On Sunday, October 28th, the day after the “National Day of Action” — where thousands of Americans took to the streets across the country in a dozen major cities, and where many others demonstrated in smaller actions in over two dozen other cities and towns — I turned to our San Diego Union-Tribune for a news account of the protests.
I was dismayed, although not surprised at the U/T’s coverage. It wasn’t on the front page, nor on page 3; I leafed through the paper, still with a lot of coverage of the fires and their aftermath. Finally I found the story of the demonstrations in a small article on the paper’s “The Fight For Iraq” page — way in the back, under another short piece about US military deaths in Iraq (3,840) in “Daily Developments”. No word at all, that I could find, on San Diego’s own small demonstration (it had been “officially” postponed due to the fires, but several dozen folks came out anyhow and lined Broadway for a couple of hours). Typical, I thought to myself. The U/T always downplays coverage of anti-war protests.
My concerns about the national mainstream media’s lack of coverage of protests, however, mounted when I read an article from the Christian Science Monitor asking the question: Why no media coverage of war protests? The article, from November 1, 2007, and by Jerry Lanson, recounts how despite prominent news organization polls showing huge majorities of Americans with substantial discontent with the Iraq war and occupation, the reporter concluded “major news outlets treated this ‘National Day of Action’ as though it did not exist.”
The reporter could not find news accounts of the demonstration in New York City where up to 45,000 people braved the rain to demonstrate or accounts of the nation-wide protests in the New York Times national edition. He also could not find adequate news of the protests in the Boston Globe – which did carry a short report of 10,000 marchers in Boston deep inside its Metro section, and only a single sentence about the national demos. Heck, even the U/T did better than that – but not by much.
The Christian Science Monitor reporter was also very surprised that neither the Times nor the Globe had “so much as a news brief about the march in the days leading up to it.” As a former news editor, the reporter was taken aback by “the silence beforehand,” as he felt that any march of widespread interest warranted at least a brief news item to inform people about the event.
We in San Diego are used to this tendency by our local mainstream media, especially the U/T. But to read that even mainstream reporters themselves are questioning the lack of coverage by mainstream media really sends up a red flag. Our democracy – what’s left of it — depends on a free press — even though it’s dwindling and being concentrated into fewer and fewer hands. The reporter asks the question: “Are the media ignoring rallies against the Iraq war because of their low turnout or is the turnout dampened by the lack of news coverage?”
It is true that the current round of demonstrations of this past weekend were not as great as those massive turn-outs in the run-up to the war back in 2002 and 2003, but still, by my count, nearly 125,000 Americans demonstrated against the war and for immediate removal of U.S. troops. 125,000 Americans — that’s news!
Here, after a bit of research are the numbers:
Seattle: estimates from 3,000 to 7,000;
San Francisco: 30,000 plus; Los Angeles: nearly 20,000;
Salt Lake City: 1,000, and the mayor spoke at the rally;
Chicago: Reuters reported 10,000; organizers counted 30,000; the police 5,000;
Orlando, Florida: 2,000; Philadelphia: 2,000 plus;
Boston: estimates 7,000 to 10,000 with 200 from the town of Worcester;
New York City: 45,000 (but estimates as low as 10,000).
By my count, this means over 100,000 to even 125,000 were in the streets October 27th. Is this not news?
Smaller actions were held: Oklahoma City had 150; in Minneapolis there were “several hundred”; Ft. Lauderdale had hundreds. There was a student walk-out in Boston with several hundreds on Friday, Oct. 26th. And in Pasadena, students from Pasadena City College marched to a nearby army recruiting center, placed yellow caution tape in front of the office, and then physically blocked the doors. The police were called but there were no arrests. The recruiters got frustrated in trying to keep their office open and closed it.
Solidarity demos were also held in the following towns & cities on Oct. 27th: Anchorage and Fairbanks in Alaska; Little Rock, Tucson, then Visalia, Grass Valley, Mt. Shasta and Santa Barbara in California; Evergreen and Denver in Colorado; Kapaa in Hawaii; Des Moines & Dubuque in Iowa; Richmond, Indiana; Marquette, Michigan; Smithfield, North Carolina; Fargo, North Dakota; Rochester, NY; Dallas and Houston in Texas; and in Washington, D.C.
Are not these demonstrations by Americans more important than what our mainstream, corporate media get all excited about — the Paris Hiltons, O.J. Simpsons, Britney Spears?
That’s why blogs, like their earlier cousins, the underground newspapers of the sixties and seventies, are so very important today.