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(Mr. Glassman is a reporter for the Boston Herald Traveler; he was Managing Editor of the CRIMSON in 1968.)
DEMONSTRATIONS have become the major cultural events of our time.
There are the big demonstrations, when the assistant professors pack the wife in the DR dress and the little blond kids and the collie into the Volkswagen and take off for Washington. They stay there a day or so and come back with blue buttons, which the wife wears for the next few weeks, and they tell you what a great FEEEEEELING it was to be with all those people who were so dedicated in their desire and actually very clean ...
Then, there are the small demonstrations. At Harvard, according to my own unofficial count, there have been three major building takeovers this year (including one in which two buildings were taken over) and more than a dozen minor demonstrations (including mill-ins, raids, name-calling sessions with Mrs. Bunting and a host of others).
These small demonstrations are easier to examine as cultural phenomena. One notices, for instance, that three separate groups of camp followers nearly always show up.
The first group includes politically active students, whose own political group does not happen to be sponsoring the demonstration but who turn up to find out what is going on and generally to soak up the atmosphere.
For example, whenever SDS (which is Worker-Student Alliance SDS at Harvard) has a demonstration, November Action Coalition (NAC) people like Mike Ansara and Barry Margolin are on hand. When NAC has a demonstration, WSA is there. John Berg is always there. WSA people usually ask political questions of the other demonstrators, while NAC people usually talk among themselves and laugh a lot. When Afro and OBU has a demonstration, both WSA and NAC people show up. They yell, "Right on!" whenever an Afro guy says anything; they keep a discrete, almost reverent distance; and they are always asking what they can do to help, which is usually nothing.
Included in the group of political camp followers are the political "outs" -most notably Steve Kelman of YPSL, who is gathering material for his new book or his next article in the New Leader, and a fellow from Young Americans for Freedom, who managed to get inside University Hall last week with some sort of press pass.
THE SECOND group includes non-political camp followers, who want to see what the youth of America is up to. Faculty members like Marty Peretz and Michael Walzer are usually there, and so are Cambridge types like Sheldon Deitz, House Masters and Senior Tutors are there too, but mainly just to get names. Still, Joel Porte and Alan Heimert tend to tell jokes and liven up the show.
But the third group, by far the most interesting, is the press. At many demonstrations there are more reporters, photographers, cameramen, cameramen's helpers, off-duty reporters, and off-duty photographers than there are demonstrators. At the height of the latest OBU occupation, about 50 journalists were inside University Hall with another 10 or 20 outside.
Covering demonstrations is not something that the press does very well, but it is something that the press does very frequently. Demonstrations come in neat packages. Readers like them. It is easy to tell what is going on. Demonstrations dramatize all the big issues of our time, like Vietnam and racism. And they usually end before 5 p. m.-in time for the 6:30 News.
Of course, demonstrations, like most of the other "events" the press covers (such as interviews, press conferences, ship launchings) are not real events (Daniel Boorstin calls them "pseudo-events"). They are not spontaneous; they are merely shows for the press. They "demonstrate" that people are dissatisfied with things. They are not a real reaction to the dissatisfaction.
Of course, the new kinds of "demonstrations" (Weathermen raids, the M. I. T. disruptions) are not so much demonstrations as military actions, designed to hurt the enemy. Most demonstrations are not like that, however. They are symbols of discontent at conditions; a riot, on the other hand, is a real reaction to conditions.
THIS gets complicated, and before we go on we should introduce the cast-the men of the press who cover Harvard and, in the process, create their own subculture:
BOSTON GLOBE -The Globe's editor, Tom Winship, really goes for Harvard in a big way. He once said that Cambridge is one of the two or three best beats in the country. And he has spread around the wealth. No fewer than half a dozen Globe reporters and correspondents cover Harvard. The main ones are Crocker Snow, a preppy-looking fellow with a dark complexion who handles the intellectual side and talks quite a bit to Faculty members, and Parker Donham, a former CRIMSON editor and longtime Harvard student who has a beard that goes all over his face and down the back of his head. Occasionally, the Globe's education writers turn up-Nina McCain and Larry Van Dyne-but they usually stay in the office and read important papers. Also seen frequently are big-time political writers like Jerry Murphy and Robert Healy. As if that were not enough, the Globe has two stringers, both of them CRIMSON editors or former editors, depending on whom you talk to-Bill Kutik,, who has a beard like Parker's but with more on top than on the bottom, and Alan Geismer, who wrote stories for the Globe last summer on wounded GI's. The Evening Globe, which is a separate paper all by itself, has George Croft, who knows quite a lot about Cambridge and is fond of doing crossword puzzles.
BOSTON HERALD TRAVELER -This paper, which supports Nixon in front-page editorials and is read widely by the over-50 types who?? season tickets to the Friday Symphony, is trying to get back the Harvard audience that it lost about 10 years ago when the Globe began to get good. Jack Reed and I, both former CRIMSON editors, hang around quite a bit and write almost exclusively for the Sunday paper. Skip McCaffery is the Cambridge writer, very good, much like Croft, and a-man of many disguises who once got into an SDS meeting dressed up as a janitor.
