Peace Deserves Equal Time

October, 2002

Media Rants By Tony Palmeri

Suppose a newspaper on its editorial page raises serious concerns about a school district Superintendent's proposal to allow school security to cane and expel bullies suspected of bringing weapons to school. Chances are good that in addition to the editorial(s), the paper will report on the activities of citizen groups voicing similar concerns. Wouldn't it be odd if most reporting about the proposal focused on the efforts of the District Superintendent and his cronies in the school bureaucracy and on the School Board to "make the case" for caning? Wouldn't the efforts of anti-corporal punishment activists deserve equal space?

A US led war against Iraq and the bully Saddam Hussein is now inevitable. Superintendent George W. Bush and his administrative cronies along with cowardly Congressional Democrats have been aided in their war quest by national and local media that have (to their credit) raised objections to the administration's war plans, but have failed to report the extent to which huge numbers of average, everyday Americans share those objections. The administration gets daily front-page coverage of its strategy to make war while dissenters get an op-ed here, a letter to the editor there, and an occasional story buried on page 6.

Let's look at how the Oshkosh Northwestern fits the pattern I am describing, though one can find the same thing in all mainstream Fox Valley and national media. The Administration's media push for an Iraq war began in earnest in July of this year. On July 22, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Joe Biden was quoted in front page Associated Press reports as saying that he could support the use of force against Iraq if a link between that country and the al-Qaida terror network could be proven, or if there existed a "threat of imminent attack."

On July 29 the Northwestern on its front page included a Knight Ridder story ("Plans to oust leader press on") identifying international objections to an Iraq war. Then on July 30 the Northwestern editorialized: "Eagerness for war in an insufficient cause to commit it, especially for generations alive now that have known it all too well." One would hope that such an editorial would lead to critical reporting about the administration's war aims, especially an effort to balance the views of establishment sources with peace activists and representatives of the population at large. No such luck. Instead, the months of August and September featured regular front page, above the fold headlines that were the journalistic equivalent of rattan cane rattling. Some examples:
*August 3: Senator warns of Iraqi terror strikes
*August 4: Weapons inspection offer dismissed
*August 5: Lawmakers: Bush must get support for war
*August 19: Aide: Bush will explain Iraq actions
*September 9: Cheney warns of Iraq Threat
*September 10: Study finds Iraq closing in on nukes
*September 14: UN reacts favorably to Bush speech
*September 15: US may take Iraq on alone
By early September, the general theme emerging was that while the Iraqi threat was real, the president should get the consent of the Congress and the UN Security Council rather than act unilaterally. On September 6 the Northwestern editorialized that Bush was "wise to seek the consent of Congress before warring Iraq." Thus the paper doesn't necessarily oppose going to war, but to going to war without "official" mandates. Hey, if the Superintendent is going to send security to cane the bully, he better get the blessing of the school board and site council.

The Northwestern did on August 6 reprint an editorial from the Dallas Morning News urging a "wider debate" on Iraq. On August 16 appeared an op-ed by labor activist Bill Fletcher, Jr. in opposition to war. The September 9 editorial page included a Joe Heller cartoon portraying Bush and Cheney as the Woodstock Era's Country Joe and the Fish singing:
"And it's one, two, three,
why are we going to war?
Can't tell you, but he's an evil man.
The next bomb is on Saddam.
And it's five, six, seven,
It's not up for debate.
Well, there ain't no time to wonder why.
Whoopee! Saddam's gonna die!

By late September the Northwestern had done two local stories about Iraq. The first reported that area residents were split on the issue of going to war. The second announced the activation of the Wisconsin Army National Guard's 1157th Transportation Company (the first call-up for the unit since the Persian Gulf War).

Tragically, the Northwestern like most mainstream media has ignored or minimized local, state, and national, anti-war activism. Did you know that young people at UW Oshkosh have now established a "Students For Peace" chapter? That UW Oshkosh Professor John Lemberger's alternative publication "A Second Opinion" includes strong anti-war statements? That the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice ( is raising consciousness about alternatives to war? That mass national protests will occur on October 6 and 7, including peace activities in Wisconsin? That United For Peace ( maintains a calendar of international peace events? That the Fox Valley Fellowship of Reconciliation held a late September peace vigil? Why is it tragic that these activities have been minimized? Because if history is a guide, the moment the bombs start dropping anti-war dissent will literally disappear from the press.

The Bush administration and the pro-war lobby have been given ample time and space to make their case. Contact your local corporate media and tell them that peace deserves equal time. Many innocent lives depend on it.

Return to Commentary