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DC Anti-war March, view from the bottom rail

by delicatemonster Tue Jan 30th, 2007 at 10:51:56 PM EST

A few days ago a Eurotrib commentor asked for a report on the January 27 March on D.C. : specifically how it might impact American politics, its relevance. I realize it's a bit late, but I was there and can perhaps offer a refreshing perspective.

Any fair minded article on the January 27th  march on D.C. might have noted the extraordinarily good weather and might have even tossed in that journalistic cliché, "a sun drenched" crowd. It might have hinted at the wide diversity of the political views represented and the effort by many on the ground to make their congressional representatives responsive to the people's 2006 electoral mandate against the war. Any fair minded article might also have made note of the celebrities out in force, Jane Fonda who said, briefly, "silence was no longer an option" and Jesse Jackson who said less briefly the war must end. Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins also made an appearance. A fair article might have noted the demographic range, from 8 to 80 as one octogenerian put it to me.  

Alone, I interviewed Libertarians preaching Tax War Resistance back to back with Troskyites preaching revolution. I even found a little old Baptist lady from Alabama who claimed to be on a prayer- a- thon for her minister who was serving as a chaplain in Iraq.  None of these people, however, got mentioned in the lead article covering the march from my country, the New York Times. The coverage from our "Paper of Record" was not just lame in their oblique use of estimates "tens of thousands" (right...that's the way I always describe 400, 000 individuals) but the longer pieces that purport to show an 'even handed' view. In particular what they decided to emphasize on the cultural side. A single sentence is obtained to represent the outraged sentiments of the marchers.

It is this: "I find that totally inappropriate that our children may grow up with this war continuing," a certain Ms. Yanowitz said.

Which sounds like some suburban soccer mom complaining about an adult theatre opening up in her neighborhood Cineplex as opposed to, you know, supporting the indiscriminate and gratuitous murder of some 60,000 - 600,000 Iraqi civilians. (I'd use more accurate figures if I could just get them--but our General Tommy Franks doesn't 'do body counts'. Thus the range is 60,000 from the popular press and about 600,000 from a John Hopkins study. I'm sure the true number is somewhere in there...but, you know, after your first thousand or so dead innocent civilians, does it really matter?).

To provide balance to the outraged suburban mom, our Paper of Record decides to record an isolated incident involving a band of forty pro-war protestors and their interface with the anti-war side. To this, they devote the entire second half of their already meager article.

In Washington, counterprotesters also converged on the mall in smaller numbers, but the antiwar demonstration was largely peaceful.

[Let's see, we had approximately 400,000 antiwar protestors and approximately 40 pro-war protestors. 400,000 to 40 is 'smaller'? No 400,000 to 40 is infinitesimal.  To be exact, the anti-war sentiment is 10,000 times larger. I could fill up my cars with marbles and still not match the difference. But never fear, the New York Times, our Paper of Record, devotes almost the entire second page of this article...that is 50% ... to that 1/10,000 of American opinion.  Below the riveting scene]

There were a few tense moments, however, including an encounter involving Joshua Sparling, 25, who was on crutches and who said he was a corporal with the 82nd Airborne Division and lost his right leg below the knee in Ramadi, Iraq. Mr. Sparling spoke at a smaller [40 people] rally held earlier in the day at the United States Navy Memorial, and voiced his support for the administration's policies in Iraq.

Later, as antiwar protesters passed where he and his group were standing, words were exchanged and one of the antiwar protestors spit at the ground near Mr. Sparling; he spit back.

Now, some things need to be made clear here, that, unfortunately, our Paper of Record prefers to obfuscate. First, Herr Joshua Sparling has been around the block a few times. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joshua_Sparling) .

Apparently he has something of a history of making -- overly exuberant -- accusations: According to Wikipedia there is this:

In December 2005, while recuperating at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., Sparling claimed to receive what he thought was a Christmas card, which turned out to be anonymous hate mail expressing the wish that Sparling would die... Sparling underwent multiple surgeries to treat his wounds. Media coverage of the story triggered an outpouring of over 20,000 cards and gifts to wounded soldiers at Walter Reed.

Later, in Spring 2006, his [Joshua's] father described how Pfc Sparling claimed that he was insulted at an airport while in a wheelchair.

The security guard said, "You are no different than any other passenger with no boarding pass - now go." My son started to cry uncontrollably and told the guard to go to hell.

And now, Mr. Sparling decides to position himself in a swarm of 400,000 antiwar protestors, call them traitors and then screech because someone spits near his feet? Which fact, by the way, is in dispute:

No "spitter" was identified and it is unclear whether the Times reporter actually witnessed the alleged incident.
-- and this Media Matters report
Hmmm. Seems like Joshua--if he isn't purely, a rightwing puppet (the pro-war gathering was a Free Republic sponsored event and there are other blogger's disputing his account here http://hughesforamerica.typepad.com/hughes_for_america/2007/01/my_take_on_satu.html. ) -- is in need of clinical help, not press coverage. For instance, per the Media Matters report, did Urbina or his Times colleagues actually see the incident? Why was his report so uncertain in its account of the alleged spitting? Did Sparling actually spit on his anti-war counterpart? Also, what did the protester look like? Finally, can the Capitol Police, which the Times story said "made the antiwar protestors walk farther away from the counterprotesters", confirm the occurrence? Also missing from the NYTimes account is the Free Republic protesters actions in which they staged a hanging of a stuffed dummy bearing a photo of Jane Fonda. Around the effigy's neck was a sign that read "JANE FONDA, AMERICAN TRAITOR, BITCH". Nearby, members of the tiny crowd held signs that read, among other things, "Anti-American peaceniks think sedition is patriotic" and "We gave peace a chance. We got 9/11".

