November 26, 2014 by gregrabidoux2013
I’d like to say no but the reality is it probably could. And honestly, it does, every day.
Let me try and explain.
Last night I was in Atlanta. I am actually doing a freelance piece on the reaction in Atlanta and specifically, the protests in front of the CNN building in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. Several hundred protesters, many of them students who were bused in to Atlanta for the event, were largely peaceful but pointed. In short, they came with a purpose-To send a message that justice was not served in Ferguson, that “it” could happen anywhere in America and that CNN should do more in its coverage to discuss the roots of racial rage in urban areas across our nation and not just show the lawlessness in Ferguson on TV.
After taking in the protests at the street-level (in Atlanta on Spring Street), I, like millions of my fellow Americans, watched the television coverage of the Ferguson protests as well as the many orchestrated protests in many of our larger cities, like NYC and LA.
Don’t tell Ted Turner but even though I was staying the night in the CNN-Omni hotel, I also watched the FOX coverage, you know, just to try and be fair and balanced.
What I saw didn’t shock me too much. Concern and sadness, yes. Shock, no.
The were crowds in Ferguson who looked like a mixture of local community members genuinely feeling equal parts outrage and equal parts sadness while voicing their support for Michael Brown and his surviving family members. There were hooligans and looters who wanted to exploit the scene for their gain, be it stealing stereo and cellular phone equipment or knocking over convenience stores. There were some “professional agitators” who are well trained in escalating emotions to the tipping point for their own political and policy agendas. There were business owners and shopkeepers who couldn’t believe “it” was happening in their neighborhood. And these folks weren’t sure if they had the money, the time or frankly, the heart, to re-build and make a go of it again in Ferguson.
Living in Washington DC and still traveling there at east part-time for work projects, I have probably become calloused, maybe too calloused at what I often see are what I call “professional protests.” These are well-financed, media-savvy folks with sophisticated training and techniques to ensure they “frame” the media coverage with their desired message…often being totally ignorant of or indifferent of any “bad facts” that might hurt or even sabotage their “narrative.”
I sometimes think of the old joke about the protester with the sign that says “The World Will End Tomorrow” who turns to his buddy at the end of the day and says “Hey, good work today, see ya tomorrow morning.”
For many folks in DC, protests are just another tool in the advocacy and public-influencing tool box. When it’s over I know for a fact that many will be riding the metro the next day, headed back into their offices on M Street, checking to see the latest polls and media numbers they helped generate, usually for other clients or sponsors footing the bill.
Call it the cost of doing democracy in the 21st century.
Obviously, many of the folks in Ferguson were less organized and orchestrated in their approach. Rage, frustration and a feeling of unfairness in the judicial system seemed to fuel them to hit the streets day after day.
These protesters, or what I call the “Genuinely Disenchanted,” have also felt that the media focused too much on some of the violence, looting and destruction of public property and not the “message.”
Last night, as I flipped back and forth between CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Megan Kelly and Sean Hannity at FOX, I looked for how they were “framing” the protests. FOX spent, by my unofficial count, 7 minutes straight showing live coverage of protesters (rioters?) trying to burn an unmanned Ferguson police car and eventually flipping it over (it actually fell back on its 4 wheels and then the group kind of gave up or got bored or were chased away as they went on to their next target).
FOX commentators made the point at least 12 times (again by my count) that everyone who “threw a rock, a bottle or vandalized” should be arrested and tossed into jail. Former NYC Mayor Rudy Guiliani went as far as to say that the Missouri Governor should have said that if he needed 50,000 more troops to arrest everyone who broke the law that was fine and that he “would find a jail somewhere for everyone.”
CNN’s Anderson Cooper and then Don Lemon seemed to want to focus on what happens next for Ferguson and if this area could “re-build” or if it was essentially finished.
Both CNN and FOX also ran live video of a group of youths in LA who seemed really “hell-bent” on breaking a chain-link fence to, I guess, be able to run down a hill and disrupt traffic below on a freeway.
Why they didn’t just jump the fence I am not sure. It didn’t look too high to me. But then, I am not accusing any of the youths in that group of being geniuses of the type we see on the new show “Scorpion.”
Before the night was over (or at least my eyes got really heavy, around 2 am) I saw and heard from law enforcement officials, Officer Wilson (the shooter), the family of Michael Brown, the attorney for the Brown family (who struggled to get in a word edgewise while being “interviewed” by Sean Hannity), a former Mayor of Ferguson, the Lt. Governor and Governor of MO, church leaders, business owners, shopkeepers, experts of all types, shapes and sizes and the “usual suspects (Sean, Bill, Rush, Geraldo and Nancy Grace).
And lots of people in the streets. Most of whom wanted “justice: of some type or another though one guy late in the night said he was looking for a “bar that was open” so he may have been the only one with a very different, though still specific, agenda.
In short, FOX seemed intensely focused on the need to restore law and order and to arrest a whole lot more folks as well as why the National Guard wasn’t called sooner than any other story line. CNN raised more questions about the future of not just Ferguson but race relations across America.
Honestly, I found space in my own heart for both topics and more last night.
But all the while, I mostly wondered, could this explosion of anger, rage, violence and conflict find its way to my neighborhood? For that matter, any and all neighborhoods or communities in our country?
My gut feeling is sadly, yes. I opened this blog with asserting that “it” was already happening across America.
What I mean by that is the feelings of frustration, inequality, barely simmering below the surface racism, and a sense that the “system” and the “man” is not set up in “your” favor is certainly not limited to or somehow isolated to Ferguson, MO.
And what I just described above is a toxic brew just ready to be served, spilled really, in any neighborhood. It seems to be just waiting for the right “topper.
And until we find a way to get at those “roots of rage” the students at CNN spoke of, until we find a way to treat each other with at the very least a genuine resect, regardless of race or background, then Ferguson is just another way of spelling the name of the place you (and I) call home.