Thursday, July 14, 2011

Scenes from a New York Protest: Color of Change Calls Out Fox News

Happy Bastille Day
C'est Bastille Day!
Earlier this week, I received a post from, alerting me to a protest rally occurring today, at noon, across the street from Rupert Murdoch's home at 834 5th Avenue, in New York City.  The rally developed out a previous ColorOfChange petition drive, in which the progressive organization gathered signatures--over 110,000 in the final count from ColorOfChange supporters and allies--which it sent last week sent to Fox News head Roger Ailes. The petition urges Ailes to fire TV personality Eric Bolling, who has repeatedly made racist on-air comments, ranging from his statement that President Barack Obama was in Ireland "chugging forties" to his depiction of the president's meeting with Gabon's president, Ali Omar Bongo, replete with racially inflammatory imagery, that the president was inviting "hoods to the hizzouse."

Two weeks ago, ColorOfChange had run a full-page ad in the New York Daily News to raise public awareness about Murdoch's profiting from a cable and newspaper empire that has drawn viewers in part based on race-based fears and resentment.  I could spend several blog posts detailing these, but it should suffice to list just a few of the most egregious names in this regard: Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Steve Doocy, Gretchen Carlson, Bill O'Reilly, and Juan Williams, to name only a few.  These figures have driven a great deal of racist hysteria, profoundly shaped our public political and civil discourse over the last few years, severely harmed the work of progressive and even moderate liberal--and conservative!--interests, yet this approach has been good business for Fox News, which has helped blast print, cable and broadcast media ever rightward.

ColorOfChange noted that Ailes's response to the petitions was silence, so instead the organization decided to go straight to Rupert Murdoch, who, as we all know, is trying to hold together the unraveling threads of his empire over in the UK, as a steadily waxing hacking/wiretapping/bribery scandal engulfs his British newspaper chain and may potentially spread to his holdings in the US and Australia. ColorOfChange, knowing that a bit of theater is never a bad thing, thus invited supporters to attend a brief rally and join them as they delivered the petitions (boxes) to Murdoch's very, very post 5th Avenue apartment. 

I showed up just before noon, and the crowd was sparse, but by the time the rally got underway and ColorOfChange's Rashad Robinson spoke from a podium on the west side of the street, abutting the park, with Murdoch's apartment building on the east side, a sizable group had gathered. There were also, at least to my mind, a noteworthy number of journalists and representatives from foreign and local news organizations, including many of the New York-area TV stations and the British Telegraph, The New York Observer, and NDTV. As I said, a bit of theater does draw attention.  Ironically enough, as Robinson was speaking, a Fox News truck barreled past down 5th Avenue, which provoked an outcry from people in the crowd, and the large, clear placards ensured that all the tourists taking in New York on those double-decker buses also got a bit of activism amidst their sightseeing. The police, as well as numerous other law enforcement-looking individuals, some in plain clothes (FBI?) were also present, but the police were in general polite and accommodating.  Perhaps they even recalled some of the hateful crap Fox News Channel's pundits have spewed against their union brethren, their comrades who were injured in the 9/11 cleanup effort, and even survivors of those murdered on 9/11.

The highlight of the protest was the march to Murdoch's apartment building's front door. At first I thought, why isn't ColorOfChange going to Fox News's New York headquarters, but then I realized, why not the home. Not that there was any possiblity that the building's doorpeople, or security guards, or anyone else would allow anyone affiliated with ColorOfChange into the vestibule, but as I said, it made for good theater, and showed that in fact, sometimes you have to take things to the source. Murdoch's wife, Wendy Murdoch, was probably nowhere near the premises today--or even in the US, given that it's summer, the man's a multi-billionaire, and has homes all over the world--but actually seeing either of them was hardly the point.  What the action did do was further underline the burgeoning critiques of Murdoch's businesses and his business practices, which show a throughline of sleaziness, intimidation, propaganda, and, as the British scandals are showing ever more daily, what amounts to criminality. When you are hacking into the phones or computers of anyone, especially abducted children and victims of mass murder; paying police officers to access files or posing as individuals to do so; possibly blackmailing or intimidating government officials to pass policies favorable to you and your companies, to advance your bankrupt ideology, and to overlook your crimes, and so forth, you're talking about extremely unethical, and likely criminal behavior.  Free speech, a US right, is one thing, but indications suggest that units of News Corporation have gone much further.

That you are also using racism and racial resentment, xenophobia and anti-immigrant testeria, sexism and misogyny, classism, etc. to advance your agenda, also deserves the harshest condemnation, but as I said, there is a throughline here, and has been focusing on one aspect of it.  As the news each day has shown, the abyss News Corp. finds itself in is a deep one, and today's announcement that the FBI will be looking into the company's behavior is good news, though given the US government's abject failure to explore the mountain range of federal criminal action, from warantless spying to torture to destruction of government documents, and on and on, that occurred between 2001-2008, I wouldn't bet any money that anything will result, at least over here. That is, unless the British government takes serious action, in which case there might be no way out for US investigators as well. We shall see. At any rate, here are some photos and videos from earlier today.

Rashad Robinson of Color of Change
Rashad Robinson speaking about the protest rally and Fox News's racist behavior

Rashad Robinson speaking at Color of Change protest against Fox News's racism & Rubert Murdoch
Robinson speaking

People at the rally/protest, NYC
People at the rally

834 5th Ave.
Chez Murdoch

Before the rally
Before the rally, assembling for the cameras

A rally attendee being interviewed by NDTV
A rally attendee being interviewed by a reporter from NDTV

At the Color of Change protest, NYC
One of the ColorOfChange ralliers speaking with a reporter from Univision

Rashad Robinson in conversation with a fellow activist
Rashad Robinson (on right), speaking with one of the rally attendees after the event

Rashad Robinson of Color of Change
Robinson being interviewed after the event

Videos after the jump


Rashad Robinson's speech

The attempt to deliver the petitions to Murdoch's front door

No comments:

Post a Comment