Friday, October 28, 2011


Star-Advertiser’s coverage of the Occupy movement borders on journalistic malpractice

by Larry Geller

I doubt any of us have seen anything like the spread of the Occupy protests before in our lifetimes. Occupiers in cities across the USA and around the world are gaining support from unions, office workers, and ordinary people. Governments are so concerned that upwards of 2,500 people have been arrested in this country so far (my number is certainly obsolete as I type it). Police are reacting with increasing violence.

In Oakland, the size of the police assault was unprecedented and has attracted national and worldwide concern. But not so much in the Star-Advertiser.

If you subscribe, check out the articles that are finally appearing on the spreading Occupy movement. It’s shameful. They can no longer ignore it without demonstrating obvious bias, but the articles they’ve aggregated for printing have been critical, inadequate, and today, rather mocking. There’s news out there for the reporting, instead they brought us the cookie monster.

Most S-A coverage has been derogatory, few articles have been comprehensive or closely tracked events. You’d come away with the impression that the demonstrators are bad, lazy, bent on frustrating the police. Today was the last straw. Yes, it’s a large article, but one selected to mock and belittle the movement.

The article is padded with stuff like:

The online spoof “Occupy Sesame Street” features digitally altered pictures of Elmo, Grover and the gang being handed off by New York City Police along with the claim that “99% of the world’s cookies are consumed by 1% of the monsters.”

While the viral spread of the word “Occupy” is certainly newsworthy, the Star-Advertiser’s selection of news belittles the size, scope and depth of the movement. The short article on Thursday lacked the pictures of the violence that could have given a sense of the Oakland police rioting and assaults on the protesters that lead to apologies by the Oakland mayor and the police chief’s visit to the hospital. What hospital, you may ask? The police fired a tear gas canister that hit 24-year-old Iraq War veteran and former Marine Scott Olsen in the head, fracturing his skull and injuring his brain. He’s in a hospital, in a coma, not that you’d learn much about it from your newspaper.

The tactic itself should concern all of us. It will never be established whether the canister was fired at Olsen deliberately. That tactic is used by brutal Israeli police. No one can prove it was done on purpose.

Interim Police Chief Howard Jordan said he visited the hospital where Olsen is recovering. He did not see Olsen, but spoke with his parents.

As the Occupy Wall Street movement continues to evolve, it is quickly becoming clear that Oakland is at the vanguard.
"It was not what anyone hoped for, ultimately it was my responsibility, and I apologize for what happened," a statement from [Oakland Mayor Jean] Quan said about the violence.

[San Jose Mercury News, Occupy San Jose protest remains quiet and small while Oakland roars and shines, 10/28/2011]

Articles about Olsen and his hoped-for recovery are not hard to find, but not in the Star-Advertiser. The Oakland encampment has been re-built perhaps even larger than before, and the mayor declined to tear it down. Note the headline linked above—that newspaper is expressing an unusually positive attitude, but one that reflects the achievements of the movement.

In Los Angeles, the mayor has distributed ponchos to their rain-soaked demonstrators, we learn from the LA Times. Front-page news in many papers has been positive, though some municipalities are getting weary of the ongoing occupation. Today’s Guardian ran a large front-page story about a church that hasn’t kicked demonstrators from its property.  There’s plenty of news.

The Occupy movement is spreading. Perhaps that’s what scares corporations and much of the media—the movement is catching on and could become an agent of change. It’s too early to say what it might achieve.

But the world, if not our Star-Advertiser editors, is following the movement closely.

Tuesday's Occupy Oakland clash with the police has left ripples, not only through the local community, but worldwide. 

Pro-democracy protesters in Egypt took the streets and marched in solidarity from Tahrir Square to the U.S. Embassy. 

Many held signs encouraging the movement to stay strong, while others voiced disapproval of the police brutality against protesters.

[nbcbayarea, Egyptians March for Occupy Oakland, 10/28/2011]

Perhaps the spotlight the police have placed on their violence will help discourage similar brutal attacks, at least for a short time:

U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., who said she supports the movement, issued a statement Thursday commenting on the violent tactics police used against the peaceful protest Tuesday night.

"I shared my outrage and grave concern about the police brutality in Oakland directly with the mayor," Lee said. "My thoughts go out to the injured and especially Scott Olsen."

[nbcbayarea, Egyptians March for Occupy Oakland, 10/28/2011]


"There is no honor hurting unarmed civilians",Sgt. Shamac Thomas USMC to New York Police Dept.The police departments are required by the First Admendment to the Constitution to uphold citizens freedom of religion, speech, rights of assembly and petition.The occupying provides an opportunity to re-evaluate our government's action. Police department should support the citizens without physical harm.

Mahalo Scott Olsen.

Send postcards/flowers to:
USMC Scott Olsen
Highland Hospital
1411 E. 31st St.
Oakland, Ca. 94602

while it may not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt whether there was an intent to fire at olson, in a civil case, proof is only required by a preponderance of the evidence (that it is more likely than not).

as to the first anonymous's comment: the first amendment is not an absolute right and there are times when people's freedom to do whatever they like must be limited by the needs of the collective. that being said, one of the highest values of civil disobedience is the elevation of some greater principle than the previously decided public policy choices that the present laws support. in other words, occupying wall street, regardless of its illegality under present law, is morally justified under the circumstances. the philosophical principles that animate the first amendment are important, but it is from another source by which the occupy america movement gathers its force. all great social movements understand this point.

Hello, most of these protests are occupying public parks or spaces without permit, whereas all other law abiding protests obtain a permit and post a bond or provide insurance against damages. In one city the Tea Party is suing to have 2 $10,000.00 permit fees refunded as they had to pay for permits while the 'Occupy' groups ignore permit requirements. Police themselves are being attacked and injured by the protesters. Armed militias participate in Phoenix with little or no comment or criticism. Rapes, theft, failure to treat homeless participants as equals for food rations, and persistent exclusion of the public from their parks are treated as of no account. The right of the people to peaceably assemble yes, but to occupy persistently? Star Advertiser may not be covering it well but the internet is amply covering these things and.... it ain't a pretty sight.

Armed militias??? Police injured? Exclusion of the public? Got any credible citations for all this?

With the upper 1% owning Congress and the US Supreme Court the Occupy Wall Street movement has no choice but to defend the US Constitution in the streets.

Not sure if you'd consider the Neo Nazis a militia organization, but they are patroling "Occupy Phoenix" protestors.

I just Googled it up and found tons of blogs, and news agencies covering stories such as assualt rifles at Occupy Atlanta, Nazis at Occupy Pheonix, Rapes, and assaults happening at these events. I have not found a story yet about polices injured though. (Unless you consider a police officer getting hit by a paintball on the neck an injury.)

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