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

Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
Ben Debney
The Swimsuit that Overthrew the State
Ashley Smith
Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution
Andrew Stewart
Did Gore Throw the 2000 Election?
Vincent Navarro
Is the Nation State and Its Welfare State Dead? a Critique of Varoufakis
John Wight
Syria’s Kurds and the Wages of Treachery
Lawrence Davidson
The New Anti-Semitism: the Case of Joy Karega
Mateo Pimentel
The Affordable Care Act: A Litmus Test for American Capitalism?
Roger Annis
In Northern Syria, Turkey Opens New Front in its War Against the Kurds
David Swanson
ABC Shifts Blame from US Wars to Doctors Without Borders
Norman Pollack
American Exceptionalism: A Pernicious Doctrine
Ralph Nader
Readers Think, Thinkers Read
Julia Morris
The Mythologies of the Nauruan Refugee Nation
George Wuerthner
Caving to Ranchers: the Misguided Decision to Kill the Profanity Wolf Pack
Ann Garrison
Unworthy Victims: Houthis and Hutus
Julian Vigo
Britain’s Slavery Legacy
John Stanton
Brzezinski Vision for a Power Sharing World Stymied by Ignorant Americans Leaders, Citizens
Philip Doe
Colorado: 300 Days of Sunshine Annually, Yet There’s No Sunny Side of the Street
Joseph White
Homage to EP Thompson
Dan Bacher
The Big Corporate Money Behind Jerry Brown
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
DNC Playing Dirty Tricks on WikiLeaks
Ron Jacobs
Education for Liberation
Jim Smith
Socialism Revived: In Spite of Bernie, Donald and Hillary
David Macaray
Organized Labor’s Inferiority Complex
David Cortright
Alternatives to Military Intervention in Syria
Binoy Kampmark
The Terrors of Free Speech: Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act
Cesar Chelala
Guantánamo’s Quagmire
Nyla Ali Khan
Hoping Against Hope in Kashmir
William Hughes
From Sam Spade to the Red Scare: Dashiell Hammett’s War Against Rightwing Creeps
Raouf Halaby
Dear Barack Obama, Please Keep it at 3 for 3
Charles R. Larson
Review: Paulina Chiziane’s “The First Wife: a Tale of Polygamy”
David Yearsley
The Widow Bach: Anna Magdalena Rediscovered
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail