The Demonization of Cindy Sheehan

Cindy Sheehan hugs Bush SupporterI’ve been watching with some dismay as the mainstream media in the United States has started to fall in line with the Right-Wing politicos in condemning Cindy Sheehan. They don’t do it as blatantly. Often they don’t criticize her at all, but simply report on the criticism by including quotes from the Right without balancing quotes from the so-called Left. In other words, it’s the old “we’re just reporting what people are saying” without the understanding that reporting only one side of any issue is, in itself, bias.

I’ve read many stories in which Cindy Sheehan’s comments have been taken completely out of context. For instance, she seems to be quoted a lot with saying “America Not Worth Dying For.” Oddly enough you can only seem to find that quote on Conservative web sites. What she actually said was “This country is not worth dying for,” and the country she was referring to was Iraq, not the United States. Iraq is not worth dying for. Context is everything.

The Right has a favorite word, which is “Borking.” They typically use it as a verb whenever a political nomination is being opposed by the Democrats. They say someone is “being Borked” (a reference to the fight over Reagan’s appointment of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court). Well, it looks like a new verb is surfacing which the Left is using to some degree. “Swift Boating.” That new verb describes an effort to discredit someone with lies and misinformation (a reference to the “Swift Boat Veterans” attempt to discredit presidential candidate John Kerry).

That’s what is happening to Cindy Sheehan. The Right-Wing policital and media machines have cranked up to fever-pitch in an effort to portray Cindy Sheehan as some irrational, politically motivated opportunist who is building some sort of celebrity career upon the dead body of her son, Casey (who died in Iraq, if you don’t know). The attacks have been particularly vicious. Especially from the Right-Wing talking heads on the radio and television talk shows.

What worries me is that the mainstream media is picking up on it.

For once I’m going to limit my ranting here. There are a lot of great articles out there that need to be read, which go into these details much better than I ever could. But if you want to see my main point, simply go to the main news pages on Google or Yahoo!. Look at the headlines concerning Cindy Sheehan. For one thing, you won’t find her under any human interest categories. She’s now firmly ensconced in the politics section.

Anyway, here are some articles of interest;

If you read any of these articles, please note how particularly nasty the Right-leaning articles are. None of them specifically discuss Cindy Sheehan’s positions, but instead spend most of their time talking about how her efforts are undermining “our war in Iraq” and damaging “the morale of our troops.” Simply put, by voicing opposition at all she is proving herself to be unpatriotic, un-American, extremist, un-hinged, etcetera, etcetera.

I think this issue surprised everyone on the Right. They truly expected that the standard media spin would suffice in distracting the American public, as it always has before. Most Conservatives chalked up the interest in Cindy Sheehan as simply a slow news period. In other words, if anything else had been going on, no one would have noticed Ms. Sheehan’s protest in Crawford. They may be right about that, actually. But I think the truer statement would be to say that had anything else been going on the mainstream media could have been intimidated into looking for the easier story.

More than anything, it’s interesting that Cindy Sheehan has become such a focal point. Obviously a lot more people had strong feelings about the Iraq war and the possible illegality of it than the Bush Administration and Conservatives thought. Just because President Bush and the Right have managed to intimidate the mainstream media into under-reporting opposition to Administration policies and the War in Iraq does not mean that such opposition does not exist. In regard to Cindy Sheehan the standard spin has not worked very well thus far. But I worry that it’s beginning to work now that Right-Wing media outlets are getting up to speed. If Cindy Sheehan can be discredited and swept under the rug with the amount of media coverage that she’s garnered thus far, then we are truly doomed.

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