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How the Corporate Media Learned to Love the OWS Protests

Americans may not be quick-studies in the art of revolution, and yes, it did seem to take forever for unemployed and underemployed US workers, college students and white collar “professionals” to “get” that US jobs lost weren’t coming back – at least not in this corporate-owned lifetime -- or that the “American Dream,” as we once understood it was effectively dead, but once we “got it,” we really did get it.

Now that we’ve caught up with the “Arab spring” and the “European summer,” the “American autumn” (notice I resisted the urge to call it the “American fall”) is undeniably and seriously under way.

Thanks in large part to the resourcefulness and intelligence of the protesters themselves, this 21st century American Revolution isn’t looking like it’s ready to go down without a fight. And when that fight comes, it threatens to rock all that is held sacred in the unholy world of corporate greed and excess.

With one group of savvy protesters managing to actually publish their own newspaper – appropriately named “Occupy Wall Street” -- even that worrisome “missing message” seems finally to have been found by the once baffled and confused corporate media. Let’s face it. When the likes of “Business Insider” editor and  former equity research analyst (recently banned from the securities industry), Henry Blodget, jubilantly proclaims in a headline, “The Protesters Are Getting Their Act Together!” (yes, with an exclamation point), you know the Wall Street wind is seriously blowing south.

And, in the spirit of fair play, it really should be documented for posterity that the generally corporate-friendly Business Insider seemed to be honestly trying to understand the OWS protesters’ elusive “message.” Indeed, editor Blodget made an almost touchingly valiant effort this week to articulate what the Business Insider “thought the protesters certainly deserved to be mad about,” by publishing a collection of charts showing the extreme inequality that has developed in the US economy.

One visualizes millions of left brains across the nation lighting up: “Ohhhh … I see. So, that’s what they want!”

Of course, one would expect good OWS coverage from the Pacifica Radio Network, where the ever-vigilant Amy Goodman hosts “DemocracyNow!” (and where I got my own start in radio journalism), or from the Progressive Radio Network ( -- and these stations have not disappointed. They -- along with many small, community stations across the country -- have maintained an admirably consistent alternative media presence at various sites where the OWS protests have been occurring. And, unlike the corporate media, they were there from the very first days. Then there’s good old RT (previously known as “Russia Today”), which was also on top of the protests from the start. But, I guess that’s to be expected from a network sponsored by “communist sympathizers.”

Of the corporate media outlets, the New York Times may deserve a very small silver star for having been one of the first to actually recognize that the OWS movement was perhaps a little more than the editors had originally ignored. Not wanting to miss the boat, these days NYT is pretty much “all over the story,” with esteemed corporate liberal Thomas Friedman numbering among those unable to resist the call to weigh in. This week, Friedman kicked off his column with the headline, “Seriously, This 'Occupy' Movement Is Now Global And Needs Defining.”

True, Friedman’s uninspired headline is oddly reminiscent of the now infamous “missing message,” and thus feels mildly irritating and confusing. But Friedman does make a decent attempt at redemption (and clarification) in his first paragraph, wherein he writes, “When you see spontaneous social protests erupting from Tunisia to Tel Aviv to Wall Street, it’s clear that something is happening globally that needs defining.” 

The article that follows is classic Friedman, and relatively unremarkable journalism, but it is nonetheless revealing. It’s also modestly significant that the ever-puffed up Friedman manages to lift his hat at least slightly off of his head in deference to the OWS protests. And it is certainly testimony to the power of the movement that, in another recently published piece, Friedman quotes a passage from Australian environmentalist Paul Gilding’s book, “The Great Disruption,” wherein Gilding writes: “I look at the world as an integrated system, so I don’t see these protests, or the debt crisis, or inequality, or the economy, or the climate going weird, in isolation — I see our system in the painful process of breaking down,” which Friedman explains, is what Gilding means by the Great Disruption. “Our system of economic growth, of ineffective democracy, of overloading planet earth — our system — is eating itself alive. Occupy Wall Street is like the kid in the fairy story saying what everyone knows but is afraid to say: the emperor has no clothes. The system is broken.”

I’ve never been a huge Friedman fan, but his choice of quotes illustrates just how compelling these Occupy Wall Street protests are becoming -- a decent start for a corporate liberal like Friedman.

Then there’s NYT’s ever-astute Paul Krugman, who quoted a passage from his own book in this week’s column: “I have a vision – maybe just a hope—of a great revulsion: a moment when the American people look at what is happening, realize how their good will and patriotism have been abused, and put a stop to this drive to destroy much of what is best in our country. How and when this moment will come, I don’t know. But one thing is clear: it cannot happen unless we all make an effort to see and report the truth about what is happening.”

Thank you, Paul Krugman.

And, while I’m at it, I suppose it is worth mentioning that earlier this month, everyone’s favorite corporate cheerleader and chief debt collector Suze Orman endorsed the OWS protests. Not that we should be flattered by – or even mildly grateful for – Suze’s endorsement, or for that matter, any of the praise recently lavished on the movement by the corporate media. But, all corporate things considered, it is worth noting that this is a truly extraordinary moment in the history of public relations.

So, while I do have a slightly darker take on just how significant the entire OWS movement is, for now I’ll just stand up and proclaim, “YAY for our side for making strides on the public relations front. It appears that wonders (really) never do cease.”

I’ll save the dark stuff for my next piece.




Sandy LeonVest

Sandy LeonVest is a radio and print journalist and the editor of SolarTimes (, a publication that looks at energy from a progressive and humanitarian perspective. SolarTimes is distributed throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. Sandy is the host of “Political Analysis,” a weekly program aired on the Progressive Radio Network every Tuesday at 6pm EST/3pm PST.

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