Ramzy Baroud offers a concise explanation of the Mother Sheehan phenomenon:
Unlike the disapproving, yet largely hushed, or perhaps overlooked millions, the 48-year-old mother, Sheehan, hauled anguish beyond words and camped near Bush’s Texas ranch. Initially, the White House completely ignored her pleas, simply devising alternative routes so that Bush wouldn’t run into ‘Camp Casey.’ When Sheehan finally forced her story on to the media, Bush took notice, dispatching some of his officials to pacify the devastated mother with yet more empty rhetoric. She refused to leave. Her insistence drew nationwide attention, quickly crossing the line dividing the alternative media from that of the mainstream. Right-wing apologists swiftly inundated the media, desperately trying to control a narrative, so instinctively woven by an ordinary woman so incessant on challenging the meaning, or lack thereof, in her son’s death.
While the clichéd understanding of the media’s role in the US is that it is an open, unhindered and evenly representative forum, the sad, albeit unsurprising truth is that the US mainstream media has always been a one-sided, drum-beating, chest-pounding, war-mongering medium where self-serving politicians and businessmen often come together in sinful matrimony. It has, however, so unfairly, tainted the image of the American people, as irrational minds, blindly ‘marching in support’ behind the president, the troops, American Ideals’ and so forth, as if the appalling values that molded the thinking of Bush’s ideologues has also influenced the aspirations of ordinary Americans everywhere.
The author, a “veteran Arab American journalist”, teaches mass communication at Australia’s Curtin University of Technology (Malaysia).
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