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Missing the Point of the Protests?

I’ve been accused of missing the point of this whole “Occupy Wall Street” thing.

And maybe I am.

I posted on my Facebook page that something told me that if the people who were spending all their time at the tent city in protest of Corporate America would spend as much effort looking for a job, they’d probably have one.

A few people liked that. And handful took issue.

The anti-Wall Street protestors remain camped out in a privately-owned park in New York, but rallied in Times Square on Saturday, as similar protests started in Asia and Europe. Even Canada is getting into the act.

The protestors are angry with financial inequality.

Let’s think about that for a minute. How many of these same people take issue with the notion of fighting a “war on terror?” A lot, I’m guessing.

These battles involving such vague terms are pointless, because there’s no clear solution to the problem. Terror will always be around, because no matter how hard we clamp down on one terrorist group, another will come along sooner or later.

And financial equality? What is that, exactly?

Everyone making the same salary, no matter what they do? (Or don’t do?) Everyone living in the same size house in the same quality of neighborhood? And driving the same kind of car with the same price tag?

Just making sure that no one is under the poverty level — which would be a better idea, I would think — still doesn’t mean financial equality: the rich will still be rich and the poor will only be less poor.

There’s a widely-circulated photo of protesters that someone has annotated with arrows pointing out their clothing and things they’re holding. Things like GAP clothing and iPhones are indicated; those accusations may or may not be true, however it’s certain that some of these people are using products from big corporations with whom they supposedly have such a beef.

Do any of these folks have an iPhone? Or an iPad? Or even an iPod? If so, how do they feel about the fact that their purchase added to the sizable coffers of a company one report

One friend of mine, Andy, who I used to work with a few years ago, had this to say to my original statement:

“First, it’s not all unemployed folks – a lot of the protesters are going on their off days and returning to their jobs after protesting. More importantly, though, it’s not like you wake up on a Tuesday and say to yourself, “Hmmm – I can walk into any company in America and instantly get a job, or I can go protest. Yeah, think I’ll draw up a sign and head to the park.” As someone who applied for HUNDREDS of jobs before finding one crappy one, I know for a fact that it’s not easy to find work during times of double-digit unemployment. So, yeah, after 6 months or a year or more of fruitless searching, I might feel more fulfilled making a sign instead of spending a day sending in resumes that will never be read. But that’s just me.”

I agree that the first point is a very important one to recognize. And frankly, if you’re working a full-time job and you’re providing for your family and you’re paying your taxes and doing all of the other things society demands of you, then no one has the right to complain that you’re protesting lawfully on your own time.

I can understand — because I have a general lack of patience — that it can be very difficult to find a job in this economy. I have been blessed to keep mine, but none of us knows for sure how long that kind of luck will last these days.

What I do know, beyond any reasonable doubt, is that one great way to not find work is to stop looking so that you can move into a park to stage a protest for weeks on end.

Another friend, a journalism student named Joe, added this:

“I covered the protest up in Burlington VT last Sunday (story is on my blog). A large variety of people were there, both young and old. I interviewed an 85-year-old woman who was fed up with business in Washington. I think in these discussions we overlook that it’s not just the unemployed (whether a day or 2+ years), or college kids that are out there.”

Another salient point. And this one begs another interesting question: what does financial equality look like to a college student versus a senior citizen?

Is it the same picture? I’d be willing to wager nearly any amount that it isn’t. One group has worked their whole lives seeing their investments dwindle; the other is barely into the workforce and hasn’t near the life experience to know what’s coming for them.

Which takes us back to square one: what, exactly, do they want?

Meanwhile, some in Times Square couldn’t resist getting caught up in what Reuters describes as a “party atmosphere.” Protesters were joined by tourists snapping pictures, “together counting down from 10 to 1 and shouting, ‘Happy New Year!’”

Talk about missing the point!

Others have asked why these protesters are in New York for their demonstrations. It’s the politicians who’d have more to do with addressing corporate greed than the corporations themselves. It should be common sense: if you believe the corporations have no heart and are only out to pull in as much money as they can, camping out won’t change that at all! You protest by changing the leaders in Washington who set laws that might actually change the situation.

Or you protest with your pocketbooks by changing how you consume goods and services based on the corporations that provide them, choosing to reward those you feel aren’t money-grubbing swine, and punish those you feel are.

We have a capitalistic system. The consumer must operate within that system just as the corporations do.

19 Comments

  1. The Occupy Wall Street movement is about stopping corporations who take unnecessarily bad risks and lose, and then turn around and socialize their losses, putting American taxpayers on the hook for their shady practices.

    Think about it like this: Unless you were a large investor with the banking giants several years ago, you saw no notable financial benefit to the practice of approving sub-prime loans to people who could not afford them — and in many cases, did not apply. The banks created this problem because they were aggressively seeking to increase their profit margins at any cost.

    That led us into the bailout situation, placing the American public under the weight of billions of dollars of terrible loans because the government stepped in and declared them “too big to fail.”

