WaPo Tops Its Front Page with Protest Drawing...176 People?

October 7th, 2009 8:56 AM

Hard-left "anti-war" protesters – so far to the left that they’re protesting Barack Obama – were awarded the top left of The Washington Post on Wednesday. This "event" protesting the eighth anniversary of war in Afghanistan not only topped page one, it covered about 75 percent of page A6, including four color photographs.

The headline was "For Antiwar Protesters, the Cause Isn't Lost: But Will D.C. Rally Spark Groundswell?" Post reporter Eli Saslow softly implied it wasn’t going well, that "this time the organizers believed they could revive the beleaguered anti-war movement, once such a force in U.S. policy. The next 48 hours would put their optimism on trial."

If there was a journalistic award for beating around the bush, Saslow and the Post could win it. After 25 paragraphs, Saslow finally revealed that the Post’s idea of news judgment isn’t based on numbers: the reporter counted...176 protesters.

The 9-12 conservative rally against Obama made the front page, but the "conservative" label came immediately, and "Republican" consultant Mark McKinnon graced the front page worrying that "right-wing nutballs are aligning themselves with these movements"and "It’s bad for Republicans because in the absence of any real leadership, the freaks fill the void and define the party."

The Saslow story on the "antiwar" movement had no liberal or left-wing label in its 46 paragraphs. No one in the story described the protesters with disparaging words like "nutballs" or "freaks." Instead, the Post offered the usual "diversity" paragraph: "They included veterans and pacifists, hippies and anarchists, feminists and Catholic workers."

Saslow did however drag the label "angry right-wing activists" into the story, as he reported on a class for first-time protesters that drew only one newcomer:

The instructors gave a brief lesson on the history of nonviolent resistance and then read motivational quotes from Buddhist monks. At the end of the class, they asked Wages to hold a make-believe vigil at the White House while the instructors mimicked angry right-wing activists and tried to bait her. Wages closed her eyes, set her hands in prayer and started singing.

"We should run you over with a big war tank!" the instructors yelled.

"We should shoot you with our guns!" they shouted.

[Protester Joan] Wages continued to sing, undaunted, until the instructors broke from character to applaud.

"You're ready," Perry said.

"Just remember that nonviolence is a way of life," said Susan Crane, the co-instructor.

"And that police officers are our brothers and sisters, too," Perry said.

There was no analysis of the complete absence of the original "anti-war" group Moveon.org, which fervently opposed war in Afghanistan in 2001, no wondering what happened to the group that bemoaned the war effort under "General Betray Us."

Online, the Post photo gallery on the protesters included some captions that gave a flavor of the protest against the Democrats in power:

Protesters' signs carried Obama-specific barbs: "Change? What Change?" "The Audacity of War Crimes." "Yes We Can: U.S. Out of Afghanistan."

A protester holds a sign that reads, "No End in Sight." One protester led chants with the crowd: "This is a Democratic Congress and a Democratic president. Does it look very different from the Bush regime?" she yelled. "No!" the crowd answered.

These complaints about Obama and the Democrats were nowhere to be found in the 46 paragraphs published in the newspaper.

UPDATE: Columnist Dana Milbank did provide anti-Obama detail in Tuesday's edition.