You are herecontent / Yuppies and the Peace Movement

Yuppies and the Peace Movement

Yuppies and the Peace Movement
By David Swanson


The single biggest reason that the peace movement is not larger and more aggressive is that people with one foot in it are focused on trying to be respectable in the eyes of the corporate media, for their own sake and – in their misguided view – for the sake of the movement.

As an example, take the meeting I went to in Washington, D.C., this evening. About 40 people, mostly in their thirties, mostly doing all right financially, about 37 of them white, gathered at a restaurant to vote on whether their little organization would endorse the September 24th march against the war.

They ran a very well disciplined meeting and made very articulate arguments on both sides. Those in favor argued that people are dying and that it needs to be stopped, that movements must be large and inclusive to succeed, that you can't build an opposition political party without wholeheartedly opposing the illegal and immoral war with which the party in power is identified, etc.

Of those opposed, only one person spoke against ending the war. The others spoke against the war, and all or almost all of them in support of participating in the march, but against endorsing it as an organization. In fact, more than one rose to take time to speak against endorsement using the argument that the endorsement debate was taking time away from actually participating in the march (although the meeting to hold the endorsement debate had turned out a much larger than typical crowd for this organization). Mostly, though, they argued that the media would call them leftists if they participated in an event that included some of the groups already participating.

Seriously, it was a room full of amateur PR agents. They wanted to maintain "political credibility" for their little organization. They wanted to focus on lobbying and electing officials (this in the colony of DC, which has no voting representation in Congress and no US senators!). They wanted to be "credible," they kept saying. One woman was afraid she'd not receive government clearance for a job she was applying for if she marched in an event that "communists" would be marching in. Another man said he would prefer a silent march without signs or speeches. Another preferred the candlelight vigils held around the country recently for Cindy Sheehan. Another had read an article by Todd Gitlin and actually taken it seriously. It was a bizarre room. But it was representative, I suspect, of a lot of people.

It's interesting, though, that they mostly wanted to march as individuals. They simply wanted to protect their organization from the stain of officially endorsing the march. (Kind of makes it hard to organize more people if your movement has to advance without organizations!)

Many of the speakers referred to their fear of mistreatment by the media. But most of these viewed the media as what the media has told them it is. They imagine that the media gives better coverage to respectable moderates, whereas in reality the media always gives better coverage to those who are most confrontational and often gives the worst coverage to those who are inconsistent.

One of those who spoke in support of endorsing said that she didn't want to be part of the Kerry wing of the Democratic party ("I was for it before I was against it"), and instead chose to be part of the Dean wing. (Of course, Dean is a good example of the media's attraction to combativeness – as are those candlelight vigils, which could not have happened had a woman not gone to Bush's ranch and tried to get herself arrested – but Dean is supporting the war.) Still, one of those who spoke against endorsing argued against being dismissed as a bunch of crazy leftist Dean supporters. (It simply does not matter that Dean himself is afraid of the same thing and is supporting the war, because the media has not told people that.) This same speaker argued for "being progressive, but being careful about it, in order to maintain political credibility in the media."

One woman supporting endorsement pointed out that the Washington Post had today attacked as a bunch of communist wackos. But, I suspect that many in the room missed the irony. MoveOn is, of course, a very careful and conservative group, but if you consume too much news media, you'll believe otherwise, and trying to argue with you will be entirely pointless, it will be impossible to persuade you that MoveOn is not a bunch of radicals or that Howard Dean does not favor bringing the troops home. Disagreeing with these "facts" will be seen as some sort of logical fallacy.

Guilt by association attacks are part of the territory in progressive politics, no matter how NASCAR-Dad you go. You can't avoid them, and you may be more likely to find them if you try to avoid them. This is because the media likes to talk about the more moderate groups as being radical, as a means of shutting actually radical opinions out of the public debate entirely – even majority opinions like this one: "End the war!" If even the "radical leftist" groups can be quoted as saying that the war's not all that bad and we shouldn't rush recklessly into peace, the limits of the debate are narrowed substantially. Groups that stand more strongly for peace are more likely to receive no coverage than to receive critical coverage, but they will receive coverage if they are large enough and stand strongly together.

If we can start to see around the media, it becomes clear that no organization can be "politically credible" if it refuses to fully and consistently oppose this war.

If we want the groups we dislike to have a proportionately larger presence at the march, then we should stay home. If we want our polite and well-spelled signs, and our suits and ties to be seen, then we have to put them on and get out there in the streets.

