September 25, 2005

BLACK SANDS OF PROTEST

I've been reading through official reports and blog posts about the anti-war ralley in D.C., and I've been getting increasingly grumpy. The google experiment posts really chap my hide. Are reporters really just glossing over Brian Becker's credentials, or saying that Cuddy is a "novice"? Aren't there any internet connections in newsrooms? All it took was ten seconds on google to show these people's true colors.

But what got me the most was this acute statement at Protein Wisdom:


[from the original AP article]

While united against the war, political beliefs varied in the Washington crowd. Paul Rutherford, 60, of Vandalia, Mich., said he is a Republican who supported Bush in the last election and still does except for the war.

“President Bush needs to admit he made a mistake in the war and bring the troops home, and let’s move on,” he said. His wife, Judy, 58, called the removal of Saddam Hussein “a noble mission” but said U.S. troops should have left when claims that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction proved unfounded.

“We found that there were none and yet we still stay there and innocent people are dying daily,” she said.

Only in a story that is desperately trying to hide its bias would the author find, foreground, and quote, as her initial interviewees, a couple who are surely the least politically representative of all those attending this rally: a pro-Bush Republican tandem so unversed in the Administration’s reasons for being in Iraq that they believe we should pull out before the mission is completed, and are basing that belief on a tired liberal talking point that conveniently ignores all the other reasons the Bushies outlined for the Iraq campaign. So, while Ms Kerr is certainly correct to note that political beliefs among the rallyers varies, her choice to highlight the most unrepresentative of the variants to open the story betrays her own rhetorical agenda—and does so in a way that is so obvious I’d be surprised to learn she thought it might actually fool anyone.

That is just the thing that might slip by an unperceptive reader like me, but Jeff Goldstein is a top-rate grokker. Out of the thousands (maybe) of people at the protest, this reporter handpicks the one middle-aged Republican couple. As if they're even representative of the type of folks there in D.C. Come on, they're thrown in the article with Brian Becker and Cindy Sheehan, for pete's sake. You know this AP reporter had to interview dozens of people before she got this money-shot couple. Oooh, look, they used to support Bush!

God, this reminds me so much of Whittle's fable of Noam Chomsky and the Black Sand:

Let’s say we stand overlooking the ocean along Pacific Coast Highway. From high atop the cliffs, we look down to the waves and the sand below. I ask you what color the beach is. You reply, reasonably enough, that it is sandy white. And you are exactly right.

However, there are people who cannot see the beach for themselves because they are not standing with us on this very spot. This is where Noam earns his liberal sainthood. Noam takes a small pail to the beach and sits down in the sand.

If you’ve ever run sand through your fingers, you know that for all of the thousands upon thousands of white or clear grains, there are a few dark ones here and there, falling through your fingers. With a jewelers loupe and an EXCEEDINGLY fine pair of tweezers, you carefully and methodically pluck all of the dark grains you can find – and only the dark grains – and carefully place them, one by one, into your trusty bucket.

It will take you a long time – it has taken Chomsky decades – to fill this bucket, but with enough sand and enough time, you will eventually do so. And then, when you do, you can make a career touring colleges through the world, giving speeches about the ebony-black beaches of Malibu, and you can pour your black sand onto the lectern and state, without fear of contradiction, that this sand was taken from those very beaches.

And what you say will be accurate, it will be factually based, and you will be lying like the most pernicious son of a bitch that ever lived.

This Republican couple was the black grain of sand at this anti-war ralley, but they're put in the article to create a fake sense of balance. Yeah, sure, the Mall is teeming with patchouli-smelling, underarm-hairy hippies, but hey, there's also a Republican couple from a blue state there! It's completely sneaky and false to claim that "political beliefs varied in the Washington crowd" because you found one couple who wasn't wearing a Rachel Corrie shirt or raving about how it's all the Jooooooos fault.

