[sixties-l] Fwd: The news media and political protests

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: 01/01/01

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    >Date: 2 Jan 2001 03:55:28 -0000
    >From: "Online Journal" <editor@onlinejournal.com>
    >Subject: 01-01-00: The news media and political protests
    >Online Journal - http://www.onlinejournal.com
    >01-01-00: The news media and political protests
    >By Carla Binion
    >January 1, 2001 | Protests were effective in the 1960s because the news
    >media covered them. Today media organizations often ignore protest
    >demonstrations. When TV news networks do not cover a protest, the
    >demonstration cannot move public opinion. The various news media
    >organizations serve as the public's eyes and ears. When the media fail to
    >report any given event, the public remains blind and deaf regarding the
    >Most Americans get their news from television. Day after day during the
    >1960s, TV news networks showed close-ups of such atrocities as innocent
    >black children marching into police fire hoses. Television news people ran
    >Martin Luther King's speeches, and discussed and dissected them. The
    >American people's eyes were opened, through the media's lens.
    >By contrast, during recent post-election protests in Florida, TV networks
    >kept a distance from Jesse Jackson and other like-minded demonstrators.
    >Few networks aired Jackson's speeches in their entirety. Television news
    >commentators did not explain and clarify the protesters' grievances or
    >give them sympathetic coverage. Fox Network's Bill O'Reilly and many other
    >commentators frequently maligned Jackson as a troublemaker.
    >During last year's Seattle protests of the World Trade Organization, TV
    >networks also kept a distance from the demonstrators. Commentators on
    >MSNBC and other cable news talk shows said repeatedly that they did not
    >understand why people were demonstrating. They often said that the
    >protests seemed to be a hodgepodge of vague and cranky quibbles and
    >implied it would be impossible to grasp the details of the complaints.
    >No wonder the commentators did not understand. They simply never asked.
    >Few TV networks conducted any in-depth interviews with spokesmen for the
    >protesters. The networks did not often show close-ups of peaceful
    >protesters being tear gassed or shot with rubber bullets-incidents widely
    >reported on the Internet and in alternative news publications.
    >In the same way, TV networks gave little coverage to Jesse Jackson's
    >recent complaint that a mob of hired Republicans used violent tactics to
    >try to break up a peaceful post-election demonstration in Florida. If the
    >networks had spent adequate time examining that information, the public
    >would better understand the reasons for Jackson's protests.
    >During the 1960s, public opinion shifted when the media showed the people
    >the truth about anti-war and civil rights demonstrations-especially when
    >the media explained the reasons behind the marches and sit ins. Once
    >public opinion changed, the people urged legislators to take action.
    >Because the following example from history is a useful illustration of (1)
    >the media's impact on public opinion, and (2) the importance of having a
    >fully informed public, it will help to digress and explore it at some
    >Deborah Lipstadt researched the behavior of the American press during the
    >coming of the Holocaust in Beyond Belief (The Free Press, Macmillan, Inc.,
    >1986.) Lipstadt says, "During the 1930s and 1940s America could have saved
    >thousands and maybe even hundreds of thousands of Jews but did not do so."
    >Lipstadt points out that the U. S. was slow to recognize the Nazi threat
    >to the Jewish people and asks what might have been done to initiate rescue
    >operations sooner. She quotes Adlai Stevenson: "I believe that in
    >ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, the American people will make the
    >right decision-if and when they are in possession of the essential facts
    >about any given issue."
    >The problem was, during the early Holocaust years, the American news media
    >did not present "the essential facts" to the public in a timely way.
    >Washington might have acted sooner to assist the Jews, says Lipstadt, if
    >the American public had known-via the media-what was going on and then
    >urged politicians to act.
    >The U. S. press treated Hitler's early anti-Semitism and persecution of
    >the Jewish people as "sidebar" news stories. Although Hitler's Final
    >Solution was known to the media by 1942, the press did not fully convey
    >the fact to the American public.
    >Deborah Lipstadt points out that in The Washington Post, March, 1943,
    >William Shirer criticized the public for thinking that reports of Hitler's
    >atrocities were only propaganda. Lipstadt also mentions that in January,
    >1944, Arthur Koestler cited U. S. public opinion polls showing that nine
    >out of ten Americans believed that reports of a Nazi threat were
    >propaganda lies. (Arthur Koestler, New York Times Magazine, January 9,
    >Lipstadt notes that the Christian Century (February 16, 1944) said in
    >response to Koestler that there was no use "screaming" about atrocities
    >against the Jews, claiming it would only "emotionally exhaust" those who
    >wanted to use their energies to build peace after the war.
    >Could the media have been quicker to report the truth about Hitler in a
    >way that the American public understood? What did the media do wrong?
    >In general, the media reported stories about the Nazi threat in piecemeal
