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Analysis of Mainstream Coverage of Iraq War Protests: The Weekend the Media Died

By Cheryl Seal

Well, fellow supporters of a free and honest press, as of this weekend, we are officially going it alone, without any pretense of help from the mainstream (not that it has shown more than the rare flicker for months). Mark Sept. 29 as the day that American Media Died. What little life it had left was choked from it this weekend by order of the Bush Reich, which was aggressively seeking to protect itself, like a cancer from the immune system, from the threat of dissent. There is not even any semblance of balanced reporting reflecting the reality of the American scene right now. It is all Bush spin, all the time, with sports and Chandra Levy thrown in for added diversions.

Check out the online page one edition of Washington Post - as of about 1:00 pm Sept. 29, its headlining stories were the Ryder Cup, Chandra Levy, rosy outlooks for the war ("Blair Says UN Support for War will Come") and a total playdown of the anti-Bush protests that erupted across the nation this weekend ("Second Day of Protests Quiet"). In their story on the protests, the numbers were minimized, and the wording of even the headline was so slanted that even Rush Limbaugh might call it too obvious: "Protestors Momentum Weakens as Crowds Thin."

NY Times: As of Sunday, 1:00 pm, the online edition lead with an outrageously slanted, pro-Bush headline: "Aiming to Disrupt Diplomacy, Iraq Risks War by Rejecting Plan." This slant job is reminiscent of the "headline crafting" routinely engaged in in places like the old Soviet Union, East Gemany, Maoist China, and, of course, Hilter's Germany. Not one mention of US protests anywhere on the main page. However, Nancy Reagan made the cut - on Saturday a story about her was front and center, but then bumped down to the bottom - though still on the main page. The massive British protests - the largest in Europe in 30 years, didn't even merit a subheadline under "International."

MSNBC online main page Sun 1:00 PM: lead story list is a veritable smorgasbord of propaganda devices. Here are the headlines and my guess as to what the intended propaganda message was:

Headline: Israel forces leave Arafat's compound. Message: All quiet on West Bank, you Palestinian protestors can all just go home now

Headline: Blair predicts UN Iraq mandate. Message: Ignore the half million people in the street - Blair knows best

Headline: Democrats surge in polls. Message: Democrats are popular because they won't stand up to Bush.

Headline: Potential suspect in Levy Case. Message: And if that doesn't divert enough attention from the war, Bush, and the economy, we'll throw in Lewinsky next.

Headline: Vatican quietly debates pedophilia. Message: All Catholics are pedophile perverts, so ignore those Father Berrigan-type activists who might be out there!

Headline: Weapons grade uranium seized Message: Why, by gosh, Saddam DOES have nukes, afterall and we can prove it!

Fox News on line Sun 1:30 PM Not one mention of the British protests, while the headline about the D.C. protests is designed to make activists seem daunted and confused: "Organizers mull next move." Right below it is the Chandra Levy bit. This coupling is meant to convey: all liberals are either confused or murderers.

The BIG story on this rightwing mouthpiece however is a huge counter spin assault on dissenters around the world who have lumped - quite reasonably so - Sharon and Bush into the same "axis of evil." Fox makes this transparent, Bush-style claim: "Official: Palestinian Militants were Trained in Iraq." Official? According to who? Don't you love these unexplained sweepstakes tactics "You are OFFICIALLY a winner!!!". How extremely convenient that this bit of "official news" is released TODAY, as protests supporting Palestinians are being held all over the world (Berlin, San Fran, Canada, to name a few).

CBS Online Sun 1:30 PM: Same crap as the rest: Chandra Levy, uranium seized, Iraq debate - no British protest. There is an article about the D.C. protests, but it is snide and demeaning, ending with a quote from D.C. police Chief Ramsey that sarcastically dismisses arrestees complaints about conditions they are being held in : "It's not as if they're being checked into the Hilton."

AOL: The worst of the worst these days. It IS Goebbels' central. How do you like these headlines:

WE WILL SPEAK WITH ONE VOICE! next to a photo of Bush's photo, in which I must say he looks like a man about to have a stroke - red faced, a little wild-eyed - the Fuhrer in a frenzy.

Here's another one from the main page: BUSH: CONGRESS WILL OK IRAQ FORCE: So, now it's a done deal, huh? Bush has decided for us all.

Chandra Levy, of course, was a MAJOR headline, more important than the London demonstration, the news that home foreclosures are now at rate unseen since the Depression, or the news that Cheney is again having his energy task force list demanded.

They covered the D.C. protests, but very conveniently left out any mention of the anti-war protests there. It focused entirely on IMF protests, hoping, no doubt, for the public to lump the event in their minds with the Seattle incident.

Nowhere, of course in any coverage by any of the above outlets (I have had time to scan so far) is there any mention of the military presence reported by protestors, or of the routine preemptive arrests that were being conducted, in keeping, no doubt, with Bush's new "policy."