Reporting the truth or distorting reality?

iraq protestYesterday I spoke at the October 26 anti-war rally in Washington, DC. I was very pleasantly surprised – it was a huge crowd, covering the western half of the mall, from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial up as far as the Washington Monument, and the crowd kept growing all through the afternoon. A large contingent of veterans was there, along with many other people of all ages and races. So why did I get so irritated when CNN didn’t bother to interrupt their sniper coverage, or when the Associated Press filed a story at two o’clock saying that “demonstrators by the hundreds” were on the mall?

How can you reconcile the AP account of “humdreds” of demonstrators and the Washington Post account of “one-hundred thousand” demonstrators? It struck me as nothing other than an attempt to downplay dissent on one of the most critical decisions facing our nation.

The local news was even more indicative of attitudes approaching this issue. Channel 9 avoided mentioning or showing the ninety-nine thousand normal people at the demonstration who were there to suggest that maybe going to war isn’t such a hot idea. Instead they focused on two girls who were “taking the shirts off their backs for the war.” Come on? How does it serve your viewers to focus only on the fringe and ignore the message?

For a rundown of the numbers:

Washington Post said 100,000
News24 in South Africa said 50,000
Reuters said tens of thousands
Associated Press initially reported hundreds, then revised upwards to tens of thousands
CNN completely ignored it, preferring wall-to-wall sniper coverage.

While I’m complaining, I’ll point out that Veterans for Common Sense ran a 90 minute press briefing at the National Press Club on Thursday to talk about the potential costs of the war, especially the human costs. Speakers included Erin Cole, a former military intelligence Sergeant from 1st Armored Division, Lieutenant General Robert Gard from Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, Erik Gustafson from EPIC and Steve Robinson from the NGWRC. They did a great job, but were ignored by the media.

The same day, another Gulf War veteran, who happened to be a psychotic killer, was captured by the police.

I pray that one day Gulf War veterans other than Timothy McVeigh and John Mohommad will be come household names.

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