Monday, March 22, 2010

Yesterday's dueling protests . . .

Yesterday in Washington, DC, told the tale of two different kinds of protests.

The first was a gathering of a few thousand Tea Partyers opposed to healthcare reform. Overwhelmingly white and middle-aged, some shouted racial epithets and anti-gay chants at members of Congress forced to pass through them. For those of us who hoped the days of openly racist politics were behind us, it was a sad demonstration that they are not.

It was interesting to note that a few House Republicans stood on a balcony during the Tea Party demonstration, egging on the protesters, holding up signs saying "Kill the Bill." Other Republicans sought to distance themselves from the group.

Luke Sharrett/The New York Times

Yesterday's second Washington protest was staged by tens of thousands of  immigrants and activists (including four bus-loads of people who left from Harrisonburg) in support of immigration reform. They marched in their massive numbers and went home.

I followed both protests yesterday, interested not just in what happened, but in how what happened was reported. Those few thousand Tea Partyers were given lead coverage -- particularly once they started slinging their distasteful epithets. Coverage of the tens of thousands of Marchers for America was kept decidedly below the fold. That protest did not even make the front page of this morning's New York Times (at least, on-line).

I have no quarrel at all with giving the House's historic vote on healthcare reform the full Monty of journalistic treatment. But I do quarrel with the choice to pay more journalistic attention to a few thousand people's use of racial epithets than to the tens of thousands who staged the kind of orderly protest that makes this country great.

1 comment:

  1. Sadly, despite the fact that it was a hot-button issue during the presidential campaign, immigration reform has not gotten nearly as much press as it should. We have always gotten waves of immigrants in this country; shouldn't we have gotten used to it by now and deal with it better?

    Of course, the news outlets are (mostly) driven by ratings and readership, and want to put the juicier story first. Racial epithets and gay-bashing are much more titillating than democracy in action.