More than 700 people were arrested last weekend during the Occupy Wall Street protest. On Wednesday, approximately 10,000 marched in lower Manhattan and similar protests have sprung up in LA, Portland, Boston, Chicago and other cities. (See: Occupy Wall Street Gains Traction: "The Message Is Definitely Getting Out")
This weekend, a caravan of UAW workers from Michigan is expected to arrive in New York to join the movement which, for better or worse, now has the backing of organized labor. And, for better or worse, Occupy Wall Street got some tacit support this week from President Obama who said the movement "expresses the frustrations that the American people feel."
Which brings us to another edition of Taken to Task....
Most of the mainstream press coverage so far has been dismissive of the protests and, in some cases, downright patronizing.
"SERIOUSLY?" CNN's Erin Burnett asked mockingly after finding one protester who didn't know the government made money on the Wall Street bailout. Burnett is taking a lot of heat in the blogosphere for her piece, and rightfully so.
As a Goldman Sachs alum, you'd think Burnett would know there's a heavy price to pay for moral hazard, not to mention the Fed's zero interest rate policy and ongoing subsidy of Wall Street, as well as the taxpayer-funded bailouts of AIG, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. There's also the issue of America's loss of moral authority and the damage done to the Anglo-Saxon model: After years of telling other countries not to bail out their bad banks, we found that advice is much easier to give than to take.
Burnett isn't alone in dismissing the protesters as a bunch of "dancing hippies".
When it's not ignoring the protests, Fox News has largely mocked them as "whackos" and "communists", and taken pains to compare Occupy Wall Street unfavorably to the Tea Party. (The two groups actually share a lot of common ground and grievances but that's another story.)
Even the purportedly liberal New York Times has had to defend itself from accusations of bias against the movement.
After spending 2 days in Zuccotti Park, CNBC.com's John Carney wrote: "I couldn't help but feel that there wasn't really very much going on... [Occupy Wall Street] involves a lot of people just sitting around for long spans of time. Listening to those drums."
Yahoo!'s own Dan Gross compared Occupy Wall Street to a Bizarro World version of Davos and focused on the fringe elements of the movement: "There are a lot of whackos here," he wrote.
Beyond the Fringe
There are a lot of whackos in the movement but if you look beyond the fringe there's also a lot of people just like you and me: Working class and college-educated people who have a stake in the system but feel the playing field has been titled way too far in favor of the wealthiest Americans and their corporate brethren.
One critique of the protest is it lacks a unified message or mission. Indeed, in my reporting I found evidence of people supporting any number of issues, including:
- Higher Taxes on the Wealthy
- Prosecution of Financial Fraud
- Anti-Fracking and other "Green" issues
- Mortgage Modifications
- Campaign Finance Reform
- Universal Healthcare
- Student Loan Forgiveness and, of course,
- Jobs, Jobs Jobs
So, sure, maybe the Occupy Wall Street movement is a bit unclear in its views and lacks leadership. But to those who mock the protesters, I have to ask: What exactly is it that you're defending? Crony capitalism? Bank bailouts? Rising income inequality and the slow death of the American dream?
To everyone out there dismissing the Occupy Wall Street movement, I say it's time we stop, and say 'hey what's that sound'
everybody look what's goin' down.
In the meantime, and For What It's Worth, the movement's deniers have been Taken to Task.