Bozell Column: Pouncing on Pepper Spray

After the national media spent the month of October chronicling the “historic” Occupy Wall Street protesters in what Diane Sawyer bizarrely blurted out was “more than 1,000 countries,” the myth began to melt. Democratic mayors (and even liberal New York mayor Michael Bloomberg) tired of the nonsense and decided to clear the dirty encampments. After having spilled barrels of supportive ink, The Washington Post wondered on the front page if it was an “occupation or an infestation.”

The Occupying Rabble needed a boost, and got it with the story of campus police pepper-spraying protesters at the University of California-Davis. It was a remarkable jump-start for every left-wing journalist looking to regain his mojo for championing the protesters against “The Man” – in this case, a spineless liberal female administrator and Democrat donor named Linda Katehi.

Americans awoke Monday morning to all three TV networks spreading the latest viral video of the OWS publicity team showing police pepper-spraying seated student protesters in the face. Leftist students in Davis had linked arms and refused to move despite repeated warnings from campus police to clear out. They were determined to encourage police action. Protests are designed to gain publicity. Publicity demands conflict. Publicity demands egging on the police to engage the disobedient.

They needed to be victimized by police “brutality.” They wanted desperately to be pepper-sprayed. They needed to regain the narrative.

The liberal media delivered. As the coverage piled up, the campus cops with the spray and their chief were placed on administrative leave. Still, the campus erupted in demands that chancellor Katehi resign, even as she denounced the police’s actions as horrible. If anyone spoke up against the protesters, you’d never know it. The media were silent on that front.

In an exclusive interview, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos repeatedly pushed Katehi to step down. "You have resisted calls so far to resign. Are you going to stay?...Nearly 50,000 people have signed a petition calling for you to go. Haven't you lost the confidence of the faculty and the students?" Stephanopoulos openly advocated for the protesters, lobbying, "I'm sorry, but we're looking at the video again right now. They're sitting there peacefully. It doesn't appear to be a violent situation."

"Peaceful.” That’s what they called them. What if a protesting block of humanity were to appear in front of an abortion clinic? Would that be “peaceful”? You know the truth. The media would report that as a violation of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. “Physical obstruction,” even if it’s “peaceful,” is illegal in that location. Put it on a campus, have it organized by leftist anarchists, and it’s somehow a socialist Shangri-La.

What’s remarkable in all this Occupy media mythology is the way these same networks have shamelessly ignored murders, rapes, and mysterious dead bodies in those tents at Occupy protests around the  country. They’ll make a national story out of a row of protesters being pepper-sprayed on one California campus, but ignore rapes, beatings, and deaths in other American cities.

This proves again that our TV news stars are not journalists. They are publicists. They don’t report “news.” They supply badly disguised advertising campaigns for the causes they endorse.

The networks aired a remarkable 81 stories on the Occupiers in October, and their soundbite count was overwhelmingly tilted to the positive: 190 positive soundbites, ten critical ones. Amazingly, the networks couldn’t even place them on the political Left. There was only one liberal label in 81 stories. Their intellectual leader, a Canadian radical named Kalle Lasn, now oozes in The New Yorker about “killing capitalism.” But somehow, the protesters are just conscientious nonpartisans advocating for the lower classes.

The Sacramento Bee reported that Katehi wanted to do nothing as she prepared for renewed  protests in the wake of the arrest of 53 Davis students at a 2009 sit-in against state fee increases at the college administration building. “They want to be arrested. They want to be on CNN," she said at the time. "We don't want to get there. We would like to keep it as low-key as possible, allow the students to express their concerns and then hopefully go home."

These law-shredding publicity schemes wouldn’t work for the Left –  except CNN and the other networks keep them alive with endless publicity. Riding the Occupy class-war bandwagon – complete with shameless omissions of almost everything negative that’s emerged from those fever swamps – is their campaign kick-off for Barack Obama 2012.

Brent Bozell
Brent Bozell
Brent Bozell is the Founder and President of the Media Research Center