Messages of OWS Protests Not Hard to See, Lithwick Writes

October 28, 2011

by Jeremy Leaming

Some cable news carnival barkers and some right-wing activists have spent plenty of time tarring Occupy Wall Street as a scrambled movement of brain-addled youth with no agenda and more recently as socialist tools demanding more government largesse.

But, as Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick writes, OWS protestors really shouldn’t and likely don’t give a flip about the know-nothings of some cable news programs.

“Occupy Wall Street is not a movement without a message,” Lithwick writes. “It’s a movement that has wisely shunned the one-note, pre-chewed, simple-minded messaging required for cable television as it now exists. It’s a movement that feels no need to explain anything to the powers that be, although it is deftly changing the way we explain ourselves to one another.”

She continues:

For the past several years, while the mainstream media was dutifully reporting on all things Kardashian or (more recently) a wholly manufactured debt-ceiling crisis, ordinary people were losing their health care, their homes, their jobs, and their savings. Those people have taken that narrative to Facebook and Twitter—just as citizens took to those alternative forms of media throughout the Middle East as part of the Arab Spring. And just to be clear: They aren’t holding up signs that say “I want Bill O’Reilly’s stuff.” They aren’t holding up signs that say “I am animated by toxic levels of envy and entitlement.” They are holding up signs that are perfectly and intrinsically clear: They want accountability for the banks that took their money, they want to end corporate control of government. They want their jobs back. They would like to feed their children. They want -- wait, no, we want -- to be heard by a media that has devoted four mind-numbing years to channeling and interpreting every word uttered by a member of the Palin family while ignoring the voices of everyone else.

As noted numerous times on this blog, a growing chorus of economists has tracked the enormous redistribution of wealth that has flowed to the country’s top 1 percent. As Dean Baker, of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, noted earlier this month, our economic system, “even when it is working, has been rigged to redistribute the income to the rich.”

The only growth in incomes during the last couple of decades has gone to the top 1 percent, as Columbia University Business School Professor  Joseph Stiglitz has reported. The nation’s wealthiest don’t want that to change, that’s why they nurture and support a federal government dominated by politicians that continue to push conservative economic policies largely based on the refrain that giving tax breaks to the wealthy will spur job creation. As Stiglitz wrote, “The top 1 percent may complain about the kind of government we have in America, but in truth they like it just fine: too gridlocked to re-distribute, too divided to do anything but lower taxes.”

Cable news and other pundits may have difficulty with the protesters’ messages, but the nation’s growing inequality among incomes is on the minds of many of the OWS protests. Today, OWS protestors plan to deliver letters to the heads of the financial institutions, many of them responsible for the Great Recession, such as JP Morgan, letting them know that they are aware that the gap between nation’s super wealthy and everyone else is the widest since the 1920s.

In a post highlighting video showing how law enforcement officers critically injured Scott Olsen, an Iraq war veteran, during an OWS protest in California, blogger Andrew Sullivan notes, “We’re finding that large majorities of Americans share its concern about rising inequality.”

Sullivan continues, “Americans are not anti-capitalism. They are opposed to what has happened to capitalism, and to a non-corrupt democracy, as it has been revealed by the last three years. They are concerned about the collapse of social mobility in America, another crucial element in this polity’s stability.”

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