Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Friday, March 21, 2003  

War and Peace (Activists)

Yesterday there were anti-war protests throughout the country. Although these were the only visible sign of interest from our complacent population, they were nevertheless awarded footnote status in the press. In a survey of the nation's most common stories at Google's news page, there were (when I checked) 1255 related to the war effort and 30 related to the protests. Of those thirty, only 10 are related directly to the protesters themselves--the other two-thirds are stories about how the police will handle the protesters.

In my hometown (Portland, Oregon), there was a protest last night that attracted some thousands of citizens (numbers are always vague) who were sufficiently angry enough to try to block roads and bridges. Except for a couple of skirmishes, the protesters managed to stand peacefully gathered for six or seven hours. On a day when the country has gone to war, you'd imagine that some latitude would be given for these assembling citizens.

Of course you'd be wrong: the news coverage was almost shockingly martial. When speaking to police, local TV news reporters spoke in a collegial "we,' as in: "How are 'we' going to handle this situation?" The AP headline was "More than 100 arrested in Portland protest." (As opposed to, say, "Thousands voice opposition to war.") And in a slideshow by the Oregonian (the local paper), the photos tell na even more skewed story. Of the nine related to the Portland protest, only one shows a substantially un-editorialized picture of the anti-war protesters. Of the rest, three show them next to police in riot gear, and three more show them facing off with a tiny, quickly-evaporated group of pro-war demonstrators. The final two are un-editorialized pro-war demonstrators.

You see, this is what gets passed off as "dialogue" in the public discourse. Of my long screed yesterday, three of you picked out the clause "without public dialogue or international collaboration" (though none mentioned the second part). There is some fairly large percentage of Americans (call it the mere third who admit to opposing the war now--that is,100 million Americans) who don't hear their views represented on any national medium. If they wish to hear it, they've got to scurry around for a Noam Chomsky book, go see a documentary by Michael Moore, or read the rambling blogs of someone hiding behind the name of a dead anarchist. That's hardly dialogue.

So instead of petering out here, as I usually do, I'll leave you with the words of Lewis Lapham, who currently pens one of the few anti-war articles available (in Harper's, owned by a non-profit foundation, naturally), and who can really splash the ink:

Democracy proceeds from a more adventurous premise, its structure akin to a suspension bridge rather than to an Egyptian pyramid, its strength dependent upon the complicity of its citizens in a shared work of the political imagination. The enterprise collapses into either anarchy or tyranny unless the countervailing stresses oppose one another with equal weight, unless enough people possess enough courage to sustain the dialectic between the government and the governed, between city and town, capital and labor, men and women, matter and mind.

Defined as a ceaseless process of change, democracy assumes the pain of contradiction and new discovery not only as the normal but also as the necessary condition of existence. As has been said, a hard act to perform, and one that failed and was abandoned by nearly every country in Europe n the generation between the First and Second World Wars. In place of truthful and therefore possibly unpleasant argument, the Bush Administration offers warm and welcome lies, advising us to lay aside the tool of thought and rest safely on the pillows of glorious and world-encircling empire. We accept the invitation at our peril."

posted by Jeff | 6:45 PM |
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