Media acknowledges OccupyWall Street; creates narrative crutch


Well, the mainstream media finally perked up and realized that, since it was spreading across the country, maybe they’d better do something about covering the OccupyWallStreet demonstrations.

You can tell they are not happy about it. I wrote about NPR’s wobbly-kneed, pathetic little excuse a week ago:

Their excuse hinted at the excuse the media has now come up with to feature a patronizing and dismissive tone in their coverage: we don’t know what these crazy kids want. They don’t have a clear message!

It’s funny. I’ve read only a handful of items about the demonstrations. I glanced at a few photos online and I saw OccupyChicago out of the corner of my eye this past week. Yet I am perfectly clear about what they want: they want a country whose laws aren’t created to enable a handful of the wealthiest people and a tiny group of financial institutions to suck up and horde all the country’s wealth, while everyone else struggles. They want a country in which ideas like surtaxes on super-rich and regulations preventing big banks from making risky moves and passing the downside to everyone else while assuring no downside for themselves aren’t automatically rejected, and ideas like cutting food assistance for hungry kids and making 65- and 66-year-olds try to find affordable health-care coverage in the private market are chewed over with deep seriousness.

Do the media really not get this? Actually, I think they do — but it’s an inconvenient truth for those who serve as a mouthpiece for the privileged. That’s why a Plain Dealer editor’s assertion that the paper’s mission was to be a “voice for the voiceless” got such a wave of laughter from an audience at a forum last March. It doesn’t take many brain cells to figure out that the Plain Dealer’s mission is to be a “voice for the Greater Cleveland Partnership.”

Many on the left have pointed out that the same media had no issues jumping all over the Tea Party when their demonstrations started — and continuing that coverage endlessly, even when it was clear they were running out of steam.

What the media needs to be confronted with is, “OK, you say the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations aren’t that serious because ‘we don’t know what they want.’ Fine. What does the Tea Party want?”

If you want to find a group with a vague, muddled message, the Tea Party is it. “They’re against government.” “They want less government.” Well, that’s pretty vague. What part of government do they want “less” of? Why hasn’t the media explored this much? Generalities about “cutting spending” not based in any real agenda — and coming from people likely to scream their heads off if you suggested that services in their town would have to be cut — don’t add up to a clear message.

In fact, when the Tea Party articulates any particular thing it “wants,” it’s usually something based on a falsehood. It rose in April 2009 screeching about Obama raising taxes. Obama had just lowered taxes, and it had just showed up in everyone’s paycheck. Then they moved on to “Obamacare.” Death panels! Government-funded abortions! Government telling you what doctor you had to see!

Unfortunately, all are feverish fantasies of the far right — not one of them with a basis in fact. So what is their clear, unifying message?

OK, we all know what it is. It’s “We hate Obama” and HE is what they want less of — not government in general. But the serious media won’t allow that message to be named — ignorance, racism, and personal animosity. That would spoil a pre-determined story line about noble citizens rising up to express frustration with their government.

OK, now people are rising up for real against REAL issues that threaten almost everyone. And the solutions are right in front of us. They have been identified, named, and even in some cases proposed. And the same media that wants to sweep OccupyWallStreet under the rug has failed to dissect them in an honest way, to explain what could help undo the suffering of so many and shore up an economy or everyone. It’s easier to condescend and act like you think you’re oh-so-much smarter.

But the next time you see some pundit wave his hand and say in that lofty manner, “These kids don’t know what they want,” call or email or write him and ask him “Tell me in a simple sentence or two, what specifically does the Tea Party want, other than Obama out of office?”