On Thursday, the corporate media turned out in impressive numbers to cover the pro-justice march in Jena, Louisiana. But last Saturday, just five days before, that same corporate media barely addressed the anti-war march in Washington DC.Personally, I'm thrilled the mainstream corporate media covered Jena, but I'm not delusional as to why:
For the Bush-crony corporate media, which owns profitable "defense" industry businesses and serves the military industrial complex in myriad ways, the march in Jena was viable to promote. It served the interests of both the Bush administration and American media corporations by providing a global view of Bush's exportable democracy. Unlike the anti-war movement that directly targets George Bush and Dick Cheney, the Jena march targeted local officials and local injustice. It never mentioned George W. Bush or his administration. Thus, the Jena march was covered and the anti-war march was not.
Furthermore, if Bush put a media kibosh on the Jena march the way he does on anti-war marches, he would ensure an even greater divide between Black Americans, the Republican party and his administration. Activists know the success of public demonstration is judged by the attention it gets. If the Jena march generates media attention, the march is deemed a success. If the Republicans and George Bush want to keep any faith with Black Americans, they had better let the media work.
Plus, on the heels of the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina, where the world watched America's disenfranchised Black population purposely forsaken, what better promo for Bush's portrait of transferable global democracy than a media barrage showing Black Americans free to congregate, chant and march? The fact is, if Bush and the corporations hadn't approved the media coverage in Jena and recognized how they could benefit from it, it would never have taken place. But since these same media conglomerates also profit from the military industrial complex, the coverage of Jena was a win all around. If Bush and the corporations can show that democracy works, they can argue it's worth exporting, and they are noble for passing it on - regardless of the cost!
Thursday's march in Jena broadcast to the world that Americans have freedom of discourse. However, the extent of Jena's coverage was predicated on the subjects the discourse was on. Since the marchers didn't demonstrate against the government, the media or the President, the exposure was high. Had they taken on the government, the media or the President, the exposure would have been little to none. So much for the beatitude of Bush's exportable democracy.
In truth, it was great to see Jena's streets filled to capacity for civil rights. And great to see the media converge to report it. Unfortunately, the reporting was more for "photo-ops" than to advance the marchers' cause. This was corporate media's opportunity to transmit exportable democracy to every corner of the globe. After all, one can't export democracy if one can't show the world it exists. It will be interesting to see how long corporate media broadcasts the Jena story. Likely just as long as the focus stays off Bush, Cheney and Washington, DC.
Despite the media's questionable motives for covering the events in Jena, I'm ecstatic that they did. The injustice served upon the young Jena Six, upon young Genarlow Wilson and Troy Davis in Georgia, and upon thousands of young black men trapped in America's prison industrial complex, is reprehensible. It must stop!
My great hope is that this is the beginning of a new civil rights movement that I become part of. In all my years in the social justice movement, my biggest regret was never marching with Dr. King. But I couldn't. In 1963 I was fourteen years old and not permitted to go. Now forty-four years later I had to pass on Jena, too, having just returned from Washington where I'd marched against the war.
Of course the media was barely there.
On September 15th, I, along with 100,000 kindred activists, marched through the nation's capitol where we were pretty much ignored. The minimal media we did get was distorted and untrue. When a small, sadistic band of war-hawks showed up to oppose us, the press slanted their numbers as if they equaled our own. The truth is, their numbers were one-hundredth the size of ours, although one would never know that from this deceptive headline in The Washington Post: "Dueling Demonstrations."
It's a travesty that mainstream journalists ignore the anti-war movement and serve their corporate masters to the detriment of our nation. Of course, there are no photo-ops at peace marches to support the export of Bush's democracy. There is only the truth which apparently isn't enough. It's sad.
During the extensive coverage of Jena on Thursday, CNN's Kyra Phillips was so bubbled over by her freedom to report that she blurted out on camera, "this is what we went to journalism school for - to do stories like this."
On that point Ms. Phillips is correct. She did learn in journalism school that there is honor in her profession. She also learned in journalism school that the only master she serves is 'the truth'. Not her corporate bosses.
If Ms. Phillips and her colleagues choose to report on the truth, the anti-war movement is an excellent source. In fact, here's a small sampling of some stories she could have told from the peace march on September 15th:
* On the eve of the September 15th PEACE march, several members of the Rolling Thunder and Gathering of Eagles Pro-War/Pro-Violence motorcycle gangs showed up at the CODEPINK House in Washington, DC to harass the peace loving WOMEN in pink. It was an unconscionable bullying act. CODEPINK diffused the encounter and engaged them in peaceful conversation. I was staying at the House at the time.
* During Saturday's peace march, a six-foot-tall pro-war/pro-violence male agitator slapped CODEPINK's 23-year-old staffer, Alexandra, across her face when she tried to intercede in an argument. Fortunately, the cowardly attacker was hauled off and arrested by the Capitol Police. I saw the bruise on Ally''s left cheek. I hope the attacker is appropriately punished.
* One of the cowardly members of the Rolling Thunder and Gathering of Eagles Pro-War/Pro-Violence motorcycle gangs approached CODEPINK women during the march with a knife and slashed the giant PEACE banners they were holding.
AND THE STORY THAT REALLY MUST BE TOLD:
* Several cowardly members of the Rolling Thunder and Gathering of Eagles Pro-War/Pro-Violence motorcycle gangs BEAT AND KICKED GoldStar father Carlos Arredondo during the peace march. They beat Carlos so badly that he had deep cuts and bruises all over his body. For those who may not know Carlos Arredondo, he is the grieving father who set fire to himself when told his Marine son Alex was killed in Iraq. I saw Carlos' wounds. They were deep, bloody and painful, but no where near as painful as the pain from losing his child!
Shame on The Gathering of Eagles and Rolling Thunder.! Shame on The Corporate Media! Shame on George W. Bush!
Final note: The corporate media's exploitation of the "Jena Six" has given the story the renown it deserves. It's the dawning of a renewed and needed movement. As one who protested the Vietnam war, I remember what it was like to link arms in a multi-cultural rainbow and march in lockstep toward peace. I've long wished for greater diversity in the current peace movement.
Nonetheless, in the United States Congress, the strongest anti-Iraq war voice belongs to Congresswoman Maxine Waters who marched in Jena this week. As Congresswoman Waters clearly knows, at the core of America's economic problems is the ever-growing cost of war. It is my hope that millions more Americans will join this revitalized civil rights movement and the peace movement. It is my further hope or dream that the two will merge into one powerful force to take on illegal war, American imperialism, racial injustice, the prison industrial complex, poverty, health-care and the multitude of ills that plague our nation and our world. When we are that powerful, the corporate media and the administration can't afford to turn away.
Linda Milazzo is a Los Angeles based writer, educator and activist. Her writing has appeared in numerous domestic and international newspapers, magazines and journals. Over the past three decades, Linda has divided her time between the entertainment industry, community development projects and education.