By RA Monaco
A rising social movement and protest culture is gaining strength and diversity as Millions March to challenge racism, growing inequality and authoritarianism across our nation—ironically called the “Land of the Free.” Not since the late 1960’s has the government shown more concern in defending the capital and it’s authority from our own citizens.
Mainstream media, for the most part, continues to ignore what’s at the heart of this national crisis of trust, choosing to report police murders and brutality as only local incidents rather than repressive wide spread indifference—it’s what Henry Giroux describes as a disposable population.
Troubling is mainstream media’s complicity—silence and omissions seems complicit in the minds many. Failure to connect the brutal over-the-top authoritarian incidents of police across the nation or even explain to the public its comparative disproportion with other western nations, signals the conflicting interests that contribute to the appearance of journalistic impropriety.
These same concerns famously gave rise to the Underground Press in the late 60’s—they are not new. Consider the words of Jack Newfield—writer for the famous Village Voice—as he once described mainstream media values as “the belief in welfare capitalism, God, the West, Puritanism, the Law, the family, property, the two-party system, and perhaps most crucially…a notion that violence is only defensible when employed by the State. I can’t think of any White House correspondent, or network television analyst, who doesn’t share these values. And at the same time, who doesn’t insist he is totally objective.” [Quoted in Navasky, Matter of Opinion, 270]
Referring to the Black Liberation Movement at the time, the white new left, the counterculture of rock music, long hair, underground newspapers as well as nonwhite revolutionary movements in the third world, Newfield observed that “it is these threatening and unfamiliar social movements that the mass media most systemically misrepresents.” Those who sympathized with the protests at the time were excluded from positions of real power within the media hierarchies.
Resistance then—as is happening once again—created a new audience for independent publications and counter-institutions which can be started anywhere by persons of high competence and serious commitment. Passionate outsiders—hundreds of thousands at a minimum—have charged at the ramparts of professional journalism, enabled by the internet and social media platforms like Twitter. Type into the discover window of Twitter—#MillionsMarchNYC—and you’ll be able to quickly gauge the serious commitment and pulse of change.
Younger people have already honed their skills at political mud-wrestling while being aggressively marginalize in the blogosphere. Pressure builds while issues of merit are ignored or worse, countered with dangerous mass communication maneuvers that divide common interests, fuel racism and feed into a growing discontent about class and economic inequality.
When protestors occupied Zucotti Park, New York Times Op-Ed columnist David Brooks, belittled the 99-versus-1 frame as “extremely self-limiting” saying that the “thing about the current moment is that the moderates in suits are more radical than the pierced anarchist camping out on Wall Street or the Tea Party-types.” In his mathematical arguments on taxes, Brooks concludes that protestors have no realist proposal to reduce the deficit—as if that was a qualification for their being heard.
Leading up to the 2012 NATO Summit protests, Chicago Tribune reporter Rex Huppke, in a shockingly insincere rant about “Handling Hippies,” mocked protesters telling readers, “You should be aware that many of these protesters have at some point smoked “the marijuana” and are likely incapable of making intelligent life choices.”
Discussing these types of journalistic failures, DePaul University Professor Bruce Evensen offered his insights saying, “My view is the democracy we get is the democracy we demand.” Prof. Evensen points out that “the press has an important role to play, but even more importantly, it’s the public that must demand that the press serve it in ways that make democracy, self governance, [and] republicanism more possible.”
Whether by journalistic belittlement or antagonistic sarcasm, it seems reckless to challenge or underestimate the seriousness of today’s protestors. Glaring, is the absence of media fairness, because it portrays a world of a privileged viewpoint. Legacy journalists seem largely unable to conceive of the ways racism and inequality plays in the lives beyond their bourgeois lifestyles and limited consciousness.
Ignored by mainstream media, political activist and one of the great thinkers of our time, Professor Noam Chomsky observed recently that, “This is a very racist society; it’s pretty shocking,” says Chomsky, “…with regard to African-Americans in the last 30 years.”
Discussing the North-South compact that followed the Civil War, Chomsky said that “former slave-owning states got the right to do what every they wanted.” What they did, explained Chomsky, “was criminalize black life, in all kinds of ways, and that created a kind of slave force…It threw mostly black males into jail, where they became a perfect labor force, much better than slaves,” claims Chomsky. “If you’re a slave owner, you have to pay for—you have to keep your ‘capital’ alive. But if the state does it for you, that’s terrific. No strikes, no disobedience, the perfect labor force,” explained Chomsky.
Following World War II when there was a need for labor, “African-Americans had about two decades in which they had a shot at entering society,” says Chomsky. According to Professor Chomsky, criminalization of black life in America began again in the 70’s and 80’s. “It’s called the drug war, and it’s a racist war. Ronald Reagan was an extreme racist—though he denied it—and the whole drug war is designed, from policing to eventual release from prison, to make it impossible for black men and, increasingly, more and more women and Hispanics to be part of society” said Chomsky.
With few exceptions the media has concentrated on the violent and sensational, virtually ignoring the legitimacy of their dissent, the peaceful aspect of the protests, the police escalations, the insurgent police provocateurs like the Highway Patrol officers who were just outted in Oakland and, most importantly, the legitimacy of what can fairly be labeled oppression.
Mainstream media continues to deliver millions of facts without even one simple truthful picture of the slavery of Everyman, in this now dog-eat-dog country they misleadingly continue to refer to as the “Land of the Free.”
Too many journalist’s have become the upholders of conformity and tradition, stuck in lifelong competition with other journalists for trifling honors and material goods—let’s hope our main stream media rediscovers its constitutional purpose so that we can be given the information a democratic society needs to hold our public servants accountable and engage in self governance. We Can’t Breathe!
[ii] Quoted in Navasky, Matter of Opinion, 270
[iv] The Milquetoast Radicals http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/11/opinion/the-milquetoast-radicals.html
[v] A very serious introduction to the NATO summit http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-05-15/news/ct-met-huppke-column-nato-20120515_1_north-atlantic-treaty-organization-military-jets-nice-weekend