Interrupting Infinity Exclusive Commentary. © 2011 by David St.-Lascaux
Meaningful absence: Sometimes the real story is invisible. Tourists file by the New York Stock Exchange, Friday, 30 September 2011. Photo by David St.-Lascaux, © 2011.
by David St.-Lascaux
October 1, 2011
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
– Amendment I (First Amendment), U.S. Constitution, entirely
LOOKING BACK ON THE LAST TWO DECADES, one of my personal regrets is not having paid attention to the globalization protesters in the nineties. Even though I, as a citizen, was probably powerless to do much about globalization, I, as an American, and my children are experiencing the results of America’s betrayal by economically traitorous Americans leading multinational corporations domiciled here who continue to unilaterally export American technology, jobs and hard currency in exchange for short-term profits for the few.
We have seen no mea culpas from American journalists acknowledging failure to criticize Washington’s bipartisan globalizers (free trade champion Clinton hailed, after all, from Arkansas, home of Made-Anywhere-But-in-the-U.S.A.’s biggest customer, Wal-Mart), all of whom, as poet Don Hall has observed, are members of “the capitalist party.” The marginalization and characterization of protesters against globalization as Cassandras was a journalistic and political error for which Americans are now paying dearly.
For the last two weeks, another group of protesters has gathered in lower Manhattan, again patriotically acting on behalf of actual American citizens to protest our government’s egregious misgovernance by catering to the monied interests of non-human corporations whose leaders have no loyalty to even their own (indeed both bailed-out Bank of America and Goldman Sachs are laying off employees in droves). According to the General Accounting Office, as documented at Bernie Sanders’s U.S. Senatorial website in July (“The Fed Audit,” document page 131 [PDF page 143]), Wall Street alumni and cronies have given financial institutions $16.1 trillion (equal almost to the entire U.S. annual GDP of $16.7 trillion!) since 2007, while disingenuously telling Americans to tighten their belts. These protesters deserve our respect, our ears and our support. We ignore them at our peril.
Ask yourself: Do you owe it to yourself to take a stand, to go to Zuccotti Park? Or will you come to regret your apathy a decade down the road?
As Occupy Wall Street enters its fifteenth day, more than a few questions come blazing through. Because you’re busy, and probably haven’t been down to Zuccotti Park at Broadway and Liberty, I’ll keep it simple and give you just a few.
First, the Occupiers, whose numbers aren’t greater than the park’s regular lunchtime crowd, aren’t occupying Wall Street. This is puzzling, because the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says that any group of American citizens can go pretty much wherever they damned well please “peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” This raises the question of the law of the land: Which is it: the Constitution, or the private interests who have Hissoner’s ear, and are literally Bloomberg Finance L.P. customers?
It’s not that the Occupiers haven’t made an impact. Walking a few blocks to the New York Stock Exchange, one finds its bounding streets cordoned off and locked-down empty, while foreign (including many Asian) tourists stand behind parade barricades, gawking at and photographing America’s Exceptional Financial Engine, which is apparently so fragile that it can’t bear the presence of a handful of hippie-like protesters exercising their Constitutionally-granted free speech and free assembly rights. It’s a surreal scene of police state emptiness, repression and censorship – a stark reminder that capitalism and corporatism have become, in practice, totalitarian concepts in America, and suggesting that these economic models are so weak and indefensible that they must be maintained by force. It brings shame to New York and America.
Second, the Occupiers are operating without amplification, apparently forbidden. Again, forgive me if I observe some small ironic asymmetry here: foreigner Rupert Murdoch’s disgustingly managed News Corporation, the propaganda arm of the global right wing, which hacked the phone of a dead child, causing her parents to hold out vain hope for her very life, for example, has the Fourth Estate amplification and power of The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, Fox Broadcasting and 20th Century Fox in the United States alone, but the Occupy Wall Street protesters aren’t even allowed loudspeakers. Why aren’t true American patriots incensed? Shouldn’t foreign-owned publications come with identifying labels, like cigarettes? And how about the partial ownership by Mexican Carlos Slim, the world’s richest oligopolist, of the New York Times? Will his business receive coverage “without fear or favor”?
If there is any question about amplification, the Times’s paper coverage of Occupy Wall Street on Friday, 30 September, said it all in an impressive ~5×7” black and white photo of a single man outnumbered by police officers, with no caption. In fairness to the Times, a number of its journalists have called for heads, and accountability; and, today, the Times at last gave the Occupiers front page, albeit breathlessly vacuous coverage. Will someone sentient at the Times come to regret such dismissive and cursory coverage a decade from now, when the damage has been unundoably done?
[As of this posting, the Times seems to be waking up. To its credit, Peter Catapano's turn-the-tables-on-the-aggregators blog aggregation, "Can You Hear Them Now?," provides broad analysis, and the Times's front-and-center online coverage of the mass arrests at the Brooklyn Bridge demonstrates the Times at its impressive best.]
Last, despite their incoherence, the Occupy Wall Street protests are expanding, albeit slowly, to other cities; Boston’s first was held on Friday night. If they want to succeed, the Occupiers will need to persist. Unseating the corporate powers that have bought and now control our government won’t happen overnight, or through a single protest, or by voting for one of their parties. Meanwhile, numbers matter. So ask yourself: Do you owe it to yourself to take a stand, to go to Zuccotti Park? Or will you come to regret your apathy a decade down the road?
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David St.-Lascaux writes about culture for the Brooklyn Rail and Interrupting Infinity, his site (http://www.davidstlascaux.com).