Connections between the Antiwar movement and Media Democracy actions

Posted by Mitchell - February 20, 2003 (entry 3)

Here's are some (long) excerpts from a ZNet commentary by Lydia Sargent:

If students strike on March 5; if hundreds of thousands of women join hands around the capital to protest war and campaign for peace on March 8; if teachers begin teaching about the war and the real reasons the U.S. wants to go to war; if ministers preach anti-war messages; if community groups canvas; if city councils pass resolutions and pressure state and federal governments; if petition campaigns are set up; if labor unions strike against war and for peace and justice (as is already threatened in England, Ireland, Australia and numerous other countries), then there will be a climate of social unrest that can stop a militaristic government from running its agenda.

But there is something else that has to happen. We have to go after the media. For years activists have been complaining about and critiquing mainstream media. Even while making these critiques, many seem surprised, even upset, by the way our events and politics are covered in the very media we have long been describing as incapable, institutionally and ideologically, of ever giving our agenda any kind of legitimacy and credence, much less coverage--as if we don't believe our own analysis.


Others have created "alternative" or "independent" media (not all of which is so radical) and they try desperately to distribute it with little money, in a society where methods of distribution are under the same control as the mainstream media itself. Many of these efforts have been incredibly successful (considering the odds), but many more have folded for lack of funds or from burn out. Those that have survived are kept small and can only be found by people who go looking for them, which, ironically most often happens during a crisis or a war.

So it is time to direct more of our protests toward the media. What we want is for mainstream media to include peace and justice programming, prepared by the peace and justice movement, in their daily reports. If they do not agree to this demand, we picket their offices, occupy them if necessary, and shut them down.


During the 1991 U.S. Invasion of Iraq, 50 or so local activists (most of them involved in media) met together to form Boston Media Action (BMA). Based on the skills and inclinations of the people involved, we decided to work on three fronts:

(1) To "Spread the Truth" through an aggressive poster and leafleting campaign throughout the area, combined with stepped up attempts to disseminate alternative media;

(2) A Media Watch that would monitor local radio, TV, and print media and produce periodic reports to be distributed to activists;

(3) A Press the Press campaign to ensure that peace and justice reporting and analysis by activists and writers appear regularly in local media outlets.

Press the Press Campaign

In January 1991, the BMA's Press the Press campaign began with a teach-in on the truth behind the propaganda and the real U.S. reasons for going to war. The event, attended by 500 activists, was filmed and recorded for purposes of approaching local public radio and television stations, as well as a local cultural newspaper to demand two hours a week of material prepared by BMA. At that same time we circulated a Press the Press declaration for people to sign, which would be submitted to the managers of these stations along with the tapes. The declaration included the following:

"Whereas the mainstream media refuse to allow alternative views of U.S. motives in the mideast such as that the war was pursued to make the U.S. world cop with the bills paid by the American people and/or whatever country we can pass them on to; to dispel public desires for peace (called the Vietnam syndrome); to legitimate future wars of U.S. intervention; to undercut demands for a redistribution of income to education, housing, and the general betterment of U.S. citizens; and to retain U.S. domination over oil and oil pricing as an international economic lever;

"It is therefore right and proper that peace and justice activists have programming on mainstream radio and TV, and reporting in print media, that includes discussions of peace, anti-militarism, conversion, and justice issues, presenting views of critics of the Administration's policy; that challenges the morality of war, domination, empire, and other inhumane relations serving the rich and powerful; and that presents alternative morality and vision that might better serve communities in need, and everyone.."

We submitted thousands of signed declarations and the sample videos to the local public radio and TV station, using them to lobby for programming. We also organized a one-day conference to gather more material and spread the truth. After a period of time, if we didn't get any response, we were prepared to picket the target media. If this had no affect, we were going to escalate to civil disobedience, followed by occupations. But the U.S. military had annihilated Iraq by the time we got past the first step and we were not able to continue the campaign.

It is time to start a new campaign to Press the Press, this time nationally and internationally, in addition to continuing to create and distribute our own media. It should be a long-term, strategic effort aimed at changing existing repressive media institutions, just as we struggle to change repressive financial institutions and governments. This Press the Press campaign should also go after mainstream media distribution companies. The latter ensure that our peace and justice views are not visible in stores or on newsstands, TV, and radio.

This campaign cannot wait. After the 1991 "Gulf War," TV Guide revealed that much of the TV war coverage was produced by a public relations company, who sold the war to the American people. When that news came out, why didn't we set out to occupy or shut down every single mainstream media institution in the U.S.?

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