The Great Pretender
Will Potter has an article at Counterpunch entitled "It's Not Just Protesters Anymore--When Police Attack Journalists"
. Here are the first two paragraphs:
"I have reported on mass protests where police attacked protestors, but I tended to accept- and even wrote in some articles- statements by police that protestors provoked this violence. The crowd got out of control, I thought. Surely, someone threw rocks, threw punches, or did something to instigate these assaults. The police would not attack people for no reason.
After witnessing, and feeling, attacks by multiple baton-wielding officers during the permitted anti-war march in the capital on April 12, I realized I have made a mistake. As a reporter, I have mistakenly placed the burden of proof on the protestors, rather than the police. And now, as I see coverage of the protest where I was beaten, I see other journalists doing the same."
And here is the last paragraph:
"For white, upper-middle class reporters like me, it may come as a shock that police can do these things, and get away with it. I would like to believe that freedom of speech is protected in our country, and that the police exist to protect such freedoms. I hope that, unlike me, other journalists do not need to endure attacks by police to begin reporting critically on police conduct. We have a civic responsibility to stop accepting police statements and start holding these people accountable."
This, to me, is a classic example of how the anti-war movement became "mainstream"--by saying they were mainstream. What is your impression of Mr Potter from this article? The impression I got was of a middle-aged reporter who has tended to go along with the powerful in the past, but suddenly saw the light when he himself was assaulted.
That impression is dead wrong, as I discovered after doing a little googling.
First, let's cover his claim to be an "upper-middle class reporter". Here's a picture
of Will from 1998. That was five years ago, and he doesn't look like he could have been shaving at the time. Here's an article
Will wrote for the Texas Observer in 2001, where his one-sentence bio was as follows: "Observer intern Will Potter is an activist and writer living in Austin." Here's his capsule bio from an article
Will wrote for ZMag in February of this year (two months ago): "Will Potter is an intern for a national newspaper based in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Texas Observer, the Chicago Tribune and the Dallas Morning News. In his spare time he pays attention to politics and the state of American media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org"
Now, I'll admit, I don't know what "national newspapers based in Washington D.C." pay their interns, but I would hazard a guess that it is NOT sufficient income to consider the person "upper-middle class". It may be that Will considers himself in that light due to his upbringing, but the fact remains that it is a substantial social promotion. My read is that he's a year or two out of college, probably living in a small apartment with a roommate to help share expenses.
Second, consider Will's expressed shock at the indignities visited upon his upper-middle class journalist's body (he claims to have been hit a total of three times by police batons, and pushed once), and his professed prior belief "The police would not attack people for no reason". The Texas Observer article
, which was written a full year and a half ago is headlined "The New Backlash" with a subhead of "From the Streets to the Courthouse, the New Activists Find Themselves Under Attack". Among other things, the article claims "Demonstrators have been beaten, attacked with rubber bullets, pepper-sprayed, tear-gassed, falsely arrested, infiltrated and—in Genoa, Italy last July—even killed." There is no mention in that particular article of "statements by police that protestors provoked this violence", or that "[t]he crowd got out of control". I don't know about you, but I find it hard to believe that he could write that, and then be shocked a year and a half later when he gets whacked a couple of times with a billy club.
Also note that the Texas Observer bio mentions that he's an "activist". Indeed, it is not hard to find evidence for that. In 2002, he was introduced by PBS
as "a representative for UT Students Against Cruelty to Animals". In June of 2001 he wrote a letter
to the editor of the Daily Texan (The University of Texas' student newspaper", in which he defended the Earth Liberation Front, claiming "ELF is not "destroying the American way of life," as [the writer of a prior article] said. They're protecting it."
So overall, we can see how Mr Potter has managed to "mainstream" himself. He passes himself off in the Counterpunch article as an "upper-middle class reporter", when in reality he is a lowly intern just out of college with a history of activism. Quite a different picture than he manages to convey.