By Betsey Culp (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This war that we’re waging in the deserts and cities of Iraq has made
me sick. Literally.
[Don’t say “we,” admonishes a friend. He’s not your president.]
On Saturday afternoon, I walked away from the Civic Center, heading
toward BART. At a certain point, the amplified anti-war oratory from the
bandstand collided with strange strident music from a black-clad troupe of
mummers. To the left, the colors of Pop Zhao’s canvas wrapped the new
Asian Art Museum. To the right, the dun of CHP uniforms formed a
semi-circle. Before me San Francisco’s anachronistic monument to its early
pioneers rose into a bright blue sky.
Everything began to spin.
I realized later that it was the flu.
During the next couple of days, I watched a lot of TV. The collision of
our city’s sights and sounds with CNN’s war collages churned my already
Once again, the City of St. Francis is sending out a message of peace
to the rest of the world. [I’m so proud I live in San Francisco,
another friend says.] But I, like the Europeans whom
Friedman has been talking to, feel that a certain contract
between America and the world has been broken. And this time, I’m not sure
our message is going to work its magic.
You’ve seen the same CNN images I watched over the weekend, snippets
and sound bites that left no doubt of who won the MTV revolution. It’s not
even a matter of the forest and the trees: the standard fare is closer to
To its credit, Public
Television is trying to fill the gap; so is the
Discovery Channel. But I suspect these estimable stations
will be preaching mainly to the choir. And so are the online publications
that are trying to provide context and discussion, like the ones the that
Call carries links to.
In fact, we who live in San Francisco are lucky to have the Chronicle.
(Have you taken a look recently at
David Lazarus’s column, which has just migrated from the
Business Section to Page A2?) What about people in Des Moines. What do
they see when they pick up their morning copy of the
about people in Reno, who likely read the
Gazette-Journal? What about
readers of the famed New Orleans
Times-Picayune? Or the
equally well-known Philadelphia
Inquirer? Take a look. You
might be surprised at how far the reporting and editorial opinions are
from those of the Chron, and how close they are to CNN’s and those of the
(Don’t become too complacent, though. To the undoubted chagrin of many
progressives, some of the most refreshing opinions can be found in
conservative organs like the
Meanwhile, what is the rest of the world seeing and reading? For even
among American doves, most commentary comes from the United States or
Great Britain. To get a taste of some very different perspectives, try the
compendium of Arabic news sources filed at
relation to Al-Jazeerah TV) and the items translated from Russian on
Aviation, which offer a broad and somewhat technical view
of the progress of the war.
How trustworthy these two sites are, is up to you to determine. But
isn’t that the problem with CNN as well? The only way to reach a solution
may be to play each side against the other, in a old-fashioned method
known as “weighing the evidence.”
But it’s not the education of San Franciscans that’s the problem.
They’re accustomed to searching the web for information they can’t find
elsewhere. They’re accustomed to taking positions that are out of sync
with other parts of the country. They learned long ago to -- as the bumper
sticker says -- question authority.
They’re the choir.
The problem is reaching the congregation. How do people who
passionately believe our present war is wrong get their message beyond…
beyond the Berkeley Hills? Think of the possible media. TV? On most
newscasts, anti-war protestors are given short and sarcastic shrift, if
they are mentioned at all; public TV is for the elite few. Would it be
possible, somehow, to turn the attention of the larger viewing audiences
away from celebrity gossip and reality shows and toward issues that have
never even entered their consciousness? The dumbed-down programming that
critics have complained about for years serves the administration in
Washington better than any active propaganda machine.
Think about other media. Movies? Who goes to see Michael Moore? Who
will go to see his films after Sunday’s Oscar ceremonies? Music? Think
In an earlier age, an attractive magazine like McClure’s could alert
the public to issues that other media preferred to avoid. Subscribers
living in all parts of the country would run to their mailboxes to see the
latest from investigative reporters like Lincoln Steffens and Ida Tarbell.
But who reads The Nation? Mother Jones? The Progressive? The choir.
I don’t have an answer. I hope you do.