“I would give most of the American media an F minus”, says Brian Becker, the National Coordinator of ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism). He spoke to me on Jan. 16th in Washington, D.C. at a protest ANSWER organized outside The Washington Post offices.
ANSWER (which tends not to do street theater but to hold fairly straight-forward marches and rallies) decided to “send a dramatic message that this is not acceptable” and so members brought a wheelbarrow full of copies of The Washington Post and dumped them all over the institution’s front steps. Click here. About 60 activists stood on the sidewalk outside the Post offices for a couple of hours at the end of the coldest day Washington had experienced in years, and accused the Post of extreme bias and racism against Arabs.
Though Becker criticized the corporate media as a whole for its coverage of Gaza and Israel-Palestine issues, the Jan. 16th protest sponsored by ANSWER and MAS (the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation) demonstrated at the Post in particular because, at the height of Israel’s assault on Gaza, four major protests against Israel’s actions took place in Washington and the Post did not cover any of them.
“Not one word has been written about any of the protests”, Becker complained. While the Post is usually seen as one of the four most prestigious and influential newspapers in the U.S. and is expected to cover important national issues and debates on foreign policy, their news blackout on the protests also had a local component: “The Post prides itself on having very strong local coverage,” Becker claimed. “The Arab-American community, which is an important part of Washington, D.C., came out in tens of thousands and were totally ignored by the Post.”
The snub that instigated the “Dump the Post” protest was The Washington Post’s refusal to report on the large D.C. protest against the carnage in Gaza on Jan. 10th. That march drew about 30,000, one of the protesters, Renee, told me; and was part of a National Day of Emergency Mass Action coordinated by ANSWER and its coalition partners. Click here.
On that day, hundreds of thousands of Americans came out for peace in cities across the country – I saw at least 10,000 participants of various races and walks of life rallying in Los Angeles, for instance, yet the Washington Post, which Becker alleges sent a photographer and journalist and interviewed him at the D.C. rally, pulled the article that their correspondent wrote even though the reporter had called Becker for a final fact-check.
“It’s as if the Washington Post can’t see Arab people, either the suffering people in Gaza or the Arab-Americans right here in D.C.,” said Becker. “We think that is an act of racism and bigotry, the same way the African-American community, decades ago, was treated as an invisible force by the Washington Post.”
“There’s a consensus within the media and the political establishment that Israel must be supported and defended always. Corporate-dominated media has been awful because they are just” repeating the U.S. government position, which Becker describes as: “Every time the Israelis attack Gaza it’s considered self-defense; every time the Palestinians shoot back it’s considered terrorism.” Becker pointed out that at the same time, the corporate media “failed to cover” Israel’s 18-month blockade of the Gaza Strip, a blockade which “by all international standards is an act of war.”
“That’s not news coverage, that’s propaganda.”
Similar protests were organized against bias in media by other ANSWER chapters: in
California, the San Francisco Chronicle was picketed on Jan. 15th for grossly underestimating the number of people who turned out for that city’s Jan. 10th protest, ANSWER-SF issued a statement about the San Francisco Chronicle’s performance:
“On the day after 10,000 people marched and rallied in San Francisco on January 10 to demand ‘Let Gaza Live,’ the San Francisco Chronicle reported the demonstration had been just ‘more than 1,000 people.’…Immediately after the march…the Chronicle’s website featured the march as its top story under the headline, ‘Thousands Protest in San Francisco.’ By the time the Sunday paper was printed, however, the number of participants had been reduced to ‘more than 1,000.’”
ANSWER-SF also claimed the paper was sent “irrefutable video and photo evidence that they had massively undercounted the number of people” but the Chronicle did not correct their estimate. ANSWER-SF also noted that the Chronicle had promoted in advance the pro-Israeli counter-protest.
In Chicago, ANSWER protested the local ABC News station for what they saw as biased coverage of the Chicago protests. Becker criticized the Chicago Tribune’s reporting as well.
Becker believes that the media’s censorship and under-representation of the protests on behalf of Gaza is actually worse than the similar way the media downplayed the protests against the Iraq War. At least there was “some difference of opinion” about the Iraq War, Becker recalls, but on the issue of Israel’s right to do whatever it wants, “U.S. media is united.”
Though Israel-defenders like the Anti-Defamation League criticize ANSWER’s protests about Gaza as if the protests were merely about Israel and therefore anti-Jewish, Becker, like ANSWER members and other activists I’ve spoken with at L.A. protests, holds the U.S. to be utterly complicit.