Before the Yellow Vests captivated Parisians and put the fear of God in Macron and the global banking cartel he dutifully serves, there was another movement that threatened to blow up the corporate order. After witnessing the implosion of the US economy in 2008 and watching in disbelief as Obama rushed to the aid of the capital larcenists who made off with the life savings of workers and investors, protesters took to the streets of Manhattan to demand accountability and justice.
Occupy Wall Street was a truly organic development; what started off with a handful of Arab Spring inspired activists demonstrating in Zuccotti Park snowballed into a nationwide operation that captivated the imagination and channeled the frustrations of disgruntled Americans everywhere. For the first time since the 1960’s, the prospect of a mass movement by and for the proletariat against the status quo seemed a very real possibility.
That is when the establishment jumped into action and unleashed a combination of brute force and subterfuge to abort Occupy Wall Street before it could grow into America’s second revolution. Local, state and federal government violently crackdown on protesters. Using tools accorded to enforcement agencies under the Patriot Act, American citizens were treated like an invading army and suppressed with the iron fist of the law. The FBI, DHS and other federal departments tracked countless thousands of individuals before swooping and arresting 8,000 OWS participants.
Yet, as harsh as the law enforcement response was to Occupy Wall Street, the lethal blow was dealt by paid mercenaries within mainstream media. It was not the handcuffs, teargas nor the water cannons that snuffed a burgeoning insurrection but the notepads of journalists, the cameras of reporters and the punchlines of late night comedians. A concerted effort to demean protesters and discredit their concerns was unleashed in ways so devastating that a potentially historic insurgency was transmuted into a laughing stock before being erased out of the public conscience.
The most cunning aspect of mainstream media’s systematic dismantlement of Occupy Wall Street is the way it was whipsawed from the “left” and the “right”. After initially ignoring OWS, our famously “free press” leaped into action to delegitimize it. Fox News and their conservative counterparts caricatured protesters as communist agitators and violent anarchists who wanted to destroy America from within. CNN, MSNBC and the “liberal” establishment lampooned OWS as uninformed hooligans who lacked a coherent message. Instead of speaking truth to power, mainstream media professionals chose to run interference for their corporate masters.
Allison Kilkenny, who was a journalist covering Occupy Wall Street in Zuccotti Park, described how corporate pundits like Erin Burnett—who made no attempt to hide her disdain for protesters—had an incentive to tear down OWS.
“It’s not surprising that someone who is herself a corporate shill, and who is on a network that has corporate advertisers, would not depict Occupy Wall Street in the most unfavorable light,” Kilkenny said.
Kilkenny also noted how the reality on the ground was nothing like the disarray that was being broadcast into the homes of viewers. A story written about her experience in Salon perfectly encapsulates the disconnect between the events Kilkenny documented first hand and the disinformation being purveyed by pundits and propagandists.
“Allison spent a lot of time in the Occupy Wall Street camp, interviewing students who were buried under tens of thousands of dollars in student debt, workers toiling away in three different jobs (and still finding time to protest), and people who had struggled to find a job in the hostile economic environment.
But then she went home and turned on the news. According to many news outlets, the Occupy movement did not comprise an overwhelming majority of peaceful, ordinary citizens who were tired of the country’s class divide and Wall Street’s unscrupulous practices. Rather, according to sources like CNN and Fox News, Occupiers were dirty, smelly hippies who were too lazy to find real work.”
Where mainstream media mercenaries took hammers to Occupy Wall Street, late night comedians crucified it under the guise of comedy. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert maliciously ridiculed the substantive grievances of protesters and turned human suffering into laugh tracks. Selective camera shots and agenda driven interviews stitched together narratives that portrayed OWS as nothing more than gathering of hippies and hooligans.
The subtle undertone being pumped into the public square by “reporters” and comedians alike was that Occupy Wall Street was populated by undesirables who have nothing in common with everyday Americans. Working mothers, struggling fathers, anxious retirees and unemployed graduates were reduced to whining freeloaders instead of rightly being portrayed as Wall Street’s victims. Occupiers were successfully otherized with repeated imagery of disheveled vagabonds huddled under tents and soundbites that amplified the voices of the least knowledgeable and marginally articulate onlookers. Class warfare was declared as establishment voices drove a wedge between protesters and potential collaborators by presenting occupiers as poor and homeless outcasts.
