And my Tea Party was hateful?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Fair and Balanced?

The Denver Convention begins tomorrow and many of protests protesters are preparing to exercise their rights to of assemble assembly and their right to free speech. 200 yards from the Convention, this exercise is being restricted to fenced-in areas loving lovingly referred to as “Freedom Cages”. The restriction of protest to specialized, non-offensive loci contradicts the principles outlined, quite unambiguously, in our constitution and its Bill of Rights.
Human nature dictates that the convention organizers need balance constitutional rights with the security of the delegates. This balance is admittedly difficult to truly reach, but are the organizers trying to balance these issues or are they trying to hide the protesters from the camera’s watchful eye? My personal political beliefs may be diametrically opposed to the majority of the protesters’ ideology, but I firmly believe in the Constitution that grants them the right to assemble and speak their minds.
Intrigued by the sheer number of idealistically passionate individuals marching on Denver, I began searching the internet in order to learn more about this group and, more importantly, why it was protesting the Denver Democratic Convention (I thought they would hold out for the RNC). My search began with CNN’s website. I used the key words “protest Denver convention” hoping to learn more about the controversy surrounding the event.
When I sorted my search by relevance, the first story, entitled “8,000 protest NRA convention in Denver”, was from 1999 and chronicled the NRA convention in the mile-high city (the story was published on May 1, 1999). CNN has a vast internet database, so I sorted the results by date. The top story for “protests Denver convention” detailed the Republican-led protest over off shore drilling that exploded after Congress convened for a recess without addressing the energy crisis (the story was published on August 7, 2008 and titled “GOP leaders continue to protest drilling”). The second title was “Thousands of Demonstrators expected at GOP Convention” (published August 3, 2008). Is CNN glossing over the protest at the Democratic National Convention? I encourage my readers to review my search results by clicking here.
I continued my search on MSNBC’s website and had similar results. MSNBC does not have the option to sort by date or relevance, so my search was restricted to the search criteria built into the MSNBC website. The first story in the search dated back to April 4, 2007 and was entitled “Democrats’ Denver choice rankles unions”. I am typically behind anything that “rankles the union”, but the search results seemed out of date and irrelevant to my search. The second story was a clip from the news & updates banner about protests in India. Again, it seems that the 2008 march on the Democratic Convention is being swept under the rug. Please feel free to review my search results by clicking here.
Finally, I searched the Fox News website. The first four stories were about the protests at the Denver Convention. The first story, “ACLU ends its legal challenge to DNC restriction” was published August 07, 2008. Surprisingly, the ACLU and I agree on the issues involving the limitation of this right to assembly and free speech. The second story, “Judge: No Change to DNC security plan” was published on August 06, 2008. Fox News did not provide the information I was searching for, but at least they acknowledged the existence of the protesters and the controversy surrounding their rights. Again, please review my search results by clicking here.
Obama announced his selection of Senator Joe Biden as his running mate yesterday and the majority of the news cycle has been devoted to Biden’s life story. Many municipalities put restrictions on protests in the form of a permitting processes, location of protests or to the hours within which a protest can occur. A chill runs down my spine whenever we apply “reasonable restrictions’ to the rights outlined in our Constitution. It pains me greatly to come to the defense of Ward Churchill and Cindy Sheehan, but they are Americans and reserve the right to assemble peacefully. I do not condemn the Democrat Convention for placing the restriction on the protesters any more than I condemn the Republicans for the restrictions they will place on their protesters.
Both parties are treating this situation inappropriately. I do hold the media responsible for not reporting the grievances of the protesters.
My cable provider offers a lovely service which allows me to view the video feed from six cable news stations and hear the audio from any of these stations my simply moving my cursor from right to left. Five stations were playing old interviews or reporting live from the nearly empty Denver Convention center.
Fox News was on the street asking protestors what their message was, so I flipped the audio to Fox News. The message, both visual and verbal, included only “The Finger” and an unoriginal, but vulgar chant, “F**k Fox News” (See the video bar on the right). If I were participating in a protest (I have participated in a few in my time), I would not squander the opportunity to voice my opinion to any news agency (how many people ever get such a chance?). The majority of the networks ignored their efforts to inform the public of their political beliefs. Rather than taking advantage of a live, unedited television broadcast opportunity to sway the hearts and minds of America, the protestors decided to demonstrate pride in their limited vocabulary.
Next Sunday, I will compare a similar search on all three major news network website using the key words “St. Paul convention protests”. Until next Sunday, I will give both CNN and MSNBC the benefit of the doubt. The agencies may have a policy of not covering protests, but I am sure that I have watched several anti-immigration reform and anti-war protests on both of the aforementioned stations. If such a policy is in place, and this is not a partisan act, then why are the networks denying American Citizens fair treatment?
Perhaps, if the protestors conducted themselves in a self respecting manner, the other networks would give them a platform. It makes it very difficult to defend a person’s right of free speech when it used to hurl insults and profanity. Why would you insult the only news agency willing to spread your message to the voting public?

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