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The Great Refusal and The 99 Percent

by Dorothea Hahn and Simon Loidi Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2011 at 2:25 PM
mbatko@yahoo.com

The Great Unraveling provokes the Great Refusal (Paul Krugman). The mainstream media pursue their own political goals and only publish what pleases the advertisers. We need information, not indoctrination. Occupy could change the whole culture with a new media emerging.

THE GREAT REFUSAL

Occupy Wall Street and the US Media

The Occupy movement distrusts the mainstream press and TV stations in the US. Therefore activists read, synthesize and produce their own media.

By Dorothea Hahn

[This article published 10/28/2011 is translated from the German on the Internet, http://www.taz.de/Occupy-Wall-Street-und-US-Medien/180819/.]

Washington taz. There is no press box at Liberty Plaza in Manhattan that is named after the speculator Zuccotti on the city map of New York. The reporter seeks in vain for articles from the big newspapers that impelled protest movements of earlier generations. Television- and radio-broadcasts do not refer to them. The “99 percent” do everything themselves. They do everything differently: their meals, teach-ins, health care and media.

Most of them are young, educated and highly motivated, a future elite that grows up at a difficult time. Their horizon extends further than most Americans. Many occupiers have travelled abroad and command exotic languages like German. Nearly all of them can discuss political and economic conditions. But they do not use the conventional US media. “The mainstream media pursue their own political goals,” Corryn Freeman says. “They are tendentious and only publish what pleases the advertisers.” The twenty-two year old Afro-American occupies McPherson Square in Washington. She studies politics and is well informed. Her sources are blogs, Facebook and Twitter, sometimes the free newspaper Express, never a purchased daily paper and only very rarely one of the big US television stations.

This is because of fundamental criticism and not only costs for a female student. “Fox News station belongs to the Rupert- Murdoch Empire and is extremely conservative. CNN is owned by Ted Turner and is a little left. MSNBC is part of the General Electric corporation and is somewhat left,” she says. “I need information, not indoctrination. I can form my opinion myself.”

PART OF THE “1 PERCENT”

The “mainstream media” is part of the problem against which the Occupy movement fights. They are part of the “1 percent” whose income rises while the income of the others falls. The threads of economic and political power converge.

Most US media were silent for weeks about the occupation in New York. They first reacted when the police arrested 80 persons and fired pepper spray from close range on several trapped young women.

“When two people from the rightwing Tea Party parade around a plaza in George Washington costumes, that is the headline,” says the anthropology student Michael Oman-Reagan who looks after the library at Liberty Plaza. “But the media pass us by when hundreds of us occupy for weeks and offer social criticism.”

Instead of becoming informed through the US media, the occupiers inform themselves online and through foreign media. Their sources reach from the British Guardian to the Times of India, Deutsche Welle, France 24, RT, a Russian station in the English language and the daily one-hour online news program “Democracy Now.” The US weekly journal “The Nation” is an important source. The occupiers read blogs and online forums.

INTERVIEWS ARE FILMED

The brains of the movement work in the center of Liberty Plaza in Manhattan – behind a few tables arranged in a square with the sign “Media.” The media people of the occupiers understand themselves as news-makers. They work around the clock and publish a newspaper in English and Spanish. The large format “Occupied Wall Street Journal” is distributed free of charge. They broadcast their plenary assemblies and demonstrations to the rest of the world via Lifestream. They produce their own films and radio commentaries and they twitter.

Many occupiers have cameras or recording equipment. A reporter hardly begins an interview before it is filmed and photographed by occupiers… Interviews often run live on the Internet.

Liberty Plaza in New York – beginning its fifth week of the occupation – is outfitted with the best technology. The activists have their own equipment for wireless Internet and rely on a pool of experienced people. At other places, occupiers open up media centers. Under names like occupydc.org, occupyoakland.org and october2011.org, they stream information and debates.

NEW POPULARITY FOR BLOGS

In Washington, a young cook sits on a park bench at McPherson Square. She is 21 and has already spent several evenings with the occupiers but is still undecided whether to remain. Her name is not published. She doesn’t own a computer or a cell phone.

