I don’t have much to say on the “Occupy” movement, though I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit. I don’t have much to say because I haven’t had the time or energy to really look into (one of the consequences of being a new dad). But in those moments that I have had, it seems more than a little clear to me that one of the reasons the usual media suspects don’t know how to handle it is because it is a movement that truly transcends the usual dichotomies of American public discourse.
Let’s be clear: one of the ways that those in power attempt to hold on to their power is by creating narratives of division. If we see others as fundamentally different from ourselves, if we only see the ways that we are different, we loose the ability to recognize our mutual interests.
There is an important lesson to be learned here from America’s racial past. Looking back on the Civil War, we tend to demonize white Southerners as nothing but racist slaveholders. We forget, however, that most of the folks who owned slaves were wealthy white folks. There was a large class of poor white folks who didn’t owns slaves. Their interests were, and always have been, perfectly in line with the interests of people of color. So those in power construct narratives of difference in order to convince the white poor that they have more in common with wealthy land-owners — a commonality that literally goes no deeper than the color of their skin — than they do with people of color.
This sense of racial difference persists. Those in power continue to exploit racial difference as a way to distract the masses from our mutual interests. The great failing of the Tea Party is its inability to recognize this basic strategy and, consequently, the ease with which it was co-opted by media power structures. It has failed to rise above the basic narrative of political and racial difference. Thus, according to Fox News, the Tea Party simply represents “real Americans” (read “political conservatives”) expressing their outrage against “Big Government”; and according to MSNBC, the Tea Party is inherently racist, therefore why would any progressive person (let alone a person of color) take their argument seriously.
The Occupy movement represents a transcendent force, a force that goes beyond such simplistic dichotomies, and recognizes the obvious truth: that those in power are few, that they are only interested in maintaining their power, and that they will maintain this power at the cost of the many. This isn’t about Republicans or Democrats, “conservatives” or “leftists.” This is about the many wanting a fair deal.
So it only makes sense that those in power are terrified and that the media — the mouthpiece of those in power, an institution built on the premiss that conflict equals ratings equals profits — has no idea how to report on the issue. They’ve lost the public’s trust as the fourth estate.
Those are my two cents.