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Why Are the Media Having Such a Hard Time Covering Cindy Sheehan?

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As Gary Hart points out there is indeed a rich history of protest in America. From our Founding Fathers to abolitionists to suffragettes to labor strikers to civil rights marchers, protesters have repeatedly challenged the status quo and changed our society for the better.

So why are the mainstream media having such a hard time covering Cindy Sheehan?

It's as if the simple, direct, and starkly emotional nature of her stance is too raw for them to handle in any of the standard ways. So they've taken to treating her with a strange mix of detachment, condescension, distortion, and aggression.

Paula Zahn referred to her as "this woman." Edmund Morris alluded to her in the New York Times as an "emotional predator." And Dana Milbank wanted to "determine, once and for all, whether Cindy Sheehan is Rosa Parks or Lyndon Larouche."

It's one thing for the O'Reillys and the Limbaughs to spew anti-Cindy venom. The problem arises when, under the pretense of offering both sides, MSM figures regurgitate the GOP attack machine's most contemptible hits ("she's a puppet," "she's anti-Israel," "her own family is against her") as if there are always two legitimate sides to every story. I wonder if the civil rights protests were happening today, who at the cable shows would feel compelled to give equal time to the John Birch Society?

And what to make of the attempt to paint the nascent anti-war movement as a "special interest group." Leaving aside the fact that Sheehan is clearly nobody's pawn and has been raising her voice in protest long before Fenton and MoveOn and Ben Cohen arrived on the scene to lend their support, the use of the term "special interest" is blatantly misleading. Thinking that the war is a lousy idea -- as a majority of Americans now do -- does not qualify one as a "special interest group."

So you can imagine what a pleasure it was watching Keith Olbermann this week, who, instead of offering a "balanced," "on the one hand, on the other hand" look at Sheehan, named Limbaugh "today's worst person in the world" for his despicable Sheehan attack, saying "I guess the painkillers wipe out your memory along with your ethics."

And it's about time we put an end to the absurd double standard wherein a private citizen, staging a courageous and selfless protest, has every word she's ever uttered dug up and scrutinized more closely than some residual DNA on CSI while public officials making life and death decisions are allowed to say the most ludicrous things without being held accountable.

So Cindy might have used the "f-word" when talking about the administration that sent her son to die in Iraq. Big fucking deal. Is it really worthy of a banner headline on Drudge or cackley chatter on right wing blogs?

Certainly not while Don Rumsfeld's ludicrous comparisons between Japanese kamikaze pilots and Iraqi insurgents go unchallenged.

It's truly amazing: the MSM want to hold Sheehan's feet to the fire on statements she's denied making about Israel while allowing Dick "last throes" Cheney, Condi "mushroom cloud" Rice, George "slam dunk" Tenet, Alberto "quaint" Gonzalez, and George "Mission Accomplished" Bush a free pass.

Now that Sheehan has had to interrupt her vigil due to her mother's stroke, the media should take the opportunity to look in the mirror and reassess their handling of her story. Because while Sheehan's Crawford protest has been interrupted, the public's outcry against the president's war in Iraq has only just begun.