The Occupy Wall Street protests started on September 17, 2011. It is only relatively recently that the media has paid them any attention whatsoever. Even then, despite these protests being large and ongoing and having spread nationally, those who comment or report on them act as bemused and puzzled by the protests as a friend of mine just was when she reported that her young daughter had just walked by wearing sandwich baggies on her feet. The treatment is so blatant it can’t be missed.
On her new CNN show on Monday night, host Erin Burnett was joined by Rudy Giuliani’s former speechwriter John Avlon and together they heaped condescending scorn on the Wall Street protests while defending the banking industry, offering — as FAIR documented — several misleading statements along the way. Burnett “reported” that while she “saw dancing, bongo drums, even a clown” at the protest, the participants “did not know what they want,” except that “it seems like people want a messiah leader, just like they did when they anointed Barack Obama.” She featured a video clip of herself explaining to one of the protesters that the U.S. Government made money from TARP, and then demanded to know if that changed his negative views of Wall Street.
Nor was it isolated:
Meanwhile, Burnett’s CNN colleague, business reporter Alison Kosik, was encouraged on Twitter to ask the Wall Street protesters to explain the purpose of the protest in 140 characters (the limit for Twitter). As NYU Journalism Professor Jay Rosen documented, this is how that CNN journalist replied to the suggestion:
After numerous people criticized her for that, she ignored the criticisms but deleted the tweet without comment; what a brave and intrepid thing for a reporter to do.
Despite Erin Burnett and Alison Kosik being roundly criticized for their behavior, columnist Caroline Baum went on to do the same thing:
From the looks of the youthful, costumed characters swaying to the music and flying colorful balloons, it was hard to tell if Occupy Wall Street was a street fair, a ‘60s-style love-in or a protest rally.
To get up to speed on the leaderless movement that started in New York City on Sept. 17 and has expanded to about 150 cities nationwide, I tuned in to what looks to be its website to watch the “Global Revolution” being streamed live. After hours of watching a lot of folks milling around, apparently waiting for something to happen (nothing did), I still couldn’t identify the target of their angst (the options seem to include capitalism, banks, greed, bailouts, foreclosures, taxes, foreign wars, income inequality, the police, the Federal Reserve and a fiat currency) or their goal.
One man with dreadlocks spent a few minutes trying to determine whether it was morning or afternoon. An off-screen voice directed the crowd where to go for “donation-based cigarettes,” with the caveat that “cigarettes kill you and help corporations.” (Judging from the laptops, cameras and other kinds of technology on display, corporations are getting all kinds of help from the protesters.)
After dismissing Occupy Wall Street for failing to dress like Wall Street, she then went on to fill the gaps left by her ignorance from her imagination and write a long column about how we couldn’t afford to pay for all the social programs she was sure Occupy Wall Street wanted. She could have saved herself some time (but would still have had a column to write) had she simply Googled “Occupy Wall Street demands.” I did that several days ago, and while the list, being democratically generated, has changed slightly in that time, the top demands remain the same now, a couple hours before this post is published.
LIST OF PROPOSED “DEMANDS FOR CONGRESS”
- CONGRESS PASS HR 1489 (“RETURN TO PRUDENT BANKING ACT” http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h112-1489 ). THIS REINSTATES MANY PROVISIONS OF THE GLASS-STEAGALL ACT. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glass–Steagall_Act — Wiki entry summary: The repeal of provisions of the Glass–Steagall Act of 1933 by the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act in 1999 effectively removed the separation that previously existed between investment banking which issued securities and commercial banks which accepted deposits. The deregulation also removed conflict of interest prohibitions between investment bankers serving as officers of commercial banks. Most economists believe this repeal directly contributed to the severity of the Financial crisis of 2007–2011 by allowing Wall Street investment banking firms to gamble with their depositors’ money that was held in commercial banks owned or created by the investment firms. Here’s detail on repeal in 1999 and how it happened: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glass–Steagall_Act#Repeal .
- USE CONGRESSIONAL AUTHORITY AND OVERSIGHT TO ENSURE APPROPRIATE FEDERAL AGENCIES FULLY INVESTIGATE AND PROSECUTE THE WALL STREET CRIMINALS who clearly broke the law and helped cause the 2008 financial crisis in the following notable cases: (insert list of the most clear cut criminal actions). There is a pretty broad consensus that there is a clear group of people who got away with millions / billions illegally and haven’t been brought to justice. Boy would this be long overdue and cathartic for millions of Americans. It would also be a shot across the bow for the financial industry. If you watch the solidly researched and awared winning documentary film “Inside Job” that was narrated by Matt Damon (pretty brave Matt!) and do other research, it wouldn’t take long to develop the list.
