media war on war

17 03 2008

The danger of a presidential election as monumental and central as the 2008 presidential election is that the American public loses sight of everything else going on in the world. The Iraq War, for example, was on everybody’s radar just a year ago — the annual anti-war rally I went to in Portland, Ore. last year was attended by 15,000 people. Although no numbers have come in yet for this year’s rally, I can tell you the numbers didn’t come close to last year’s. And this is the fifth year we’ve been at it.  

a peace rally two years ago

Of course, maybe it’s the five years that’s been the problem. Maybe we’re tired of protesting and we feel like picking a new political leader is the smartest thing we can do to actually make change happen internationally. I get that. For me, a peace rally is a symbolic motion. It’s really something you do more for yourself than to instigate active change. It reminds you, definitely, that you are not alone. It gives you a sense of the massive strength of a movement.But while the presidential primaries have eaten the national daily newspapers alive, even the subject we all swore was so important to us (the Iraq War) seems to have become clutter for the shelf.A Pew Poll released last week reported that public awareness for the Iraq War has not only dissipated in the past few months, it has practically dissolved:

Public awareness of the number of American military fatalities in Iraq has declined sharply since last August. Today, just 28% of adults are able to say that approximately 4,000 Americans have died in the Iraq war. As of March 10, the Department of Defense had confirmed the deaths of 3,974 U.S. military personnel in Iraq.       

That 28 percent is compared to 54 percent last August, and about half in 2004. This percentage is by far the lowest reported awareness since these polls were started in April 2004. To blame, of course, is the media, which feeds on the frenzy surrounding the current presidential election (84 percent of people in the same survey were able to name the talk show host who endorses Barack Obama). While conditions worsen and swell in Iraq, national newspapers appear to care less and less, reporting virtually nothing about the war in December, and even less in January.

If we claim to care about foreign affairs and say we want to fix the mistakes President Bush has made, we’d better know enough about those mistakes to tell our representatives what we want to change.