February 20th, 2003
Dear Sir or Madam,
The participation of millions of people in last weekend's peace marches and demonstrations is proof that we still believe in people power and can have a voice in our democracies. The message ought to be clear, the people have spoken, people all over the world.
North American news services at first actually tried to ignore the marches, using a somewhat bored tone to suggest, almost in passing, that perhaps a 'few thousand' had taken to the streets. But as Saturday progressed and the crowds swelled, the media's tone changed to one of puzzled amusement that there were so many crazies willing to brave bad weather and angry cops for some hopelessly 'lost cause' in the face of 'foregone conclusions' and 'inevitability'.
It's a shame the media had forgotten all the brave words it had to describe the People Power movements of the early 90s when eastern Europe was liberated from Soviet backed dictatorships and the Iron Curtain was torn down. Curiously most news outlets still include scenes of the Berlin Wall coming down in those snappily edited collages of video-footage they use to represent their earnest and hardworking efforts at portraying the real news over the years.
The North American mainstream media has been until now solidly siding with Bush because to do otherwise would risk being declared 'unpatriotic', at great risk to advertising revenues and federally granted operating licenses. To date any public protests and even the usual polite queries and objections from academics and intellectuals had been ignored, but on Saturday they had to admit something else was going on. Something besides the 'official party line'.
Happily, Saturday's protests also gave them reason to begin some coverage of a huge Hollywood campaign to create and run TV adverts questioning Bush's plans for war. Apparently, several major celebrities have joined forces with 'retired' military experts and the 'former' US Ambassador to Iraq to appear in several new TV ads that will be the first voice of opposition to be heard in America since September 2001.
The networks seemed relieved to be able finally to talk about an opposing point of view. They previewed many of the new ads and showed expansive footage and aeriel shots of the protest crowds in New York, Washington, London, Paris and Baghdad. Most of the reporters and newsreaders were registering a palpable relief at having something else to say, another point of view to consider. Except for many on CNN, which is heavily invested in having another Gulf War like the one that gave them birth.
It was as if, until Saturday, all opposition and protest had not existed. It had been completely ignored. And now, always keenly interested in a good debate and presenting a 'balanced perspective', reporters have some substance with which to present the pacifist point of view.
So, thank you to all of you who had a little faith in democracy and a little faith in yourselves and went out to make your voices known. You have at least now woken up the North American media, which had been stopping its ears to any voice except the blindly vengeful wrath of the White House and the enthusiastic noddings of Tony Blair.
But there is still no sense that the politicians will be listening to the rabble just yet. To make them listen the 'opposition' must put forth and support viable candidates who can offer better solutions. Not just for this crisis but for all matters of humanity, ecology and peace.
Infinite Improbability Drive
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