The revolution will not be televised
I wouldn’t be surprised if you haven’t heard about the Occupy Wall Street movement. It’s something that the major news networks have largely been ignoring, and coverage of it on the Internet, while not absent, is usually hidden far away from the front page of many news organizations, behind other much more compelling stories such as “Doctor at Murray trial: Jackson couldn't have been revived in ER”, referring to the death of Michael Jackson three years ago, or the incredibly poignant “3,999 lb. Nachos Break Record”.
While CNN and CBC discuss Michael Jackson and nachos, the mass protest, which began Sept. 17, remains camped outside one of the world’s most preeminent financial districts. Dubbing themselves “the other 99 per cent” (referring to the high concentration of wealth in only one per cent of the American population) the protesters have been marching all around New York, drawing attention to the huge disparity of wealth in the United States. The movement has been growing in strength for over two weeks now, and the initial protest has spread beyond New York to other major North American cities such as Boston, Toronto, and San Francisco. A similar protest on Bay Street (Canada’s equivalent to Wall Street) is planned to start on Oct. 15 and continue throughout the winter.
The very fact that these protests are not going away, but are rather growing in strength suggests a deeper discontent than the mainstream media would have everyone believe. So why is there a lack of coverage? What makes this protest different than, say, Glenn Beck’s Rally to Restore Honour or Stewart and Colbert’s Rally to Restore Sanity?
First, and probably most major, is that the protesters are peaceful. There is no violent rhetoric spewing from them, there are no indications that they are going to storm the New York Stock Exchange if they don’t get their way, and most of them likely don’t exercise their second amendment right to carry assault rifles with them wherever they go. If you are doubtful of this assessment, just look at the coverage they’ve received over the mass arrest of protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge, where the main story wasn’t the protesters discontent over capitalism, but rather the brutal police assault on innocent people. It’s difficult to imagine that a radical band of Tea Partiers would be ignored if they were occupying Wall Street with AK-47s and pickup trucks.
Second, the movement, while obviously discontented, also doesn’t have leadership or any tangible demands. The protesters have formed what they’ve dubbed a “general assembly”, which meets and discusses grievances but does not have a group of people or one person who they can put forward as a spokesperson. Their list of grievances, while legitimate, doesn’t offer any suggestions as to how their problems can be fixed. Does the movement want major corporations to be broken up? Does it want the banks to hand out money to everyone? Are they aiming for the overthrow of the government? The vague nature of their demands has left the media unable to pin down what they want and, rather than trying to find out, they’ve basically given up.
Which brings me to my third point: the media is just plain lazy. They would rather run an easy story about 3,999 pounds of nachos than deal with serious, complicated issues of huge political and social consequence. Wading into these dangerous waters, where strong opinions meet harsh realities, is something that the media shies away from mostly because they think no one wants to hear it. They believe people would rather hear an easy story about who’s to blame for Michael Jackson’s death, or who is sleeping with whom in Hollywood, than anything that might challenge them intellectually. And frankly, taking time to understand and report on an issue with various facets is hard work; it is much easier to run a one-sided story about the murder of a child than it is to navigate the murky depths of a story that can be interpreted in many different ways.
There are obviously many other motives behind why the media might choose to ignore this story, but these are the main reasons why they haven’t been receiving much coverage even though Occupy Wall Street is indicative of a huge social ailment. Fortunately, it looks as if the lack of mainstream coverage isn’t causing the movement to stall, even in today’s 24-hour news cycle based on quickly covering and then promptly forgetting what is happening in the world. Occupy Wall Street looks like it is here to stay. If they can put together a more coherent message and produce some clear demands, there might actually be an opportunity for some real, positive change.