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1er octobre 2002 — Nos amis de FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting) sont précieux. Un bon test de l'objectivité de la “grande presse” US (essentiellement le Washington Post et le New York Times) était, sans aucun doute, la gigantesque manifestation de Londres du 28 septembre. En ampleur, cette manifestation s'est révélée à peu près égale à celle de la semaine précédente (21 septembre), à Londres également, sur la chasse au renard. Qu'il se soit trouvé quasiment autant de Britanniques pour manifester sur le thème de l'opposition à la guerre contre l'Irak et à la politique “suiviste” de Tony Blair, qu'il s'en était trouvé, la semaine précédente, pour manifester sur le thème de la chasse au renard, cela représente un événement sociologique et politique de grande importance. Cela mesure, on l'a écrit, la crise profonde où la crise irakienne plonge le Royaume Uni.
Par conséquent, on attendait avec intérêt la “couverture” que la “grande presse” US allait faire de cet événement par rapport à celle qu'elle avait faite de l'événement du 21 septembre. FAIR attendait la chose avec un intérêt encore plus grand. On a vu, et le résultat est pitoyable et pathétique, — comme la manif' elle-même, il « speaks volume » sur le degré de liberté de cette “grande presse” US, célébrée in illo tempore comme la presse la plus digne et la plus libre, qui montre aujourd'hui son degré de conformisme par rapport aux consignes non-dites mais parfaitement audibles et entendues du pouvoir. Cette presse-là n'a plus rien à envier à la soviétique, du temps de la Pravda. Elle montre, dans sa servilité sophistiquée, sottise et couardise à peu près également réparties. C'est une honte quotidienne.
Voici le texte publié par FAIR. Nous le faisons suivre d'un texte publié (dans CounterPunch) par une personnalité de la gauche activiste britannique, Tariq Ali, qui a bien sûr suivi la manifestation du 28 septembre et qui en fait rapport, ainsi que diverses appréciations sur la participation. Histoire d'équilibrer, sans doute. (Tariq Ali est un vieux dur-à-cuire de la contestation puisqu'il était déjà actif dans les années 1960, fort troublées comme on sait, mais alors comme jeune étudiant. Aujourd'hui, il est un des éditeur de New Left.)
September 30, 2002
Last Saturday, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of London to protest military action against Iraq, rallying in what the London Independent called ''one of the biggest peace demonstrations seen in a generation'' (9/29/02). Yet neither the Washington Post nor the New York Times saw fit to run a full article about the protests, instead burying
passing mentions of the story in articles about other subjects.
In contrast, both papers showed real interest in another recent London march of comparable size — last week's protest against a proposed ban on fox-hunting. The Washington Post ran a 1,331-word story about the fox-hunting protest on the front page of its Style section (9/23/02), while the New York Times ran a short Reuters piece on page A4 (9/23/02), which it followed up with an op-ed exploring the class politics of the
hunt (9/24/02). A Times story on Prince Charles' involvement in politics (9/26/02) also made reference to the pro-fox-hunting protest.
Estimates of the crowd size at the peace march vary. The Independent (9/29/02) reported both the police estimate of 150,000 protesters and the organizers' early estimate of 350,000; similarly, the London Times cited the police estimate alongside a later organizers' estimate of 400,000 (9/30/02). A London Observer columnist (9/29/02) who attended the march dismissed the police figures as politically motivated, writing: ''The Stop the War coalition last night claimed the total was more than 350,000; the police reluctantly moved up from 'four men with beards and a small dog' to 150,000, and the truth was, if anything, even higher than either.''
According to British press reports, the peace march was notable not just for its size, but for how broad-based it was. Organized by the Stop the War coalition and the Muslim Association of Britain, the demonstration was focused on two main slogans, ''Don't Attack Iraq'' and ''Freedom for Palestine'' (Guardian, 9/30/02). The Observer (9/29/02) reported solidarity between the causes, describing an ''an undeniable unity of purpose'' in a
diverse crowd that included everyone from Muslim activists in keffiyah to ''Hampstead ladies with their granddaughters in prams.'' According to the Independent (9/29/02), ''the sheer numbers who turned out to express vociferous opposition to military action in Iraq. meant there was no way they could be dismissed as 'the usual suspects' of the hard left.''