Nevertheless, the Good Gray Lady is dauntless and despite the almost certain instability of Mr. Sparling they decide to use this courageous, if somewhat neurotic, incident for their 'wrap'. No questions asked.

Capitol police made the antiwar protestors walk farther away from the counterprotesters.

"These are not Americans as far as I'm concerned," Mr.[Joshua] Sparling said.
Another counterprotester, Larry Stark, 71, a retired Navy officer who fought in Vietnam for five years and was a prisoner of war, said, "We never lost a battle in Vietnam but we lost the war, and the same is going to be true in Iraq if these protesters have their way."
The protesters on Saturday were undermining troop morale, Mr. Stark said, and increasing the likelihood of a premature withdrawal.

"It's like we never learn from the past," he said.

That's where the Good Gray lady decides to end their astute coverage of the march. Not that the Iraqi war was based on a lie, actually a series of lies. Not that hundreds of thousands have died or been wounded for this lie. Not that the majority of this country is sick of the war and sick of the lies. Oh no. Here's the Paper of Record's lesson:

400,000 anti-war protestors will just never learn from the past...I wonder if they're channeling Dick Cheney?

Now the New York Times played that up on purpose, no doubt about it. In a remarkably economic trade-off, all it took to nullify the actions of 400,000-plus protesters - and distract the media - was one man, a veteran long at the center of dubious "controversies". Hi Ho. Unfortunately, there is also the interesting stuff that they left 'uncovered' as a result. As I had mentioned, they might have informed their readership about the incredibly diverse political spectrum at this march. There were factions from the Libertarian Party who, in not so subtle form, advocated Tax War Resistance (the spokesperson, who preferred to remain anonymous, said he was working up the courage to refuse to pay any taxes at all)... There were Jews for Peace and anti-Zionism leaflets and even good old pretzel selling, button hustling capitalist at the march. And there were soldiers: Vietnam Veterans, Afghanistan war veterans, and Iraqi war veterans, and Marines in full color, all of them marching against this disaster on stilts they call a foreign policy. Why didn't they interview the 40 or so socialists/socialist hybrid groups passing out literature that day? Why didn't they ask the socialist worker party for a few choice quotes about American health care compared to Cuba's, or Canada's or France's? Why didn't they ask any one of these groups why they consider this latest imperial adventure to be utterly consistent with the United State's other imperialist adventures for the last, say 100 years or so? Their response would certainly be more truthful and enlightening than the spittle tit for tat that they plugged into the last half of their Paper of Record account. But, of course, mentioning that we are now the most militaristic and most bellicose nation on this earth does not fit in with the larger 'cultural' narrative that 'liberals' spitting on the troops meme provides.

News brief (1969): An actress named Jane Fonda thinks invading countries illegally and murdering their people is a stupid idea.

Update (2007): So does the majority of this country.

And, as long as I'm on a roll here, where was....

John Edwards?
Barack Obama?
Hillary Clinton?
Howard Dean?
Barbara Boxer?
Al Gore?
Wesley Clarke?

Not one Major Democratic personality (outside Jackson and Kucinich) could make an appearance? Where are the 2008 wannabes? Dennis Kucinich was the only one, where were the rest? Are our representatives so divorced from the people that 400 K+ can march on DC and many more all across the nation and we can't get more than a few elected officials (Maxine Waters, Dennis Kucinich, Conyers, Woosley and Mayor Rocky Anderson) to address our concerns? You know, if I wanted this kind of representation, I could live in China. Or Iran, for that matter. So here's what I've learned from this grand march: the singular gift of a democracy is not freedom, whatever that word actually compells in any given context... We are free to march until our legs fall off if it effects nothing, right? No, the singular gift of a democracy is to have the power of the majority at your back mean something more than a spitting contest.

A quick addendum to Mr. Monster's post. It has been pointed out that the 400,000 estimate is not 'official'. This is true, it's a quote from the United For Peace and Justice Organizer. Despite having this quote in the second page of their article, the New York Times still insisted on describing the count as 'tens of thousands'. Even the most modest estimate put the march at 100k +; I was there and I strongly suspect--though have no way of actually verifying it--that the numbers were closer to the 300,000  range.

Obviously, the exact count, even the wildly divergent ballparks pale in light of the Time's decision to expend nearly half of their article space on an incident which seems more illustrative of rightwing strategems than the sentiments of the vast majority of Americans.

"One must always sing on pitch"-- Zoltan Kodaly

by MrsMonster on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 11:03:06 PM EST
Thank you for telling all this. It reminded me SOOOOO much of what happened to us while we were protesting in Serbia against Milosevic in early 90ies... Did world see us or heard us? Democratic world? No! Let alone Milosevic and those in power. Scenario was totally the same. We "traitors" would protest , counter protesters (actually paid secret service agents) would provoke an incident..."POLITIKA" (our paper of record) would print an article exactly the same as New York Times did.
You are so right:

...the singular gift of a democracy is not freedom, whatever that word actually compells in any given context... We are free to march until our legs fall off if it effects nothing, right? No, the singular gift of a democracy is to have the power of the majority at your back mean something more than a spitting contest.
I could cry...

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein

by vbo on Thu Feb 1st, 2007 at 12:56:22 AM EST

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