It all goes back to the premise of The Argument Culture: take every issue and show that it has two sides. But if there were 2000 protesters in D.C., and even 50 of them were former-Republicans, they're a small minority. Don't interview one moonbat and one Republican and then say that the anti-war rally represented a wide spectrum of beliefs. That's completely disingenuous, because the sands of this anti-war protest were not black.


UPDATE:

Nearly everyone in the comments section is missing the point. Yes, I'm aware of the President's approval ratings. I do not deny the fact that some people who voted for him might not support the war. What I said, however -- if you actually listened to my words and didn't infer whatever you wanted so you could rant about approval ratings and WMDs -- was that those people are likely not representative of the folks who attend anti-war rallies. Look at any collection of photos from the rally and you'll see folks waving Palestinian flags and wearing keffiyeh and crap. That's the face of the hardcore anti-war protester, so it's journalistically dishonest to seek out the most mainstream protesters and paint them as the norm.

My post was about the journalist's manipulation; it had nothing to do with President Bush's approval ratings. Please stop taking my writing off into tangents I never intended.

MORE TO GROK:

Here's another example of "lying like the most pernicious son of a bitch that ever lived"...

Posted by: Sarah at 05:40 AM | Comments (10) | Add Comment
Post contains 1057 words, total size 7 kb.

1 I read that last comment, and I stand amazed that anyone can accuse "the Left" of repeating talking points. Didn't I hear that same screed from Ann Coulter on Fox last week? In the last two elections, the Democrat won a majority of votes in one and came extraordinarily close in the second. So tell me again how liberalism has been "rejected with prejudice," or whatever you said. Actually, this kind of ties into the main point that I wanted to make, which is that this Jeff fellow's analysis of how this reporter was manipulating the story is pretty manipulative in its own right. He calls the couple in question "a pro-Bush Republican tandem so unversed in the Administration’s reasons for being in Iraq that they believe we should pull out before the mission is completed." Ah, so everyone who favors a pullout (which I don't---we broke it, we own it) is "unversed" in the reasons Bush gives for why were there. No possibility that someone could be familiar with those reasons and just not accept them? No room for honest disagreement? By the way, look at Bush's declining approval ratings. You think that people who voted for him but now oppose the war are really that rare?

Posted by: Pericles at September 25, 2005 09:19 AM (EpPuP)

2 It's unfortunate that anyone who doesn't think that you should be in Iraq is supposedly 'unversed' in US politics. From the outside, the biggest problem I see in US politics and political beliefs is that you guys never allow for the other side to have a point. That at this point it would be foolish and dangerous to remove the troops is damn right, the invasion did fuck up a country beyond repair; however, the country shouldn't have been invaded and just about everyone agrees that the reasons given were false. It follows naturally that some people, republicans and democrats alike, will think it wise to leave, and that others of both sides will think it wise to stay. They are opinions, and as such, neither is wrong. It's too bad you deny offhand anything that disagrees with your stand. I find I learn more from those that don't believe the same things I do, because they make me see sides of things that I wouldn't have thought of on my own.

Posted by: Julie at September 25, 2005 09:55 AM (9oT36)

3 I just find that "the other side" continually charges that the rationale behind the invasion was unjust and that our continued actions in Iraq are immoral, a little on the naive side. Just about everyone in the civilized world believed that Saddam had WMD, the capability to deliver them (be that at the tip of an illegally possessed missile system or in the trunk of a beater automobile), as well as the will to give their employment a try in the 2002-2003 timeframe. It's not as if the period between 1991-2001 had not given Mr. Hussein ample opportunity to open his nation to UN inspectors. He just chose to play a game of deception and obfuscation with them. If he didn't have them...he sure wanted the inspectors to believe that he did. The next item we should note is that there was a period where there weren't ANY inspectors inside Iraq. In that timeframe, isn't it possible that Hussein's regime did a little housecleaning and either hid them exceedingly well or shipped them off to a neighboring ally (cough...cough....Syria)? What opponents to the war seem to want to claim is that our presence in Iraq from 2003 to present has proved a negative...that Saddam didn't possess WMDs. I'm sorry, but I just seem to recall that proving a negative is something that is impossible to do. Be they buried in the remote sands deep underground or they're in some laboratory in Syria, I believe that they did exist...and one day will be found. Back to the anti-war movement. I would hope that those on the "other side" would be smart enough to realize that the die has been cast and we'll be there until the Iraqis can take over for themselves. You can rant and rave, but this president has made the call. Yes, it's like an umpire...but you cannot have the leader of the greatest nation on the planet play wishy washy games with our foreign policy. Can't the "other side" simply sit back and hope for the best? Leaving right now just isn't the best move available for us. We are doing good in the Middle East...if polls (the other side seems to love them when they back up their own ideas) are correct, the US has made a great deal of progress in swaying the Muslim mind. I say we keep up the fight...rebuild a human intelligence capability that will replace the one systematically dismantled by the previous administration and try not to make the same mistake twice. If there are some in this country unwilling to believe that this is "my country right or wrong" then let's be able to throw some definitive proof in their faces. Sorry for the rambling rant...but I thought it was time. See you on the high ground. MajorDad1984

