Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Tale of Two Protests

I'm all for peoples' freedom to protest, exercise their first amendment rights.

But some observations from this news story compared to coverage of, say, recent Tea Party events or last summer's Health Care "town hall meetings" are vivid examples of mainstream media's double standard.

Protests of Massey Energy's annual stockholders meeting in Richmond, Va., from the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Here, the deaths of 11 formerly hard-working but poor, non-unionized, and recently deceased Appalachian miners are being exploited to protest the rich, greedy, shameless capitalist investors and uncaring, ruthless, regulation-dodging businessMEN.

1) No mention of racial make-up of participants or the percentage of minorities participating. No questions to identified minorities as to whether they felt lonely, no curiosity about what they had against the company (as if it would be somehow different from others), and no indicated surprise about them being there.

2) Funding source. Story mentions persons were "bussed" from several states. No mention of who paid for the buses or the motivation to bring the protesters to the meeting.

3) Emotional state. No real examination of motive, and no depiction of their emotional state--were they "angry," (reserved for right-wingers) or just "concerned"? "Outraged" is reserved for describing left-leaning causes.

4) Goals. What did the protesters hope to achieve? We assume it's to ask company not to put profits over people, but what does that mean exactly and what sort of specific outcome do they seek? Do they want to see specific safety measures instituted or will just allowing the union into more mines be OK as an outcome?

5) Goals II. The article belatedly does mention that at least a portion of the protester were calling on the ouster of the Massey's CEO, Don Blankenship (and three board members). However the article doesn't examine if they "hated" Mr. Blankenship personally, whether they considered their protestations as a form of "hate" or if they just disagreed with his policies and performance? Also not known is whether Blankenship's race had anything to do with why the protesters were there.

6) Packing? No mentions of persons carrying weapons AND no mention that the reporter scanned the crowd specifically looking for visible weapons.

7) Artistic expression. No mention of signage carried by protesters (other than banner) or various "keywords" (or insignia) that appeared on the signs. Does that mean that there were none or that certain words did appear on signs but we just not mentioned in the story?

8) Who Dat? Protesters identified as "union members," "miners" and "environmentalists" but no indication whether they are true volunteers -- i.e. participating at their own expense -- or expenses being reimbursed by outside interests (such as the Unions, political parties, or environmental groups, and which ones.) Furthermore, there's no mention as to whether the protesters were actually being compensated (paid) to be there. Therefore no "take" or editorializing as to whether such monetary support changed the legitimacy of the protest.

9) Media incited. No indication that the group had been listening or watching a particular media outlet, say MSNBC or Real Time with Bill Maher, or Daily Show.

10) Party/Party. No mention of how the majority of the protesters voted or which party they were affiliated with. Again, we don't know if that question was asked by the reporters, only that it did not make the print edition.

11) Fearless leader. No clear idea of who or what organized the protest. Article uses the term "protest organizers" but not whether they were spontaneous group, organized for this event only, or part of an on-going group or organization. The article eventually mentions "CtW Investment Group, a money adviser affiliated with organized labor" who initiated a campaign against Massey, but does that mean CtW was behind the protest?

12) Arrests. Mentions the arrest of two 20-somethings (one from New York the other "of the Washington area" -- two areas well known as hot spots of coal mining activity.) Well, at least they did report of the police action.

13) Rally description. The newspaper uses the term "raucous" -- does that mean gregarious, light-hearted frat boy raucous ("boisterously disorderly"), OR mean-spirited, angry, emotionally inflammatory raucousness ("disagreeably harsh or strident")?

14) Feelings, whoa, whoa, whoa. No mention of how the presence of the protesters made the stock-holders feel (threatened? amused? welcomed?) No mention of the term "intimidation" affecting the meeting attendees or whether the unfurling of the banner would have been "disruptive" to the business being conducted inside the meeting room.

[Editor's Note: We have to give the RTD credit when credit is due. The paper did post a very good editorial not long ago comparing the Tea Parties and the Arizona Illegal Immigration law protests. Good for them on the Editorial Page. ]

Now, to work on the news side of the fence.