Peace Movement Not So Good With Media or Elections

By David Swanson

The corporate media in the United States will not allow a real peace candidate any time or substantive or respectful coverage. It will slander and mock and, above all, ignore. Then it will find people outside the media to quote as saying that they don’t believe the candidate is “viable.” The ideal spokespeople to make this announcement will be those perceived to agree with the peace candidate – that is, leaders of the peace movement. Then the story will be made to look like the media is reporting on who the public calls “viable,” rather than determining who is viable and imposing that on the public. This is basic, fundamental electoral manufacturing of consent. And yet, every election, the peace movement plays along.

In this article from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, a CODE PINK activist is quoted as follows:

“‘Dennis is saying all the right things, but I just worry that he isn’t getting the exposure that he needs and that he is not being taken seriously,’ said [Rosalie] Yelen. She hasn’t settled on a candidate to support but says she likes former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards’ stance on poverty.”

To her credit, Yelen explained that the media was the problem; but the media was writing the article and went on to clarify that Kucinich was the problem. The reporter, Sabrina Earon, then quotes a couple of “experts” arguing that because Kucinich is behind in the polls he is a loser and will stay behind in the polls.

Then a peace activist is used as a perfect pawn to express exactly what the media wants expressed, namely that voters must choose between what they really want (even when it is an overwhelming majority position) and what’s “viable,” even when it is the position of a dwindling minority:

“Paul Kawika Martin, political director of Peace Action, said there is wide support for Kucinich in his 100,000-member anti-war group, but that candidates including Obama, Edwards and former Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska also appeal to anti-war voters. They’re less happy with Clinton, the New York senator, who has promised to remove U.S. troops from Iraq when she becomes president but, critics say, isn’t doing enough to achieve that goal sooner.

“‘There is probably a division in the peace movement between those who are purists and want someone like Kucinich who perfectly represents their views, and realists who want a viable candidate,’ said Martin. ‘He has a history of running and not doing well, and he doesn’t have the fund-raising money.'”

So, even to the peace movement, it’s about money. Or at least so we are to understand from this article. Of course, in television ads it really IS about money. But it’s only about money in newspaper articles when we choose to play along as corporate pawns and pretend it is.

The reporter next employs (briefly, with no salary) the leader of the largest peace coalition we have:

“Although Kucinich’s steady opposition to the Iraq war appeals to many members of United for Peace and Justice, a coalition representing anti-war groups, national coordinator Leslie Cagan said no consensus candidate has emerged.

“‘There are concerns about who is electable, and who is being taken seriously and who has a shot at it,’ she said. ‘There are some who argue that it doesn’t matter if someone like Kucinich has no realistic chance of winning; what he’s saying is so important that we should support him. What I am hearing is that people think this election is so far away, so why jump in now and lose the focus on ending the war now?'”

Nice. Now the peace movement is confirming for the country that a peace candidate has no chance of winning, even while admitting that the election is far away. To add injury to insult, Cagan announces that the peace movement doesn’t care about the election because it’s so far away. This is not how one should talk to the media. It costs not a dime or an ounce more of breath to tell a reporter that the peace movement is focused on backing a real peace candidate in the election. Then go back to whatever you were working on, having helped to accomplish something else simply by what you said. This is a reporter, not a random activist. This is the media you are talking to.

Cagan and Martin are both great peace activists. But they, like most, fail to focus enough effort on media.

One peace activist who was quoted got it right, and of course his comment was buried at the bottom of the story, and he himself was marginalized:

“Kevin Zeese, director of Democracy Rising, a group founded by Ralph Nader, is more sanguine on Kucinich. He calls Kucinich ‘a good spokesman for the cause’ and says peace advocates should support him, despite his longshot status, ‘because his voice needs to be heard.’ Zeese himself conducted a longshot 2006 campaign for U.S. Senate in Maryland, where he collected 2 percent of the vote as a Green Party candidate.

“‘It is easy to get caught up in the horse race, or who has the highest poll numbers or money,’ Zeese said, ‘but that is not really the way change has occurred in the United States.'”

You would think everyone knew that by now. Thanks, Kevin.

Maybe we can add to the list of things we should stop saying, the word “viable.” It’s not much more than code for “acceptable to the media.”

The list we need to add this to includes “war” and “support the troops.” A war is something you win or lose. What we have in Iraq is an occupation. We should call it an occupation, even when, especially when, talking to the media.

The war is not for the troops. Funding it has no effect on the troops other than determining whether they will be left to kill, die, and be injured or be brought home. There simply is no third possibility called “not supporting them” or “abandoning the troops.” It’s utter nonsense. So is “viability.”