Conservative Journalist Provokes Occupy DC Police Violence
An assistant editor for the right-wing magazine The American Spectator openly admitted to provoking police violence in an attempt to discredit the Occupy DC protests, and the Spectator later edited his story without explanation in an apparent attempt to downplay his role.
Patrick Howley wrote in his Saturday column about how he “infiltrated” a group of protestors who clashed with security at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, and how he was pepper-sprayed after charging ahead of the crowd.
“As the white-uniformed security guards hurried to physically block the entrances, only a select few—myself, for journalistic purposes, included—kept charging forward,” Howley wrote.
But Howley was more than just a journalistic observer. After a protestor next to him inside the first entrance got into a shoving match with a security officer, Howley “sprinted toward” the second door and made it into the building, an aggressive act that earned him a face full of mace.
Howley’s explanation of what followed was later edited, without acknowledgement of the changes made, to tone down language about his intentions.
The original text read:
“But as far as anyone knew I was part of this cause—a cause that I had infiltrated the day before in order to mock and undermine in the pages of The American Spectator—and I wasn't giving up before I had my story. Under a cloud of pepper spray I forced myself into the doors and sprinted blindly across the floor of the Air and Space Museum...”
The edited text currently on the publication’s website reads:
“But as far as anyone knew I was part of this cause—a cause that I had infiltrated the day before—and I wasn't giving up before I had my story. Under a cloud of pepper spray I forced myself into the doors. Suspecting that the entire crowd would be able to get inside, I ran blindly across the floor of the Air and Space Museum...”
The change is significant. The American Spectator tried to scrub Howley’s explicit political agenda to “mock and undermine” the protests, attempting to make him seem less of an instigator by invoking the crowd.
Howley was not the sole instigator of police violence, but he likely exacerbated it, and he certainly crossed the line from journalist to provocateur.
And, true to his intentions, he also mocked the protests, scorning activists for getting cold feet about storming the museum and calling their assembly tactics ineffective.
“[T]he guards who sprayed me acted with more courage than I saw from any of the protestors,” Howley wrote.
But for all his derision at the protestors’ supposed cowardice and ineffectiveness, Howley demonstrates that he needs to undermine the movement because he feels threatened by it—a credit to the movement’s success.
“What began on Wall Street is now spreading, and the question still remains: is it dangerous? Socialist indoctrination methods are surprisingly effective,” he wrote.
No wonder Howley is worried.
Emily Crockett is a reporter with Campus Progress. Follow her on Twitter @emilycrockett.
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