"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance

 and a people who mean to be their own governors

 must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

That Was Then, This Is Now

Question: How much coverage would the press have given a World War II-era Cindy Sheehan who camped outside Hyde Park or Warm Springs demanding to meet with President Roosevelt?

Answer: None

Question: Why is the Washington Post withdrawing its offer of free advertising for an organized event by the Defense Department to memorialize the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks?

Answer: The Post backed out of the agreement after critics said the event, scheduled to take place four years after the attacks that hit New York and Washington and resulted in the crash of a commercial airliner over western Pennsylvania, would have a pro-war slant and that support of the event by the newspaper would compromise the Post's journalistic integrity.

Question: What is the difference between then and now?



At 8:15 PM, Blogger Sluggo said...

I think even Henry Wallace would be stunned by the moral equivalence of the press and disgusted by the simple minded post-patriotism of his own party. There's no equivalent in American history for what's going on now.

At 10:11 PM, Blogger Ken Adams said...

Answer: Back then we had freedom of religion, now the courts have imposed upon us freedom from religion. It all flows back to Madelyn Murray O'Hare.

At 8:11 AM, Blogger DBK said...

Rather than have you work so hard to provide a fictional historical event, let's see what did happen when veterans sought a redress of grievances from a Republican president in 1932. If it's okay with you, how about we take those same vets and have them ask the Republican president's Democrat successor for a redress of those same grievances and see what happened? I'm sorry that Hyde Park wasn't involved. I would have liked to have given you an even closer parallel to your fictional construct.

"Perhaps the most politically damaging event of Hoover's presidency was the Bonus March, staged by World War I veterans in 1932. Several years earlier, Congress had passed the Soldiers' Bonus Act, which granted veterans Adjusted Compensation Certificates, payable in 1945. In May 1932, the "Bonus Army" converged on the capitol to urge early redemption for the certificates.

More than 17,000 desperate veterans gathered in Washington to force passage of the bill. Hoover had already made generous provisions for veterans and felt that the bill was a huge expense that wouldn't help the country's most needy. In July, the Bonus Bill was defeated in the Senate, although the government offered to pay the fare home for each veteran.

Thousands accepted the offer, but thousands more remained encamped across the Potomac from central Washington in a ramshackle shantytown, dubbed "Hooverville." Although the Bonus Army had behaved remarkably peacefully, the police were called in to evict the veterans. A riot broke out and Hoover ordered that federal troops be dispatched to contain the veterans. The commanding general, Douglas MacArthur, did much more than "contain", however, and ordered the use of tear gas, tanks, and bayonets, and commanded soldiers to set fire to the veterans' shacks. Several veterans and even an infant were killed in the chaos. Hoover never publicly criticized the general for his excessive conduct, and thus the American people blamed the president as well as MacArthur."

What did Roosevelt do when he inherited these unhappy veterans less than a year later? No, he didn't satisfy their claims, but at least he had Eleanor Roosevelt talk to them. While dealing with the Great Depression, Roosevelt at least gave their grievances the attention they deserved. Maybe he even had Eleanor answer a question one of them may have asked. Since you get to speculate and make up the answers, I'll do the same. I'll speculate that one of the veterans asked what the noble cause was that for which he and so many of his fellow veterans fought, and for which so many died. And I'll bet Eleanor at least gave him an answer. It probably wasn't too much trouble for her to answer a question.

At 9:47 AM, Blogger DBK said...

Oh, and Ken, I'm afraid you have me confused. Enlighten asked what the difference was between then, when the WaPo had agreed to give free advertising to the DoD event and now, when the WaPo has withdrawn its offer. Your answer is that the courts imposed freedom from religion on us in the interim. When did that happen? It has only been a few months between the two events as I understand it. How come I didn't hear about this? Enlighten, you have been very bad, not telling us about that court ruling. I expect better.

At 11:06 AM, Blogger Enlighten said...

The difference between than and now - then the majority of the press wanted the U.S. to win WW II and now, at best the majority of the press is indifferent to the outcome of the war on terror.

At 11:42 AM, Blogger Enlighten said...

