The Mass Media’s Disgraceful Coverage of Occupy Wall Street
FOX News and The New York Times prove yet again that both conservatives and mainstream liberals serve power:
The mainstream media’s propaganda surrounding Occupy Wall Street has been truly breathtaking. For those who believe we have a right/left divide in the mass media, coverage by FOX News and The New York Times must shatter all such delusions (and I say this as someone who used to worship The Times). Let’s be clear on this. Both conservative and “liberal” media outlets are playing for the same team. They are all either big corporations themselves or they are owned and controlled by the six mega corporations which dominate the mass media. As such, a populist revolution is against their interest.
Earlier this week, an agitator appeared at Zuccotti Park. I presume he was planted there by FOX News, although I have no proof. He was a self-styled conservative African American who wanted to defend capitalism and Wall Street. Not surprisingly, the FOX News cameras followed his every word. He made outrageous claims, such as that redistribution of wealth is impossible, not just wrong, and that teachers unions bear responsibility for America’s decline, not the big banks which stole trillions through bailouts. The purpose was to instigate and make us look like an agry mob. I have been unable to locate the clip, but, as we will see, other pieces of coverage from FOX available on the Web sufficiently illustrate the nefarious nature of their coverage.
That same night FOX 5 did a bit on Occupy Wall Street. Instead of honestly delineating why we are here, they chose to turn the story into a character assassination campaign against Michael Moore, who appeared for a few minutes and lifted everyone’s spirits. This is typical of FOX, which seeks to delegitimize the protests by attacking Moore. The report focuses on how Michael Moore is “anti-capitalist” even though he has made millions off the system he demonizes. A reporter asks him twice if capitalism has been “good to you.” Moore explains that capitalism has harmed him because over the past thirty years it has decimated his home town of Flint, Michigan, destroying his neighbors, friends and family, (who have seen their jobs shipped overseas so CEOs could maximize profits).
As one would expect from FOX, the story selectively shows Moore saying he wants to give all his money away, to combat an evil system. The purpose is to make Michael Moore, and by extension Occupy Wall Street, look foolish. In truth, the fact that Michael Moore has made millions off the system does not invalidate his critique of capitalism. Just because he happens to be part of a very exclusive chunk of the population that’s doing well does not mean he has no right to denounce and expose a system that has brought about the Weimarization of America.
Because of the onslaught of unfettered capitalism, which got kicked into high gear during the late 1970’s, the average American can no longer obtain one secure job that provides him with a living wage to raise his family, affordable health care and a protected pension plan. Thanks to the assault on labor, which has left only 12% of the workforce unionized, most workers are slaves. They have no power to negotiate, and their only motivation to work is the fear of getting fired. In most families, parents must struggle to hold multiple low-wage jobs in order to put food on the table. Over 46 million Americans live in poverty, and 45,000 people die of curable diseases every year because of corporate healthcare, which leaves millions uninsured and the majority of the population underinsured.
In fact, it is up to the intellectuals and educated class to stand up for the poor and fight power, because people working fifteen hours a day at minimum wage do not have the time and resources to stand up for themselves and speak out against a cruel system that has destroyed their lives. Sadly, the intellectuals almost never do, as George Orwell understood. He says in Down and out in Paris and London that “the mass of the rich and the poor are differentiated by their incomes and nothing else, and the average millionaire is only the average dishwasher dressed in a new suit. Change places, and handy dandy, which is the justice, which is the thief? Everyone who has mixed on equal terms with the poor knows this quite well. But the trouble is that intelligent, cultivated people, the very people who might be expected to have liberal opinions, never do mix with the poor. For what do the majority of educated people know about poverty?”
Michael Moore did actually explain some of this and challenged the reporter by asking him if he has ever confronted the heads of Bank of America or Goldman Sachs about how they stole trillions in crashing the economy and by daring FOX to go with him to conduct such interviews right then and there (see unedited version), but FOX made sure to heavily edit the interview and cut all this out. The segment concludes by calling attention to the notion that Occupy Wall Street is breaking the law because Zuccotti Park is privately owned. There is of course no mention of the irony behind the fact that there are apparently no public spaces in the area for us to occupy, yet another symptom of unfettered corporate capitalism.
Before I started following politics two years ago, I never imagined that FOX News could be as evil as critics say it is. It’s worse. It truly is Nazi-style propaganda.
