What Would Peter Zenger Say: We are the Champions...of the World?
Say it loud and say it proud: We’re Number 47! We’re Number 47! Boo-yah!
If you want to know why the US -- beacon of freedom, land of the First Amendment -- is now ranked number 47th (out of 179) in terms of freedom of the press in the annual ranking put out by Reporters Without Borders, below South Africa, Botswana, South Korea and Comoros, and just above Argentina, Romania and Latvia, you could ask Mike Bloomberg, the billionaire mayor of New York and himself owner of a huge news organization, or his Chief of Police Raymond Kelly.
For that matter you could ask the mayors and police chiefs of Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland, Boston, Philadelphia, or a host of other cities.
Better yet, ask the mayor of Oakland and her police department’s latest gestapo chief, Howard Jordan.
According to Reporters Without Borders, what caused the US to plunge from 20th place last year, up there with Ireland, Germany, Belgium and Japan, down to 47th this year, was the way reporters were treated by police as they tried to cover the Occupy Movement that began last September.
Across the country, police maneuvered to block reporters from covering their brutal crackdown on the Occupy Movement. In a campaign that increasingly appears to have been coordinated from Washington, over the course of a few weeks in late October and through November they swept into encampments from Los Angeles to New York wearing black military-style riot gear in the dead of night to avoid cameras and videocams, waiting until most journalists had gone home to bed before tearing up the tents and firing the tear gas grenades, the rubber bullets and the pepper spray at unarmed, unresisting protesters. Or, when reporters did show up and tried to cover the assaults on peaceful demonstrators, the cops sometimes, as in New York, smashed them and their cameras, or just arrested them.
“Who here has a press card?” asked the officer in charge in New York before the final assault on Zuccotti Square’s occupiers. When reporters dutifully raised their hands or held up their press passes, New York’s not-so-finest grabbed them, cuffed them and hauled them away. “Only for their safety,” was the explanation given later by the cops and the mayor after that particularly noxious display of police-state tactics against the media.
Reporters from alternative media were manhandled, but so were some reporters even from the main newspapers in the city, the New York Times and the Daily News.