    Yes, the problem ends in Washington, as has been mentioned by you and several commentors, but it began in the financial district. Thus, the fight started there with the Occupation movement.

    Bottom line: If corporate America is going to socialize their losses and turn to the American government to protect them when they make a series of bad decisions that should have, in all honestly, led to their shutdown, then they need to socialize their gains and pay forward their improvements to more than the CEOs and Boards of Trustees.

    Whether or not you recognize it, when the American government decided that an industry was worth saving through taxpayer funding, a precedent was set. And yes, while the banks have paid back the money they borrowed, the economy has remained stagnant and people have remained unemployed. One large entity has repaid the other, but it has done nothing for the people who have lost their jobs or have been unable to find work for months.

    And they have done nothing to facilitate growth. In fact, few American corporations have done anything to facilitate job growth and an economic rebound because they don’t participate in social gains… but they and the politicians have created a climate of carrying over social losses.

  2. I was thinking about this topic and it hit me that all if us, including the media, may be missing a larger point here. We have now had major protests by two different groups. One group might have leaned a little left and the other a little right. But two major protests in as many years by people on opposite sides of the political spectrum makes me think we have a much larger issue that so many, regardless of their political leaning feel so strongly that the system is failing, it creates an atmosphere ripe for revolution. I find that a bit unnerving.

    1. @TedtheThird I honestly think both groups leaned more than “a little” in their respective directions, but I agree that it’s unnerving that this many people are SO upset as to put this much effort into making their voices heard.

      I find it sad that if more people had been staying more engaged in politics over the years, these protests may never have been necessary to begin with.

      I just wonder what it will have to take to get both sides to work together.

  3. Yes. You are missing the point. I am fed up with the rich skating after breaking all kinds of laws, while the rest of us have to pay (literally or metaphorically) for their greed. I’m tired of being told that corporations can’t afford to pay taxes AND create jobs, so we have to cut teachers and government employees and look for jobs in the public sector. Except, yeah, the corporate sector is ALSO not hiring. I’m tired of union-busting tactics that directly affect primarily woman-based unions, but leave man-based unions like police and fire alone.These folks hanging out protesting are following a LONG tradition in this country, dating back to the American Revolution all the way up through the protests that brought us 8-hour workdays and 5-day workweeks, and actual civil rights for all races in this country. Yeah, pretty sure the people enjoying the status quo at those points in history thought the protestors then were annoying and hypocritical and whatever-whatever. If you read some primary source material–diaries, letters, etc.–from the 60s, you will find yourself gobsmacked by the complacency of the average person.

    1. @psalm23 Just to be clear, I don’t disagree with your position on a variety of points. I question the method of these protests. Because if you believe that the corporations are all-powerful, evil, greedy, heartless monsters, then you should also believe that they will continue to do whatever they want to do…just because they can.

      In which case the protests belong where the politicians are, not where those businesses who are merely operating within their capabilities (and in most cases, within the laws and tax codes).

      You send your message to the people who potentially CAN do something to change it, not to companies that have no interest in changing their ways.

      1. Wait, you don’t think the pols pay attention to New York City?? [And the cynic in me adds, “Who’s paying the pols, after all?”]

        The point of this sort of protest is to make news, to be seen. It’s not a sit-in, after all–it’s meant as performance art in good part at least.

        1. @psalm23 No, I think they pay attention, but I think that it’s the wrong kind of attention. Politicians are essentially being “let off the hook” by protesters who are focusing all the anger toward the corporations. The politicians that are looking to capitalize are then trying to team up with the protesters and take a similar stand. But the politicians who SUPPORT the corporations are just sitting mute in the corner while all of this is going on.

          Why aren’t the protesters picketing the pols who allow these problems to happen? Why aren’t the protesters forcing THEM out of the corner? Isn’t THAT where the negative attention really should be if we seriously want anything to change?

  4. The protests, or more correctly, the coverage of them, pretty much lays bare any pretense to fair or unbiased coverage. Multiple arrests at Occupy events, and none at Tea Party events, just Tea Party is portrayed in the national media as ‘angry’. Anti-semitic remarks at Occupy events zero coverage, but Tea Party described as racist. Pretty clear there’s a double standard here.

    1. @TedtheThird On your first point, are you saying that Occupiers AREN’T being portrayed as “angry?” I want to make sure I’m reading that right.

      As to your second, the racism notion has been brought up against Tea Partiers primarily because they are protesting (in part) an administration that happens to be run by a black president. Those accusations come from critics of that party. The media isn’t accusing them of being racist, but reporting that others are.

      I don’t know why anti-semitic remarks are not being reported, although I find it somewhat ironic that the leading propagator online of this perceived unfairness in coverage seems to be a handful of websites whose stated goal is to prove how biased “the media” is. Which begs a question: if the media can’t be trusted because it appears to be biased, how can media watchdogs always be trusted when they come right out and tell you that they’re biased against the media’s perceived bias.

      I wonder, too, if you’re talking about COMMENTATORS rather than JOURNALISTS…there is a HUGE difference. I watch the latter, not the former, so I can’t speak to what the news commentators on cable and talk radio.

