Sunday, October 15, 2006

Editorial: What does it say?

What does it say? When someone takes a brave stand, one that the left is supposed to support, and they're greeted with nothing?

It's a coming home with no turnout. And it keeps happening over and over.

In last week's editorial, we noted that a decision had been reached, by the military, on war resister Darrell Anderson. We noted how the independent/alternative press seemed to be everywhere but on this story. Thursday of last week, another decision came down.

Not just a decision, mind you. On Thursday of last week, Ricky Clousing faced a court-martial. He wasn't shy. Before the court-martial, he held a press conference at the Quaker House in Fayettville. After the conference, there plan was a rally in downtown Fayettville. That information was available at the start of last week. Thursday, Courage to Resist sent out an e-mail at six in the morning EST reminding people what was going on today. But there was nothing. No one gave a heads up to the conference or the rally.

And, in the end, no one but the mainstream press covered the *court-martial and sentencing.*

Now we're fully aware there was a big pat-ourselves-on-the-back Thursday night gala. Galas in a time of war? We're skeptical. It's the sort of thing that led five of us to leave to NY -- lotta' galas, lotta' gab, not a lot of work. But we were willing to assume we might be wrong. Maybe after the back patting and burping, possibly after changing one another's nappies, the gala goers might come into work on Friday ready to roll up their sleeves and do some work?

Well, one outlet rolled up their sleeves and showed up Friday morning in work mode. Want to guess who?

The New York Times. The paper we will give to credit to when it gets something right but it really pains us to have to credit them with the best story on Ricky Clousing court-martial when the story has "indymedia" all over it. (We'll assume non-gala goers were looking for another slam piece from The Village Voice that they could post at their indymedia site since New Times is the best example of indymedia apparently.) Despite having indymedia written all over it, indymedia coverage was all away from it.

We're not trying to spit on Laurie Goodstein's "A Soldier Hoped to Do Good, but Was Changed by War" that The New York Times published on Friday. It was a nice mainstream article. If it had some competition, it might still have ended up the best coverage, but it didn't have any competition. As Ruth rightly notes in Ruth's Report, on Democracy Now!, an update on a story they'd been "following" translated as four lines, two sentences, read during headlines where Clousing was the sixteenth item of seventeen headlines. Wow. Way to "follow."

You might think that was because the issue was going to be explored. Clousing was sentenced and he would have to serve three months, he would have a demotion in rank and he would be dishonorably discharged when he finished the three months. So maybe a segment in the program was going to explore that? Compare it to the findings for other war resisters? Maybe remind us that war resisters Mark Wilkerson, Agustin Aguayo and Ehren Watada are awaiting findings in their cases? Or maybe they'd interview Jeremy Hinzman, Brandon Hughey, Patrick Hart, Kyle Snyder and Corey Glass or one of them. They're war resisters who self-checked out of the military and went to Canada. Darrell Anderson did that and then he returned. With all of them awaiting word on their appeals in Canada (Hinzman and Hughey are expected to get word shortly), what do they think of the sentencing? Or maybe we'd hear from war resisters during Vietnam offering their take on today's movement? Possibly a lawyer from the Center for Constitutional Rights or the National Lawyers Guild could come on and explain what this meant legally?

We didn't get that. We got about forty minutes of a strong actor discussing his new film (yes, based on a true story -- but was this really news?) and then the last section of the show was used to air a two-year-old interview with Desmond Tutu.

Now maybe galas on Thursday night and promotional touring for the book on Friday doesn't leave a great deal of time for that thing they call the "news"? The program has a co-host: Juan Gonzalez. If he was unable to host the show, find someone who can because a war resister being court-martialed on Thursday and sentenced on Thursday should be big news to a Friday program that bills itself as "the war and peace report." The New York Times just calls itself the paper of record (they hate it when someone says that but their own executives advertised it that way to the press -- as usual, Daniel Okrent got it wrong when he attempted to write about what he wanted to write about).

But if you're the war and peace report, you pretty much have to cover the court-martial of a war resister if you want to live up to that billing. (Maybe they don't? The Times rarely lives up to "the paper of record.")

Sir! No Sir! documents the Vietnam era war resistance and notes how so many aspects of that era, which were covered, are now forgotten. We think it can be argued that Darrell Anderson and Ricky Clousing are being forgotten (or is it ignored?) by the alternative, independent press today. Forget about being forgotten in ten or twenty or thirty years, they're not getting the coverage they need today.

Seems there's time for galas, there's time for book promotions, there's time for interviews (where the first Camp Casey is offered as an example of what independent media can do to raise attention to an issue but the very obvious fact that independent media ignored Camp Casey III is never touched on), there's time for everything but news. We can hear ABC news staff explain how they blew the lid off the Pagegate scandal (when actually that was a blog) and we can get an hour long infomercial for a Bill Moyers' special (because apparently most people have no access to PBS so going to where the silence is includes covering both PBS and ABC), we just can't "follow" what's going on with the peace movement.

