The propaganda war waged by corporatist news media against the Occupy Wall Street movement is rapidly deteriorating. When the occupation of Zuccotti Park began on September 17, the initial response from mainstream news outlets was to simply ignore it – with no mention of the event whatsoever. When that didn’t work, the next tactic involved using the “giggle factor” to characterize the protesters as “hippies” or twenty-something “hippie wanna-bes”, attempting to mimic the protests in which their parents participated during the late-1960s. When that mischaracterization failed to get any traction, the presstitutes’ condemnation of the occupation events – which had expanded from nationwide to worldwide – became more desperate: the participants were called everything from “socialists” to “anti-Semites”.
Despite the incessant flow of propaganda from those untrustworthy sources, a good deal of commentary – understanding, sympathetic or even supportive of Occupy Wall Street began to appear in some unlikely places. For example, Roger Lowenstein wrote a piece for Bloomberg BusinessWeek entitled, “Occupy Wall Street: It’s Not a Hippie Thing”:
As critics have noted, the protesters are not in complete agreement with each other, but the overall message is reasonably coherent. They want more and better jobs, more equal distribution of income, less profit (or no profit) for banks, lower compensation for bankers, and more strictures on banks with regard to negotiating consumer services such as mortgages and debit cards. They also want to reduce the influence that corporations – financial firms in particular – wield in politics, and they want a more populist set of government priorities: bailouts for student debtors and mortgage holders, not just for banks.
In stark contrast with the disparaging sarcasm spewed by the tools at CNBC and Fox News concerning this subject, The Economist demonstrated why it enjoys such widespread respect:
So the big banks’ apologies for their role in messing up the world economy have been grudging and late, and Joe Taxpayer has yet to hear a heartfelt “thank you” for bailing them out. Summoned before Congress, Wall Street bosses have made lawyerised statements that make them sound arrogant, greedy and unrepentant. A grand gesture or two – such as slashing bonuses or giving away a tonne of money – might have gone some way towards restoring public faith in the industry. But we will never know because it didn’t happen.
On the contrary, Wall Street appears to have set its many brilliant minds the task of infuriating the public still further, by repossessing homes of serving soldiers, introducing fees for using debit cards and so on. Goldman Sachs showed a typical tin ear by withdrawing its sponsorship of a fund-raiser for a credit union (financial co-operative) on November 3rd because it planned to honour Occupy Wall Street.
The Washington Post conducted a poll with the Pew Research Center which compared and contrasted popular support for Occupy Wall Street with that of the Tea Party movement. The poll revealed that ten percent of Americans support both movements. On the other hand, Tea Party support is heavily drawn from Republican voters (71%) while only 24% of Republicans – as opposed to 64% of Democrats – support Occupy Wall Street. As for self-described “Moderates”, only 24% support the Tea Party compared with Occupy Wall Street’s 45% support from Moderates. Rest assured that these numbers will not deter unscrupulous critics from describing Occupy Wall Street as a “fringe movement”.
The best smackdown of the shabby reportage on Occupy Wall Street came from Dahlia Lithwick of Slate:
Mark your calendars: The corporate media died when it announced it was too sophisticated to understand simple declarative sentences. While the mainstream media expresses puzzlement and fear at these incomprehensible “protesters” with their oddly well-worded “signs,” the rest of us see our own concerns reflected back at us and understand perfectly. Turning off mindless programming might be the best thing that ever happens to this polity. Hey, occupiers: You’re the new news. And even better, by refusing to explain yourselves, you’re actually changing what’s reported as news. Because it takes a tremendous mental effort to refuse to see that the rich are getting richer in America while the rest of us are struggling. Maybe the days of explaining the patently obvious to the transparently compromised are finally behind us.
By refusing to take a ragtag, complicated, and leaderless movement seriously, the mainstream media has succeeded only in ensuring its own irrelevance. The rest of America has little trouble understanding that these are ragtag, complicated, and leaderless times. This may not make for great television, but any movement that acknowledges that fact deserves enormous credit.
Too many mainstream news outlets appear to be suffering from the same disease as our government and our financial institutions. Jeremy Grantham’s Third Quarter 2011 newsletter will be coming out in a few days and I’m hoping that he will prescribe a cure. My wilder dream is that those vested with the authority and responsibility to follow his advice would simply do so.