Thursday, January 17, 2008

Covering Code Pink in Little Havana (Part 1)

What troubles me most about the interrupted Code Pink demonstration from this past Saturday is how some people have acquiesced to or explicitly approved of the hostile actions by counter-demonstrators.

Some comments on websites and blogs have been quite repulsive in support of the aggression, such as this comment from the Gateway Pundit: "Don't you just LOVE the Cuban-American community." The Gateway Pundit is not being sarcastic. At the end of his/her post is a link to the Babalu blog that continues the fulminations against the members of Code Pink.

One revealing post comes from Mark Falcoff, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), and who has written extensively on Cuba. Despite his romantic description of Luis Posada Carriles as "one of those soldiers of fortune who worked with the CIA cowboys in Central America during the Cold War," Falcoff believes that Code Pink got what they deserved:

" [Code Pink] decided to make a big fuss in Miami knowing perfectly well the kind of hot reception they would get."

This is no surprise to me coming from someone who works with AEI, but very disappointing coming from a man with a Ph.D in political science from Princeton University. And, to top it off, "Doctor" Falcoff comes to the same conclusions as Henry Gomez, a blogger.

According to Gomez and Falcoff, the Code Pink demonstration was "to make sure the 'Posada Carriles/plane bomb/terrorist/US complicity' meme landed once again on the front pages of our papers"(Falcoff), or simply a "stunt created solely for media consumption"(Gomez). That's right, all Code Pink wanted was to see their faces in the paper, or TV. If we follow such logic, maybe all people who protest and demonstrate publicly (in the face of potential opposition and media coverage) could be labeled compulsive narcissists. Like Martin Luther King Jr., or perhaps Darsi Ferrer from this past December. Yeah, maybe Ferrer is doing it just to appear on Marti TV.

OR, perhaps these demonstrations are about honest grievances. But, that is a conclusion we must each make individually. In the case of Code Pink, one need only look at their many political campaigns, read the official goal of last Saturday's demonstration, and read the various news reports that followed. After doing that, it should be clear what Code Pink sought to bring to the public's attention: "to highlight the need to stop the U.S.’s selective enforcement of terrorism."

Now, there's plenty to read on the debate over Luis Posada Carriles, and his label as "terrorist" or "hero. But, this post is about how the local news reported on Saturday's events and the mission of Code Pink. Let's review.

There's a methodology I chose in reviewing the media coverage following the Code Pink demonstration. It's fairly simple. The most informative and accurate report would fulfill these basic journalistic duties: 1) Mention the mission of Code Pink; 2) accurately describe the actions directed at Code Pink in Little Havana; and 3) mention the background of and debate over Luis Posada Carriles. These requirements I think are easy to achieve (in varying degrees), but there were some reports that failed to do so.


The Herald published a 440 word article (by David Quinones) that was pretty good, but very brief. The article mentioned that Code Pink "came to Miami for the week to get signatures on postcards advocating Posada's imprisonment." (It was actually less than a week that included other activities.) Quinones described the hostile actions by writing that "[t]he pro-Posada group... tried to rip down [Code Pink's] two-sided billboard. That prompted the CodePink protesters to abandon their demonstration." (There were several other hostile actions directed at Code Pink that day.) And, Quinones briefly described the controversial background of Posada, mentioning the CIA, the 1976 bombing, and his escape from prison. Also included for balance were quotes from Posada's lawyer, Arturo Hernandez. But, today the Herald published some corrections to this article, such as the fact that the US is still pursuing an appeal to Posada's recently dismissed immigration case, and Posada's initial acquittal in a Venezuelan military court. The Herald ignores the fact that Posada's military trial blocked crucial evidence in the case, lacked jurisdiction, and was eventually annulled. Quinones also reports that the crowd of counter-protesters numbered "more than 500," instead of the 200-300 count observed by most reports. Finally, the Herald also included an AP piece that was also very brief and similar, but numbered the counter-protest crowd at around 200, mentioned that "the Posada supporters charged at the [Code Pink] truck," and mentioned that Posada "is wanted by the Cuban and Venezuelan government on charges that he plotted the deadly 1976 bombing."


Nuevo Herald actually published two articles BEFORE the Saturday demonstration and one afterwards. Wilfredo Cancio Isla wrote two article before the demonstration, one of which was very informative and the other which was very brief. The first one (Jan. 10) accurately describes the mission of Code Pink (and their many scheduled activities) and included a very good quote by Medea Benjamin articulating the inconsistency of terrorism enforcement by the US. But, the article very briefly mentions Posada's controversial background, and interestingly mentions that Code Pink made an effort to visit Luis Posada Carriles' wife, Nieves González. The following article (Jan. 12) briefly reports on how some exile organizations had planned to meet one hour before the Code Pink demonstration, and that these groups belong to the "Committee in Support of Luis Posada Carriles." The article briefly describes the mission of the Code Pink campaign, and provides several quotes by exile supporters calling Posada a "great patriot" and promising to act "without violating peaceful conduct." And, I found this article to be the ONLY ONE that mentions last year's attack on the Bolivarian Youth. Wilfredo Cancio Isla writes: "January of last year, a demonstration of exile groups supporting freedom for Posada provoked a violent incident in the middle of Calle Ocho."

AFTER the Code Pink demonstration, El Nuevo Herald published a very brief article of events (a little less than 400 words). Juan Carlos Chavez, in a few words, quickly describes the Code Pink mission, Posada's controversial background and mentions that counter-protesters "prevented" and "blocked" Code Pink from accomplishing their campaign. The article includes a decent quote from Medea Benjamin, and from Miguel Saavedra of Vigilia Mambisa (the same man caught attacking members of the Bolivarian Youth last year).

[Part 2]

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