August 15, 2005

I Should Know Better

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...than to turn on CNN anymore. I was skipping channels and saw the start of a Cindy Sheehan story, the mother of the fallen soldier, protesting in Crawford, so I stopped to watch it. The story was not focused on Sheehan's message, how things happened, what her point is, or even how the administration is reacting.

Instead, the story took every opportunity to make it look like a staged liberal PR stunt. The word "liberal" was used, well, liberally. Every chance was taken to point out big liberal contributors, never allowing any of the participants' messages to be delivered--they start to show a speech, but immediately cut to voice-overs talking about publicity agents, professional protesters, how many members of the press are there--anything and everything but the message Sheehan is trying to deliver. When the story turned to anti-Sheehan protesters (never identified as right-wing or conservative) at the site, not a word was mentioned about backers or publicists or big-time conservative donors, despite the fact that professionally-made banners were visible--instead, they went directly to their message, claiming that Sheehan is a pawn of ultra-liberals. But then, that was the whole point of the CNN story, apparently.

In the 2000 election, when gangs of political workers bused in from D.C. came to stop the vote counting, complete with all the political money, connections and publicists, did they cover that part of the story? Of course not. This is a liberal media, after all, right?

I've pointed this out before, how stories focusing on conservative protests focus on the message, while stories on liberal protests focus on the political angle. Look back at stories about Republicans challenging Clinton, and most were about the accusation, not the political side of things. But when it came to more grass-roots objections by liberals against Bush, Schwarzenegger, Limbaugh, and others, much more often the PR/image/politics/publicity angle comes center stage. Liberal media, my ass.

Posted by Luis at August 15, 2005 10:35 PM

To be honest, I find the use of victims of personal tragedy as political icons and spokespeople to be a bit wearisome. During the election last year, both parties trotted out people who said stuff like "My (spouse/sibling/child) was killed in the September 11 attacks, and (George W. Bush/John Kerry) is the only candidate who will help us prevent such attacks from happening again."

To be honest, either she's a grieving mother or she's a political spokesperson. She simply wants answers about why her son was sent to Iraq where he died? She deserves an answer. However, when she then proceeds to recite the left-wing laundry list of shibboleths --"PNAC blah blah blah Neocons blah blah blah Bush is a murderer blah blah blah Israel out of Palestine!"--I just can't take the whole damn circus very seriously.

This isn't to excuse the predictable yet utterly loathsome response by the Wingnuts--to Swiftboat her--but at this point she's more than a mother looking for answers.

Posted by: gq at August 16, 2005 03:46 AM

I can understand how you feel and I can agree with it to a certain extent--just being related to a victim is not grounds for righteousness, but the message is what is central, how it formed and the journey the person took.

Lila Lipscomb (the mother of the fallen soldier we met in "Fahrenheit 9/11") is a good example. It was not just that her son died; it was the kind of person she was, and the journey she took. She was not some anti-war activist or liberal demonstrator. She encouraged her children to join the military and was blindly patriotic, and it was the death of her son and the circumstances around it that gave her message power and meaning. By seeing what she went through, we could understand what happened better. If someone just uses the death of a family member to get media points, that's one thing. But if a person discovered an important meaning through the experience, that's different.

But even all of this is besides the point of this post; I was not saying that Sheehan's message was right or wrong, justified or not. I was simply pointing out the tremendous bias in the media and how right- and left-wing causes are so differently portrayed. How that bias bled through the heart of that CNN report, as it does with so many other pieces that pass for "news" nowadays.

If the piece had been done right, it simply would have let the story be told, then you and I could discuss whether Sheehan is right or wrong, whether her message has meaning. But from that story, I got no idea whatsoever what her message was outside that her son died and she's mad at Bush. This from a 5-minute or so piece. The message I got instead was pre-packaged judgment with rather obvious bias. Is that balanced journalism? Hell, is that "journalism" at all?

Posted by: BlogD [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 16, 2005 04:26 AM