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Saturday, April 05, 2003

 
HONK IF YOU LOVE CENSORSHIP

Wilmington police in trouble after harassing protesters

Here's the story:

The American Civil Liberties Union will defend two people ticketed for "excessive use of horn" during a March 20 peace demonstration in downtown Wilmington after they honked their horns in support of protesters, ACLU executive director Drewry Fennell said. ...

Kathleen Perkins claimed she was harassed by the police officer who gave her a ticket and she will not pay the $37.60 fine. ...

Perkins said she honked to support the protesters, but said the officer who pulled her over told her he had friends in Iraq and "didn't want me doing what I had been doing," she said. Perkins, who said she unfastened her seat belt to get her registration, also was ticketed for not wearing a seat belt.

The other ticketed motorist, Derwin Forrest, said he was not pulled over until he was more than six blocks from the protest site after honking his horn in support of the protesters. He said the officer who pulled him over had him drive back to the site where another officer, a captain, told Forrest he had been swerving in the street and that he didn't like the way he was blowing his horn.

"He talked to me real sarcastic-like," Forrest said. When he asked the captain for his badge number, Forrest said the captain told him he didn't have one. "And all the officers were laughing at me," Forrest said.

Wilmington police said they were doing their job.


And now, thanks to the ACLU, the police will have a chance to tell that to the judge. My suggested punishment (in addition to written apologies to the motorists and, of course, the dismissal of the trumped up violations) is to have a bunch of those little laminated wallet cards printed, like the ones they have with the Miranda warning. Only these will feature the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution. You know, the Bill of Rights? The officers would be required to carry these cards at all times while on duty. Failure to do so would result in a fine of, let's say, $37.60.

On a related note ...




posted by Fred Clark 3:02 AM

 
REQUIESCAT IN PACE

I rejoiced in Michael Kelly's dismissal from The New Republic. I am saddened by his death.

Although he ran a magazine with a significant literary tradition, Mr. Kelly was best known for his fiery column in The Washington Post and his steady assaults on President Bill Clinton.

Those assaults were just as often unsteady. Kelly seemed to be a bitter man, and his bitterness and vitriol often spilled forth in his writing. The task of the columnist or op-ed writer is to make distinctions or connections. Kelly was capable of this, but often all he did was make assertions and take sides. His columns sometimes read more like the jeering of a soccer-partisan hooligan than like the work of a serious journalist -- yet I am saddened by his death.

What I wished for Michael Kelly was what Tiny Tim wished for Ebenezer Scrooge -- that this bitter, angry man might find redemption and release that bitterness and anger and hate before it was too late. Now it is too late for Michael Kelly. And I am saddened by his death.

I heard news of Kelly's death -- the Humvee he was riding in as an embedded journalist crashed into a canal, killing him and the soldier accompanying him -- on NPR in the 4 p.m. news update. Moments before, Fresh Air had closed with a review of the new Nick Nolte film, The Good Thief. In his review, John Powers played a clip from the film in which Nolte retells the story of the thief on the cross. He was not really a good thief, of course, he was a bad thief and a bad man and he knew enough to admit it. And Jesus said to him, "Today, you will be with me in paradise."

That story is scandalously hopeful. After a lifetime of evil, the thief's bad life was dismissed in a moment's contrition. But who knows what that thief's life was really like? He wasn't showing much of a hand, but who knows what cards he had been dealt or how he played them? God's mercy is far wider than any narrow human perspective could ever see. If it's wide enough for the thief on the cross and for my crooked little soul, I know it is wide enough, too, for poor, lonely, bitter Michael Kelly.

Stoutdem has much more on the sad death of an intemperate journalist.



posted by Fred Clark 2:25 AM


Friday, April 04, 2003

 
THEY DIDN'T HAVE CNN IN 1943

Wal-Mart doesn't understand patriotism.

The "CNN effect" was yesterday's buzzword du jour in the business press. Take this piece for example:

Fears of a prolonged war in Iraq continue to hurt retailers, which reported sluggish sales last week.

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, said Monday that same-store sales - sales at stores that have been open at least a year - will be at the low end of its forecast of low single-digit gains in March. Executives said they continue to see the "CNN effect," as shoppers stay home to watch news coverage on the war in Iraq.


Wal-Mart's reductionist view can understand nothing truly human, only homo economicus -- the "consumer." This perspective leaves no room for identities such as "citizen" or "neighbor." For Wal-Mart -- and for much of the business press -- we serve no purpose and have no function other than as consumers.

Therefore, they assume, if we ain't out shopping, we must be home watching TV.

It's difficult to fathom how deeply insulting this idea -- "the CNN effect" -- really is. Like President Bush, Wal-Mart fails to grasp that for most Americans -- even most of the ones at the stimulus-response "Support the Troops" rallies -- the nation's going to war is a serious, grave affair, calling for sacrifice and a sense of propriety. Most Americans do not feel it is appropriate, while other Americans are fighting and dying, to stroll the aisles of a big box wasteland where a smiley face flies around enticing us to buy hideous, cut-rate crap.

The "CNN effect" hypothesis could be tested by measuring the level of retail sales during WW2 -- or at least during the week's following America's entry into it. My guess is sales went down, and not because of some reductive "radio effect."



posted by Fred Clark 5:24 AM

 
LEONARD ATWOOD IS ALIVE AND WELL

Why '70s paranoia now seems quaintly naive.

Thanks to the Starz Super Pack (a perk with my Comcast broadband subscription) I'm able to escape from 24-hour WarTV and watch more movies than anyone could possibly absorb.

Starz has done pretty well lately, bringing a raft of Prime Suspect movies and a handful of Hal Hartley. They've also been on something of a Robert Redford kick lately -- Barefoot in the Park, The Great Gatsby, Out of Africa, Ordinary People and A River Runs Through It have all been shown repeatedly in recent weeks.

Redford, like Cary Grant, is capable of coasting on charm -- I haven't seen The Horse Whisperer or Up Close and Personal and I don't really want to see them. But also like Grant, he's such a movie star icon that it's easy to forget the man can act.

Thanks to Starz, I now have one of my favorite Redford movies -- Three Days of the Condor -- on video. Watch him in Condor, his scenes with Faye Dunaway and Max Von Sydow especially. They have stronger (well deserved) reputations as Serious Actors than the movie star Redford -- nobody does hysterical better than Faye Dunaway -- but he more than holds his own.

And but so anyway the point here is not the merits of Robert Redford, thespian, but rather the stark contrast between Robert Redford, renegade CIA agent in Three Days of the Condor and, decades later, Robert Redford, renegade CIA agent in Spy Games, which has also gotten its share of air time (is it still "air time" if it's on cable?) thanks to the Super Pack.

Condor, directed by Sydney Pollack, is a classic example of the Watergate-era thriller (it was released in 1975). The enemy is the government -- or at least some powerful, shadowy force within the government. (John Houseman has a nice turn here as a Graham-Greene-ish, world-weary CIA higher-up waxing nostalgic about moral clarity.)

Many of my favorite movies have the same plot: Innocent Man Embroiled in an International Scheme. Redford's "Condor" works for the CIA -- so he's not quite as lost in the woods as, say, Grant's ad executive in the IMEIS classic North by Northwest -- but he's not a spy, he reads books. He works in an office where they read novels looking for patterns, ideas or hidden messages. They file reports and rarely leave their office, unless it's to go get lunch -- which is where Redford is when a mysterious assassin (Von Sydow) kills everyone else in the building. The innocent man returns from lunch and, finding all his co-workers dead, is forthwith embroiled in an international scheme.

In 1975, the CIA was mainly concerned with the Cold War (or "World War III," as former CIA Director James Woolsey would have it), yet Condor is not a Cold War thriller. The eerily prescient plot -- more on this in a bit -- ignores the enemies without to focus on the enemies within.

Movies like Condor, or Brian DePalma's Blow Out or even (guilty pleasure) Capricorn One were controversial in their day because of their Mulder-esque paranoia and their cynical take on America's government. While these films were intended, primarily, as entertainments, they presented the government in a shadowy light that put off many viewers and reviewers. Their cynicism was seen as somehow radical, outside the mainstream.

Fast forward to 2001 and Tony Scott's capable thriller Spy Game, starring Redford (craggy, no longer the Golden Boy of Gatsby or Sundance, but still a leading man -- he might, at this point, have to offer two million to get Demi Moore to sleep with him) as a master spy nearing retirement and Brad Pitt (in what would have been, 25 years ago, the Robert Redford role) as his idealistic protege.

What struck me as remarkable about Spy Game was the matter-of-factness to its cynical take on government. The film is almost post-cynical.

