Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Kill the Messenger. Or maybe just, you know, cuff her hands behind her back and let her chill-ax in a cage for awhile.

File under "Bitter Irony": Salon columnist Glenn Greenwald claims that coverage of rough treatment of the ladies and gentlemen of the press by police at the GOP convention has gone woefully underreported in the mainstream media. According to Greenwald,
An Associated Press article this weekend reported that "more than 800 arrests were reported" and that "at least 19 journalists, including two reporters from The Associated Press, were among those held by police." The fact that numerous reporters covering the Convention -- along with hundreds of peaceful and law-abiding protesters and others -- were arrested by police, had their hands bound behind their backs with plastic cuffs, and were then put in a cage for hours is truly reprehensible, but it has received very little attention. The vast bulk of the reporting on these matters has been done by independent and local journalists.
On his Salon Radio show, Greenwald interviews Minnesota Independent reporter Jeff Guntzel, who has reported on police use of "Triple Chaser" tear-gas grenades and "impact rounds" against what Guntzel claims were largely nonviolent protestors.

Intriguingly, another Guntzel article on the protests includes this instructive exchange, equal parts sixties hangover (They've Got the Guns, But We've Got the Numbers) and media-savvy image-branding:

Just ahead of the Poor People’s Campaign organizers leading the march are four young men, dressed mostly in black, with black bandannas tied behind their heads in the fashion of cowboy bandits. This is the uniform of some of the protesters who did damage and became violent on Monday. A woman carrying a pink flag with a peace symbol on it comes up from behind them. There is no indication they were planning anything other than to finish out the march, but she is not convinced.

WOMAN: (referring to the black-clad riot police) Don’t become them!

YOUNG MAN IN BLACK: (to friend) What is this lady complaining about?

WOMAN: You’re taking their bait! What would have been a better headline today? What does your violence say?

YOUNG MAN IN BLACK: It says we can take back the power — and if more people would be fucking with us…

WOMAN: (pointing to the young men and yelling to the marchers) They’re trying to define us!

Yes, but for who? The press, presumably. But if a Triple Chaser falls in the forest and the press isn't there to hear it, does it make any noise? Had St. Paul law enforcement been instructed to ensure media damage control by administering rough justice to any journalists who got in their way? Or were the 19 journalists in question just in the wrong place, at the wrong time? (Greenwald's column includes a video of Nicole Salazar, a producer for the left-leaning public-radio program Democracy Now, being shoved to the ground by police as she was trying to cover the protests. Her screams of "press! press!" got no traction with the arresting officers.)

The deeper question, however, is: If Greenwald is right---and the evidence seems to be on his side---why hasn't the story gotten much traction with the MSM? The arrest of Amy Goodman, the high-profile host of Democracy Now, has kicked up a lot of sand in the left-wing press. But a search for "Amy Goodman" on the New York Times site, today, turned up hits...

...in the comment threads only. As one reader noted,
From what I’ve seen so far I’ve been extremely disappointed in the Times’ coverage of these arrests. It seems only in comments sections for these blog posts has it been mentioned that journalists (including the award-winning radio host Amy Goodman and two of her producers, as well as an Associated Press photographer) have been arrested. They were arrested while doing their jobs as reporters.
On a similar note, no mention of rough treatment of journalists by Times blogger David Carr in his September 1 Carpetbagger post, "St. Paul Protests." But scan the comments: Times readers are all over the Goodman arrest like ugly on an ape.
Still no coverage of the arrest of widely respected, 51-year-old independent journalist Amy Goodman (host of the syndicated news program Democracy Now!) at the Republican Convention on “conspiracy to riot” charges? Freedom of the Press, anyone? Amy Goodman conspiracy to riot? Give me a break! I guess at the at the RNC Freedom of the Press only holds for the corporately owned. Is the NYT just slow, or should I think it suspiciously ironic the NYT isn’t interested in getting the story of a journalist arrested at a political convention?
I'll leave the Chomsky-style smackdowns of the Times to the paper's commenters, but it is odd that the Paper of Record has turned a blind eye on alleged police violence against a fellow journalist. Make that journalists, plural.

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