FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Popping the Media Bubble on Police Violence

by JOHN HALLE

In the early morning hours of December 4, 1969, the FBI and the Chicago Police Department stormed Black Panther organizer Fred Hampton’s apartment, spraying Hampton’s bedroom with machine gun fire, concluding their visit with a bullet to his head to ensure that he was “good and dead now.”

My purpose in relating this history is to remind those of us in Occupy Wall Street who are now encountering serious police violence that we are by no means the first.  Many in OWS are young and unlikely to be familiar with Fred Hampton, or Allison Krause, George Jackson, or James Rector, names (and graves) which are tangible reminders of the war against dissent.  These serve to remind us that police violence could get a lot worse and that it probably will as the movement becomes increasingly organized and effective.

***

The execution of Fred Hampton is worth mentioning for another reason: we might have thought that an extrajudicial execution on U.S. soil would be at least noticed and presumably met with some degree of disapproval from the liberal press of its day. But most media outlets unproblematically accepted the Chicago Police Department version of events that the raid was legally conducted and that the use of force was justified.

It was not until the mid seventies that the grisly facts would become known. Even then, few on the liberal left were interested, being more concerned with the Nixon administration’s involvement in the Watergate scandal than in what were by then regarded as excesses of the sixties.  Noam Chomsky would be among the few to bring the matter to the public’s attention in articles which were publishable only in relative obscure outlets-the print equivalent of low traffic left blogs.  These were, according to him, “greeted with the usual silence and hysteria” from the liberal agenda setting media of the day.

The lesson we should draw from this is to take as par for the course the media’s response to OWS.  For, as should be apparent, its basic outlines constitutes a minor recapitulation of the “silence and hysteria” Prof. Chomsky noted back then.  Silence is evident in the almost complete absence of news coverage of OWS sponsored Mayday rally, which brought over 30,000 to the streets for the first domestic celebration of International Workers’ Day in many decades.  A more sinister media silence has been the failure to report numerous, well documented instances of seemingly unprovoked police violence directed at non-violent OWS demonstrators with increasingly serious injuries hospitalizations now becoming the routine price which demonstrators are expected to pay for exercising their supposed constitutionally protected rights.  As for hysteria, that is the category into which should be consigned the numerous smears of OWS widely circulated by the establishment media, one instance of which i’ll return to below.

The conclusion to draw from both from the Hampton execution and our experience now is that despite the awareness of many outstanding, honest and decent journalists working within it, we are required to the media as an institution with great skepticism at best and as a simple enemy at worst.

****

That doesn’t mean, however, that we should ignore it as some have suggested, resigning ourselves to developing and ultimately relying entirely on our own internal resources for the dissemination of information relevant to us.  Rather, while we are building our own communication networks, we should be actively looking for ways to undermine the establishment media’s credibility and authority taking advantage of whatever opportunities which present themselves for us to do so.

As most reading this know, the smear referred to above occurred last week when the New York Times ran on its front page a story claiming the existence of a DNA link connecting OWS to the 1994 murder of a Julliard student.  This was likely concocted by the NYPD, dutifully circulated by the Times and then retracted by them the next day. While the Times’ reporting as fact a brazen and transparent lie might make us angry and defensive, we should cool down long enough to recognize it as an opportunity to go on the offense.

The way to do that is to pressure the Times to issue an apology, the objective of the letter here.   While this might seem a modest objective, it is more ambitious than appears at first sight. That’s because the Times, as do all elite institutions hates to apologize doing so only very rarely and grudgingly.  Their resistance is based on their recognizing that they must be perceived by their readers as above reproach for them to maintain their journalistic authority and for this to be convertible into into major political influence.   Each apology demonstrates, in one instance, they are little better than the vulgar propagandists which they routinely deride, the 21st Century domestic variant of Soviet organs Pravda or Isvestia. Once this perception is becomes widespread and their bias is seen as systemic their effectiveness in their institutional function is seriously degraded.

Insofar as there is a potential for a complete collapse of their credibility exists,  they will need to think seriously when the NYPD (or for that matter, the State or Defense Department) requests their service in circulating lies and/or smears which have the potential, if and when they are exposed, of subjecting them to shame and ridicule.

Recent years have shown that they have little compunction about obliging these requests.  We need to show them that there are consequences for doing so.  The letter is a small but potentially signficant step in beginning to impose on them the appropriate cost.

JOHN HALLE teaches at Bard College Conservatory of Music and lives in the Hudson Valley.  He can be reached at: halle@bard.edu.

John Halle blogs at Outrages and Interludes. He tweets at: jghalle.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
April 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Diana Johnstone
The Main Issue in the French Presidential Election: National Sovereignty
Paul Street
Donald Trump: Ruling Class President
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Dude, Where’s My War?
Andrew Levine
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em
Paul Atwood
Why Does North Korea Want Nukes?
Robert Hunziker
Trump and Global Warming Destroy Rivers
Vijay Prashad
Turkey, After the Referendum
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, the DOJ and Julian Assange
CJ Hopkins
The President Formerly Known as Hitler
Steve Reyna
Replacing Lady Liberty: Trump and the American Way
Lucy Steigerwald
Stop Suggesting Mandatory National Service as a Fix for America’s Problems
Robert Fisk
It is Not Just Assad Who is “Responsible” for the Rise of ISIS
John Laforge
“Strike Two” Against Canadian Radioactive Waste Dumpsite Proposal
Norman Solomon
The Democratic Party’s Anti-Bernie Elites Have a Huge Stake in Blaming Russia
Andrew Stewart
Can We Finally Get Over Bernie Sanders?
Susan Babbitt
Don’t Raise Liberalism From the Dead (If It is Dead, Which It’s Not)
Uri Avnery
Palestine’s Nelson Mandela
Fred Nagel
It’s “Deep State” Time Again
John Feffer
The Hunger President
Stephen Cooper
Nothing is Fair About Alabama’s “Fair Justice Act”
Jack Swallow
Why Science Should Be Political
Chuck Collins
Congrats, Graduates! Here’s Your Diploma and Debt
Aidan O'Brien
While God Blesses America, Prometheus Protects Syria, Russia and North Korea 
Patrick Hiller
Get Real About Preventing War
David Rosen
Fiction, Fake News and Trump’s Sexual Politics
Evan Jones
Macron of France: Chauncey Gardiner for President!
David Macaray
Adventures in Labor Contract Language
Ron Jacobs
The Music Never Stopped
Kim Scipes
Black Subjugation in America
Sean Stinson
MOAB: More Obama and Bush
Miguel A. Cruz-Díaz
Minute Musings: On Why the United States Should Launch a Tomahawk Strike on Puerto Rico
Tom Clifford
The Return of “Mein Kampf” … in Japan
Todd Larsen
Concerned About Climate Change? Change Where You Bank!
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Brexit: Britain’s Opening to China?
John Hutchison
Everything Old is New Again: a Brief Retrospectus on Korea and the Cold War
Michael Brenner
The Ghost in the Dream Machine
Yves Engler
The Military Occupation of Haiti
Christopher Brauchli
Guardians of Lies
James Preece
How Labour Can Win the Snap Elections
Cesar Chelala
Preventing Disabilities in the Elderly
Sam Gordon
From We Shall Overcome to Where Have all the Flowers Gone?
Charles Thomson
It’s Still Not Too Late to Deserve Your CBE, Chris Ofili
Louis Proyect
Documentaries That Punch
Charles R. Larson
Review: Vivek Shanbhag’s “Ghachar Ghochar”
David Yearsley
Raiding the Tomb of Lubitsch
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail