Chicago news media sold fear and chaos with NATO– it received a ghost town

Chicago news media sold fear and chaos with NATO– it received a ghost town

Is it safe to come out yet?

Is NATO gone?

Are the protesters gone?

The way the Chicago news media covered NATO summit made Chicago people and companies cower in fear.

As I walked around the abandoned loop Monday, I felt like Tom Cruise in the opening scene of Vanilla Sky, as David Aames drives around a deserted Manhattan. Only on Monday it wasn’t completely deserted in the loop as there were more police officers in the street than pedestrians at noon.

Chicago media: What was all the fuss about? For two solid weeks, you breathlessly reported about NATO and the potential for the second coming of the 1968 Democratic convention. What we got, essentially, was a Phish show. Only Phish concerts have far more people.

Sure, there were some violent clashes. And had there been as many cameras focused on the bleachers of last weekend’s Cubs-Sox series, you also would have seen some violent clashes.

If anything, as I wandered through a forsaken downtown, I felt bad for Chicago business. Restaurant traffic was down most of last week. There were noticeably less people in the loop last Wednesday, with fewer people as last week wore on. Productivity was down as offices were also short staffed or shuttered Friday and Monday in anticipation, I suppose, of mass chaos. One area were there was extra staff was building security. My office building’s security was quadrupled staffed and laughed all the way to the bank thinking about all the overtime pay they received the last week.

Ultimately, I would rather Chicago be over-prepared rather than be made to look foolish with our pants down. Kudos go to the Chicago Police Department and Superintendent Garry McCarthy, which not only kept our city safe, albeit with an inevitable clash, but made the Department– and its restraint– look good.

And lost in all the anticipation of chaos was that world leaders were in Chicago. Usually when President Obama comes to town, it’s a big deal. Last weekend, Obama and Hillary Clinton were in town, along with the leaders of several other countries. Our media largely ignored their presence, preferring to focus on protesters.

We live in a beautiful city. In traveling around the country over the years, I have only been complemented when people learn I am a Chicagoan. "My favorite place to go" or "What a great city" is what I often hear when traveling. This weekend though, a big portion of our greatest asset was not on display, because we chose to stay home. We make this city great. Hopefully, the next time we have opportunity shine on the world stage, the media hype surrounding the event doesn’t keep Chicagoans in fear at home.

Filed under: Chicagoist


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  • Wasn't that the French delegation I saw at Billy Goat's?

    Maybe not.

    Wasn't that the plan Rahm sold, foreign VIPs out sucking down Chicago-style hot dogs and strolling the various hoods?

    He even handed out bicycle maps in the official Chicago "Goodie Bag". Maybe all the delegates followed the residents out of town -- on bikes.

  • This was sort of predicted in last week's comments.

    Basically the question is what the hotels and caterers made off of the supposedly 65 delegations, and he quinoa salad and tofu burger lunch counters off the 4000 or so demonstrators,* vs. shutting the city down.

    As Richard indicates, the delegates apparently didn't get to see much of the city outside the security zones.

    *Doesn't appear that the demonstrators patronized many hotels.

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