Sunday, March 16, 2008

Editorial: Are you ready to listen


Their stories will be told,
Are you ready to listen?

It's a question worth asking as you look (in vain) for coverage of Iraq Veterans Against the War Winter Soldiers Investigation. The action continues today. [You can listen at the IVAW website, at KPFA, at War Comes Home, at KPFK and at the Pacifica Radio homepage from ten a.m. to four p.m. EST.] Where's the coverage?

Before we get to the coverage, where's the attention to the action? CODEPINK does not promote it on their front page, nor Gold Star Families For Peace, nor A.N.S.W.E.R., nor the CCCO . . . Getting the idea of how hard the 'peace' movement's been working or, in this case, not? Speaking to Aimee Allison and Aaron Glantz on Friday (Allison and Glantz are anchoring the radio coverage of the event), the Center For Media and Democracy's John Stauber (who wrote about the action last week) noted that "the big Democratic Party alligned so-called anti-war groups like MoveOn and Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, groups that have budgets in the tens of millions of dollars have been completely silent. These groups could have led the way in publicizing Winter Soldier, but they're not." No they aren't.

Militaries Family Speak Out, United for Peace & Justice and Courage to Resist did promote the event. (See, they get links, that's how it works when you stand up.) What is Winter Soldier?

Winter Soldier Investigation (February, 1971) was an action that took place during Vietnam, Among those offering testimony on what they witnessed and took part in during Vietnam was current US Senator and 2004 Democratic Party presidential nominee John Kerry. The event was put on by Vietnam Veterans Against the War and they held their hearings in Detroit. Some of the testimonies were published by Beacon Press in a limited run and they were read into the Congressional record. Pacifica Radio covered the hearings. Very few other domestic outlets bothered to do so. Elaine and C.I. worked on getting the word out on those hearings (which is why C.I. was able to explain what no writer today appears able to: Why Detroit? It was hoped that a closed-circuit TV hook up would allow war resisters in Canada to testify) and they, Rebecca and Ruth remember very well how little attention the hearings received from the mainstream media. They also remember that the alternative press and underground (FM) radio did publicize the hearings, did discuss them.

As IVAW's action approached, we wondered who would get the word out and who would cover it. The latter news is actually better than the former.

Who would get the word out? Not too damn many. Even peace organizations couldn't be counted on (and the list of those not noting IVAW's action is far longer than what we've included at the top). Who was getting the word out in 'independent' media?

If you visited the websites of The Progressive you could find a story on an upcoming conference (Take Back America!) but nothing on IVAW. Ditto Mother Jones. Ditto In These Times. Ditto BuzzFlash as of mid-day Friday. Let's deal with BuzzFlash first.

Mark Karlin, the editor and publisher of BuzzFlash, advised (Friday afternoon) that, "we've covered ivaw a lot and there is a blog entry going up today as well as a link to the homepage of the winter soldier investigation we honor the undertaking but we have 190 headlines so sometimes people don't see everything." BuzzFlash gets a link and we thank Karlin for his reply. Many sites didn't bother to reply. But this issue was raised by community members of The Common Ills and C.I. began addressing it Thursday night. Community members Heather, Shirley, Martha and Eli were monitoring a variety of sites on Friday at C.I.'s request (and they helped send out e-mails for this feature, we thank them for that). They didn't see it Friday morning and, since Eli wisely copied and pasted Friday morning's full BuzzFlash page into an e-mail, we can say we don't see it either. BuzzFlash did link to some coverage. They linked to Amy Goodman's Friday report and they linked to The War Comes Home which was (and is today) a resource for live streaming of IVAW's hearings. Saturday afternoon (EST), we still didn't see anything additional. (We're sure there was a blog post and we'll gladly link to it next week if BuzzFlash e-mails us the blog's web address.) 190 links is a lot of links. And it is easy for things to get lost. On Saturday afternoon, we had to look and look to find the two, well down the page.

Matthew Rothschild, editor and CEO of The Progressive, advised, "We're posting our cover story from the April issue on our website. The cover story is about two Winter Soldiers."

