Protesters, Press, Police

First published on The Big Smoke.
December 16, 2020

In 1983 — when USA Today began changing the way, and what, newspapers covered as “news”, when Reagan’s deregulation started enabling the consolidation that would become mega media mergers, eventually leaving the U.S. with almost no locally-owned newspapers and television stations — I walked away from newspaper reporting as a career after only six years.

In that short time, I exposed discrepancies in federal loan subsidy application handling, local political manipulation of the federal bidding process, the impact of the Reagan administration’s first major union busting move, a medical clinic’s prescription misuse and inappropriate use of federal funds, a local coal baron’s questionable financial dealings and tax avoidance, and a local agency’s conflict of interest — all while reporting for very small newspapers. My stories resulted in state and federal investigations, tens of thousands of dollars in back taxes paid, contracts terminated, and Flight Service Station siting changes.

But, after a year of watching major metropolitan newspapers, including my own employer, remake themselves in McPaper‘s image, I walked away when my boss demanded I go out and cover a non-event (except on the police scanner), that required invading someone’s privacy. If didn’t, he said he would fire me. I quit.

The story I refused to report is one you have read dozens of times since. One that, instead of condemning the system that created the problems, merely makes you feel sympathy for the victim, or treats them as a hero, or vilifies them for crumbling under the weight of a society that deliberately breaks people.

Over the years, my decision was repeatedly validated as television and newspapers became worse about disrespecting everyone’s privacy, more and more mistakes appeared in print and on the air, and entertainment and celebrity coverage drowned out actual news. Bigger and bigger media conglomerates gobbled up local newspapers and television stations, and most media now is owned by a handful of mega corporations. [see two examples at the end of this article]

Now, we have so-called journalists who believe they’re empowered to invade other people’s lives and private property for their clickbait and sixty seconds of infotainment spotlight. They work for companies with right-wing, racist, misogynist, anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigrant agendas and do not care whose lives they destroy to get their “stories.”

When activists politely ask them not to take a photograph or collect video of an event, they scream about freedom of the press and their First Amendment rights. Except most of them have never, apparently, actually read the First Amendment. Because it doesn’t give them any rights at all to invade other people’s lives and steal their stories. It states that:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press” [emphasis mine]

Nothing requiring anyone talk to the press; no mention of allowing the press to invade private property in order to report on an event. Case law, specifically libel and sunshine laws, allow the press to write about public figures and celebrities without worrying about being sued and require government officials, both elected and appointed, to produce information to the press as representatives of their constituents.

But, if a broadcast “journalist” sticks a microphone in your face or points a camera at you, they are invading your privacy without your consent and if you don’t want to enrich them by sharing your information and/or photograph for their broadcast, you have the right to insist they stop and/or walk away. I have done both. As an author and a business owner, I also have been interviewed more than once by a reporter who took the facts I gave them and inadvertently misinterpreted or deliberately twisted them to meet their own narrative, rather than reporting mine.

Too often, people who have watched television footage of victims sobbing, witnesses sharing details, and families wailing their grief, believe they’re obligated to answer questions in front of a camera. But, footage like that is lazy reporting and rarely includes factual information.

Moreover, police view that footage and use it to target activists who protest police brutality and demand their elected officials stop funding military police forces in urban areas; who fight gentrification and sweeping houseless camps during a pandemic; who stand up against armed Nazis marching in our streets.

White Supremacist terrorist groups like the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer use video and photographs posted by media to doxx and menace anti-fascist activists and their families with violence, including rape and death threats.

Right-wing “journalists” edit video to remove any mitigating circumstances, such as self defense. Edited video, claiming a “random lone protester fights with multiple proud boys” led to the arrest of a local Black man who defended himself with a knife in Washington D.C., when dozens of out-of-town white Proud Boys surrounded, trapped, and attacked him. It should be noted, that the Proud Boys, who were openly carrying hand and long guns in violation of D.C. laws, had already vandalized black churches, and roaming mobs of them attacked multiple counter-protesters, reporters, and random passersby with fists, chemical spray, weighted gloves, flag poles, and other weapons. But police arrested the Black man and they will use the edited video against him in court.

Those at home, scrutinizing photographs and video on television, websites, and social media, forget that U.S. law requires a presumption of innocence. With broadcast and print media frantically regurgitating inaccurate, deceptive, and outright deceitful police reports, viewers judge someone guilty before they’re tried, sometimes before they’re even charged with a crime, based on seeing often-doctored video.

