Saturday night a Tweet came in from Jason (@dragonfire1024) moments before I was to shut down the computer for the night. “Mass arrests, reports of tear gas (unconfirmed) at #occupywallstreet @UKProgressive” clearly the message made me hang in a bit longer.
Having spent 18 days watching Tweets from Tahrir Square in Cairo past midnight each night, I was used to these messages. I’d half expected this would be the day the NYPD’s patience would wear thin. After all a full week of chaos, in the financial district, the UN in session, dozens of world leaders in town needing police protection, 2-weeks after the 10th anniversary of 9/11… everyone was stretched emotionally very thin.
I Tweeted back to Jason asking for more sources and feeds. Part of the challenge in Egypt was making sure sources were reliable and correct. US Mainstream Media (MSM) feeds showed nothing but they’d not covered it for days. So I began searching international sources… The Guardian, Al Jazeera English, Reuters, AFP… nothing had broken in NYC for 18+ hours.
Reliable political bloggers The Political Carnival, Mediaite, TPM, Crooks and Liars, The Daily Dish, Taegan Goddard, Mother Jones, The Daily Beast, Slate, Think Progress… all yielded nothing ‘breaking.’ My feeds were silent, this police ‘attack’ was 2+ hours old.
About to shut the computer down again, Jason sent a link to the Occupy Wall Street livestream feed. The inherent disorganisation and chaos was like watching a video replay of a slo-mo car crash over and over again. It was eminently clear why there was no MSM coverage. The steam drew people in for all the wrong reasons.
Yes 270,000 people have now watched that poor woman being pepper sprayed. What was lost on the organisers? It was nowhere as compelling as Molotov cocktails falling from 11-storey buildings atop protestor heads, or dead bodies tossed off a bridge into the river below… before a global audience of millions.
So how do the Wall Street occupiers get the attention their story deserves? They need to find a leader, somewhere and organise!
The right wins messaging wars. They have organisation and message discipline. Literally they have someone with a metaphorical cattle prod up supporter’s asses. Move one step out of line and you are moved off the stage.
Progressives let everyone talk all of the time. We’re so smart and intellectual yet we get our butts beat because we bring a butter knife to a gunfight. The right keeps messages simple and brainwashes them into their followers through repetition. Everyone in their demonstrations says the same thing no matter who interviews them. We laugh derisively at “Keep Your Damned Hands off my Medicare” but it’s simple… and it works.
We get off on debate and dialectic messages. We lull the MSM to sleep because we cannot give them the coherent 7-10 second sound byte they demand! Then we whine and cry foul when the other side does it so well. Worse, we go sit on our hands if the President does not address our specific issues right now and we lose elections pouting or voting for third parties!
The livestream from the square on Wall Street was classic progressive democracy chaos. And if you want to hand the rest of the country over to the soulless GOP, keep doing exactly what you are doing.
I was 5,000 miles away screaming at the cameraman to SHUT THE FEED OFF! They had nothing to report, half the crowd left the base to march to Union Sq. (30 blocks from Wall Street which, if you have 1 million people). On the way, the police kettled them (easier than shooting fish in a barrel) and some organisers actually said on the livestream, “I think we should have them continue on to the UN(!)” which was another 30-blocks farther and locked down tighter than Fort Knox because of all the heads of state in town???
Then a guy groped a fetching tattooed woman while both said ‘peace and love’ and I went ballistic. I closed my eyes and imagined this as a Tea Party operation. They would be organised, present in numbers and both FOX News and CNN would already have Day 7: The Siege of Wall Street logos and theme music playing!
As Charlie Brown would say after Lucy yet again pulled the football away from him. Aaarghhh!
The whole thing was reminiscent of a West Wing episode where Toby Ziegler was sent to speak to a group of protestors about free trade.
Yeah. [over bullhorn] Folks. People, let’s listen up.
The yelling subsides.
Good morning… [microphone doesn’t work, raises voice] Good morning, my name is Toby Ziegler and I’m the White House Communications Director and a senior domestic policy advisor to the President.
Advise him we need clean air more than free trade!
Yelling begins again.
How many 12-year-olds made your shoes, Toby!?
Global justice now! Global justice now! Global justice now!
Toby: [to police officer as he sits in chair on stage and reads the newspaper]
You want to send out for pizza or something?
That is what the livestream feed looks like to the rest of the world. After 7 days, Occupy Wall Street needs more than slogans, people parroting back meeting instructions and the level of disorganisation shown Saturday.
I wrote for six months with great respect and admiration about the ‘kids’ in Tahrir Square in Egypt Unshackled. They spent a decade playing hide and seek from secret police and emergency rule (and may have to do the same thing yet again). But in January and February, the whole world watched as they brought down a dictator.
How did they do it?
Years of planning, resolve and communicating clandestinely led to that day. Years of torture by secret police of their entire family led to that day. There may have not been visible leaders but you don’t get hundreds of thousands in the Square each day without real leaders. Wael Ghonim became the household face. But the April 6th movement and Friends of Khaled Said brought peaceful anger, determination and vengeance to the square. Instead you complained because someone’s wrists were tied too tightly? Really?
Occupy Wall Street: you need to stop whining and fight back like those in Tahrir Square did. You need to inspire people who are willing to go there and give their lives if necessary for their brother or sister in that Square. Occupy Wall Street needs to grow a pair, get more than symbolically angry, organise and bring hundreds of thousands of angry, peaceful people of all ages to the Square.
If you worry about pizza donations and can’t get the open-top tourist buses to change their routes and take you seriously, how do you expect Wall Street and the MSM to?
Your media base camp was unprofessional. It looked more like Woodstock than a demonstration against corporate excess. You need the focus and resolve of Sidi Bouzid, Cairo, Benghazi and Damascus to be taken seriously. I saw a lot of people wanting to speak about injustice. Theirs was as much an economic revolution as yours is.
The problem? I did not see one person on Wall Street willing to take a bullet for their beliefs. And that is the difference. That is your fight.
It’s an important message. The whole world should be watching! You need to make them.
If you want change, really fight for it or go home! In Egypt the army would not fire on the people. The NYPD lost their pensions to those thieves. Use their anger.
Denis G Campbell is the author of 6 books including 'Billionaire Boys Election Freak Show,' 'The Vagina Wars' & 'Egypt Unsh@ckled.' He is the editor of UK Progressive Magazine and provides commentary to the BBC, itv Al Jazeera English, CNN, MSNBC and others. His weekly 'World View with Denis Campbell' segment can be heard every Thursday on the globally syndicated The David Pakman Show. You can follow him on Twitter via @UKProgressive and on Facebook.
Email this author | All posts by Denis G Campbell