The Nation? Peter Rothberg did one of his action alerts (we're not insulting him, we're glad he did -- see C.I.'s comments Thursday night) that are also posted online (but no one considers it's a blog) on Wednesday. That was apparently it. The hearings started on Thursday. Friday morning, a friend with The Nation advised C.I. that Christopher Hayes had just posted a link in a blog post at The Nation and that "he's very serious about covering this." We would say that he is. He exchanged e-mails with Martha on Friday explaining that the magazine's Jeremy Scahill was there (Scahill offered testimony Friday as part of the afternoon's Corporate Pillaging and Military Contractors panel) and that another writer for The Nation was following it and would be posting it; however, depending upon the time, it might not go up until Monday.

In addition to the above, Kat, Ava and C.I. saw Anthony Swofford at the hearings Friday and he's writing something on Winter Soldier for Slate (Swofford is the author of Jarhead).

We linked to the above and our policy is we don't link to trash.

But the reality is that the hearings have a wider impact if you actually see or hear them. A really great write up the day after may make you think, "I'll catch ___ next time they're in town"; however, it's not going to capture the event itself.

Let's go to some positives in terms of getting the word out. Mark Benjamin wrote about the hearings for Salon. Raw Story gave a heads up when it was needed. OpEdNews has repeatedly covered the hearings. On Thursday morning, KPFA's The Morning Show and Free Speech Radio News got the word out. As did Thursday morning's Uprising Radio which broadcast portions of the earlier Winter Soldiers.

What is Winter Soldier today? It's a four day set of hearings put on by IVAW which began Thursday evening. Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars are offering first-hand testimony on what they witnessed both 'over there' as well as upon returning to the United States. It's a chance to provide the realities that are too often squeezed out of the bulk of the coverage.

We'd argue it's the most important event of the year thus far and wouldn't be surprised to discover it is the most important event of the year.

But we're not seeing it treated as such by many allegedly anti-war outlets.

We're seeing Iraq yet again fall off the radar.

We think back to all the nonsense has so regularly offered (and will continue to offer) and we're reminded that WalkOn elected to walk on away from the Iraq War following the 2004 elections but they were far from alone.

Visit CounterPunch (no link, see how it works, no links to trash) and you'll find nothing in there "weekend edition" telling readers IVAW's hearings are going on (you found nothing about it on Thursday or Friday either). If you were part of the peace movement 'back in the day,' prepare for your heart to break as you see the name of one man who worked with GI Resistance then electing to write about -- the weekend IVAW holds its hearings -- a sex scandal. How the mighty have fallen.

Yeah, the sex scandal. We didn't cover it at any community sites, we weren't interested. It's amazing to see the thing that finally penetrates Panhandle Media's non-stop Bambi-Love-a-Thon is a sex scandal, but maybe not so surprising. It's cheap, it's tawdry, it's the lowest common denominator. The most 'valuable' lesson it imparts is that johns need to be more discreet.

We suppose that's educated someone.

Not many and certainly it has no potential to galvanize a country.

IVAW's hearings do. And the hearings conclude today. They begin at ten a.m. EST and you can listen to them at Iraq Veterans Against the War, KPFA, War Comes Home, KPFK, and at the Pacifica Radio homepage.

Apparently WBAI (see, no link) felt it was more important to offer their 'riveting' Saturday spin-some-records programming instead of airing the hearings. Peace and justice, our ass.

Back in the day, four participating were active. Rebecca, in college at the time, was on campus and remembers non-stop conversations about the hearings, remembers hearing about them on the radio, remembers a local weekly covering them. Ruth, already started raising her large brood (seriously, her family is of biblical proportions) remembers several undergound papers covering them and remembers hearing about them on FM radio as well. Elaine and C.I. were in college back then with Rebecca but they were out on the road as much as possible and in the 'deep south' during that period (speaking out against the illegal war). They remember a GI coffee house paper covering it, they remember several weeklies and they remember local radio stations (AM) covering it in "read from the wires" kind of way. They also remember some serious coverage after the fact.

So we asked them, with the first one, was their a better job done getting the word out ahead of time? Absolutely. You really had an independent media back then.

Which brings up the question: How debased have we become that today an actual, ongoing illegal war is repeately shoved aside to offer frenzied coverage of a war that has not started (the Iran War, gas bagged over non-stop for almost four years now and still not here), a political horse race or a sex scandal?
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