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Occupy Wall Street: Beware the Media Right Hook

Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protestors dodged Mayor Bloomberg’s left hook on the ground  last Friday, cleaning Liberty Square before the city could use it as an excuse to break up the demonstration, but the leaderless revolt continues to struggle with the 1%’s powerful gatling gun: The corporate-owned media that still influences the opinion of a majority of Americans.  Can they show equal brilliance in their air game, as well as their ground game?

This is a movement, it is said, that not only exists outside of the media, but does not need media coverage to maintain momentum.  The Internet, and more specifically Twitter, is powering up the same kind of grass-roots activism that fueled protests from Wisconsin to Cairo. There are hundreds of movements springing up in cities as large as L.A. and Chicago to Santa Fe, New Mexico and Muncie, Indiana.

The NYPD has given the corporate media no choice but to report. At first, the corporate media ignored the movement. Their sucker game at the Brooklyn Bridge, drawing hundreds of protestors forward on to the bridge, only to surround and arrest them, put OWS in a place which the media could not ignore any longer.

Only the more independent Current TV’s Keith Olbermann has given OWS its due from the get-go. The movement has grown into American cities great and small, yesterday taking a global turn, spreading off-shore to Occupy Seoul.

These are incidental effects, though.  The media machine is vast and powerful. If OWS wants the silent majority to side with them, they are going to have to drag them kicking and screaming back to CNN and away from The Real Housewives of New Jersey.  More importantly, they cannot allow the media machine run by the 1% to drown out the voices of the other 99%, which, in the land of the Boob Tube, they are exceptionally good at doing.

As you have gained media attention at OWS, the far Right’s propaganda arm has sprung into action in histrionic, predictable form:

Ann Coulter:

“Oddly enough for such a respectable-looking group —  a mixture of adolescents looking for a cause, public sector union members, drug dealers, criminals, teenage runaways, people who have been at every protest since the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, Andrea Dworkin look-alikes, people 95 percent of whose hair is concentrated in their ponytails and other average Democrats — they can’t even explain what they’re protesting.[2]

Rush Limbaugh:

“You know what really ought to happen?  The Tea Party ought to go down there with mops and brooms.  I mean the Tea Party members are used to cleaning up after their worthless, lazy kids.  They ought to just head on down there.  Well, that’s my definition of kids.  Anyway, the Tea Party should go in there and clean up.  Three hundred people getting worldwide coverage; hundreds of thousands of Tea Party people ignored…”

We expect the Far Right to minimize a movement like OWS.  The loudmouths like Limbaugh, and jaundiced jack-booted jingoists like Ann Coulter are  the wide left hook, the draw-out to which they hope that you in the OWS movement will react.

The lighting cross with their media Right is going to come much more subtly.  Beware, Wall Street Protestors, of their Right hook:

They win by way of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD).

It has been the means of control by the Corporatocracy since the first days of this, the first free, democratic republic in the world. If you can’t compel someone to your point of view by force or intimidation, use heaping helpings of propaganda to amplify fear, generate uncertainty about progressive policies, and create enough doubt in what the opposition is doing that you can stop them dead in their tracks.

Microsoft used the tactic against Apple Computer back in the 1980s. They sent people out to spread the rumor that Apple was going out of business. It had $5B in cash in the bank at the time. Never a penny less. Yet, even to this day, as people commented on the late Steve Jobs, they spoke of how Apple almost went out of business.  OWS can learn something from the great marketing maven Mr. Jobs about what they need to do to be heard.  He created the “Think Different” campaign to change the direction of the rumor mill long before he started spinning out cool products.

OWS needs a political message equivalent to “Think Different” because that is precisely the problem that is bottling up change: Our fourth estate, our news media has failed as much as the banking system or the government.

Reporters, talking-heads and their editorial staffs are usually very lemming-like in their coverage of the world.  Like the child’s game of pass-the-secret, you plant information into their information stream and it develops a life of its own.

In fact, one channel, XM POTUS, now touts that they don’t engage in any journalism that asks tough questions.  An ad brags “No ‘Gotcha’ questions.”  The Palins of the world have cowed the power of the mighty fourth estate.

Even more sad for a democracy that relies on media speaking truth to power is that many of the people informing us are not particularly well informed themselves. A  press corps filled with former communication majors, most of our reporters aren’t well enough educated in law, economics, politics, or social issues to know when their news sources are full of crap.  They don’t call them out.

