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News Dissector Danny Schechter: Saturday’s “One Nation” March on Washington Was “More Movie than Movement”

StoryOctober 04, 2010
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“Sadly, the One Nation that came together in Washington was not there to be organized into an ongoing force,” writes longtime media analyst Danny Schechter. “No follow-up program was announced, no emails collected, no vision on how to turn all that energy on the Mall into a powerful progressive alternative to the tea party was offered. No longer march strategy was announced. It was a moment in itself not for anything more.” [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined now by investigative journalist, filmmaker, author, Danny Schechter, director of the film Plunder and author of the book The Crime of Our Time: Why Wall Street Is Not Too Big to Jail.

Danny, you attended Saturday’s rally, wrote a very interesting piece on your blog. Talk about the effectiveness of it, and talk about it in the context of labor protests around the world.

DANNY SCHECHTER: You know, but personally, it was sort of a déjà vu all over for me. I was there in 1963 at the March on Washington with Dr. King. And the spirit of it, you know, was still present. It was very invigorating. There was a lot of inspirational speakers. There was a lot of appeals for people to get out the vote, and all the rest of it.

But, what was missing, it seemed to me, were one of two things: first, trying to educate the audience. Here they had a big television audience. They were speaking not just to themselves, but to America. And in doing that, instead of speaking to the base, they missed an opportunity, I believe, to offer their analysis to the American people, who don’t get it in the media, specifically, what Wall Street has been doing to our country and what actually has happened so that 14 million families face foreclosure. This was the week that all the big banks stopped foreclosing in twenty-three states because they had been illegally taking people’s homes with phony signatures and the like. And that wasn’t even referenced. It wasn’t even mentioned. There was no, really, appeal to all these homeowners. There was very little appeal to unemployed people and young people who have been unable to get jobs, which is really a core constituency.

And there was very little offered about what to do about all of this, except voting in November. And we all know that voting in November to return to Congress even people who are supposedly, you know, trying to do the right thing is very probematic, because we know that — how badly they’ve done. You know, even the Democrats are saying, you know, “Even if you don’t like us, vote for us, because we’re better than the other guys.” That’s not much of an appeal.

So, where was the strategy? Where was the plan for the future? Where was the organizational vision for how to bring these people to stay together to work together to move for change? That was sort of missing, and I think it became, in a way, more of an event, more of a movie than a movement. And that was bad, I think, you know, and disappointing at the end, when you really thought about it. What did we accomplish? And I’m not sure.

AMY GOODMAN: You know, as I stood talking to people out on the Mall, I had a very different sense from the people on the grass — I guess you could say the “grassroots” — and the people up by the Lincoln Memorial who were speaking. And it was about how careful they were not to criticize the administration, and that might go to your point about, you know, it was the Obama stimulus package that bailed out the big banks and didn’t stop the foreclosures of people on the ground. People, I think, on the Mall, who bused in from all over — and we’re talking about more than 100,000 people — were more critical than the message from the stage.

DANNY SCHECHTER: I don’t know why somebody couldn’t get up, even if they love President Obama, and say, “We love you, but what about this? Why Larry Summers? Why an economic program that’s failed? Why not help for homeowners? Why not real help for unemployed people? Why did you, you know, go halfway with the stimulus when so much more was needed? Why these wars in Afghanistan and Iran — and Iraq, rather, that are — and the threat of war with Iran, you know, that are costing us trillions of dollars that should be available to invest in our economy?” None of those questions were being raised. It’s almost as if, you know, there was a radar, an internal radar, in every speaker. You know, go so far, but no further.

That’s why Harry Belafonte’s speech that you played earlier was so significant. He sort of flipped the script a little bit and spoke from his heart and from his lifetime experience. Other speakers, while good, while invigorating, while inspirational, didn’t really cut very deep. And I think that’s part of the problem. So when people who were listening at home were watching this, what were they learning? What were they coming away with? And this is, you know, my frustration. My film Plunder: The Crime of Our Time, I offered it to the organizers. I said, “Let’s screen this. Let’s educate people to come to the march to support this.” Michael Moore has issued a call to indict Wall Street criminals and to have a —-

AMY GOODMAN: But this is where the money comes from for both parties in the midterm elections. They’re hardly -— the Democrats — going to take this on. And this rally was not about opposing the administration or the Democrats.

DANNY SCHECHTER: Right, but you don’t have to oppose them. You can try to sort of kick them in the butt a little bit, and that’s what was missing. In other words, if there’s pressure on the right and no pressure on the left, the left is not going to be taken seriously, as it has not been, because the administration feels they can take people like us, at large, for granted. You know, they don’t have to be responsive and accountable to the people who worked for them so hard to get Obama elected. And so, it’s not a question of just being in opposition to Obama. He’s under terrible attack from, you know, various corners. There’s nothing he can do to please any of them. He’s a terrorist. He’s a Socialist. He’s a Communist. He’s a Martian. It doesn’t seem to matter what they call him; the facts are immaterial. But the people who want to see this administration really push forward a progressive agenda have to do more than just rally on the Mall. They have to organize. They have to try to build support for a program for change. And that, so far, has been missing.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, there wasn’t a criticism of Wall Street in that way, and there wasn’t much discussion of the war in Afghanistan.

DANNY SCHECHTER: No, not at all. In other words, the challenges, the contradictions of this administration —-

AMY GOODMAN: Though Harry Belafonte did talk about peace.

DANNY SCHECHTER: Yeah, he did.

AMY GOODMAN: And he did say -— he was the only one, really, who talked about $33 billion —-


AMY GOODMAN: —- going to the war that could pay for 600,000 green jobs in this country.

DANNY SCHECHTER: Yeah, yeah. I mean, Jesse mentioned the military budget, but he didn’t really explain it. And the assumption is, rhetoric — you know, just the kind of our language, you know, we often assume that when we use a buzzword, people know what it is. Not necessarily. I think you have to really explain this. You can’t assume knowledge. The media is not covering these issues thoroughly, and we have to. And we have to try to educate the base, as well as motivate the base.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you for being with us, Danny Schechter —-


AMY GOODMAN: —- author of The Crime of Our Time

. The book is — that’s his book. Plunder is the name of his film. He blogs at

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