Wednesday, November 16, 2011

NYPD kills journalism and that's not news


There's a story missing here:

Where's the story about how they weren't allowed to report the story?

But throughout the day Tuesday mainstream media reports had nothing much to say about this development.

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, New York City reporters described 1) feeling too intimidated to report what the police were doing; and 2) incidents in which police physically prevented the press from doing its job--two characteristics of a police state.  A third characteristic of a police state is when news organizations conceal the fact that their reporters are not free to report stories.

In a police state, news editors direct their scribes to collect quotations from official government sources.  The journalist is but a cog in the state propaganda machine.   There's no place for reporters in a police state.

Increasingly, journalism in the U.S. amounts to distributing excerpts of interviews with public officials or members of Washington's "revolving door class."  Think CNN correspondent Barbara Starr telling viewers what the Pentagon and its corporate partners wants them to hear.   Or a retired general tasked by CNN to explain the true meaning of a video the Pentagon has been covering-up.  In important respects, U.S. media coverage of police campaigns against citizen protesters has come to resemble the media's coverage of military operations abroad.  Nine times out of ten, Americans hear only their own government's perspective on a drone campaign against "terrorists."   Needless to say, the militarization of domestic journalism is happening at the precise historical moment when Americans are waking up to the militarization of their local police.

On more than one occasion I have noticed national broadcast media is conspicuously late to the scene after word of an impending crackdown on an Occupation has been announced.  Concerning coverage of the dispersal of Occupy Portland,  I tweeted:

In the case of the police operation against OWS, CNN did not go live until three and a half hours after the paramilitary operation against OWS was underway.  This was New York City, not a remote and inaccessible frontier settlement like Portland, Oregon.  And it is not as if OWS wasn't already one of the big political stories of the year in the U.S..

The OWS movement is ostensibly leaderless.  But this fact provides no justification for the media to behave as if there is only one authoritative side to an OWS story.    Given that seeking out OWS friendly viewpoints is actually not that difficult, it appears the news media is finding it convenient not to make the effort.   For example, a CNN story about the Occupy Wall Street movement --the top story on the CNN homepage for some time Monday--quoted thirteen sources, only two (2) which were not government officials (one was a broadcaster, the other an official who had recently resigned).

Tuesday, the New York Times and the Washington Post both published accounts of how city officials masterfully orchestrated raids on Occupy Wall Street camps from coast to coast. A story titled "Mayors, police chiefs talk about ways to deal with Occupy Wall Street protests, tent camps," published in the Washington Post, quotes seven government officials.  However, only one supporter of the OWS movement is given a voice in the article:
One protester says he was injured when he fell and police dragged him from the scene.
Under the new paradigm of American journalism, mistreatment of citizens by police is not witnessed, it something alleged by a supposed victim, if it is mentioned at all. The same story also refers to "badly injured" Iraq War vet Scott Olsen, yet the paper does not attempt to describe how he was struck in the head.  The reader is led to assume Olsen was merely a victim of "a protest turned violent."

In the WaPo article, increased violence at Occupy Portland is substantiated by this paragraph:
In Portland, for example, protests were initially peaceful gatherings. Then the city’s large number of homeless people moved in, transforming the camp into an open-air treatment center for drug addiction and mental illness.
Since when was the establishment of "a treatment center" an example of a project turned against peace?     

Equally deplorable is a story published in the NY Times entitled, "After an Earlier Misstep, a Minutely Planned Raid." This article quotes only four sources, all of which are government or police (one of which is kept anonymous).  The 12th paragraph of the story is both an example of "burying the lede" and lazy fact-checking:  
Reporters in the park were forced to leave. Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman, said it was for their safety. But many journalists said that they had been prevented from seeing the police take action in the park, and that they had been roughly handled by officers. Mr. Browne said television camera trucks on Church Street, along the park’s western border, were able to capture images. 
The authority quoted by the NY Times on the subject of  television camera placement is a "a police spokesman."  One would think the "newspaper of record" would have sought the opinion of a television cameraman.  

It's clear the New York Times cannot tell us what happened in parts of Lower Manhattan during and for some time after the crackdown.   Even devoting half of the front page to an event does not change the fact the NYPD prevented the paper's own reporters from covering the story. This paragraph sums up the problem with the newspaper's reporting of the whole event:
No arrests were made in the park until about 3:30 a.m., Mr. Kelly said. The clearing operation was complete about 75 minutes later, the police said.
That's it.  The police told the NY Times what happened in the park, the newspaper printed it. 

Reading these stories, the diligent reader asks: to what extent might the FBI and Homeland Security have been involved in coordinating moves against the protesters?  Yet this reasonable question is not raised in mainstream news stories chalk full of quotes from every variety of police and government official.  These questions--the answers to which could have disastrous consequences for the Obama administration--are left for tweeps and bloggers to explore.

It is an amazing commentary on the times that for aggressive broadcast journalism, Americans have few alternative apart from Russia's RT:  

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