There's a scene in Condor where Redford is explaining his fears and suspicions about the CIA to Faye Dunaway who appears terrified. This is partly because Redford has just abducted her at gunpoint, yes, but Pollack and Dunaway keep us focused on the more frightening question -- what if what Redford is saying were actually true? Dunaway in this scene seems almost to hope that Redford is a paranoid madman -- because even a paranoid madman pointing a gun at her (a lone gunman?) would be less frightening than the alternative. Von Sydow's amoral assassin -- so deadly cool he's like an Alsatian version of Shaft -- is never portrayed as being as dangerous or frightening as this vertiginously horrifying idea that maybe our government isn't always the Good Guy.

In Spy Game, however, this idea is a basic, unremarkable premise. The Good Guy? Of course we're not the Good Guy. There is no Good Guy. Von Sydow's assassin -- "I don't interest myself in 'why?' ... I think more often in terms of 'when,' sometimes 'where.' And always 'how much?'" -- seems almost idealistic compared to any of the CIA executives or directors in Spy Game.

This is not to say the film is trying to make this point. The film doesn't seem to be trying to make any point -- it is, for an espionage thriller, strangely devoid of any politics or perspective at all. The film's cynicism is simply a given. It doesn't even seem open to the possibility that this cynicism -- which seemed so "radical" in Condor -- is not the only possible option.

I referred to Condor as a "Watergate-era" movie, but as skeptical of government as Watergate made people, it is hardly sufficient to explain, a quarter of a century later, the pervasive disillusionment of a piece like Spy Game -- a disillusionment that presents itself not as theory or suspicion, but as fact.

And it's not really fair to restrict Three Days of the Condor to the 1970s -- not when it's plot is so timely. The screenplay -- by Lorenzo Semple Jr. and David Rayfel seems, as they say, ripped from today's headlines. Or perhaps next month's headlines, or next summer's.

Here's the exchange (a bit of a spoiler) between Redford (Turner) and Cliff Robertson's CIA honcho (Higgins) at the end of the film. This is from 1975:

TURNER: Do we have plans to invade the Middle East?

HIGGINS: Are you crazy?

TURNER: Am I?

HIGGINS: Look, Turner ...

TURNER: Do we have plans?

HIGGINS: No. Absolutely not. ... We have games. That's all. We play games. "What if?" "How many men?" "What would it take?" "Is there a cheaper way of destabilizing the regime?" -- That's what we're paid to do.

TURNER: So ... Atwood just took the games too seriously. He was really going to do it, wasn't he?

HIGGINS: It was a renegade operation! Atwood knew 54/12 could never authorize it -- not with all the heat on the company.

TURNER: Suppose there'd been no heat? And I hadn't stumbled on the plan? Nobody had?

HIGGINS: (shrugs) Different ball game. The fact is, it wasn't a bad plan. It could've worked.

TURNER: Jesus -- what is it with you people? You think not getting caught in a lie is the same as telling the truth?

HIGGINS: It's simple economics, Turner. There's no argument. Oil now. Ten or 15 years it'll be food. Or plutonium. What do you think the people will want us to do then?

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

Addendum: For all its cynicism, Condor, like almost all IMEIS stories, is ultimately idealistic. The innocent man (or woman) is an Everyman, triumphing over powerful evil forces by courage and cunning and the inherent goodness of his/her cause. (Redford's ultimate triumph -- although only ambiguously implied -- comes by way of the First Amendment, in a scene that portrays The New York Times as being as patriotically wholesome as a Sousa march or a Norman Rockwell painting.) This is the whole point of IMEIS stories -- the Everyman triumphing despite powerful evils arrayed against him.

Condor adheres to many of the basic IMEIS conventions -- such as the requisite scene in which the sophisticated, amoral professional compliments the hero on his/her skill. (Von Sydow delivers the formula almost verbatim -- "You're good. You're very good.") But it does tinker with some of the others -- Dunaway seems at first to be the female stranger who is not what she seems, but then it turns out she is what she seems -- the twist being there's no twist. (A very different movie could have been made by telling the same story from her perspective -- she is, it turns out, an innocent woman who becomes embroiled in an international scheme.)

Part of Condor's cynicism comes from it's twist on another basic plot and thematic point of all IMEIS tales: the hero can't just go to the police. In old-fashioned versions of this story this was usually because the authorities were misinformed -- often suspecting the hero of some crime he/she did not commit, or failing to take the hero's complaints seriously. In Condor, the authorities are themselves a malevolent force to be reckoned with. Still, the movie allows that there are other authorities -- the press, the people, the courts -- to keep these corrupt authorities in check and to sweep in to rescue Condor the way the police or the FBI usually sweep in at the end of the old fashioned stories. Good triumphs over evil, as Oscar Wilde said, "that's what fiction means."

