REPLICATE '68, DAMMIT! WE WANT OUR PULITZERS!
I don't want to lend any legitimacy to a right-wing outfit for which I don't have much respect, but I'm actually curious about something that infuriates Tim Graham of NewsBusters: why did a Washington Post story about an anti-war group that could muster only 176 people for a D.C. protest get a spot on page one of the print paper, as well as "75 percent of page A6, including four color photographs"? (Not to mention a substantial online photo gallery.) Graham is complaining; I'm just curious.
The story is headlined "For Antiwar Protesters, the Cause Isn't Lost: But Will D.C. Rally Spark Groundswell?" It's a fly-on-the-wall look at the making of a demo, and it seems to have a fair amount of snarky deadpan, as if it's trying to be The Office of peacenik embarrassment:
As the meeting progressed, there were signs of discord. Some groups wanted to chant while they marched to the White House; others argued that a solemn, single-file procession would convey a "better sense of suffering," one protester said. Some wanted to take bathroom breaks during the protest; others argued that participants could wait until they were in jail, after their arrests. Some planned to misidentify themselves to police; others said they would simply refuse to answer questions.
"Lying is dumb," one protester shouted.
"Just because my resistance is different than yours doesn't mean I'm dumb," another yelled back, standing now, clenching his fist. "We are all traveling down our own paths to peace."
The 176-person head count of the resultant demo is the big reveal; the number surfaces near the end of the article, and it's like the pathetic outcome of one of Michael Scott's foolhardy Office schemes.
And yet ... why a front-page piece that runs more than 1700 words? (That's actually a couple hundred words longer than the story the Post ran after a major D.C. anti-war demonstration in January 2003.) Why the hopeful subtitle? ("But Will D.C. Rally Spark Groundswell?")
I think, at the Post and other mainstream press outlets, there's a wish for some kind of successful anti-war movement. Not necessarily out of distaste for the war or for President Obama -- but, rather, out of a hope that history will repeat itself, that Afghanistan will be another Vietnam.
For the media, that would be perfect. Journalists were heroes then! Halberstam! Cronkite! There were Pulitzers to be won, best-sellers to be published, careers to be made! There was a president to be toppled! It was fun! And if it could just be cloned, well, no thinking would need to be involved! The stories would write themselves! Just rerun the old 'Nam material and change the place names!
I'm not saying other factors are entirely absent -- Village thinking, a desire to slap down a Democrat who got above his station by getting elected president . But, really, watch for the signs of this desire to relive a journalists' Golden Age and use analogy as a cheap substitute for analysis. That desire will continue to inform coverage of Obama and Afghanistan.
UPDATE: A commenter makes a reasonable point:
If they were really all about a new Vietnam, they had their chance in 2002 and they all laid down on the job.
Well, yeah -- but it wasn't quite the same story, a president inheriting a war and escalating it, especially a president who's trying to go down in history as a guy responsible for progress on domestic issues. That's LBJ and that's (or so these journos hope) Obama. That wasn't Bush.