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...as committed to creating pageants of uninterrupted pomp, paternalism and legitimacy, as any Soviet hack.

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A giant television in New York's Times Square shows President Bush taking the oath of office on his inauguration day, Saturday, Jan. 20, 2001. Robert Spencer

United States

The Inaugural Media in Monument City

by Kelly Cogswell

JANUARY 22, 2001. Anything seen on network TV news has an aroma of truth and inevitability. So if the idiot box shows George W. Bush being peacefully inaugurated as the United States' 43rd president, that's the way it is, and should be.

But TV news is more Hollywood than truth; you see what they want you to see. And judging by how Saturday's coverage ignored thousands and thousands of pro-democracy, anti-Bush protesters nationwide, the brains behind Inauguration 2001 were either trapped in inflexible corporate styles restricting them to coverage of Laura Bush's wardrobe, or they are sycophantic political suckups as committed to creating pageants of uninterrupted pomp, paternalism and legitimacy, as any Soviet hack.

Take your pick.

Mis-en-scene
Camera work was key in creating that sense of timeless, pharoaic dynasty. There were all those long panoramic shots down avenues with the Capitol Building looming monumentally in the distance. The parade shots succeeded marvelously in situating Bush in Washington, America's only abstract, majestic, and heroic city, as eternal as the American system and, yes, the American ruling class.

When the cameras deigned to show a closeup, it was of a sentimental Bush, or other VIP red-eyed with love of country and tax cuts. Had the weather been better, and the party faithful not gray and shivering with cold, I suppose we might have been treated to a closeup of their adoring, tearful faces.

Nothing that would disrupt the script's illusion of glory was allowed to intrude, especially the many thousands of puny human demonstrators from Tallahassee to D.C. who were treated as no more than stinky farts in the midst of the glorious ritual being celebrated.

Demonstrators Denied
When the D.C. protesters were first mentioned by the TV talking heads, they were said to be only a few hundred. Those few were supposedly "unruly anarchists" justifying the 7,000 cops guarding the parade route, establishing checkpoints and searching bags, and occasionally knocking their batons against a bloody head. There were no closeups of placards or demonstrators. The sounds of chants were dimmed or filtered out.

shadow inauguration protestersSome of the same newscasters vicariously thrilled to cover revolutions for democracy in Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America, willfully ignored the more than a thousand protesters gathered at Dupont Circle for a Voter's Rights Rally. Also obliterated were the thousand or so who attended Al Sharpton's National Action Network's Shadow Inauguration which denounced the racist voter disenfranchisement in Florida, as well as the large numbers at the National Organization for Women's rally for women's and abortion rights.

Other largely ignored demonstrators included the New Black Panther Party, Puerto Rican anti-Navy activists, Ruckus, the International Action Center, and a couple hundred pro-Bush demonstrators. One conservative group along the parade route demanded that abortion be outlawed. Another held a "National Patriots March" at the Supreme Court. They were all relevant to the proceedings, and should have been highly visible to the rest of the country. They weren't.

Invisible Nation
When commentators did grudgingly acknowledge the protesters' existence, they implied that though Americans do have the right of free speech, they were rude for exercising it on such an august occasion. NBC's Maria Shriver even refused to read placards aloud, stating they were offensive, though the only signs faintly visible on the TV screen read Hail to the Thief and Re-Elect Gore in 2004. It was also suggested that the demonstrators were unrepresentative of the nation at large (again ignoring nationwide protests).

In fact, the anti-Bush demonstrators were amazingly representative. Unlike activists at Seattle's anti-World Bank and World Trade Organization demos, these were of all ages, all races, all classes. They were gay and straight, male and female, Green, Dem, GOP and from all over the country. Many were first time protesters stirred into action by the election.

Who could be more representative than Florence Elion, a World War II veteran from Palm Beach? She said she is a registered Republican and "just not the type" to protest. But, "It's heartbreaking to think that Bush was selected by the Supreme Court," she said. Vivian Holifield, a 63-year-old African American, came all the way from Detroit on a bus with several hundred other seniors to protest.

Carolyn King, a 54-year-old sales representative flew from Grand Rapids, Minnesota. "I'm angry... I think if Gore did the same thing—not count all the ballots—I would still be out here." Like other novices, she was a little flustered by all the police. "I can't believe this—they're afraid of us?"

shadow inauguration protestersApparently, they are. We are still so far from democracy, equality, and universal voting rights, that these are still radical ideas. And the only way to spread them is to demonstrate repeatedly, everywhere, and in numbers so vast even the one-eyed networks can't ignore them. July 4 is perfect for fireworks.

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