Despite all that, the entirety of the New York Times' coverage of th peace march was nestled at the end of one sentence in an article titled ''Blair Is Confident of Tough U.N. Line on Iraqi Weapons'' (9/30/02). Many Labour Party MPs, said the Times, ''were encouraged by the turnout of 150,000 protesters who staged an antiwar march in London on Saturday''.
The Washington Post managed one reference more, but seemed to have seriously under-counted the crowd. The Post article ''Iraq Rejects Inspection Revisions'' (9/29/02) mentioned ''thousands'' of protesters in London, and an article the next day about European opposition to U.S. unilateralism referred to ''tens of thousands'' of demonstrators.
Britain is the only European country backing the Bush administration's war plans, so the size and composition of the London peace march — not to mention the arguments articulated there — have particular relevance to the international debate over Iraq. The pro-fox-hunting march, which also addressed broader issues of urban/rural tension in England, was newsworthy enough, but much more local in focus. Given the looming prospect of a war that could kill thousands of people and throw an entire region into
turmoil, it's disturbing that the New York Times and the Washington Post gave the two events such disparate treatment.
September 30, 2002 — by Tariq Ali (Tariq Ali is an editor of New Left)
London: Saturday 28th September. It was a beautiful clear blue sky. No mists but a great deal of mellow fruitfulness. The Stop the War Coalition--- a united front that includes socialists of most stripes, liberals and radicals, pacifists and the moderate Muslim groups----had expected 200,000 people, but the mood in Britain was uneasy and large numbers of people, many of them conservative or even apolitical, had decided to swell the march.
The week before the march, New Labour issued the so-called Blair dossier, a farrago of half-truths and stale facts was a very crude attempt at war propaganda. It backfired miserably. Blair was at his worst. The grinning disk-jockey in clerical mode. Everything reduced to a pseudo-morality tale.
War-talk and piety is such an ugly combination. It may have convinced his ghastly cabinet, a bunch of mediocrities, most of whom would find it difficult to gain employment elsewhere.
Blair prefers it like this: in the land of the blind, the one-eyed beggar is king.
The Daily Mirror, a leading London tabloid devoted 8 pages to denouncing the dossier and Blair. This newspaper has turned decisively after 9/11, in sharp contrast to its rivals and 'betters'.
The only pro-war piece in the paper, hallucinatory on every level and published to give the White House a voice, appeared under the byline of the former NATION columnist, Christopher Hitchens. The man with the Orwell-complex has fallen really low. He will fall further.
No war in Iraq; Justice for Palestine were the themes that united everyone present on Saturday 28th September. .Murdoch's Sky TV reported 400,000 . Irish radio insisted there were half-a-million. Channel Five News said 'over a quarter of a million'. Only BBC TV reported the 'police figure' of 150,000.
Let's be modest. Let's accept that there were over 350,000 people who came from all parts of the country to show their contempt for Tony Blair and his backing for Bush's planned war against Iraq.
I met people, old and young, who had never been on a demonstration before. Rites of passage. And the mood was one of defiance and anger.
The new wave of trade-union leaders who have been elected to defy the New Labour Thatcherites were solidly against the war. Bob Crow, the 40--something leader of the railway workers denounced Blair in vitriolic language. So did Mark Serotka from the Civil Servants Union and others.
Then there was Tony Benn and George Galloway and Jeremy Corbyn (the last two still Members of Parliament) spoke for the Labour Party members opposed to Blair.
It was the Jewish sabbath. So the contingent of Hassidic Jews could not speak, but their moving plea for Palestinian rights was read by a young Muslim from Leicester.
The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, was also there strongly denouncing the Prime Minister. Many Londoners heaved a sigh of relief when Blair refused to let Livingstone back in the Labour Party. No longer needing to suck up to the New Labour leadership, Livingstone shifted his position once again. Sometimes opportunism can lead in the left direction.
Nobody on the demonstration was taken in by the talk of a UN-led war being somehow more acceptable than a Bush-Blair attack. The British peace movement, for one, will not be taken in if the permanent members of the UNSC allow their arms to be twisted and their purses filled by the Bushmen.
Here the movement will continue. And when the bombs begin to drop there will be acts of non-violent civil disobedience all over the country.
We need the same in the United States.