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Updates on the Occupation

One of the main stories about the Occupy movement is the corporate media’s initial ignorance, and subsequent dismissal, of the protests. There are clear economic reasons for this: Unlike the “tea parties” (of which events featuring only a few dozen people routinely made for lead stories on mainstream news sources), the Occupy movement presents a direct threat to the media’s corporate overlords.

Troy Hooper at Real Aspen points out:

Cable TV exile Keith Olbermann . . . blasted his colleagues in a scathing indictment in which he declared media is “too corrupt or too dense to understand anything more complicated than whether the blond is missing or the verdict is guilty,” and Olbermann said “precocious ninth graders” are “passing for TV anchor newsmen these days.”

And in his guest column for the Star-Ledger, Robert W. Snyder argues that the mainstream media is only interested in covering the least desirable (and relatively infrequent) facet of the movement: confrontations with the cops. Snyder points out that the New York Post

gave over its front page to the death of Steve Jobs and ran “It’s Brawl Street” on page 7. The Post acknowledged that the protest was peaceful but stressed that it turned violent late in the evening, thus allowing the last act in the drama to define the story about the rest of it.

Meanwhile, momentum for the protests is picking up all over the country–including, in a non-exhaustive list, Hartford, Washington D.C., New Jersey, Tampa, Philadelphia, Iowa, Los Angeles, and Santa Barbara–to name only a few.

The movement is spreading not only in terms of geography, but also in constituency. We’ve already heard a lot about the various labor unions getting involved. But the latest call, on the Education page at Huffington Post, among other places, is for public school teachers to get involved. Urban Education expert Christopher Edmin writes:

Many teachers realize that others are facing the similar struggles and want them to join forces. They see college students as their students in a few years, college graduates without jobs as the outcome of an education that does not have much value, and exploited civil servants in fields other than education as their allies. Teachers who are occupying Wall Street want these people to understand their struggles, and want them to be able to see how their experiences in schools have ushered them into the places they are today.

As American youth deals with the effects of poverty and inequity, they become disenfranchised within society, and start questioning the power of democracy. Teachers feel like it is their responsibility to let the youth know that the democratic process is alive and well. By occupying Wall Street they are teaching students to be civically engaged, showing them how to protest non-violently, how to fight for what they believe in, and they are doing what they have the responsibility to do… TEACH.

Now, contrast the solidarity among multiple sections of American working people with the “other side”–evidenced by this video circulating on the internet of a New York City cop who said he looked forward to beating protesters:

“My little nightstick’s gonna get a workout tonight,” the unidentified officer says jokingly to a fellow cop as they wait by a metal barricade. The officer, burly and bald, seems unaware he is being videotaped. His female colleague says she hasn’t used her baton yet, and he crows back with a grin, “I have. Several times.”

Let me add to these news items one more item of clarification: Vice President Biden recently said that the Occupy protests indicate growing dissatisfaction among the “middle class.” In fact, the dissatisfaction is coming from the working class — a class which includes people of varying income levels, united in their position in relation to capital; a group that, to a large extent, owns only their capacity for labor, or perhaps a minor amount of property sufficient to make them independent commodity producers. But, like most Democrats, the Vice President can’t say “working class,” because he doesn’t represent the interests of that class. But whatever bourgeois politicians prefer to call the movement, Occupy poses a fundamental challenge to the system that sustains both major parties.

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About Matt J. Stannard

Policy Director for Commonomics USA, longtime writer, speaker, and legal & policy consultant on economic justice and public deliberation.