Attica’s 40th has past (see Nina’s Sept. 17th post to listen to soul-chilling recordings of Nixon and Rockefeller congratulating each other on the success of the slaughter), but we can learn from revisiting the story any day.
For that reason, take a moment to read about what happened at Attica again in this detailed, commemorative article in Prison Legal News, which also traces Attica’s immediate impact and subsequent legacy on prison reform and politics– throughout the hardening of prison policies during the next decades, up to the Pelican Bay Hunger strike this year.
Also worth reading is Attica historian Heather Ann Thompson’s commentary from September 8th.
Reading Thompson’s piece, I am struck by her description of how, “Over five days, Americans sat glued to their televisions as this uprising unfolded. They watched in surprise as inmates elected representatives from each cellblock to negotiate on their behalf. They watched in disbelief as these same inmates protected the guards and civilian employees they had taken hostage.”
Can you imagine mainstream media covering a prison uprising like this today?
Attica was a spectacle, but for people to watch what was going on, the media had to report it. We’ve largely taken that service for granted as we have remembered Attica over the years, and we might now– but for the fact that we really can no longer take it for granted.
The link Nina gave below for the anniversary of Attica was headlined with an image of carnage. An image like this should remind us that we don’t and won’t see equivalent images of the violence wrought by the contemporary U.S. State, not from prisons, city streets, nor from the wars in which we are engaged in overseas. Something has changed since that time, which is captured well in signs carried by protesters at Wall Street this week– “Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not happening.”
I won’t go much further in spinning thoughts out loud– about the selectivity problems of our new mediasphere, or how more news is more immediately, widely, everywhere available yes, but only if you go looking for it or are already plugged into the right networks, and about the profound political consequences of the capture and deterioration of mainstream media. But this line of thought also affirmed my sense of the importance of using other media channels as much, and growing them as vigorously as possible.