Tuesday, October 11, 2011


"Right Here All Over," a short film by Alex Mallis and Lily Henderson, documents the day-to-day reality of the Occupy Wall Street protests. Far from the superficial snap judgments of disinterested anchor men and armchair critics, this inside view of the occupation reveals the organizing behind this massive, ongoing demonstration--the General Assemblies, the Working Groups, the Comfort Station, and the logistics of running the Zucotti Park community. The film also shows the protesters as individuals, something rarely seen in the oversimplified mainstream news bytes which tend to focus on "newsworthy" conflict.

The official coverage has been disappointing--starting late and refusing to dig deeply. Corporate news could take a cue from these ground-level filmmakers and give the public more than the poorly researched stories that take the standard dismissive tone they use for anything outside their orderly world view. They should stop harping on the "lack of unity" among protesters, the weirdness of it all, and stop complimenting the police on exhibiting such remarkable restraint dealing with such a difficult situation. This last shopworn sentiment is supposed to show the even-handedness of the media, but it's a knee-jerk end to a story and another example of lazy news coverage. What about the remarkable restraint of the demonstrators, some of whom have been teargassed and pepper-sprayed? Paired with the restraint of the police, that would really be even-handed, but trained within the parameters of corporate news we can't even imagine such an unlikely perspective.

Don't get me wrong. Corporate news media might get it right, eventually, but only after they have exhausted the lazy, conventional coverage that springs from the default position of pandering to the public. News is a business, after all, and the newslingers want you to watch since that's how they sell ads and make their money; they take the cozy middle of the road position because they don't want to disturb you with unconventional views or opinions you might disagree with, lest you switch the channel. They want to be your pal, and you can hardly blame them, but sometimes--when something important is at stake, say, the future of the Republic--taking the default position is tantamount to cowardice. Remember the flaccid news coverage during the build-up to George W. Bush's invasion of the Middle East? The media later admitted they should have provided better coverage of the anti-war position, and later on they lamented loudly in print but of course their mea culpa was too little and too late. The damage had been done, and by the time their weak retractions were in circulation we were already entrenched in a bloody war that had begun under false pretenses, ineptitude, and quite possibly outright lies. Of course, they were sorry, and the alligator tears flowed, but attentive newshounds know they will make that mistake again and again, siding with this imagined Middle America and making retractions later, if necessary. The great newsmen and muckrakers and investigative journalists of the past are gone, it seems, and the watchdogs have become lapdogs.

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