John M. Phelan
Framing Terror



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Framing Terror

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The Silence of the Lambs

Many Europeans, from John Le Carre to the pundits for Le Monde and Der Spiegel , believe that the war is far more popular among Americans than it really is. Not by accident, because domestic opposition to the war movement is spectacularly and suspiciously under-reported by our media. For instance, Le Carre quotes polls that show 50% do think Saddam is involved with terrorism but seems unaware that polls also show that only 26% think we should attack Iraq without international consenat and support and that the majority favor non-military means of dealing with Iraq when alternatives are presented.

Over the January Martin Luther King weekend we had protests from the truly massive in Washington, New York, and London to the significantly arresting in San Francisco, Boston, Tokyo, Sydney, and lots of other places. The BBC duly noted most of these. But the American media have either ignored or marginalized this very serious and real opposition, which has remarkably broad coalitional support. Ignoring the usual suspects like FOX News and the NY Post whose bloodcurdling jingoism is always on parade, a look at the New York Times front page notes a color picture above the fold on Sunday January 19, 2003 of Washington protest - but no story, except for a roundup of Iraq war debate at page 17. The photo caption refers to "tens of thousands." Worldwide or even just stateside? Of course active protesters number in the hundreds of thousands and the more passive protests from signers of petitions and church congregations and campus demonstrations worldwide are in the millions! If the real numbers of these protesters had been in favor of Sharon's policies, or against Venezuela's president, or even about Olympic corruption, what would have been the coverage? The Times led with a New York State budget story and the Michigan affirmative action case. News judgment? This is the real scary part - the media muffle - and so those who oppose the true madness think of themselves as a tiny minority. Not true, but in the media-world perception is reality.

Nobody knows the future, but up to now the Bush public rhetoric is characterized by immediate macho bluster followed by slow and surly backpedaling.

We don't hear Osama dead or alive anymore, we don't hear that Korea is too evil to talk to, we no longer hear that January 27th is the deadline; suddenly the UN inspectors are important and the Security Council consists of "our friends." And even Rumsfeld offers folksy hopes that there are possible alternatives to war.

But oh! what a distraction the prospect of Operation Desert Storm Part Two has been from discussion of the Homeland Security farce, the Accounting Oversight Board fiasco, the collapse of the Karzai puppet regime, the arrogant return of Afghan Warlords now on our payroll, the ruinous Missile Defense fraud, taxpayer supported privatization of military incursions in Columbia and the Philippines, sweetheart contracts to Halliburton and Wackenhut to build bases and run security from Saudi to Turkmenistan, the very alarming incompetence of the FBI and CIA - to say nothing of Ashcroft's moves to overturn state referenda and laws on medical marijuana and assisted suicide. These duplicities will come home to roost but we hope it is not too late to restore democracy here as well as elsewhere, lest freedom be reduced to just one more PR slogan.




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