As protests over the murder of George Floyd continue across the country there are fresh debates among radicals about the best methods for social protest. I am in favor of a concept known as “diversity of tactics”, a set of ideas that accepts a wide range of activity from non violent civil disobedience to militant, and sometimes violent, direct action. Different situations require different means of resistance, rebellion and hopefully, revolution. When it comes to getting the knee off of the neck of Black people, ‘by whatever means necessary’ means all of those tactics. Over the past few days I’ve been fortunate enough to have been present at very militant actions in the San Francisco bay area. Like you, I’m sure, I’ve also been watching other protests across the country. And, like you, I’ve noticed that news coverage of these protests, be they passive or aggressive, tends to be somewhat frustrating. No, that’s not quite right. News coverage is abominable, a disgrace to the fourth estate. That’s better.
Now we all know that the mainstream media–fake and real news included–promotes unquestioning sycophants and only occasionally breaks free from self-imposed blinders to actually report on anything of value. So we don’t expect much coverage of militant resistance to the murder of Black people to be very accurate or informative. But still, even Noam Chomsky will argue that there is a nominally free press in the United States, however much this fourth estate is also complicit in manufacturing consent. But I’ve got to tell you, I’m not sure how free that free press is anymore. When covering these uprisings virtually every mainstream (and not a few alternative) reporters somehow feel it a necessary and good thing to whinge. You know what that is–when someone’s mouth is moving and they are complaining in a persistent and peevish or irritating way such that they end up not really saying anything of value at all. To this whinging is inevitably added moralizing. These guardians of the intolerable status quo not only complain about the inconvenience of their beloved Whole Foods being emptied of merchandise, they describe such activity as inherently wrong, even evil. You know what I’m talking about. In this case such reporters aren’t reporting so much as emoting.
This raises a question. Isn’t a basic function of the fourth estate to report? Shouldn’t that reporting include, if not be limited to, Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How? How is it that every dip-shit with a microphone suddenly feels empowered to tell us, in cringeworthy and excruciating detail, how they feel about everything? What their opinion is? Perhaps an answer lies in the fact that reporters have become celebrities and thereby entitled to inflict their singular pathologies on us. Oh, I know. I can just choose not to watch and listen. But that’s not true, is it? If I want actual reporting that informs I have no real choice but to watch and listen to these narcissists because between Unicorn Riot, Redfish, and Democracy Now! there isn’t enough reporting. Our alternative media can’t get everywhere all the time. And whinging even intrudes on these platforms.
One can debate the effectiveness of marching in the streets and fighting cops at barricades so as to hold those streets, but we should all agree that plaintive cries for state and corporate power to “do better” are absurd. We need something more, and different. And look here! When comparing and contrasting previous uprisings (1969, 1992, 2014-15) with todays rebellions, isn’t it rather remarkable that so much direct expropriation is now centered not in ghettos and barrios, but on Rodeo Drive and Beverly Hills (LA), Union Square and Emeryville (Bay Area)? To me there seems to be a clear break with the dominant narrative about ‘senseless rage’ and self defeating masochism that poor and working people inflict upon themselves when they ‘riot’ and ‘loot’. But you wouldn’t know it from most reporters–they are too busy crying about people blocking traffic and how ‘mom and pop’ businesses like Target and Chase Bank are being needlessly attacked.
I haven’t found a single television report that isn’t saturated with these disgusting displays of shock and awe larded with denunciations of property damage and resistance to cops in our streets. A recent example is instructive here. I just watched a reporter and camera person covering some people engaged in expropriation at a Whole Foods in Santa Monica, California. The reporter was whinging ad nauseam and speculating wildly about how the “looters” must be “outsiders”. Then, the camera person purposefully focused on the license plate of a car being used to load liberated merchandise. The crowd noticed this and chased these “emoters” off. When one of these august members of the fourth estate gets killed, we will remember that they took sides and joined the battle–on the wrong side. They won’t be whinging then, because they weren’t actually reporting–they were being cops with press credentials.