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DC experiences from LA's own

by Cacye Calloway Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2001 at 7:05 PM

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



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

parade route."

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

all, "Legitimacy."

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 ( ). 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: .

DC Notebook

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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