BOSTON RECORD AMERICAN -I don't know any of these guys' names. The usual reporter, who seems to have the youth beat, is a fairly pimply fellow with black hair and a moustache. He often wears plaid jackets and paisley ties and shades. He has very good police contacts, and when Harvard administrators see him around; as one of them said, they know they are in for trouble. Another Record American reporter is a huge man who looks like a cop but isn't. This I learned the hard way. The Record American also has an attractive and fairly young woman photographer who goes to all these things.
CRIMSON -If the demonstration is a big one, 20 CRIMSON reporters and photographers (who are all called editors) will be there. Few of them are writing anything, except the ones who are stringers for other papers, like Bob Krim of the Washington Post and Jeff Blum of the Bergen County Record. The other ones are radicals who want to be with other radicals but don't want to get kicked out of school. Quite a few CRIMSON editors were arrested last year in the April bust, but nearly all of them got out of jail with their press passes, which are highly un-official. Scott Jacobs likes to think of himself as the CRIMSON's main demonstration man, but there are many, many others, since covering demonstrations is almost the only thing the CRIMSON does these days. Steve Bussard and Tim Carlson usually take the pictures. John Short participates, writes about it later.
OTHER HARVARD -WHRB, the radio station, always has a large crew, especially after their coverage last April, but no one listens. They talk to each other and try to sound like Edward R. Murrow on the scene with the bombs falling. The Harvard Independent has a rapid turnover of reporters, who are unexceptional. The Harvard Gazette, the administration paper, is represented by David Cudhea, who has long thin sideburns and was once arrested way back in the famous 1950's in the Pogo Riots even though he was a CRIMSON reporter. Large numbers of Yearbook people take pictures for their big book. And John Bethell, who never takes notes, covers it for the Harvard (Alumni) Bulletin.
N. Y. TIMES -Robert Reinhold writes for the Times. He is supposed to be covering the "world of ideas," but he spends all his time chasing down demonstrations and invariably gets there late. Recently, he has been getting there on time, thanks to his new stringer Ernie Wilson, and he is very happy about it.
TELEVISION -Television people come with huge amounts of equipment and personnel, and what shows up on the news that night is ridiculous. It is always very short and usually wrong, and the films have bouncy editing. Television people are also usually on their way somewhere else, which is their main excuse. I recognize people I see on the little blue screen-Jack Borden of Eyewitness News, Bob Ortiz, Television people prove their immediacy by wearing NOW clothing, such as bell bottom trousers and double-breasted jackets.
The press sub-group can be divided into sub-sub groups by age and politics. CRIMSON editors and former CRIMSON editor types hang out together and make cynical remarks and jokes and act very irreverent. McCaffery and Croft are always in the background, but they know just as much as everyone else. The television people fix their equipment and film lead-ins and sum-ups. And the older newspapermen talk together, but I am not sure what about.
Reporters do not want other reporters to get something they do not have, but on the other hand they are always willing to tell each other what they have. After everything is over, the older reporters ask each other, "What are you going to lead with?" Then they all decide on the same lead, which makes everyone happy including Tom Winship at the Globe and Gene Moriarty at the Herald Traveler.
SOMETHING that demonstrators should know is that photographers-in fact almost all the older photographers on the Boston dailies-often give their pictures to the FBI in the interests of National Security. Some of them call up the FBI office after a big demonstration and ask if the agents want to see some good pictures of enemies of the state. After the April crisis at Harvard, agents came around to the city rooms of the Boston papers and asked reporters and photographers to fill them in on what they knew. The press thinks that it is doing a public service by cooperating and even soliciting. Photographers will tell you quite openly that they give their pictures away, and they say they do not get paid for their services.
Photographers get very upset when demonstrators try to block their cameras and smear Vaseline on their lenses(a neat trick used at M. I. T.), since the photographers say they are merely exercising their famous freedom of the press. The demonstrators say that they are exercising their freedom to keep out of FBI files.
Stories about demonstrations are written according to a formula, and they are very easy to write, almost like sports stories. The stories answer these questions:
How many demonstrators? Injuries? Arrests? Any police? What punishment? The issue? The other side of the issue? A chronology? A touch of color? Groups involved? Counter demonstrators?
MOST reporters have very little idea what is going on. They do nothing all day but sit around the building that is being occupied and wait for the police to come. They are very happy to get Xeroxed statements-form either side, because that way they do not have to take notes, and they are assured that the other reporters will be writing the safe thing. It is good advice for demonstrators to pass out copies of all the statements they make form the steps of occupied buildings, because most reporters cannot take shorthand and do not bother with speakers who talk too fast.
In the old days, student reporters only got to meet real reporters when they went on big assignments out of town. Now they work with them almost every day. The student reporters try to impress the real reporters by pretending they know everything that is going on but won't tell the real reporters. The real reporters try to impress the student reporters by acting as if they do not care, which they do not.
So there is tension in the sub-culture. Still, almost all the reporters enjoy the excitement of demonstrations. They get to know members of the other sub-cultures, perhaps even some actual demonstration participants, whose shoulders they can put their arm around and say, "Now, Mike, what's really going on here?" They can pal around with can pal around with administrators, with Sam Williamson (Dean May's demonstration man), or Burris Young (who is usually taking notes himself), or Archie Epps (who is looking enigmatic and knows which side he is on but you don't).
These are some of the joys of the demonstration culture. Sure, they are not big or significant joys, but it is not a big or significant culture either. Right now, though, it is all we've got.
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