There's been over 60 years between "then' and "now". We weren't asking about major changes that have occurred in the press within the last few weeks, but rather the difference in the press from WW II to today. And what, pray tell, does the 1932 Bonus March have to do with our post about the U.S. press? Or, if you want to expand the discussion, what does your Bonus March story have to do with the difference in the United States “then” and “now”?

At 1:09 PM, Blogger DBK said...

I'm sorry if that was opaque for you. I wrote Bonus March story in direct response to your first question.

Because you kept the next two "Questions" and the intervening "Answer" in red, I assumed that you deliberately set up a relationship between them which did not exist with the earlier Question and Answer, and that the "then and now" to which you referred had to do with WaPo's position on the same event, as in "Why did WaPo show support then but not now?" You didn't define what you meant by "then and now" very clearly, so I had to do some interpretation.

Okay, so your question/answer posting was really meant to ask the question "Why is the media's response to World War II and to the war in Iraq?" That ignores the very real differences between the two wars. The differences between the wars are vast. It would take days of work to write them all down, and then of course I am sure you'd have a million quibbles with my version fo the differences. Besides which, you assume your conclusion. You haven't demonstrated that the press is responding differently to the two. In fact, you ignore the difference in the coverage of the Iraq war between the beginning of the war and the present. You likewise ignore the fact that the president and Pentagon have declared that the war is over, and has been over for, what, two years last May? So the press isn't covering a war anymore, is it? Perhaps if the aftermath of WWII had been two years of continuing military engagement with no way of determining when that engagement would end, the press following WWII would have responded differently. You likewise ignore...no, there are way too many differences between the two situations, WWII and Iraq, to even begin to go into it.

But I do think the final question is poorly defined, there's an assumed conclusion, and you have some other problems of equivalence that render the discussion more than a little problematic. Hence, the discussion becomes little more than people responding with their pet peeves, like the fellow who wants to blame the change in press coverage on Madelyn Murray O'hare or me with my response, which was less a pet peeve than an attempt to respond to a poorly formed posting.

At 2:15 PM, Blogger Sam said...

Enlighten, we should also look at support levels for the war in Iraq today compared to World War Two. Don't contrive this statement to mean that Sheehan is a champion of the cause or some legendary figure, but she is certainly speaking for a far larger segment of the population than a protester in 1943 or 1944 would have been.

At 2:53 PM, Blogger Enlighten said...


Text in red are hyperlinks, sorry if it was confusing. Where did you get the idea that the war on terror was over? When did the President or anyone in the Pentagon ever make such a statement? Who compared World War II to the war in Iraq? The United States is fighting a global war on terror and Iraq is just one front. Just as Afghanistan is another major front in the overall war on terror. The fact you are unaware our country is Fighting a Global War on Terror speaks volumes about the press “now” vs.“then”.

At 6:45 AM, Blogger DBK said...

Where did you get the idea that opposition to terrorism was over or that the newspapers were against battling terrorism?

Seriously, suggesting that the members of the press are indifferent to the "War on Terrorism" is kind of crazy. If you keep conflating the war in Iraq with the War on Terror then you keep alive the mistaken notion that Hussein was involved in the terrorist attacks on the US in 2001. Which we all, I am sure, by now must realize is not true.

Again, if you want to compare WWII to the war in Iraq then you have major problems with that comparison. Also, according to the president and the Pentagon the war in Iraq is over and we've just been mopping up. For two years. With much bigger causalties after the war ended. According to the government, at least.

If you want to compare WWII to a "War on Terrorism" then you have big problem again. Again it is an apples and oranges thing. However, if you do that then you have a faulty premise because there is no opposition to a "War on Terrorism" by the press or by the majority of Americans, regardless of political orientation.

Your questions are just very badly defined. It was never clear whether you were asking about support for the war in Iraq or a "War on Terrorism". Cindy Sheehan, whom you name, for example, has never expressed opposition to battling terrorism, nor has the WaPo expressed opposition to battling terrorism. In addition, just because you call two different things a "war" it doesn't make them the same in any significant way. The differences between WWII and Iraq, or even the "War on Terrorism", are enormous. Every time I write that they're different I have to stop myself from listing the differences because there are too many to make listing a few worthwhile.


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