Fox News seems to be taking a very cynical view toward the decision of many union members and labor sympathizers to exercise their freedom of speech and assembly. Over the past day tens of thousands of workers and their families gathered at the state Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin to object to Republican Governor Scott Walker’s proposal to strip them of many of their collective bargaining rights. The protests were a typical in that they featured a march on the streets, many homemade signs, and the crowd chanting various slogans. In fact, the protest looked much like a Tea Party rally. Despite no documented incidents of violence, Fox News felt it was appropriate to put a “Wisconsin is Burning” tagline under their footage as they discussed the story (video and picture to the left).
In their footage Fox News does not show any buildings set ablaze by the union protesters. In the last few weeks many news organizations correctly ran the tagline “Cairo is Burning” as many buildings were set ablaze in that capitol during the Egyptian Revolution. However, by all accounts the protests in Madison have been the garden-variety American protest.
The Fox News tagline could be dismissed if not for the discussion which followed. Fox News commentator Tracy Byrnes goes on to say that it is “borderline going to get violent” if the protests continue. Byrnes cites the fact that protesters were chanting “kill the bill” and “recall Governor Walker.” Byrnes and her colleagues ignore the fact that Tea Party protesters chanted “kill the bill” during the health care reform debate. Many conservatives also called for the impeachment of President Obama during that time. When Tea Party protesters came out it was seen as the public “speaking out” against the government. When unions protest things are evidently about to get violent.
Thus far the only suggestion of violence has actually come from Governor Walker himself. Without citing any evidence of potential violence, Walker said that he would call out the National Guard on the unions if necessary. The unions have responded by peacefully protesting and engaging in a “sick out” which shut down Madison school district. Walker can certainly have the National Guard take over prisons if security personnel walk out, but the National Guard would have a very hard time appropriately running a second-grade classroom.
It is also worth noting that the unions are not actually asking for anything new. Instead, labor is simply asking to keep the negotiation rights they currently have. If Walker’s bill passed unions would lose the ability to negotiate over health benefits, and only be entitled to ask for pay raises at the same rate as the Consumer Price Index. Walker’s bill would essentially strip the unions of their power at the negotiating table with employers. At the very least the First Amendment guarantees these workers the rights to object to these moves, but according to Fox News Wisconsin is now ablaze.