I wasn’t expecting that many protesters after a night of terrible weather, but I could hear the chest-thunping drums, a tinny cymbal, someone on a megaphone and chants of “We are the 99%!” a full two blocks away. There was somewhere between 50 and 70 prote sters. People come and go regularly. The streets were still slick with rain beneath a gloomy sky, but the spirits of these activists hardly seemed dampened.
In front of the Bank of America building an ABC reporter from the local affiliate, named Mark Dicarlo was interviewing one of the least mainstream-looking protesters, throwing a range of questions far beyond the scope of the protest, a calculated ploy to keep the kid talking long enough for him to let his guard down and maybe say something odd, anything to discredit him and the movement as a whole. Behind him, circulating through the crowd, two young producers canvassed for the types that would be as far from mainstream suburban audiences as possible, despite a number of students, professionals and concerned everyday-types. It was a pattern I’d been noting with interest for the past several weeks.
Meanwhile this guy walked up to the make-shift base of occupation, what has become a sort of supply base, with 3 deep dish pizzas. I quickly pulled the guy aside and asked what had motivated him to show up with an arm full of pizza, easily costing $50 bucks.
His named was Jed and he was normally part of the Occupy San Francisco and Occupy Oakland movements in California. In Chicago on business for the week, he was biding his time with what has become an international brother/sisterhood. I wanted to know if he found any difference between the two efforts, separated by a continent.
“We have a really liberal mayor,” he said. “We can use the park as long as we like. The police won’t touch us there.”
Jed was informed, cogent and well-spoken, with a history of activism. In 1991 he was part of the anti-globalisation movement. “But the movement got bogged down in too many different things, but this movement is different. It cuts straight to the heart. The system doesn’t work fundamentally, and the longer they fail to answer, the more people will come to the conclusion that the current system doesn’t work.”
Meantime, Dicarlo asked his interview what he thought about the Tea Party coming to join the protests, and if they could find common ground, would that be all right?
It wasn’t the first time in the last week I’d heard a corporate journalist ask that very same question. Others had heard it too, with increasing frequncy. I heard the same story from a dozen different people, from all of the major networks. It was become less of a coincidence than an emerging tactic. In fact, Dicarlo went over and asked another protester the very same question.
I was trying to position Jed to speak with Dicarlo, but his producers did everything they could do to put us off.
“I usually get brushed off,” he told me. “I know what I’m talking about.”
The corporately-owned media is at a loss to properly deal with the movement, and to deal any sort of death-blow to the movement as a whole. They can no longer get away with framing the protesters as students or fringe groups without a rational or cohesive message. There are too many working folks, unemployed and employed professionals, housewives, retired grandparents and veterans taking part.
They still revert to a narrative of unfocused messaging, confused self-interest and fringe ideologies, because such lazy cartoonishness is the path of least resistance for a vapid corporate medium. But this new and alarming narrative is emerging in corporate America’s cynical efforts to extinguish the rights and passions of the real citizenry of the nation.
There is a growing attempt to co-opt the movement. More and more in interviews and before their viewers they are attempting to steal the message from the Occupy Movement by introducing the Tea Party. In time, they will introduce Tea Party activists, likely hand-picked apparatchiks who will proclaim themselves spokespersons for the movement, introducing right-wing agendas and talking points to dilute or divert the real message of the movement.
As the camera crew moved off a homeless man came up to Jed and I, asking if we could spare some change for food. Without missing a beat Jed motioned to the pizzas and said,”help yourself.”
That is the spirit of this movement.