Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"The Riot" -- or How Propaganda is Done

You may have heard that there was a "riot" in Sacramento on Monday as Occupy Oakland "attacked" other demonstrators and police at the California State Capitol, "injuring" at least two officers and resulting in the arrest of at least three "black clad and bandana wearing anarchists from Oakland."

You may or may not have heard that the other demonstrators were a white supremacist group from Oakland who had a permitted event to publicize what they claimed was the "genocide" of white people in South Africa and that the Occupy Oakland group had come to Sacramento specifically to oppose their demonstration.

You more than likely heard nothing of the fact that the opposition to this white supremacist demonstration at the Capitol was composed of a number of autonomous affinity groups, and that the "riot" actually consisted of hurling mutual anathemas and epithets at one another, and that the officers who were injured apparently injured themselves -- one tackling an unidentified protestor, and one by other means unknown (you have probably heard the claim that he was maced or pepper sprayed, but if so, it wasn't by anyone in the crowd.)

You may have heard that objects such as cans, bottles, rocks and "paint filled eggs" were thrown at the police, but you probably have not heard that perhaps nothing except one paint-filled plastic baggie was actually thrown at the police, and that as a means of marking the officer as one who committed assault on demonstrators. (This tactic was also used in Oakland during some of the confrontations with police on October 25 -- after the violent eviction from Ogawa/Grant Plaza but before the wounding of Scott Olsen.)

You may or may not know that most or all of the reports about what happened that have appeared in the press and mainstream media to date were filed by people who were not there and have no first-hand knowledge. Their second and third-hand knowledge comes from interviews and statements almost exclusively from Sacramento police, California State Highway Patrol, and a very limited number of witnesses.

You also may or may not know that almost all the stories that have been filed to date about the "#F27" events at the California State Capitol have been massaged to fit a "riot" narrative heavily featuring the (scary) Occupy Oakland contingent of "black bloc anarchists" in order to frighten the bejeebers out of the old people and the horses.

This is how propaganda is done. It can be highly effective.

Note: I wasn't there, didn't even know there was going to be a "riot" to attend. I found out about it through police channels well after the events of the day. The police were calling it a "riot Downtown" and advising people to stay out of the area from very early on in the confrontation according to the reports I heard (second-hand t0 be sure.) These reports were -- so far as I was able to discern -- at least half in jest. Much was made by the police of the presence of a contingent from Occupy Oakland. The entire protest was alleged to be an "Occupy Oakland" protest, but it was not.

A point can and should be made that the police in California -- and the 1% they serve -- are terrified of the militancy of Occupy Oakland; not their "violence, " for they are not violent in any rational sense. They stand their ground in other words, and by doing so, they are examples for other Occupys. Standing ground is one of the most effective means of delegitimizing Authority.

In addition to police sources (at least second hand), I also found first hand sources on the ground, whose reports, though not perfect, at least came from within the events themselves in real time. Something that "the Media" seems incapable of doing any more, whether by intention or neglect, we'll leave it to the reader to decide.

These reports paint a very different picture of what happened -- and more to the point, why they happened.

There was a small (permitted) demonstration at the Capitol on Monday sponsored by an outfit calling itself "The South Africa Project" -- which is apparently a rather notorious white supremacist affinity group (widely scattered throughout the country) which focuses on the "genocide" of whites by blacks in South Africa. These sorts of claims of whites being mindlessly slaughtered by gibbering blacks and other Natives of course has a long and miserable history in this country and throughout the Euro centers of the Universe. There are always gibbering Natives slaughtering Peaceful and Civilized White Folk somewhere; it's just the way things are. It's a wonder there are any White Folk left. /snark

There was an unpermitted demonstration against "The South Africa Project" at the Capitol that involved at least 100 and perhaps more protestors including contingents from Oakland and elsewhere in the Bay Area as well as locations in the Central Valley. (California geography lesson: Oakland is about 80 miles west of Sacramento; Sacramento is near the center of California's Central Valley which extends approximately 400 miles north to south and is between 50 and 100 miles wide. The Central Valley is flat land, mostly orchard, farm, and ranch land, though heavily suburbanized during the run up to the Crash of 2007-8, that is often referred to as "The Other California" as it is quite a different sort of place than California's coastal and mountain enclaves. Many of those who live in the coastal areas have only the vaguest notions about the Central Valley, mostly contemptuous, but that's another essay for another time.)

In other words, the counter-demonstration against The South Africa Project's demonstration was by no means an "Occupy Oakland" event. It was an Anti-Fascist event that included people from many parts of California, including Oakland.

Some of them wore black and carried black flags. Eek. Anarchists! Black Bloc! Run for your lives children, we're all going to dieeeeee! Demonization of the Other is one of the primary tactics of propagandists, no matter what interests they serve, and in this particularly instance the propaganda of demonization was heavy on all sides.

