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Ignorance Is Strength

By       Message Bob Patterson     Permalink
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The Island on the USS Hornet

On Wednesday, May 9, 2012, the World's Laziest Journalist went to San Francisco Public Library's main branch to see what books were being offered at the front steps sale of used books and we didn't expect to cover any news.   After buying a copy of Hunter S. Thompson's "The Great shark Hunt," in good condition with the dust jacket in used condition, we noticed that some event was going on in front of City Hall.   We were carrying our trusty Nikon Coolpix, just in case.   We wandered over and found that medical care for the pets of the homeless people was being provided.   Thinking this might provide some good material for a column, we took a few pictures.   Next thing we knew a young lady came up and advised us that we should ask permission to take any photos.  

We improvised a better suggestion:   since the World's Laziest Journalist's experience assessing newsworthiness stretches back to Sixties and since new trends in journalism keep happening, we should defer to the young lady's editorial expertise and let her organization hire a PR firm so that they could very carefully micro-manage the news and the group's message to potential donors.

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On Saturday, we were in downtown Berkeley CA talking with a fellow who has been active in the Occupy movement in Oakland and Berkeley and we mentioned that we were planning to go over to the Occupy the Farm protest being conducted on land owned by the University of California in Albany CA.   Our contact advised us that if we did we should make it a point to ask for permission to take any photos because, he informed us, Occupy protesters are not taking kindly to outsiders insinuating themselves into the narrative of their complaints.

Back in the Seventies, Vietnam Veterans held a sit-in in the lobby of the VA Hospital in the Westwood Section of Los Angeles.   Since one of the summer temps at the Santa Monica Independent Journal newspapers was majoring in photojournalism in college, we advised him that the Occupy the VA Hospital -- did they call it "Occupy the VA Hospital"? (Whatever.) -- might be an opportunity for both of us to do some freelance news photography work.  

Early one morning, the police came and very gently and respectfully removed the protesters (Wasn't the photo of Ron Kovic that ran in the New York Times the next day, a great shot?) from the facility.   The summer hire was also present for the news event and he took photos that appeared on the front page of the Los Angeles Times, the next day.   One of his pictures was used by the Associate Press wirephoto division.  

Our past experience indicated that there would be a window of opportunity for some (possibly) dramatic news photos to be taken when the looming confrontation at the Occupy the Farm site occurred.

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Unfortunately the young fellow who took the photos of the news event at the VA wasn't available on the morning of Monday, May 14, 2012, (last we heard he was working in L. A. as a staff photographer for the L. A. Times [he'd be in his mid fifties now and perhaps we shouldn't use the expression "young lad"?]) and since it seemed that both the Police and the protesters don't want the World's Laziest Journalist to take unauthorized photographs at news events, the decision to stay in bed on Monday morning when the protesters were being evicted from the Albany site and not be concerned was a gimme.

On KCBS news radio, the reporter said that some of the protesters had to be wrestled to the ground while being arrested.   Obviously, if the police didn't follow standard procedures during the round-up, the protesters will provide photographic evidence of any potential and hypothetical misconduct and it will "go viral" on the Intenets.

There was going to be a protest march in Berkeley on Tuesday, we learned.   When we attempted to ask some of the Shattuck Avenue panhandlers about the potential protest, they didn't have any particulars but when we mentioned skipping it because of a lack of enthusiasm about the new trend in journalism, a street people woman became very adamant in explaining the nuts and bolts details of journalism to this columnist.   People in a protest march have a right to privacy and must be asked for permission to take any photographs.  

Since this new meme is becoming ubiquitous and since this renders information we had gathered over the last four decades obsolete, we put it in the "straw that broke the camel's back" category and scrapped any inclination to take any pictures of the rumored protest march.   We could, we realized, do a trend-spotting column instead and stay comfortably right in the World's Laziest Journalist's world headquarters home office to write that.  

In an attempt to defuse our strong reaction to this new insight into contemporary journalism, we picked up our newly acquired copy of Tom Wolfe's "The Pump House Gang" (which we bought at the Berkeley Public Library) and began reading his article about Marshall McLuhan titled "What if he is right?"  

That got us thinking.   What if the lady is right?   What if the Protest March itself and not the Occupy Wall Street political agenda is the message?   We could write a McLuhanesque column and proclaim that the Protest March has become the protesters' version of the Hollywood tradition of walking the red carpet.  

We immediately recognized that watching the Murdochization of the news business is a serious matter and, like the news stories from Europe in the late Thirties warning about the dire implications of Hitler's rise to power, should be regarded as an ominous topic.

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There are two ways to look at the lady's fervor:   either she is being unwittingly duped into aiding and abetting Rupert Murdoch's attempt to scuttle real journalism, or the people strongly urging her to protect the right to privacy are mole agent provocateurs consciously sabotaging the movement's own efforts to increase public awareness of the Occupy Wall Street political agenda.   Whatever.   The bottom line, either way, is that the conservative cause is being helped and the OWS program is being damaged.

The "ask permission" meme is as insulting to the basic tenants of journalism (as intended by the much revered "founding fathers" of American Democracy) as that lady (presumably) would be if she were offered the advice:   "Get a job!"   There is a school of Journalism at the University that is up the hill, so she could probably get a teaching job there, eh?

The diabolical self defeating aspect of this new attitude among protesters is very reminiscent of the dirty tricks stunts that were a hallmark of the Karl Rove political strategy.   Could it possibly be that . . . .   We will send our suspicions to the tips editor at the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory and see if we can win their "News Tip of the Month" award for May.

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BP graduated from college in the mid sixties (at the bottom of the class?) He told his draft board that Vietnam could be won without his participation. He is still appologizing for that mistake. He received his fist photo lesson from a future (more...)

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