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by Cacye Calloway
Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2001 at 11:05 AM
A personal description of the J20 events
with additional essays from FAIR and Journalist Matt Olson
In lieu of the promised "letter from DC" I was going to write, I'm
the two below pieces. They manage to sum up what, for some reason, I've
been unable to put into words.
I would like to add a couple of thoughts. There was a general sense of
uneasiness and discontent in the streets of DC - even among the Bush
supporters. It made Bush's call for unity (splashed across the front page
of most major papers as if it were news) even more hollow than the usual
attempts to use patriotism as a societal anesthesia. This will be a time of
gross political slight-of-hand and it's obvious that the corporate media
been contracted to do PR.
Even though I've now witnessed, on many occasions, the distortion with
the news is reported in this country, to my mind no instance has been so
egregious as the coverage of the inauguration. I found myself telling
anyone who would listen about indy media and the importance of ferreting
the truth. No one wants to believe they've spent their lives being lied
but if they were in DC this past weekend, it was impossible to deny.
In its opening days, as the Bush administration begins to hack away at some
of our most fiercely held ideals, it's clear to me that we need to be ever
more vigilant. We need to make our voices heard - loudly and clearly. A
woman in the airport said, "I guess you're going to be busy for the next
four years." My reply, "yes, I guess we are."
All the best,
Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting
Media analysis, critiques and news reports
IGNORING REALITY AT THE INAUGURATION
New York Times Stresses "Legitimacy" Over Democracy
January 22, 2001
The New York Times editorial the day after George W. Bush's
("A Vision of Unity," 1/21/01) predicted, based on the inaugural
that Bush could "lift the nation to a new era of inclusion and social
justice," and found room to describe how "the gloomy light of a
day was offset by splashes of color like Laura Bush's blue coat."
But it didn't find space to mention the most striking feature of the 2001
inauguration: that it occurred amidst widespread and angry protests
rejecting the legitimacy of Bush's claim to office, the likes of which have
not been faced by any modern president. Along the parade route, he was
confronted by signs with messages like "Shame," "Bush Lost" and "Hail to
Thief." The London Guardian (1/22/01) reported that the inaugural parade
"fell well short of being triumphant, and on many occasions during its slow
advance through the drizzle, the sound of jeering drowned out the cheers."
But the front page of the New York Times showcased stories like "Bush,
Taking Office, Calls for Civility, Compassion and 'Nation of Character';
Unity Is a Theme" and "Proud Father and Son Bask in History's Glow"-- both
of which discussed Bush's teary-eyed father while avoiding any mention of
While the Times' news editors could not totally ignore the estimated
20,000 demonstrators, they did their best to downplay them, placing the one
story about them ("Protesters in the Thousands Sound Off in the Capitol")
page 17, the sixth out of eight pages of inauguration coverage. This
featured one quote from Rev. Al Sharpton and one from a demonstrator who
spoke of the "inchoate feeling" that led her to march. This abbreviated
presentation of the viewpoints of the tens of thousands of anti-Bush
protesters was "balanced" by another quote from one of the hundred
anti-abortion activists who demonstrated outside Planned Parenthood's
All told, the story measured 15 column inches out of eight full pages of
inauguration coverage. (It was about three-fourths the length of
"Floridians of the G.O.P. Savor 'Special Victory,' " on page 18.) The
accompanying photo, a tiny 2"x3" shot of one of the day's anti-Bush
was the only one out of 19 inauguration-related photos in the paper to show
any sign of dissent.
Another inside-pages story, "Echoes of the Past, Near and Far, Are Heard on
the Capital's Streets," included a lone protester outside the Supreme Court
building, but presented him as well outnumbered by Republican
counter-demonstrators singing "God Bless America."
The most telling story of the inauguration package was a front-page news
analysis headlined "Tradition and Legitimacy: A Nation's Old Rituals Begin
to Dissolve Lingering Clouds of a Bitter Election Battle." This piece, by
R.W. Apple, did mention the demonstrations-- in order to minimize their
"Arguments about the legitimacy of the Texas governor's victory have
persisted even as the country accepted the fact that he had won. Thousands
of the doubtful and disenchanted took to the streets of Washington today in
angry protest. But the debate is likely to grow softer as the nation grows
accustomed to pictures of Mr. Bush speaking from the Oval Office, boarding
Air Force One, accompanied everywhere he goes by the strains of 'Ruffles
Flourishes' and 'Hail to the Chief.' In the television age, those images,
more that anything else, confer the mantle of authority and legitimacy on a
The notion that it is media images, not the votes of citizens accurately
counted, that give legitimacy to a leader is profoundly anti-democratic.
