This weekend, journalist Patrick Howley of the American Spectator admitted infiltrating the Occupy DC protest and leading a charge into the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum which resulted in his and several other protestors’ being hit with pepper spray. His explanation? The protesters had been ruining his story of how crazy they were by failing to think of this course of action on their own.
In his original story on the subject (now removed from the Spectator site) Howley noted: “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.”
If this incident is characteristic, Howley appears to be one of the breed of reporters who think that the most exciting fact about any story is the fact that they have arrived to cover it.
Other headlines from his oeuvre no doubt include things like, "I watch, riveted, as men land on moon." “I was not assassinated by anyone today,” he noted on November 22, 1963. “I Am Hit By Chunk Of Falling Wall in Berlin,” he reported in 1989. But he went a step further.
He had come to make fun of the crazy protests. But they failed to oblige by being sufficiently crazy. Someone had to take matters into his own hands.
Howley announced that "In the absence of ideological uniformity, these protesters have no political power. Their only chance, as I saw it, was to push the envelope and go bold."
This explains his decision to go charging into the Air and Space Museum – where, in no time, he is pepper-sprayed. He applauds the guard. "I deserved to get a face full of high-grade pepper, and the guards who sprayed me acted with more courage than I saw from any of the protesters," he added.
"But just as the lefties couldn't figure out how to run their assembly meeting (many process points, I'm afraid to report, were left un-twinkled), so too do they lack the nerve to confront authority,” Crowley noted. “From estimates within the protest, only ten people were pepper-sprayed, and as far as I could tell I was the only one who got inside the museum.”
So, let me make sure I am getting this straight. You — show how ridiculous the protest is — by being arguably the most ridiculous person there? I know that “story-truth,” as Tim O’Brien wrote, “is sometimes truer than happening-truth,” but this is taking things a bit far.
I would hate to have seen this guy at Gandhi’s protests. “What is this ‘satyagraha’ nonsense?” he would have asked, beginning to fling rocks at the troops. “Thank heavens I’m here to give these people some direction.”
"This mob is absurd!" he says. "Look at us, torching buildings and hitting small children in the face!"
"That's just you!" everyone else says, nervously inching away. “You are the only one doing that.”
“Trust me, I know what the movement requires better than the movement does. Also, who are these crazies with machetes?” he asks, pulling out the only machete in the crowd.
Admittedly, this movement is not famed for knowing its own mind. But surely there is some limit. "These protesters seem to want to destroy all museums," he notes, "as I determined by chanting it loudly by myself in their midst. Instead of showing solidarity, everyone inched away from me and tried to dissociate themselves from my ramblings, which just shows why this movement is doomed.”
This might be an occupational hazard of a protest movement where, in some cities, journalists threaten to outnumber protesters. Take note, Occupants. If you don’t come up with a message soon, Patrick Howley has some ideas to help.