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Let them be heard

While I was on vacation some last month, a reader left a voice mail inquiring why The Sun had not been covering the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. Not having been privy to any news decisions while I was out, I couldn’t say. Nor could I say why the major news media were giving the demonstrations little or no attention.

But I can speculate.

The first thing is that, this being America, someone is always demonstrating against something, so protests, even large ones, tend not to get much in the way of ink or pixels. The second is that the major news organizations, having been accused of bias ever since Spiro Agnew was taking payoffs and Richard Nixon was attempting to subvert the Constitution, are skittish about appearing sympathetic to lefties.

Now the protests against corporations, every bit as inchoate as those of the tea party, have swelled to dimensions not to be ignored, and that is probably to the good.

I marveled at the tea party, organizing on the Internet, which was created and made available free to all by the government,* and traveling on roads and streets built by the government, would appear to voice a belief that we cannot trust our elected government but should instead trust corporations.

The same thing mystified me during the debate over President Obama’s health care plan. Are there people who feel affection for their insurance companies, who admire and respect the faceless functionaries who increase their premiums every year and then, when illness strikes, deny coverage? When people complained that the Obama plan would subject us to choking paperwork and arbitrary decisions made by unaccountable officials, I wondered what the bumf** they thought we have now.

Not that I enjoy a pure and unsullied faith in our government. Both the left and the right have their favorite lists of ineptitude and waste, and it is quite right that they should be leveling those accusations. The Founders were distrustful of government, devising stratagems to cub the powers of each of the three main branches, and they would approve of our skepticism.

But I have worked for corporations for the past three decades, and the experience has sharpened rather than dulled my skepticism about their wisdom. And the current economic slump, to which the major banks and investment houses made such important contributions, has not left me any more sanguine.

So, the tea party has enjoyed its time in the public eye, and now others want a turn. I say let the people be heard. The goose having been sauced, bring on the gander.

 

*D’you think that it IBM or Apple had developed the Internet, it would be free for you to use?

**Bumf is a lovely bit of British slang for official forms and paperwork. It is a shortened form of bumfodder, that is, toilet paper.

 

 

Posted by John McIntyre at 12:40 PM | | Comments (17)
        

Comments

You can hardly expect media run by huge corporations to have any sympathy with anti-corporate protestors.

"... the major news organizations, having been accused of bias ever since Spiro Agnew was taking payoffs ..., are skittish about appearing sympathetic to lefties."

I find it hard to respect organizations that were put off their game by the man whose best known for uttering the phrase "nattering nabobs of negativism" (even if it was written for him by Safire, a man whose wordsmithing skills I otherwise greatly admire).

Man - and woman - the barricades!

Cheers,
Tim

October 10th is not yet here, but already the RSS feed seems to have been curtailed, your prose cut off before getting into full stride. Alas!

(and who turned up the difficulty level on the Captcha - I detect conspiracy!)

Aack! Using "whose" for "who is"! Aack!

Cheers,
Tim

Who would support your and the protester's lifestyles if not the corporations?

From where would you get your iProducts, your clothing, your cars, your TV, your...all of those conveniences that we pay for with the salaries we receive from corporations? How would we all learn about their protest if not from the media outlets--run by corporations?

Where did the protesters get their computers, etc. that allow them to spread their message?

People who are against Capitalism are free to move Beijing. No one's forcing them to stay here. Of course, they'd need a job to pay for their air fare...

One wistfully wishes that there might be some intermediate point between clasping Goldman, Sachs to one's bosom or relocating to a concrete cube on the outskirts of Beijing.

Prof. M.,

Your observations are mine too. And I have a question. Please notice that I'm not taking sides when I ask this.

"... a reader left a voice mail inquiring why The Sun had not been covering the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations."

Then:

"I marveled at the tea party, organizing on the Internet ..."

How did you know to capitalize "Occupy Wall Street" but not "tea party"?

Now I have an observation, which I see that you did not address. Again, please see that I am not taking sides.

Of these two organic, populist, grass-roots movements, how did the media know to take one seriously and not the other?

