31 January 2012

Media Politics and the American Flag

Photograph © Beck Diefenbach. AP Caption: Occupy Oakland protestors burn
an American flag found inside Oakland City Hall during an Occupy Oakland
protest on the steps of City Hall, Saturday, January 28, 2012, in Oakland, Calif.

Occupy is back in the American news again after something of a lull. The authorities in Oakland and Washington, DC are pressuring activists in predictable ways, taking up again the wave of arrests and evictions and brutality, that they initiated earlier in the winter. Much of the mainstream media in the U.S, has shifted attention, becoming preoccupied with the family feud that passes for politics among Republicans. Both The Guardian and The Nation, however, have maintained pretty consistent, ongoing reporting here and here respectively. That said, the mainstream media does seem intent on presenting the Occupy folks as dangerous, violent louts.

When I saw the picture above my initial response was "how stupid!"; and I immediately began to wonder how many of the Occupy folks in Oakland or elsewhere would sanction this action. Few I assumed. I am not one for "venerating" the flag or any other political symbol or idea. (I don't think one can desecrate things that are not sacred.) But as a tactical matter this sort of behavior is simply adolescent and stupid. How might you better alienate virtually all of the 99% in the U.S.? So it is nice to see this smart and timely commentary from my friend Michael Shaw over at BagNewsNotes documenting how photo editors across the nation converged on the flag burners and not on those who objected to their antics.

Photograph © Beck Diefenbach/AP. Caption: A woman pleads with Occupy
Oakland protestors to not burn an American flag found inside Oakland City
Hall during an Occupy Oakland protest, Saturday, January 28, 2012, in
Oakland, Calif. Police were in the process of arresting about 100 Occupy
protesters for failing to disperse Saturday night, hours after officers used
tear gas on a rowdy group of demonstrators who threw rocks and flares at
them and tore down fences.

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