Spy Game is not an IMEIS story. There is no Everyman in this movie -- and certainly no innocent man. Everybody is working an angle. Redford can't go the authorities because, like everybody else in this story, he is the authorities. His triumph in Spy Game comes by out-manipulating the manipulators, deceiving the deceivers. The good authorities -- U.S. Special Forces, portrayed as the puppets of these competing puppet masters -- sweep in to rescue Pitt, but no one rescues Redford. He just runs away -- away from the very people to whom the rescuers are about to deliver Pitt.

Toward the end of Three Days of the Condor, Von Sydow tries to convince Redford to flee the country, to give up on America for his own safety. He refuses -- he loves his country warts and all and is willing to fight to make it better. At the end of Spy Game Redford drives off, presumably set to flee the country. It's a post-cynical ending for a post-cynical movie. This is what happy endings look like now.


posted by Fred Clark 4:59 AM


Tuesday, April 01, 2003

 
FREE PRESS

Independent journalists are not "unilaterals."

I've been taking some delight that one particular piece of Pentagon Newspeak has failed to catch on. Having successfully "embedded" much of the mainstream media -- ensuring that most reporting on this war is done by people literally in bed with the military -- the Pentagon has further sought to discredit those journalists it does not control by referring to them as "unilaterals."

This is not what the word means. It is, in fact, nearly the opposite of what the word means. Here are the definitions provided by Webster's New World Dictionary -- the Bible for the majority of journalists as per AP style:

uni lat eral adj. 1 of, occurring on, or affecting one side only 2 involving or obligating one only of several persons or parties; done or undertaken by one only; not reciprocal [a unilateral contract] 3 taking into account one side only of a matter; one-sided 4 UNILINEAL 5 turned to one side 6 Biol. arranged or produced on one side of an axis

Note that the word is an adjective, not a noun, and that the adjective is far more applicable to the troops embedded with the military -- particularly definition #3.

The Pentagon is flinging this word at independent journalists as an epithet. The goal of this abuse of the language seems to be twofold:

1. To imply that independent journalists are one-sided, which is to say biased, which is to say unfair -- thus discrediting any out-of-control journalist who might actually question the official line.

2. To erode the actual meaning of the word unilateral in its most common use -- as the opposite of multilateral, as a description of foreign policies undertaken without the approval of the international community. Let's use each of these words in a sentence: George H.W. Bush's war on Iraq was a multilateral effort, widely perceived as legitimate. George W. Bush's war on Iraq is a unilateral effort, widely perceived as illegitimate.

Happily, the Pentagon's abuse of the word "unilateral" -- and thus it's abuse of independent journalists and multilateral institutions -- is not catching on. Independent journalists are still largely referred to as "independent journalists." Bravo.


posted by Fred Clark 4:57 AM

 
"WEAPONS OF MASS INVISIBILITY"

Go read this post from Tim Dunlop's "Road to Surfdom."

Highlights: The coalition has gained control of many sites the Bush administration insisted were caches of "weapons of mass destruction." So far, they've all proven to be conventional weapons.

To find these weapons, the administration plans to create its own inspections teams using private subcontractors. Guess what company is among those being considered. (Hint: It's one of the companies currently paying Vice President Dick Cheney at least $100,000 a year.)

posted by Fred Clark 4:48 AM

 
DRESDEN, STALINGRAD, MOGADISHU AND BUCHAREST

Those are some of the possibilities for what's waiting for U.S. forces when they reach and/or enter Baghdad.

A "former career diplomat who served as U.S. ambassador to a Muslim country" considers the first three of these in an e-mail Josh Marshall has posted at Talking Points Memo.

Mogadishu: Are we prepared to be drawn into urban warfare in such a large place -- a mega-Mogadishu -- when Saddam & Co. already have demonstrated that they are prepared to use every trick in the book to thwart us (irregulars in civilian clothes, terrorism, suicide bombers, human shields, etc.)? And where, as in Vietnam, we cannot distinguish friend from foe? ... Saddam eventually [may] make it "easy" (that's in quotes, because it won't be that easy) for us to enter Baghdad as a ruse, and once we are there, with only 20 to 30K troops inside an unfamiliar and large city of 5 million, his forces will engage in hit and run, guerrilla, terrorist tactics against us. We will have to retreat from the city, bloodied and demoralized -- to borrow [Marshall's] phrase, this is the chickenhawk down scenario.