The same correspondents, hosts and pundits who finally stopped cackling in unison at the first now regard the second with wet-eyed, head-tilted reverence.

I know that in their hearts, people mean well. m I missing something?

Lawrence

Postscript- I find I can simultaneously hold in my head the very good point of Karla (October 7, 2011 13:31) and the followup point of our host (October 7, 2011 15:25). I think you're both right. See!


Prof. McI.,

Hmm....... and here I was under the assumption that Al Gore invented the Internet? An 'convenient untruth', I suspect. HA!

Ah, the sweet blend of familiar Fall fragrances wafting through the bustling streets of Manhattan, mixed w/ the perhaps not so familiar odors eminating from middle-class-and-under-class revolt, filling the chilled air. Earnest proletarian rumblings and grumblings on Wall St., and early grassroots stirrings of working class (those who actually have jobs) street protests out here in still balmy Los Angeles. And we thought "love" was in the air. HA!

Those ardent Tea Partiers pretty much have the sprawling mid-section of this vast country covered, yet they are fundamentally marching to a different drummer, of sorts, than the anti-corporation-anti-financial institutions-anti-fat-cats mobs of irate political activists on either coast.

Of course media reporting of sporadic incidents of collective civil disobedience can be a kind of hit-and-miss, very selective proposition; when, to my mind, the Main Stream Media (MSM) corporations appear to contribute, more often than not, to the particular problem at hand, rather than working toward a better solution. In other words, they can invariably be rather choosey in their coverage of mass populist public protestations, depending who's goring their ox, or buttering their bread. Just sayin'.

Many folk in this country have sadly almost reached their emotional, and fiscal breaking points, not unlike that Howard Beale veteran big-city TV news anchor played so convincingly by actor Peter Finch in the 1976 film "Network". Recall his now legendary rant when he screamed at the top of his lungs, whist leaning out his apartment window, "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it any more!"

Short of tossing our precious flat screen TVs and DVRs out the window, it would appear to me that the average American struggling today to just barely get by, really needs some constructive outlet(s) to vent his, or her mounting frustrations and festering anger. I guess the blogosphere is a convenient palative for some of that inner angst.

And in the long, and mostly noble tradition of mass publicly displayed civil disobedience in this land, whose founding was basically predicated on individual, and collective freedom of expression----breaking the oppressive yoke of Britain-----today they are doing precisely just that. More power to them!

Of course populist filmmaker, and political activist at large (no pun intended HA!), Michael Moore, is on the very front lines of this current Wall St. 'uprising', and seems bound and determined to see those culpable Wall St. moguls----bankers, hedge-funders, equity traders and their ilk--- be proven accountable, and pay dearly for their ill-gotten gains, and blatant avarice, thru our legal system-----these alleged gonefs apparently having total disregard for the sorry plight of the average, struggling working stiff.

This current grassroots populist, bottom-up unrest, and venting of shared frustration can't help but have a pivotal impact on the upcoming general election season.

The natives (the average, hurting American), are restless, and they mainly want to see more job opportunities opening up across this nation; and secondarily see some big fat-cat, million-and-billionaires heads roll. There are clearly more Kenneth Lay/ Enron-type scheming shylocks in the woodworks.

IMHO, the political candidates running for high office who can somehow tap into this mounting populist angst permeating the fast dwindling middle-class, will have the best chance at victory come that first Tuesday of November, 2011.

Short of an armed people's resurrection, things are going to get very ugly on the cross-country political hustings from here on in.

Let the mudslinging begin! (Sorry, it already has, I'm afeared.)

"Hope", "Change", and "Audacity" may not be quite enough this time round.

ALEX

Oh, Lawrence, I too can identify with Karla's point of view. I went off to college in 1969 and had ample opportunities to observe educationally and economically privileged students sentimentally and superficially attempting to identify with the oppressed. The parallels today are easy enough to notice.

But I also remember from the 1950s and 1960s the "If you don't like it here, why don't you go back to Russia?" response to any whisper of criticism about the excesses of capitalism, and nothing will make that cliche fresh or compelling.