Invasively filming and photographing people involved, sometimes only peripherally, in news events puts lives in danger. “Any journalist who has embedded with military forces knows there are times you DO NOT take photos,” investigative journalist Robert Evans tweeted recently. “A picture is not worth life.”

When I was a reporter, I was the first to report a national story from a small town newspaper because I worked to develop relationships with sources and to protect them. But, even back then, one of my sources lost his job because his superiors were able to determine, based on our locations and history, that he had to be the person I had spoken with. Today, with all the surveillance tech available to authorities, those who protest police brutality, evictions during winter and a global pandemic, stolen land, and other forms of capitalistic-enforced inequality are in even more danger from an authoritarian government.

At a recent active eviction defense in Portland, The Oregonian complained about being denied access making “it difficult to provide the public with a full account of the ongoing occupation“. This was after the newspaper printed false information, including calling the event an “occupation”. The only other “journalist” quotes routinely endangers protesters by deliberately filming their faces.

In addition to endorsing Portland’s much-hated Mayor Edward Tevis “Ted” Wheeler, The Oregonian, owned by Advance1, is run by John Maher who also chairs the Portland Business Alliance which heavily funded Wheeler’s election campaign. Urban Housing Development, which purchased the Red House at a foreclosure sale, belongs to the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland (HBA) which is affiliated with the Portland Business Alliance (PBA). HBA and PBA, along with Realtors and developers, also were among the entities behind United for Portland, created in the final months of the mayoral campaign to spend money targeting male voters to discredit Wheeler’s female opponent.

The Oregonian continuously uses language such as “become known as the ‘red house'”. Well, it’s a house. And, it’s red. So people call it the red house — hardly worthy of repeatedly wasting words. The Oregonian also deliberately contrasted the $260,000 the current owner paid at auction in 2018 with the more than $308,000 raised to buy it back via GoFundMe without acknowledging the $20,000 in property taxes also required as part of the proposed agreement, possible legal fees, and the costs of major repairs to the house required after law enforcement deliberately trashed it, including destroying the plumbing fixtures. It faulted the family for failing to pay the mortgage for nearly a year and half without mentioning that they paid the mortgage until it was sold and two different companies demanded payments. Although the family has made it clear how they want to be contacted, The Oregonian called one of the individuals on the phone and then made a big deal about reporting that he hung up, despite the fact that they had specifically asked not to receive phone calls.

Meanwhile, a reporter with KATU, owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group,2 refused to leave the property when asked and kept filming people despite their repeated requests that she not do so. Her camera was knocked from her hand and stomped on to prevent her from further filming. She was injured slightly (although she tried to make it appear worse than it was, including erroneously claiming her hand was broken) when she tried to pull it out from under someone’s foot.

“By treating this like a regular news story you are, inadvertently or not, antagonizing the participants”, an activist who uses the handle @imlaceyimfine, posted in response. “You, and especially your camera, are a threat, whether you believe that to be true or not. The fear your camera inspires in people who have been brutalized and arrested all summer, is very real and in my opinion incredibly valid. Not only are the protesters rightly afraid of retribution, they are also traumatized. Many of them may be triggered by your presence. If you want the story, right or wrong, you need to make allowances for that fact.”

The “reporter” cried (literally) “crocodile tears” on Twitter and demanded the right to invade people’s privacy on private property with signage clearly stating filming was not allowed.

“If you have been following KATU’s limited coverage at the protests or the press conferences, you know they are not capable of telling the entire story,” TeamRaccoonPDX, volunteers who cleans up trash at protest events, noted.

Many of KATU’s reports about the Red House Eviction Defense were inaccurate and/or just a series of quotes from Portland Police Bureau, Multnomah County Sherriff’s Office, and Wheeler. The station played down Wheeler’s and Police Chief Charles Lovell‘s threats against and lies about the family and activists that resulted in racist death threats and attacks by fascists. KATU was among the media breathlessly reporting that the four generations of family fighting to retain ownership of the “infamous ‘Red House'” also own another home.

When an agreement was reached with the city and the barricades protecting the house from police raids were removed Monday, December 14, KATU claimed “those who live in North Portland” — an area that encompasses more than fort-five square miles, 25,883 households, and the University of Portland — were “still concerned” about the few blocks surrounding the house. Sources for this included an “anonymous person” who allegedly lives in “the area” (already defined as North Portland, so, not necessarily anywhere near the Red House) and the Coalition to Save Portland (another entity formed to push Wheeler’s reelection) were still upset about the “occupation”.