    >fashion, instead of showing the public a complete picture all at once.
    >Lipstadt says newspapers did not allocate enough space for stories of
    >Hitler's increasing threats. Relevant news stories were buried in back
    >pages of the newspaper rather than given front page coverage.
    >The January 1943 LA Times ran a review of the "Black Decade," meaning the
    >preceding ten years. However, the newspaper failed to mention
    >Kristallnacht, and did not mention the extermination program that had been
    >included in the paper's 1942 listing.
    >Kristallnacht was the night of November 9, 1938, when Nazi mobs shattered
    >the glass in Jewish homes, temples and places of business. Many U. S.
    >newspapers initially took the event lightly. Some papers said the
    >Kristallnacht mobs were merely spontaneous rogue fanatics, and that Hitler
    >knew nothing about them.
    >The New York Daily News thought that Kristallnacht was merely random
    >expression of popular anger by Germans under financial stress, and wrote
    >that Hitler "can no longer control his people." (New York Daily News,
    >November 15, 1938.) Many newspapers claimed Kristallnacht had nothing to
    >do with racial hatred.
    >The St. Louis Post Dispatch said Kristallnacht was simply about greed, or
    >the "looting of a people." (St. Louis Post Dispatch, November 25, 1938.)
    >The Baltimore Evening Sun described it merely as a "money collecting
    >enterprise." (The Baltimore Evening Sun, November 14, 1938.)
    >What does the media's handling of the early years of the Holocaust have to
    >do with today's media coverage of political protest? Here are some
    >The theats posed by the World Trade Organization's policies, and by the
    >voting irregularities in Florida, are not the exact equivalent of the
    >threats posed during the years leading to the Holocaust. However, whether
    >they are the precise same threats is not the point.
    >The point is, the demonstrators in Seattle and in post-election Florida
    >were voicing their concern about what they see as current threats to
    >democracy and civil liberties. If TV news commentators had done in-depth
    >research, they would have understood the reasons for the protests and
    >conveyed those reasons to the public.
    >Armed with all the facts, the public could then develop an informed
    >opinion and respond accordingly. Absent the facts, public opinion on
    >issues raised in Seattle and in Florida will not be well informed, and the
    >public response will not be purposeful.
    >Media critic Michael Parenti says in Inventing Reality: The Politics of
    >News Media (St. Martins Press, 1993) that the media do more than omit
    >important news regarding political protests. For example, they also often
    >undercount the size of political demonstrations. As one example, Parenti
    >mentions that in 1991, shortly before George H. W. Bush began his air
    >attack against Iraq, ABC reported on opposition to the war.
    >Anchor Ted Koppel said there were "small groups" of protesters-one group
    >in Iowa and one in Berkeley, California, holding candlelight vigils. Says
    >Parenti, "ABC ignored the large and dramatic demonstrations occurring that
    >same day in the San Francisco Bay area in which 10,000 people shut down
    >the federal building and 2,000 shut down the Bay Bridge, the latter
    >resulting in hundreds of arrests."
    >The media also often trivialize and marginalize protesters. Michael
    >Parenti notes that media pundits frequently mislead the public by
    >attributing irrational or trivial motives to demonstrators, characterizing
    >protesters as an unrepresentative sampling of the American people. News
    >pundits sometimes marginalize groups by falsely claiming they are violent,
    >or pundits try to discredit protesters as people merely trying to foment
    >For example, when a few anarchists in Seattle broke store windows, some TV
    >news commentators suggested the peaceful demonstrators were also
    >contributing to violence and chaos. As another example, lately when Jesse
    >Jackson speaks out about Florida voting irregularities, commentators often
    >say he is trying to stir up conflict for no purpose.
    >Thousands of people plan to attend marches in Washington to protest the
    >upcoming Bush inaugural. The general public will not learn anything about
    >the reasons behind those protests if TV news networks and other media
    >organizations fail to report the reasons. Remember that even after
    >Kristallnacht, nine out of ten Americans believed the Nazis were no
    >threat, because the media did not report the complete story.
    >It is important that people phone and write news organizations and
    >encourage them to give ample air time to protests of the inaugural, with
    >an emphasis on explaining the reasons for the demonstrations. Those of us
    >who would like to see the protests covered in depth should urge various TV
    >news organizations to air speeches by Jesse Jackson and other attendees,
    >and ask the networks to include as guests on news talk shows people who
    >represent Jackson and other protesters.
    >Deborah Lipstadt said that Alexis de Toqueville believed that "the press
    >fulfills its highest purpose when it is a beacon to bring together people
    >who otherwise might ineffectively seek each other in darkness." Television
    >networks, newspapers, news magazines and other media organizations could
    >light the beacon during the protests of the Bush inaugural. They are more
    >likely to do that if large numbers of people write and phone them in
    >advance to let them know what we expect.

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