Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tea-Baggers vs. Anti-War Protests, Numbers and Media Coverage

I was in a red-state gym the other day, forced to watch a cardio-workout's worth of teabagger coverage on Fox news. I couldn't help wondering, as I looked at the numbers cited why THIS was considered a "huge" and newsworthy event while anti-war protests of this same size, and even larger would be considered irrelevant. Especially when we consider that anti-war protesters have had to maintain stamina since 2002, they've been a much more impressive movement than the astro-turfing swell of the teabaggers.

Let's review:
October 26, 2002: 100,000 march on DC; 50,000 march in San Francisco

A few months later, on January 18, 2003, even more came out against the war in DC and more occurred in cities throughout the U.S. I marched in DC that day in 20 degree weather and talked to my Mom and step-mom, while both were at marches in other cities.

But it was February 15, 2003 that was the biggest of them all. In New York City, counts ranged from 300,000 to 1 million marchers against the war. I was at that one too. We could not get to the U.N. where the actual protest converged, but remained stuck on feeder marches up to ten blocks away, where there were taxi-cubs who could not move because of the massive number of people in the streets - so I'd say that 1 million is not an exaggeration.

At the RNC convention in NY, in 2004, according to police, 800,000 marched against both Bush and the war.

Since then, anti-war marches in various cities have numbered at least in the "tens of thousands."
The last really big anti-war march on Washington was the one in September 24, 2005 where Cindy Sheehan was a featured speaker, and which C-Span estimated at 500,000.

And even in April 2006, a year when anti-war protests were smaller (despite increasing opposition to the war judging from both polls and midterm election results), 300,000 people marched against the war in New York City.

By 2007, hundreds of thousands were STILL showing up to protest the war, and yet coverage in the mainstream media was almost non-existant.

While protest numbers may not have always hit the 500k mark (though they did at least three times - in cold weather- no less), they remained in the tens of thousands, and increased in regions across the U.S., while poll numbers told the story of growing public opposition to the war in Iraq.

So, now how do yesterday's tea-bagger protests stack up?
According to "FiveThirtyEight," the anti-tax protests yesterday hit 262,026 mostly based on rallies of about 1000 each in a number of Southern cities. That's not an un-significant number, but the overall total is much smaller than the cumulative numbers of anti-war protests for any given date of major mobilization since late 2002. These numbers were achieved with the help of beautiful spring weather, massive media coverage (and not just on Fox), and the advocacy of the Republican Party. In addition, they have spurred stories taking their potential political impact seriously, even by non-right wing outlets.
In contrast, the larger anti-war mobilizations which were organized independently of political party support, and in the midst of a significant divide within the anti-war movement itself, have been underplayed, routinely under-counted, and mocked by the mainstream media, even the so-called liberal media.
The NYT, MSNBC, WAPO, CBS, and CNN all covered the tea-parties and the criticisms of their own coverage much more extensively than they covered much larger, and much more significant anti-war protests or the anti-war protester critiques of mass-media coverage.

Once more, corporate media spins the day.


John Weathers said...

Thanks for digging up of those figures!

I intuitively knew the same thing having been to some of those massive antiwar rallies myself only to come home and find to my anger and dismay that media coverage had marginalized the protests. So when I saw huge nearly unavoidable amounts of coverage for what was a smaller event, I knew the old spin wheels were rolling.

And they say the media has left bias. Ha!

Iris said...

My feelings exactly! Glad you compiled the numbers. It's such prejudicial coverage that it's infuriating and dismaying. The media ignored not only anti war marches in the millions but many prochoice marches and I think even the million moms for gun control and against gun violence didn't get as much coverage as these puny faux tea parties.