The meeting tonight voted 21 to 20 in favor of endorsing. But endorsement required a two-thirds majority; the rules said so. So, members of this organization will march, and they've even started organizing in a haphazard way how to march together. But they won't put serious organized effort behind it, and if some reporter does interview one of them on the street, the first words out of their mouths will be "I'm not here with those other crazies, but…."


Crazies? Cindy Sheehan's camp was attacked by a newspaper article today as a "Theater of the Absurd," at which people smoked pot because Joan Baez was there. Well, Joan was there, but nobody that I saw smoked pot. Even (legal) alcohol was banned. But who the hell cares? The public doesn’t take this stuff seriously. Look at the polls. They're not done very well, but they still tell a powerful tale of MAINSTREAM war opposition.

Various polls have found that a majority of Americans believe the war was a "mistake." (Of course, these polls have not provided people the option of calling the war a "fraud" or a "crime." The worst choice has been "mistake.")

Other polls have found that a majority say the war "was not worth it." (People have not been given the option of answering "Illegal aggression can never be 'worth it.'")

Polls have asked if U.S. troops should be withdrawn, but have made that one of four choices at the extreme end of a spectrum including the options of 1.send more troops, 2. keep same as now, 3.withdraw some, 4. withdraw all. Still, a majority answers either 3 or 4. (CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll. Aug. 5-7).

Better is a poll that was done by Newsweek in early August in which people were given time options. A total of 50 percent of respondents chose either "Bring them home now," or "Less than one more year," and another 13 percent chose "One to two years." The poll revealed a stark divide between these 63 percent of Americans and another 26 percent who chose "As long as it takes." The option of "three to five years" received only 5 percent, "six to 10 years" only 1 percent, and "more than 10 years" zero percent.

There have also been polls on "how things are going in Iraq," and whether we "approve of how Bush is handling Iraq," and so on. Opposition to the war wins in these polls too, but the polls frame the subsequent stories within the context of an identifiable mission and measurable progress. The worst of these, is the question "Will the U.S. win the war?" (CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll. July 22-24.) People were not asked "Do you have the slightest clue what it would mean to 'win' this war?" And the "No" answer to the question of whether the U.S. would win was split in half. The possible answers were: "Will win," "Can win, but won't," and "Can't win." (Can win but won't??) A total of 53 percent chose one of the last two answers. Another 4 percent were, "Unsure."

Admirably, some pollsters have been asking whether the war has made the U.S. safer or less safe. A majority consistently says less safe.

But almost none of the polling organizations are asking whether the war was unjustified, illegal, fraudulent, based on lies, or misrepresented to Congress and the American people. One exception was a June 23-26, 2005, ABC/Washington Post poll, which found 52 percent of Americans believed the Bush administration "deliberately misled the public before the war," a nine-point increase in three months. And 57 percent said the Bush administration "intentionally exaggerated its evidence that pre-war Iraq possessed nuclear, chemical or biological weapons."

Every polling organization should be asking this type of question. They should also be asking whether people have read the Downing Street Memo, and correlating that answer with people's answers to the question of whether Bush lied about the reasons for war.

Often the media's news coverage slants to the right, even when public opinion in the media's own polls leans left. We see that in news stories about the war. However, the media has now begun covering opposition to the war, including activists' accusations that Bush lied, while meanwhile the polling arms of the same companies are not surveying the public. Numerous articles tell us that Bush claims Cindy Sheehan's views are those of a minority. Cindy's most frequently expressed view is that she cannot identify any noble cause for which this war was fought. Why doesn't the media ask the public whether we think the war was fought for a noble cause?

At least one pollster (Rasmussen) has done a poll on whether people "view Cindy Sheehan favorably." The absurdity of asking this question, rather than "Did the President lie about the reasons for war?" highlights the weakness of much of the media's news coverage.

Many of the demonstrations that are now being covered by the media have been calling for the impeachment of Bush. Yet only one pollster during the entire Bush presidency has done one single poll on impeachment. The results were so dramatic, that you'd think every polling company would have wanted to verify them.

A June 27-29, 2005, Zogby poll found 42 percent of Americans say that "if it is found that President Bush did not tell the truth about his reasons for going to war with Iraq, Congress should hold him accountable through impeachment." According to Zogby, in Eastern and Western states supporters of impeachment outnumber opponents. The 42 percent above is significantly higher than the 27 percent of Americans who favored impeachment of President Clinton before impeachment proceedings began in 1998.

