The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., was shut down Saturday after a crowd of protesters showed up to voice their opposition to U.S. drone strikes. The march was organized by an antiwar group called October 11, but was quickly joined by some members of the Occupy Wall Street offshoot Occupy D.C. Ten or so protesters tried to force their way past security and were pepper-sprayed in return. One was Patrick Howley, an editor at the conservative magazine The American Spectator, who shoved his way into the museum even after being pepper-sprayed. "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 [it] in the pages of The American Spectator," Howley says in his (since-modified) article. Did he step beyond the bounds of journalism?
Yes. Blame Howley for the weekend's violence: Howley's obvious attempt to discredit the Occupy movement wasn't victimless, says Charlie Grapski at Firedoglake. Without his instigation, innocent tourists and bystanders probably wouldn't have been maced. And the peaceful Occupiers in New York, D.C., and elsewhere don't deserve the bad press. The "admitted activities of this self-proclaimed agent provocateur should be brought to the attention of federal law enforcement officials."
"American Spectator editor admits to being agent provocateur..."
No. This is the protesters' fault, not Howley's: This journalist didn't egg on the protesters, says David Weigel at Slate. He simply "stumbled upon conservative media gold." The fringe anti-war October 11 movement is trying to steal the thunder of the booming Occupy protests. "What does a protest of drones have to do with a new populist protest of income disparity and bank deregulation?" Nothing, of course. But the "ineffective, camera-hungry" bunch at October 11 "have it in them to wreck the image of the new [Occupy] movement." All "Howley did was notice" and report on it.
"The Battle of the Air and Space Museum"
Regardless, this is activism, not journalism: "The evidence doesn't seem to show that Howley incited protesters to do anything they weren't already primed to do," says Ali Gharib at ThinkProgress. But his self-professed attempt to undermine the Occupy Wall Street movement — "leading the charge of protesters," then mocking them for not following him — simply isn't journalism.
"Conservative writer admits 'infiltrating' 99 Percent Movement..."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How our botched understanding of 'science' ruins everything
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Save the world... by changing how you pee
- Why does Fareed Zakaria still have a job?
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- Does solar energy have a battery problem?
- How to be a moral internet citizen on the often-immoral internet
- 7 common estate-planning mistakes
Subscribe to the Week