Photographs by David Bacon
Relying on the photographs, reporting and video in the mainstream media can give you a false idea about the marches and demonstrations against white supremacists and Nazi sympathizers in San Francisco and Berkeley last weekend. The newsroom adage says, "if it bleeds it leads." But screaming headlines about violence, and stories and images focused on scuffles, were not a good reality check.
Mainstream coverage was miles away from the reality most people experienced. One racist quoted for each counterprotestor ignored the fact that there were at most a few dozen of one, and many thousands of the other. More important, where were the reasons why people came out to demonstrate against racism and rightwing politics? How did people organize their broad constituencies of faith and labor, communities of color, women and immigrants?
In the confrontations between a tiny number of white supremacists and a very small number of demonstrators, the photographers who chased them sometimes outnumbered those involved. At those same moments, hundreds of Black, Latino, Asian and white church people were marching up Martin Luther King Jr. Way. The two banners of the Democratic Socialists of America (one all the way from Santa Cruz) stretched across the four lanes of the avenue. Where were the photographers? In San Francisco thousands marched up Market Street. I saw fewer photographers there than at any march in recent memory.
Making the scufflers so visible makes everyone else invisible. Sure, editors choose what to put on the page or website. But as media workers we can also see what's real and what's not.