Fox news demonstrates massive bias

'Die-ins' Target War and News Media  
by Richard Cowen
  
More than 200 people were arrested Thursday for blocking traffic in Manhattan during a day of civil disobedience called to protest the war in Iraq and the corporate media's reporting of the conflict.


An anti-war protester mimicking a television news anchor demonstrates on New York's Fifth Avenue Thursday, April 27, 2003. Anti-war groups planned a day of widespread civil disobedience Thursday, including blocking busy intersections and a 'die-in' to protest media and corporate 'profiteering from the war.' (AP Photo/Radcliffe Roye)

Waves of protesters lay down in the streets throughout the day, conducting mass "die-ins" that city police broke up by hauling people away in handcuffs, sometimes by the busloads. The largest die-in occurred during the morning rush hour in the area around Rockefeller Center - home to such media giants as the CNN, NBC, and Fox networks.

And in an unusual turn of events, the showing provoked a public display of pro-war sentiment by Fox News.

The theme of the demonstration was "no more business as usual," and the estimated 500 demonstrators at Rockefeller Center did their best to ensure that this would be no ordinary workday. The police set up barricades along the sidewalk to enable people to pass to their offices, but shortly before 8:30 a.m., about 150 protesters hopped the barricades and swarmed onto the street, stopping traffic. Police were right behind them with handcuffs.

The protest, which took place in the shadow of St. Patrick's Cathedral at Fifth Avenue and 50th Street, slowed traffic for an hour. The NYPD was able to keep one lane of traffic open while removing the protesters. Around noon, about 600 New York University students suddenly walked out of their classes and into Washington Square Park.



Fox News had its own response to the demonstrators. The news ticker rimming Fox's headquarters on Sixth Avenue wasn't carrying war updates as the protest began. Instead, it poked fun at the demonstrators, chiding them.
"War protester auditions here today ... thanks for coming!" read one message. "Who won your right to show up here today?" another questioned. "Protesters or soldiers?"

Said a third: "How do you keep a war protester in suspense? Ignore them."

Still another read: "Attention protesters: the Michael Moore Fan Club meets Thursday at a phone booth at Sixth Avenue and 50th Street" - a reference to the film maker who denounced the war while accepting an Oscar on Sunday night for his documentary "Bowling for Columbine."



Aaron Unger, one of the coordinators of the protest for a group calling itself the M-27 Coalition, said demonstrators broke the law to drive home a point.

"We believe the war against Iraq is a violation of international law," Unger said. "And the media is not telling people the whole story. I know people see what we're doing as a nuisance. But what's happening to the people of Iraq is much more than a nuisance."

Fox News had its own response to the demonstrators. The news ticker rimming Fox's headquarters on Sixth Avenue wasn't carrying war updates as the protest began. Instead, it poked fun at the demonstrators, chiding them.

"War protester auditions here today ... thanks for coming!" read one message. "Who won your right to show up here today?" another questioned. "Protesters or soldiers?"

Said a third: "How do you keep a war protester in suspense? Ignore them."

Still another read: "Attention protesters: the Michael Moore Fan Club meets Thursday at a phone booth at Sixth Avenue and 50th Street" - a reference to the film maker who denounced the war while accepting an Oscar on Sunday night for his documentary "Bowling for Columbine."

The protesters said Fox's sentiments only proved their point: that media coverage, in particular among the television networks, is so biased as to be unbelievable.

"They're all bad, but Fox is the absolute worst," said Tracy Blevins, 32, a New York City resident. "The people who report the news aren't journalists. They just say what the government tells them to say."

Reached for comment Thursday afternoon, Fox spokeswoman Tracy Spector was unaware of the messages on the news ticker and said she would look into it. Spector said the network "didn't mean to insult anyone."

Spector did not return calls for further comment by early Thursday evening.

Media experts said what Fox did Thursday morning was not shocking - Fox was openly hawkish about the war long before it began. But, they said, the display - tagged with the Fox News logo — threw journalistic objectivity out the window and also ridiculed the First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

"Fox tries to position itself as 'the real American network,'" said Michael Hoyt, executive editor of the Columbia Journalism Review. "But real Americans believe in democracy and freedom of speech. I think what they did was cynical and bush league."

Barbara Reed, an associate professor of journalism at Rutgers University, said she wasn't surprised by Fox's action, given the fact that the network is owned by Rupert Murdoch, the Australian media mogul and ardent conservative whose publications have been hawkish.

"Fox isn't the only news outlet that has shown bias, but I think Murdoch and Fox are over the top on this one," Reed said.

NYPD spokesman Lt. Brian Burke said about 150 protesters were arrested at the Rockefeller Center demonstration. Protest organizers said about 50 others were arrested blocking traffic later in the day in the Chelsea section of Manhattan and in Chinatown. Burke said the protesters would be charged with disorderly persons offenses and probably would be released, "unless they don't have proper identification."

The protests came as the war against Iraq entered its second week, with President Bush telling the nation that the fighting might take longer than expected. Members of the M-27 coalition say they will continue their civil disobedience if the war continues.

"We believe extraordinary measures are required," said Kim Flynn, a spokeswoman for the M-27 Coalition. "We feel compelled to act out of conscience."


Copyright © 2003 North Jersey Media Group Inc.

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