Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Bart Feels The Vibes, Man

The Commercial Appeal's house Socialist, Bartholomew Sullivan, struggles hard to find the movement in the anti-Iraqi war activists in the Mid-South. It's a valiant struggle, but the results are lack-luster at best.

The article starts out trying to show how the online world is merging with traditional street protest to both broaden and deepen protest. It doesn't quite do that. The article also mentions MoveOn an anti-war website. In an unusual move for the CA, which until very recently didn't even acknowledge Internet options and still will often leave off web addresses for causes or opponents it dislikes, they do list it here. But after mentioning the Internet portions, the article then wanders into the usual overview of the protesters and the protest.

The headline says "Many raise message for peace," but Bart can't seem to document them. He writes:
Despite small street protests in Memphis, it would be a mistake to discount the opposition's breadth and intensity....
Unfortunately for him, he can only find small protests (mentioning one that drew 10 people) and a petition drive that netted 300 signatures. Not only that, but the "breadth" he mentions is only his own hopes. Of the ten people mentioned in the article, three are academics who are touted as "experts;" the other seven includes two students and five peace activists/organisers. Not especially broad there, Bart.

He is also undercut by the comments of his own interviewees:
"It's almost like an 'in principle' protest,'' Pohlmann said. "It seems to lack fire and intensity.''

Beatrice Blatteis: "Peace is so much more important than being right. Think of all the boys that will die, whatever happens....

She says she's discouraged that the American peace movement isn't as effective as the ones in Europe....

Wang says it's frustrating for him to see how apathetic most students are. But he says it's understandable. "It's hypothetical for them,'' he says. "They're not going to be called up.''
He almost sounds like he wishes it were personal, so he could see some more passion. Rather cold-blooded.

There are some strangely entertaining bits, as well. In talking about some of the attendees at one protest, listing their occupations to demonstrate diversity, he mentions "a lawyer who fought the downtown arena." Any Memphian who reads the paper knows exactly who he means -- Duncan Ragsdale, who the CA mercilessly disparaged and demeaned for his efforts to get civic leaders to actually poll the people for support before committing their monies to the project. My guess is that he's anonymous here because if Bart (or more likely his editor) named him, then the "kook and malcontent" image that the CA worked to pin on him then might transfer to the anti-war protest.

For some reason, as I've mentioned above, the "breadth" of people Bart sought out seems to come back to lawyers, professors and students, activists and marketers. I'm pretty sure that says as much about Bart as it does about the Mid-South peace "movement."

One more item. Mentioning one professor's view that email campaigns are seen as from the "less committed," Bart misses, or didn't know, that most politicians ignore email campaigns, as they are so easy to create and send out. Real, paper letters carry far more weight, as they require more planning and execution to send out.

Lastly, Bart writes the following:
And the peace movement's message is complicated by what [Pohlmann] says is an apparent consensus that the world would be a better place without Saddam Hussein.
Unfortunately for the reader, not one of the ten folks Bart spoke to can offer a single, concrete plan of action.

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