Sunday, January 9, 2011

The New York Times Disses the School of the Americas Protest (Polemic) by Alison Ross

The November 2010 School of Americas (SOA Watch) protest was the 11th or so I have attended. As always, it was a spiritually energizing event that left me at turns numb and euphoric. It is both a draining and affirming experience, with its solemn ceremony honoring the dead and its vibrant puppetista pageant that begins menacingly and ends triumphantly, hope/imagination/resistance joyfully decimating the ominous cerebrus of corporate/government/military dominance.

The protest also features indigenous and folk music, feisty activist speakers, and fiery spoken word poetry, all presented in artistic fashion. The protest is an invigorating fusion of ebullient creativity and meditative spirituality, in dynamic defiance of the ferocious bloodlust fantasies propagated by the United States and Latin American militaries.

Yet you wouldn't know that the protest is such an ecstatic, multi-dimensional experience if you are a passive consumer of the New York Times (is there any other kind of NYT reader?). The NYT seems to think that such sacred celebrations of humanity are there for the entertainment of journalists. The NYT chose to report on the shallow facts of waning attendance at the protest rather than the staggering substance of it.

It is true that the SOA protest attendance has reached a plateau, but it's salient to note that since 1993, it actually GREW exponentially, from tens to hundreds, to thousands. Yet the NYT obsesses over the fact that attendance has dwindled since its peak, from around 17,000 at one point during the Bush years to below 10,000 more recently.

There are concrete reasons for the diminishing attendance - religious groups in other parts of the country are not being funded as they were in the past in order to make the trip possible, the media is not covering Latin American issues as it used to, and many liberal protest types are afflicted with an Obama-induced complacency.

During the Bush years, protestors came as a show of solidarity against ALL injustice, while Democrats enjoy the pernicious illusion of "all is well when we're in charge."

What an angering angle the NYT chose to focus on, then, when they could have actually done their jobs as journalists and emphasized the tyrannical truth about the SOA and urged greater partaking in the annual festivities of transcendent indignation.

I mean, here you have a tenacious group of human rights activists clamoring in peaceful and jubilant fashion to close down a death chamber, and all the NYT can say in meager response is, "The SOA protest really used to be something."

What a crock of crap. The SOA protestors are defending YOUR human rights, and instead of bowing gratefully to them and righteously joining their ranks, you admonish their celebration.

Pretty pathetic - but then, that's mainstream journalism for you.

Shame on you, NYT.

Unpublished Letter to the Editor:

Dear Editor:

Your School of the Americas article was deplorable. Your focus was bereft of substance. I'll clue you in to that substance: the fact that the protest has grown from tens to hundreds to thousands; that it draws a lively intergenerational mix of religious and secular groups from all over the continent to vigorously oppose atrocious human rights violations.

The protest is a well-organized merging of spirituality and art. This year's was the most moving in my 11 years of attendance.

The protest is still a MASSIVE surge of people creatively and peacefully demanding justice. But did you bother to send more than a token photographer to boost the “dwindling” attendance? Are you aware that flagging interest in such protests is largely due to a lapdog media?

The SOA protest is not Hollywoodized for the somnambulant masses. It is deep and dynamic. Your article failed to capture that.

Sincerely, Alison Ross

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