She operates a Facebook page on her friend’s computer. It contains nothing personal. Articles from all over the world from the English-language media discuss the Federal Reserve, the Euro and minimum wages. “I don’t buy a newspaper,” the cook says. “People send me interesting articles.” Therefore she knows about things like the hunger strike for weeks of thousands of prison inmates in California about which subscribers of the Washington Post have learned nothing.

Long before the beginning of the Occupy movement, blogs were established on the web that seek to replace paper newspapers. They are now gaining new popularity. Some of these blogs receive enough advertising to afford several paid employees including Salon, Firedoglake and Daily Kos. Huffington Post has already expanded abroad – to Great Britain and France. Sites like Truth-out and Michael Moore Online are strongly engaged politically.

Rob Kall who operates the blog opednews.com in Philadelphia publishes at least one text a day about the Occupy movement and calls to demonstrations. Since the beginning of the movement, he feels a “new intensity in the political debate” and receives more commentaries than before. He explains the success this way: “The mass media serve the big concerns. For us, the movement comes from below.”

The blogger David Swanson from Virginia also blames the mass media: “The newspapers are bad. Celebrity splash and gossip and ever-present government spokespersons predominate while the most important themes – the life of real America- are ignored.” Swanson who occupies as well as blogs has a hope: “that it may change the whole culture and new media may emerge from the movement.”

99 PERCENT

US unions join “Occupy Wall Street” movement. Demonstrations in many cities

By Simon Loidl

[This article published in: Junge Welt, 10/7/2011 is translated from the German on the Internet, http://www.jungewelt.de/2011/10-07/029.php?print=1.]

On Wednesday, nearly 12,000 people demonstrated against unemployment, the power of the banks and social inequality. Several unions joined the protests of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement that has continued for weeks. Previously there were intensive conflicts for days within the established organizations of the US labor movement over the question how they should position themselves on this spontaneous unorganized protest. A large part of the demands of the young movement coincide with the union movement’s own themes.

PRESSURE OF THE BASE

Some functionaries expressed reserve in their support. They warned that radical demands or possible excesses in the course of the protests could damage the reputation of the unions. The fact that this is an unorganized leaderless movement raises the question to some union bureaucrats how organizations accustomed to traditional structures can contribute.

On Wednesday the chief executive of the AFL-CIO, the US union with the most members, declared his support of the “Occupy Wall Street” protests. The pressure from the base ultimately gave the impetus for this decision.

The danger of sleeping through the beginning of a new social movement existed for representatives of working Americans. “This is a chance to speak about what is going wrong in the system and how we can make it better,” the New York Times quoted a spokesperson of the AFL-CIO. The UAW auto union and the TWU transportation workers union are in solidarity. The support by the organized labor movement is by no means unbroken. Some conservative-dominated branch unions distanced themselves from the protests.

The new movement is no longer limited to the activists in Zuccoti Park in the heart of Manhattan. Demonstrations were called in many other cities – including Philadelphia, Baltimore, St. Louis, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. A demonstration in Washington was announced for Thursday. The demands of the movement are always the same. Besides a fundamental criticism of crisis-shaken capitalism, very concrete proposals that can be immediately implemented are formulated like the prohibition on banks’ foreclosures of houses. The themes of educational policy and unemployment resound as well as peace slogans.

LEFT COUNTER-POLE

On the background of the tenth anniversary of the beginning of the Afghanistan war, the immense costs of US military actions are connected with the social situation in the US. A central slogan at the demonstrations is “We are the 99 percent.” The dominant policy runs counter to the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population.

Some commentators see the seed of a left counter-pole to the radical rightwing Tea Party movement in the Occupy movement. While some democratic representatives showed cautious sympathy for the demands of the demonstrators, the republican Herman Cain who wants to be the republican candidate next year termed the activists “un-American.”

www.wearemany.org

www.therealnews.com

www.democracynow.org

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