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Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Occupy Wall Street: It's our turn, says the Left

It seems to me that a lot of people would just prefer that the Occupy Wall Street protests just go away because coverage in the media has been uneven. Puzzlingly meagre, in the main, I should say. I tweeted my concern at the lack of coverage by mainstream media outlets and was told that CNN was doing a lot. But the majors I usually refer to - the New York Times, the Sydney Morning Herald - have been rather mum about the whole business. This morning, it seems about a week after protesters began to appear in the financial district in New York, the Melbourne Age put up a syndicated piece from the New York Times that expressed unease at best and disapproval at worst.

Which is somewhat surprising since Occupy Wall Street appears to be the Left's answer to the Tea Party movement. It's young, raggle-taggle and unfocused (unlike the Tea Party, which is mainly middle-aged, highly organised and supported by right-wing pressure groups). It's also late (the Tea Party began in 2009 with actions starting in Seattle and Chicago). The Tea Party is different in another sense. They mainly resented the fact that people without legitimate means to afford a home had secured one - albeit temporarily, for many, as events led to disposession and eviction in a lot of cases - and so it was a case of the middle class feeling ill-used, with the perception that it was carrying the can for the unworthy, economically speaking. Occupy Wall Street appears to be a more traditional protest by the fringe Left in the face of fiscal misdemeanours perpetrated by those bankers and other people who make a living out of manipulating global capital - the real villains in the piece.

It's a sign of how far to the Right the mainstream media has been pulled in recent times that their coverage of Occupy Wall Street has been so poor. There's really no excuse for outlets such as the New York Times and the Sydney Morning Herald - traditionally liberal vehicles that have been pretty consistently at odds with the Murdoch-controlled media that dominates the Right globally. I cannot account for the failure of these parts of the press to give due attention to the Occupy Wall Street protests, except to say that, somehow, the whole process has fairly confused them. Or maybe, faced with a rag-tag bunch of hippies with cardboard signs marked with red and green Textas, they have reverted to form as true guardians of the status quo. The Sydney Morning Herald was, for a long time until recent decades, the voice of conservatism in New South Wales, after all. Maybe the young, rag-tag nature of the OWS protests just doesn't possess the systemic gravitas that the Tea Party (middle class, organised, taking possession of the political process) has and Big News has decided that these kids in T-shirts and face paint are likely to flare out. Live fast, die young and all that.

Or maybe to acknowledge the OWS protesters would mean admitting that global banking had failed, and failed miserably, to justify the routine claims of capitalist boosters that capitalism is the best possible model for economic organisation. To admit this would mean a lot of scrutiny of a lot of entrenched interests, and so might risk losing the support of the middle class and possibly also advertisers. Maybe it's just too freaking inconvenient.

Whatever the problem, it just annoys me. It annoys me that the Australian media have given front-page attention to the Amanda Knox appeal trial (the American youngster was acquitted of a charge of murder in Italy after serving four years of an earlier sentence) while utterly ignoring what is a much more interesting phenomenon. Occupy Wall Street looks to have legs (as they say in the agricultural sector in reference to fruit that has to travel long distances to market) and we can only look forward to more balanced coverage in the coming days. Maybe we'll even see analysis pieces appearing that will give some meaning to what is, at the moment, a fissile and chaotic moment in world politics.

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