Friday, October 21, 2011

The real rats are in city hall, not Frank Ogawa Plaza

An interesting piece that clairifies the rat situation at Occupy Oakland:
The fact that the journalist “reporting” the story simply repeats, at length, what a single city spokesman tells him should be seen as the gift from the newspaper to City Hall that it is. I’ve underlined the main verbs in the first six sentences to make that as clear as possible; that story is almost literally nothing but variations on “what City Hall told us [about the people protesting against it].” And so, the “objective” reporting just happens to repeat exactly the narrative that city hall wants to tell — things were under control before, but now the demonstrators are “attracting rats, alcohol and illegal drug use” — and imagine out of existence any possible counter-narratives which might be told.[1]

But the story that city hall wants to tell is preposterous. There are rats there at night because there are always rats there at night. I’m sure the smell of food does attract more vermin than usual — even as the presence of people also repels them — but the bottom line should still be obvious to anyone with a brain: you don’t normally have a rat “problem” in the park at night because you don’t normally have any people there (or at least not any people the city cares to notice). Even during the day, the only people that use this (quite unused) park are on their lunch break, eating their sandwiches or whatever, and then at night the rats eat their leavings. And no one cares. But now that there are people there — people creating a political headache for city hall — now, suddenly, the rats are an important problem. Suddenly, coincidentally, the city is very concerned about “rats.”

I invite you, by the way, to take a stroll through any part of the adjacent downtown Oakland at two in the morning and observe the rats which have been living off Oakland’s messy humans for many decades, and who will for many more. They’re not hidden, or even particularly shy; you’re just not there to see them and have your sensibilities offended by their presence. But that entire area is a filthy fast-food ridden stretch of a typical dirty downtown, well and truly “marred” by the fact that day-time human leave their waste everywhere for the night janitors to feast on, and who are the real causes of whatever vermin problem it has. It would be truer, in fact, to say that Oakland’s rats are invading the Occupation’s camp.