Last night in Oakland, just as in Boston and other cities before it, police swept in late at night under cover of darkness upon unarmed peaceful protestors and did their best imitation of Egypt’s secret police thugs. They fired tear gas canisters and rubber bullets then would not allow protestors to tend to the wounded. Shall we remind the police constabularies in all Occupy cities how Cairo ended up?
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In politics and business you never want to see a Day 2 story. Just yesterday the media were writing and saying as the Occupy movement digs in for the long haul, “they run the risk of people losing interest and media coverage.” Last night pretty much ended that chance.
When Egyptian police thugs entered Tahrir Square on horseback and camel, that began days and nights of medieval violence and death that did not really end until Wael Ghonim was released, cried on national television and enraged a nation because he’d been held hooded and in a dark room for 12-days for writing a blog. That rage was what Egypt rode through to the resignation of Mubarak.
It would have ended much differently if NYPD’s Joey Baloney resisted the urge to mace the young ladies, the police let protestors occupy Brooklyn Bridge for a few hours instead of arresting 700 of them, let Occupy protestors use megaphones, computers and keep their tents… The cameras would have stayed home and there is no ‘Day 2’ story. Police patience would eventually win the day in New York and, perhaps, in Cairo. But they are like Pavlovian dogs with power and authority. They cannot control themselves and this, more than anything, is why these movements succeed.
“The problem is what happens to coverage on the second day. Most news directors have the attention span of a 4-year old and think the audience is the same… so they must reinvent the wheel daily rather than stick with a slowly developing story.
The majority of those initially covering Egypt knew a very big demonstration happened on Tuesday but there were six demonstrations in the days leading up to and including January 25, 2011. Following Tunisia’s lead, protestors headed to the streets in Jordan on the 14th to protest King Abdullah II’s dismissal of government leaders. Next came protests in Mauritania, Sudan, Oman, Yemen and by the 21st, several demonstrations broke out in Saudi Arabia forcing minor concessions and bucket loads of cash to workers from King Abdullah.
The result was that most of the news media were not really sure that what was happening in Egypt on 25 January was a major event. One can imagine editorial meetings inside the BBC, CNN and Aljazeera, “yeah it was big, several folks clashed, a few reportedly died in outlying cities but we have no pictures so… what’s the next item on the agenda.”
Nearly any person or company can withstand the brief body blows of a Day 1 story. News organisations are designed to produce Day 1 stories and move on to the next one. A Day 2 story, one that because of the reaction caused a second article to appear, because then other news outlets would become involved and it would no longer be a controllable event. Even with extensive investigative research most of the stories we read in the paper or see on the telly die with that edition… unless they become a Day 2 story.
How they become a Day 2 story is that most executives and leaders react STRONGLY and try to EMOTIONALLY defend themselves from the Day 1 story. That is also what we in the media count on and because of the reaction; you have a Day 2 story.
Had Mubarak and his police force eased up and followed this advice, the revolution might have been a one-day story like most others in the region were. To the other countries it offered some sort of compromise for those protesting so everybody got a partial victory.
But Egypt was a land with a police force suffering from a form of violence Tourette’s syndrome. They would seemingly attack anyone at any time for any reason to keep everyone on their toes.
As a nation it had suffered from being ruled by strong man dictators for almost 60-years. Naguib, Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak were all iron men with ruthless and ambitious people working underneath them. While hindsight is 20-20 and there were many issues at work: what If Mubarak had controlled the police force and let the youth get away with an ill-timed day of protest and embarrassment? Would the movement then have slipped back into anonymity? If yes, who knows where this revolution would have ended?”
Scott Olsen, 24, an Iraq War veteran lays critically injured in Oakland by a tear gas canister fired at his face. Imagine surviving tours of duty in Iraq only to have your life threatened at home because the protest is inconvenient for Oakland’s city fathers? He sustained a skull fracture, brain swelling and is currently in critical condition for exercising his Constitutional right of free speech and assembly?
Oakland Police have displayed past thuggish, criminal behaviour in the past. Crowds of people were outraged when an officer was cleared of killing an unarmed black man on the subway a few years back, so no one was surprised it turned violent there.
The police thought they would end the Occupy movement by force in Oakland, take out the hippies. All they did was enrage EVERYONE and maybe someday the police of Oakland will realise that these kids were also fighting for them.
The police are the 99%. They have suffered draconian budget and personnel cuts and are asked to do far more with less resources. In Boston, the garbage collectors returned all of the protestors’ belongings they were ordered to haul away in trucks after police dismantled their camp saying, “hey, we’re also the 99%.”
Now, as in Egypt, the Oakland Police have awakened the people. Just as in Egypt, fear died last night and one can only hope this young man is not the Occupy movement’s first real martyr.
Now though it first gets very ugly because you truly can’t fix stupid.
UPDATED: Scott Olsen’s condition on Thursday was upgraded to Fair.