Now, THAT is a news story. Instead we get the "theater of the absurd" nonsense. But we are also getting acknowledgment of the movement for peace and some of its arguments. And that's progress. And that's what's driving the media's own poll results away from the picture it gives through its news reporting.

This week, perhaps more than most, that news reporting has crystallized into a spectacle of the absurd, with Bush as the leading actor. Today he flew over the disaster of New Orleans and remarked from the comfort of his jet "It's devastating, it's got to be doubly devastating on the ground."

This president had sent the National Guard to the Middle East to fight for more oil (or so he said this week, there used to be other reasons for the war), he'd also promoted burning more oil, which promotes more storms and natural disasters, and the disasters then create a need for the Guard, which is absent because it's fighting for the oil. This is absurd if anything is, and burning jet fuel in order to make the wise remark about it quoted above is beyond absurd. It's at the level of driving your truck over crosses to prove your Christianity.

I'm compelled to quote the prophetic words of Ani DiFranco:

millennium spectacle
chief justice is for sale
yucca mountain goddesses
their tears they form a trail

trouble in Israel
patriarchy's realize
the ice caps melt
and New Orleans bides her time
New Orleans bides her time


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Talking about the mainstream media and polls, why was this testimony by Clinton Curtis not on the front page? Democracy and freedom are just illusions until we stop this stuff...

I have just finished watching the clip of Mr. Curtis' testimony and I am in complete shock. This clip MUST be shown over and over and over again ACROSS THE WHOLE COUNTRY.

Here, again, is a most devastating example of what has happened to our CONSTITUTIONAL democracy. There can no longer be any question about the complicity of the Mainstream Media. The MSM, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, most of the current Congress, most of the current Federal bench and God knows how much further deeply we must go to remove this cancerous fungus infecting America.

Representative Feeney, I believe it was, is currently a member of the House Judiciary committee? This crime against the Constitution of the United States, in my legal opinion, constitutes treason and is a clear violation of the oath any attorney takes when being admitted to the Bar of his state. This must be investigated along with the DSM, The Plame/Rove affair and the rest of the sordid actions of the PNAC cabal. This is no longer a merely political matter. It is a matter of critical importance to the continued existence of the United States of America.

As an attorney from Pennsylvania, I stand completely ready to contribute to the battle for the preservation of the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. True American patriots have no alternative but to move forward to clean our governmental house.

I hope the rest of you good people of the America I grew up to love and respect are with me in DC 9/24/05 when this and the Iraq war must become the focus of mass demonstrations of the people giving the elite the hell they deserve for abandonning theior duties to all Americans.

I just watched, too...I am shocked. I THOUGHT the vote was stolen, but to have it proved sickens me...Where is the media on this issue? I have just written my senators and passed this link on to other interested citizens, as well. We must take action to preserve our country and our right to vote. Because of fraudulent voting, a dishonest administration has overtaken the government, and so many people are dying. I fear for our Country.

Good stuff, David. Well said.

This peace movement is being led by people with skin in the game...they have earned political capital to make a statement in opposition to war.
This is an American issue...not left not right. How do we want the political elite to use our children for war? We as a nation have to have a debate on the subject...Is a war of choice backed by the majority of Americans? If so, why don't the political elites children choose to serve? Many who choose to serve their country believed they would only have to serve in defense of their country...the political elite changed the rules by decree...that would no longer wait to be attacked but attack as they see necessary....this has not been American policy until this administration. We need the debate, so our young volunteers know the policy before enlisting. This is the question: Is war used only as a last resort? or Is war now to be used as a choice? How long will it take for the media to get the issue right?

That was a D-LITE to read, Dave! Wow, that is well written; Swanson's pen is guided by some spirits of the past.

It would appear the one hope we have is to educate enough americans that they will begin to inform themselves, participate in their democracy and stop this hijacking of our country. Thank you for an excellent article.

David (and everyone else at that meeting),

Thanks for the report. I skipped the meeting (which, earlier on, I havd been asked to chair) precisely because I could not take listening to this excruciating discussion.

It is hard enough to figure out where one's own identity needs to begin and end in regard to taking action against this war, much less the various ideologies and identities of a hundred others.

