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.

More articles by:

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

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
July 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Kevin Zeese
Green Party Growing Pains; Our Own Crisis of Democracy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Red State, Blue State; Green State, Deep State
Paul Street
“Inclusive Capitalism,” Nancy Pelosi, and the Dying Planet
Anthony DiMaggio
Higher Education Fallacies: What’s Behind Rising Conservative Distrust of Learning?
Andrew Levine
Why Republicans Won’t Dump Trump Anytime Soon
Michael Colby
Ben & Jerry’s Has No Clothes
Bruce Dixon
White Liberal Guilt, Black Opportunism and the Green Party
Edward Hunt
Killing Civilians in Iraq and Syria
Matthew Kovac
Is the Flint Water Crisis a Crime Against Humanity?
Mark Harris
The Revolutionary Imagination: Rosa for Our Times
David Rosen
America’s Five Sex Panics
Robert Fisk
Saudi Arabia: the Kingdom Whose Name We Dare Not Speak At All
Jack Heyman
Class War on the Waterfront: Longshore Workers Under Attack
Kim C. Domenico
Marginalize This:  Turning the Tables on Neoliberal Triumphalism
Brian Cloughley
Trying to Negotiate With the United States
John Laforge
Activists Challenge US Nukes in Germany; Occupy Bunker Deep Inside Nuclear Weapons Base
Jonathan Latham
The Biotech Industry is Taking Over the Regulation of GMOs From the Inside
Russell Mokhiber
DC Disciplinary Counsel Hamilton Fox Won’t Let Whistleblower Lawyer Lynne Bernabei Go
Ramzy Baroud
The Story Behind the Jerusalem Attack: How Trump and Netanyahu Pushed Palestinians to A Corner
Farzana Versey
The Murder of Muslims
Kathy Kelly
At Every Door
David W. Pear
Venezuela Under Siege by U.S. Empire
Maria Paez Victor
Venezuelan Opposition Now Opposes the People
Uri Avnery
Soros’ Sorrows
Joseph Natoli
The Mythos Meme of Choice
Clark T. Scott
High Confidence and Low Methods
Missy Comley Beattie
Glioblastoma As Metaphor
Ann Garrison
Organizing Pennsylvania’s 197: Cheri Honkala on Frontline Communities
Ted Rall
What Happened When I Represented Myself as My Own Lawyer
Colin Todhunter
Codex Alimentarius and Monsanto’s Toxic Relations
Graham Peebles
Europe’s Shameful Refugee Policy
Louis Proyect
Reversals of Imperial Fortune: From the Comanche to Vietnam
Stephen Cooper
Gov. Kasich: “Amazing Grace” Starts With You! 
Jeffrey Wilson
Demolish! The Story of One Detroit Resident’s Home
REZA FIYOUZAT
Billionaire In Panic Over Dems’ Self-Destruct
David Penner
The Barbarism of Privatized Health Care
Yves Engler
Canada in Zambia
Ludwig Watzal
What Israel is Really All About
Randy Shields
Matters of National Insecurity
Vacy Vlanza
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness: Through Eyes of an Activist for Palestine
Cesar Chelala
Dr. Schweitzer’s Lost Message
Masturah Alatas
Becoming Italian
Martin Billheimer
Lessons Paid in Full
Charles R. Larson
Review: James Q. Whitman’s “Hitler’s American Model”
David Yearsley
The Brilliance of Velasquez
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail