Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Media, War & The Movement

By Tony Murphy
Published Apr 24, 2011 10:14 PM

Anyone who has ever been a workers’ rights or anti-war activist knows how futile it is to depend on the capitalist media to tell the truth. A recent example was the media boycott of the April 9 and 10 anti-war demonstrations in New York and San Francisco.

Logically, it would seem that these events would be top stories. Bombs were falling in a war against Libya, which was then only three weeks old.

On April 8 the government actually threatened to shut down, as politicians discussed cutting trillions of dollars in social programs, while the Pentagon spent a $100 million a day on bombing.

But when thousands marched that weekend against war, the media silence was deafening.

That silence inspired media activist group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting to put out an April 15 press release comparing the coverage of Tea Party rallies with progressive rallies.

“A sparsely attended Tea Party rally in Washington, D.C., on March 31 in support of federal spending cuts received generous media attention,” the FAIR release read. “One report suggested there was ‘at least one reporter for every three or four activists,’ and a Republican politician joked that there might be more journalists than activists at the event.”

FAIR’s report made crystal clear what the dynamic, pro-union Wisconsin protests had already shown by comparison: The Tea Party is a media-fueled, corporate-funded phenomenon, not a grassroots movement.

What the contrast in corporate media coverage reveals, along with the double standard, is the current attitude of the ruling class.

In January 2003, the major national media and every major daily newspaper covered the growing protests against the impending Iraq war in some way. MSNBC stationed a camera at San Francisco’s Jan. 18 demonstration and covered it live.

Two days later, the New York Times — which was backing President George W. Bush’s “weapons of mass destruction” lies so strongly it was forced to formally apologize a year later — wrote in its lead editorial that the anti-war protests “represented what appears to be a large segment of the American public that remains unconvinced that the Iraqi threat warrants the use of military force at this juncture.” At that time there was a split in the U.S. ruling class about the adventurism of the Bush/Cheney gang.

While the anti-war protests have not been as large in 2011, the bigger factor in the media boycott of April 9 and 10 is that the ruling class is now 100 percent uninterested in covering any kind of resistance in the U.S. as it launches a third war, loots social programs and faces serious revolutionary challenges in North Africa and the Middle East.

For activists, this is frustrating — and not surprising. The corporations that own the media will control what people see as much as they can. But they are not all-powerful. The ruling class and its lackeys in the media hate WikiLeaks because it exposes the fact that the internet is a tool that pro-worker, anti-war forces can use to mobilize and talk to each other. It’s not able to control large sections of that.

During the righteous occupation of the Wisconsin statehouse, the New York Times ran story after story about how much hatred there was of the state’s public sector unions. Meanwhile, anyone could watch live feeds online of, for instance, firefighters joining the protests in the Capitol or the huge rallies outside of it.

As unions and immigrants’ organizations join forces for demonstrations on May Day this year, the key for activists will be to further develop peoples’ media — from adding more online video feeds or independent newspapers to progressive listener-supported radio. The corporate media may continue to boycott us — or be forced, for its own reasons, to give better coverage. But it will never help us organize a resistance movement.

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