Saturday, December 31, 2011

Ruth's Radio Report 2011

Ruth: If radio got behind one story in 2011, it was the Occupy story. Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Boston, etc. And if one report stands out in all the reports it would be the one on the homeless man dying at Occupy Denton.

Throughout the Occupy movements or 'movements' the homeless were used and never was it more clear than in the radio report on the homeless man dying featuring college kids (University of North Texas in Denton, Texas) explaining they were sorry for him . . . sort of. Like the young college woman explaining that she really felt bad about the death . . . unless it turned out he was doing drugs.

Because, if a homeless man, in freezing temperature, did drugs, he got what was coming to him?

Much of the Occupy coverage passed for little more than advertising copy.(See Ava and C.I.'s analysis "TV: Scandals and bumper stickers" from November.) That was especially true of most Pacifica Radio programs. Strangely enough, of all the endless hours of coverage, the only report that lived up to that name was done by attorney Heidi Boghosian (Law and Disorder Radio) who went to Occupy Wall Street when the likes of Amy Goodman still were not yet willing to. Ms. Boghosian filed a real report and spoke with activists involved, with supporters and with detractors. It should have been the template for all the coverage to follow but agenda advertising, and not reporting, is what was on display.

And the constant need to inflate what was taking place went a long way towards explaining the boredom that greets it at present. As Betty would explain in November, the hype included the false and repeated claim on Pacifica Radio that the majority of Americans supported Occupy. Betty would note:

Marisol Bello (USA Today) explains, "Two months after the Occupy Wall Street movement spread to dozens of cities and colleges, six in 10 Americans still don't know enough about its goals to decide if they are for or against it." And Gallup's analysis of the poll states that's been consistent throughout OWS -- that six in 10 have been saying they don't know enough. Of those who do have an opinion? That's only been 43% of the population. More of them support than oppose OWS. 19% opposed it back in October, 19% oppose it now. The change on support? 26% supported in October, 24% support now.

Annoying hype also included, as Trina pointed out, the claim that Occupy was the most important activism since the 60s. As though the anti-war movement of the '00s did not count for anything? And what of the 1980s which saw tremendous work on the nuclear freeze and anti-nuclear movements, the ACT UP movement raising awareness on HIV at a time when silence was the preferred option of the government and much of the press, the anti-apartheid movement which was the student movement of the 1980s and which succeeded in changing the discourse on South Africa in the United States, the Central American solidarity movement, and so much more. The 1990s would see the anti-globalization movement and, throughout both decades, record numbers of people participated in efforts to protect reproductive rights.

Most importantly, all of the above had clear goals.

Occupy was the student whose dog at the paper and needed an extension. Demands to be made at a later date. That is not a movement. It is not even activism.

It is bumper-sticker-ism.

The late Dr. Martin Luther King did not say, "I will have a dream. And get back to you in a couple of months. But, right now, we can march from Selma to Montgomery while I try to figure out what we are demanding."

As NPR, Pacifica, and various radio programs obsessed over Occupy non-stop, they ignored real issues like the ongoing wars, the environment, the attack on our civil liberties and our very legal system, and much more.

Occupy was nothing but a distraction, a defocusing, the pretense that action was -- or would be -- taking place. If the complaint was that Wall Street was rewarded while the average citizens were stuck with the bill ("if" because Occupy always lacked clarity), then a real occupy movement would not have been Occupy Wall Street.

It would have been Occupy the White House. But though they loved to target Republican politicians repeatedly, they only once targeted a Barack Obama event -- once in all the months and months of 'bird-dogging' politicians. That action came about only after weeks and weeks of charges that Occupy was a front-group for the Obama re-election campaign and, even then, it was so weak that most press reports did not even note it was an occupy action. By contrast, Makana, all by himself in Hawaii, would show far more bravery. Isaiah captured it "Occupy."


Cindy Sheehan made an important point this week:

To address something that you said in your note: yes, the Occupy Movement is very righteous and has some powerful grievances against the criminal elite class in this country and the world. But if I see a weakness in the movement, it's that it doesn't want to make any demands and enforce them with the power of its numbers and it seems to not want to hear the wisdom of the elders. If there’s one thing that I have learned, it's that we don't have to reinvent the wheel every time we begin a new action.


Meanwhile, imagine what could have been accomplished if the press had reported on actual events and not been consumed with their dreams of what might someday be?

Or spent even a fraction of the time wasted on Occupy instead focusing on the legal implications of Barack Obama declaring the right to assassinate an American citizen, one who has stood before no judge or jury? Or if NPR had spent time actually exploring the use of predator drones instead of Rachel Martin serving up breathless gushing over their alleged wonders?

Or maybe they could have gotten the Iraq War story correct? Was it really too much to ask that they do that?

They closed the year, Pacifica and NPR, telling us over and over that U.S. combat troops had left Iraq. Strange because following President Obama's August 31, 2010 speech declaring an end to combat operations, they told us that U.S. combat troops had left Iraq.

They were also fond of the term "all" when speaking of U.S. troops. They were fond of lying that all were leaving and then that all had left.

One of the few exceptions to the non-stop lying was the December 13th broadcast of Talk of the Town where Neal Conan spoke to Ted Koppel. Excerpt:

CONAN: Though the president cheers his accomplishment, you say not so fast.
KOPPEL: I do say not so fast, and I think he knows better. But he's right, he did make the campaign promise to get all the troops out, and all the troops will be out, save 157 who will be guarding the embassy, and a few hundred U.S. military trainers. But as you pointed out, 16 to 17 thousand others will be remaining behind [. . .] Muqtada al-Sadr is -- he and his party are now actually coalition partners with the Iraqi prime minister, who stood next to President Obama just yesterday. And it's interesting to point out -- I mean your question is right on the money because Muqtada al-Sadr told his followers that when the U.S. troops leave -- and this is not the exact formulation but pretty close -- that those who remain behind, the U.S. diplomats who remain behind and the contractors who remain behind, should be regarded by his followers as foreign occupiers who must be driven out of Iraq.

Whatever happens in the next phase of the occupation of Iraq, no one can claim that the bulk of NPR programming or Pacifica prepared America for it.