Is the press part of the strategy to use nationwide evictions to smear the movement?

Capitoilette reports that Oakland Mayor Jean Quan casually admitted during a recent radio appearance that the mayors of 18 cities with Occupy encampments recently discussed strategy on a conference call. Hullabaloo confirms that city officials appear to have exchanged ideas about using zoning and curfew rules to evict Occupy protesters.

A spate of news accounts that focused on crime, health and sanitation issues helped set the stage for the more than a dozen police actions nationwide.

Homeless folks have been peeing in parks for as long as anyone remembers. But mayors – even Democratic ones – who are looking for an excuse to oust the protesters seemed quick to use such examples as justification for crackdowns. A barrage of press accounts about the problems serve to weaken public support for the movement, which makes moving against them more palatable, no matter the police tactics used.

The sad fact is that the press has regularly neglected reporting on how cuts in social services have left the mentally ill, the homeless and the addicted to fend for themselves in our parks and on our streets. Michigan activist Julie Heath Roy recenlty issued a plea on a recent local radio show for social workers and therapists to join them at Occupy Lansing in Reutter Park to provide much-needed help. The press has failed to explain that the Occupy movement is not causing these ills but is merely concentrating and bringing attention to them.

The Guardian again provides a perspective so lacking in the mainstream American press. An interview with author Barbara Ehrenreich quotes her as saying:

And where in all this was Obama? Why couldn’t he have picked up the phone at some point a couple of weeks ago and called the mayors of Portland and Oakland and said: ‘go easy on these people. They represent the anger and aspirations of the majority’. Would that have been so difficult?”

If Mayor Bloomberg felt his police action to clear Zuccotti Park on Monday night was somehow supportive of First Amendment rights, why did he have the police launch their offensive under cover of darkness at 1 a.m. and keep journalists at bay?

As the Washington Post reports, police actions have escalated as the two-month anniversary of the movement approached. Even Democratic Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia is reported as saying “we’re re-evaluating our entire relationship.”

The movement is entering a new phase as Democratic politicians begin to realize that OWS is a small-d, not big-D, democratic movement. While the Tea Party was quickly co-opted into giving the Republican Party political cover to move even further right, OWS has uniformly rejected shilling for the Dems. As that reality dawns on the Democratic leadership nationwide, it seems clear that they want to pat the protesters on the head (or tap them with a police baton), as they usher them off stage.

Thanks for raising the issues, but now it’s time to go home now.

A press corps confronted with government officials making pronouncements on one side and a movement without leaders on the other finds itself flummoxed. The traditional commericla press technique of weaving quotes from officials on one side with a similar number of quotes from officials on the other side into a bland narrative that never tells you what the hell is really going on doesn’t work when one side refuses to play the ‘anointed leader’ game.

The danger, of course, is that lazy editors who don’t know how to practice any other kind of journalism will let the government officials’ version carry the day. Social media keep those who are engaged apprised of what is really happening, but the average citizen who has little time to spare to follow the news may end up believing that the Occupy movement is collapsing from the weight of problems with disorder. A watchdog press would find ways to tell a fuller story.

Cellphone images keep us informed even when government keeps journalists away


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