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August 17, 2009

BAG Archive Edition: Can’t See the Forest for the (Lack of) Trees

Archive Note: This post appeared on March 20, 2005 at the height of the Terrio Schiavo hysteria.  It came to mind after several BAG comments last week on the health care protests questioned how wide and deep the opposition actually is.  Original post/comment thread here.


Sometimes, one gets so caught up in the content, it's easy to overlook the context.  James Wolcott had a post this weekend that was right up the BAG's alley.  However, it also revealed how narrow that alley can become. 

Given all the political and media hoo-hah over the Schiavo case, one might assume a good number of the conservative flock had flocked to Florida in solidarity with their adopted Terri.  Three of my four Schiavo "image studies," in fact, prominently featured these demonstrators.  What if the Terri show, however, was a lot smaller than we have come to believe?

Wolcott begins the unraveling this way:

Here's something the cable news outfits could do that would rilly rilly rilly be useful, given that they got all those cameras down there in Florida and all.

Just for the kooky hell of it, why don't they provide us with one wide shot or overview of the protestors and vigil-holders in Pinellas Park just so we can see how big the gathering is? Is it a big, swelling group, or is it like the jubilant Iraqis surrounding Hussein's razed statue, a seeming mass revealed in long wideout as a motley get-together? And what is the ratio of Schiavo deathwatchers to media deathwatchers? Are there as many reporters there as sign-holders, or what?

Because whenever there's a ground-level view of the vigil, it seems to be the same scraggly-looking characters and showboating Franciscan friars moving back and forth across the screen, clogging the view.

Who needs cable news when you have BAGnews? 

Frankly, I was interested enough in Wolcott's comments to start rummaging through the inventory.  Would you say the photo, above, from Sunday's NYT, is slightly underpopulated?  Well, it's definitely part of a trend.

Maybe, you'd be interested in inspecting one of those wider shots to help determine that media-protester ratio:


Or, could I could interest you in a view of the teeming hoards that converged on the Governor's mansion to demand action.


Finally, check the throng holding forth at the County Courthouse for the last ditch appeal of the Governor's petition:


Am I mistaken, or did I just get the scoop here ahead of Jon Stewart?

(image 1: James Estrin for The New York Times; image 2; image 3: Carlos Barri/Reuters in YahooNews; image 4: Steve Cannon/AP in YahooNews; image 5: Steve Nesius/AP in YahooNews)

(source: James Wolcott; story referral: Quentin)

  • pcalvin

    This looks like an example I give students on how lenses and framing can make a group of people seem large or small in number.

  • bystander

    Well, at least I don’t recall any of those representatives who went to the mat on Terrio Schiavo turning around and saying anything that might resemble, Nah, I didn’t really believe my own rhetoric. But, apparently, Grassley has.

  • Tena

    Grassley has taken his death panel statement back, but what good will it do now? They wound up the crazy, they can’t unwind it now.
    It’s extremely helpful to see how small the crowd really is. With regard to the Town Hall Riots the media has definitely made it seem as if most of the country was out protesting. In fact, once proponents organized, the proponents were outnumbering the protesters. At least that was the case in Grand Junction, which thrilled me, cause I know Grand Junction and I wasn’t sure how it was going go.

  • mudkitty

    There were more press at the Schiavo protests than there were protesters.
    When millions and millions of people took to the streets in cities all over the country and the world, the media wrote them off as hippies.

  • Wayne Dickson

    Remember the chants from the anti-war protesters at the DNC in Chicago? “The whole world’s watching?” It was. But often it was watching a small group who waited for the cameras before doing their thing. This technique continues to work both for the protesters and for the media.

  • nightbird

    I just finished a book which helped to explain the current “craze” (as in crazy) storming the country. The book is called Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue by Boston Globe writer Charles P. Pierce. I chose to read it because I wanted some understanding of what is going on with the birthers, T baggers etc. He was motivated to write the book after watching the extended coverage of Terri Schiavo case. He wondered how so many people could ally themselves with so much foolishness despite the fact that it was doing them no perceptible good, politically or otherwise. He also looks at how national media simply can not help itself but be swept along. The book might be helpful to those who find it unnerving to watch our country, founded by intellectuals and inspired by the enlightenment, become the “Home of the Uninformed”.

  • DanM

    and when thousands took to the streets in Manhattan for the RNC, they were arrested.

  • Tena

    I haven’t read the book so I can’t speak directly to it, but I know that a majority of Americans didn’t like what they saw with the Teri Schiavo situation and that was the turning point for the GOP, IMO.
    So I would hope that Mr. Pierce acknowledges the fact that it’s not a majority who are allied with the foolishness. It’s way more people than I feel comfortable about, but it still is a minority.

  • yg

    somebody threw a tea party and only 1 teabagger showed up in nashville:

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