During its “coverage”, the station also interviewed another person who doesn’t even live in “the area”, who was upset because some activists legally carried firearms. (This person also complained in that article he was unable to get “the city’s help to get his concealed handgun license”.  Licenses to carry concealed handguns are issued by the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office not the city of Portland.)

These few “complaints” ignored numerous neighbors, including businesses, who supported efforts to fight the gentrification that has driven almost all Black homeowners out of a traditionally (redlined) Black neighborhood as well as efforts by activists protecting the eviction defense area to provide food, clothing, and medical supplies to those in need and to help remove graffiti from local businesses.

Other reporters — who respect their sources and do not film them without consent and/or who edit their video to remove information that can be used to identify, arrest, and doxx someone — had no difficulty providing accurate coverage of the events.

“This Oregonian article is nonsense. I’ve been at Red House nearly everyday since Tuesday. I’ve taken pictures & interviewed people without issue,” tweeted Garrison Davis a young, dedicated, and effective journalist who has covered protests in Portland since they started in May. “You don’t need to film 24/7 to “accurately” report. Write, take notes, it’s in the name, ‘Journal(ism)’.” Unlike reporters who pretend to be objective while working for right-wing media owned by oligarchs, Davis makes no effort to hide which side he sympathizes with.

“It’s not a matter of being objective, it’s really about being transparent,” Andrew DeVigal, chair in journalism innovation and civic engagement at the University of Oregon, told Portland Monthly.

“Not choosing a side, when one side is oppressed, means choosing, through inaction, the side of the oppressor”, freelance journalist Lady Rosie G. Riddle points out. “if you’re not an anti-fascist FIRST and press SECOND, then chances are, you’re helping fascists.” As she and numerous other BIPOC journalists and pundits state repeatedly, “objective journalism upholds white supremacy.”

If you do not believe that statement, compare any mainstream coverage of Portland BIPOC protesters in trying to prevent a local family from losing its home in winter, in the middle of a pandemic, while providing food, clothing, and PPE supplies to any in need, to the coverage a few years ago when heavily armed, out-of-state, anti-government white men took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, threatened local residents and law enforcement, and did major damage, including removing fences and plowing roads in defense of two men who had pleaded guilty to arson further.

 

 

1The Oregonian/OregonLive is owned by S.I. Newhouse-founded Advance which also owns Condé Nast (Architectural Digest, Allure,  Ars Technica,  Bon Appétit,  Epicurious, Glamour,  GQ, House & Garden, Teen Vogue, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Vogue, Wired, and more), American City Business Journals (BizEquity, The Business Journals, Bizwomen, etc.), among others and is also among the largest shareholders in Charter Communications, Discovery (HGTV, Food Network, TLC, Animal Planet, Cooking Channel, American Heroes Channel, Now This, Thrillist, to name a few) and Reddit.

2KATU is owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group which owns 190 television stations in 88 markets that are affiliated with all major broadcast networks plus 23 regional sports network brands. In May, 2020, it paid the largest civil penalty by a broadcaster, $48 million, to the Federal Communications Commission for violating the FCC’s sponsorship identification rules as part of its attempt to acquire Tribune Media. In addition to slanting its reporting to the right, Sinclair requires talent at its subsidiary stations to spout pro-Trump propaganda and right-wing opinions such as “comparing removal of Confederate statues to destruction of archaeological treasures“.  The Guardian calls it ” the most dangerous US company you’ve never heard of”.

Rotten Apples

People still keep saying a “few bad apples”, forgetting it figuratively and literally only takes one bad apple to spoil an entire barrel.

There are no “good” cops. Because if there were, they would report and testify against the “few” bad cops. They don’t. They work to make sure those “few bad apples” are protected from prosecution. On the rare occasion they are punished, that information is deliberately hidden from the public, any settlements with their victims are paid by taxpayers not the offenders, and because the information is hidden those “bad apples” get a job in another jurisdiction.

Policing is historically a white supremacist institution. It evolved from slave patrols and the Pinkerton security guards hired to protect rich people’s property and beat immigrant workers into submission. Much of our criminal code was written specifically to put Black and other people of color in prison where they could be used as slave labor.

The “War On Drugs”, for just one example, was specifically invented to imprison Black people and Hippies. But, white folks with money (and/or medical insurance) can always get drugs and rarely, if ever, get arrested for using them.

