But on that same ABC network, back in 2003, the attitude was different. Anchor Chris Cuomo told viewers that throughout history, protesters have been a leading national indicator of wisdom: "While protesters like today are a statistical minority, in American history, protests like this have been prescient indicators of the national mood. So the government may do well to listen to what's said today."
Protests are not by definition a sign of the "national mood" or a guarantee of policy success. They certainly didn't stop war in Iraq in 2003. Massive, media-celebrated protests by illegal aliens and immigration "rights" activists didn't liberalize our immigration laws in 2006. The rallies on 9-12 may not stop some version of newly socialized medicine this year. Protests are, in one sense, a publicity stunt. They are meant to signal motivated opposition to a policy course.
There was a reason for conservatives to be pleased with coverage of these protests: For once, they got coverage. Huge crowds have amassed in Washington in the coldest days of January for the "March for Life," but since it's an annual event, the networks skip it virtually every year.
The Saturday rally led the newscasts on both CBS and NBC (ABC was airing college football). They may have properly sensed that with all the free time they've been offering President Obama, it might be polite to grant a few minutes to some regular Americans who aren't Obama voters.
But the major media came to the rally not to develop a broad sense of the crowd's common complaint, but to isolate and humiliate conservatives by finding the lunatic fringes. Nobody walking the street in Washington on Saturday would tell you there weren't some ugly signs. But neither can anyone attending President Obama's inaugural deny there was ugliness among the celebrants. More than once, I witnessed crowds roar the "na na nah nah ... hey hey hey, goodbye" taunt at President Bush. Reporters were too busy mind-reading seagulls to notice.
The media's coverage of anti-war protests clearly had a different motto: no enemies to the left. There were no radical fringes that could not be whitewashed, and the peace protesters were painted in warm and glowing tones as a broad spectrum of races and creeds all united to demonstrate that dissent is the ultimate form of patriotism, even if your sign reads "Victory to Iraq."
The media's coverage is obviously biased, but it should cause conservatives to take heart. The tide is turning. The tea parties are scaring liberals. They are the "prescient indicators of the national mood."