      1. @patricksplace its more that labeling the Tea Party as angry lacks justification. You don’t have an explanation for the lack of coverage, neither do I but one possible explanation is media bias despite the straw man argument you make against it.

        1. @TedtheThird I’m not trying to make a straw-man argument: I’m asking a question. Two, in fact. But let me ask the more important again: are you saying that Occupiers are NOT being portrayed as “angry?”

        2. @patricksplace There is no doubt that the occupiers are being portrayed as angry, sorry if I wasn’t clear. It’s just that as an independent, I see the two groups of protesters being handled very differently by main stream media.

        3. @TedtheThird Okay…so both are being portrayed as angry. Then you’re saying that the Tea Partiers aren’t angry?

          I’m not trying to be obtuse here: I’m trying to understand what the real difference is.

        4. @patricksplace I appreciate the questions, they help me sort out my own thoughts. Both groups are angry, the difference is the Tea Party is portrayed in the media as a mean anger, a dangerous anger. Occupy seems to get treated as justified anger. I believe that if Tea Party events had the arrests that Occupy events do, the dangerous angle would be even more strongly portrayed. And let’s not forget the unexplained lack of coverage of the blatant racism at Occupy events. Despite none of that at Tea Party events, the inflammatory racism charge is attached to Tea Party.

          You’ve done a fantastic job in previous blogs showing how its essentially a no win situation for the media when it comes to the bias charge, but when a belief is so widely accepted (media is biased) one has to ask if their isn’t some nuggets of truth to it.

        5. The notion of an “unexplained lack of coverage of blatant racism at Occupy events” or the “unexplained lack of coverage” of ANYTHING, for that matter, is completely subjective.

          All day long — literally — people are posting things about what the media supposedly “won’t” tell you. To your point about the Tea Partiers being unfairly portrayed as racist, take a look at the title of this YouTube video:

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S38VioxnBaI

          Notice that title. See what I mean?

          There’s another issue at work here, too. The media didn’t immediately report on accusations of racism against Tea Partiers. Those kinds of stories always come a bit later after the initial coverage of the protests themselves.

          But when those reports did come out, Tea Party supporters immediately cried fowl, claiming that the media shouldn’t have covered a few “fringe” folk who didn’t speak for everyone. The media was blasted by those folks for unfairly portraying all of them as being as racist as the legitimate racists at the event.

          Ironically, some of those SAME people nationwide are now blasting the media for not NOW doing what they said it shouldn’t have done THEN: reporting on racism at a protest event that might unfairly portray the whole protest as being something that it isn’t.

          That itself is a double standard.

          So in addition to trying to cover what is and isn’t happening, news organizations are also forced to weigh sidebar issues against possible AGENDAS of those demanding that certain angles get top attention.

          I’m not trying to make excuses here: I do believe that ALL discrimination should be exposed for what it is. But while the media should be expected to do so, it should not be manipulated into a position of doing so for the WRONG reason.

          I can say for certain that at least one major news organization is investigating claims of anti-semitism. I can’t say which one at this point, but I have information that it is being investigated and I look forward to seeing how it is reported.

  5. Lets look at this from 30,000 feet so to speak.

    As best I can tell they (the Occupiers) are upset about several things and it varies depending on who you ask.

    Some people apparently are upset that others make more money than they do. Okay. So? Do they expect the Donald Trumps and Michael Dells of the world to close out their bank accounts and start passing out the money they worked HARD to acquire?

    Some people apparently are upset that the banks were given bailouts but they still have to pay their student loan debt. Sorry. That’s what a loan is. You agree by signing the paperwork that you will pay it back in full and on time or you will pay fees, etc. Unlike a car they can’t repo your college degree (assuming you stuck with it and graduated).

    Some people apparently are upset that they can’t find a job. I understand that. Prior to starting my own business I was a long time loyal employee of a good company where I thought I had some security. Wrong. There is no security in a job. But I understood that “if it was to be, it was up to me.” So rather than wallow is self pity and demand a job from someone else, I took a risk and went out on my own. In 2 years, my business is now almost as big as the company I used to work for and is their biggest competitor. (I’ll show them.)

    They are upset that the government isn’t “doing something” to fix this. I hate to be the one to tell them this, but the government is a bigger part of the problem than anyone (in my humble, but accurate, opinion).

    Taking all of that into account. Yes they are upset. We get that. But what is their goal? What do they want to happen? Nobody seems to know.

    If they really want to change the problem, they need to travel about 230 miles south to Washington and protest the stupidity that has infected our elected officials. Washington has continued to pass laws that make it more and more difficult for small and medium sized business to be successful. The tax code is SO fouled up that you need a PHd just to file your quarterly returns. Social “inSecurity” as well as the healthcare system is probably beyond repair at this point. Sorry for the lengthy post. I guess I ended up on my soapbox anyway.

      1. @TedtheThird Thanks for the recommendation. I’ve always been a fan of his entrepreneurial mentality. I did NOT however realize he had a kickass blog.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.