On Monday, December 31st, Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post reported that weapons and high explosive powder were found in the home of a Greenwich Village couple. New York Post reporter Jamie Schram claimed that the accused is an "Occupy Wall Street activist", sans a single source (not even an anonymous one) for the OWS connection.
And so as the OWS PR working group was forced to call the press to account: "We urge members of the media to refrain from spreading rumors and misinformation," emphasizing in the immediate aftermath of the story that "There is nothing… to support a link between OWS and the individual arrested."
Soon after, this was confirmed by the NYPD in The New York Times, which acknowledged there was no evidence the accused was active in any political movements whatsoever.
Within another day, Schram himself was forced to write an update which struck any mention of Occupy from the record. The Village Voice documented the lies in New York Post Helps NYPD Slander Occupy Wall Street (Again), followed by FAIR's account of the phony link between Occupy and the arrests, and another Voice headline: More Misresporting on the West Village Explosive Arrests.
This is far from the first time that the Post has distorted the facts of a story in order to associate the movement with violence. And as Your Inbox: Occupied points out, the results of media misinformation have contributed to "the marginalization of constituencies and views that deserve respectful treatment by reporters, documented police violence, and unconstitutional domestic spying activities."
As Nick Pinto of the Village Voice notes, "a full two days after the Occupy link had already been debunked, CBS This Morning ran a segment doubling down on the false claim," going so far as to bring on Mitchell Silber of K2 Intelligence, a corporate investigation firm.
"It's unclear why CBS doesn't bother to identify him as such," writes Pinto, "but well into 2012, Silber was the Director of the Analytic and Cyber Units in the NYPD's controversial Intelligence Division, where he was associated with the division's program of widespread surveillance of Muslim Americans."
Multiple times this year it has become clear that the effort to cast aspersions of criminality over this movement for equity and democracy portends an escalation in repression.
When we first called attention to the National Defense Authorization Act, we were seeing frightening signs that violent elements acting outside of Occupy Wall Street and against our principles, will be marshaled to justify a future crackdown heralding from the inner sanctum of the Executive.
And the scope of this problem has recently become even more pronounced through disclosures that the "FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are treating protests against the corporate and banking structure of America as potential criminal and terrorist activity. These documents also show these federal agencies functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and Corporate America." This pathetic, yet extremely damaging example of collusion between Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street tabloid and elements within the FBI, proves the point.
The ‘Your Inbox: Occupied’ team started a petition for concerned OWS activists demanding a retraction and an apology from the New York Post, on the same print and Web pages as the original accusation. This is not so much an appeal to power for a change in behavior, as a landing pad for supporters, building towards potential escalation actions. As Harry Waisbren writes, "We intend for this petition to build awareness amongst occupiers, supporters, and media outlets, and then when we get a lot of signatures, we want to help organize an on the ground action where we deliver them in person."
If there is one thing OWS can be said to be against, it's leaving be at a little clicktivism. This movement continues to be about calling people back into public space, in defiance of isolation behind computers. So don't just sign the petition, exercise your civil liberties in every way you can. Get off the internet! I'll see you in the streets!