Jon Friedman, who writes for MarketWatch, posted some thoughts about [[sw:Cindy Sheehan]] in his [http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story.asp?guid=%7B67F7A451%2DCF86%2D425F%2D8A1F%2D0A0956239C4C%7D&dist=rss&siteid=mktw|latest column] that seem, well, stupid. They're the sort of remarks that I might critique on a blog post at the website of the [http://www.prwatch.org|Center for Media and Democracy] if there were more of a connection to the Center's mission (exposing spin and propaganda), but instead I'll comment on them here.
Friedman seems to think that USA Today's reporter Judy Keen is devoting too much attention to the "Sheehan circus," so he interviewed Keen and peppered her with questions, asking for example whether Sheehan "had begun to enjoy the massive media attention" or whether "the media are distorting the Sheehan story out of all proportions."
I'd be inclined to think that there might be some standards or principles behind Friedman's notion that Sheehan's protest is getting too much attention, except that I took a look at the archives of his past columns and didn't find any evidence that he has ever bothered to critique the media's endless fascination with that girl who disappeared in Aruba, the runaway bride, Princess Diana, O.J. Simpson, Michael Jackson or any of the other silly pseudo-news fluff that routinely gets more ink than Cindy Sheehan. Actually, the main difference between those stories and this one is that Sheehan's story is connected to one of the most important public policy issues on the minds of the American public today, namely the question of whether we should remain in Iraq as the war continues to claim the lives of U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians on a daily basis. Even if Sheehan protest is largely symbolic, at least it symbolizes something that matters. I don't think there are any comparable issues of significance connected with the runaway bride or the girl in Aruba. Is there some sort of growing trend for girls to disappear mysteriously when they party in the Caribbean? Are runaway brides a threat to world stability or to America's standing in the world?
So why exactly is Friedman so concerned about this particular "media circus"?
"Whether you support or condemn Sheehan for becoming an overnight sensation, her audacious vigil in Crawford seems like such a peculiar way to grieve," Friedman writes. This leaves me wondering: what is the proper way for someone to grieve when a loved one dies? I know people who have grieved in various ways: they stop eating (or eat too much); they wail loudly (or withdraw into silence); they feel angry (or sadness, or guilt).
When Nicole Simpson died, her father grieved publicly. He channeled his sorrow into anger aimed at O.J. Simpson, the man he held responsible for his daughter's death. He appeared on television, participated in public protests, and vehemently demanded that Simpson should be judged and punished. I don't recall anyone ever suggesting that this was a "peculiar" way for him to grieve. Why, then, is it "peculiar" when Cindy Sheehan engages in similar behavior targeting President Bush, the man whom she holds responsible for the death of her child?
The "cunning realist" put it well when he commented, "[http://cunningrealist.blogspot.com/2005/08/decency-is-not-in-them.html|The growing division between the professional class of spinning punditry and the vast expanse of Middle America] that actually does the working, the fighting and the dying so the pundits can spend their time chattering has never been more clear than with this story."