With citizens expressing their opinions on the war through marches and rallies across the country, many news outlets rely on the Associated Press news service to help them cover these important manifestations of democracy. Unfortunately, AP has frequently used the terms “pro-war” and”pro-troops” interchangeably–a practice that distorts the views of anti-war demonstrators and contributes to the media marginalization of the peace movement.
It’s likely that the overwhelming majority of participants at peace events would describe themselves as “supporting the troops,” in the sense of being concerned for their well-being and hoping for their safe return. “Support Our Troops: Bring Them Home” is a popular slogan at peace marches, which tend to criticize George W. Bush and other administration officials, not rank-and-file U.S. military personnel.
Nevertheless, AP and some other news outlets often use “supporting the troops” as a synonym for “supporting the war”–and use “pro-troops” as a shorthand to describe rallies and demonstrations that are, in many cases, explicitly pro-war events. “Pro-troops” is frequently used as the opposite of “anti-war,” as if the only way to be supportive of soldiers is to advocate their involvement in war on Iraq.
For example, the day after bombing of Baghdad began, the AP ran a story (3/20/03) under the headline “Anti-War, Pro-Troops Rallies Take to Streets as War Rages.” Another story (3/22/03), about pro- and anti-war activities, was labeled “Weekend Brings More Demonstrations–Opposing War, Supporting Troops.” The clear implication is that those who call for an end to the invasion of Iraq are opposed to U.S. troops, as in the story “Protesters Rally Against War; Others Support Troops” (3/24/03).
This tendentious usage shows up in the body of stories as well. “In San Francisco, at least three pro-troop demonstrators who attended the rally were alternately yelled at and debated with by peace demonstrators,” the AP reported on March 23. Another AP story (3/24/03) referred to “about 100 people–half anti-war and half pro-troops–[who] demonstrated on the Sagadahoc Bridge over the Kennebec River near Bath.”
Other news outlets use the misleading formulation as well. “Perhaps you see police arrayed in riot gear keeping apart the pro-troop rally and the anti-war rally,” CNN‘s Jeff Flock stated on March 22. A Sacramento Bee story (3/22/03) reported that while pro-war activists “said those who support the Bush administration have been less likely to stage large demonstrations because they are busy with the concerns of daily life, there have been large pro-troop rallies held across the country”–as if only those who back the Bush administration are friendly toward those in the military.
ACTION: Please write to the Associated Press and insist that they stop implying that the anti-war movement is hostile to U.S. military personnel by referring to pro-war rallies as “pro-troops.”
CONTACT: Associated Press firstname.lastname@example.org