Usually I quite enjoy getting my conservative news from the National Review Online. I have a great deal of respect for the late William F. Buckley, Jr., and I think that modern conservatism owes him a huge intellectual debt – the largest of which is that he made it possible to be a conservative intellectual. When uncouth, unlettered and unprincipled buffoons are bumbling for the GOP presidential nomination, the National Review is often a voice of (at minimum) some precision and (occasionally) fairly sharp insight into the issues of the day. In particular, while readers and commenters frequently invoke God to defend their positions (a recent comment I read suggested that the GOP should stop worrying about policy, and instead listen to God to choose their presidential candidate. This person then concluded that Santorum or Bachmann should take the cake due to the strength of their convictions) the actual editorial board has something smarter to say for itself.
But, on their coverage of Occupy Wall Street, they’ve got it all wrong. Primarily, I’m speaking about one article entitled “Occupy Wall Street Blotter” which covers the “crime wave” by protestors across America. It’s basically a list of arrests and charges that have occurred at OWS affiliates gathered to discredit the protestors, painting them as decidedly not peaceful or law-abiding. There is a case to be made here – the New York Post, for example, has detailed some of the allegations of sexual abuse, rape, petty theft, etc. that has occurred in Zuccotti Park.
But the National Review coverage borders on the ridiculous, and here’s why:
1. It lists arrests for “unlawful assembly,” “failure to disperse,” “disorderly conduct,” and “resisting arrest.” No shit. It’s a protest. It is a necessary condition for a sit-in or occupation that it is an “unlawful assembly,” and if protestors dispersed at first request, that diminishes the entire point of staging a protest. As for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, same thing goes I’m afraid. When police advance with riot gear, tear gas, random pepper sprayings (in NYC) it stands to reason that these things are going to occur. This is not necessarily a defense of resisting arrest or disorderly conduct, but the context needs to be established. This is not a car thief resisting arrest, or a felon escaping capture. These are people making a political point. It doesn’t necessarily excuse them, but the lack of context is simply irresponsible journalism.
2. It lists relatively mundane crimes such as public urination. So what? Any main entertainment drag in any major city is going to have tickets for public urination issued on Friday and Saturday evenings. This is barely a crime, and depending how its done (such as a chap who pissed on an NYPD vehicle) you could even argue it’s a political statement.
3. This sort of irresponsible coverage distracts from the very real crimes that are occurring. Tonye Ikebutosin allegedly assaulted one woman and raped another at Occupy Wall Street, where he was working in the kitchen. This sort of crime is problematic; the abuse of the miniature transgender conclave by other protestors is unacceptable, and the danger that exists for women participating in the movement is cause for concern.
4. Last, but certainly not least, there is absolutely no mention of the (if not quite criminal) thuggish actions of police. There have been reports that police have used their weapons without acceptable restraint, pepper spraying indiscriminately for example. Indeed, at McGill University in Montreal, police used tear gas on peaceably assembled protestors who were congregated outdoors. NYPD have pepper sprayed people lawfully contained behind barriers. And, absolutely most concerning are reports that Oakland police officers have taped over their name tags to avoid accountability.
As always, the civil liberties of the protestors is the paramount concern, and the press should be acting as a check on the power of government, not a mouthpiece for it. Even conservatives should be concerned with the fundamental constitutional rights of their intellectual opponents, and should advocate for law and order only insofar as the police are participating within their prescribed boundaries.
That’s it, that’s all. Considering all y’all who actually read this are Canadian, I suggest you keep an eye on what’s going on at McGill University. Whether or not you agree with the protests, the flagrant disregard for civil liberties, and the over-militarization of the police force (and insult, I think, to our men and women serving in the military) are cause for some concern.
In a prescient moment of The Simpsons, when Homer has formed a vigilante squad, Lisa asks “If you’re the police, who will police the police?” His response: “I dunno. Coast Guard?” That seems to be the attitude of most people. My opinion: If you’ve got a camera on your phone, use it. Citizen journalism (think Rodney King) is the surest way to keep the police restrained within their legal boundaries.