Before he left Canada, Darrell Anderson spoke to CBC about his decision to return to the US and noted, "I just broke down one day and couldn't stop crying, and I couldn't go to work and just realized I was done here and I had to go and make a stance in the US because there's way more support and the movement's way bigger down there than it is here." [That quote, it's popularization, will be commented in our note to the readers.] The movement may be bigger, the press interest isn't.

We all enjoy the work Naomi Klein does and we're looking forward to her book. However, if she weren't on sabbatical, due to the book, we think we might read about war resisters due to her own personal history. We're left to wonder if some on the left who have refused to follow Anderson and every other war resister story are suffering from fear or distaste of war resisters?
Maybe they have revisionary Vietnam damage? Or maybe the immediate deification of the Bully Boy on 9-13-01 has them scared that covering war resisters might call their patriotism into question?

We'd hate to think that was the reason. Just like we'd hate to think that the lack of coverage stems from the fact that Rahm Emanuel and Evan Blah don't want a withdrawal. If that was impacting the decision, that might mean they were house organs for the Democratic Party and not the independent press they bill themselves as.

We don't know what's going on. But we know some on the left can 'cover' Iraq by hiding behind generals. They can't present a peace activist's argument, they can't present a war resister's argument but let some generals speak and suddenly they rediscover a war is waging in Iraq. (On that, we'll state clearly that Amy Goodman's never hid behind generals. No matter how disappointed we are with her currently, she has never hid behind generals or the flag.)

Ricky Clousing, Darrell Anderson, Mark Wilkerson Agustin Aguayo, Ehren Watada . . . If you want news on them be thankful for the website Courage to Resist but we're not talking about websites or blogs here, we're talking about our paid independent media.

Where's the coverage? Where's the exploration? Where's the discussion?

September 29th, Andrea Lewis spoke with Medea Benjamin about that today on KPFA's The Morning Show. They discussed CODEPINK's fourth anniversary (congratulations to them and may they continue for many years to come, they have made a difference) and the Give Peace a Vote! action. Lewis, near the end of the interview, asked Benjamin what she thought was going on with the peace movement. We respect Benjamin but we think she saw only one part of the issue. She noted, rightly, that with the huge demonstrations against the war before it started and with activism after, the fact that the Bully Boy doesn't listen to the people dampens the spirits of some people. We agree with that. We also argue that the spirits remained dampened when there's no coverage of the movement. If the media's not talking about it, many don't know it's happening. The word still gets out, peer-to-peer, and that's how the movement continues to grow. But if you want excitement, you need coverage.

CODEPINK went to Jordan to meet with Iraqi parliamentarians and others interested in peace. Where was the coverage? (Lewis actually did speak to Benjamin, on an earlier broadcast, about that. She was one of the few. Tom Hayden and others also took part in the Jordan meeting.) CODEPINK staged a troops home fast that began in July and ended in September, from all around the world people participated. You could learn about that from local papers and the AP, but no point in waiting for indymedia to grab it. Time and again, the question was where is the coverage?

Is everyone trying to work that original Air America Radio model (as an exec bragged to The New York Times Sunday Magazine right before the programming began airing) where you advertise yourself as liberal but you're really not? Your more slightly to the left? Is that what's going on?

Unfiltered ran for one year before being yanked off the schedule and some participating in this editorial remember some high points about the show but we also all remember that when it was time for Iraq, it was time to bring on the troop of vets calling for stay the course, uttering banalities about the Pottery Barn (which, let's repeat, does not have a policy that if you break it you buy it). Once a week, you got "Ask a Vet." There was only one type of vet allowed for that segment, the stay the course crew who have finally changed their name (the ridiculous on air advertising may explain the name change and the fact that they bought so many ad spots may explain why they could get airtime each week while war resisters couldn't).

That was about as helpful as Sam Seder's dopey Vote for a Vet segment more recently. Since we all support (strongly) abortion rights, we're used to the slightly-left sneering "single issue voter" but we can't imagine anything more single issue than "vote for a vet." Is the vet qualified? Supposedly Paul Hackett was but then the same "vote for a vet" types turned on him. We don't worship the military, we don't bow before it, we don't hide behind it and we certainly, as Rebecca notes, don't grab its crotch and sniff.

In a democracy, everyone is equal. We're not seeing how "vote for a vet" addresses that or respects it. We do think it allows squishy Dems to hide behind someone else's service as they hope to butch up. We found it hideous the way a very real candidate, Christine Cegelis, was shoved aside as the Party rushed in to fund Tammy Duckworth, newly moved into the district, because she was a vet. (Credit to Laura Flanders for actually covering Cegelis.) We're not surprised by John Walsh's report (CounterPunch) that Duckworth still not polling well.

We weren't surprised that Mark Warner dropped out of his bid for president. We weren't surprised by the rumors either. We were, however, surprised that a moderate could 'lobby' support from supposed independent voices online. We were surprised that the laughably termed "net-roots" were ready to circle the wagons and push Warner with everything they had.

Score another loss for the "net-roots." They also couldn't turn a radio program into a hit, not even with their squeaky voiced appearences once a week, which is why it got cancelled after the show's only star left. They haven't had much luck turning out bestsellers either -- for their faves or themselves. Possibly the gates aren't crashing, just their little worlds? If so, we'll suggest a title for their next joint opus: Scrubbing the Toilets.