Dresden: Are we really prepared to bomb the bejeezus out of [Baghdad] (and the [5 million] people who live there)? ... [This would entail] major bombing in Baghdad, including in civilian areas. To use the Vietnam era phrase, "we had to destroy the village in order to save it." International outrage will be overwhelming, and we will pay the price in the Arab and Muslim worlds for years to come. Operation Iraqi Freedom becomes Operation Iraqi Conquest.

Stalingrad: Cooler heads such as Colin Powell and our senior military leaders will be able to convince Bush that Option 1 and 2 are not "viable" ... Our military leaders, already mad at Rummy and company for not giving them the forces they needed to do the job, will simply not want to engage in such butchery or subject their forces to heavy casulaties. Tony Blair will make the same point. But what to do? We will need to surround the city, secure the rest of the country, and then play the game of "political standoff."

(This third option, as he describes it, is less like the military siege of Stalingrad than what others have predicted -- although it could unfold that way in reality, with sand and heat substituting for snow and cold.)

The more hopeful option is something like what occurred in Bucharest in 1989. Nicolae Ceaucescu, the tyrant of Romania, had ordered his troops to fire on demonstrators to suppress the popular uprising in his country. Such uprisings were resulting in "velvet revolutions" across Eastern Europe and Ceaucescu was determined to maintain his grip on power. His army rejected his orders, siding with the demonstrators. Ceaucescu was overthrown -- convicted of crimes against his people, and executed by firing squad on Christmas Day.

This hopeful option is the one on which the Bush team has staked the lives of American soldiers in an audacious gamble. For the sake of our troops and the sake of the people of Baghdad, I hope and pray that Bush & Co. get lucky. And for the sake of our troops and of people worldwide, I hope and pray that this success does not embolden Mr. Bush to attempt further reckless and irresponsible gambles.

One glaring difference between Baghdad and Bucharest was this: no invading army was shelling the Romanian capital or killing its civilians in accidents at checkpoints. The presence of such invaders would have made it far less likely that the army would have turned against its leader -- even when that leader was as monstrous a tyrant as Ceaucescu. Mr. Bush is extremely skilled at channeling and exploiting the explosive emotions of a people rallying for "homeland defense." It seems strange that he and his advisers did not foresee that such zeal for the "homeland" is felt in other countries as well.






posted by Fred Clark 2:24 AM


Monday, March 31, 2003

 
RUMSFELD RESPONDS

Whew, Seymour Hersh paints quite a picture in his latest New Yorker item on the wisdom of Donald Rumsfeld. A sample:

In the months leading up to the war, a split developed inside the military, with the planners and their immediate superiors warning that the war plan was dangerously thin on troops and matériel, and the top generals -- including General Tommy Franks, the head of the U.S. Central Command, and Air Force General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- supporting Rumsfeld. ...

According to a dozen or so military men I spoke to, Rumsfeld simply failed to anticipate the consequences of protracted warfare. He put Army and Marine units in the field with few reserves and an insufficient number of tanks and other armored vehicles. (The military men say that the vehicles that they do have have been pushed too far and are malfunctioning.)

Supply lines -- inevitably, they say -- have become overextended and vulnerable to attack, creating shortages of fuel, water, and ammunition. Pentagon officers spoke contemptuously of the Administration’s optimistic press briefings.

“It’s a stalemate now,” the former intelligence official told me. “It’s going to remain one only if we can maintain our supply lines. The carriers are going to run out of jdams” -- the satellite-guided bombs that have been striking targets in Baghdad and elsewhere with extraordinary accuracy. Much of the supply of Tomahawk guided missiles has been expended. “The Marines are worried as hell,” the former intelligence official went on. “They’re all committed, with no reserves, and they’ve never run the lavs” -- light armored vehicles -- “as long and as hard” as they have in Iraq. There are serious maintenance problems as well. “The only hope is that they can hold out until reinforcements come.”

The 4th Infantry Division -- the Army’s most modern mechanized division -- whose equipment spent weeks waiting in the Mediterranean before being diverted to the overtaxed American port in Kuwait, is not expected to be operational until the end of April. The 1st Cavalry Division, in Texas, is ready to ship out, the planner said, but by sea it will take twenty-three days to reach Kuwait.

“All we have now is front-line positions,” the former intelligence official told me. “Everything else is missing.”


Rumsfeld has dismissed previous such criticism as "second guessing." That's inaccurate -- these people have been saying this in one form or another for the past year, so it's really still first-guessing.