Posted by: MajorDad1984 at September 25, 2005 10:29 AM (tdEnf)

4 I'll be honest about it: before the war, I certainly assumed that Saddam still had WMDs. It was a reasonable assumption to make. However, before you invade a country, surely you ought to check your assumptions. It appears now that the intel community had a lot of doubts about the existence of the WMDs, but the administration (especially Cheney's office) didn't want to listen and made sure that intelligence briefs would de-emphasize this side of the story. Our major source for the presence of the WMDs is now in an Iraqi prison on fraud charges! Besides, even if the WMDs were there, there was never a plausible story about why exactly they posed an imminent threat to us. It wasn't like they had just been developed; if they were there, they would have been there for a long time. If Al Queda was going to use them against us, which flies in the face of the relationship between Saddam and Al Queda, why hadn't they done so already? Finally, suppose Major Dad is there and the weapons are now in Syria. Well, then the war didn't accomplish much, did they? The WMDs would still be in the hands of a Baathist dictatorship, only now it would be one with much stronger ties to terorist groups than Iraq ever had. If that is where the WMDs went, why the heck wasn't there a plan in place to prevent it?

Posted by: Pericles at September 25, 2005 12:24 PM (EpPuP)

5 The funny thing about the internet is that it creates these echo chambers where people of some political persuasion can visit and imagine that they are getting the whole story. Anyone who can stomach going to Little Green Footballs/Free Republic/Atrios/Democratic Underground/whatever-extremist-site and imagine that they are getting a fair view of things has a problem. They are all partisan and all carefully present a view of things that fits their limited set of preconceptions. Worse, The right wing sites have a strong habit of making up facts when they can't find any they like, while the left just tends to skew things. With support for the war hanging around 40%, and presidential approval around there too, there must be a fair number of people who changed their minds. Those numbers used to be much higher. So if a story finds a some of those people who changed their minds, it shouldn't be surprising. It's not a grain of black sand in a white beach, it's an example of real world people who fit the other data we have. The fact that you (Sarah) can imagine that it is a bit of black sand suggests that you spend too much time reading extremist views. Oh, and WRT the war, anyone who looks at this objectively will agree that the war was fought on the basis of many lies. The most serious lie that Bush et al. repeated over and over was the suggestion that Iraq was somehow connected to terrorism. Bush always parsed his words carefully (perhaps he learned from Clinton), but Cheney lied flat out. But if you visit LGF/Freep you still see people asserting that Iraq supported terrorism, despite all evidence pointing to the contrary. Where do the get these weird views? From extremist echo chambers where they can validate each others false beliefs. The other lie was that Iraq was an immediate threat to the U.S. Nobody bothers with that one anymore, now that we see how weak they were, but still goofy conspiracy theories like the 'smuggled into Syria' meme pop up, which Pericles already took to task. I am saying this not in a spirit of aggression, but out of concern. It is the responsibility of all of us in a Democracy to understand political matters as clearly as possible. While it is more comforting to visit propaganda factories like LGF/Kos that support whatever beliefs we have, it is better to have the courage to be honest and look at these matters critically. Jeff Golstein is the absolute opposite of a grokker - he is a partisan seeking out whatever facts support his beliefs and dropping the rest. Grokking is finding the facts and finding a model that fits all the facts, and if the fact does't fit not ignoring it or glossing it over, but improving the model and dropping beliefs that have been shown to be false.