Demonization, dehumanization and scapegoating go on so often, many people don't notice when it's happening. In this case, the "Nazis" -- and the police who were protecting them -- were being demonized by the crowd of protesters who had come from the Bay Area and the Central Valley (interestingly, Occupy Sacramento was not involved in this Direct Action) to protest them. The kaffir Natives of South Africa were being demonized by the "Nazis" for killing whites. The media was demonizing "Occupy Oakland" and the "black-clad anarchists" for "causing a riot." And so on.

In addition, there was an excess of process during the day's events. The "Nazis" were allowed onto the Capitol grounds on Monday because they had a permit. The demonstrators who came from the Bay Area and the Central Valley to protest them were not allowed on the Capitol grounds because they did not have a permit, and they were held at bay by a heavy state and local police presence, some of it on horseback. Certain members of the independent media were not allowed on the Capitol grounds while others were, depending -- it seemed -- on skin color and (shall we say) how "polite they were." Later, only media with big honking cameras were allowed to record close ups of those who were arrested after the rallies broke up.

The police were solicitous and very protective of the "Nazis," escorting them from the Capitol grounds when their rally was done, and protecting them from the objects thrown from the crowd of protestors. Who actually threw the objects and what they actually were is not entirely clear. The videos I posted above do not show the objects themselves; one of them doesn't even show the "riot" itself. The one that does show the incident that has been called a "riot" also shows that it lasted approximately 5 seconds. It shows police chasing and running down demonstrators who supposedly threw things at the "Nazis" but there is some question of whether they were actually the ones who did so. One mounted officer is heard to exclaim that his target for arrest has just committed a felony. The man runs and is tackled by a rather portly officer who is then hauled away in an ambulance because he seems to have bloodied his chin in the tackle.

It's all supposedly being done "by the book," though it does seem the police actions are somewhat laid back -- as they often tend to be in Sacramento in connection with Occupy. Certain rituals have been adopted that maintain a rather formal and polite, sometimes even humorous, relationship between Occupy Sacramento and the local gendarmerie. The "black-clad anarchists" from the Bay Area and the Central Valley are another kettle of fish altogether. They were far louder and far ruder toward the police than the police are used to in Sacramento, and it was obviously disconcerting to them. Nevertheless, I'm sure that they had been warned of what to expect from the Occupy Oakland people -- who inspire such fear all across the nation.

Whether any of them actually threw anything at anyone (apart from insults and a baggie filled with paint) is a matter of dispute. As we know, infiltrators are legion in the ranks of Occupy -- why every other Black Bloc is all police infiltrators, aren't they? Or maybe not. It's so difficult to say anymore. The question of who is actually throwing things at any given time, and what their affiliation is, never really gets explored, and it should be. I think there might be some surprises.

There was no riot in Sacramento on Monday; this is the third or fourth time I have seen reports of "riots" in connection with Occupy that were no such thing. You would think that people would be able to discern the fact that something like loud voices and one or two thrown objects and a handful of arrests do not a "riot" make. But propaganda is powerful. And if the propaganda media says it's a "riot," many will uncritically believe it to be so.

It's literally taken me this long -- since Monday evening -- to pore through the "news" and the other material available to piece together something like a factual understanding of what happened based on evidence as opposed to hearsay and hysteria. Propagandists know that most people can't do that, and they aren't inclined to do so anyway. So propagandists can often get away with saying whatever they want. On the other hand, they can't get away with it forever.

How long will it take for average Americans to understand they are being lied to? Something tells me they already know it.


  1. I find it amazing that the people in this country haven't figured out that the level of militarization of the police is so far out of balance with the actual level of crime/violence. I also like the baggie full of paint to mark the cops that commit violence.

  2. Unless they see it for themselves, people really don't have any idea of how grossly over-policed we are. In Sacramento it got to be a running gag because the police department would send 50-80 fully geared-up riot police to arrest a handful of protesters who refused to leave the Plaza at 11:00 or whatever, night after night after night, until 130 of them had been arrested. It was theatrical as hell but theater of the absurd, and when it came out that it was costing hundreds of thousands of dollars in overtime and such, all of a sudden, the arrests stopped, no more riot gear, they just made believe it never happened at all. Charges were dropped as well.

    The protesters have been using paint in Greece for a while. But the first time I saw it used in this country (though it had probably been used before) was after the October 25th morning eviction of Occupy Oakland; there were some very tense confrontations between police and demonstrators in the streets during the day, and any time the police became aggressive toward the demonstrators, someone would mark the officers with paint. Some of the video is quite striking.

    [Note: Original comment was deleted and reposted with edits due to extensive syntax errors and other messiness...]