Last week, Nina Easton, Fortune Magazine's Washington Bureau Chief, described an apparent traumatic event on her blog: "Last Sunday, on a peaceful, sun-crisp afternoon, our toddler finally napping upstairs, my front yard exploded with 500 screaming, placard-waving strangers on a mission to intimidate my neighbor, Greg Baer."
The protest was organized by Chicago-based grassroots organization National People's Action, in coordination with the SEIU who bused more than 700 workers from 20 states to Easton's neighborhood -- one of Washington's wealthiest neighborhoods.
The event kicked off several days of protests targeting K Street for lobbyists' role in financial reform. The protesters, representing millions of people in this country who have either lost, are in the process of losing, or will inevitably lose their home as a result of the continued refusal by banks to work with homeowners, were there to picket in front of Gregory Baer's house. Baer is deputy general counsel for Bank of America, the bank with the worst record of loan modifications according to treasury reports. Easton, who worked as a lead editor during her eight years at the Boston Globe goes on to say:
Now this event would accurately be called a "protest"; if it were taking place at, say, a bank or the U.S. Capitol. But when hundreds of loud and angry strangers are descending on your family, your children, and your home, a more apt description of this assemblage would be 'mob.'
Contrary to how Easton portrays it, this is not an isolated event. Similar protests have been organized since the modification programs were introduced last year. Groups like Neighborhood Assistance Corp. of America (NACA) held protests in front of banker's homes as early as February of last year.
When a person of Easton's apparent stature writes something, even in a blog post, one would expect a certain level of research and professionalism. According to her Wikipedia entry, Easton was a reporter with the LA Times and worked as lead editor during her eight years at The Boston Globe, yet her blog does little more than sensationalize the event and minimize the reasons behind the protest.
Easton quotes Steven Lerner, SEIU's point person on Wall Street reform as being, "more comfortable sticking to his talking points: 'Millions of people are losing their homes, and they have gone to the banks, which are turning a deaf ear.'"
Millions of people losing their homes is far from a talking point and Easton dismisses the comment as irrelevant. One Easton sympathizer, Tary McMillian, writes in her comment to the blog, "I hope the children of these protesters never have to endure the fear they put this boy through. I can't even rap (sic) my mind around the fact that people would act like this and treat anothers (sic) family like this."
Lerner's remark refers to millions of families losing their homes, uprooting their kids from schools, neighborhoods, and friends they've had for years. Not to mention the devastating financial blow it takes on a family and the stress it can add to an already hopeless situation. A bit more to endure than the inconvenience Easton and her toddler suffered by being woken up from their nap on a peaceful, sun-crisp afternoon, as she put it.
Easton doesn't stop with protesters when it comes to her condescension and disdain. She uses her platform to put down HuffPost reporter Arthur Delaney, who she refers to as a "blogger."
"There were no reporters from organizations like the Washington Post, no local camera crews who might have aired criticism of this private-home invasion... Instead, a friendly Huffington Post blogger showed up, narrowcasting coverage to the union's leftist base," Easton writes, pandering to her readers in the same way as she accuses the HuffPost reporter of doing.
The irony of her statement is that Delaney, along with Shahien Nasiripour also of HuffPost, are among the few reporters covering this issue with accuracy and objectivity. Many homeowners on shamethebanks.org are thankful to both of these reporters and the continued coverage of this topic.
Maybe the four years at Fortune Magazine, rubbing elbows with and covering the lives of the top one percent have resulted in Easton's myopic view. Or maybe her marriage to Russell Schriefer has affected her in some way. Schriefer's PR firm, SSG, claims the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable as clients. Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan is a member of the Business Roundtable, according to SEIU's own post.
Easton also downplays the role of the banks in all of this. She writes, "Waving signs denouncing bank 'greed,' hordes of invaders poured out of 14 school buses," childishly putting "greed" in quotes as if referring to unicorns, hobbits, or some other imaginary entity.
Astoundingly she manages to insinuate that we, at the bottom, are fabricating an imaginary syndrome targeting her audience, neighbors, and subject matter of her magazine.
It exists. Leo Hindery Jr. described the industry in his recent post as a:
profit-driven, greedy, selfish institution that, with its unbridled compensation practices and current light-touch regulatory regime is, I truly believe, behind almost every major societal and economic ill that has befallen the United States since 1980.
I'd suggest to Nina Easton that she attempt a return to her journalistic roots and have a look at what's going on outside of her posh neighborhood and insulated circle. Maybe draw from her Berkley education and Boston Globe experience to venture into some of the homes and meet some of families that are affected by the decisions some of her "friends" are making. At the very least, read some of the stories from homeowners at shamethebanks.org and get a sense for why people are protesting against the very people she writes about, associates with, and panders to.