Dry Run

« October 2011 »

Memo to Occupy Wall Street: I HOPE I'M WRONG.

In general, there isn't a whole hell of a lot of difference between a vast, interconnected conspiracy of people to act like complete dicks, and a whole bunch of people acting like complete dicks independently of each other. But when it comes to what's started happening to the Occupy movement, I'm really hoping it's the latter. But the cynic in me is betting money on the former.

In Oakland, for two nights in a row, we've had smoke bombs, tear gas, officially denied-reports of rubber bullets, and officially-denied but that sure as fuck looks like one on the YouTube use of a flash-bang grenade. Atlanta had helicopters and arrests. Oakland was almost entirely unprovoked and clearly disproportionate. By all reports, Atlanta was completely unprovoked.

Again, I really hope I'm wrong, but the cynic in me can't help seeing these as dry runs. Tests to see how much the public will tolerate the police finally cracking down and ending the Occupy protests. And of course, how the public will tolerate it will hinge almost exclusively on the media coverage. And the media coverage is certainly subject to the whims of dicks.

The New York Times, still considered the "paper of record" despite Judith Miller and David Brooks, takes a very innocuous-sounding neutral tone, pitting the protestors, who just want to protest forever, against mayors, who are oh so sympathetic to the free speech issues but are finding it increasingly difficult to balance that against the public health and cleanliness issues.

Which sounds nice, until you reframe it in more honest terms - that the Oakland police tear-gassed a park and put an Iraq war vet in the hospital with a cracked skull because they thought hippies were shitting everywhere. By the way, the NYT referred to the head wound as "one life-threatening injury", and nothing more. So that tells you which way the wind is blowing the tear gas.

USA Today, the paper of record for people too stupid to cancel the subscriptions they got fooled into buying in 1987, has absolutely nothing on the front page of the website about the incidents. It does have stories about female CEO's, Greek debt, the World Series rain delay, the deficit panel, Hurricane Rina, Ruth Madoff, the trial of Michael Jackson's doctor, that Shakespeare movie, GOP primary polls, Herman Cain telling people to "get a life", Obama's student loan policy, child abuse in Nebraska, and the John Edwards trial, lest you think their front page is an entire infographic about cookies and a weather map.

Fox News' website's entire front-page Occupy coverage is a story connecting the protests to "ex-ACORN staff". I know that sounds like a joke, but I'm dead serious. There isn't even any rah rah GO RIOT COPS coverage. There is a story about how Keith Ablow was totally right about the J. Crew boy-with-pink-toenails ad being completely gay because the New York Post said the exec behind it is leaving her husband and dating a woman. So at least I've got an Ablow editorial I can mark for deconstruction in the near future.

On the upside, CNN, MSNBC, and the LA Times were all pretty good. And certainly, if they were trying to avoid galvanizing public opinion, cracking the skull of a Veteran For Peace is a bad P.R. move, which is why it's interesting how many news outlets are avoiding mentioning it.

Again, it's entirely possible that these are dick mayors giving free reign to dick cops. But I've seen too much shit for too long to not at least worry that this is the beginning of the end, and that both the median and mean apathy in America will let the 1% use the same cops whose ranks they've thinned and pensions they've gutted to thin and gut the 99% movement.

And if it happens, we all know it won't be about the shit they're leaving, it'll be about the shit they're stirring.