My husband is a former naval officer. During his time in the navy, he inevitably found himself, his fellow military personal, and military members of visiting nations, the focus of various groups protesting one thing or another. Whenever our naval dockyard was visited by a US nuclear submarine, there were always protesters. Most often, back then, anyways, these were people protesting the use of nuclear power.
The visiting crew would always set up a perimiter around the sub. This was standard practice. No one could come inside that perimeter. One time, a visiting sub happened to be docked near the ship my husband was posted to at the time, so our ship's crew had a clear view of the US sub from our own deck.
Of course the protesters, in an inflatable Zodiac, tried to cross the perimeter. Whenever an incident occurs, even if it's directed somewhere else, the security officers of our ships have to keep an eye on things, and I was able to get a first hand description of what happened. The US personelle met the protestors in their own boat and, using log poles with hooks on the end (similar to a tool log drivers use to manouver floating logs), tried to push the protesters back. In the process, they accidentally punctured their craft. The protesters tried to get back to shore as their craft began to sink, and the watching Canadians launched their own rescue vessels and got the protesters safely to shore. The whole thing was, in the opinion of the security officer, quite amusing.
Having heard the story the day it happened, I looked forward to reading about it in the next day's paper.
Sure enough, the story was there - but what the protesters described was light years off from what was witnessed! They described and aggressive attack by the US crew, claiming, among other things, that they actually drove their own boat over the bow of the protester's Zodiac, and they pointed to a crack in the windshield (duely photographed for the article) as their proof. The story they told was so wildly different from what I'd just had described to me by witnesses the night before, it was as though they were describing a completely different incident altogether! Nothing they said matched what really happened!
All this was printed in the article, with absolutely no corroborating evidence. No other witnesses were sought out or questioned. The newspaper took the protesters' word at face value.
Ever since this incident, I've found myself completely unable to trust any claims made by any protest group. Over the years, I've seen numerous other instances were claims made by protest groups were obviously false - instances where I myself had first hand knowledge to the contrary, and others where I knew people far more knowledgable of the facts involved.
Thoughts of these incidents came to mind again as I read some of the stories protesters of the seal hunt are telling to the media. The RCMP are there (and making arrests), but no one is asking them. Of course, no one's asking the hunters themselves. Other observers are also present. The hunt is closely monitored by the government, the Canadian Humane Society, and others. None of these people are being asked what they saw.
My feelings are the same when I read about people's claims about what the big bad Americans are supposedly doing in Iraq. It's the same when I hear what groups like PETA and Greanpeace have to say.
If I want to know what's really happening, I want to hear it from somewhere else. I'll take the comments by a soldier who's in Iraq, or that of someone who's from Iraq, over the protesters' any day, just as I'll take the word of, say, a veternarian that inspected horses at a PMU ranch over the claims PETA and other groups make agains them, and so on. It's because I've seen the other side too often - seen the lies and manipulation of the media. Experience has taught me to do this.
I just wish I didn't see it so often.