We received a preview of the tactics the media and the radical left — but I almost repeat myself — would try to employ in September 2002. While Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld testified before the House Armed Services Committee about the importance of ousting Saddam Hussein, Benjamin and another demonstrator interrupted the hearing, “began chanting, ‘Inspections, not war,’ and unfurled a banner bearing the slogan before Capitol police removed them from the hearing room.”
The entire sequence could not have lasted more than two minutes. The newsworthiness of the protest was at best debatable. Yet the next day, in a brazen act of radical solidarity, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times all pictured Benjamin and her comrade on their front pages.
Brit Hume of Fox News observed in his “Grapevine” segment the next night that:
That brief outburst during Defense Secretary Rumsfeld’s testimony in the House yesterday may not have amounted to much. The New York Times story on the hearings summed up the incident in two sentences inside the paper. But on the front page, there the protesters were in living color. And the Washington Post did not mention them in its news story, but on that front page, a color picture as well. The Los Angeles Times even made the outburst the lead photograph in the paper. And MSNBC invited the women on as prime-time guests.
That MSNBC interview ended up being an indicator that what worked in the 1960s and 1970s might not fly decades later. Instead of the softball interview the pair expected, the Media Research Center reported that Ashleigh Banfield, not a conservative by any stretch, reminded the women that “70 percent of Americans say they believe that if we don’t take military action against Saddam, we’re going to end up just like those 3,000 people who I happened to witness a year ago down at Ground Zero.”
Benjamin’s protest also led your humble servant to respond. I located an email address for Ms. Benjamin at Global Exchange, the home of her decades-long romance with Cuban-style collectivism — Code Pink began two months later — and sent her the following:
Subject: I see that you’re a “celebrity” now
Gosh, front-page photos in the New York Times and the Washington Post. You’ve made the big time. I am so impressed (not).
Don’t let it go to your head, but anyone who examines the tripe you believe comes away shaking their heads in wonder that anyone can be so ignorant. You have hurt your cause more than helped it. Even ultra-liberal Ashleigh Banfield couldn’t stomach your point of view when you were on Podunk’s News Channel (MSNBC would probably get a bigger audience if they ran a test pattern instead of programming).
You see, babe, the NYT and WaPo don’t set the agenda any more, like they did in the 60s. There is now competition in the arena of ideas, the interpretation of events, and the determination of what really is news — and your side is losing. Your tired Vietnam-era tactics never did work in the long run; otherwise, Ronald Reagan would never have become president and we’d be speaking Russian today. Now they don’t even work in the short run. Fox News, Rush, Michael Savage (who likened your chant to a pair of sick dolphins — ha!), the Media Research Center, and countless others have exposed you as complete fools, all within 48 hours. Anyone with a pulse and a brain knows what you’re about now, and rejects it.
Congratulations, and keep up the good work.
I’m not naive enough to think that Ms. Benjamin gave a rip about what I had to say. But it was nonetheless a cathartic taunt. It also turned out to be a bit prophetic.
Old media — and old Medea — threw everything they had at George Bush and the military in their quest for failure. They can arguably be blamed for encouraging Iraq’s terrorists to keep fighting when they might otherwise have quit, extending the war, and costing us hundreds of billions of dollars. But ultimately and fortunately, it is they who failed, and the hated George Bush and the Iraqi people who prevailed.
That result deserves a hearty New Year’s Eve toast. Bottoms up.