The Paper of Broken Record

The Times' new weapon of mis-deduction: 'anarchist'

The headline in the August 20 New York Times screamed: "Anarchists Emerge as the Convention's Wild Card." And the story, by Randal C. Archibold, was even worse.

Considering the way the Times was used—willingly or not—by CIA stooge Ahmed Chalabi to beat the drums for the invasion of Iraq (Bush Beat, March 18), it's not surprising that the paper is playing right into the hands of the authorities just before Bush's invasion of New York.

Besides intimidating protesters or just plain scaring the shit out of everyone, stories like Archibold's will only inflame the cops into doing some prior restraint of Americans' proud tradition of, and right to, protest. The same thing happened last November during the Free Trade Area of the Americas protest in Miami. Check out the latest report of the Miami-Dade County's Independent Review Panel. A host of witnesses told the civilian review group that the cops trampled on people's basic rights down there. (Check out this transcript of Bill Moyers's subsequent Now piece, mentioned in Bush Beat, August 17.)

Here's the title of Finding No. 6 of the Independent Review Panel's "final draft" report, cited above:

Media coverage and police preparation emphasized "anarchists, anarchists, anarchists."

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The report added that "the emphasis on anarchists contributed to a police mindset to err, when in doubt, on the side of dramatic show of force to preempt violence rather than being subject to criticism for avoidable injury and destruction based on a reserved presence of police force."

The problem is that this is all a closed-loop system. In Miami, Police Chief John Timoney brayed about "anarchists," and the press swallowed it whole. Timoney made it sound as if anyone who wanted to protest were an "anarchist." As it turned out, according to eyewitness accounts and several news articles, cops on the street practiced prior restraint on protesters, herding them around and hassling them before they had a chance to even peacefully assemble where they wanted to.

Already, convention protest groups here are abuzz about the run-up to Friday night's "Life After Capitalism" conference at Hunter College.

The New York Post fed the flames on August 16 with "Finest Prep for Anarchy," saying that "cops are bracing for radical attempts to 'shut down' " the convention and that a "war council" to plan protests was scheduled for Hunter on Friday. Organizers said online that Hunter officials were leaning toward not requiring the group to pay thousands of dollars extra for insurance and security—until the Post story. Then, officials at the college, according to the organizers, threatened to shut down the event unless the extra dough was paid. A crowd of 2,000 packed the place anyway, the organizers said online.

At least the Post referred to the organizers as "radicals and other activists." In the Times, meanwhile, Archibold dutifully quoted Timoney (who apparently believes that any protester is an anarchist)—without mentioning that many decidedly non-anarchist types in Miami denounced the cop's foolish words. Naturally, the Miami review panel's report wasn't mentioned. (Nor did Archibold mention Timoney's feeble testimony against Philly 2000 activist Camilo Viveiros, a housing activist who was acquitted only last April of charges stemming from the police chief's allegation that Viveiros threw a bicycle at him during the GOP convention four long years ago.)

Despite the fact that the bottom 95 percent of Americans have reason to scream and yell about Bush's economic policies, Archibold absurdly brushed as "anarchists" just about everyone who's likely to be protesting in New York City. Witness this paragraph:

Even anarchists who are against violence are warning of trouble and admit that they are planning acts of civil disobedience, including blocking intersections, staging "chaos on Broadway" when the delegates attend Broadway shows on Sunday night, holding a "die-in" near Madison Square Garden, sneaking into parties and other functions and generally harassing the 4,853 delegates and alternate delegates.

Oooh, "acts of civil disobedience"! Must be some darn "anarchist," like Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr.

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