When faced with something they find confusing, most journalists give up. They don’t do the real legwork of engaging the story. They write the “process story” instead. You’ve read the kind in which the author doesn’t actually write the story about the intended subject’s work, but how confusing that work is. They trot out tired tropes about nails and Jello and hammering something when they should be spending a few minutes actually engaging the material. I’m just saying.
So we’ve now spent the last four weeks hearing from the news media that Occupy Wall Street has this messaging problem and “nobody” can explain what they want. [Hello! They actually wrote a document forever ago!] Blah blah. Some stuff about how they have no goals or direction. Blah blah. Then something about what Republicancongresspersons say about them. Blah blah. Then some personal anecdote revealing the journalist’s secret disdain for anything outside the norm of beltway horserace-jargonedpolitics. Totally lazy and inappropriate.
Here’s the problem:
In late 2009, when people started a movement chanting the famous Reagan quote: “Government is not the solution to our problems, government is the problem” while complaining about having that said government collect any taxes at all, but were also (apparently) satisfied with the current tax rates (taxed enough already?), the media fawned all over them and now talk about the consistency of their message.
In late 2011, when people started a movement changing the famous Reagan quote to say: “Wall Street is not the solution to our problems, Wall Street is the problem” while complaining about said Wall Street’s collective dramatic windfall over the last 30 years at the expense of, well, virtually the entire country, suggesting we raise taxes on the top 1% and alter the lax regulated environment, the media got flummoxed and stared at each other totally confused and dumfounded. What are they talking about? It sounds like complete gibberish!
Clearly the media has swallowed the blue pill and decided that a message that is anti-government and inconsistent about taxes is clear and concise, while a message that is anti-Wall Street excess and social contract devastation is some massive word jumble. Clearly, the Tea Party, which began with the fervor of some ideological firebrands that are strongly libertarian was long ago co-opted into long-term conservative think tank arguments. That the Tea Party is at once referencing both grassroots libertarians and die- hard social conservatives who have been in Washington for two decades should be more confusing to pundits. And yet that message is taken for granted: it is not only domesticated, it is normal. Average. The way of conservative politics these days.
At the same time, the media is loath to examine the very substance of this rhetoric, instead, they would rather spend their time writing the horserace story about which Republican is up in the polls. If they are forced to cover the #Occupy movement, they’ll just phone in a process story. I mean, really, who wants to deal with the actual substance of income inequality and corporate greed. That’s so…quaint.
Welcome to the new Gilded Age.