Sunday, May 06, 2012

Left Side of the Aisle #55 - Part 3

Occupy is back (not that it ever left)

Occupy aggressively reemerged on May 1 with rallies, marches, and other sorts of demonstrations in 115 places around the US. Turnouts ranged from the dozens in some places to the hundreds to the thousands in others to the tens of thousands in a few. The picture is of some of the estimated 20,000 who made their way along 5th Avenue in New York.

Now in these hundreds of protests involving tens of thousands of people, there were of course some incidents, and in the old and dishonorable media tradition of "if it bleeds, it leads," much - much too much - of the coverage made those few incidents a, even the, centerpiece of their coverage. That is, they made much too much out of much too little.

In fact, despite that dishonorable tradition, it sometimes seems there is a deliberate intent to discredit Occupy by putting so much attention on such a small - and, they would reasonably think, unpopular - part of it.

As an example, consider Seattle: Much was made of some black-clad protestors who broke off from the main march and set about breaking windows - but only one major media outlet of which I'm aware (the San Francisco Chronicle) made mention of fact this was only about a half-dozen people out of whole day of action, out of the whole demonstration. Other reports said there were as many as three dozen, but they seem to have included anyone dressed in black who was present, whether they did anything or not. The video of the event appears to confirm the Chronicle's figure for actual participants in the vandalism.

More to the point, while the media was busy watching this handful of nihilists breaking (or, in what I found an amusing sidebar, often enough futilely trying to break) windows, there was a peaceful rally going on couple of blocks away, which media didn't cover - because it was peaceful. In fact, the coverage of the local paper, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, mentioned nothing except the vandalism.

Some didn't stop at the protests themselves: ABC News, reporting before most events had started, couldn't even be bothered to report on the plans for the day before breathlessly rushing ahead to report on some "suspicious white powder" - which turned out to be corn starch - mailed to seven locations in New York City (most of them Wells Fargo bank branches). Police were quick to suggest a connection to Occupy, which was echoed and amplified by Reuters, which headlined its article "More white powder incidents in New York; police see Occupy link."

Now, we have to remember is the New York City police, the people who have a "stop and frisk" policy applied overwhelmingly to young black males (because they are all suspected criminals, of course), who can search your belongings before you can get on the subway (because we're all potential suicide bombers), and who have been spying on any pretty much any Muslim within a radius of a couple of hundred miles (because all Muslims are potential terrorists). So consider source.

But more importantly, what does it mean to have a "link" to Occupy? Occupy has no central structure, no membership list, no dues. So what does that mean? Suppose someone defaced a "Romney for President" bumper sticker. How would you feel about a headline that said "police see Obama campaign link?"

And peaking of New York, the New York Times did its part for the Armies of the Empire: Its article on the day's events was headlined "At May Day Demonstrations, Traffic Jams and Arrests." The first three graphs were all about arrests; not until the fifth graph could the Times be bothered to even mention the theme of the actions.

That in turn brings up another thing that gripes me: "What are they about?" We keep hearing pundits saying that, complaining and carping about the movement's "lack of focus," the absence of a clear and specific list of particular demands.

But consider these statements, all taken from major media articles about the May 1 actions:

MSNBC said people turned out "to rally against austerity measures and call for higher wages and more jobs." Later on, the same article noted that Occupy held protests during the spring on issues of student debt and worker rights.

The San Francisco Chronicle had this to say:
Occupy groups across the U.S. have protested economic disparity and high foreclosure and unemployment rates that hurt average Americans while bankers and financial executives received bonuses and taxpayer-funded bailouts.
And even the New York Times, when it got around to mentioning what drove the protests, said this:
The themes on May Day were the ones that Occupy Wall Street has sounded from the outset of the movement last fall - opposition to big banks and the government that bailed them out after they helped cause the recession.
So what is this "What are they about"crap? There is a clear theme running through those descriptions, which can be summed up is a few words: economic injustice and the corruption of our political process. Yet that same media, despite having reported that, will turn around and in next breath will scratch its collective head and say "what ever do they want?" They do know - or, rather, the corporations that own the media know. They just don't want to hear it.

At the same time, there is one thing the movement is not about: It is not about becoming the pet of the Democratic Party and President Obama’s reelection effort the way the Tea Party, whose initial anger at corporations and the banks had some real overlap with Occupy's vision, has become the tamed pet of the GOPpers.

And no, that does not mean anyone in Occupy wants Witless Romney as president! Don't be stupid. What it means is that the particular benefit of any particular politician or any particular political party is unimportant. What's important is results. Nothing else.


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