As I do after each one of Occupy Wall Street’s major days of action, I scoured news websites on Tuesday to learn what our “trusted watchdogs,” the mainstream media, had to say about S17.
And within minutes, I learned that the coverage – with little exception – amounted to nothing more than the typical and predictable refrain: Occupy is dead.
For me, reading Occupy stories written by reporters at the AP or Reuters or MSNBC or the Daily News or NY1 or Fox News or The New York Times is almost an exercise in masochism at this point. I don’t need to click on a link to know how the most important social movement of my lifetime is going to be handled by the establishment media. And it’s this: The coverage will fall somewhere between petulant group-think and outright falsehoods.
As a former mainstream media reporter myself – I wrote for the second-largest daily paper in New Jersey – I think I know why this is the case. Most journalists are either too meek and obedient to their most powerful sources (Mayor Bloomberg, the NYPD, etc.) to tell the real story – or they are too J-school trained to get “both sides” of the issue that they always leave the reader wondering: “So what’s the truth?” NYU professor Jay Rosen calls this “the view from nowhere.”
Throw in the fact that most mainstream media outlets are owned by huge corporations and that Occupy doesn’t fit into their neat parameters of what constitutes a political story (Democrats versus Republicans!!!), and it’s pretty obvious why every other story about the movement is an obituary.
But how many times is the mainstream media going to declare Occupy dead? It did so after encampments across the country were brutally raided and evicted late last year, it did so on Occupy’s six-month anniversary, it did so after May Day – and many more times in between.
The opening paragraph to these stories is always the same. It reads something like this: “Occupy Wall Street protesters gathered at such-and-such location yesterday, but their presence did not nearly live up to their numbers last fall.”
If Occupy is dead – and has been dead for months – why are you still writing about it?
But that’s not what really pisses me off. No, what really gets me apoplectic is that the mainstream media’s coverage of Occupy actions almost never mentions the number one reason why the movement’s influence has waned: coordinated and well-funded state repression.
The media never references that the repugnant treatment of protesters at the hands of the NYPD – and other police forces across the country – is a driving reason why Occupy’s notoriety has fallen off the public radar. It’s not because of a lack of clear message, or that Occupy is leaderless, or that, at times, its meetings have been plagued by infighting. Those are just the convenient reasons the media uses so it can avoid being adversarial.
Let me ask a simple question. If you were someone who believed in Occupy, but thought that you might be physically hurt by someone with a gun and riot handcuffs every time you wanted to express your right to peaceful protest, would you stay home that day?
After all, as the anthropologist anarchist David Graeber explains, cops inherently are a “political institution,” in place to suppress mass resistance and mobilization: “They were originally created as a mechanism of class control,” he says. “They weren’t created to fight crime.”
Moreover, perhaps the mainstream media should pick up on something: Considering nearly all Occupy actions that I’ve been to in New York are met with a mind-boggling and unabating police response, ever wonder if that means the movement is doing something right? Ever wonder if the very powerful of this country are scared shitless by Occupy coming up with a more effective political and economic system that actually works for the 99 percent?
That’s why Bloomberg shipped everyone out of Zuccotti Park. That small, concrete slab in the shadow of Wall Street was one of the few places in the country, while it lasted, where men, women and children could comfortably gather at any hour of the day with like-minded people -- without being bombarded by mass consumerism -- and exchange ideas for genuine change.
And that’s exactly why it had to go. The elite of this country who rely on our existing system to enrich themselves and seize power at the expense of everyone else literally cannot allow a habitated Zuccotti Park to exist.
But, despite all of this, Occupy lives on.
Because if it was so lifeless, as the establishment media would have you believe, why on Earth were there thousands of cops on and around Wall Street on Monday morning? Why was a heavily barricaded Zuccotti surrounded by riot police into the night?
So here’s my recommendation for the mainstream media: The next time you write an “Occupy is dead” story – and you will, because the movement, or a version of it, is not going anywhere – please fulfill your responsibility as a journalist and include the fact that coordinated, weaponized, and sanctioned state repression greets Occupiers every single place they go.
Oh, and while you’re at it, maybe take a moment to realize the immensity of your job and how many of your readers take every word you write as gospel. Also, show some solidarity with your journalistic peers who are leaving the comfort of their offices to report on Occupy, only to be hassled, detained, shoved, manhandled and arrested by the NYPD.
And I know how little you get paid. So it befuddles me how you could ever ignore or write off a movement that is fighting for you each and every day, and instead choose to stand up for the greed and corruptness of Wall Street.
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