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Between the Lines

August 30, 2004

What's wrong with protest coverage

Blogger David Adesnik marched the protest route in New York yesterday to interview participants and gives a good critique of mainstream media coverage of the event.

The first thing wrong with these stories is their focus on the few inconsequential arrests and mishaps that took place. Many of the journalists I saw just seemed to be waiting for something to go wrong. Because things going wrong is news, whereas the actual ideas and policies favored by the protesters are supposedly boring.

If I were a protester, I'd probably feel that the NYT [New York Times] and WaPo [Washington Post] did the marchers a disservice by failing to recognize just how orderly and peaceful the protest was and how the organizers successfully defused the most important potential conflict of the day, i.e. the disappointed hope that the protest march would culminate with a massive rally in Central Park.

At the same time, Adesnik says, the big papers also failed to adequately describe how far out on the left fringe many of the protesters are.

Now, if I didn't like the protesters, I would tell you that the NYT and WaPo did them a tremendous favor by downplaying the degree to which they represented the leftmost edge of the American political spectrum. I've posted before about what UFPJ [United for Peace and Justice, the main organizer of the protest] stands for, so I won't repeat myself. Suffice it to say that neither the Times nor the Post tells you anything about UFPJ's history or what it stands for.

If you read the NYT or the WaPo, you get the impression that the protest was filled with reasonable people who just don't like George Bush. All of the (wo)man-in-the-street interviews in both papers are with soothingly moderate and even humorous people. "Bring the troops home now" is the most radical sentiment you'll find in the NYT.

So there you have it. The big papers managed to be unfair to both sides while failing to provide critical information. Let's hope things get better from here.

We'll see. Coverage of the protests is likely to be a big part of convention coverage.

Posted by tbrown at 02:31 PM


Uh, Sheri who?

That was my reaction when I heard a woman named Sheri Dew is going to give the invocation at the GOP convention tonight. Atrios fills in the blanks. It's not pretty. This woman actually compares the rise of Hitler with what she perceives as the threat to family life posed by gay marriage. Unbelievable.

Posted by tbrown at 02:29 PM


What Kerry's antiwar efforts say about his inclinations

John Kerry, as is widely known by now, fought in Vietnam then returned home and opposed the war. That was all a long time ago. But clearly Vietnam was a central event in Kerry's life, so it's certainly fair to try to figure out what this means about the kind of president he would make. Kerry has, for obvious reasons, concentrated on the combat part of the story. Blogger Gregory Djerejian takes a different tack and examines what Kerry's antiwar testimony before the U.S. Senate says about him in this lengthy, thoughful post.

One of his key conclusions is this:

I think, to his core, Kerry's Vietnam experience has left him highly suspicious of the use of American power. He appears to think it an overly blunt instrument that, more often than not, causes more harm than good on the world stage.

And there's this:

What I'm saying is that I don't really know what Kerry is willing to fight for[his emphasis]. I feel a dearth of true conviction in this man (war hero one day; dissident the next; medals good; medals, or ribbons, bad).

I don't agree with all of what he has to say, especially since he hangs his major conclusions on stuff Kerry said 33 years ago, when all of us were a lot younger. And unlike Djerejian, I think we need a president who'll take a more skeptical look at the likely result of, let's say, invasions of other countries -- before plunging in.

Still, I think he's touched on something that troubles a lot of people about Kerry, who -- accurately or not -- often comes across as a fuzzy, ill-defined personality. In this case, I'll take the devil I don't fully know any day over the one I do. Still, Djerejian's piece is well worth a read.

Posted by tbrown at 02:26 PM




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