Near the end of the baseball movie Bull Durham, a young pitcher played by Tim Robbins faces a horde of cameras and microphones and—after lessons by an older mentor in saying meaningless sound-bites like "I'm just happy to do my part for the ball club"—lets fly with aphorism after platitude. The reporters eat it up, scribbling furiously and asking yet another inane question.
Real life echoed reel life on Saturday in D.C., where Robbins held court in the press corral at a peace rally that drew tens of thousands of protesters from up and down the East Coast. But this time, Robbins had no trouble speaking his mind into the mikes of the BBC, the Washington Post and other media. He talked eloquently about Iraq veterans who oppose the war, about the will of the American people and about Americans' responsibility to speak out.
But the best moment came when Robbins found himself face to face with his least-favorite network.
"Oh, look, it's Fox News," Robbins said with a big, beautiful and completely false smile.
"Tim, do you want to see America prevail in this war, or not?" the Fox reporter asked.
Robbins, an Oscar-winning actor and longtime political activist, had the grace to chuckle at the ridiculous polarization, and seized the opportunity to blast the lame job the press has done since 2003.
"It's not just Fox News—it's ABC and NBC and CBS and every news organization that have been publicity agents for this war," Robbins said. "It's time to take back the media."
That theme echoed across the National Mall, with Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson exhorting crowd responses of "No more!" to "hysteria-driven corporate news media."
"Blind obedience to bad leadership is not patriotism," Anderson said to a roaring audience, including more than 1,000 North Carolinians.
The Hollywood star power loomed large: Robbins was joined on the stage by his partner (and Bull Durham co-star) Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn and Jane Fonda, who broke a 34-year silence.
But the power of the people carried the day. Protesters brandished homemade cardboard signs in magic marker with slogans like "Is it Vietnam yet?," "War is terrorism with a bigger budget" and lots of "I voted for peace," along with poster-size photos of loved ones killed in action. Code Pink organizers delivered a message to all presidential hopefuls, "including and especially Hillary Rodham Clinton": "We women of the United States say: Pull out now!"
Organizers hailed the momentum from November's elections, calling on Democratic-controlled Congress to stop Bush's war.
Several elected officials answered in person: Ohio Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich spoke about his 12-point plan to end the war, while Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) vowed not to vote one more dollar for the conflict and told protesters to keep up the pressure on her colleagues.
"Come to Capitol Hill and put some starch in the backs of your leaders," she said.