The rules of objectivity in journalism are fake.
The following is an excerpt from Lockdown in Hell World: Dispatches from the American Dystopia by Luke O’Neil. Luke is a former Dig editor and perhaps the most prolific published writer and reporter in the region, and so we didn’t edit him at all. His writing speaks for itself, right down to his unconventional grammar. -(Current) Dig Editors
It’s June and one thing I would like to see come out of all this besides all the other necessary things is for media to please stop considering the police a reliable source when reporting on activities they themselves are a party to. Journalists are petrified of writing that anything happened without an official government account giving them permission because they think that provides them cover if it turns out to be a lie. But with cops it almost always is a lie. Police lie. Say that to yourself. Remember it.
When someone is arrested reporters might get a statement from them or their lawyer but it’s considered de facto suspicious because they’re clearly biased whereas the cops’ statement is much more heavily weighted and the similar bias is ignored.
This is why I always say the media consider themselves a deputized branch of the police. And for nothing but deference to power! They get nothing out of it and the rest of us in the public and in particular the ones being brutalized suffer for it.
The rules of objectivity in journalism are fake. People literally just made them up! They aren’t the laws of physics. You’re already failing your dumb frat pledge honor code of objectivity by trusting the cops so there’s no reason why you can’t adjust the dial to always start trusting the people being harmed by state violence.
Not that it matters I guess. There isn’t going to be any media left besides like five giant corporations soon so who cares.
I marched again in Boston this weekend peacefully and without much of note to report besides a rising sense of solidarity. The eeriness of a city being largely empty and yet filled with activity all pointed in one direction was unsettling like well I keep wanting to say everything is like something from a film but it’s not films are like something from life. Had I known I was going to have to commute regularly to my new job at the protest factory I might’ve picked a place to live closer to the city before moving to the suburbs just as the pandemic struck. It’s hard to report on a march while you’re in the midst of it because it feels so massive and bigger than you and it’s more than any individual that makes up a piece of the whole. You can talk to a person but you can’t interview a crowd and in any case for a couple of weeks I wanted to stop being a reporter and just be there to take part.
It’s really weird to bump into people at a march when we’re all wearing masks by the way. People you’re very happy to see but you can’t get too close to them or hug them or even give a fist bump. I want to hug everyone I know and tell them everything is going to get better but I don’t know that I could say so earnestly. I guess since I’m wearing a mask they wouldn’t be able to read my face and know that I was lying.
Mostly at every march I’ve been to I’ve stayed to the side not in the thick of the crowd walking along at a slight remove. To be honest I’m kind of scared of catching Covid at one of these things.
On Monday we went to a protest at the Robbins House a “historic early 19th century house formerly inhabited by the first generation of descendants of formerly enslaved African American Revolutionary War veteran Caesar Robbins and by fugitive slave Jack Garrison.” It was . . . nice and well-meaning but also sort of weird due to it’s in Concord which is one of the richest towns in all of Massachusetts with about a 2% African American population. To get there we had to cross the highway on some literal “other side of the tracks” shit from our modest town and we almost crashed like five times from gawking at all the mansions that line the streets. Is that a house or an entire Colonial-ass looking hotel I asked like five times.
One of the speakers drew parallels between the situation today and Tulsa’s “Black Wall Street” massacre. A number of Black folks from the local community spoke and some of them were powerful and stirring and then they opened it up to everyone and there were a lot of earnest speeches from white people but then a little girl came up and started talking about her coloring book and making the people Black and some other woman chided people for beef on the local town Facebook page which was funny to see at a time like this but I believed her because local town Facebook pages are basically Klan rallies and then the cop chief came up and said some shit about disavowing the tactics used on George Floyd but you could tell he was sort of lying because cops cannot speak without lying as I mentioned earlier. Then I had to leave before I did something stupid like go up there and get myself into trouble.
So then we walked across the street to the Old North Bridge the spot where the first American militiamen—organized protests!—got their shit together to fight back against the British and I thought this is a great place to be right now how moving and powerful and shit and I thought mostly that I could probably go for a really nice jog around here.
Then the next night I went to another suburban protest nearby and another and they kept going for days around here just hundreds and hundreds of largely white suburban kids shouting and yelling and waving signs all in their masks and it was something like inspiring. It was all miles away from the cities where police are their worst but something had broken open in the country and the people who generally don’t have to worry about police violence themselves had decided to make it their problem now too.
Not long after that on a Tuesday evening in the first week of June Donald Trump ordered the area outside the White House cleared of protesters by law enforcement who used tear gas and flash-bang grenades to dispel the crowd. The impetus was a staged photo opportunity in front of the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church, which was quickly condemned by religious leaders.
“Let me be clear, the president just used a Bible, the most sacred text of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and one of the churches of my diocese, without permission, as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus,” The Right Rev Mariann Budde, the Episcopal bishop of Washington, told the Washington Post.
Asked by a reporter if the prop was his Bible, Trump responded: “It’s a Bible.”
It’s September and I just saw a story that the Department of Defense’s lead military officer in D.C. considered using a fucking heat ray against protestors the day he did his little stunt. In a discussion about whether or not to use it the military guys noted the weapon “can provide our troops a capability they currently do not have, the ability to reach out and engage potential adversaries at distances well beyond small arms range, and in a safe, effective, and non-lethal manner” by providing “a sensation of intense heat on the surface of the skin. The effect is overwhelming, causing an immediate repel response by the targeted individual.”
Previously our government had considered using the skin-cooking laser on migrants at the border in the lead up to the 2018 midterms.
It’s weird isn’t it that it occurs to us that the government microwaving citizens is somehow so much worse than just breaking their skulls and bones or blasting them with poison gas or shooting bullets at them but I suppose it is because it seems new and novel. Maybe someday it will seem old hat. Everything that is bad and new seems a worse type of bad and then once it becomes merely bad and old it’s easier to accept and that applies to types of state violence and also every single other thing done by this administration in general.