sent two to a hospital immediately: a man who needed kidney dialysis and Jones' wife. Eight others were treated for severe dehydration.
"These people zigzagged all over south Texas," shelter director Robert Marbut said.
© 2005 KR Washington Bureau and wire service sources

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