Katrina vanden Heuvel, the editor and publisher of The Nation, has just sent out a fundraising letter making fantastical claims about the 9/12 protest in Washington. Promoting the magazine's "Student Outreach Program," in which she and her colleagues offer teaching guides to help educators counter the influence of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, vanden Heuvel described the march this way:
Just days ago, Glenn Beck led the astro-turf 9-12-09 "Taxpayer March on DC." Compared to the millions who have marched for civil rights, equal rights, and gay rights, and against the war, Beck's 70,000 would be small stuff -- except for the tens of thousands waving Confederate flags, anti-gay hate signs, and shouting "White Power!"
Vanden Heuvel goes on to say that students need "well-equipped minds" to stand up to the "increasingly dangerous, racist and radical right wing." That's where the Nation's Student Outreach Program comes in -- with its teaching guides, the Nation Student Essay Contest and Student Journalism Conferences. "Won't you give a gift today to keep this essential program going strong?" vanden Heuvel asks.
Now, as far as vanden Heuvel's description of the march is concerned: I spent several hours there, and I think it would be very hard to make the case that it was astro-turf. Everyone I spoke to had come on his or her own accord, usually with a handmade sign, and paid his or her own way. As for the 70,000 attendance figure -- there are a lot of competing estimates about how big the crowd was, but it was definitely bigger than that.
But vanden Heuvel's ugly charges are the ones in which she claims that "tens of thousands" of people waved Confederate flags, anti-gay hate signs and shouted "White Power!" That is simply false.
I personally do not remember seeing any Confederate flags. But I figured that if there were a lot of them -- much less "tens of thousands" -- the people at left-wing activist sites like Democratic Underground would have pictures. Searching around a little, I found two -- here and here -- and not very prominent ones at that.
As far as anti-gay hate signs, I didn't see any of those either. Perhaps there is a photo out there, but I couldn't find it.
Finally, there were the "tens of thousands" of people shouting "White Power!" I didn't hear that. And one would think that with people from various lefty outfits at the Capitol, video recorders in hand, we would have records of such an event. I did spot this in an article in, of all places, the Nation:
I saw a tall, thin, bearded fellow with a boonie cap jogging up Pennsylvania Avenue shouting, "White power!" A few people looked around awkwardly, not sure how to react, but mostly the crowd just moved along.
If that in fact occurred, who knows what the man's point was? I did find video of one counter-protester who yelled "White Power!" as he attempted to mock the crowd. (He was clearly not welcomed by the actual demonstrators.) Perhaps the boonie cap guy was the same thing.
Vanden Heuvel can say what she wants in a fundraising letter. But she should spare us any further commentary about civility and reasoned discourse.