Few news networks have extensively covered the ongoing Occupy Wall Street protests, with perhaps the ironic exception of FOX News, which featured Anne Coulter calling them a product of “mob mentality.” Sean Hannity even said the protestors “really don’t like freedom.”
Such manipulative language coupled with limited exposure minimizes the urgency behind these protests — people are fed up with inequalities in America, and they’re demanding changes.
Occupy Wall Street, which began as a citizen takeover of lower Manhattan, is now a string of solidarity-based movements spreading across the country. They seek to reclaim power in the U.S. for the “99 percent” — the overwhelming majority of the population that owns less than half of the nation’s wealth.
Wall Street’s central role in the global market economy makes it the epicenter for this move against corporate power. The public has spoken out against the finance machine for its unfair tactics that horde wealth through untaxed financial transactions or hedge fund managers with bloated salaries. Such injustices perpetuate wealth disparities in the U.S. and aren’t subject to social accountability.
Unfortunately, our mass media culture prefers to highlight anti-abortion activists or Westboro Baptists instead of people who question systems of power. In the modicum of coverage the protests have received, we read about police making arrests and protestors “blocking” the Brooklyn Bridge. This is not a serious exploration of the significant issues being raised.
Recently, we have seen our mainstream networks dedicate little energy to uprisings that question or challenge the status quo. The Wisconsin uprisings against Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-union bill were only considered news for about a month, even though the fight for collective bargaining rights continues today.
And when the U.S. began its invasion of Iraq in 2003, the anti-war rallies, which were the largest global demonstration, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, were squarely ignored. Most news stations covered countdowns to the aerial bombing campaign instead of the voices against violence.
Dissent is crucial to the health of democracy. Despite questionable differences in tactic, purpose and feasibility, any country that prides itself on freedom should be able to recognize a popular display of resistance when it materializes.
Regrettably, our news channels seem to prefer “current events” that are more entertaining than informative. Frankly, I’d rather see people fight for economic rights than learn about the latest iPhone.
Chris Zivalich is a senior journalism major. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org