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Armchair Activist

I post on this cautiously and with some reservations, and I urge any readers to form their own opinion. The reports I have are all secondhand and not very accurate or particularly balanced, and neither are the movies/pictures. Now, with that disclaimer out of the way:

On Twitter, there's a very active topic called #occupywallstreet (or #ourwallstreet or #takewallstreet). OccupyWallStreet is a demonstration going on in New York and has been going on for 4 days now (starting Sep. 17th). Protesters -- some 2000-5000 the first day and 'a few hundred' the following days have been protesting against the big Wall Street corporations' part in the current recession and against social inequality. It's a leaderless movement (or so the protesters say).

The police is well represented near Wall Street, which has been blocked off if I understand the media correctly. Arrests have been made for whatever reasons, but mostly things are peaceful.

From an armchair activistic point of view, it's interesting to follow the war of information surrounding this event. There are several claims from Twitter users that I'd like to examine:

1) The general media are ignoring us (--and some add: because Wall Street owns the general media).

By all means, a few hundred protesters are not necessarily the biggest news of the world, but a four-day protest might warrant some attention other than on Twitter. And in fact CNN, Wall Street Journal, The Guardian and others have written about this event. You can find a photo gallery here as well. 

Ignored is not the right word, then, and Twitter trending doesn't equal news. But perhaps the media is being negligent about the underlying current that has brought this protest to its day four: the idea that 'ordinary Americans' should own more of their country than the richest 1% of the population and that the rich should pay more taxes. This has been highlighted elsewhere in the media -- Warren Buffet's plea to raise his taxes comes to mind, as does this PBS newshour show (via youtube, not embedded). In that perspective, OccupyWallStreet is a part of a trend worth examining.   

2) We are being actively censored by media corporations.

This claim is all the more spectacular, not least because it has some very worrying perspectives. But it begs examining.

First claim (which was mostly made on the 17th) is that Twitter is blocking the hashtags #OccupyWallStreet -- I've found no proof for this, and other tweets seems to note that the hashtag trended in some cities, but not all over the US. Personally I need more evidence to believe this.

I retweeted a link to this movie claiming that yahoo mail is blocking messages re: occupy wall street, but as evidence goes, it's hogwash -- anyone could have made this up. Except that according to this website, Yahoo is now apologizing for it. Convenient apology for a screwup or deliberate blocking? Honestly, it's hard to prove.

I find it more interesting that at this point, videos of arrests surfacing on YouTube (such as this) seem to receive very few 'views'... around 300 at the time of writing. At the same time, it has also received 600 'Likes'. This seems fishy, as if someone is deliberately trying to keep this from surfacing.

I'm sure there are other facets of this that I'm missing, so if you have any to share, please do so in the comments - I have full confidence that you'll be polite, and I'll have you know that I won't be hosting a flame war.  

In conclusion, I'd say I understand the scepticism of these protesters. The irregularities are suspicious, but perhaps there are explanations for them -- perhaps not. Either way: It is clear that a 'War of Information' and a 'War of the Freedom of Information' is going to be very murky. But any sign that the message is being overtly suppressed should certainly be examined, as it is bound to drag any free debate into the realm of Spin.

About me: I'm writing this because social indignation is part of my fuel, and what I see of the greed in large corporations isn't pretty. Large banks were, in my opinion, pushing the economy far, far too hard in previous years, and I don't see them letting up now. And I have it from at least one former banker that 'customer consulting services' is just another word for 'sell our products to the customers and make us some money' -- and has been since the late 80ies.

Mostly, though, I'm troubled by the indications (murky as they are) that big corporations may be clamping down on people disagreeing with 'corporate America'. Not because I live in America, but because the US citizens that I know deserve to live in a country worthy of the title 'Land of the Free' -- as do we all.

Also, please note that it's late here now and that I probably won't be posting any answers for the next hours--even armchair activists have to sleep :-)


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 20th, 2011 06:11 pm (UTC)
We'll see what happens. The problem may be partly a numbers game -- a few hundred isn't good news video. Then again, the thousands who showed up daily in Madison, Wisconsin to protest legislative attacks on teachers and teacher unions didn't always get coverage either.

Dr. Phil
Sep. 21st, 2011 02:32 am (UTC)
We'll see what happens.

Wise words. I'm guessing that the protests will play one role in the trend of increasing awareness of inequality in the US. I'm still not convinced that they'll get the 'Tahrir Square' fame they are hoping for.

But then again, guesses are free, right? :-)
Sep. 22nd, 2011 04:04 pm (UTC)
I agree with dr. phil physics. I'm a copy editor at a newspaper in New Jersey. The story made it into the paper (but certainly not on the front page). I was really excited to read it, as I'd heard a little about this but not a lot. I was disappointed when I read the article though.