I went to the opening of a new progrssive bookstore/cafe and wound up talking about similar issues with a reporter for the Post. I remembered studying under Howard Zinn back in the early 1970's, and how scary he was--how much he pushed us to think about what we would be willing to do to speak up honestly. It was overwhelming for me, a 20-year old student, to consider the kinds of actions that would speak for the heart and soul of the truth of that war.

I could never be violent, I decided. Therefore I had to study Gandhi and King. I COULD be uncomfortable, I decided. I COULD figure out how to organize, and to speak up and out.

Today I know a lot more about what I am capable of. I can speak from the heart, and I can listen to others and engage in dialogue, and I can think in terms of group choreography.

But I have so little patience for those who have simply identified with Howard Dean or any other candidate (including mine) and who refuse to see themselves within the larger framework of what must be done to end this war.

I, too, have questions about many of the groups involved with the Sept 24 mobilization. Some of them, I swear, are people I couldn;t stand back in 1972. BUT, it takes every single one of us to stand up STRONGLY, to stay focused, to have a little HEART, to make change.

I asked Howard Zinn last month a question people had been asking me: How will we know when the reovlution starts? I think they meant, "how will we know we can participate safely?" But this is what he wrote back to me:

"Must we know when the revolution starts? Instead of looking, waiting, observing, we should just act and it will gradually become obvious. John Dewey said: "Don't predict, so you'll know what to do. Do, so you'll know what to predict."

I predict a peaceful, organized, focused march on September 24. In fact, I am already marching...

The most important thing NOT to do on September 24 is dilute our message. I welcome participating with as diverse a crowd as possible because the message should be that Americans from EVERY walk of life are now opposed to this war. Let our signs and t-shirts though, for this one day, be about the opposition to the war on Iraq and not about the other issues we may also be working on. I learned at Camp Casey that I could talk with and work with pro-military family members and even Republicans as long as we stayed focused on what unites us - opposition to the war. Anarchists, devout Muslims, Iraq war veterans--just to mention some disparate examples, and members of any other groups CAN all march together and will make our message stronger - but only if we stay on message! Let's do that on Sept. 24 for the sake of ending this horrible catastrophe NOW!

I guess I don't understand how one can be a part of the movement but only when it's comfortable or doesn't take too much effort.In for a penny in for a pound, either you want to save America or you don't.I have only one son , Robert, who is going back to Iraq in Nov.,I love him more than I can say but I also care about all the other troops and the innocent Iraqui's.I would still speak out against this war if Robert were staying home.I don't know how to protest quietly and be politically correct.The group we are trying to change don't respond to polite conversation they need it crammed down their throats and I will never be silent until this job is done.My name is Michael Perkins and I want all those involved in taking America into this imoral,illegal and criminal war to know I won't stop until it's over and all of our troops are home.

IMPEACH and JAIL BU$h, NeoCons, Cheney, et. al.

...And ALL WHO SUPPORT ( Repug or Dems )

And Now the People Step Forward and Charge High Treason

the Constitution has been Altered and Betrayed
in Favor of A Small Group of Millionaires,

Over Another...

the Governed,

the People of the United States

( from the (Re-Written ) Declaration of Independence
Continue Reading at, )


... don't just... stand up... get up


& Thanks U-ALL, U Patriots U

Don't wait for the POLLS or the POLITICIANS. Democracy means rule by the PEOPLE not rule by POLITICAL PARTIES. What we have in America today is not Democracy, it's not an oligarchy or even an aristocracy; it's KAKISTOCRACY: RULE BY THE WORST.

Don't you people know what is Right? Do you have to be told? Have to be led by the hand? Led by the NOSE? That ain't democracy, people.

Just get out there. NOW.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Speaking Events



August 2-6: Peace and Democracy Conference at Democracy Convention in Minneapolis, Minn.


September 22-24: No War 2017 at American University in Washington, D.C.


October 28: Peace and Justice Studies Association Conference

Find more events here.


Support This Site


Get free books and gear when you become a supporter.



Speaking Truth to Empire


Families United


Ray McGovern


Julie Varughese


Financial supporters of this site can choose to be listed here.



Ca-Dress Long Prom Dresses Canada
Ca Dress Long Prom Dresses on

Buy Books

Get Gear

The log-in box below is only for bloggers. Nobody else will be able to log in because we have not figured out how to stop voluminous spam ruining the site. If you would like us to have the resources to figure that out please donate. If you would like to receive occasional emails please sign up. If you would like to be a blogger here please send your resume.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.