The huge protest last night at New York’s Grand Central Station, sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace, is exactly the sort of event that the mainstream U.S. media normally likes to cover. A thousand protesters demanding a ceasefire in Gaza actually closed down the terminal for a time, and then 300 of them got peacefully arrested, in what was arguably the biggest act of nonviolent civil disobedience in New York in many years. Most of the protesters wore photogenic black t-shirts with white lettering: “Jews Say Ceasefire Now,” and “Not in Our Name.”
There were striking photographs and video footage: hundreds of demonstrators blocking the railroad terminal’s main concourse; banners unfurled above, from a balcony; long lines of people waiting to be arrested and taken away. The protesters emphasized that many, probably most, of them were Jewish, and that they were challenging a mainstream narrative that protesting the killing in Gaza is somehow antisemitic.
You would expect huge media coverage. But you would be wrong, as the mainstream continued its policy of downplaying or ignoring what is easily the biggest wave of nationwide antiwar protest in the U.S. since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Let’s start with America’s newspaper of record, the New York Times; the protest actually took place on its home turf. In this morning’s print edition: not a word. Online, a short, 14-paragraph report, which is already hard to find on the Timeshome page. (Update: by 10:20 a.m., the Times had removed from the home page its direct link to the report.) Instead, the print edition had a bizarre front-page article about how the comedian Dave Chappelle is allegedly flirting with antisemitism as he includes Gaza in his live performances. The Times report on Grand Central did include tantalizing quotes from only three demonstrators, including 81-year-old Rosalind Petchesky, a member of Jewish Voice for Peace who was later arrested. “I don’t believe in this war,” was all the Times allowed her to say. You can bet that Ms. Petchesky had more opinions than that.
At least the Times did run a report. Over at the Washington Post, there was only a one-paragraph summary and a single photo. So far, absolutely nothing at National Public Radio. Quick searches at both cable news networks CNN and MSNBC turned up no coverage yet either.
The failure to report the Grand Central Station protest is only the latest example of the mainstream news blackout.
This site’s Michael Arria has just documented a string of examples over the past three weeks:
Thousands have hit the streets in NYC, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and dozens of other cities. A D.C. protest organized by Jewish activist groups drew thousands, and hundreds were later arrested, including two dozen Rabbis. An estimated 25,000 people showed up to a rally in Chicago.
(Here’s another example: a big protest in Philadelphia on October 20 that was also nearly ignored.)
Canceling coverage of last night’s Grand Central protest is actually extraordinary. Both CNN and MSNBC have sent quite a few reporters to Israel (although not Gaza), to cover the war. Why couldn’t they find correspondents to report from the heart of New York City?