Friday, August 12, 2005

Mourning mother or publicity hound?

Yesterday, displaying its knack for originality, the BBC followed in the footsteps of its American media soulmate, the New York Times, with a story highlighting the plight of Cindy Sheehan, mother of a US soldier killed in Iraq, who is holding a vigil outside President Bush’s Crawford ranch in what is described as an attempt to speak to the president personally about his Iraq policy.

Demonstrating a keenness for tautology, the BBC writes:
The mother of a US soldier killed in Iraq, who is holding a roadside protest outside President Bush's Texas ranch, is gaining support from well-wishers.
Doesn’t everyone gain support from well-wishers?

Anyway, loyal TAE readers will already be familiar with Sheehan, whose association with the anti-war group Gold Star Families for Peace (she was a co-founder) was noted by TAE back on June 17. Recall that GSFP had been ludicrously described by the BBC as a “non-partisan” group, a claim which Sheehan’s own writing on the GSFP website proved to be laughable. Now the BBC presents Sheehan as a simple, distraught mother demonstrating for a meeting with the president.

In fact Sheehan is a full-time protestor and anti-war activist, as well as a media regular when it comes to coverage of the anti-war movement (or, perhaps that should read simply anti-war coverage). Even prior to this most recent spate of coverage over her actions in Crawford, she had been quoted or written about in at least 4 New York Times articles dating back to October 2004, including her own letter to the editor. She was featured in a Washington Post article in February, giving her (negative, of course) reactions to the President’s State of the Union address. She was on CNN’s Larry King Show in June (after already being scheduled but then bumped from the show in January). She’s also been featured in other, lower profile media outlets, such as her interview in the Portland Phoenix in January.

Sheehan and her group GSFP have been involved in various anti-war protests and publicity stunts, including the faux-congressional hearings on the infamous Downing Street Memo , in which Sheehan gave “testimony”, and, in what will now seem a familiar stunt, an attempt to enter the Pentagon, seeking a sit-down with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld.

I have no doubt that Sheehan is indeed a distraught mother. But she is also a media savvy, publicity seeking, long experienced anti-war activist. Her roadside sit-in is hardly the sincere effort of a mourning mother to have a word with President Bush. It is simply one in a long and on-going series of anti-Bush publicity stunts. Once again, the BBC has hidden the real story from its audience.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Mark said...

Scott,

You did some very good work in your research.

A recent MoveOn.org letter that went out to its members said that Cindy was not an anti-war protester before her son's death, which turns out not to be true. Bill O'Reilly did some research on her as well and found that she was an anti-war activist for many years, and founded her own group, GSFP. O'Reilly said she founded it a couple years ago, but that may have been inaccurate.

Cindy admitted on MSNBC in the last week that her sit-in at the Crawford ranch was basically a publicity stunt to embarrase Bush. She was asked whether she'd like to meet with him if Bush made the offer. She said no, that it would take the wind out of the sails of what she started. So yes, she's definitely media savvy. Some pundits were suggesting that he should meet with her a second time, because it would have that effect, though there were good arguments on the other side, too. He would be setting a bad precedent, and she'd likely not be satisfied, finding some other way to embarrase him later. In other words, he shouldn't be responding to her whims, and he hasn't. She's gotten noticed, but nothing else.

What's amazed me is how a grieving mother like herself would be capable of being so crass. She had her opportunity to meet with Bush last year after her son's death. They met, and she talked about the experience later in a local newspaper interview. She said that she came away feeling convinced that Bush was "a man of faith" and that "He felt some of the pain we felt for our loss", and, "He brought us the gift of happiness, of being together." I'm not trying to quote exactly, but they should give you a sense of what she said, and it sounded very positive. After hearing these quotes I thought, "Gee, what more could one ask for, given the circumstances?" A year later she's changed all that. When she started her demonstration she made the experience of the meeting sound awful. She said Bush came in jovially, asking, "Okay, who are we honoring today," with a smile. She complained that Bush dehumanized her son by refusing to say his name or look at his picture, just calling him, "your loved one". She said, "He acted like it was a party." Wow. Talk about a reinterpretation of what happened! More like disingenuous.

What I found particularly striking, and you touched on it with one of your links, was in one interview during her sit-in she said that she's using the death of her son to stop the killing of thousands of Americans and thousands of Iraqis, as if Iraq was an orderly, peaceful society, where everyone was going about their lives before we came in there and messed it all up. That is so far from the truth I can't even begin to describe it.

I do feel sympathy for her loss. What makes me angry at her though is that she has a problem with the truth. Not the other way around.

CNN did an interview with the friends and family of Casey Sheehan. They said he was a peaceful, giving person. One of the phrases they used that seemed to sum up his life was "He lived to serve others." Before joining the military, he worked for a couple non-profit organizations, doing charity work. Later he joined the military, and even re-enlisted a couple years ago. Cindy Sheehan offered to transport Casey to Canada so he could get out of the military. He refused, saying "My buddies are over there. They need me." A common sentiment among those who have served in the military, in any branch.

I can't know what's going through her mind, but my guess is that she believes that Bush, being a better manipulator than herself, tricked her young, naive son to go off and do Bush's dirty work, and get himself killed. So therefore she blames Bush for her son's death. Since Bush lied to get her son, she believes it's alright to lie to get back at him, and to "stop the war".

11:40 PM  

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