It wasn’t until people saw a police officer macing a defenseless woman locked in a cage that the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protests began to garner attention from the establishment media. When widespread shock at such an egregious act made ignoring OWS impossible, the establishment media tried denigrating it; painting the participants with broad brushstrokes from the pallet of tired, “Woodstock”-era clichés. After union workers and airline pilots began showing up in front of the Cathedrals of Wall Street Criminality, it got harder to disparage OWS through lazy references to bongos and granola.
The loose, leaderless organizational structure, as well as the lack of clearly-defined demands, earned OWS sneers from the establishment media. NPR summarized their early disinterest in OWS by stating “the recent protests on Wall Street did not involve large numbers of people, prominent people, a great disruption or an especially clear objective.” Why would NPR, or the entire media establishment, feel otherwise given the their fetishistic reverence for the soundbite format?
Though it doesn’t contribute to the kind of “great disruptions” that would spice things up for NPR, OWS’s continued practice of nonviolence has from the outset been instrumental in attracting the imaginations of participants and sympathizers. Actually, most things that have confused the media and the authorities about OWS have in fact given it strength, and provide hope that the movement will continue to grow. Occupy Wall Street is not a protest, in the words of Matt Zoller, it is “a Church of Dissent.” Rather than be constrained by adhering to a message, the Occupations are growing precisely because they are a space to articulate a profound dissatisfaction with the status quo.
This dissatisfaction is nothing if not justified — and most Americans understand on some level that there are deep-rooted, systemic problems that are negatively affecting almost all of us while a tiny sliver are enriched to an unfathomable degree. Glenn Greenwald dismissed the notion that the aims of OWS were too nebulous:
Does anyone really not know what the basic message is of this protest: that Wall Street is oozing corruption and criminality and its unrestrained political power – in the form of crony capitalism and ownership of political institutions – is destroying financial security for everyone else?
The Waterboard. Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Creative Commons/Waterboard.org
On February 14th, David Frum, the Bush speechwriter-turned-pundit, published an Op-Ed for CNN.com that was truly Orwellian in nature. For those who enjoy seeing politics and facts totally at odds in print, Frum’s column was cause for celebration. I’m calling it here — 2011 already has a strong contender for the top prize of most hilarious Doublespeak! Despite strong opposition, the winner for 2010 was Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s accusation that Europe’s general commitment to peace was a threat to its security. Gates’s “War is Peace” formulation was classic Age d’Or Bush administration rhetoric- a sentiment so at odds with reality that one has to laugh. Leave it then, to Frum, who gave the world the “Axis of Evil,” to deliver his own Valentine to fans of unintentionally hilarious authoritarianism.
Frum’s righteous indignation stems from a trip to Switzerland that former President Bush had to cancel over fear that he would be prosecuted for torture. Following the submission of a 2,500-page case against Bush by Human Rights groups, Frum argues that the possibility that Swiss authorities might prosecute an admitted torturer is wrong. The idea of charging a torturer with War Crimes is so hateful to Frum that he declares:
This use of law as a weapon of politics is an assault upon the basic norms of American constitutional democracy.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. declared that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” In this struggle for justice, Massachusetts-based artist Pamela Chatterton-Purdy sees godliness made manifest. Godliness is reflected in the actions of individuals who protect the weak from the strong, who maintain innocence in an evil world, or who fight for the dignity of being a human being. The arc is bent through the struggle and sacrifice of innumerable individuals, only some of whom will be named in a place of honor in the pages of history. Chatterton-Purdy has devoted the last seven years to a project called “Icons of the Civil Rights Movement … Connecting the Dots,” that venerates these heroes — both the known and unknown.
Al Jazeera headquarters, Doha, Qatar. Creative Commons/Laika Slips the Lead.
The protests in Egypt have captured the world’s attention since tens of thousands of protestors began gathering in Cairo’s Tahrir square on January 25th. Footage of the sheer numbers of protestors in the square has provided a sense of both how widespread and how peaceful is popular opposition to the Mubarak regime. Millions of viewers have seen these images thanks to the reporting of Al Jazeera’s English-language service. American news anchors preface news on Egypt with “Al Jazeera reports,” and those who want live, streaming footage can get it online at Al Jazeera English’s (AJE) Live Stream or on Al Jazeera’s YouTube channel.
Jeff Jarvis writes at The Huffington Post that “vital, world-changing news is occurring in the Middle East and no one — not the xenophobic or celebrity-obsessed or cut-to-the-bone American media — can bring the perspective, insight, and on-the-scene reporting Al Jazeera English can.” The quality and depth of Al Jazeera English’s reporting on Egypt has brought it a chorus of accolades, but despite this, it remains impossible for Americans to watch Al Jazeera English outside of a few small markets.