One Nation Fails to Impress Corporate Media
NEW YORK - Thanks to the efforts of independent media outlets like Free Speech TV (10/2/10), GritTV (10/4/10) and Democracy Now! (10/4/10),
you may have been able to follow the happenings at last weekend's One
Nation Working Together rally. Organized and endorsed by hundreds of
progressive citizens' groups, labor unions and grassroots activists, the
gathering drew tens of thousands to Washington, D.C., to make the case
for jobs, peace and social justice. But the corporate media seemed
mostly less than impressed, either ignoring the rally completely or
framing it in the shadow of the Tea Party.
The network evening newscasts were mostly uninterested, with NBC Nightly News the only one of the big three to file a report, according to a search of the Nexis news database. The PBS NewsHour did not cover One Nation, though a few weeks prior Tea Party organizer Dick Armey was featured in a long one-on-one interview (FAIR Blog, 9/10/10). And far-right Fox News personality Glenn Beck's August rally in Washington was covered on the NewsHour before it happened (8/27/10) and afterwards as well (8/30/10).
The rise of the conservative Tea Party movement has
been the subject of intense, often uncritical media coverage (Extra!, 5/10), so comparisons of One Nation to Tea Party rallies were inevitable. "Liberals Take Their Turn at Rallying," said the Washington Post
(10/3/10), describing the event as "the left wing's first large
gathering designed to counter the conservative Tea Party phenomenon."
That might comes as a surprise to the organizers of
the U.S. Social Forum in June, where thousands of progressive activists
rallied and strategized in Detroit (Extra!, 9/10).
And it ignores the National Equality March for gay and lesbian rights
in Washington, D.C.--which, by some counts, drew more to Washington
than a Tea Party rally in September, though it attracted a fraction of
the corporate media coverage (Extra!, 12/09).
The Post continued its
comparison: "The rally lacked central charismatic speakers like Beck
and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin." This conclusion is typical for
a corporate media that treats every Facebook post or public appearance
by Palin as if it were inherently newsworthy.
Not all of the corporate media's coverage was dismissive; CNN featured
regular reports on October 2, many from correspondent Kate
Bolduan--though the network also made sure to give the Tea Party a
platform on the subject of One Nation, interviewing National Tea Party
Federation spokesman David Webb (10/3/10).
Some of the references to Beck and the Tea Party were bizarre--like when an NBC Nightly News
report (10/2/10) noted that "thousands of party liberals today
borrowed a page from the Tea Party movement, gathering on the National
Mall in Washington to try and stir up both passion and Democratic
voters." Of course, rallying progressives around the theme of jobs and
justice does not exactly require "borrowing" an idea from Glenn Beck;
Martin Luther King delivered a rather well-known address on those
themes some 40 years ago.
Beck's red-baiting of the rally was woven into some of the coverage. On ABC's Good Morning America
(10/2/10), Deborah Roberts asked NAACP president Ben Jealous: "Now,
Glenn Beck has said to some of his viewers and listeners on the radio,
that among your organizers are Communist Party members and a New York
City Democratic Socialist of America. What do you say to that?"
Many news accounts (e.g., New York Times,
10/3/10) concluded that the rally attracted fewer supporters than
Beck's most recent Washington rally. That may very well be true, but
numbers have never determined how much coverage corporate media devote
to a given event. Anti-war protests before the invasion of Iraq, for
instance, were massive gatherings that generated little media interest
(FAIR Action Alert, 9/30/02, 10/28/02),
while somewhat small Tea Party protests or anti-healthcare bill
protests have been given abundant coverage. Such coverage helps foster a
sense of a protest movement's strength, which has been the media's
gift to the Tea Party movement over the past year. It is no surprise
that progressive activists were not awarded a similar corporate media