In the very recent past an incident at University of California at Davis (UCD) went viral. A policeman was filmed from many angles pepper-spraying students doing a sit-in on campus in support of the Occupy movement.
I have a good friend who has lived in Davis for over 30 years and he presumably knows his relatively small local community well. In university in the late 1960s he was an excellent journalist and photographer during the Vietnam Wars days of rage. He is very media savvy to this day. I decided to ask him for his report on the situation three days after it happened. He said this:
“Reporting live from the streets of Davis – the scene is – - – - –
Nothing – nothing at all.
All of the action is in the center of the campus; which is about a quarter mile in any direction from any vehicular traffic.
The “angry mob” of about 500 is maybe 1 percent of the total student/faculty in residence; and I see not a whit of any discussion or even acknowledgement of [this?] by anyone I’ve talked to over the past several days.
Obviously, the town newspaper smells Pulitzer; and their website/blog/twitter feed is in overdrive – which fits with the total wired generation of students; each, it seems, started filming 10 seconds before the pepper started.
What IS acknowledged and youtubed (but not virally; and NOT getting any other play at all), is that the students were warned multiple times over several hours after several days; both written and verbal; to move or they would be sprayed.
I’m frankly far less disgusted by the pepper spray than the mainstream media seems to be. Given the history of civil disobedience between protestors and police over the decades, pepper spray is far less violent and injury producing than dragging; clubbing or other more serious options. Should it have been done, though? Most definitely not. Best tactic would have been to ignore.
Remember this: Hype is driven by the loudest screams, and with internet and texting readily available to the masses, any rumor or partial truth can really run rampant.
RE the chancellor – she is likely gone, along with the officers and the police chief. There is no way to avoid that.”
A while earlier, right after I’d heard of Occupy Wall Street in New York City for the first time, I wrote a signed commentary* on the topic for the local newspaper: “You’d be forgiven if you haven’t heard of it”, I said about the by the then-evolving viral protest in behalf of the 99% of us who aren’t wealthy. Zuccotti Park was the parent of the UCD gathering. Zuccotti Park had gone unpublicized by major media for nearly the first two weeks of its existence.
My column was published in the October 12 edition of the paper, and my local legislator – who’d have no love for OWS – wrote me a dismissive e-mail pointing out that she did know about the protest…and the Minneapolis one as well. What she didn’t know is that I had submitted my newspaper commentary two weeks earlier, on September 30, and for whatever reason the paper had chosen not to print it. I thought they’d trash-canned my comment, and in any event I had no opportunity to edit my work. That was their prerogative.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, and quite willingly, I receive on a continuing basis the ubiquitous pieces of garbage I’ve come to call “forwards”, anti-Obama, anti-liberal, anti-”other”, religiously sent on by disciples of the right. (Similar kinds of items, with a completely different ideological slant, of course, come much less frequently from the left as well). I check all of these out. Mostly they are false or so completely doctored by their originators as to not even resemble the truth. They never carry pride of authorship – the actual name of person or group which started them on their lying way across the nation – and they are forwarded on by those who apparently don’t do even minimal fact checking or, worse, don’t care. “I’ll believe what I want to believe.”
Somehow I hope we’ll survive this onslaught of untruth – though over the next months hundreds of millions of dollars will be devoted to spinning information fairy tales on TV, radio, the internet and other means.
* – the commentary submitted Sep 30, 2011:
Nothing much startles me any more, but this clip from a nationally known blogger got my attention on Friday: “Wall Street folks sipping champagne from a balcony as they watch the protesters walk by….”
Indeed, there it was, video from someone at Occupy Wall Street. People on balconies overlooking the protests, sipping drinks of one sort or another, including one raising a wine glass as if to toast the protestors below a la Marie Antoinette.
Protest on Wall Street? You’d be forgiven if you haven’t heard of it. The morning paper had not a word about it. The national media has given it almost no attention, though there have been smatterings of coverage lately. What attention has been given tends towards blaming the protesters, or dismissing their efforts.
Wall Street Rules.
The occupy Wall Street protests matter, even if they don’t rise above the horizon out here due to media inattention.
We in Woodbury live in a prosperous town in a still prosperous state and still extraordinarily wealthy country.
It is too easy to ignore unemployment and underemployment. Most of our families and most of our streets do not have those scruffly leeches on the system that we love to imagine and tsk tsk about. “They should just get a job”, we say, even if there isn’t a job to get, even a menial one.
In the short term, an economic crisis here or elsewhere is simply another opportunity for the Captains of Wall Street and the Corporate World. “Buy low, sell high”.
I grew up with many rural sayings – country wisdom. One that comes to mind for all of us is “the chickens will come home to roost”.
Those worthless wretches who are left with no job, high debt, at best job insecurity (often temporary, no security with no benefits), cannot fuel our capitalist economy which depends on people with money to spend.
They’re the (yes) unfortunate collateral damage, unfortunate, but just part of the game.
They’re also the death of our society that depends on consumption.
As the watering hole dries up, Wall Street and the fat cats among us will continue to prosper for awhile. Bad times are good times for the big bucks folks.
The politicians riding the slick horse of defending the rich against supposed class warfare, may benefit in the short run. They seem to think so, given their abundant anti-government rhetoric.
But, as they used to say, ultimately “the chickens will come home to roost”, and the poor and the dispossessed will get their revenge without once having to hold a protest sign.
It’s time that we “wake up and”, as another saying goes, “smell the coffee”.