Is There a Media Black-Out of Anti-War Protests?

by on November 1, 2007 · 4 comments

in Civil Disobedience, Civil Rights, Media, Organizing, Peace Movement, War and Peace

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.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Citizens For A Better Veterans Home (founded 1998) November 2, 2007 at 8:40 am

As some one whom HATES the U-T, whom uses various pictures of the Copleys as dart boards, and whom has never ever had a letter publish in two decades: it was the U-T whom followed Poway veteran and minister Dan McCellen in his trans continental hike for peace []. Not a peep of PR from the Reader or City Beat.


J. Stone November 2, 2007 at 11:21 am

This should not be a surprise to anyone that doesn’t have their head up their ass. What gets reported in print, and on television is determined by which information is the most titillating, and draws the largest audience to sell advertising. The news has become info-tainment with the emphasis on entertainment. Since consolidation has happened, thanks in many ways to Clinton and the Telecommunications Act of 1996 which started off “deregulation.” That legislation, fed to the American people as a step that would encourage competition, actually resulted in the subsequent mergers of several large companies, giving them more control over what we see and hear.

Even though there are more television channels, radio stations, and Internet choices then ever, that doesn’t mean there is a greater variety of entertainment, news and information. That’s because much of what you see, hear, and read today is under the control of a handful of large media corporations.
As of now only six corporations control most of what you see on television. One company has “deregulated” more than 1,000 radio stations across the country. And since 1975, two-thirds of all independently-owned newspapers have disappeared. Americans depend on television and newspapers to learn about the news, understand national and local issues and make informed choices. Media consolidation means fewer independent voices are available to distribute news, entertainment and information to us and fewer voices have a chance to be heard. And guess what, they’re still not satisfied, Kevin Martin the chair of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has said that he wants to vote to loosen media ownership limits as soon as December 18. But he’s not saying exactly what the new rules would be. He wants his agency to make this crucial decision behind closed doors, without public input, just like the last time when the media corporations screwed the public into deregulation under the disguise
of more competition, bla, bla, bla,. The typical right wing bullshit about free markets, let the market decide and on and on. We aren’t going to see more coverage of demos, but we will for sure be seeing less.


Frank Gormlie November 3, 2007 at 8:13 pm

Citizen –
Good point. It was a local story, as well. It’s true, the national media totally ignored McCellen and his cross-country trek, which sounds like the trend anunciated in my post. More of the same – what a shame. And what’s with CityBeat?

J.Stone –
Excellent commentary on the state of mainstream press. This is why we need to rely on alternative media, like blogs; we need to develop and create our own information and news-gathering systems that are credible, regular, and wide-spread.
I do recall a similar time during the sixties & seventies where anti-Vietnam war activists felt ignored by the national media, and then felt compelled to become more and more “militant” in order to capture press attention.


Genie Phillips November 8, 2007 at 10:59 am

Yes, an excellent commentary, and thank you for that.

It’s all the same ‘ol same ‘ol. And, absolutely NO coverage of the Dennis Kucinich resolution to IMPEACH CHENEY! by the mainstream media. I don’t know why I am amazed at any of it, but I guess when I stop being amazed I will have given up…

I spend 2 hrs a day in my car driving to and from work, and get much of my information from KLSD – 1360 Progressive Talk. Now, in the very near future, it has been announced that the station will be switching to Sports Talk! The station is yet another owned by one of the conglomerate media corporations. Could this change have anything to do with the fact that the elections will be going into full swing in the coming year!?


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