The victory OWS has already won

The protests have helped shift the national dialogue from the deficit to the real problems Americans face

Topics: AlterNet, Occupy Wall Street,

The victory OWS has already won

Occupy Wall Street has already achieved a stunning victory — a victory that is easy to overlook, but impossible to overstate. In just one month, the protesters have shifted the national dialogue from a relentless focus on the deficit to a discussion of the real issues facing Main Street: the lack of jobs — and especially jobs with decent benefits — spiraling inequality, cash-strapped American families’ debt loads, and the pernicious influence of money in politics that led us to this point.

AlterNetTo borrow the loosely defined terms that define the Occupy movement, these ordinary citizens have shifted the conversation away from what the “1 percent” — the corporate right and its dedicated media, network of think tanks and PR shops — want to talk about and, notably, paid good money to get us to talk about.

Peter G. Peterson, a Wall Street mogul and Nixon administration Cabinet member, has reportedly dedicated a billion dollars of his fortune to the effort since the 1980s. How successful have he and his fellow travelers been? In 2009, the Washington Post came under fire for running an article – in its news section, not its opinion pages – written by Peterson’s Fiscal Times, which the watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting described as “a propaganda outlet … [formed] to promote cuts in Social Security and other entitlement programs.” (It was Peterson Foundation employees, among those from other outside groups, who staffed Obama’s “bipartisan deficit commission.”)

As I noted back in May, a study done by the National Journal that month quantified what the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent described as a “deficit feedback loop,” in which “the relentless bipartisan focus on the deficit convinces voters to be worried about it, which in turn leads lawmakers to spend still more time talking about it and less time talking about the economy.”

According to the Journal, “major U.S. newspapers have increasingly shifted their attention away from coverage of unemployment in recent months while greatly intensifying their focus on the deficit.”

The analysis — based on a measure of how often the words “unemployment” and “deficit” appear in major publications — portrays a dramatically shifting landscape of coverage over the past two years, as the debate over how to fix the federal deficit has risen to prominence and the question of how to handle still-high unemployment has faded from the media’s consciousness.

Consider the impact that relentless focus on the deficit – and declining coverage of the jobs crisis and housing meltdown — had on public opinion until very recently:

Click for larger version

(click for larger version)

Now fast-forward five months, and we see an entirely different media landscape. According to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, the economy dominated last week’s news, grabbing 24 percent of the mainstream media’s “news hole.” Occupy Wall Street accounted for 10 percent of the news hole, up from 7 percent the week before, and 2 percent the week before that. (The death of Libyan leader Moammar Ghaddafi drew more attention to foreign policy issues this week, but the economy continued to be a dominant topic.)

You Might Also Like

Last week, Zaid Jilani of Think Progress offered some data that tell the tale of a dramatically shifting media landscape. He noted that “at the beginning of August, when Washington, DC was debating the debt ceiling crisis, the national debt dominated the airwaves.”

While it was appropriate for the media then to be covering the deficit due to the debt ceiling debate at the time, there was a stunning lack of coverage of the jobs crisis. A ThinkProgress review of the media coverage of the last week of July found that the word “debt” was mentioned more than 7,000 times on MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News, and “unemployed” was only mentioned 75 times.

But, writes Jilani, a recent “review of the same three networks between Oct. 10 and Oct. 16 finds that the word ‘debt’ only netted 398 mentions, while ‘occupy’ grabbed 1,278, Wall Street netted 2,378, and jobs got 2,738.”

This sea-change can’t be attributed only to the Occupy movement – it also correlates with the White House’s “pivot” toward jobs and the economy – but there is no doubt that Occupy Wall Street has played a major role in bringing attention to the plight of working America. Even House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., acknowledged the occupiers’ grievances when his office announced that he would be giving an address “about income disparity and how Republicans believe the government could help fix it.” One would be naïve to believe Cantor would ever support such measures, but it nonetheless marked a dramatic departure from the GOP’s usual class-war stance. (Cantor later canceled the speech when he learned he would be greeted by protesters.)

The real-world impact of this shift is difficult to predict, but the problems on which our mainstream discourse focuses are the ones most likely to be addressed.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    DAYA  
    Young Daya has yet to become entirely jaded, but she has the character's trademark skeptical pout down pat. And with a piece-of-work mother like Aleida -- who oscillates between jealousy and scorn for her creatively gifted daughter, chucking out the artwork she brings home from summer camp -- who can blame her?

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    MORELLO   
    With her marriage to prison penpal Vince Muccio, Lorna finally got to wear the white veil she has fantasized about since childhood (even if it was made of toilet paper).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CINDY   
    Cindy's embrace of Judaism makes sense when we see her childhood, lived under the fist of a terrifying father who preached a fire-and-brimstone version of Christianity. As she put it: "I was raised in a church where I was told to believe and pray. And if I was bad, I’d go to hell."

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CAPUTO   
    Joey Caputo has always tried to be a good guy, whether it's offering to fight a disabled wrestler at a high school wrestling event or giving up his musical ambitions to raise another man's child. But trying to be a nice guy never exactly worked out for him -- which might explain why he decides to take the selfish route in the Season 3 finale.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    BOO   
    In one of the season's more moving flashbacks, we see a young Boo -- who rejected the traditional trappings of femininity from a young age -- clashing with her mother over what to wear. Later, she makes the decision not to visit her mother on her deathbed if it means pretending to be something she's not. As she puts it, "I refuse to be invisible, Daddy. Not for you, not for Mom, not for anybody.”

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    SOSO
    We still don't know what landed Brooke Soso in the slammer, but a late-season flashback suggests that some seriously overbearing parenting may have been the impetus for her downward spiral.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    POUSSEY
    We already know a little about Poussey's relationship with her military father, but this season we saw a softer side of the spunky fan-favorite, who still pines for the loving mom that she lost too young.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    PENNSATUCKY
    Pennsatucky had something of a redemption arc this season, and glimpses of her childhood only serve to increase viewer sympathy for the character, whose mother forced her to chug Mountain Dew outside the Social Security Administration office and stripped her of her sexual agency before she was even old enough to comprehend it.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CHANG
    This season, we got an intense look at the teenage life of one of Litchfield's most isolated and underexplored inmates. Rebuffed and scorned by her suitor at an arranged marriage, the young Chinese immigrant stored up a grudge, and ultimately exacted a merciless revenge.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    HEALY
    It's difficult to sympathize with the racist, misogynist CO Sam Healy, but the snippets we get of his childhood -- raised by a mentally ill mother, vomited on by a homeless man he mistakes for Jesus when he runs to the church for help -- certainly help us understand him better.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NORMA
    This season, we learned a lot about one of Litchfield's biggest enigmas, as we saw the roots of Norma's silence (a childhood stutter) and the reason for her incarceration (killing the oppressive cult leader she followed for decades).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NICKI
    While Nicki's mother certainly isn't entirely to blame for her daughter's struggles with addiction, an early childhood flashback -- of an adorable young Nicki being rebuffed on Mother's Day -- certainly helps us understand the roots of Nicki's scarred psyche.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>