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Consortium News: The MSM’s Fear of OWS

Journalism should be about the new and unexpected, but most journalists really prefer the routine and expected,  so their days go easier. And they shy away from questioning the status quo. All of which makes Occupy Wall Street (OWS) a nuisance to the mainstream media (MSM), says Danny Schechter.

-By Danny Schechter

October 26, 2011- The other night, I ran into a veteran journalist, a writer who I always considered was among the “plugged in.” Yet when I told him I was reporting on Occupy Wall Street, he plugged out, and stared at me cluelessly.

“What do they want,” he asked, echoing the questioned raised endlessly by TV pundits and editorial commentators. He didn’t seem to know or care who “they” are, or why they have taken to living in parks to make their point.

He and his colleagues seem to be saying that to understand what’s going on, it must all be first compressed into a press release with bullet points they can simplify further.

“I don’t get it,” he sighed.

“It’s about Occupying Wall Street,” I replied, “Occupying Wall Street, challenging the power of its economic power.”

Another blank look. It’s as if we need our politics to follow a predictable format characterized by legislators playing to the cameras, message points, and pithy slogans.

The idea of a deeper challenge to a totally compromised system driven by big money and special interests is considered by some as anomaly that belongs in another century.

Extra-parliamentary political movements don’t compute for some who want the political debate limited to rituals like elections, traditional “debates” and up-and-down votes on selective laws. In this world, politics is best left to politicians with citizens there to look but not to act.

There seems to be three factors at work.

–Financial issues are treated as exotic, beyond our comprehension and best left in the back of the paper in the business pages where obscurantist language makes it so dense that most readers turn away.

–The upper classes, now referred to as “the 1percent,” and the people who identify with them uncritically or rely on them for financial guidance cannot comprehend any critique that challenges their prerogatives and power. They use terms like “unsophisticated” to deligitimize protesters who challenge their pretensions and priorities.

–Some of these defenders of privilege don’t and won’t “get it” because it is not in their interest to do so. They shamelessly use their power to impose their will on the legislative process with an eye on loosening or abandoning any financial reforms that force higher standards of transparency.



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