Posted by: VOT at September 25, 2005 06:51 PM (usuh/)

6 The war was to oust Saddam from Kuwait. That war, like the Korean war, had never ended when continuous violations of the cease fire agreement necessitated a resumption and termination of the war. Our victory in that war was overwhelming and unprecedented. The post war is as rough as Bush said it would be, and reconstruction is going as well as can be expected when the enemy is given hope that just a few more bombs and they win.

Posted by: Walter E. Wallis, P.E. at September 25, 2005 09:41 PM (wDJE+)

7 So critics of a war are giving hope to the enemy? Then let's start the trials for these traitors, who gave comfort to the enemy in Bosnia: "You can support the troops but not the president." --Rep Tom Delay (R-TX) "Well, I just think it's a bad idea. What's going to happen is they're going to be over there for 10, 15, maybe 20 years." --Joe Scarborough (R-FL) "Explain to the mothers and fathers of American servicemen that may come home in body bags why their son or daughter have to give up their life?" --Sean Hannity, Fox News, "[The] President . . . is once again releasing American military might on a foreign country with an ill-defined objective and no exit strategy. He has yet to tell the Congress how much this operation will cost. And he has not informed our nation's armed forces about how long they will be away from home. These strikes do not make for a sound foreign policy." --Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) "If we are going to commit American troops, we must be certain they have a clear mission, an achievable goal and an exit strategy." --Karen Hughes, speaking on behalf of George W Bush "I had doubts about the bombing campaign from the beginning . . I didn't think we had done enough in the diplomatic area." --Senator Trent Lott (R-MS) "I cannot support a failed foreign policy. History teaches us that it is often easier to make war than peace. This administration is just learning that lesson right now. The President began this mission with very vague objectives and lots of unanswered questions. A month later, these questions are still unanswered. There are no clarified rules of engagement. There is no timetable. There is no legitimate definition of victory. There is no contingency plan for mission creep. There is no clear funding program. There is no agenda to bolster our over-extended military. There is no explanation defining what vital national interests are at stake. There was no strategic plan for war when the President started this thing, and there still is no plan today" --Rep Tom Delay (R-TX) "Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is." --Governor George W. Bush (R-TX)

Posted by: Pericles at September 25, 2005 10:16 PM (EpPuP)

8 great post, Sarah.

Posted by: annika at September 27, 2005 11:43 AM (8aWdz)

9 I agree with annika, Sarah, you have a spot-on post here that makes a very important point.

Posted by: Dave at September 27, 2005 12:33 PM (6GFTi)

10 Oh now come on... I read the "other example" analysis of a photograph, and it is laughable. Suppose that we assume that the woman in a red t-shirt is a member of a Communist group involved in organizing the march---and I haven't researched it enough to know who the organizers were, so I'm only agreeing that they were Communists for the sake of argument. The fact that she is photographed telling these teenagers where they were supposed to stand---and he looks like a teenager herself, by the way---does nothing to suggest that she "recruited" them to attend. The photograph says nothing about why the marchers are there or how they got there. It seems perfectly reasonable that the organizers of any rally or march would have people there to direct traffic and tell thevarious groups taking part where they are to stand and when they should march. That is all I see in the photograph, and I say that anyone who claims to see more is "lying like the most pernicious son of a bitch that ever lived." It isn't that I want to defend people at the march, most of whom I probably wouldn't agree with about a lot of things. It is just that when someone is being criticized for a lack of intellectual honesty, the person doing the criticizing had better hold themselves to a pretty high standard. This page reads to me like the pot calling the kettle black.

Posted by: Pericles at September 28, 2005 11:11 AM (EpPuP)

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