First, it didn't sound like there were many people there. The article said 1500 at the very best. Second, none of the protestors really had a clear explanation for WHY they were protesting. Maybe there is a single cohesive idea behind this, but it doesn't seem like many of the protestors there are familiar with it. You need a unifying theme to be effective.

I dunno. Just things I observed.
Sep. 22nd, 2011 04:39 pm (UTC)
It sounds about right regarding the 'newsworthiness'. The pro-occupywallstreeters (for lack of a better noun) feel that a Tea Party demo of the same size would receive much more attention, but the Tea Partiers do have an agenda that's easier to label. They also have leaders. News stories tend to work better if there's a face to go with them.

As Dr. Phil_Physics says, the importance (or not) of the protesters will show itself with time. For now, I'm watching.
Sep. 22nd, 2011 05:07 pm (UTC)
Yeah, the Tea Party (for all its many,many faults) is very organized, has clear leaders and a very clear message. It's just not all that easy for people to understand why these people are camping out outside Wall Street or what they hope to achieve. Unfortunately, it does have to be simple and direct if you want people to latch on to your cause.
Sep. 20th, 2011 06:32 pm (UTC)
Will avoid the politics, but will note that I often see Youtube videos with more Likes than hits. I think it comes about when a video is embedded elsewhere; when it's viewed from an embedded source, it doesn't register as a hit.
Sep. 21st, 2011 02:20 am (UTC)
Thanks, that would certainly explain some of the lack of hits. After writing this, I did see another vid with 305 views and 600+ comments, but I honestly didn't check to see if there were any 'repeat offenders' among the commenters. Perhaps imbedded videos work up comments as well.

As for avoiding politics, that's fine by me, but if you want to share your opinion on the matter I'd love to hear it. I find myself at the disadvantage of not being in America, so I get my news through a lot of media filters.
Maria Schneider
Sep. 21st, 2011 12:31 pm (UTC)
I think they have always clamped down and yes, wall street was guilty of pushing lending way past reasonable. They were aided and abetted and still are by Congress and other politicians.

I've never understood why the media doesn't care. I think it is more boredom and inertia than censorship. They don't believe it matters. They don't believe it will change anything. And if it isn't going after a particular ideal they care about, they cannot lift their pen.
Sep. 21st, 2011 03:30 pm (UTC)
I can't answer for the NY Times and their ilk, of course, but I think that the big omnibus newspapers have trouble writing about anything that can be seen as disruption of the status quo. Changing trends is one thing--like the end of Don't Ask Don't Tell--but changing world views are something entirely different. A world without big banks? The idea that middle class people and education, not corporations, will be the basis of future growth? Forget about it. Too many readers and advertisers would choke on their morning coffee.

The trick for the protesters will be to make those ideas reach a point of critical mass -- then the mass media will jump in. But I don't see that happening in the next couple of days, but I'm watching what's going on.

Sep. 21st, 2011 10:23 pm (UTC)
I have a real problem with the greed of American corporations. Unfortunately, I'm old enough to remember a time when American companies actually CARED about their customers and providing them with a service, as opposed to modern day when they're going to do what they want and charge you tooth and nail for it and if you don't like it, then go somewhere else. For instance, used to be if your phone broke, the phone company came out and fixed the problem because they cared about your business. Nowadays if your phone breaks, well, too bad, it's all your fault, and if you want US to fix it (never mind that we pay an arm and a leg for their service), then I'm going to charge you the other arm and leg and your firstborn child while I'm at it. And get this, my cable company charges me a monthly rental fee for THEIR equipment, but if it breaks, I have to pay for it? Oh, don't get me started on banks and the piddly amount of interest they're paying now while they play around with MY money. Grrr, can you tell this is a sore point with me? Big corporations, that is.
Sep. 22nd, 2011 03:52 pm (UTC)
One of my own gripes about corporations is that they take no social responsibilities. If they decide it's profitable to close a factory, they'll do so without caring who in the local society gets hit. At least with most family-owned businesses they try not to slash all jobs in one area, or not fire both husband and wife at the same time. That sort of thing isn't en vogue on Wall Street if you ask me.
Sep. 22nd, 2011 08:08 am (UTC)

Is it telling that from my iPhone I'm unable to view the other comments on your post? Thanks for sharing this -- something to keep an eye on.

Sep. 22nd, 2011 03:48 pm (UTC)
You're welcome. I hope that your iPhone's omission is just a bug of some kind--my wife the software test manager will tell you they're quite common ;-) Still, the whole censorship business is something to be wary about.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )


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