In reality, the entire carceral system, the for-profit prison pipeline, the criminal code, etc. need to be abolished for Black Lives to Matter in this country. Police reform has been tried. Reform does not work. The only way to address the white supremacy on which this country was founded is to abolish the carceral state and start over.

Our local paper prints the police logs. Lately, I’ve been reading them and checking off all the ways the calls could be handled better if anyone other than armed police had answered them: mental health professionals, mediators, social workers, traffic safety patrol, etc.

Even larger crimes, are not stopped or solved by the police for the most part. They show up after the fact and file a report. The evidence is gathered by evidence technicians and forensic specialists. The cops don’t “investigate” anything. They constantly post notices that are “asking for the public’s help in identifying the suspect from …” or “looking for information about …”

I’ve watched livestreams of the protests in Portland for the last six weeks. Every single time, the protesters (kids, most of them) are at worst mischievous (moving fences around, painting court and police buildings with graffiti, throwing dildos, pig food, and water bottles at cops). But most of the time, they’re listening to speeches, chanting, eating, and dancing.

Then the cops come out and attack them, shooting “less than lethal” weapons directly at them (including at their heads); pulling their masks down and spraying pepper in their eyes and mouths; beating them with batons and their fists; throwing them onto concrete curbs with enough force to break bones including spines and skulls.

The cops fill the streets with tear gas (a weapon banned for use against civilians in other countries) which makes people cough (during a pandemic), cry, vomit, etc. Tear gas can result in long-term major health problems, but the cops are filling the homes, offices, and cars of nearby residents and employees with that gas, and spraying it into cars that just happen to be driving by.

It also should be noted that most of the protesters wear their masks most of the time (and there are no indications the protests are causing community spread) while many of the cops refuse to wear masks.

The cops attack people who are obeying the orders they just gave. The cops have been photographed slashing the tires of those who are just there to feed others, throwing away food that was being donated to feed the hungry and homeless (who are also suffering from being tear gassed while they sleep), and stealing the supplies that volunteers were using to keep people safe including hand sanitizer and masks.

Every night the cops ignore court orders, police bureau policies and procedures, and the law itself including violating rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. They operate as if they were the Gestapo, specifically attacking reporters and legal observers, knocking cameras out of people’s hands or spraying paint on them to avoid being photographed and filmed. They cover their badge numbers and refuse to wear name tags so they can’t be identified. They have arrested people just for calling out their names (because they recognized them from previous encounters). They will fight (and have always fought) against reform. They must be eliminated or no one who is BIPOC, female, or LGBTQ will ever be safe.

You Can’t Shame Hypocrites

The memes are entertaining. The stories about how/why wearing masks can save lives, inspiring. The hypocrisy call outs, always appropriate. The legal, medical, and scientific citations useful to those who actually consider facts to be important.

But, MAGAts, Republicans, xtianists, conspiracy theorists, and anti-vaxxers will never recognize or acknowledge their own hypocrisy. They literally have no interest in the truth. They actually believe that science is an opinion and the information they found by searching the Internet, heard on Faux News, or read in their Facebook groups is more accurate than what medical doctors, scientists, and historians publish.

Remember, it’s all projection. Whatever they call us, they are. And in this case, they’re snowflake sheeple going whichever direction the rings in their noses are pulled by their leaders and preachers; Faux News commentators; ignorant, nut job, racist, white supremacist celebrities; and random deranged conspiracy theorists who somehow (but not always) managed to get a medical degree.

Don’t waste your breath/time on them. These people have no shame. They used to. Until a narcissistic, misogynist, racist, white supremacist was installed in the White House enabling every over-entitled white person to show the world just how nasty they can be by claiming they are being discriminated against, that their civil liberties (on private property) are being infringed, that all BIPOC people they are attacking (since many of the under-paid employees forced to ask these entitled twats to put on a mask are BIPOC) are playing the “race card” when they point out their racism.

After all, if getting thrown out of stores, having their rants go viral, and being dubbed KKKaren and KKKyle isn’t enough to shame them, nothing will. They don’t care about anyone but themselves and what they’re told to believe so they can “own the libs”. Check out #KarensGoneWild on Twitter if you haven’t already seen samples. Many of these people have lost their jobs. They’ve had their temper tantrums seen by millions of people. And yet they keep waving their ignorance and ugliness around on (as they said in the old days) national television.

