David Ledden on Press Coverage of Largest Peace March in English History

Editorially, most commentators sided with the aims of yesterday’s historic demonstration. In The Observer, of four opinion pieces, one praised the potential among British Muslims to help raise a common voice on issues that affect everyone. Two pieces pondered Tony Blair’s future, while one bewildering article by Nick Cohen, entitled ‘The Left Isn’t Listening,” patronisingly criticised the organisers of yesterday’s events for “having gone to great lengths to censor and silence” the aims of genuine proponents of democracy in the Arab world.

2003.02.18

The British media today [2003.02.16] faced a new movement. The impression left by yesterday’s historical march, in which two million people across the political and social divide took part, is one of solidarity in the face of an increasingly isolated and anaemic pro-war coalition.

Every single Sunday paper devoted its cover to photographs depicting the masses on parade; every single paper exclaimed the word “million” with regards to the numbers of participants; every single paper avoided minimising the scale of yesterday’s unbelievable turnout.

And as the euphoria of yesterday’s historical march subsided into analysis, the impact of millions of people, Muslims and anarchists, trade unionists and playwrights, had yet to fully be understood. Would this be a turning point in the march to war? Would this be the moment in which all guns are lowered in favour of peaceful and lasting resolutions? Would this be the day when our leaders listened?

The cover of the right-centrist Sunday Times estimated that five million people had taken part in demonstrations worldwide. The Independent left it at “over a million” nation wide. The centre-left paper, The Observer noted simply that millions had marched world-wide, while devoting the front page to a gigantic photo of the march alongside an editorial titled, ‘One Million. And Still They Came.”

As reported yesterday, while events came to a close around 5 p.m., thousands of anti-war demonstrators were still snaking their way on Oxford Street and from Embankment towards Hyde Park in the hopes of hearing one of the many speakers scheduled to appear.

For coverage, The Observer took the lead amongst so-called “quality-paper” broadsheets, devoting eight pages to the rally. The Independent for its part gave five pages to what it called “The People’s Protest.” The Sunday Times gave the march four pages.

Editorially, most commentators sided with the aims of yesterday’s historic demonstration. In The Observer, of four opinion pieces, one praised the potential among British Muslims to help raise a common voice on issues that affect everyone. Two pieces pondered Tony Blair’s future, while one bewildering article by Nick Cohen, entitled ‘The Left Isn’t Listening,” patronisingly criticised the organisers of yesterday’s events for “having gone to great lengths to censor and silence” the aims of genuine proponents of democracy in the Arab world.¹

The Independent devoted four op-ed pieces to the march. Of these, two articles questioned Blair and Bush’s wisdom, while one warned that the Prime Minister may “end up as a PM without a party.”² A fourth article reminded readers that, while millions march, terrorists worldwide are regrouping. “While the world looks away,” stated Steve Richards, “the terrorists prepare to strike.”³

The Sunday Times disregarded the opinions of the millions mentioned on its own front page and gave three thumbs-up to Bush and Blair’s bellicose motives, stating that, “it would be hard to find a better definition of a just war.”*

Tony Blair remained defiant, stating in a speech to 2000 delegates of his own Labour Party yesterday that, “ridding the world of Saddam Hussein would be an act of humanity.”**


¹The Observer, February 16, 2003
²Mr.Blair Nat End Up as a PM Without a Party, The Independent, February 16, 2003
³While the World Wrangles, the Terrorists are Quietly Regrouping, The Independent, February 16, 2003
*This is a Just War, The Sunday Times, February 16, 2003
**Overthrowing Saddam Would be an Act of Humanity, says Blair, The Independent, February 16, 2003

Author: David Ledden

News Service: TheExperiment

URL: http://www.theexperiment.org/articles.php?news_id=1905