No freedom of the press here

The Oregonian is just now catching on to the fact that a lot of the Portland protesters won't let you take video that shows their faces. They typically couple their announcement of that policy with a threat. And if they catch you at it, your camera or phone is in jeopardy, and you may even get roughed up bodily.

The O has a story on it posted currently, and that publication's pearl-clutching higher-ups even sounded off on the subject as part of an editorial today.

But the issue is not new. This has been going on for a while. It blew up the first night the black-clad protesters showed up at city commissioner Dan Ryan's house. (That was the night they talked to him, not the later night where they sprayed graffiti on his house and broke a window.) Even Ryan and his partner were in on the "no cameras" bit as they stood out in their front yard.

In fact, I remember Mike Benner of KGW television complaining about this – it must have been in a tweet – way back in July or August, when he got the threats at the Black Lives Matter protests downtown. And it's not only the establishment media who get the edict and the threats. Little independent journalists are also forbidden from recording what they see.

Why don't the protesters want a record made of the actions they are taking on, or visible from, a public street? The biggest reason, I think, is fear of prosecution. They know that if the police get their hands on incriminating video – which they're willing to use subpoenas to try to get – it will make prosecuting the rowdier demonstrators a lot easier.

Live streaming is an especially big help to the police. As incompetent as they can be at times, they do know how to follow the action on social media, and react tactically in real time.

The occupiers also have other motivations, I think. Some of the participants in the more violent "direct actions" want to cause fear. An ability to act up anonymously is an asset toward that end. And part of it is the impression they'd like to create that their sentiments are shared by everyone, or at least by most people. It doesn't matter who's doing the damage; it's what "the people" want. So no one should care who is lighting the dumpsters on fire.

To me, refusing to be identified robs the protests of much of their power. If you won't show me who you are, I'm not going to be too impressed by what you have to say. Whenever I see the Guy Fawkes masks, I immediately start to tune out.

And refusing to be identified, to the point of assaulting mainstream media who are recording what is happening in public, calls into question what the "protesters" are actually trying to accomplish. Are they pressing our public institutions to use their power for social change in the cause of justice? It doesn't seem like it. Maybe that was what the summer of Black Lives Matter was about, but the "stolen land" set that is busting up Portland now doesn't seem to want "social" anything. They seem to be challenging the concept of society itself. That's a big reason why they won't acknowledge any leader with whom the politicians can negotiate.

If I were in the mainstream media, I'd think about fighting back. The identities of the occupiers are not such guarded secrets that they couldn't be obtained. Certainly when they are arrested, there's a record. Maybe the media ought to follow the criminal cases more closely, and more prominently. This will be attacked as "doxxing," but it's what they used to call journalism.

The problem, of course, is that the media organizations are afraid of these people. Just as the cops are. So the best they can do is a sternly worded editorial. But that isn't going to change a thing. Those days are long gone.

And it works the other way, too. The cops, other than legitimate undercover cops, should not be allowed to work without name badges. Period! If they want to be anonymous, they'll have to find other work. This business of their wearing numbers, which can't be linked up to their names, is for the birds.