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Jan 29, 2007

Three People Attend Washington Anti-War Protest


I got an interesting email from a reader yesterday about Saturday's anti-war demonstrations.  He said he was looking around the main news sites for photos of the size of the protests, but mostly all he could find were celebrity pics.

That lead me to the newswire at YahooNews, where the protest coverage -- concerning crowd shots, at least -- was confined almost strictly to Washington. Still, I found at least as many crowd scenes as celebrity shots (if that isn't a commentary right there).  What I didn't see much of, however, were those longer angles offering a broader sense of the scale.  What seemed to shape perception just as much, however, were the captions.  Repeatedly, they noted that "thousands of people" had shown up to participate.

Thousands?  Checking some news headlines, the number of participants were consistently described in the "tens of thousands."

(Actually, the most detailed crowd data I found was in the Washington Post photo gallery.  One slide said: "...the rallies stretched the entire length of the route from the Mall to the east front of the Capitol and back to the Mall."  A following slide stated: "The crowd, while exuberant, seemed significantly smaller than the half million people organizers said were present, and may not have matched similar protests in September 2005 and January 2003."  ... Even if the rally "only" drew a-hundred-and-fifty to two-hundred-thousand, however, it's curious that the story attached to the WAPO slide show, still carried that minimal designation: "Thousands Protest Bush Policy.")

Thinking about the disconnect between the Yahoo newswire photos and the actual event, I was then interested how The Times would visualize it.

Maybe the photo editor at the NYT would tell you, in regards to covering demonstrations, that crowd shots don't capture attention anymore, or that the paper is always trying to find new ways to capture the reader's attention regarding these things.  Anyway, counting the three people above -- as well as the Marine Dad on the pick-up truck in the second pic accompanying the Times article -- we know at least four people were there.

Perhaps The Times felt its bases were fully covered, however, by also linking to a You Tube page of the event?

In the "evolving by the day" world of on-line journalism, this was certainly a novel move.  The rationale, however, seems either awkward or suspect.  For instance, when I checked the You Tube page last night, right after the article was posted, none of the videos included the event itself.  That's wasn't the case today, but if the aim of The Times, at least partially, was to supplement their "picturing" of the demonstration with theYou Tube content, the choice was a weird one given the extreme variability of pickings in terms of format, quantity and quality.  Even more problematic, however, was the fact that the videos were mostly partisan.  Given no context,  were moderates and conservatives (not to mention liberals not that up on YT) supposed to know they were being transferred to NetRoots TV?

Aside from the numbers, I'm also interested in your take on the view of the Capitol new hippies photo itself.

(hat tip: Dick)

(image: Veronika Lukasova for The New York Times. January 27, 2006.



Visually, it is a rich photo--the white and shapes of the capitol dome is echoed in the color and shapes of the caps, the red and white of the "No Surge" banner is echoed in the red and white striped scarf.

But the space between these three protestors and the capitol is empty. no one showed up, then? If you didn't know the context, you'd think these were three college kids on a sightseeing tour. They are having a good time. And the sun rising (or setting) behind the dome! It might suggest the twilight of the US, but I think it is more like a blessing on this polished dome. Aren't those kids lucky to live in the land of the free, home of the brave?

My eye sees this as a conservative POV with a nod at neutrality (the protestors aren't scary!) I don't see any suggestion of the scale of the protest (suggesting that the protest doesn't need to be taken seriously), and I do see respect, even adoration, for the authority of government.

Sucks to organize a huge, successful anti-war demonstration the entire existence of which is then snuffed by the media outlets. How do you disappear 500,000 (or somewhat less, maybe) people? Easy! Just ignore them and they'll go away.

Rove is "creating his own reality" and Bush is saying "LA-LA-LA-LA, I can't HEAR you!"

P.S. photos like this were a staple of the sixties, where the crowds of demonstrators were always minimized somehow by the pictures, and if there were pro-government counterdemonstrations present, the size of those was always magnified by the photos which appeared in newspapers. You almost had to have been there to really know what was going on. You could have 50,000 demonstrators and 50 counterdemonstrators, but the pics showed the two groups looking like they were the same size (by putting the counterdemonstrators first and foresmost, and the choice of angle, etc.)

It became literally a textbook case of information manipulation. I've got an old college textbook about it somehwere.

That's ok. One of these days, they'll figure out the capitol really is surrounded by 70% disapproval.

It is extraordinarily difficult to photograph these kind of events and tell a truthful story. The story is both broad and very particular -- and diffuse. All that really unites the people at one of these things is their opposition, in some form, to the current war. But visually, what makes them interesting is their particularity.

I spent the day Saturday trying to photograph the smaller, but not tiny (3-7000) person demonstration in San Francisco. The result is here. No particular image gets it all; it takes many to give a semi-objective sense of the event. Have been trying to catch these things for years and I actually think this effort is not a bad one, but the task is very daunting.

Those cheerful hippies from the NYT are one part of the story (and better than the celebrities) but they should not stand in for all the story.

"Aw, whatever. Those types will protest anything. Hippies like that hate the war just 'cause that's what trendy hippies do. Did they bring tofu? Is it like a picnic for them or are they "protesting"? Shake your maracas for peace, beard boy. Let me know when *real* Americans show up to oppose the war."

Having photographed the Washington march extensively, I can attest to the difficulty of capturing the sense of the whole - the vignettes are much easier and often more interesting. However, the Washington Post had a good long shot of the crowd filling Constitution Avenue into the distance on the front page of its print edition, above the fold. I imagine the difference here is that the Post editor must have said: "Get me a crowd shot!", and the Times, on the other hand, put their article on page 20. Still, an improvement over the Times coverage of the first big march in Washington in October of 2002, which, if I remember correctly, was relegated to a clause in a sentence about British concerns regarding Iraq.

Very nice photo, but it really mis-represents the March because I know for a fact that there were more than three people there, the AP reported that there were "tens of thousands", plus old Jane Fonda and some other big name actors, and plus an anarchist from North Carolina.

Plus there were a couple of paragraphs about all of the counter-protesters, all "about forty" of them.

I wonder if Americans really are opposed to the war or it is just some conspiracy of the liberal press trying to make trouble for the Commander-in-Chief.

Morning is just "waking up" in the photo...
The buses arrive much later and so do crowds!
MSM must have woken up early too:-) to catch the two plus and then stopped taking pictures and listening! What's new about it?
Fight it!

Note how early it is; the sun is just cresting over the Capitol. It looks like they sent someone out and got a shot for the paper as early as possible, as opposed to waiting around for later pictures.

I was at the protest (playing the sousaphone in an informal little brass band). The Mall was maybe about one-half to one-third full before the march started. The metro trains were mobbed continuously. Our back-of-the-hand calculation was a few tens of thousands, maybe 90,000 or so.

I marched for peace Sat. The number of protesters and supporters from the sidewalks far exceded the expectation of the people who needed to see and hear the message. So they had to minimize the count to show who is in power (in their mind). We were well over a hundred thousand!
An old Buddist proverb: To pray is to walk Imagine how sacred was this day. Shame on the press. They missed a blessing to be shared.

The muslimindia website U.S. was shot down this week.But nothing can stop us:We march for them;
well-understood, we, the good old Vietnam Vets! Dont miss our marching-in at L.A. and Frisco on
this week-end! Thanks Folks!

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