Perspective

More than one million women (or 500,000 from the more conservative media outlets) marched on Washington yesterday. But apparently it wasn’t enough to dominate the news. The Mobilization March on November 15, 1969, the largest antiwar protest in U.S. history, had a crowd estimated between 250,000 and 500,000 and it caused Nixon to announce two months later that ending the war would be “a major goal of United States policy.” Somehow, I don’t think we’ll be getting anything like that from Bush (with twice the turnout of Mobilization) in June. That’s nothing less than a goddam travesty.

[UPDATE: And a psuedo-blackout from the blogosphere too. Nothing whatsoever about the rally at Megnut, another tired potshot at Wonkette, an acknowledgment over at Oliver's (although overshadowed by a long essay, "Can the Right Fight Terrorism?"), a photo at Atrios, and some live coverage at Kos. But it's all pretty much reflecting the status quo. 1 million people. What does it take to be newsworthy? Or have protests lost their efficacy? Or is "feminist" a dirty word? Or does nobody want to talk about it? And, no, Scribbling Woman, you ain't chopped liver.]

[4/29/04 UPDATE: Just talked with someone who got back from Washington. She said there was definitely a million.]

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11 Comments

  1. Bush doesn’t pay attention to protest marches. He’s also said he doesn’t read newspapers, and gets his all information from his advisors (God help us) so he may only be partially aware that the march even took place. Like many leaders, he’s convinced he knows what’s best for us all, and protests, regardless of size are as the cries of children who don’t want to eat their vegetables.

    He believes that God wanted him to be president. People on missions from God are rarely interested in debate. In anycase, no amount of people protesting to protect abortion is likely to convince him — it merely confirms his faith. “The legions of Evil have come to Washington to shake my resolve. But I shall be strong! Look at how many! There is much to be done!”

  2. re Wonkette’s potshot: ooh, i’m so sorry my neck didn’t look perfectly botoxed (or whatever you do to surgically erase time from necks) as i protested for the civil rights of half the population. maybe i should go on ‘the swan.’ jeez louise.

  3. Rasputin, I would argue that Dubyah’s disposition and Administration stance on issues are more indicative of the politico-bourgeois family and culture he comes from. This kind is rarely seen at the front of an army but rather at the back of it. One morality or spiritual path (and its laws, ALL of its laws) is as good as another. He comes from the kind of mentality that would make a whole new church just so he could divorce his wife.

  4. It’s fantastic that it got such a turnout, but I really feel defeated about the power of protest these days. Like others have said, this administration couldn’t care less.

  5. I thought it was sort of weird also. I’m not sure what it means. They say the objective count was about 800K flowing into D.C. That’s a hell of a lot of people – more in fact than the number who live in The District. Even The Daily Show didn’t mention it that much. There are probably a number of factors that account for the media ignoring it:

    - The erosion of women’s rights has been a slow insidious trickle from different states over the past few years. Unlike Vietnam, it has not been a visible fight that was on the TV every night for eight years. So the concept of protecting the reproductive freedoms of women is a more abstract and indeterminate cause.

    - There is no real counterculture anymore in America – certainly no youth counterculture. The Mobilization March focused on the war, but the message was much larger; it was also about a generation coming together to effect change. This march was filled with a lot more older people. We also now have the cult of celebrity, which defines a public event by the number and caliber of actors that attend. The famous were women in their 60s like Whoopee Goldberg, Susan Sarandon, Hillary Clinton . . .all these old “b”-list celebrities who are always trotted out to represent the Left. And they just don’t have credibility – we all know they’re tools who do commercials for long-distance companies and soft drinks, and we imagine them sending their PAs out for a latte run in the SUV. Gone are the days when an activist could be famous for being an activist. The march attracted no big actors or musicians or other well-known personalities. So the media probably saw it as “boring.” They don’t want to cover stuff nowadays unless it’s entertaining and sensational, since that’s what boosts ratings.

