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March 2, 2011

Wisconsin Update: Trashing “the Hippies”


With Governor Walker and the GOP trying their best to undermine labor rights in the legislative chamber and also remove citizen-protesters from inside the Capitol building, this NYT story and photo gallery is ultra-denigrating. To understand it, you barely have to read past the supposedly tongue-in-cheek title: Thank You for Your Support. Now, Can We Sweep the Capitol?

There’s all that, and then there’s the rest of the slideshow that is only too happy to stereotype and write off the protesters by making them look, through most of the edit, less like angry, determined and decidedly non-violent citizens than eccentric hippy meditating drumbeating sixties throwbacks.

And then, just to let you know the NYT pictures are less cute and frivolous than they are amplifying a meme, Digby offered this little nugget today:

Rush Limbaugh says the Wisconsin protesters Are “Long-Haired, Maggot-Infested, Dope-Smoking FM Rock ‘N’ Roller Types.”

…Whoops, I forgot to show you this one — the “free love” shot.

C’mon NYT, you’re really lending weight to the Governor’s push to sweep the protesters out of the building because the janitors can’t clean around them? And then, there’s also the two-fold message you’re giving — based on this photo above leading off the slideshow — that a.) the protest is somehow pitting union workers against union workers, and b.) the protesting union members don’t appreciate how good they have it.

You need to take in the caption to fully understand how it goes together. It reads:

As Gov. Scott Walker pushed for a bill that would  weaken public employee unions by taking away most of their collective bargaining rights, protesters  responded by making themselves at home in the Statehouse. All the while, a  crew of custodians – some union members, some not – have been cleaning around them. Aaron Pazour, 26, who works two jobs, is not a union member, but would like to be because he needs the benefits.

And then, there’s also the condescension in the write-up itself.  Indeed, make yourself at home!

Peace out!

(Updated for clarity, 7:30 pm PST)

(photos: Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times)

  • Gasho

    Is meditating (taking some time to actually feel body sensations and be aware of thinking) really such a radically leftist activity that the otherwise left wing blogs need to poop on it?

    The world would be a whole lot better if more people would take the time to sit and be still now and then.

    And if you HAVE had some experience with it, then double dog shame on you for knee-jerking against it. Why is ‘peace’ a joke?

    • Anonymous

      Hmm, I thought I was ridiculing the Times for playing up these lefty/protest movement/60’s stereotypes across this frivolous set of pictures when the protests — with their determined emphasis on peace and non-violence — have been nothing short of admirable. I learned TM in college, by the way, and have been practicing, off and on, ever since.

    • Anonymous

      Hmm, I thought I was ridiculing the Times for playing up these lefty/protest movement/60’s stereotypes across this frivolous set of pictures when the protests — with their determined emphasis on peace and non-violence — have been nothing short of admirable. I learned TM in college, by the way, and have been practicing, off and on, ever since.

  • black dog barking

    Aaron Pazour, 26, who works two jobs, is not a union member, but would like to be because he needs the benefits.

    Back when real hippies stalked the planet companies and government agencies hired employees to perform janitorial work, compensated those employees in pay and benefits sufficient that working a second job wasn’t necessary. Back then working one job was usually sufficient to raise a family.

  • CF2K

    The “liberal” Times chose sides with A.G. Sulzberger Jr’s interview with a supposed “union” member who actually wasn’t, so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised to see it providing such effective visual agitprop. Assuming the NYT is unionized, I imagine the Sulzbergers would like to break their OWN union.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/02/new-york-times-ag-sulzberger-wisconsin-protests-coverage_n_830397.html?ir=Politics

    Wonder if this has anything to do with Frank Rich jumping ship…

    • BooksAlive

      Thanks to that photo on HuffPo, we can see that many were wearing red Badger or Wisconsin gear, as I had surmised.

      The Times’ headline with the word “Fray” on it turned me off sufficiently that I didn’t read the article, so thanks for the Linkins’ column with all the additional info on the newbie reporter, prime example of a family business employing its own.

  • J in Madison

    On the night of March 9th, when the police were keeping people out of the capitol, it was the custodians who let them in. So I guess the NYTimes doesn’t really know who’s side they’re on.

  • Gasho

    I think I had a hard time reading the ‘OMMMMM’ as you calling out the publication for poking fun. It seemed like adding that comment *was* the poking… or at least adding to it.

    I’ve actually taken a meditation posture during a protest (I was arrested in March of 2003 right off the street from a sitting posture) and I can tell you that while it may look silly to some, it is a powerful experience to inject stillness, mindfulness, nonviolence and equinimity right into the heat of the battle.

    I wanted badly to cheer that fellow on… sitting in the halls of government for what he thinks is right.. and being captured in a magazine (I’m sure he heard the click of that camera).. and I want to celebrate that moment for him.

    Assuming the magazine was poking fun and adding the caption to *ensure* it felt unnecessary. Why not take it at face value and be proud of it, instead? If this image had appeared in Mother Jones, maybe it wouldn’t have drawn the same reaction because we’d expect them to take that angle… is that fair?

    TM is mantra based, right? And it sounds like you find at least some value in it. Ever thought of doing a week of Vipassana in the desert? You and I, we’d have a great conversation after a retreat.

    Peace, M.
    - D

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