What Patrick Howley lacks in journalistic integrity he makes up for in ego: unethical enough to pull this stunt, he then couldn't resist bragging about it, and his publication was stupid enough to run it. Apparently American Spectator has changed the wording of the story, but not before the Washington Post's Suzy Khimm caught it and posted it on Google Docs. (American Spectator could also use a proofreader: Howley writes of his "unshaven left-wing altar ego".)
A conservative journalist has admitted to infiltrating the group of protesters who clashed with security at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum on Saturday — and he openly claims to have instigated the events that prompted the museum to close.Based on his sneering column, it's clear that Howley's intent was to discredit the entire Occupy Wall Street movement. Howley:
Patrick Howley, an assistant editor at the American Spectator, says that he joined the group under the pretense that he was a demonstrator. “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,” Howley wrote. (The language in the story has since been changed without explanation.)
A group called the October 11 movement had organized the march in order to protest the U.S. government’s use of unmanned drones overseas, joined by a few members of the D.C. branch of the Occupy Wall Street movement, as the Post reported Saturday. Howley writes that a small number of protesters — himself included — had tried to move past the security guards at the main entrance of the museum. He says that one protester next to him got into a shoving match with a security guard in an antechamber before they hit the second set of doors that led to the museum itself. The guard pepper-sprayed the protester, spraying Howley as well.
But, according to his account, Howley was determined to escalate the protest further. “I wasn’t giving up before I had my story,” he writes, describing how he continued to rush past security into the museum itself.
The tourist reaction within the museum -- like the reactions of those on D.C. tour buses and sidewalks Saturday -- was one of confusion and mild irritation. In the absence of definitive national polling on the matter, that may be the best opinion sample we yet have of this rash of ill-defined, anti-corporate and anti-bailout protests developing across the country. What began on Wall Street is now spreading, and the question still remains: is it dangerous?When he didn't get enough material to answer that question, Howley made some up. He criticizes the protesters for not barging into the museum after being pepper-sprayed, claiming this shows they have "no political power".
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.He quotes a museum guard acting like a cartoon super hero, then praises the guard's "courage" for pepper-spraying unarmed protesters.
As I scrambled away from the scene of my crime, a police officer outside the museum gates pointed at my eyes, puffed out his chest, and shouted: "Yeah, that's right. That's right." He was proud that I had been pepper-sprayed, and, oddly, so was I. 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. If you're looking for something to commend these days in America, start with those guards.And then - after bragging that he was the only protester willing to "push the envelope and go bold" - he criticizes the movement for being "disruptive"!
Of course Howley's sarcastic, condescending column misses the real point. Museum visitors were irritated? What of it? Would Howley have preferred they were fearful of their lives, as if they had stumbled on an armed-to-the-teeth tea party protest? Will a movement's effectiveness be judged according to the reactions of passers-by?
The meeting Howley mocks may not have been as organized as a corporate board of directors. But again, why does that matter? What matters is that people are meeting. They're figuring out how to organize, learning by doing. They're fed up, and they're engaged, and they're not going away. We're not going away.