    - The Mobilization March also covered a huge umbrella of different community groups, particularly churches and civic organisations. The war was very unpopular by that point, and condemned by a variety of organisations. But very few organisations (and even fewer religious groups) are willing to stand up for women’s reproductive rights. It’s too decisive an issue. People either feel one way or the other, and there is no middle ground. I think the people marching against the war felt they really could help end it – no one believe marching for women’s rights is going to change anyone’s mind. So it lacks the energy and sense of history the war march had – and the media sees this and decides why bother covering it – it’s not really “news” and won’t change anything.

    - Rightly or wrongly, people feel it doesn’t affect them. It’s not the same as people they know coming home in body bags. Basically, the anti-war message was very simple: we can’t win, so bring the soldiers home instead of sending more over every day to get killed. The message here is don’t allow the government to take away your most basic right to make private decisions about your own life. That’s a really hard thing to cover in a media context, because it is happening so insidiously. They haven’t outlawed abortion yet, they’ve just nibbled around the edge of the cookie. They’re very slowly taking away the option for the poor, people under 18, the rural, minorities, the less-educated, etc. These groups are always marginalized in the media – just like we have specials and TV movies when a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl from a “good” family is abducted, but hear nothing of the hundreds of minority and poor kids snatched each year. Sooner or later, they are going to try and get rid of ALL reproductive rights. Ashcroft has actually made this the NUMBER ONE mission of the DOJ’s Civil Rights division (which is why I turned down a job offer from them recently.) His reasoning is they are protecting the “civil rights of the fetus.” That’s a quote. But it’s the old “First they came for the Jews . . .” idea. People (and therefore the media) won’t really care until little Melissa out in Starbucks-land is forced to carry an unwanted child.

  6. I really don’t have much to add except thanks for taking this one up, Ed. My own sense is that Bush and his administration ignores these things hoping that we’ll go away.

    It’s a stance that feels strangely akin to “not bargaining with terrorists.” Except, of course, we’re not terrorists. We’re American citizens, exercising our democratic rights and being ignored by our monarch, I mean, our president.

  7. What others said… The Bush administration chooses to ignore that which it finds distasteful. Plus, they think abortion makes baby jesus cry.

    All the major news outlets ran prominent stories on it, that I saw, and Hank Steuver did one of his funny, and oddly touching in the end, pieces on it in the WP.

  8. If a million people marched on DC to demand the end of abortion on demand would you expect Bush to act on it? Is there something about this kind of march that demands Bush act differently? Does a million people demand a certain level of respect? 500,000?

    I am not sure what you mean by this post. The Right to Life March in DC always has massive crowds and I don’t belive the media or the blogosphere covers it in any more detail. I certainly saw plenty of coverage of this weekend’s event on TV and I don’t even watch much.

    In terms of popularity, abortion on demand without restrictions is not supported by a majority of Americans according to most major polling data. As with a lot if issues, the two diehard groups are polarized and a good chunk of the public is awkwardly in the middle.

    Although, I suspect Bush as the evil monster just works better emotionally in this case . . .

  9. Given that abortion is for the most part still legal, the question you should be asking is not what Bush would do if a million people showed up demanding that it be outlawed — the question is, why aren’t those million people marching now? The answer, it seems to me, is that Bush is already doing something about it, so they feel no need to march.

    Bush is anti-abortion. This isn’t a matter of two opposing sides struggling to convince a neutral party — the pro-life movement has Bush on their side already. Whether the people he answers to on that issue are marching on his lawn, or sitting at home, speaking to pollsters, or sending letters and campaign contributions, he would no doubt continue with his current course of action. He’s already doing what they want him to do.

    In anycase, the point still stands: his position is based on his own morality and those poll numbers you mentioned — marches, pro life or pro choice result in no change of policy, although for different reasons.

    In all of these posts, I’ve not seen anyone call Bush an evil monster. Just that the power of protest leaves him completely unmoved. That’s not monsterous, just annoying. It’s not like anyone’s accusing him of murdering someone and making it look like a suicide, or using the CIA to acquire drugs for personal use or anything like that. No. Bush isn’t monsterous. Just wrong.

  10. Marching for women’s lives

    Go to ms. musings for a series of exhilarating, exuberant, posts on the march yesterday. Addendum (4:27): More on…

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