In response to the News & Record on May Day

News & Record editorial writer Doug Clark offered his thoughts on some of the May Day protests that happened in the US yesterday, but reading his post (available here) I couldn't help but wonder which "goons" he was talking about. I too, have seen images and reports of demonstrators smashing windows and breaking other law, but I've also seen videos like this one (near 3:20) of police heavy-handedness. 

Clark's characterization of demonstrators is noticeably lacking a deeper analysis or research. Suggesting demonstrators have no aim and are just an unruly riotous gang  suggests a lack of understanding not only of the Occupy movement, but social movements in general, the history of May Day and the current and historic police response to such movements. 

Those who know me won't be surprised that I am pointing to history, but it's particularly relevant since these demonstrations were attached to celebrations of a holiday with roots in 1886 Chicago, a movement that is the entire reason we (or at least some of us) have an eight-hour work day. 

To engage in an uncritical dialogue about news items is a disservice to the public and also turns readers towards alternative news sources — especially the internet — because they don't feel like they can trust "the media." I would like to invite Clark and other local journalists to engage in a deeper level of reporting, analysis and conversation not just about May Day actions, but in general. 

I don't care if we agree, in fact I prefer we didn't. But we should at least articulate our position or analysis before dismissing a wide range of people. Even Clark's language that Greensboro's May Day events "didn't amount to much" is unclear and dismissive. Didn't amount to much because it was a relatively small turn out, or because there was only one arrest? Didn't amount to much because nothing was broken and there wasn't a bloody photo op? 

It worries me that this language not only dismisses everyone at the rally (and makes no mention of the fact that postal workers celebrated May Day and collaborated with City Council to fight the closure of the Four Seasons post office) but also furthers the paradigm that the "mainstream media" doesn't care about protests unless someone is cracked over the head with a police baton or throws a rock through a window. Certainly the News & Record has covered protests here that don't fit that bill (because such things don't really happen here) but Clark's language furthers that perception.

1 comment:

Eric Ginsburg said...

In response to my post, Clark wrote (on the N&R site):

"Eric Ginsburg writes: 'I couldn't help but wonder which 'goons' he was talking about.'

I made that clear: The ones who were committing acts of violence.

Maybe some people find that justifiable. I don't."

I am obviously adept enough to know that you were talking about demonstrators, but I am making a point.

There also needs to be a deeper discussion of what constitutes violence. Vandalism and violence aren't the same thing, and from what I've read and seen so far, the only people committing acts of actual violence were police, while some demonstrators committed acts of vandalism. The two are completely different and should not be used as interchangeable terms.

Brendan Kiley probably said it best: "There is an enormous moral distinction between smashing a bank window and smashing a person. Lumping the two under the umbrella of 'violence' is linguistically lazy and politically irresponsible." (full article available here:

To suggest that I said property destruction was justifiable is, again, sloppy journalism. I didn't weigh in one way or the other, but said that what happened on May Day wasn't as clear cut as the predictable and ill-informed good guys vs. bad guys dichotomy Clark set up. I agree with him in condemning the May Day violence, but since the violent goons, to borrow his language, appear to have all been law enforcement, maybe we aren't on the same page after all.