Occupy Wall Street was a perfect example of how the bottom 90% are victimized twice, once by the nefarious actions of the oligarchy and the second time by indifference of the corporate courtier class. Wall Street decimated the economy and demolished the lives and livelihood of tens of millions of Americans; for their criminality, they were bailed out with trillions and encouraged to keep on with their degenerate gambling ways. Meanwhile, the people who bore the brunt for the malfeasance of the plutocracy were told to eat cake and those who dared to protest were mocked callously.
What we witnessed eight years ago was a coordinated campaign between government, news and corporations to methodically tear apart a popular rebellion. If we ever doubt the power possessed by the unholy alliance between state, media and industry, the eradication of OWS should serve as a reminder that our freedoms end where the profits of Wall Street and the authority of bureaucracies begin.
The reason why Occupy Wall Street was crushed so violently is because the movement was on the cusp of unifying Americans beyond the narrow confines of identities and ideologies. The organizers were intent on focusing on economic inequalities in order to bring together people of varying races, genders, faiths and belief systems under the umbrella of inclusive justice. This was the same thing that Martin Luther King was trying to achieve before he was silenced by an assassin’s bullet and the hidden hands of his tormentors. People in powerful positions are fine with protests based on our differences, what they will not tolerate is a movement that clarifies our commonalities. #RememberingOWS Click To Tweet
Occupy Wall Street met the same fate that befell previous activists who sought to form a broad coalition of struggling Americans. There is a reason why sectional movements are given broad latitude and wide circulation by mainstream media while efforts that try to bridge the divides are either ignored or villified. Next time you see an “activist” getting air time to demagogue incessantly and preaching confrontation with others who are beset by hopelessness, ask yourself if you think it’s an accident that he/she is being given that platform by the very same powers they are supposedly speaking against.
This is why every media personality, politician and pundit that takes to the airwaves to incite our emotions and antagonize the public are not only frauds but subversive interlopers. Instead of trying to unify Americans, their aim is to fracture us into the ghettos of separable grievances. There is a conspicuous silence from these firebrands when it comes to issues of income inequalities or economic imbalances, they would rather we stay focused on vacuous topics, wedge issues and sensationalism.
What Donald Trump says about mainstream media, in a lot of ways, is absolutely correct when assails corporate news for being the enemy of the people. What he doesn’t mention is that he too is a foe that is being propped up by the very professionals he rants about. A symbiotic relationship exists between both, we are being medicated into compliance as outrage and sensationalism turn the public into passive observers.
Any protest or movement that focuses on how the suffering of some is different than the struggles of many is not fighting injustice, it is an unwitting accomplice of the establishment. The only way to overcome the power of despots is for the oppressed to unite. #RememberingOWS
— Teodrose Fikre ✒ (@TeodroseFikre) January 6, 2019
What should be clear by now is that consuming the toxic drivel of mainstream media is an exercise in self-harm. Even when we are conscience of the injurious nature of corporate news, we are still susceptible to being shaped by false-narratives. It is imperative to avoid the likes of CNN, Fox News, Washington Post and their counterparts who are more interested in chasing revenues than they are in rooting out corruption. When they have to choose between propping up their cash cows or speaking truth to power, corporate “journalists” will always choose their narrow self-interests over our collective right to live without infringements.
Had the Occupy Wall Street movement succeeded, a government that is no longer accountable would have been forced, by the threat of mutiny, to be more receptive to the will of the American people. The French are proving that elected officials can regain their senses real fast if they face the prospect of societal upheaval. OWS was dispatched by disinformation and distasteful jokes before it delivered a Yellow Vest moment in America. Yet in the smoldering ashes resides a flickering ember, one that will reignite into an open flame when Wall Street yet again implodes the economy and plunders our life savings.
“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” ~ John F. Kennedy
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Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.
Latest posts by Lij Teodrose Fikremariam (see all)
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