Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Jon Stewart, on The Daily Show, did a piece on the protest and on the counter-protest this weekend, making fun of the fact that the liberals had every speaker under the sun on the podium. Satire is what Jon does and does well. I can understand his finding the humor in the rally's this past weekend. This is what one blogger had to say about "The Daily Show" bit.

Happily, Stewart DID mock the absurdly small counter-protest, something the MSM failed to do properly. But when Jon Stewart believes -- just like John in DC -- that throwing in every issue under the sun at an anti-war protest is stupid, people should listen.
This is a classic comment from the "liberal bloggers" on the protest last weekend.

I want to take a minute and give an overview of what happened, and why I think liberals missed another opportunity.

What Happened

The original rally was scheduled far in advance of Cindy Sheehan's activities in Crawford by A.N.S.W.E.R. They're far more radical than I, but they raised the money, they got the permits, paid for the infrastrictire (no small expense, particularly the extra television cabling required due to the location and the park police limiting the location of the satellite trucks), and began the organizing. In other words, they paid for most of the microphones and the podium. They also fought the city of D.C. for the right to march in front of the White House, something that has not been allowed for years. They had their speakers and the topics that they wanted promoted. A.N.S.W.E.R has these rally's all the time, presenting a basket of left wing issues.

Cindy Sheehan in Texas happened after the initial planning for this rally. She and several other more mainstream (and acceptable to establishment liberals) anti-war groups (Gold Star Mothers, Code Pink, United For Peace and Justice, Veterans Against the War, to name a few) piggy backed on an already scheduled event.

The speeches (C-Span covered only the speeches) occurred first and were all over the place topically (i.e. Haiti, Free the Cuban 5, the environment), though with the common theme of being anti-Bush, and ending the war. About half-way through the speeches, the crowd impatiently called for the march to begin and began leaving the area, many commenting on the fact that the speeches didn't focus on their concern, ending the Iraq war. RIVERS of the crowd left the ellipse area where the speeches were occuring and began the march without the organizers, while the organizers pleaded for people to stay and listen to the speeches. Before the end of the speeches, the ellispe area was virtually empty and the speakers spoke to an empty field. C-Span, nor any other mainstream media outlets did any live coverage of the "march" itself.

Those who only watched C-Span only saw the speeches. This left the impression of an unfocused message, and the "usual suspects" protesting, unleashing a fury of criticism from mainstream liberals.

I can tell you from personal observation that the vast majority of the crowd were pretty much ordinary folks like you and me. Yeah, there were some freaks. But anytime there's an event of this size, that occurs...on either side. To focus on the fringe is to miss the point, and to miss the bigger story. As a reporter, it's no more accurate or fair to claim that groups like A.N.S.W.E.R were this protest, than saying that all those who showed up for the pro-war rally the next day were like G. Gordon Liddy, their featured speaker. That protest was primarily made up of ordinary people (albeit a much smaller number) who support the Bush administration and the war....many with sons in Iraq.

Hundred's of thousands (by the DC police chiefs own estimates) came from literally all over the country to stand with Cindy Sheehan in her efforts to end the war. And it was not easy to get there as the public transportation was closed down due to a "power outage" and "maintenance" (another story no one picked up). Because of the lack of on-the-ground reporting, the real story has been missed. Again, it should be noted that A.N.S.W.E.R. has been holding protest rally's for years in D.C. Attendance is normally a fringe and a few hundred at best.

The difference in turnout was Cindy Sheehan, who is looking for support and help wherever she finds friends and opportunities. Given she's fighting the biggest city hall in history, this is understandable. Could it have been organized differently? Sure. But I didn't catch any mainstream liberals offering their help to Cindy Sheehan, ponying up the money for the protest, offering to speak, or helping endorse the rally. Nor have any of these same people organized anything as an outlet for the apparent groundswell of public support for Cindy Sheehan.

Ironically, I think liberals were as surprised by the turnout and the demographics of the turnout as A.N.S.W.E.R and everyone else. I'll give A.N.S.W.E.R credit in this respect. They continually put their money where their mouth is in organizing grassroots actions against this instance they hit the jackpot.

Missed Opportunity

I've said this here, and in other places. But I want to reinterate it.

Since 2000 (and before), pundits all over the media, liberal outlets, and liberal blogosphere having been beating the crap out of Democrats for not having a message, and not promoting the message well. I don't think I could name a single political writer that I read on the left who has not mentioned this is one form or another. The "circular firing squad" notion is a rampant joke shared amongst Democrats anytime we look at issues and messaging in the Party.

The Republicans, particularly the Lee Atwater-Karl Rove Republicans have hit upon a strategy that has worked miracles. By all poll results on issues, they are the minority. Yet they have dominated the Presidency except Clinton, who was better at messaging than they. Yet in Clinton's instance, you guessed it, he was marginalized by the conservative message machine. Oh, and in case anyone didn't notice, they've also have dominated the Congress for years too.

The key to the conservative strategy is to take an event, a current event of any type, and spin it to their advantage. They do this REGARDLESS OF ALL THE FACTS! If Bush can't talk because he's an idiot, it's because he's a "common man". If the Lebanese march in the streets, it's "democracy on the march". If Robertson mouths off some crap, he's exercising freedom of speech and traditional values for Amerika. Eliminating Social Security is "securing retirement for the future", eliminating Medicare is "making services available to seniors in need". The counter-protest, which by all measures was a failure this last weekend was a "sobering event attended by those who love their children fighting in Iraq", and has been megaphoned throughout the conservative blogosphere.

I could go on and on with this, but you get the point.

And conservatives are disciplined. Losing from 1932 to 1980 has that effect on you. They have amassed a large media infrastructure including radio, tv, newspapers and bloggers. When the talking point of the day comes out, they all sing in unison like the Mormon Tabernacle Chorus.

Let's compare that to the liberals. What liberals are we talking about?

I'm purposely avoiding the party politicians in this discussion because they are totally hopeless at this point in the election cycle. Gutless. That's another entire post. For now, just think of the liberal radio, newspapers and blogs (we don't have liberal TV despite guessed it.... conservative noise machine having successfully labeled the MSM TV as liberal). In other words, I'm talking about all those same liberal analysts who previously have beat to death the notion of messaging and discipline in order to compete with the conservative message machine.

Anyone remember even a few months ago when admitting in public that you were against the war was touchy? Remember when Cindy Sheehan sat in the ditch alone? That was a few months ago. Anyone remember when Max Clelland went to Crawford and the story fell flat?

No matter who organized the protest....a representative hundreds of thousands of people of all stripes came out to protest Bush, and the Iraq war. And not just Washington D.C., but San Francisco, L.A., and London. This was by any measure a huge, and I think surprising, turnout of people challenging the Republicans. There were literally hundreds of heart wrenching stories that average Americans could relate to, hundreds of photo ops, and lots of post protest commentary that could be made.

How did the liberal message machine respond?

Atrios said NOT ONE WORD about the protest. Not even to criticize it. Daily Kos said nothing but some of his minions put up several posts critical of the organization. When another defended the rally, the flame war started. These are two of the most visited blogs on the left. Al Franken said zilch. Look over at my blogroll. The protest was either not mentioned, was mentioned as a brief report, or was criticized by that list of mainstream liberal bloggers. Period.

The MSM, including the WaPo and NY Times did a better job of covering it than all the pundits who are supposed to be part of the new "liberal" message machine. It seems like most things involving the liberals, analyzing seems to be more fun than, like, actually get off their asses and contributing something positive to the cause of rebuilding liberalism in this country. Even if that contribution is only sitting on your ass and writing about it, why not spin it to the positive? If you want to point out the lack of focus and your dislike of A.N.S.W.E.R., ok. But do it in the last paragraph after talking about the WWII veteran (pic below) with a purple heart who was arrested in front of the White House.

There were a few exceptions that I know of, and I'd gladly like to hear of others. Susie Madrak of Suburban Guerrilla offered some coverage. And some lower tier blogs (like mine) covered the march. Randi Rhodes did a great job of covering the event as did Big Ed Schultz. Ed, particularly, hit the message...the ordinary Americans taking the time and trouble to come out against the President in numbers.

It appears that liberals are so ineffective at helping each other and watching each other's backs, that in order to win our country has to get so awful that even someone who is ill-informed notices that something's wrong. We, as a group, are sure as hell not doing anything to make it easier for our message to penetrate, while the other side is superb. And let's face it folks. The majority of voters are lazy. The louder the message, the more unified the chorus, the more likely the message is to penetrate.

The issues that surround us where the GOP is whipping our butts will continue to get worse. That is, until it's SO bad that even Joe Six Pack starts to grumble. That's an awful strategy for winning, and an awful strategy for the country. Isn't it really time that Democrats set aside their personal vanity and get on board? Quality spin is a part of the current political it or not (and I don't like it). We either live by that sword, or die by it.


At 8:47 AM, Blogger Ms. Jan said...

You are the man!!!

At 10:18 AM, Blogger Dionysus said...

I share your disappointment in the top "liberal" bloggers a well - no need to mention names - we all know who they are.

And the best rationale I have heard yet - "hey Jon Stewart agrees with us..."

How sad.

