Archive for October 20th, 2011
It’s not hard to see why the Occupy Wall Street protests have gone global. What kicked off a month ago in relative obscurity – drawing inspiration from this year’s Spanish indignados occupations and the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia – has now spawned protests in more than 900 cities around the world. The only surprise is it didn’t happen sooner.
Three years after the banks that brought the west’s economies to their knees were bailed out with vast public funds, nothing has fundamentally changed. Profits and bonuses are booming for financial oligarchs and corporate giants, while most people are paying the price of their reckless speculation with falling living standards, cuts in public services and mounting unemployment.
Coming as this crisis has done – at the end of an era of rampant deregulation that has created huge disparities of income and wealth, concentrated in the hands of the top 1% and secured by politicians bought by corporate interests – a backlash against those actually responsible was well overdue.
The occupation slogan “We are the 99%” exactly reflects the reality in the crisis-hit Anglo-Saxon economies in particular – just as the protesters’ call for systemic change has far stronger echoes in US public opinion than its captive political class would have anyone believe. A majority of Americans are sympathetic to the protests while a recent poll found only a narrow majority thought capitalism a better system than socialism – in a country where the term is as good as a political swearword.
That has now shaped the political and corporate response. While the protesters were originally ridiculed as unfocused, or denounced by leading Republicans as “mobs”, they are now championed by the media establishment – including the New York Times and Financial Times – on both sides of the Atlantic. Obama has made friendly noises, while his officials say they now plan to “run against Wall Street” in next year’s presidential campaign.
In a climate where plutocrats like Warren Buffett are meanwhile begging to pay higher taxes, it’s a clear sign of elite anxiety at the extent of popular anger and an attempt to co-opt the movement before demands for more fundamental change get traction.
Something similar seems to be going on in Britain where – against a steady drumbeat of lobbying scandal and escalating unemployment – police and the conservative Daily Mail have so far both given the City occupation outside St Paul’s Cathedral a notably easy ride.
Of course the London protesters, camped out in a tent city near the Stock Exchange, have also been abused as “muddle-headed” layabouts and “Toytown Trots”. But despite their rejection of the current economic system as “unsustainable”, their initial statement includes a call for “regulators to be genuinely independent of the industries they regulate” that wouldn’t look out of place at a Liberal Democrat conference.
There’s no doubt, though, that these occupations echo both the spirit and organisation of the anti-corporate movement that erupted in Seattle in 1999. The tactic of occupying a symbolic public space (as opposed to strikes, sit-ins and marches) can be traced back to Greenham Common in the 1980s through a string of often dubious “colour revolutions” over the past decade.
But it’s this year’s drama in Tahrir Square (acknowledged with an Egyptian flag at the London camp) that has given it such evocative power. And while the 1990s anti-capitalist globalisation protests took place at a time of boom and speculative frenzy, today’s occupations are targeting a global capitalism in the deepest crisis.
Which is why they have such a clear sense of reflecting the common sense of the age. What both movements now and then also share is an intense commitment to direct democracy and the influence of an “autonomist” opposition to engagement with mainstream politics – seen as a central part of the problem, rather than any solution.
In that, of course, they’re in tune with millions. But when it gets to the point of resisting making direct political demands at all – an issue of controversy this week among US protesters, with some arguing “the process is the message” – that would surely limit the protests’ impact.
The Occupy movement has already changed the political climate in the US. Some commentators argue that’s enough – and it’s up to politicians and wonks to turn the theme of economic justice into policy. But that would be to hand the initiative to the very system the protesters reject – and limit the scope for making common cause with others resisting austerity and corporate greed.
Not only that, but any demands need to be a good deal more radical than “independent regulation” if they’re to make sense of the call for fundamental change and action to tackle the crisis: democratic ownership and control of banks and utilities, say, and wealth and transactions taxes for a start.
And as Naomi Klein argued to protesters in New York, the movement will also need democratic structures and institutions if it’s to put down roots rather than fizzle and burn out. Trade union support for the US protests is a promising sign, as is the London occupiers’ backing for next month’s pensions strike and yesterday’s electricians’ blockade of a Balfour Beatty construction site over threats to rip up contracts.
The form and focus of these protests already varies widely from country to country: in Chile, they originally concentrated on free education, but now the target has expanded to include banks and GM crops. Across Latin America, where the revolt against neoliberalism first began more than a decade ago, it has been alliances of social movements and political organisations that have proved most successful in turning protest into economic and social change.
But there is of course no automatic link between large-scale protest and any radical political breakthrough: Spain has been convulsed with occupations and strikes – and is expected to elect a rightwing neoliberal government in reaction to the socialist government’s austerity. The populist right can take advantage of mass disaffection as well as the left.
But in just a few weeks the Occupy movement has helped bust open the political class veto on the scale of change demanded by the crisis – and now that opportunity needs to be seized.
National Public Radio Host Fired for Involvement with the Occupy Washington D.C. Movement after complain she doesn’t have the right to freedom of speech or to peacefully assemble
Posted in Uncategorized, tagged All Things Considered, Freedom Plaza, Lisa Simeone, Mara Liaason, National Public Radio, NPR, Occupy D.C., Occupy wall street, World of Opera on Jam10000000amThu, 20 Oct 2011 08:38:46 +000011 10, 2010 | Leave a Comment »
A public radio host was fired on Thursday after the conservative political site The Daily Caller exposed her role as a spokeswoman for Occupy 2011, the faction of Occupy Wall Street movement occupying Washington’s Freedom Plaza.
Lisa Simeone, the host of the nationally syndicated “World of Opera” show, and former weekend host of “All Things Considered,” is a freelancer working for WDAV, NPR’s Davidson, N.C., affiliate, where “World of Opera” originates. She also was the host for the weekly D.C. show “Soundprint” on NPR’s WAMU affiliate.
