Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The "Riot" in Madison

Last Thursday morning on MSNBC’s morning show, U.S. Congressman Paul Ryan of Janesville used the word “riot” to describe what was going on in Madison.


The picture above, expropriated from the UW archives, was taken before all hell broke loose in Madison in October of 1967. What happened was a riot. Cracked heads; mass arrests; broken windows; tear gas; fistfights; fear. There was a lot of rioting in this nation back then. Cities burned; people died.

When questioned about his use of the word by media organizations like the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Ryan later admitted his use of the word “riot” to describe the goings-on at the Capitol was an inaccurate comparison. Ya think?

Ryan’s use of the word “riot” is as wrong as those who made signs comparing Governor Walker to Hitler or Mussolini.

There’s a lot of untruth being told and repeated by both sides regarding the Budget Repair Bill. There’s always been wide latitude associated with impassioned political speech. A talk show hostess brayed to the Tea Party crowd Saturday that the protesters were “trashing the people’s house”. Not so, literally, of course, but certainly acceptable political rhetoric, because “trashing” means one thing to you, and another to me, and it didn’t incite anyone to violence.

But “riot” doesn’t mean people carrying signs, pounding drums, marching around the state-house, occupying the Capitol Rotunda, holding impassioned discussions, and raising their voices.

As the Windbag In Chief (Rush) himself has said many times, “words mean things.” What’s going on in Madison now is not a riot, and to use that word to describe it is a big bowl of wrong.


  1. Our blogger's point is well taken. Mr. Ryan has obviously never witnessed a riot. If you have, rioting is something you will never again confuse with a peaceful protest. It is something you won't forget.

  2. Yep, what you and HK said. It's why, I think, my father never bothered with war movies.
    I like the use of the Historical Society photos for perspective. Funny about the circle of news. We are getting complaints about news coverage for "ignoring" stories someone reads elsewhere, except they are stories we broke 10 days ago and are now making the national rounds. Seen it before. I chased a couple of those geese yesterday.