- CONGRESS ENACT LEGISLATION TO PROTECT OUR DEMOCRACY BY REVERSING THE EFFECTS OF THE CITIZENS UNITED SUPREME COURT DECISION which essentially said corporations can spend as much as they want on elections. The result is that corporations can pretty much buy elections. Corporations should be highly limited in ability to contribute to political campaigns no matter what the election and no matter what the form of media. This legislation should also RE-ESTABLISH THE PUBLIC AIRWAVES IN THE U.S. SO THAT POLITICAL CANDIDATES ARE GIVEN EQUAL TIME FOR FREE AT REASONABLE INTERVALS IN DAILY PROGRAMMING DURING CAMPAIGN SEASON. The same should extend to other media.
- CONGRESS PASS THE BUFFETT RULE ON FAIR TAXATION SO THE RICH AND CORPORATIONS PAY THEIR FAIR SHARE & CLOSE CORPORATE TAX LOOP HOLES AND ENACT A PROHIBITION ON HIDING FUNDS OFF SHORE. No more GE paying zero or negative taxes. Pass the Buffet Rule on fair taxation so the rich pay their fair share. (If we have a really had a good negotiating position and have the place surrounded, we could actually dial up taxes on millionaires, billionaires and corporations even higher…back to what they once were in the 50′s and 60′s.
- CONGRESS COMPLETELY REVAMP THE SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION and staff it at all levels with proven professionals who get the job done protecting the integrity of the marketplace so citizens and investors are both protected. This agency needs a large staff and needs to be well-funded. It’s currently has a joke of a budget and is run by Wall St. insiders who often leave for high ticket cushy jobs with the corporations they were just regulating. Hmmm.
- CONGRESS PASS SPECIFIC AND EFFECTIVE LAWS LIMITING THE INFLUENCE OF LOBBYISTS AND ELIMINATING THE PRACTICE OF LOBBYISTS WRITING LEGISLATION THAT ENDS UP ON THE FLOOR OF CONGRESS.
- CONGRESS PASSING “Revolving Door Legislation” LEGISLATION ELIMINATING THE ABILITY OF FORMER GOVERNMENT REGULATORS GOING TO WORK FOR CORPORATIONS THAT THEY ONCE REGULATED. So, you don’t get to work at the FDA for five years playing softball with Pfizer and then go to work for Pfizer making $195,000 a year. While they’re at it, Congress should pass specific and effective laws to enforce strict judicial standards of conduct in matters concerning conflicts of interest. So long as judges are culled from the ranks of corporate attorneys the 1% will retain control.
- ELIMINATE “PERSONHOOD” LEGAL STATUS FOR CORPORATIONS. The film “The Corporation” has a great section on how corporations won “personhood status”. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8SuUzmqBewg . Fast-forward to 2:20. It’ll blow your mind. The 14th amendment was supposed to give equal rights to African Americans. It said you “can’t deprive a person of life, liberty or property without due process of law”. Corporation lawyers wanted corporations to have more power so they basically said “corporations are people.” Amazingly, between 1890 and 1910 there were 307 cases brought before the court under the 14th amendment. 288 of these brought by corporations and only 19 by African Americans. 600,000 people were killed to get rights for people and then judges applied those rights to capital and property while stripping them from people. It’s time to set this straight.
If you’re remotely willing to approach the movement without major preconceptions, the point of the protests is not that difficult to understand, even if you don’t want to hear it. The protestors aren’t PR people, but their meaning is clear. It takes bad reporting to cover a story and not do the most basic diligence on it.
Or maybe that wasn’t the problem. You can look at or listen to what’s in front of you and fail to get it, but it takes work–or a piece of work like P. J. O’Rourke. Contrast O’Rourke’s reaction to Alan Grayson’s clear explanation of what Occupy Wall Street is protesting against to that of the audience.
(Click here if the embedding doesn’t work for you.)
Plenty of people are explaining what’s going on with Occupy Wall Street. You only have to listen.
(Click here if the embedding doesn’t work for you.)
It can’t be that hard to understand and report on this fairly, when even an amateur–who doesn’t agree with the movement–can do a decent job. So why can’t these supposed professionals?
[ETA: Looking back over this, I strongly suspect that most of the links on media coverage came to me through journalism professor Jay Rosen. If this sort of thing gets you going, you could do far worse than to follow him on Twitter.]