The day before MSNBC announced that it was pulling the plug on Phil Donahue's nightly show, the man who pretty much invented talk TV was interviewing actress and author Rosie O'Donnell. But this was not the standard celebrity interview. Rather, Donahue led O'Donnell through a serious discussion of her feelings about whether the U.S. should go to war with Iraq. "Well, I think like every mother, every mother that I've spoken to, every day when I go to pick up my kids from school, every person I've spoken to has said they're against this war, for basic reasons," said O'Donnell. "I don't want to kill innocent mothers and children and fathers in another country when there are alternate mean available, at least at this point." And when Donahue asked why anyone should take what celebrities say about war seriously, O'Donnell came back, "Nobody wants to interview the mother of the two kids in my daughter's class who feels the same way. I stand with 36 women every day outside the elementary school. And if any newscaster wanted to speak to any member of the PTA across America, I have a feeling they would say the same thing I'm saying. I'm not speaking as a celebrity. I'm speaking as a mother and I'm speaking for the mothers who donâ€˜t have the option of an hour on the Phil Donahue show."
As of Friday, no one will have the option of an hour on the Phil Donahue show. The show has been cancelled, and with it will be lost one of the few consistent forums for progressive voices on cable television. Just this month, Donahue's guest list has included U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders, Bishop Desmond Tutu, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Institute for Policy Studies foreign policy analyst Phyllis Bennis, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Global Exchange director and "Code Pink" anti-war activist Medea Benjamin. And it is a pretty good bet that, now that Donahue is going off the air, we will not soon see another show like the one where he featured Ralph Nader and Molly Ivins in front of a crowd of laid-off Enron employees. And we certainly are not likely to see such a show on MSNBC, which appears to be veering hard to the right in its programming -- adding former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, and former U.S. Rep. Joe Scarborough, R-Florida, as regular contributors, and conservative talk radio personality Michael "Savage Nation" Savage as a regular host. MSNBC will temporarily replace Donahue starting next week with "Countdown: Iraq," hosted by Lester Holt. Talk about adding insult to injury. Getting cancelled is bad enough; getting cancelled to make way for a program devoted to anticipating an unnecessary war is just plain awful.
Media analyst Rick Ellis, who writes for the excellent www.allyourtv.com website, makes a strong case that Donahue is being elbowed off the air at this point -- when his ratings have actually been ticking upward -- precisely because it appears that a war is coming. According to Ellis, Donahue's "fate was sealed a number of weeks ago after NBC News executives received the results of a study commissioned to provide guidance on the future of the news channel." According to Ellis, the study suggested "that Donahue presented a â€˜difficult public face for NBC in a time of war" and expressed that, in a time of war, Donahue's show might become "a home for the liberal antiwar agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity."
The alliances on Survivor have more stability and logic than those currently held by the United States. We need a weekly two-hour special to keep us in the know.
When hundreds of labor, academic and community activists gathered in a City University of New York's graduate school auditorium this week to honor the memory of Paul and Sheila Wellstone, the speaker list was itself a tribute to the late Minnesota senator and his partner in marriage and politics. Author Barbara Ehrenreich, scholar Frances Fox Piven, Institute for Policy Studies director John Cavanagh, Wellstone campaign manager Jeff Blodgett and veteran labor leader Bob Muehlenkamp called on the memory of the Wellstones to energize the struggles for econnomic and social justice, and peace, that lost two of their greatest champions when the couple died in a plane crash last fall.
But the standout address of the night came from the member of Congress who may well be the truest heir to the Wellstone mantle. US Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Illinois, drew cheer after cheer for a speech that echoed the hope, courage, passion and political timeliness that characterized the career of the unabashedly progressive senator who died less than two weeks before Minnesota voters were expected to reelect him last fall.
"Paul Wellstone taught us that a politics of conviction is a winning politics," said Schakowsky, who like Wellstone was a grassroots organizer long before she ever thought of running for public office.
As with marching, the objective is to bring an antiwar message to the attention of political leaders in Washington. But instead of taking to the streets, activists tomorrow will try to overwhelm government switchboards and email accounts with antiwar missives and calls.
The Win Without War coalition is asking supporters to call, fax and email the White House and Congress Wednesday in a "virtual march" to demonstrate the breadth and depth of antiwar sentiment nationwide. The goal is to hit each and every Senate office with one antiwar call each minute, at the same time as countless antiwar email messages pour into government servers across Washington.
You can have a fax sent on your behalf free of charge by True Majority , you can register to make calls where needed, or you can contact your reps on your own. (Click here for Congressional contact info.) This should all help serve notice to our legislators that there could be electoral hell to pay for a quick rush to war. And MoveOn has made it very easy to tell your friends about the virtual march. Activism has never been easier.
Every movement needs its culture, and the still-emerging antiwar movement is proving clever and creative on this front. Dissident artwork, literature, street theatre, poetry, painting, and postering are all flourishing nationwide.
There's also been a spate of new antiwar songs, many of which are actually good. Billy Bragg came through with a typically smart protest number, rendered in classic folk tradition, called the Price of Oil. It's available now for free downloading, streaming and emailing. Ani DiFranco's powerful prose poem/song, Peace Not War, is similarly inspiring with a funkier beat. It's also worth reading her lyrics if you can't access the audio on your computer. The British anarchist group Chumbawamba gave its first live performance in four years at the January 18 Washington, DC antiwar march. Among the songs they played was Jacob's Ladder (Not In our Name), an antiwar tune written a week earlier.
All three of these tracks are also available as part of an eclectic new fundraising album put out by peace-not-war.org, an international network of musicians, to support Britain's Stop the War coalition. Also featured on the two-CD compilation are Massive Attack, Public Enemy, Ginger Tom and Midnight Oil, among many other socially conscious musical artists.
On February 26 for the first time a judge will make substantive and
procedural rulings on a probable eight lawsuits that are at the cutting
edge of the movement to compensate African-Americans