Fear and Loathing in New York

I gotta tell ya, recent events leading up to the Republican National Convention in New York make me feel like I am in an altered state of consciousness. I first came to New York with the clearest of intentions, to attend the Life After Capitalism Conference, to participate and document as much as I could there. However, I decided to stay for the RNC, do some media work, and lend my extra hands in any work that needed to be done.

However, the media and city response to the mobilisations has been bizarre to say the least. It’s been disorienting, confusing, and it just doesn’t make sense. I’ll explain what I mean, but first let me get to the point. Over all, I think there has been an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty created by the city of New York and it’s mainstream media institutions. When I’m outside, I keep feeling like I should run for cover for fear of giant bats attacking me. If not run for cover, at least find a good hiding spot where they can’t reach me. The reason? Well, it all started last Friday when I heard that the New York Post had referred to the Life After Capitalism gathering as a “war council”. Upon hearing this the hosting venue for that Friday’s opening night event, Hunter College, threatened to pull the venue from use unless the organisers purchased $3 Million in aggregate insurance. Luckily they were able to scrape the money together in time and have a successful opening night event.

The next morning I was confronted by a blown up article from the New York Post, posted at the LAC conference featuring a picture of Jaggi Singh, wielding a pistol at a firing range. I had my doubts to begin with about the photo’s authenticity. Jaggi didn’t even attend the conference, nor is he going to be in New York City during the Republican National Convention. Most recently, Jaggi issued a very strong and clear rebuttal of this corporate media slander.

However, Jaggi was not alone in being demonized, although he, for some reason seems to be the one who got it the most. He was mentioned in two separate articles. The August 16th New York Post article titled
“Finest Prep for Anarchy”, which, while insinuating outrageous claims about the tactics and goals of this weeks demos, also falsely ties other activists into the plot.

On Wednesday the New York Daily News ran an item, “Anarchists hot for mayhem”. This article also whips up fear of violent radicals and anarchists claiming “Fifty of the country’s leading anarchists are expected to be in the city for the Republican National Convention, and a handful of them are hard-core extremists with histories of violent and disruptive tactics, according to police intelligence sources.” It goes on to demonize Jaggi, the International Solidarity Movement and others.

Okay, I know, this kind of frothing at the mouth exaggeration is to be expected from certain media outlets. But what about New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg suggesting activists get a “Peaceful Activist” button to get the same shopping and entertainment discounts as Republicans. He said, “New York is the place to get your message out, any message”…”It’s no fun to protest on an empty stomach. So you might want to try a restaurant”…”Or you might want to go shopping, maybe for another pair of sneakers for the march.”

Vilifying certain demonstrators and inciting fear is to be expected. But urging them to go shopping!@#$? That takes cunning imagination.

Or how about the “Salute to Broadway” on Sunday night? On that night 13,373 RNC delegates will attend eight Broadway performances. They will see 42nd Street, Beauty and the Beast, and Fiddler on the Roof among other classical and contemporary theatrical hits. All this while the New York Times reports that, according to federal, state and local officials, “The New York Police Department and the largest armada of land, air and maritime forces ever assembled to provide security at a national political gathering are being deployed in New York for the Republican convention.” As I was trying to say, I feel like I am on some kind of mild hallucinogenic.

Add to this the uncertainty provided by the refusal to allow rallies on Central Park’s “Great Lawn” and we have created a situation that illustrates the irresponsibility of those who denied the park permit. Potentially hundreds of thousands will either not know where to go after the Sunday march or they will openly exercise their rights at Central Park. I think it’s obvious that it would have been safer for the city to allow organisers to take precautions for a safe rally by granting the permit. This just throws hundreds of thousands of people into uncertainty. But luckily, as chance would have it, Mayor Bloomberg actually thinks going to the park is a good idea, “We welcome people to the park, and hopefully the weather will be good.” He goes on to say that “There’s a lot of people in the park – there’s roughly a quarter of a million people in the park on a normal Sunday afternoon – and this will just add to that. So it will be crowded but it will be a lot of fun.”

Bloomberg’s warm invitation really confuses me… But, yes, I hope the weather is good too. And I hope there are no giant bats flying around attacking me.

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