We're always amazed when people kiss their tiny (in terms of influence) asses. We asked one person who name-checked them recently in an interview why he did so? He admitted he didn't go there (if he did, he wouldn't name-check them, net-root guru Simon Rosenberg is a tele-communications lobbyist). It was just the case of someone trying to illustrate a point and grasping onto something heavily covered. Not seriously covered, of course, just heavily covered.

We're getting real bored as 2004 and shapes up to be another 2006 election wise. We don't mean in terms of results, we mean in terms of issues. There are none. It's hide behind the military yet again. And if one vet couldn't win the oval office, maybe many vets can win the Congress! Diebold can't control every race, right?

Despite what Jimmy Crack Corn Carville whispers in Thomas Friedman's ear (what do they together with all the time they save not calling for a withdrawal?), the war did register Americans. Poll after poll has proven that. But the Dems don't want to stand on that with few exceptions (Russ Feingold, John Kerry, John Murtha). So they got real lucky that a sex scandal came along to distract from the fact that (get ready for words we never thought we'd say) Cokie Roberts got one right, there was no vision in the party.

There isn't. Why blaze a trail when you can modify and fine tune as you ape the Republicans?

Democrats may win, we hope they do, but it will be because America got tired of the tyranical rule of the GOP in the last few years. It won't be because the Democrats showed any bravery as a party.

Which brings us back to the topic of the peace movement and war resisters. The Democratic Party isn't interested in withdrawal. So as certain outlets continue to refuse to seriously cover the movement, it's time to start asking if they're truly independent or not? Maybe they're party hacks, maybe they're scared to lead?

Individuals are leading. In Congress, we've cited three. In the media, we can note, in addition to the names above, Aaron Glantz, Dennis Bernstein & Nora Barrows-Friedman, The KPFA Evening News, Free Speech Radio, Philip Maldari who actually interviewed Bob Watada,
and . . .

Well that's really it*. Maybe we're just tired of handing out gold stars or maybe that really is it?
We saw last week that the ACLU unearthing of documents about spying on the peace movement led to someone writing a brief article. It was a rote article. It certainly lacked the scope and wordyness when he was trying to "stir up a hornet's nest" (his words). Peace movement is spied on by the Pentagon and we get a rote article. He wants to go to town on people who aren't in government and are off doing their own thing, then he can't shut up.

That's what we get, easy little pieces, tossed off, that read like they could make it onto The New York Times op-ed pages because the opinions expressed are so mild. If you're auditioning, bad news, Gail Collins is out. You'll have to start all over again with drippy columns about school violence that read like rip-offs from ten to twenty years ago.

Again, we respect Medea Benjamin; however, we think she saw only part of the problem. Independent media has been the biggest wet blanket on the peace movement. They wanted to play Commie-bater in the early days leading up to the war. Oh that Communist menace, ever present apparently. It's obvious some reactionaries not only fail to live in a post-9-11 world, they also don't live in a post-1950s one.

We'll note Amy Goodman's done more than anyone else. We'll also note it hasn't been enough in the last four months. In fact, we'll note the joke Jim's dad had to beg to get C.I. to include awhile back: "At this point, if we were in a department store and saw The Amy Goodman Wok (the 'alternative' to the George Foreman Grill), we honestly wouldn't be surprised." C.I. the biggest defender of Democracy Now! in the community, asked whether we should include it here says, "Eh, go ahead."

There's a lot of talk, rightly, about how the mainstream media won't cover the impeachment option -- despite the Zogby poll demonstrating support for it was widespread. We're wondering if we need to commission Zogby to poll on attitudes about war resisters and the peace movement to get independent media to cover them?

Darrell Anderson matters. Ricky Clousing matters. Ehren Watada matters. Mark Wilkerson, Jeremy Hinzman, Corey Glass, Patrick Hart, Carl Webb, Brandon Hughey, Kyle Snyder, Agustin Aguayo, Camilo Mejia, Pablo Parades, Aidan Delgado, Katherine Jashinski, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Key, Ivan Brobeck, Ryan Johnson, Robin Long and many others matter. That's not a "few good apples," that's a movement. A movement that continues to grow.

Cindy Sheehan, Medea Benjamin, Leslie Cagan, Jodi Evans, Diane Wilson, Alice Walker, Fernando Suarez del Solar, Missy Comley Beattie, and many others matter. That's a movement as well.

Imagine if the movement was covered as if it mattered? "Denial is killing us." That's what a mother said last week. Speaking for herself and speaking of what passes for coverage. Her son deploys to Iraq October 22nd and she can't avoid the issue of the war any longer. Is that what it's going to take to wake up indymedia in terms of covering and following?

Something's got to change and it's gotta change soon. The movement can't continue to be ignored by the independent press.

[*People like Bonnie Faulkner who cover other issues demonstrate that they aren't party hacks regularly. If Iraq's not your scope, it's not your scope. But if you have time to talk or write about it every time a think tank puts out a report or a general revolts but you don't have time to write about the peace movement, we think that's rather sad.]
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