Did You Know We Are Having The Largest Prison Strike In History? Probably Not, Because Most Of The Media Have Ignored It

Thousands of detainees in over 24 states began a labor strike on September 9, the 45th anniversary of the Attica jail uprising, to demand better conditions and health care, the right to unionize and exactly what one group calls an "end to slavery in America." But one would hardly understand it watching major U.S. media, which has mostly disregarded the biggest prison labor strike in history. One week on, the New york city Times, Washington Post, NBC News, ABC News, MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, and NPR have actually not covered the prison strikes at all.

In the very same time period since the strike started, CNN has actually run stories on Clinton's "body double," the New york city Times ran a piece on females getting buzzcuts and ABC News had an "exclusive trailer" for its parent corporation Disney's upcoming film. There was definitely sufficient airtime and column inches to point out that workers had coordinated a nationwide strike of extraordinary scale, however for these outlets the protection has actually been nonexistent. A handful of nationwide outlets have covered the strike: The Nation, City Lab, Engadget, Money Watch, Buzzfeed, and since Thursday, the Wall Street Journal, but every other major publication, network news and cable network has so far been silent. When we spoke by phone, Azzurra Crispino, media co-chair of Incarcerated Employees Organizing Committee, among the strike organizers, was hesitant to be too tough on journalism from hope the strikes would lose coverage in the future. However after some prompting, the four-year jail abolitionist veteran noted a few measured complaints at the media. Her most consistent style was that to the level the strikes were being covered, the focus was on spectacle over substance, and in doing so the media was making nonviolent resistance all but impossible. " I'm a pacifist, I want to see the strikes stay nonviolent," Crispino stated. "Yet in regards to the traditional press coverage when there's blood on the ground the prisons have to fill out reports that guards were injured so then they can't deny strikes occurred," she stated in recommendation to the stonewalling of jail authorities. The few press reporters Crispino had actually spoken to said the majority of jail spokespeople denied any strikes were happening. "In between prisoners and TDCJ [Texas Department of Criminal Justice], who do you believe press reporters are going to believe?" she asked. The power asymmetry and the media's default position of siding with government authorities over those seen as criminals develops just one more barrier to coverage. At its core, protection of the prison strikes, as with any protest action, has an inherently perverse reward structure that puts a premium on acts of violence and home damage and overlooks non-telegenic serene activity, such as cravings strikes and labor blockages. This dynamic was seen in the Standing Rock incident on September 3, when personal security sicced pets on Native American activists opposing an oil pipeline, and photos of hurt protesters went viral on social networks. At the time, just Democracy Now, a relatively small left-wing news show, and AP and UPI filed initial reports on the occurrence. Days after what the media called "clashes," posts appeared with far higher frequency, consisting of in major outlets like New York Times, CNN and NBC.

This deformed incentive structure is much more noticable in prisons, which are by meaning cut off from society. The only time anybody bothers to notice prisons is when demonstrably violent action takes place. " Which of the strikes are getting the most attention? Florida since they're violent," Crispino says, in reference to the September 7 uprising at Houses Correctional facility in the Florida panhandle. "They cannot deny in Florida because detainees are setting things on fire and there's been so much structural damage they can't deny strikes are taking place." A similar dynamic is at work when prisoners remain in holding cell or take part in body mutilation or damage of home, frequently by flooding their cells or covering them with feces or blood. Similarly, Crispino competes, each time the media overlooks peaceful activities, it tips the scales further in the instructions of fires, home damage and rioting. But this factor doesn't fully describe the absence of mainstream protection. A few outlets, as kept in mind, have actually covered the strike to the extent they could, particularly in the buildup to the protest, so it's not as if there wasn't enough info to assemble a story. One possible factor is that a few of business media's most significant advertisers use jail labor, so the disincentive to shine a light on the problem is high. AT&T, Bank of America, Chevron, Eli Lilly, GEICO, McDonald's, and Walmart all use prison labor and all are sponsors of corporate media so much we can recite their commercials by heart. One corporation that utilizes jail labor, Verizon, even owns major media outlets Yahoo and Huffington Post. Russia Today, a Moscow-funded media outlet, was the only cable news network to consult with Crispino, and to the very best of her knowledge, the just one to cover the strikes. When Donald Trump appeared on RT recently, there was a craze of outrage by mainstream experts, with some questioning why Trump would provide credence to "Russian government-controlled propaganda." RT's position has actually constantly been that it covers stories the traditional press does not, and while some may see this as a cynical marketing tactic, in the case of the jail strikes it also happens to be true. Another problem for IWOC is that the coverage thus far, even in considerate outlets, has neglected their wider political aims, which is prison abolition, not reform. " The IWOC is an abolitionist organization," Crispino said. "Abolition is basically completely ignored. It's fascinating due to the fact that individuals ask concern about that and they ask what would you do want, however no one wishes to hear that and they never ever blog about it." That the media is allergic to ideology, to having much deeper discussions about our society's core axioms and why the United States has 25% of the world's prison population however 5% of the overall population, is possibly too knotty for a 800-word writeup but for those operating in the trenches it can be frustrating. As the strike enters its 2nd week, perhaps major media outlets and cable television news will take a cue from activist media and the Wall Street Journal (whose report deserves reading) and shine a light, if just quickly, on the biggest prison strike in history. If not, Crispino feels other tactics will eventually become more prevalent. " I nearly wish to state, the mainstream media is complicit if there's violence. The message they are sending out to striking employees is, we will just offer you protection if things turn ugly."

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