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Late Night FDL: Waiting for the Perfect Protest

Oliver would like those kids today to be good so Daddy won’t hit them:

If you dress up like a dope-smoking hobo, expect to be treated like one and not be taken seriously. Get a haircut. Wear a nice shirt. Carry a sign with a message that makes some kind of sense to an average American.

It might work.

Dan continues the discussion over at Corrente, citing an observation from Allison Kilkenny on the media coverage:

For every batshit crazy quote Bellafante presents, I can match it with a calm, articulate response from another attendee. I guarantee that. However, that’s not the point. I’m not a believer in the “perfect objectivity” goal for journalists because it’s impossible to ever obtain. Human beings inherently possess prejudices and biases that blind them to aspects of reality. Bellafante is less likely to see the Matthews. I’m less likely to see the black bloc.

Yet we risk much when we traipse into this false equivalency territory. The two approaches I’ve described above aren’t given level platforms in our society. Bellafante reaches a far, far larger readership, and the ones who dismiss protesters always do because their corporate overlords love depicting protesters as flower-waving, stoned-out-of-their-gourds hippies. If you think those are the only people on your side, why get off the couch at all?

Well, that’s the point, really: To find a reason not to get off the couch. If they’re all just hippies in hoodies, there’s no reason for you to think about what they’re saying. If they’re all just filthy teenagers, you can go back to your dinner and not worry about that nagging feeling in your gut that says get on a goddamn bus and go join them. If you can find a reason why this protest, these protesters, are unsuitable, then there’s really nothing you need to get worked up about.

Better bide your time, keep your powder dry, and wait for a protest when everybody’s wearing a color that doesn’t clash with your hair. Better wait for the perfect cause, with the perfect leader, for the perfect reasons. That’s sure to come along any minute now.

Every second spent worrying about the clothing and behavior of the protesters is a second spent not talking about why they’re out there in the first place. We saw this during the Wisconsin protests, too: the constant fear that one single shitsmack would spit at a cop and then it would all be over. We debated if protesters had “jumped the shark.” Monitoring the behavior of people who were standing up to power so easily took precedence over monitoring the behavior of people in power, as if their actions had equivalent consequences. It’s easier to kick down than to punch up, and with our new journalism that equates amoral disinterest with objectivity and passion with bias, the powerless find their mohawks as much of an affront to America as mortgage fraud.

My view on this is pretty simple: The meanest thing a protester could possibly do would be nicer than the nicest thing Dick Cheney has ever done, so until that son of a bitch is in chains in a basement somewhere, you’ll pardon me if I can’t get too excited about somebody yelling anarchic slogans.

Because here’s the thing: It is never okay to treat anybody like this:

Among the video clips on the Occupy Wall Street website is one that shows a police officer macing a group of young women penned in by orange netting.

Another video has circulated of a police officer throwing a protester to the ground, though it is not clear why. The video shows the man standing in what seems to be a non-threatening manner before the incident.

No matter what he’s wearing, or what she’s saying.



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Allison Hantschel

Allison Hantschel

Allison Hantschel is a 10-year veteran of the newspaper business. She publishes First Draft, a writing and politics blog, with her partners Holden, Jude and Scout. She is the author of the books Chicago's Historic Irish Pubs (2011, Arcadia Publishing, with Mike Danahey) and It Doesn’t End With Us: The Story of the Daily Cardinal, about a great liberal journalism institution (2007, Heritage Books). She also edited the anthology “Special Plans: The Blogs on Douglas Feith and the Faulty Intelligence That Led to War” (2005, William, James & Co.) Her work has appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the Daily Southtown, Sirens Magazine, and Alternet. She lives in Chicago with her husband, two ferrets, and approximately 60 tons of books.