media's role in trying to shore up the fragile credibility of the
establishment was a theme in the most insightful piece in the New York
Times' inauguration coverage, "Reality of Nation's Divisions Quickly Creeps
into the Commentary, " by TV critic Caryn James. She notes TV pundits'
attempt to "retreat into a soothing little bubble where every action they
observe is majestic and every viewer shares their sense of awe"--a bubble
that was punctured by "visible evidence of furious protesters along the
Because it was not obliged to present live video footage of that "visible
evidence," the New York Times was much more successful than the television
networks in minimizing the fact that tens of thousands of citizens from
across the country marched on D.C. to reject Bush's assumption of power as
illegitimate and undemocratic. The Times left readers with the impression
that the dominant themes of the day were "Unity," "Tradition" and, above
ACTION: Please write to the New York Times if you thought that the
protests against George W. Bush's inauguration were an important story and
deserved more prominence in the Times' inauguration coverage.
New York Times
229 West 43rd St.
New York, NY 10036-3959
Toll free comment line: 1-888-NYT-NEWS
Feel free to respond to FAIR ( firstname.lastname@example.org ). We can't reply to
everything, but we will look at each message. We especially appreciate
documented example of media bias or censorship. And please send copies of
your email correspondence with media outlets, including any responses, to
at: email@example.com .
by Matt Olson 8:35pm Mon Jan 22 '01
Commentary on media the inauguration
protests by a local journalist.
J20: DC Notebook
Though I am a journalist by trade, my purposes for going to DC were more
personal than professional. Despite my cynicism about the two party system
voted for Gore, and was not a little bit irate when Bush stole the election
with the help of his brother and five sitting Supreme Court justices, one
whom swore him in. Both the hideousness of Dubya (Greek for "villiage
by the way) and the series of protests that began in Seattle last November
led many to believe that DC would be the site of massive and fierce
demostration. This was a correct assumption on both parts, though not in
conventional sense. The protests were far from organized; the cells rarely
exceeded 200 people. And the ferocity of the protesters, who were all
irate, was not manifested as violence or property damage. Unlike Seattle,
Philly, LA, or Prague, these protests were not marred by physical conflict.
Despite the fact that CNN's only broadcast of the protests was of a brief
scuffle between protesters and police, and several people were arrested
(later released) on charges of assaulting a police officer, confrontation
was not the order of the day.
At least part of this had to do with the occasion. While the cops did their
best to ensure that people were intimidated, there was a sense on the
that they couldn't afford to crack skulls. There were any number of moments
in any number of places during the day that the police could have beaten
rounded up a group of protesters, thrown them on the bus and carted them
to jail, but they didn't. This was the smartest move anyone in law
enforcement made all week, because it effectively short-circuited the
If the police had arrested 500 people, which would have been easy, it would
have been difficult for CNN to broadcast that there were 500 protesters
(which they did). By restraining themselves and simultaneously roughing up
small group of volatile protesters, they managed to paint themselves as the
picture of restraint and the protesters as a small band of rowdy hooligans
who would never be happy with anything anyway.
In a way, this was the biggest coup of the weekend. Everyone expected some
protests, and most major news media chalked it up as an indication of "the
divided nature of the electorate." Which it was. But by not allowing
themselves to get trigger happy, the police avoided a spectacle and in the
absence of a spectacle, the networks were content to dispatch half a dozen
reporters each to the inaugural balls so that some silicone heavy woman in
blue sequined evening gown could tell the country, with authority to "get
ready for four years of glitz and glamour in the White House." I hear they
already laid melon and sage carpet in the Oval Office.
What got ignored in the process was the diversity of the protest crowd. I
spent two and a half cold, rainy hours standing on the 1500 block of
Pennsylvania Avenue waiting, along with everybody else, to jeer the 43rd
President of the United States. Most of this time was spent next to a trial
lawyer from Virginia Beach who was there with her husband, mother, and two
kids. She spent this time telling me, my friend, her family and anyone else
who would listen that the Supreme Court decision that handed the election
Bush defied every principle she learned in three semesters of
law, not to mention common sense. She makes more money before lunch than I
make all week, but there were, standing on the curb, with the same focus,
just different perspectives. I think I lost hearing in my left ear due to a
scream she let out when Dennis Hastert rolled down the window of his
This is what made the DC protests so noteworthy, and made the de facto
blackout so tragic. It wasn't the colorful costumes or the catchy slogans,
though these contributed to the atmosphere but rather the essential
of those in attendance. I saw infants, the infirm, luchistas, tigers,
panthers, preppies, hippies, yippies, yuppies, rainbows and my good friend
from LA, and they were all there for the same reason.
That's what the major media missed.
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