At 10:38 AM, Blogger echidne said...

I covered the event in a very short way, mostly because I assumed that it would be very well covered by the big blogs and that my comparative advantage was elsewhere. And yes, I was a little surprised about the lack of coverage on Kos, especially, as the topics there usually would extend to something like this.

At 11:14 AM, Blogger Greyhair said...

Frustrated...but getting over it. I had my say.

At 11:58 AM, Blogger Desi said...

While I can't speak *for* anyone else, I can say that a protest -- especially as large as the one in dc was -- speaks for itself.

To be critical of other blogs, and second guess why they did or didn't cover your protest is self-defeating. It encourages a division within the ranks of us who want the war to end. Why go there? Take it to email in a question if you feel you must.

I don't think patting protestors on the back is exactly Atrios' *thing*, and I don't think he should be knocked for it. He does more than his fair share of documenting the atrocities.
JMO, of course.

At 12:06 PM, Blogger DavidByron said...

"it should be noted that A.N.S.W.E.R. has been holding protest rally's for years in D.C. Attendance is normally a fringe and a few hundred at best."

You're trying to say ANSWER is a fringe group. In fact almost all the biggest marches have been organised by them. This was not the largest march they've had. The one before the war was bigger. Do you remember? And I think another one before the war was about the same size, plus others. They had a march in 2002, at least one that was well over 100,000. All this while liasing with their international counterparts. The international march before the war drew millions, perhaps tens of millions.

They expected and asked for space for 100,000 as you say, months ahead of time, before Sheenan was known.

ANSWER was formed 2 days after 9-11 I think so they are quite recent as a group. I think UFPJ was a little over a year after ANSWER. If you want a tiny fringe group that's been around a long while try Veterans for Peace maybe.

I think it's well past time the so-called progressives thanked ANSWER for organising and paying for all these marches. A rally of just a few hundred doesn't cost anything but these guys consistently turn out marches in the high 5 or low 6 digits with or without Sheenan and certainly with nothing but contempt contributed by many "liberals".

At 12:08 PM, Anonymous Rob in Baltimore said...

Greyhair - speaking for myself and not John or the blog. I agreed with John and the way that he approached this protest. While I understand what you are saying - "go with the one that brung ya" - this coalition was not an anti-war coalition, it was an anti-Bush coalition. To ask members of Congress, Senators, etc. to stand on the stage with the Communist Party is laughable.

I would argue that Cindy Sheehan could easily have found MoveOn money (or similar) and set up the protest on her own. Had she, I’m sure you would have seen a lot more support on the Left.

You can argue all you want that you want a unified Left. I agree. But a Karl Rove unified Right would NEVER put the John Birch Society on the stage, would they?

That's the difference. They know how to eject the extremes, the Left does not. They do, in fact, moderate their message away from those Birch extremes. Unfortunately, the Left still thinks we need to stand with Communists and fringe political causes that represent a minute, though vocal, portion of the Left. The mainstream does not.

At 3:23 PM, Blogger Greyhair said...

desi- I tried that and got nowhere. Zip. Nada. Plus the hypocrisy of bloggers continually criticizing the press, then doing the same thing was just too much to pass up.

davidbyron - I gave ANSWER credit. I just don't happen to agree with ALL their positions. But you have to admit they have a poor reputation on the left. Why, I don't exactly know. My point is that ANSWER was not the point. The war was. And in my discussion, ANSWER was dealt with far more gently than anywhere else I've read.

rob-I think you're mistaken. The protest/rally was an anti-war rally. Being anti-Bush flows from that naturally. And I specifically did NOT address politicians getting on stage. I realize the realities of politics and the political cycle. That was not my point at all.

You may think Cindy could get money/support easily. I can only tell you that Cindy, and Cindy's supporters, (I talked to all the above before the rally) did not feel much love from the left other than those in the coalition.

No, Karl Rove wouldn't put the John Birch Society on stage. Actually they're too liberal for him. :). Seriously, they did put G. Gordon Liddy on stage as well as Jeff Sessions. The question isn't who's on stage. It's how do you maximize ...literally squeeze like a lemon...every bit of good spin out of ANYTHING that is done, while downplaying what you don't think supports your message. (spin 101)

Finally, as far as the assertion that the right rejects the far right. Huh? Bob Jones University, Pat Robertson, the entire religious right? HELLO. They not only tolerate them, the co-opt them for votes!

My point remains. Whenever anything happens that is supportive of your fellow liberals, it should be spun and amplified by the left that part of the message that you share. Criticize if you will, but make that the lower tier of any treatment you have while pushing the positive message you agree with.

I haven't seen that.

To all of you, thanks for the feedback!


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