As to your questions: For better or worse, the AP and other news organizations have held that "tea party," being a movement rather than a formal organization, should stay lowercase. There's no style rule yet on "Occupy Wall Street" (two-thirds of which would be capitalized anyhow), and I am following what appears to be a uniform practice among the groups organizing these protests. Best not to read political leanings into the capitalization.

As to the two groups: The tea party includes many people with legitimate grievances, along with cranks and extremists and the ignorant, whose ill-spelled posters have generated considerable amusement. The occupiers seem to spell better, and they too have legitimate grievances to articulate, but I haven't seen a lot of intellectual rigor there, either.

The main difference is that the tea party has had considerable political impact; whether the occupiers will remains to be seen.


Oops!

Noticed I erroneously wrote in my last post "..... come that first Tuesday of November of 2011" (this year), specifying voting day, rather than the correct crucial date of November of 2012. (D'oh!)

ALEX

We could do worse than fall back on poetry--in this case, Yeats's "The Second Coming":

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity....

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?

There's room for all of us in this one , I think.

Well. Thanks for the brisk and personal response, then, Prof. M. You've set my mind at rest, and I'm not just saying that because it's a gorgeous fall afternoon in Annapolis and I can't wait to go outside.

Yes, I agree; though I wasn't born yet, I dimly recall the indignant suggesting that others go back to Russia. I suppose Karla could have been more nuanced with her point about the counterweights of (controlled) socialism and (controlled) capitalism. I trust and assumed that it wasn't lost on you either.

I'm embarrassed to realize that, yes, two-thirds of "Occupy Wall Street" would be capitalized anyway! Somebody told me that as the movement sprouts in other cities that they might simplify the name to Occupy. I like that. Short, punchy, and it sounds like either a clothing store for young adults or a church for young adults, one of those new ones that put a lot of time into its logo.

To paraphrase a sentiment apocryphally attributed to the Chinese, the sharpened sword points of the Tea Party and the OccuPants :) should make for interesting times. Or, alternatively, thoroughly insufferable times. Let's watch.

Have a fun, restful Columbus Weekend, Prof. M. and each, and I hope we read each other next week. I'm rooting around in my pockets for toll fare.

Lawrence

If the government has made the internet free to all of us, why do I pay $50 a month to use it?

I've found it more than a little ironic when some reporter asks a 'protestor' why he is there, only to hear that he quit his job!!! to be there, or he hates capitalism or he thought he'd bring his family down as it was such a a nice day. Those people are protesting for the sake of protesting - the reason for which they have not yet worked out. Meanwhile, they are ruining commercial trade for nearby businesses and leaving a big mess - someone with a job will have to clean up after them, like parents after their willful but inarticulate children. (Lawrence: My brother has been playing golf in Annapolis this week - I hope you have, as well.)

Aha: Patricia! You are well, I hope. And terse, I trust.

Yeah, many of these protesters seem (from decently afar) to be muddled and befuddled. But then it's a long time since I was uncynical enough to take to the streets. And there you go: democracy is a daft old business, isn't it?

Will you be doing your usual bit towards maintaining a degree of balance in this place after the pay wall (this autocorrect thingy insists it's two words - but then it seemed to think "insists" was "satsuma") is built? Whether yes or no, it's good to hear from you. Onward!

That anonymous was me.

When in the 1970s the brats and thugs began to 'occupy' universities, I was working as a secretary at one of the large, private universities in the Northeast. The staff, who were paid to work to make sure the darlings had everything they needed all the time, were angry, disgusted and generally hostile to the little louts. Most of the employees there were never going to be closer to a university degree than their desks, but many were there to guarantee that their children would. To watch adolescents making demands was just too much for those hard-working people. When I left to go back to school full-time, I had no more sympathy for this nonsense than I did before - I am happy to say I still find most of them useless and obnoxious. They are best - if that is the word - viewed from far far away, if at all. Better to watch, say, "Lewis." (Hi, Picky, old sod!)

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at john.mcintyre@baltsun.com.
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