PERCEPTION

If you follow me on Socials Media you may have noted that on Saturday morning I participated in the "Shut down the Dan Ryan" march in Chicago that achieved its goal of saturation local media coverage in addition to national exposure…as a way Fox News could offer its dying, elderly audience a group of black people to be mad at for no particular reason.

The reasons I went are many. One is that the South Side is routinely an afterthought in this city, even among people who live here. Another is that since a Catholic parish organized and led the event, I thought there was at least a decent chance the police wouldn't just club everyone over the head and herd them into paddywagons. But mostly I was eager to participate to use the experience of being there as a baseline for evaluating the media coverage (and social media commentary) on the event after the fact. Here are, in no order, some observations.

1. The police presence was absolutely ridiculous overkill, and I have substantial experience already being at events in public places where the police presence was ridiculous. I suppose the police have to "plan for the worst" from their perspective, but they had enough people and vehicles and equipment there to fight a small rearguard action in the Korean War. You wonder what goes on in their imaginations – like, what is the imagined scenario they are preparing for?

2. As it turned out, the crowd was overwhelmingly older people, pre-adolescent kids, and people of middle age with kids in tow. There were, to my knowledge and post-event reports, zero arrests. It could not have been more uneventful from a police vs. protesters perspective.

3. That didn't stop the Governor and tens of thousands of racist Facebook uncles from going off half-assed about "chaos" and "mobs" and whatnot. Event organizers, coordinating with the police at every step of the process, told everyone where to stand and wait (a fenced-in park). Then they told us when we could enter the expressway. Then they told us where we could exit (67th Street, as planned). The crowd of mostly elderly and older adult people made no attempt to do anything except what was planned.

4. The messaging was devoid of "Fuck the cops, black power!" and very heavy on economic messages. Lots of "We need jobs" and "fix the schools" and "45 minutes for 9-1-1 calls??" and "$8/hr isn't enough." People seem remarkably attuned to the economic causes of violence and averse to the tired old "culture of violence" bullshit.

5. For police who were supposedly very worried about the flow of traffic, I find their decision-making curious. They allowed everyone to enter the highway with 3 of the 4 lanes blocked off. Traffic continued through the one open lane. Then they made us wait for 90 minutes while the Catholic leaders negotiated to shut down the fourth and final lane. We just stood there, waiting. Nobody indicated any aggression. Just patience like you'd expect from people who have been waiting patiently for decades to be listened to. And then the State Police announced, "Hey OK go ahead we'll close off the fourth lane too." And then we had the whole highway. What was the point of blocking the highway for an additional 90 minutes in "holding pattern" before letting us do exactly what we wanted to anyway?

6. Well…I chalk that up to some Dick-Waving by the police. A very juvenile sort of "We're in charge here" power play. But if the state, city, and law enforcement REALLY were so concerned about the interruption of traffic, they demonstrated that concern in a very odd way by making the event take at LEAST two hours longer than it would have. In my only interaction with a police officer, I told the nearest state trooper during our lengthy delay, "You know if you guys had just let everyone go we'd have been done an hour ago."

7. Three lanes of traffic were closed for several hours on a Saturday morning. All four lanes were closed for about 30-40 minutes. The crowd moved at normal speed over a course of about 1.25 miles. No one attempted to sit or lie in the roadway to delay. The crowd was compact enough that I could see everything, and I brought my bike so I was able to ride back and forth along its length (the police had no problem with bikes) several times. If anything like fights had erupted, I would have seen it.

8. Then it was over, and every reporter on the planet was on the 67th Street ramp. I declined to make comments when asked, as a white person who does not live in that neighborhood. I told them to interview the people who live there, which the media present was eager to do. The interviews I've seen in the papers and on the radio/TV coverage were all very On Message. With older people in the majority, "Our kids should not have all these guns" was the common theme.

I'm long past the point of arguing with old white people on social media, but I have to say that from a first-hand perspective it is quite hilarious(ly sad) to see the narrative that people, including Republican elected officials, attempt to create about something that was in practice quite uneventful. I've been in rowdier buffet lines. The crowds on the street at Bar Time are more aggressive and unpredictable than that group was. Wrigley Field is more chaotic after a Cubs game. And yet in all the unsubtly racially coded language available, people insist on telling lurid tales of chaos and rioting and violence – all the while insisting that their attitudes have nothing to do with race.

Sure they don't, buddy. That's why you spent Saturday on the internet making up tales of mob violence at a march of black grandparents that briefly closed traffic, a disruption announced weeks in advance that could only have inconvenienced people who insisted on paying no attention to traffic reports or the news.

19 thoughts on “PERCEPTION”

  • Regarding your items 1 and 6, it’s probably more about the OT needed to make their boat payments.

  • Anecdotal though it may be, this is a valuable reminder/ report on the ways the self-crowned elites are lying to us today, Ed.

  • Heisenberg says:

    I don’t understand the wisdom of shutting down a freeway to try to effect change. It’s similar to NFL players kneeling during the national anthem: Yes, you’re correct that X issue is an outrage. Yes, the average American should care more about X.

    But do you really think you’re going to persuade anybody by trashing something they value? (Respectively: freeway mobility and the national anthem.) This isn’t a good strategy to persuade anyone, it’s a way to turn people off.

    At the end of the day, how does angering people trying to drive home after a long shift help advance your cause?

    This sounds to me like logic that Ed would otherwise ridicule. “If we make them hate us enough, then maybe they’ll change their minds and join our side!”

