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August 30, 2005

Peace of Excrement

Cindy Sheehan and her followers have taken to calling themselves the "peace movement". I'd like to talk about that, and I'd also like to make a point about a bias that exists in favor of liberals.

Many in the mainstream media have adopted the "peace movement" terminology. The more respectable media confine the description to their editorial pages, as in "Stanton: In pushing for peace movement, it takes a mother", published in the Tucson (AZ) Citizen. I disagree with the term, but I congratulate the Citizen for not only plainly labeling the item an opinion piece, but putting the name of the editorialist right in the headline. If one must present liberal points of view, that's the way to do it.

To give an example of how not to present liberal points of view, there's the Associated Press, which ran a story on August 18 which headlined "'Peace Mom': Spearhead of Peace Movement?" in the Washington Post, the San Jose Mercury News, the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the London (UK) Guardian, the Miami Herald, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Twin Cities (MN) Pioneer Press and of course the Los Angeles Times. (Hey, Google News: your search for "allintitle:" is broken.) Subscribers to the wire service are free to choose their own titles for articles, but the fact that so many chose identical wording is strong evidence that the Associated Press offered it as a suggested title. Not only is the article not flagged as an editorial, but it came over the AP's "News--Nation/World" wire. Peace Mom is presented in "Scare Quotes" [1], peace movement is not.

Why is it bad that they're using those terms? Because by any objective standard, Cindy Sheehan is not a "Peace Mom", and the loose-knit organization of her fellow-travelers is not a "peace movement". This is not my opinion. This is a demonstrable, provable fact.

Look at Cindy Sheehan's message. It is not, despite what some would have us believe, "President Bush, please meet with this grieving widow." Sheehan admitted as much herself when she stated she was glad the President didn't meet with her (WaPo). Sheehan's message, explicitly stated many times, is "Withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq immediately!" For example, from the latest essay in the "Peaceful Occupation of Crawford" series that either Sheehan writes herself or Michael Moore writes for her:

I know you don't want Camp Casey to come to the place you reside between vacations, so I would suggest you bring our troops home immediately.

And of course, this nauseatingly exploitive bit of Moore-babble:

But most of all: thank you, my son. Thank you for living the kind of life that inspires people to work for peace and justice. Thank you for choosing me to be your mom. Thank you for being the embodiment of love and thank you for being the inspiration for the Camp Casey movement. I promise you it won't end until all of your buddies are brought home.

For the record, Cindy Sheehan accuses the President of using her son's name (MSNBC), although I've never heard him do so. Sheehan herself has no problem with literally using the names of every single other grieving family's sons (and daughters), but if she really wants to find somebody who's crassly exploiting her son to push a political cause, she need look no further than a mirror... and/or Michael Moore's scruffy face.

Sheehan touts the Bring Them Home Now Tour, although Sheehan herself will apparently only be on it for a couple of days; I guess she needs to rest after all that sitting in an air-conditioned trailer in Crawford and jetting back to Los Angeles allegedly [2] due to her mother's illness. One of the stated aims of the Tour is:

From George Bush’s door step to Communities along the way, We Demand That:

Elected Representatives Decide Now to Bring the Troops Home

There's not much room for wiggle there. The Peace Mom and her Peace Movement are working very hard and spending a lot of money to get the troops brought home from Iraq now.

Now, you may agree with that strategy. You may not. But one thing everybody beyond the literally hopelessly deluded can agree on is this: if the United States were to follow the advice of this peace movement, the one thing that would most absolutely certainly definitely not follow is peace. There is no room for reasonable doubt, there is not even room for outlandishly unreasonable doubt. Picture anybody, Cindy Sheehan herself, or even Michael Moore, standing up in front of the friendliest possible audience, consisting entirely of posters to Democratic Underground [3], and declaring, "If we were to immediately leave Iraq, there would be peace." Picture the reaction. The only reactions imaginable are stunned silence and uproarious laughter. Nobody could take that statement seriously. If we were to immediately withdraw troops, Baghdad would make Saigon look like Madrid, and everybody, even Cindy Sheehan, knows it.

Objectively, what Cindy Sheehan and Michael Moore are moving for is not peace. There have been numerous groups throughout history that have striven desperately for peace at terrible cost against mighty odds, and to call Sheehan's and Moore's crowd a peace movement is to insult every one of these heroes. To crassly exploit an American institution that's as cherished as apple pie and baseball by calling Cindy Sheehan a "peace mom" is a slap to the face of Motherhood itself. This has no place in respected public discourse, let alone in allegedly-respectable "news" [4] organizations.

But let's not think that the media is the only institution where the mighty have fallen both far and radically leftward. You can also find the "peace movement" in academia:

David Cartwright, founder of the Win Without War Coalition and a University of Notre Dame professor, said Sheehan re-energized a peace movement that was in the doldrums after Bush's re-election.

"I have the impression she's under inhuman pressure. She's just a mom," he said. "She's done an amazingly good job."

(Scripps Howard news service) Now, okay, this guy is a professor for the University of Notre Dame. Good school, right? Private and Catholic, even? And here he is publically cheering for Cindy Sheehan. The University, as far as I know, has made no objection. Prominent academic organizations are likewise silent. There is no comment from the NCAA, which gets upset over the nonexistent insensitivity of the name Florida Seminoles.  One wonders what the reaction from Cartwright's peers in academia would have been had he done something really controversial, like cite recent research in behavioral genetics in front of a working lunch of about ten participants.

Hey, maybe Cindy Sheehan is right. Maybe immediate withdrawal of United States troops from Iraq would be the best course of action. I really don't think so, and I feel confident I could easily rip every argument in favor to shreds, but maybe it would be. But even those who strongly agree with Cindy Sheehan must concede that immediate withdrawal of United States troops from Iraq would not bring peace. It offends me, it honestly turns my stomach to hear Sheehan and her crowd referred to as what they obviously are not, a Peace Mom and a Peace Movement. Aren't liberals supposed to be all about sensitivity? Isn't offense to be judged only in the eye of the offended?

If the liberal institutions like academia and the mainstream news media [5] had any integrity, they'd stop using these terms. I don't expect that the true crazies, like Michael Moore and Joan Baez and Al Sharpton and David Duke and Stormfront and of course Sheehan herself, will stop grossly misapplying the word peace, but at least they don't pretend to objectivity, like the media, and they don't pretend to intellectual superiority, like the university.

[footnotes in extended entry]

[1] "Scare Quotes"TM are a registered trademark of Reuters.

[2] Yes, allegedly. I am certainly not alleging that anything is false about Sheehan's alleged reasons for departing Camp Crawford, I'm merely stating that she alleges that a family medical emergency was the reason for her departure.

[3] Hat tip to PJ-Comix. Mary Matalin, give him a call.

[4] See [1]

[5] By this term of art I refer to the "old media", including news wires like Reuters and the Associated Press, large-city print newspapers, and the news desks of the big three networks. I do not include "new media" such as Internet bloggers or columnists, cable news networks, or talk radio. While I firmly believe that the editorial pages of print newspapers are dominated by liberals, I present no evidence and thus do not include them in the media I am accusing of bias.

August 30, 2005 in Current Affairs | Permalink

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