a free press

So I was wrong. Embarrassingly so, and yet no one called me out on it. Not one student.

In my New Social Media class today I pushed a topic on how mainstream media have been setting the agenda of the Occupy Wall Street movement, carefully choosing the talking heads with the least credibility, the most out-there factor to paint this movement in a way that the one percent would have them interpreted.

But that’s not where I went wrong. That, so far, is true.

It was then I got critical of the movement itself, because it seems or appears that there’s not a clear direction, a clear message emanating from the energy of this coalition now tendrilled in urban and suburban spots around the country, even here in St. George.

What’s this all about? Why don’t we have a clear direction, a list of talking points, bulleted demands or infractions? Where’s their social media? Facebook? Twitter?

Why isn’t anyone feeding this to me? That should have been the question. I’ve been an easy two clicks away from the answer, one while I’ve been darting around Facebook.

I hadn’t heard of the movement until a student brought it to my attention in class a couple of weeks ago. We looked it up on YouTube and watched a couple of clips of student protestors clashing with NYPD. A clubbing here, a macing there, all familiar footage in way harking back to shots of Tehran, Cairo, Tripoli, too many months previous to still have impact in our short-term collective memory.

The footage wasn’t stunning, though it should have been. We’ve gotten used to scenes like these.

I postulated the question, “Why hasn’t social media done for OWS what it did for the movement of freedom across the Middle East?”

“What don’t they have that we do?”

The pregnant pause was frustrating and I was beginning to escalate.

“A free press!”

Revolutionaries in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen use Facebook to centralize, organize, vitalize and persuade a population. I doubt very seriously in these Arab social media contexts that the posts reflected one’s dissatisfaction with their Starbuck’s Pumpkin Spice latte. There were and are instead messages of injustice, tyranny, inhumanity, oppression, all of which in a context where one could be killed for their expression.

Here in America my Facebook feed reads of the surfacy mundane goodness of the quotidian with a mild sprinkling of opinions both original but mostly forwarded and reposted. I’ve yet to see anything that says exactly what OWS is really all about.

And this is where I was wrong. See, I said something to the effect that social media isn’t used here like it’s used in oppressed Arab states. Which is true. And I said that the OWS movement hasn’t articulated what it is all about.


Which is wrong.

So, before you scratch your head and wonder about all the fuss, or before you copy and paste someone else’s diatribe to your wall, or before you wear that t-shirt to WalMart that demands a stop to all the whining, do something; something literate. Something that requires you to think provisionally, to pause and examine from the source, their source, not the mainstream media, except for maybe John Stewart.

Start here.

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