Their coverage of the mass arrests that occurred at Union Square Saturday illustrates this perfectly. FOX brings a former prosecutor on to denounce the protestors and support police brutality. He says that the raw footage is unreliable, and that the girls caught on camera screaming in terror as they were pepper sprayed, ensnared in nets by the cops, and dragged away, were perhaps acting. He adds that the police also have their own footage, which portrays the men in blue in a positive light and is more reliable. He claims the cops were actually not doing anything extreme because they arrested only 80 people out of a crowd of thousands upon thousands.
The prosecutor falsely accuses, without any evidence, the girls who were arrested of spitting at the cops and reaching for an officers’ gun before they were incarcerated, and he commends Mayor Bloomberg for ridiculing the protestors for assembling without a permit. (For those interested in learning about what really happened, such as how the cops ordered a woman to turn off her camera and pounced on her when she refused, forcing her to sit in a police van for hours and laughing at her, click here.) Clearly, we are more dangerous than Tea Party protestors, who spew hate, carry guns and threaten to use them. If there were mass arrests at a Tea Party rally, FOX would be all over it.
In another clip, a reporter infiltrates and mocks Occupy Wall Street by delineating us as a bunch of spoiled, ignorant hippies. The anchor who introduces the segment describes the protestors as follows: “from political talking points, to smoking lots of joints, so when does a protest become grotesque? Right around the fifth filthy day of a sit-in/live-in demonstration at a park near Wall Street, where 300 half-naked trust funders have gathered for something called a Day of Rage Rally. And the anti-big business bohemians plan on squatting there until their unintelligible demands are met.”
When I consider how much the protestors—nearly all of whom are young and coping with some combination of huge debt burdens, unemployment and underemployment— have sacrificed, as many have been arrested, others have been beaten up by the police, and plenty have slept on the streets in the face of a constant menacing police presence, it becomes hard to believe that such vicious propaganda can really exist. One such “trust-funder” is Hero Vincent (in picture above). At Union Square, the cops knocked him onto the floor, kicked him in the stomach, swung at him with their batons, and laughed. After the horror he told Democracynow! why he came to Occupy Wall Street: “If there’s anything called the epitome of a struggle, me and my family lived it. We were foreclosed on. My father had trouble finding a job, still hasn’t found one. I had trouble finding a job, still haven’t found one. My sister is in college, the tuition is doubling. They’re trying to fight for her financial aid. We struggle with food. I even slept on a bench for a few nights before this occasion. So, I’m here for everybody in my family, not just myself, and everybody who goes through the same struggles, that I can empathize with.”
The distinction between reality and FOX’s coverage is, as always, immense. Goebbels would certainly have been impressed, especially considering that the Nazis did, after all, model their propaganda methods after the techniques crafted and perfected by American corporate PR experts, such as Edward Bernays.
But FOX News is far from the only enemy of truth in the mainstream media. On the “liberal” side of the spectrum, we have The New York Times. One can argue that their coverage of Occupy Wall Street has been even more pernicious since they are perceived as a left wing publication. If The New York Times were at all liberal and serious about fighting power, they’d get behind Occupy Wall Street, frequently trumpeting our cause on the front page and writing laudatory op-eds. Of course this hasn’t happened. Even more important, though, is the malicious nature of what little coverage they have provided.
In a particularly disgraceful piece that appeared on September 25th on page MB1 of the New York section, titled “Gunning for Wall Street, With Faulty Aim,” the Times posts a picture of a sophisticated-looking businessman passing by a group of hippy-like demonstrators. The photo and headline set the tone for the article, which favors business over protest and portrays the movement as buffoonish.
It starts by declaring that Occupy Wall Street’s “default ambassador” is “a half-naked woman who called herself Zuni Tikka, a blonde with a marked likeness to Joni Mitchell and a seemingly even stronger wish to burrow through the space-time continuum and hunker down in 1968.” The Times adds that “Ms. Tikka had taken off all but her cotton underwear and was dancing on the north side of Zuccotti Park, facing Liberty Street, just west of Broadway. Tourists stopped to take pictures.” This is a calculated character assassination campaign, akin to FOX’s attack on Michael Moore.
The article goes on to predict that “the insidiously favorable tax treatment of private equity and hedge-fund managers was looking as though it would endure,” because Occupy Wall Street has merely provided an “opportunity to air societal grievances as carnival.” This pathetic display of “street theatre,” which was “dwindling further” as of last week Thursday (a lie, I was there), is a useless attempt to change “gross social inequality and other nasty byproducts of wayward capitalism,” which are “not easily extinguishable,” as if The Times actually cares or has assumed any leadership at all on these issues—their headline, which describes Occupy Wall Street’s “aim” as “faulty,” tells you all you need to know about whom The New York Times serves.
