Blatantly Biased Tabloids and Clueless Mainstream Media Keep Missing the Obvious Big Story at OWS
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"Occupy Wall Street, go home!" The New York Post has launched what can best be described, metaphorically, as an "all-out-war" on the protesters camping downtown in Zuccotti Park, making a naked effort to aid any ouster by throwing every filthy hippie stereotype in the book at the occupiers and seeing what sticks (so far, not much).
If the Post, and other media players, stepped away from Zuccotti Park, or flashpoint rallies, they might see something different: seriousness, cooperation, an "open-source movement " that is actually (really, it is!) different in key ways from other social justice coalitions that have come before it, instead of trying to fit this into a traditional media narrative.
Because while the Post's bias is clear, many other mainstream news outlets can be described as flummoxed at best, condescending at worst, when it comes to their coverage of a new movement that is leaderless, has no list of demands, and is aiming to be as much a state of mind as an organization, a multi-faceted sea-change rather than a single entity.
It's been a long time since our country saw the rise of a social movement this broad and ambitious and not devoted to any one issue. There's no rulebook for covering it like one covers a campaign, or a company. And for a powerful corporate media addicted to the " View from Nowhere" approach -- he-said, she-said reporting that pretends to be entirely neutral -- trying to adjust to the movement is not going so well.
It's no wonder that a New York Times reporter at the first "Spokes Council" meeting was booed (although allowed to stay). The Times' coverage has been among the most bemused and sneering at times. Yes, an "open" movement should always allow press, no question. But narratively (and journalists love narrative!), it's a nice twist that reporters who have been protected by the privilege and the prestige of their legacy media institutions now get to feel the scorn and maybe even the sidelining that many of the protesters have felt from mainstream society and its press for decades.
Extreme Opposition and Hippie-Bashing
Let's start at the extreme end of anti-OWS propaganda: from printing enlarged photo-spreads detailing fistfights in the downtown vicinity to running huge headlines like "Enough!" and "Zoo-Cotti" the New York Post's intense dwelling on the protests, it seems, is rivaled only by the paper's interest in the Kardashian divorce and local sports franchises. But this singularly focused, angry attack reveals that, contrary to claims of uselessness and insignificance, the occupation presents a real threat at the notoriously reactionary and sleazy Murdoch-owned tabloid. The paper doth protest the protest too much.
Gawker's Lauri Apple penned a takedown on the Post's most recent scaremongering efforts, which incuded sending a reporter downtown to actually "investigate" the site, noting that "the Post has come to refer to anyone spotted near Zuccotti who is not a cop or a Hipstercop as a 'protester.'"
Old-fashioned hippie-bashing, including an almost obsessive level of reporting on hygiene, sanitation and hairstyles in the park, has been a tactic used by almost everyone from the Post to The Daily Show. Media onlookers, apparently, still find clothing and countercultural signifiers worthy of mention, decades after the derisively intended terms, hippie and beatnik, were coined by media entities of those eras.
Still, the Post's response, while frustrating because of the paper's popularity in the city, arises from a source with a clear bias that almost any reader with basic media literacy can understand.
What's more disturbing are the sins of omission from outlets that are supposed to be neutral.