Simeone confirmed on Thursday that she had been fired from the “Soundprint” show; NPR is “in conversations” about her role as both “World of Opera” host and Occupy D.C. protester.
“We recently learned of World of Opera host Lisa Simeone’s participation in an Occupy D.C. group,” NPR communications SVP Dana Davis Rehm wrote in a memo to affiliates. “We’re in conversations with WDAV about how they intend to handle this. We of course take this issue very seriously.”
Those conversations could result in Simone’s firing from that show, too. On Thursday, Rehm added: “We fully respect that the management of WDAV is solely responsible for the decision making around Lisa’s participation in Occupy DC and her freelance role with WDAV’s program.”
On Wednesday, Simeone wrote in an email to the Baltimore Sun that she didn’t understand what the fuss was all about:
I find it puzzling that NPR objects to my exercising my rights as an American citizen — the right to free speech, the right to peaceable assembly — on my own time in my own life.
I’m not an NPR employee. I’m a freelancer. NPR doesn’t pay me. I’m also not a news reporter. I don’t cover politics. I’ve never brought a whiff of my political activities into the work I’ve done for NPR World of Opera. What is NPR afraid I’ll do — insert a seditious comment into a synopsis of Madame Butterfly?
This sudden concern with my political activities is also surprising in light of the fact that Mara Liaason reports on politics for NPR yet appears as a commentator on Fox TV, Scott Simon hosts an NPR news show yet writes political op-eds for national newspapers, Cokie Roberts reports on politics for NPR yet accepts large speaking fees from businesses. Does NPR also send out “Communications Alerts” about their activities?
The concern is not entirely sudden. Last year, the radio network former political correspondent Juan Williams for confessing on Fox News’s “O’Reilly Factor” that he felt apprehensive when he would see Islamic passengers in airports. Williams’ ouster eventually led to the resignation of NPR chief Vivian Schiller’s, and a black eye for its image. And earlier this year, conservative media prankster James O’Keefe captured an NPR fundraising executive on video making disparaging remarks about Republicans and the tea party movement to two conservative activists posing as Islamic donors. In the wake of both embarrassing episodes, NPR executives have tried to more vigilantly monitor the PR damage from its talent participating in partisan activities.
In the Simeone case, NPR insists that it doesn’t matter that the host’s main coverage area has virtually nothing to do with national politics or the economic scene. “A journalist is always attached to journalism,” WAMU News Director Jim Asendio told Roll Call.
It’s also true that Simeone’s role at the network isn’t simply limited to opera coverage. According to her bio on NPR.org, Simeone has “developed a loyal following for her unusual mix of programming–classical, folk and jazz, along with provocative reports, interviews and call-in shows on everything from anthropology and neuroscience to philosophy to media criticism.”
And, as Poynter’s Julie Moos noted, this is not Simeone’s first stint as an activist. In 1994, Simeone helped organize demonstrations outside a Baltimore courthouse to protest violence against women.
The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution declares:
…the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Isn’t that quaint?
Josh Holland takes a look at what happened to that apparently antiquated notion from the document which used to carry some weight in the way this country was governed, as he notes that some 1,500 American citizens have now been arrested while peaceably assembling to petition the Government for a redress of grievances over the past month since Occupy Wall Street began.
Last night, while the GOP debated Casino Capitalism (in an actual casino!), Give Me Liberty author and reporter Naomi Wolfe became one of the latest to have had her Constitutional right to peaceably assemble for redress of grievances taken away from her, as seen in the following video (in which that “Democrat Party-sponsored” “mob” was attempting to petition Democratic NY state Governor Andrew Cuomo for a redress of grievances)…
Wolf wrote about her arrest seen above, “for standing lawfully on the sidewalk in an evening gown” at the UK’s Guardian today, noting that she explained to the NYPD before she was cuffed that she was both a “NYC citizen and a reporter”.
As her article’s sub-header notes, “Arresting a middle-aged writer in an evening gown for peaceable conduct is a far cry from when America was a free republic.”
“I became exhibit A in a process that I have been warning Americans about since 2007,” Wolfe writes. “First they come for the ‘other’ – the ‘terrorist’, the brown person, the Muslim, the outsider; then they come for you – while you are standing on a sidewalk in evening dress, obeying the law.”
This afternoon she told Huffington Posts’ Jason Cherkis, “I didn’t choose to get myself arrested. I chose to obey the law and that didn’t protect me.”
So, where are all the outraged “Tea Partiers” who used to decry supposed abuses of the U.S. Constitution under our authoritarian regime? Oh, right, they were just pretending to give a damn about any of it…like good little scammed Fox “News” soldiers.
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P.S. Here’s hoping Wolf makes out as well following her inappropriate arrest as Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman did after hers.
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UPDATE 10/19/11: In her Guardian piece, Wolf explained that the NYPD had told her the permit for the event she was attending (an annual Huffington Post event which Gov. Cuomo was also scheduled to attend, thus the protesters) when she came across the #OWS folks, forbade protesters from using the public sidewalks outside the building. Suspecting the claim from the police was bullshit, she says she requested to see a copy of that permit prior to her arrest, but was not allowed to.
Since posting the article above, Wolf contacted me to note that she has finally tracked down a copy of the type of permit HuffPo had last night and — surprise, surprise — the claim by cops appears to, in fact, be bullshit…
“It seems that the mysterious ominous unspecified ‘permit’ the cops referenced and used to lock us up was a RED CARPET EVENT permit that says nothing about restricting pedestrian access!!!,” she tells me.
Linking to the permit at her Facebook page, Wolf writes:
I do believe I have found the permit. See any reference to pedestrians being denied access to the sidewalks?http://www.nyc.gov/html/…remiere_permit_final.pdf