The Times proclaims that “members retained hope for an infusion of energy over the weekend, but as it approached, the issue was not that the Bastille hadn’t been stormed, but that its facade had suffered hardly a chip.” Instead of imploring Americans to get behind Occupy Wall Street or commenting on The Times’ role in impeding progress in spite of the fact that, as they report, poverty has “risen to 20.1 percent,” the article goes on to ridicule us further, portraying us as ignorant: “Some said they were fighting the legal doctrine of corporate personhood; others, not fully understanding what that meant, believed it meant corporations paid no taxes whatsoever.” In truth, the fact that many huge corporations, such as GE and Bank of America, pay no taxes is a direct consequence of corporate personhood—in the late 19th century, the Supreme Court perverted the 14th Amendment, which was designed to guarantee rights for newly freed blacks, and used it to award corporations the status of legal persons, creating tremendous opportunities for abuse of power.
The quotes from demonstrators in the article are carefully crafted to make us look outlandish: “I want to get rid of the combustion engine,” and “I want to create spectacles,” and “Even if the World Were to End Tomorrow I’d Still Plant a Tree Today.” This represents the “intellectual vacuum” that permeates Occupy Wall Street, which wishes “to pantomime progressivism rather than practice it knowledgably,” whatever that means. There’s no mention of the most popular refrain of the protests—“We are the 99%.”
Perhaps most disgusting is the closing paragraph, which describes “a trader on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Adam Sarzen,” who is “a decade or so older than many of the protesters” and “came to Zuccotti Park seemingly just to shake his head. ‘Look at these kids, sitting here with their Apple computers,’ he said. ‘Apple, one of the biggest monopolies in the world. It trades at $400 a share. Do they even know that?’” Hey asshole, that’s why we’re here. Because big corporate interests like Apple, IBM, Microsoft, etc, get the public to fund research and development through the military industrial complex for the technologies they sell, from computers to the internet to cell phones, and they keep all the profits, crushing small business and ripping off consumers in the process! We essentially have no choice but to buy from the few companies who control their industries.
As evil as FOX News is, I say The Times is arguably worse because the propaganda is so much more sophisticated and insidious. Why does The Times serve power like this? Because they depend on the powerful for their livelihood. Milton was right when he said, “they who have put out the people’s eyes reproach them of their blindness.” As a major corporation itself required by law to maximize short-term profit above all else, The Times relies heavily on advertising, access to powerful politicians and business executives and, above all, they serve their shareholders. They seek to preserve the status quo as doggedly as the trader they depict shaking his head at those wayward kids.
As George Orwell explains in Down and out in Paris and London, “a plongeur,” who does menial work in dirty kitchens for fancy restaurants and “smart” hotels, “is a slave, and a wasted slave, doing stupid and largely unnecessary work. He is kept at work, ultimately, because of a vague feeling that he would be dangerous if he had leisure. And educated people, who should be on his side, acquiesce in the process, because they know nothing about him and consequently are afraid of him.”
Orwell concludes that “from this ignorance a superstitious fear of the mob results quite naturally. The educated man pictures a horde of submen, wanting only a day’s liberty to loot his house, burn his books, and set him to work minding a machine or sweeping out a lavoratory. ‘Anything,’ he thinks, ‘any injustice, sooner than let that mob loose.’ He does not see that since there is little difference between the mass of rich and poor, there is no question of setting the mob loose. The mob is in fact loose now, and—in the shape of rich men—is using its power to set up enormous treadmills of boredom, such as ‘smart’ hotels.”
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Great clip on Occupy Wall Street in one word (wearechange.org, 4 minutes)
Editor’s Note: Yesterday, October 1st, The Times finally ran a front page story that fairly and accurately depicts Occupy Wall Street (although the editorial seeks to reinforce establishment propaganda and write us off). Clearly, as the movement has picked up steam– it’s much much bigger than it was a few days ago– the mass media can no longer ignore or dismiss us. The mainstream follows rather than leads, as was the case with the Arab Spring, but this is a welcome development.
Tagged with: anti-capitalist • Apple • corporate media • educated class • fox news • George Orwell • hippies • intellectuals • Michael Moore • Milton • mob • monopoly • New York Times • Occupy Wall Street • police brutality • propaganda • serve power • they who have put out the people's eyes • Wall Street
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