The Link’s coverage of Occupy Wall Street in Vol. 32, Issue 7 was upsetting—and it sheds light on inherent flaws in our media.
As an active contributor and participant with The Link, I am quick to congratulate their good work. But I am equally quick to raise points of concern when they merit attention. Unfortunately, the work by Julian Ward and David Murphy last week merits such attention.
A few quotes from this article are worth repeating: “…these people [i.e. the participants] refuse, or are intellectually unable, to attach a definite list of demands to their cause.” The editorial also noted, “the reporters we sent told us that […] there were also a ton of, well, idiots.”
These quotes remind me of the contempt that mainstream journalists expressed for dissidents protesting the Iraq War, or even further back to Vietnam. These dirty “hippies” are clueless and therefore not worthy of public concern. This speaks directly to the nature of our media.
For starters, it is worth reflecting on why participants in the Occupation are called “these people” with such a degree of contempt.
According to the dictates of professional journalism, reporters are required to “objectively” report on events. The person being interviewed becomes an object of analysis, and the reporter must detach themselves from any moral or emotional considerations.
This is precisely what leads to the use of terms like “these people” and “hippies.” Shaming and marginalizing in this way can have devastating consequences.
There are alternatives to calling participants “idiots” that are “intellectually unable” to articulate their aims. A participatory media would engage in discussion with these “hippies” in order to collaboratively create media for the public.
Similarly, the fact that reporters are seeking “a definite list of demands” from Occupation participants and would like an “official spokesperson” also speaks to the nature of our dominant media structure.
Why are definite demands necessary? Why must there be an official spokesperson?
These are the very structures of hierarchy that the Occupation is challenging. There are no “officials” in the commune that has been created in New York. And there are no definite demands, because genuine democracy takes careful discussion of conflicting ideas.
Occupy Wall Street participants are challenging people to question all forms of oppression and hierarchy. One would hope that journalists are equally reflective about the role and nature of the media. Occupy The Link indeed. —Matthew Brett