It's very easy to be outraged by the way our "objective" media greeted the massive Sept. 12 rally against Big Government in Washington and across the country. They treated it as a menacing surge of white anger, meanness, and racism. But all the media bias against this rally clearly illustrates one nagging truth for media liberals: They really don't think conservatives should be allowed to protest. It's somehow like a copyright violation.
On Monday night's "Countdown," MSNBC's David Shuster found the protest united "in apparent hatred of the current president, Barack Obama." It was undemocratic, a sign of people not accepting election results, and Shuster even suggested Sen. Jim DeMint's speech at the rally signaled he favored a "military coup." The unglued anchorman also dismissed the crowd as "white, whiter and whitest," all attending an "intolerance festival."
Now, remember David Shuster in 2003, when all kinds of unsavory radical-left elements were opposing President Bush's aim to liberate Iraq. ("Bush lied, thousands died." Remember that?) The leader of the opposition was Ramsey Clark, America's nutty left-wing lawyer for a collection of disreputable dictators, and the man who would in time represent Saddam Hussein in court. But the protesters weren't nasty, even as they railed against Bush and greedy, imperialist, blood-for-oil America. They were ... a superpower.
On "Hardball," Shuster thumped the bongos for dissent: "The size of the demonstrators, at least here, at least in Europe, seems to underscore, Chris, that there are now perhaps two world superpowers. There's the United States and then there are those millions of people who took to the streets opposing U.S. policy."
Over on ABC, anchorman Bill Weir, the man who became a national laughingstock for crowing on Inauguration Day that "even the seagulls must have been awed" by Barack Obama's crowd, could find only a mob "descending" on Washington like the flying monkeys of the Wicked Witch of the West: "This morning, outrage. Protesters descend on Washington to rally against the president's health care plan. As civility gives way to shouting, what's fueling all this anger?"
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."