By Lauren Smiley
Roseanne Barr stumping for Cindy Sheehan, say what? It may have passed you by that Roseanne, the star of the nearly decade-long running sitcom about working class America (about as “red state” a family as has ever been on TV) is really a firebrand progressive. But if you only watched the mainstream media, you wouldn’t know much about Roseanne other than her weight, and you probably wouldn’t know a whole lot about “Peace Mom” Cindy Sheehan either. So perhaps it was fitting that the Cindy for Congress campaign would host a town hall discussion to a half-full Brava Theater on Tuesday night on the pitfalls of the corporate media that she says is currently treating her campaign to a “virtual blackout” on coverage.
After a folk song for the Sheehan campaign by local artist JL Stiles (see first video) the independent candidate challenging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the November election kicked off the night by denigrating Pelosi for voting for the Telecommunications Act of 1996 that cleared the way for the consolidation of the vast majority of media ownership into the hands of a few, charging that the “corporate media is a propaganda tool for the U.S. government.”
Sheehan’s fallout with the press started soon after staking out President Bush’s Texas ranch in 2005 a year after her son was killed in combat in Iraq. She says reporters found that, with her fervid criticism of the president and war, Sheehan couldn’t be typecast in the apolitical role of a grieving mother, and charges that they’ve written her off as a left wing nut job ever since. Her advice to deal with the media? “Throw your fuckin’ TV out the window.” Short of that, she advocated creating local boards similar to a school board to ensure that the media answers to the people.
Sheehan laughed off her unsophisticated understanding of the current financial crisis, and her audience did, too. (See video.) "It was Bill Clinton and it was the current George Bush that deregulated derivative markets and leveraged — leveraging things. You can tell I'm an economist."
Sheehan had clearly won over the hearts and minds of most of the journalists on the panel, including moderator and KPFA radio host Dennis Bernstein who peppered the night with ringing endorsements such as “There is a fire in our theater of democracy, and we need to put it out with honest politicians like Cindy Sheehan.”
Roseanne took the stage looking all the part of a liberal granny -- graying bob haircut crowning her all-black get-up -- to talk about her disillusionment with the media, comparing the alleged censorship of a feminist lesbian news journal named “Big Mama Rag” (which she worked on back in the 70’s in Denver) to the press coverage of her during the airing of “Roseanne.”
Instead of treating her as an artist and “comedic force,” reporters opted to write about her weight “as if my fat were a sexual fetish of some political sort.” Disillusioned with the current direction of the country, she’s started a political blog Roseanne World, and outlined her other plan for change: “I’ll slap Nancy Pelosi right in her face. That’s what I’ll do….as I will everyone else in this damn government.”
The night’s discussion continued with off-the-cuff speech and a populist take on the country’s current state generally heard in many a liberal coffee table chat (with the requisite laments about the apathy of the American populace, the corporate media, and the need for a revolution) but less commonly on your typical campaign trail. “Where did our revolutionary spirit go?” Sheehan asked. “It’s gonna take more than a handful of people in the Brava Theater to take back the power. …We can overthrow the queen of the problem - Nancy Pelosi.” One lady from the mixed-age, heavily white audience stood during the Q&A to say, “You’re talking to the converted in here. Who the hell is going to do something unless we light the match? We have top get out there and take over some stuff.”
Sheehan responded: “If you want to go shut something down, I’ll follow you, sweetie. If you want to be the spark, I’ll follow you.”
And she wonders why Fox treats her like a nut job.