I just watched a Fresno local news report regarding a Tea Party protest of William Ayers. Watching this TV report reminded me of the adage about a tree falling in a forest: If Bill Ayers simply came to California to give a talk, but there were no Tea Party demonstrators in sight, you wouldn’t hear anything about it on the news. But when a smattering of Tea Party folks comes out to protest Ayers’ right to say anything, it becomes news. Once again, we can see that raw, visceral, uninformed conflict is driving our news–not ideas and certainly nothing productive.
The bottom line take-away from this report appears to be a reinforcement of the Manichean world view. This TV display of lots of heat and not much light is standard fare for television news. Hence, my term, “conflict pornography.” This type of consciously-injected agon is furthered by flashy banners and the sound effects, as well as terms like “Action News!” All of these media tricks smoothly tap into that inextricably deep human misconception that “Movement is Progress,” combined with our deeply rooted xenophobic impulses: Keep moving! Outsiders are threatening you! Keep fighting! Pay attention! Buy this! Buy that!
But back to this TV news report. Consider the opening line of the news anchor in the video: “One of the leaders of a radical movement of the 60’s and 70’s . . .” Note the sarcasm dripping from her voice when she reports that Ayers is claiming that “he has something in common” with the protesters.
I think that it’s time for these reporters to take a deep breath and focus on the bigger picture: what was the context of the “radical” actions of Ayers? I would suggest that many (maybe most) modern Americans would agree with most of the principles of his “radical movement” (that “Terrorism was what was being practiced in the countryside of Vietnam by the United States.” And see here). On the other hand, I would agree that most Americans would disapprove of the use of any sort of bombs, even where the bombs were carefully planned to explode in empty offices, so as not to cause any injuries. And further consider the failure of this report (and most others about Ayers, especially during the Obama campaign) that Ayers has repeatedly questioned his own tactics.
Bill Ayers talked with Salon.com, exploring many issues. I was especially interested in his characterization of those Americans who would argue that they are passive or non-violent by the fact that they are not, themselves, physically violent. Per Ayers, there is no “neutral” when one’s country is perpetrating despicable violence. Why didn’t Ayers come forward […]
The New Yorker has just published an interview of William Ayers. It humanizes him and clears up some misconceptions. It makes me wonder why Ayers didn’t speak up earlier, while he was being portrayed in a grotesque way that was pulling down the Obama campaign. Here’s an excerpt: Ayers said that he had never meant […]