In Florida anti-mask marchers unironically chant “my body my choice” (and I’ll guaranteed 99 percent of them support the forced-pregnancy movement). Texans title a meeting to protest against mask-wearing”I can’t breathe”. And, also in Texas, signs at an anti-mask event claim “Bar Lives Matter”. Exactly how could you shame hypocrites like that? Especially, when police refuse to wear masks themselves. In Corvallis, OR, for just one example, Oregon State Troopers walk into a coffee shop, refuse to put on masks, and intimidate the clerk into making their beverages while cursing their boss (the governor). What does that tell all the other mask-deniers? You can get away with it.

They are all convinced they are poor, trampled upon, oppressed victims suffering from discrimination. Sometimes, they break down and cry on video when they face personal consequences such as getting fired. But they do not change their behavior because they will find plenty of online and in-person support (including financial) for their notion of how oppressed they are and because they aren’t equipped to function in a society in which their mediocrity is no longer rewarded just because they’re white.

Some of them will even find lawyers to take their money so they can sue their former employers for discriminating against their political or religious beliefs. Given how the courts have been shoved to the right (200 lifetime appointments of mostly unqualified, right wing judges so far) some of them may even eventually win. Which will then make employers hesitant to fire misogynists, racists, and white supremacists, in the future to avoid facing the legal costs of fighting them in court.

The anti-maskers band together and media supports them because they’re “patriots” fighting for their “freedom” (as opposed to the “thugs” protesting police murders of “criminals”) with carefully constructed camera angles to make their “rallies” (unlike the “riots” of peaceful protestors chanting Black Lives Matter) look bigger than they actually are.

The cops (who refuse to wear masks themselves) support anti-maskers by only arresting them (if at all) under the most egregious circumstances (and often arresting their victims when they attack BIPOC), by protecting armed white racists against unarmed anti-fascist counter protesters, by declaring a riot (without cause) against those protesting police brutality so they can exhibit exactly why those people are protesting.

Most of those who rally for their “rights” to be “free” of the horrible oppression of wearing masks don’t wear one and those who are demanding police stop killing BIPOC do (which is why there have yet to be a significant number of COVID cases traced to protests but thousands traced to parties, bar outings, “patriot” rallies, beaches, etc.)

As I believe the statement goes: “Hell hath no fury like an entitled white person who is inconvenienced.” You cannot shame people who are so self-entitled they have no shame. They just double down. They will knock people’s cell phones out of their hands. They will freak out, cry, and publish lame “apologies” on social media. But they will not change. They cannot distinguish truth from lies, scientific fact from FauxNews propaganda designed to kill people to bolster the stock market.

Nothing you can do will convince them they’re wrong until they’re gasping for breath in the hospital and by then they’ve infected 50 other people.

In my opinion, doxxing KKKarens and getting them fired or costing them business is much more effective than attempting to “shame” them. (Although a lot of them are retired and ardently supporting the administration that wants to eliminate the Social Security payments and Medicare insurance they depend on.)

Private businesses enforcing bans against allowing mask wearers on their premises would help, but it’s not happening, because the lowest-paid, most vulnerable, and often BIPOC employees are the ones tasked with enforcement. And they are not given tools to counter fake exemptions, belligerent entitled racists, and people intimidating them by claiming they’re with a non-existent agency and threatening them with personal liability.

See, for example, this woman who rants about not wearing a mask but still leaves with the food the company sold her. Even when non-employees step up and attempt to shame someone, like this woman at a Costco — which has a company policy that requires masks — to put on the mask given her by the store, they get no help from management and are told “you’re ridiculous to shame people”.

It also would help a lot if the media didn’t both sides the issue by giving these people screen time/space allowing them to go on about how they were afraid or entitled to a cut of the fundraiser that others created to “tip” the victim of a KKKaren who refused to wear a mask.

It would be inconvenient and unpleasant, but if those who believed in science, who cared enough about their fellow human beings to social distance and wear masks, all stayed home for a month (including health care workers, grocery clerks, delivery drivers and other “essential” low-paid workers), Darwin would solve the problem for us.

But, since too many of us can’t survive a month with no supplies and no income, wear a mask. Wash your hands. Stay 26 (yes, 26 feet because if they actually spit, which they’ve been known to do, it can travel further than six, and it’s finally being acknowledged that’s how far a sneeze can travel without a mask) feet away from the idiots described above.