by Walter Brasch
AR Senior Correspondent
Oct. 17, 2011
OCCUPY WALL STREET: SEPARATING FACT FROM MEDIA
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- To many in the corporate media, the center is sacred political ground. It is where the "sensible" and "serious" people dwell.
Passion scares them. Questioning the status quo scares them even more. And challenging the assumptions and the conventional wisdom that defines their world makes their heads explode.
That's why the news coverage of Occupy Wall Street, and of the associated protests that are rapidly spreading around the county, has been so dismal.
Fortunately, the protesters don't need the corporate media to get their message out. They are doing a pretty good job getting the message out themselves. That's because Occupy Wall Street is the American version of the protests we've seen this year from Tunis and Cairo to Madrid and Athens.
In the era of social media, smart phones and Wi-Fi, what we are seeing is the emergence of decentralized, nonviolent social movements without charismatic leaders, sound bite-friendly goals, or a particular endpoint.
With the rotting stench of failure rising from our government in Washington, the people who have joined this protest have made the conscious decision to protest first, and find solutions later.
This approach confounds the media. They don't know how to cover a movement that spends more time asking questions than coming up with answers, that seeks to ask Americans to reconsider our current economic system and come up with something more humane and equitable, and that seeks to offer a model of collective action and living even as it protests.
New York's Zuccotti Park is a city unto itself, with a kitchen, a first aid center, a library, and other services. Like the occupations in Athens, Madrid and Cairo earlier this year, protesters aren't just talking about the need to remake society. They are structuring their protest encampments to be an example of what a fair society could look like.
Those of us who previously felt alone in our belief that the current economic system is broken have been waiting a long time for something like this. And Occupy Wall Street is following the arc that Mohandas Gandhi described years ago - "First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you - then you win."
We're now exiting the "ignore" stage, as the sheer size and persistence of the protests have forced the corporate media to pay attention. Now we are in the "ridicule" stage, as conservatives and their media apologists are actively smearing Occupy Wall Street any chance they get.
The "fight" stage is still to come, and we don't know if the police tactics are going to get rougher as the protests continue. We do know that the first ham-fisted attempts by the New York cops to deal with protesters only succeeded in drawing more attention to the protests.
(Editor's Update: The protests enter a critical stage today, Oct. 14, when police acting on orders from Mayor Michael Bloomberg have vowed to clear the park for cleanup and then bar the return of protestors with tents and sleeping bags. As of tonight, hours before the police activity starts, it is not known how the protestors will respond.)
And winning? That is a long way away. We do know, however, that the bankers and politicians are starting to get nervous that people are catching on and realizing who destroyed the economy and got away with it.
But one thing is certain. The protesters are already worried about being co-opted by others, or of being seen as a tool for President Obama's re-election campaign.
This too confounds the corporate media. They can't understand a movement that is as hard on the Obama Administration as it is on the Republican Party and doesn't seek to align itself with either party.
But that is merely a reflection of reality. Yes, the Republicans have waged class warfare for the past three decades, but the Democrats did little to stop them. Our political system has become so corrupt that there is pretty much only one party - the Money Party. The wealthy and corporations have gamed the system so well that they now control a greater share of our nation's wealth than ever before.
That's why any talking head that expresses puzzlement over the Occupy Wall Street protests is hopelessly deluded. Why are hundreds of people camped out on edge of our nation's financial center? Because it is the symbol of what's wrong with our democracy, our economic system and our social values.
As anti-globalization activist and author Naomi Klein said to the protesters in Zuccotti Park last week, "our movement cannot get distracted, divided, burned out or swept away by events. This time we have to succeed. And I'm not talking about regulating the banks and increasing taxes on the rich, though that's important.
I am talking about changing the underlying values that govern our society. That is hard to fit into a single media-friendly demand, and it's also hard to figure out how to do it. But it is no less urgent for being difficult."
Wall Street has failed us. Washington has failed us. Our media have failed us. Fairness and equality have left the building. It is time to create a new and better world, and thankfully, more and more Americans see that need and are speaking up.
Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.