Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Power of Protest, the Press, and the Ratings

The violence in Middle East has been on my mind.  My thoughts are about the loss of not just an American ambassador, a diplomat, two security personnel, and the Libyan guards, who were also sons, fathers, brothers - men who had lives and who took dangerous jobs. I also think about the politicizing of this horrible event and not just by the candidates but by the media as well.  

Oh sure, there are a few that report on the fact that many of the protests are actually led by small, extremest factions and that, for example, the protests in Cairo happen on pretty much a regular basis.  That one can be found on almost any Friday night says one report.  Nor have they done a real good job about reporting on the people who do support the US or the vigils that were held in Libya by its citizens following the deaths. 

No they are interested in showing you the protesters yelling and waving militant Islam flags as they burn the American Flag, like the one below. 
But this picture is not from Egypt, Libya or the Sudan.  It is in fact from Oakland, California.  It came with the caption:  Protesters burn an American flag during a small march through downtown Oakland.

or this one -


which was done 1989,  when Gregory Lee Johnson burned an American flag at a political rally protesting the Reagan administration.

Or how about this one?

It was taken when some English soccer fans burned American flag before a match. The English, I am pretty sure, are our allies.

You see, while we are looking at the protests and their seeming violence we miss a few things.  On Friday, for example there were actually two protest groups from two different sects.  The ones that clashed with Egyptian security forces were described as "soccer hooligans." These are the young men you see at the protests often with no shirts, using them to cover their faces.  The protest involved around 300 of  "soccer hooligans."  It sounds like a lot until you consider that Cairo has a population 17.8 million. 

I've seen a couple of diplomats and retired generals who point out a couple of facts like many of these protests are relatively small and are often from the disenfranchised extremists who would love nothing more than to topple their new democratic governments.  One diplomat pointed out that many of these people were under the thumb of dictators who used the USA as their bogeyman for years.  These dictators were the ones standing between the people and the "evil" US.  It is going to take some time for these new democracies to realize that we aren't the bad guys and perhaps that our freedoms also let the lunatic fringe do things that most everyone condemns. This is something that is barely mentioned in the mainstream evening news.  

Our press forgot to mention that we've had protests too and remind us that not all of our protests have been peaceful.  Dissent is a part of democracy.  It is a part of freedom.  While burning the flag and showing the protests may get ratings and the discussion of the politics involved make for peaking the interests of viewers, it is not necessarily balanced reporting.  Neither President Obama nor Governor Romney if he were president, despite what he may think, could control these protests or the fringe elements that drive them.

How many of you have seen these pictures of the other side of the protests and violence like a picture from the vigil for the ambassador

or these which are just a few of the many pictures of Libyans who have condemned the attack?

No, we need to remember those who died.  We need to honor them.  We need to recall what it means to be free.  And we need to lead by example of what these freedoms mean not by politics or by brandishing our weapons.  Those people who have done these heinous acts need to pay for what they did but they are not the representative of their people anymore than Terry Jones or the producer of that childish film are representative of the USA.  

"Freedom is never free." (author unknown) For freedom to exist, we must be prepared to defend all ideas.  We forget as Will Rogers pointed out that "Liberty doesn't work as well in practice as it does in speeches."