People may laugh off Limbaugh’s buffoonish remarks, but when you get quality, moderate-to-liberal guys who do their reading, their homework,  like centrist XM POTUS  talk show host Pete Dominick repeating concepts like “I wish they would define their terms,”  you know that the poison pill of the far-Right’s spin machine is already in the well and the media is drinking it up.

We in the media should be able to know what the OWS protestors are all about.  You are being really clear.  Let’s see if I have this down correctly:

  • First and foremost, OWS wants to end thirty-plus years of Reagan era Neoliberalism.  Stand down Liberals, this is not about you.  Neoliberalism is the Koch Brothers, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and Mitt Romney. A movement by the wealthy few that seeks to transfer control of the economy from public to the private sector,[4] under the belief that it will produce a more efficient government and improve the economic health of the nation. Instead, it simply transfers even more wealth to the upper 3% of the population and decimates the middle class, as it has done for more than a generation.
  • Another clear goal of the OWS is to hold the scammers legally accountable in the investment banks of Wall Street, and the top boardrooms of some modern robber barons, who continue to run our financial institutions like they are the Las Vegas Strip, not Wall Street.  Derivatives and other “Emperor’s New Clothes” financial instruments created a large part of the damage that they did to the housing sector, and to the economy.  You want change we all can believe in, Mr. Obama?  Please get Attorney General Eric Holder and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to file against the Koch brothers for illegal contango trading that has driven up the cost of oil and every other product that gasoline helps transport. (See: Things Get Worse With Koch and Have a Little Oil and Global Commoditization with that $7.00 Big Mac Meal? )
  • OWS wants real change to the business of government. No more K-Street puppeteers, the lobbyists paid by both sides, the super-rich of the right and left, the corporations and the unions.  Our elected officials are bought and paid for by special interests. They represent them well, but they have lost the ability to represent the will of the people.  From the debt ceiling to the wall street melt-down that led to the Great Recession, OWS wants a government that is elected by the people to listen to the will of the people.
  • A common theme amongst the protestors signage suggest that they want an end to the major shifts in governance since George W. Bush stepped into office, and the Republican Party commenced two costly wars and heaped on a generous tax break for the wealthy that was not sustainable. They want us to end our costly involvements overseas. They want the government to tax the richest 3% to bring in the revenue that goes with spending cuts.
  • The protestors, mostly young and middle class, want their future back.  They want corporate America to get off its ass and put some of the trillions of dollars sitting on the sidelines back to work, and themselves back to work with the money. Jobs, jobs, jobs, Mr. Obama, and Mr. Boehner.
  • Housing fairness.  Banks went out and sold people on the idea that they could make windfall profits from turning their homes into investments that they “flipped” every few years. They sold adjustable rate mortgages with ridiculous repayment terms and told people not to worry, pointing to the seemingly endless housing inflation and attaching it to the steady real growth of generations by forgetting to mention that inflation accounted for a good chunk of that “growth.” They want mortgage bankers held accountable for those schemes, and they want some justice in refinancing so they can stay in their homes.
  • Health Care – A smaller but noticeable constituency wants every American to have universal health care, and an end to people being driven into bankruptcy who have health insurance simply because the profit motive in health insurance allows these corporations to effect god-like power over their future.

Occupy Wall Street should not fear the NYPD.  They should not fear public buffoons like mayor Bloomberg. If anything, their control tactics actually help publicize the OWS and give it huge platform.  This leaderless protest needs to fear the media.  This is where a GOP that is barely 13% of the American public controls 90% of the news space with help from its wealthy friends that own the media. OWS needs to spend more time on its public relations.  It needs people with faces and voices who can go on TV and speak to the masses which the almighty Tube has controlled since the 1950s.   They need to knock down the spin that’s in the stream and inform the other 85% of the country which is clueless about them that they represent their anger, their frustration, and their passionate desire for real change.

You can leverage modern tools like Facebook and Twitter to get people into the streets, but if you want to change American hearts and minds, you still have to break down the clogged arteries of the American television news machine. It speaks to millions you will never reach any other way.

Control of Liberty Square gets you a soapbox. Control of the media flow gets you real change.

My shiny two.

About Brian Ross

Brian Ross is a writer, screenwriter, political satirist, documentarian and short filmmaker who blogs for Truth2Power, the Huffington Post, and the Daily KOS, among others.

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