Anyway, thanks to ReachM High Cowboy, I was able to ask Secretary Rumsfeld directly what he thought about Seymour Hersh's article. If you have any questions for Rummy, you can do the same.

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

Be sure to follow all the links at Cowboy, or you'll miss things like this.





posted by Fred Clark 7:38 PM


Sunday, March 30, 2003

 
GEN. MYERS: "DICK CHENEY IS IRRESPONSIBLE"

" Nobody should have any illusions that this is going to be a quick and easy victory. This is going to be a tough war, a tough slog yet, and no responsible official I know has ever said anything different once this war has started. "

-- Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
on NBC's Meet the Press, March 30, 2003.

= = = = = = = = = = = =

RUSSERT:  If your analysis is not correct, and we’re not treated as liberators, but as conquerors, and the Iraqis begin to resist, particularly in Baghdad, do you think the American people are prepared for a long, costly, and bloody battle with significant American casualties?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I don’t think it’s likely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators.

-- same program, NBC's Meet the Press, March 16, 2003.


posted by Fred Clark 11:16 PM

 
UNWILLING WILLING NOW WILLING TO BE WILLING

As of a few hours ago, the Solomon Islands is in.

Via Radio Australia:

Solomon Islands has apparently revised its position on support for Coalition strikes on Iraq.

Last week, Prime Minister Sir Allan Kemakeza issued a signed statement rejecting White House claims that Honiara was on a list of 49 nations agreeing to be named as supporters of the US-led campaign.

However, the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation reports that a week before his statement, Sir Allan wrote to US President George W-Bush, offering support.

The AFP newsagency says the Prime Minister has since modified his public position.

He now says the stance by Washington and its allies to disarm Iraq of all weapons of mass destruction, is fully supported by Solomon Islands.


Stay tuned, I'm guessing this ain't over yet ...


posted by Fred Clark 9:49 PM

 
WORLDWIDE

But we all loved that desert thunder
We put some stickers on our bumper
Three billion nothings in the world
Why should anybody bother? Worldwide ...


-- from "Worldwide," by Gene Eugene

CNN just a little bit ago went to commercial, saying "We'll be back with more on the protest and support-the-troops rallies across the U.S. and around the world."

Really? "Support the troops" rallies around the world? I didn't realize Clear Channel had radio stations "around the world." (Clear Channel -- the corporate radio giant who ruined rock and roll -- has been the organizer and corporate sponsor of many of the star-spangled pro-war rallies across the U.S.)

National coverage of the protests and rallies has been a textbook example of the way a warped notion of "balance" distorts the news. Giving 10,000 war protesters "equal time" with 1,000 war boosters is of course not balance -- it's a tenfold exaggeration of the significance of the latter demonstration.

This devotion to giving "both sides" equal time has much of the media at a loss for how to cover the massive, daily protests in countries around the world. In those countries -- more than 100 of them, more than half the world -- there is no other side. They're all against this imperial war. It didn't have to be like this. But "Operation Piss Off the Planet" has, understandably, provoked outrage worldwide.

THREE THINGS THE MEDIA IS UNDER-COVERING

1. The global protests are, well, global. This is unprecedented. Hundreds of thousands marching in the streets, people in dozens of different countries waving signs, shouting -- and all taking the same side of the same issue. This has never happened before, and if you're the country whose policy is the subject of all these protests, this should be big, big news.

2. The protests are daily. Day after day after day. Media reports keep comparing these daily marches to the large, global event staged before the war began -- noting that these tend to be smaller. That's hardly the point. The Million Man March was a big deal. Staging a 100,000 man march every day for two weeks is an exponentially bigger deal. Because the news comes in "cycles," our media aren't well set up to comprehend or cover things that occur day after day. Such events begin to be reported on like the weather -- they cease to be real "news" for the journalists. The news cycle allows them to report on trees, not forests.

3. Why are these people marching? Journalists have displayed little or no curiosity about this point. The limited coverage there is of the international protests has seemed more like the work of pollsters. These people are not simply checking a box on a survey -- "B. I disagree with the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq." They are marching in the streets. Why? Because it is all that is left to them to do. The United States has made it clear that, as the sole remaining superpower (SRS), we don't have to listen to anybody. We can go anywhere, do anything and no one can stop us, not even the U.N. Security Council. The U.S. cannot be checked by international institutions. The United States cannot be checked by military force. All that is left to the majority of the world's citizens, then, is to take to the streets, shout slogans, and toss the occasional brick through a McDonalds window.


posted by Fred Clark 4:57 PM


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