Of course we have a free press, don't we?

An interesting exchange on CNN during the inauguration, published in its entirety in Media Matters.

What is especially interesting is that "protesters" and "demonstrators" have become generics, and are described as if the reporters were saying, "And there are a lot of zebras over there," without any indication that they have anything on their minds other than protesting. Another success in marginalization marketing. And of course, who better to use as an example of complete oblvious whoredom in journalism than Wolf Blitzer?

During CNN's live coverage of the presidential inaugural parade on January 20, anchor Wolf Blitzer, CNN analyst Jeff Greenfield, and Harvard University researcher and lecturer Barbara Kellerman provided a running commentary on the festivities. At one point, Kellerman noted that despite frequent references to protesters, she, Blitzer, and Greenfield hadn't actually discussed what they were protesting or why:

KELLERMAN: Well, I was going to point that it's -- we're now using an oxymoron. That is, we're using the phrase "authorized demonstrators," "sanctioned protesters."

It seems to me that, again, I'm so old, I remember the days when protesters were neither sanctioned nor authorized. Moreover, I remember when we knew exactly what they were protesting. Now, it's interesting -- not once today in our use of the word "protesters" did we describe what most of the protesters are protesting against. It would appear to be the war. But it is not only the war.

So it's worth also remembering how, when we describe how things have changed, also the protests and the protesters have changed, as has our conception of them.

BLITZER: This is the motorcycle, the local Washington, DC, police. They are at the beginning of this motorcade. They're driving very slowly and they're now approaching this authorized area, where these demonstrators have gathered...

The motorcade is driving very, very slowly, Jeff.

GREENFIELD: I guess so. Whether this is to let people look at them, I don't know. I mean, I always rely on you, Wolf, to tell us the speed of the motorcades, why they're moving slowly.

BLITZER: Look at the agents walking. They're walking pretty slowly. They're not even running. They're not walking very quickly. So this is a deliberate desire to let everybody on the sides have a chance to see what's going on, so they don't just rush by.

Kellerman pointed out that CNN wasn't telling its viewers why the demonstrators were there -- and Blitzer and Greenfield responded by talking about the speed of the motorcade! Blitzer even offered that "presumably, when the president goes by, they'll make their views known." But Blitzer wasn't going to make those views known to his audience.

CNN's Judy Woodruff later chimed in, declaring "There are 40,000 people who have seats. And then you see the protesters here. You've all been talking about it."

But Blitzer hadn't been "talking about it," and neither had Greenfield; they'd been talking about the process, the logistics -- and the speed of the motorcade ... Finally, Woodruff offered: "The protest causes range from being against the war in Iraq to being against the president's policies on women's rights, abortion rights and so forth." Better than her colleagues, to be sure, but not exactly a meaningful explanation of what the protesters thought and why.

Blitzer later referred to "angry signs railing against the president" and "some angry, angry people who don't like this president, don't like his policies and they're making their views known."

... when Kellerman suggested that if the situation in Iraq continues to go poorly, the number of anti-war protesters may increase, Blitzer and Greenfield immediately replied with:

BLITZER: And if you were looking very closely -- this is a very trivial matter, but may be interesting to some of our viewers -- at the license plate of that new presidential limousine -- and I don't know if we'll get another opportunity to see it, but from what -- there it is right there. You see what that says? USA-1. I think that's what it said. That's a pretty cool license plate to have if you want to get your own license plate for your own presidential limousine.

GREENFIELD: Yes. I think one of the great things about being president, one of the reasons why CEOs envy a guy who gets paid what they make in about a week is, you got the best parking spaces in America and the coolest private plane.

If you closed your eyes for a moment while watching CNN, you could be forgiven for thinking you were watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Blitzer eventually even cautioned against making "too much" of the protests -- as though CNN had paid them any serious attention at all:

BLITZER: And we don't want to make too much of the protesters, because we don't know how many there were.

Goddamn! Is this journalism at its finest or what?


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