OPINION Every progressive movement in U.S. history was portrayed negatively by mainstream media at the time it was happening. It’s no surprise that the media portray the Occupy Wall Street movement in the same light.
During the Montgomery bus boycott, mainstream media outlets interviewed black folks who were against it and talked about how the boycott was misguided and hurt the local economy. The day after the boycott started, the Montgomery Advertiser ran a story featuring the manager of the bus lines saying that bus drivers were being shot at and rocks were being thrown at them.
During the rest of the civil rights movement, protesters who were fire-hosed and otherwise brutalized were called “violent protesters” in the mainstream media, which again featured interviews with people saying that the protests were wrongheaded.
During the Anti-Vietnam War movement, the mainstream media portrayed protesters as out of touch, violent, and dirty. There was a picture in the San Francisco Chronicle of a guy who was throwing back a tear gas canister that had been shot at the peaceful crowd. This was shown as proof of protesters being wild, out of touch, and violent. The Black Panther Party had free breakfast programs and was beloved worldwide — but every mainstream media outlet that covered it, covered it negatively.
There has never been any strike, work stoppage, or union action that was supported by the mainstream media at the time that it was happening.
The mainstream press didn’t support the Anti-Apartheid movement and doesn’t support the boycott, disinvestment and sanctions movement for Palestine.
The mainstream press is always on the wrong side of history because it’s always on the side of the status quo, which is capitalist exploitation and oppression.
Here’s an example: Every article about the port shutdown featured a trucker speaking against the shutdown. However, the Occupy movement received and circulated a letter from an organization representing hundreds of port truckers which thanked us all for this action in support of their struggle. None of those folks were interviewed by media.
Another example: In any movement we will make in the U.S. that is multi-racial, there will be real problems to fix around race. These are good problems, because they come from the fact that a lot of different groups of people who normally wouldn’t work together are doing so now.
But the article in the Chronicle that supposedly showed that Occupy Oakland doesn’t connect with black folks was poor and unethical journalism. The paper quoted only two black folks; one said the answer is to tell other Black folks to “Stop The Violence.” Okay. But the Chron didn’t interview any of the folks in the neighborhood around Gayla Newsome who was put back into her foreclosed home. They didn’t interview anyone from the neighborhood around 10th and Mandela, where the Tactical Action Committee has made a foreclosed Fannie Mae home into a community center with workshops for the community. They didn’t interview anyone involved with Occupy Oakland’s November 19th march, which was 2,000 strong and focused on school closures. They didn’t interview any of the many black union members who have worked with us. They didn’t interview anyone in the People Of Color Caucus, or anyone else who is black and works with Occupy Oakland.
Don’t be surprised at the media’s negative portrayal of our movement. It’s happening because we are growing, we are effective, and we are right. *
Boots Riley is a musician and activist.