Wilentz: The leaders of peace-march organizer ANSWER are "weirdos" -- but the marchers weren't. Plus: Readers respond to "Flower Power?"

Published January 23, 2003 12:21AM (EST)

[Read "Flower Power?"]

In a phone interview with one of your reporters, I criticized the disingenuous Daisy ad being run by MoveOn.org. My remarks, heavily edited, and rendered as if I'd written and not spoken them, include a disparaging line that seems to have me calling last Saturday's peace marchers "weirdos." I believe they were and are no such thing. The organizers of the march, International ANSWER, are weirdos. The vast majority of marchers, in Washington and in San Francisco, were honest, active citizens, rightly concerned about the Bush administration's Iraq policy -- though they may well have been manipulated by the weirdos. Or, at least, the weirdos hope they were. But that's another matter.

-- Sean Wilentz

O.K., so all the "experts" hated the ad. (Actually, Augusten Burroughs sounds as if he hates just about everything, including little girls, and might consider seeking help for what appears to be a severe personality disorder.) Be that as it may, the reader should bear in mind that this ad, obnoxious kid and all, was paid for by the contributions of many. MoveOn asked supporters to come up with $27,000 to pay for an ad in the New York Times, and received $400,000 in response to its request. I sent in my $20 because it disturbs me that it seems to be a foregone conclusion that we are going to war with Iraq. I do not believe that the majority of Americans want this, and yet the media constantly tell us that we do. The march in Washington was virtually ignored by network TV and the press, and those who express disagreement with the direction in which we seem to be headed are dismissed as a bunch of unpatriotic peaceniks. It's déjà vu all over again.

-- Suzanne Delaney

I was struck by several of the "experts" that were given free rein to mouth off in your article. Some had the idiocy to suggest that Bush was letting the inspectors do their jobs.

Let's see, how many thousands of troops are in the Gulf now, and how many on the way? Do these people think he's just going to say, "Whoops, never mind!"? Yeah, he's giving them time to do their jobs all right, just enough time for them to find a dozen empty pieces of tin that supposedly denote deception. The one thing I didn't hear the media say about these dummy warheads was whether "Made in the USA" was stamped on their sides.

Do me a favor -- the next time you decide to do an article where so-called experts are invited to give their opinions, put my name (and the names of everyone else who writes you pointing out the obvious things your "experts" seem blind to) in the hat. I'm sure I can rustle up a few meaningless job titles too.

-- Gwenn Carlson

The group that put together this ad is clearly out of touch. Why did they not highlight our outrageous use in the last Gulf War of depleted uranium (suspected of causing the Gulf War Syndrome that many of our troops returned with from that war) and which many believe will be used again on this go round? In other words, they could have used some real, outrageous and underreported goings-on instead of conjuring some far-fetched conjectural outcome (nuclear holocaust) likely to result from an invasion of Iraq. The out-of-touch-with-reality crowd that put this ad together is probably related to the out-of-touch-with-reality crowd who voted for Ralph Nader in the last election.

-- Paul Adams

It's lovely you were able to find some reviewers so self-absorbed as to suppose the ad was created and resurrected for their erudite critique.

The ad's target is the complacence of a preoccupied country, and the weapon is shock. It's a tad short-sighted to attack any broadcast message on its veracity alone. Heck, just look at the administration's public statements on Iraq to illustrate that.

Gosh, folks, remember metaphor ... sure you do, it's in your notes from journalism class.

-- Wayne Anderson

I've got to wonder about the people you chose to comment on the MoveOn daisy ad. Have trouble getting people on the phone, did you?

Sean Wilentz almost seems to get the point but then dismisses it. The ad "suggests that Bush is trigger-happy and doesn't understand the consequences of war and that this could end up being a world conflagration. Are we really on the edge of nuclear holocaust? I don't think so."

The genius of the ad is exactly that it underscores the trigger-happy and uncomprehending nature of Bush's blunderbuss approach. We pray that we're not on the edge of nuclear holocaust, but if not, we can't credit the measured and statesmanlike behavior of this administration.

Augusten Burroughs is just crazy and I assume his comments were included for comic relief.

Vinny Warren says, "Then [in 1964], there was a legitimate fear of nuclear war with the Russians. Which nations have nuclear weapons now? Who's using them? We don't know."

Well, Vinny, the good news is that no one has used them since we did in 1945. You would have heard about it, trust me. And the simple fact is we DO know which nations have nuclear weapons now. In Iraq's neighborhood that would be Israel, India and our new best buddy, that paragon of democratic stability, Pakistan.

Neal Gabler says, "For example, the mushroom cloud: In no way does that apply to the Iraq situation." Perhaps he didn't catch the audio on the MoveOn ad. "Maybe extremists will take over countries with nuclear weapons." A fearsome possibility we ignore at great peril, and precisely how the mushroom cloud image applies, Neal.

The political situation in the Middle East and South Asia is extremely volatile. The Indian subcontinent very nearly came to nuclear war just last year. Mr. Bush is now whacking that hornet's nest while demonstrating no serious understanding of the limitations on his ability to control the outcome. That is the point of the daisy ad and a timely one it is.

The MoveOn ad is not meant to be a comprehensive political analysis. It's a short-term pressure tactic intended to marshal public opinion and force the administration to use the mechanisms of multilateral diplomacy instead of war. Now that the Bushies have decided to make Iraq into an international crisis, "Let the inspections work" is about as succinct a summation of our best course of action as you're likely to fit into a 30-second TV spot.

-- Andy Ayers

I think that many who've responded negatively to MoveOn.org's revised "Daisy" ad are missing the point.

As I perceive it, the purpose of the ad is to grab the attention of the ordinary American citizen and, consequently, counter the frightening and exaggerated pro-war rhetoric of the media and some politicians. What could be a quicker way to achieve this objective than to borrow the emotional symbology and energy of an earlier time when America faced similar concerns about war efforts run amok?

Considering all of the backlash, hence attention to the ad, it must be working.

-- Nel Olson Ivancichf

I think your panel of experts missed the entire point of why the original "Daisy" spot was used as a base for a MoveOn.org advertisement. It is very simple: MoveOn.org is lazy. They could not think of their own ad so they just copied one they felt was powerful from the past. To them it did not matter to study the context of the last ad, or even try to make their message fit the original spot's mission. They do not even care if you remember the last one. They simply needed a powerful "antiwar" visual statement so they just copied one.

-- Lincoln

By Salon Staff

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