Sunday, October 9, 2011

Occupy Wall Street: "Something's happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear... " (With update)

As one who has fumed impotently for years about the buying and selling of my country's government and institutions by rich, mostly rabidly right-wing corporations and the super-rich, I had frequently wondered whether Americans would ever awake from their apathy and take to the streets to demand change.  It seems that finally we may be stretching, yawning, maybe putting one foot on the floor, and preparing to ever-so-tentatively stand up for ourselves and face up to the powers that be.  That, at least, is the message that I take from the movement that has become known as Occupy Wall Street and has now spread around the country, even into Houston!   This, I think, is the most hopeful event that I have witnessed in many years.

And what has been the media's response to thousands of people gathering in New York and elsewhere to protest the buying of our democracy?  Its first response was to ignore it. Literally, for days into the demonstrations, you could not find any information about them in the mainstream media outlets.  Even The New York Times on the demonstration's home turf was negligent.

Then, when the police started swinging their clubs and pepper spraying people and the event could no longer be ignored, the theme of the media became:  "These are just a bunch of hippies!  They don't even know what they want!  They haven't issued any demands!  Where are the demands?  What do they want?"

A few brave and enterprising journalists finally got around to actually asking participants what they wanted and they found, almost universally, intelligent, well-spoken people who knew that something very, very bad was happening to their country and they wanted their fellow citizens to wake up and change it.  That's what they want - participatory democracy.  People taking their fate and their future and the future of their country into their own hands again and not leaving it to right-wing ideologues like the Koch Brothers and Art Pope and others of their ilk who buy politicians like buying candy in a candy store.

On the whole, I think the media still have not really caught on to what is happening here. They are still trying to fit it into one of their pre-formed news niches, something that will allow them to use shorthand in discussing the movement so that they don't really have to get off their lazy butts and engage it.  This is the Fox-ification of the news business and it is endemic and rampant in journalism today.  Will they get away with it?  A better question might be, will we let them get away with it?

UPDATE 10/10/11:  For a more thorough and erudite discussion of the media commentariat's and the plutocracy's reaction to the demonstrations, read Paul Krugman's column today.

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