  • mattius3939 says:

    Heisenberg, if people are inconvenienced, then people are forced to consider that inconvenience for a second, which is a second's more consideration than the issue is normally given. It's also not a 1:1 certainty that every inconvenience leads to being hated. People inconvenienced by the shut-down of a highway might see some signs that say: "$8/hr. isn't enough." and people sitting in traffic might be like, "yeah, $8/hr. is BS."
    A protest assumes a couple things:
    1) indifference is a greater enemy than antagonism,
    2) Enough people are affected that sitting through an inconvenience would cause sympathy with the protesters, not the protested.
    3) A coherent, resonant message.
    Sometimes #'s 1, 2, (and sweet Jesus, especially) 3 are miscalculated! But that doesn't make a miscalculation a certainty. Sometimes protests work! Especially if they're sustained, peaceful, and coherent. People sympathize with underdogs! And so long as people are seeing the underdogs fight the good fight, then protests, rather than some narrative about chaos/riots in the national media, will win out.

  • I haven't checked in with 'My Brother In Tennessee" (TM) to get the Real America take on this, but I'm pretty sure I know what I would find..

  • So what's it gonna be if some rag tag band of scraggly creeps get together to protest while outnumbered three to one by the militarized enforcers of oligarchic policy?

    "Cop kill a creep, pow pow pow." Frank Zappa, circa 68, "Concentration Moon", I believe.

    Never mind. Even button down and orderly with the right skin color you're gonna be in for it someday soon. But as good old Bob Marley said, ". . . don't give up the fight."

    Glad to know Ed rides a bike.

  • "At the end of the day, how does angering people trying to drive home after a long shift help advance your cause?"

    In a way that shooting down, lynching, renditing and imprisioning folks with whom you disagree has far greater effect.

    @ satrap:

    Thanks for taking a hit from assholery so we don't have to.

  • Ed, any chance you could get The Week or one of your other new BFFs to let you run a story about this? Contrasting your experience with the BS promulgated by certain elected officials and other Very Serious People, and calling them out by name? I for one would love to read it.

  • Bob Michaelson says:

    Reasons that I thought the Dan Ryan march was somewhat ridiculous:
    – Father Pfleger, who organized it, is a twit ("Farrakhan is a great man")
    – Rahm approved of it, and anything that meets with Rahm's approval is certain to be obnoxious
    – Nobody, but nobody, has given a plausible reason for expecting that anything beneficial will result from it

    If indeed something beneficial results from it, e.g. a reduction of guns on the street or better gun-control laws, I will be delighted, and I will be glad to acknowledge that I was completely wrong about this. But I estimate the chances of such benefit at epsilon.

  • @Democommie

    I try, but like shitty food, there is only so much I can take. It's actually rather interesting seeing the thought processes and reasoning that comes out of a fairly intelligent mind, when it is subject to a steady diet of right wing nonsense and talking points. My brother is convinced beyond a doubt that BLM and AntiFa are significant problems and his enemy and part of the reason "I couldn't stomach voting for Hillary" but he can't articulate anything much deeper than that, on the subject. Doesn't seem much wrong with that as the state of affairs either. After all, that's all the deeper is goes anywhere else in The Bubble.

  • "We are the left! Only when the working class is disarmed and totally subjugated will there be justice in the world! Only then will the landlords and bosses listen to our pleas for mercy!"

  • @Mike Furlan: I didn't say I don't like protests. I said disagree with the specific tactic of shutting down freeways – because it will create more enemies than friends.

    If we want change, the most effective way is to WIN ELECTIONS. To win elections, we need to persuade voters to turn out. Fucking up someone's commute a really shitty way to do that.

    IMO the most effective use of our time & energy right now is focusing on the election, and helping Dems win as many Congressional seats and state/local offices as possible. That starts NOW. Call your local Dem nominee and volunteer to canvass neighborhoods. If you live in a safe district, get on Swing Left or Indivisible and volunteer to work a phone bank for a swing candidate somewhere else. Give a Dem nominee some money so they can buy ads with a wide reach and good messaging. Any of these tactics would be a much better way to spend your Saturday morning than throwing a tantrum on public infrastructure.

  • Mike Furlan says:

    "If we want change, the most effective way is to WIN ELECTIONS."

    We did that, in 2008. Father Pfleger was represented from the local, state, and federal level by nothing but Democrats. Nothing changed on gun control.

    "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result."

  • Do people really think that protests over guns in areas represented by Democrats at the city, county, state, and federal level will enact change? This isn't a rhetorical question. Wouldn't the people affected by this be swing vote suburban commuters? Inquiring minds want to know.

  • A.) Dan Ryan is "closed", A LOT, when it's open by assholeyahooz on cellz.
    D.) Saturday–commuting to golf?

    Being polite is fucking stupid when the people who are fucking you are counting on it.

  • Republicans are counting on Democrats being the Washington Generals of US politics.
    As usual, as the US as we know it is swirling the drain, Dems are arguing whether the end
    justifies the means while the GOP keeps hitting the Dems with a chair while the ref isn't looking.
    (Sorry to mix sports metaphors.)

  • defineandredefine says:

    "[P]eople insist on telling lurid tales of chaos and rioting and violence – all the while insisting that their attitudes have nothing to do with race."

    When I was in pharmacy school, I lived on Billups St in Athens, GA (I'm sure Ed is familiar with the city, if not that part of town.) One time a friend from school dropped me off at home. Since then, he would regularly talk about how I lived in "the ghetto," once even going so far as to claim (paraphrasing) "I know what a ghetto looks like; I'm from Chicago."

    …except the blocks west of Milledge Ave in Athens aren't the slums of the Southside. Sufficed to say that I just couldn't understand his insistent that I live in "the ghetto." My neighbors were retirees, grandparents, and the occasional gutter punk. One day, I just looked him at him and said (again, paraphrasing) "you just think I live in the ghetto because I live around black folks." He said (without irony) "well, yeah."

    I was shocked.

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