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Home > Opinion > It’s time for their 15 minutes of fame to be over (opinion)

It’s time for their 15 minutes of fame to be over (opinion)

By ThisIsReno
Protesters outside the Governor's Mansion in Carson City during the Minutemen Protest May 2, 2020. Image: Ty O'Neil

Submitted by William Puchert

The late visual artist Andy Warhol was once quoted with the line, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” This is believed to be how the phrase “15 minutes of fame” was coined. It arose from when photographer Nat Finkelstein was photographing Warhol in 1966 for a proposed book and a crowd gathered trying to get into the pictures. Warhol supposedly remarked that everyone wants to be famous, to which Finkelstein replied, “Yeah, for about fifteen minutes, Andy.” 

This phenomenon is at play with the ongoing reopening protests both through downtown Reno, in Carson City and Governor’s Mansion like so many other cities and statehouses nation-wide. 

While there are some legitimate concerns for the devastating economic effects of a prolonged COVID-19 related shutdown of businesses and services, these “so-called protests” are being orchestrated for political interests and are attracting right-wing extremists, militias and conspiracy theorists. Additionally their behavior, gathering in close company without wearing masks, also endangers the public with the potential spread of the coronavirus. Not to mention, spreading misinformation that the “pandemic is a hoax.” 

An armed protester in Carson City May 2 during a rally billed as the Return of the Minutemen. Image: Ty O'Neil
An armed protester in Carson City May 2 during a rally billed as the Return of the Minutemen.
Image: Ty O’Neil

Furthermore, these unsafe gatherings with individuals fully armed with semi-automatic rifles and, in one instance in North Carolina, an anti-tank missile launcher, is not exercising First and Second Amendment Rights. Rather, it is a form of intimidation that has led to, in one instance, the closure of the State Capitol in Lansing, Michigan “after protesters, some armed, entered the building and demanded to be allowed into the legislative chambers, which have been closed due to social distancing measures…(and screamed) at law enforcement officers who were keeping them out of the chambers.”

What would the Secret Service’s reaction be to similar behavior outside of the White House? I think we all know the answer to that one. Furthermore, would we tolerate fully armed Islamic extremists with ISIS flags parading down our streets and rallying in front of our capitol buildings? 

I am a former journalist, so I understand the spectacle of this is sensational and newsworthy. However, I believe the time for giving the stage to those carrying out intimidation tactics and hate-filled messages is over. 

The medical community, who are on the front lines fighting this pandemic, are the true heroes. Their stories of bravery, compassion and self-sacrifice who deserve the media-attention that is being shown on these selfish “useful idiots” at the reopening protests.  

One local story that really made my sympathize with our medical professionals was reading the story of Renown CEO Tony Slonim, who lost his father to the Coronavirus, and was, like so many other families who have lost a loved one to COVID-19,  not able to properly grieve. I can’t imagine what it is like being one of our community’s leaders fighting this pandemic on a daily basis and bearing that type personal loss.  

Over 20 years ago, former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw wrote a book that profiled those who grew up during the deprivation of the Great Depression and then went on to fight in World War II, chronicling their common struggle and personal sacrifices and titled the book, “The Greatest Generation.”

Brokaw surmised that these men and women, who make up many of our parents and grandparents’ generation, didn’t fight for “their 15 minutes of fame” but because it was the “right thing to do.” 

If we lived by the standards of “The Greatest Generation,” I’ll bet you would see a lot more people wearing face masks today. 

As the chronicles of history are being written in this COVID-19 pandemic by our media, producers and editors, anchors and reporters alike should begin to ask themselves: Are there a better group of people that deserve “the next 15 minutes of fame?” and by continuing to focus media attention on the reopen protesters, what our will our generation be labeled in 50 years? 

William Puchert

William Puchert is a Reno resident, a former journalist and local progressive.

Submitted opinions do not represent the views of This Is Reno. Have something to say? Submit an opinion article here.

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8 comments

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David King May 22, 2020 - 12:37 pm

My wife and I participated in the first protest in Carson City back in April. I only observed parotic citizens exercising their right to assemble.

I protested because what I would have NOT considered essential Nevada businesses such as Dough Boy Doughnut, Starbucks, Pet Co and Del Tacos to be allowed to be opened. I will never, ever understand how those businesses being opened made us all safer.

Yet I and the other protesters were considered health risks by protesting. I agree there were some protestors who were over the top with their actions and signs, but let’s be honest, any gathering anywhere, anytime for any reason has participants who are outliers of the protest – these people always seem to get the media attention or op-ed’s like the one submitted by William Puchert.

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Dave Morgan May 21, 2020 - 4:22 pm

Nice writing. Covered a lot of ground in a short amount space. Three generations of TV-watching addicts believe that America is the greatest country on Earth and that the way things were in the early 1950’s is about as good as it gets…and so they want to go back there. Too bad that it’s impossible to repeat that piece of history. But there’s another dimension. The cost of college these days is several times as much as the baby boomers paid growing up. So a lot fewer high school grads can afford college – which explains 90% of today’s juvenile street behavior including waving guns in the streets.

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Norm Robins May 20, 2020 - 11:19 am

You have deleted the comments. Why did you do that? Please restore them.

Bob Conrad
Bob Conrad May 20, 2020 - 11:25 am

Hi Norm, no comments were deleted. Some may not have been approved due to not following our commenting policy.

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Elaine Hoem May 20, 2020 - 10:03 am

I agree with you, William. We, as a society, need to be careful as to what we promote as news. The more negative, the more attention is how it seems to me. We do need to know that these people are trying to take over maybe with a minimum of press. And, I would also like to have more stories of how people are coping, how the health care workers are taking care of themselves and how our communities are supporting all those who support us. Thank you and keep writing.

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Norm Robins May 20, 2020 - 8:14 am

Government officials are drawing a paycheck. Many protesters are not. Let’s have a little compassion for them.

Bob Conrad
Bob Conrad May 20, 2020 - 11:39 am

Many of these protesters are threatening and bullying. I have no compassion for that behavior, regardless of where it originates.

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Marc Chapelle May 19, 2020 - 12:31 pm

These folks have been characterized as messengers of hate, ‘re-open protesters,’ and desperate for their 15 minutes of fame. The ‘stage’ of public opinion is not yours to give. They can equally be seen as frustrated, anonymous, ‘anti-lock down’ protesters. I don’t know or recognize any that chose to protect in Carson City or Reno. I can sympathize with their frustrations over disrupted lives, lost businesses, and curtailed freedoms of movement, association, commerce, assembly, etc. The perception that their Rights are not just being ignored, but actively attacked will last a lot more than 15 minutes. As for injected ‘political interests’ look no further than the Governors of CA, WI, VA, NV, IN, etc. with fingers in the air, testing the public winds. Too late taking the politics out of this mess.

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