Sheehan Breakthroughs, Unbridgeable Divides, and Taboos Unbroken

Sheehan Breakthroughs, Unbridgeable Divides, and Taboos Unbroken
By David Swanson

The Washington Post today wondered out loud whether Cindy Sheehan might be a “catalyst for a muscular antiwar movement.” In translation, this is an assertion that Cindy Sheehan has already become an accepted reason for the corporate media to finally acknowledge the existence of, and consequently help to build, the antiwar movement. There has, of course, been a major anti-war movement longer than there has been a war. And Cindy Sheehan has been speaking eloquently at anti-war events for many months. What has changed is primarily the media.

A website called Blue Oregon noticed this yesterday and wrote: “the Oregonian appears to be using Cindy Sheehan as cover to mention the lies upon which the war was justified.” Yes, the Oregonian used the L word:

“The misty scrim that obscured our view of the war — wishful thinking, distortions, outright lies — is rapidly dissolving. Americans increasingly see the war as it is, and know it’s going badly. Little wonder that when a gold-star mother parks herself inconsolably in Crawford, Texas, asking hard questions and spurning glib answers, she strikes a nerve.”

But it’s not been two months since the media, still refusing to call lies lies, was pretending that evidence of lies (like the Downing Street Memos) was “old news.” Now, it’s new news, thanks to Cindy. And thanks, also, to the polls, which show public opinion of the war sinking very low. But, most of the thanks goes to the Cindy Sheehan media phenomenon. The media should not base its coverage of presidential lies on public opinion that has managed to form despite the media’s silence. And, in fact, comparison with other issues suggests it really doesn’t; in many cases strong public opinion is not enough to generate coverage.

When Cindy became a story, many anti-war activists put in hundreds of hours debating and strategizing how to make the “message” focus on lots of families who lost kids in the war and want it to end, rather than just one mother. But for all the framing and messaging attempts, non-reporters (other than Cindy) had very little control over what happened with this story.

Then, when Cindy left to visit her ailing mother, some worried that the media, notoriously unable to cover a movement, would drop the ball and move on to celebrities or sex in some other town. The greatest measure of what Cindy has done is that this has not happened. Cindy has not only left behind her in Crawford and around the country a growing and inspired movement, but she has left behind an ongoing news story about the movement.

On Friday, Reuters’ article began: “Supporters of anti-war protester Cindy Sheehan on Friday vowed to stay near U.S. President George W. Bush’s Texas ranch in her absence