Occupy Wall Street: An Important Event Ignored by the Media
Michael Moore inspires the protesters
A young, female protester gets arrested
Why is the media ignoring the Occupy Wall Street Protest?
You probably can't tell by the news media, but for the last few weeks, a major protest has been going on in lower Manhattan. From the coverage (or lack thereof) it's been getting, it probably doesn't seen like much on TV. You have to be there. In person, it's an epic event! And it's an important one, too.
For over three weeks now, protesters who call themselves "the other 99%" (As opposed to the richest One Percent who control most of the country's money) have been living outdoors in New York's financial district. They march, chant, protest and even camp out. They are railing against the corporate greed and social inequality that has left America in such a financial mess.
The protesters, who are headquartered (so to speak) in Zuccotti Park near Wall Street (Which is more of a plaza than a park), eat donated food, live in tents or sleep on the sidewalk in sleeping bags, collect donations for provisions and keep their laptops running with a portable gas-powered generator. They have their own website and even their own newsletter, the "Occupy Wall Street Journal". It's all very organized and impressive in it's resourcefulness. Considering how organically it all evolved and taking into account that no one knew how long it would last, this is a very impressive sit-in. Or perhaps its a 'sit-out'.
The event started out small, with about 2,000 people and was mostly ignored by the media. It appeared to be losing steam until the now-infamous footage (shown many times on TV and on the web) of a police supervisor spraying mace into the faces of female protesters, without any apparent justification. This was a turning-point in the protest and suddenly support began to grow for the fledgling movement. Thousands more have shown up since to offer their support. Most come and go, with only those original core members living in the plaza. But daily, many thousands of protesters line the streets of the financial district in solidarity. The movement is still growing with no sign of an ending in sight.
Last Saturday, the "Other 99%" were joined by the United Way's annual March Against Poverty over the Brooklyn Bridge. The mass of marchers were warned to stay on the pedestrian walkway, although some strayed out onto the car road and blocked traffic. The marchers claimed that the crowd was bigger than they anticipated and they couldn't all fit on the path. Some claimed they weren't aware that the road was off limits to them. By the end of the day, 700 protesters were arrested and given citations for disturbing the peace and then released. A class action suit against NY Mayor Bloomberg and the police department has been filed for the mass arrests.
Other related protests against Wall Street have sprung up all over the country; San Fransisco, LA, Chicago, Albuquerque and other locations have joined in, making this a national event.
The Transit Workers Union and United Steel Workers have come out in support of the protesters. Several celebrities have also shown up in support, including Michael Moore, Susan Sarandon and Mark Ruffalo. They hope that their celebrity status will bring more media interest.
In a speech to the crowd, Moore compared the obsessive greed of the Top One Percent to kleptomania. "They weren't satisfied with tens of billions. They had to have hundreds of billions". He also said to the crowd "They're trying to destroy our democracy and turn it into a Kleptocracy."
Recently, the media coverage has been increasing. Due to celebrities like Moore and the confrontations with the police, attention regarding the event has grown. Keith Olberman has recently devoted a whole show on Current TV to the event.
There are lots of clever signs, including one with a picture of Washington, Lincoln and Franklin on their respective bills of currency, and the slogan "When did their ideals become our oppression?" And one of my favorites was the catchphrase from the film V for Vendetta that said, "People shouldn't be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of the people!"
Most of the core protesters are 20-something college graduates who are worried about how they can pay down their oppressive, crippling student debt. However, many of the people who are joining the marches are older. (I was one.)
The protesters have a laudable goal in wanting to end class warfare and make things more equitable between the "haves" and "have-nots" in this country. However, they lack a cohesive message. They are railing against the unfairness of a financial system which needs to be overhauled but they seem to have no specific suggestions or demands. What the movement needs is a powerful, eloquent leader like Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi, to be the mouthpiece for Occupy Wall Street.
The lack of leadership is due to the fact that the movement evolved organically and was formed as a collective voice for change. There is some semblance of hierarchy, but there are no clear leaders or spokes-people. But perhaps a clear message with specific demands is not strictly necessary. Maybe the fact that thousands of people around the country are massing in protest is enough to begin the process of change. Now that the media is finally paying attention, this could be the beginning of a catalyst for financial reform in this country and a move toward equality between the top and the "other 99%".
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Attached is a review of Michael Moores' film "Capitalism: a Love Story", which deals with the same topic that the movement is protesting.
CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY ****(4 Stars)
Capitalism: A Love Story:Michael Moore is back and up to his old tricks again, playing the rabble-rouser conscience of America. His latest effort is possibly his timeliest, examining our capitalist system at a time when the system seems to be failing us.
Love him or hate him, Moore is a lightning rod for discussion and this is definitely a topic that needs to be discussed. Despite his famously left-wing leanings, the film is bi-partisan in assigning blame, accusing every administration since Reagan (including Clinton) for allowing the corporate coup of America.
The film starts with a montage of people robbing banks and then switches to interviews with people who have been robbed by banks. We see hard working people who are temporarily down on their luck losing their homes because of skyrocketing mortgage rates, high health insurance premiums and other fees that the poor can't afford to pay. One family is ousted from their home without the requisite 30 days notice and had nowhere to go. Another family ended up living in the back of a truck.
There's a funny scene where modern American is compared to ancient Rome (complete with footage from an old movie about the Roman Empire) highlighting the ever growing disparity between rich and poor. Rome was also called a democracy.
Moore exposes some little known but highly infuriating corporate practices such as "Dead Peasant Insurance". Basically, it means that a big corporation surreptitiously takes out a big life insurance policy on an employee who has a higher than average chance of dying (Due to a dangerous occupation or poor health or age or some other reason) and if the person dies, the company can collect a large fee without informing the late employee's family or sharing the insurance money. One policy netted a company over a million dollars. The reaction of the widow when she heard about the "Dead Peasant" policy was heart wrenching.
Another bit of maddening information is the confusing concept of Derivatives, which makes the mortgages of American homeowners into collateral in a reckless gamble regarding whether or not the homeowner will fail. Its amazing how much of Wall Street and Capitalism is based on gambling.
Moore shows us some scenes of life in the fifties when the American dream seemed genuine and the system worked for the people instead of the other way around. Michael Moore pinpoints the Ronald Reagan administration as the beginning of the corporate coup, calling Reagan a corporate spokesman. The deregulations of the Regan era certainly played a part in setting up the current climate.
Naturally, there are the trade-mark Moore stunts, like surrounding the AIG building with police tape and trying to make a citizen's arrest on the board of directors, but the film works best when it touches on the real issues of whether our rights are being adequately served by the current corporate controlled capitalist system. The scene where Moore and his father visit the site of the GM plant where his father had once worked making spark plugs for over 30 years is very effective.
The most effective moment is when we view some previously unseen tapes of FDR asking for a second bill of rights to be initiated, guaranteeing that every American has a right to a job, a place to live, education and health insurance. FDR was in ill health when he instituted this idea and would be dead within a year of his speech so he never managed to accomplish this laudable goal. American life would have been substantially different over the last few decades if he'd succeeded.
The film covers ground that Moore had warned us about years ago in his early films "Roger & Me" and "the Big One". Although Moore seems to be calling for a revolution, its unlikely that change is coming. As the film points out, the public has been very willing to accept this system on the belief that any one of them might become one of the rich upper class themselves. Self interest is the foundation for Capitalism but it shouldn't be for a democracy.