The War Will be Won Through the Shutting Down of the Presses

Yesterday morning, police in New York City effectively shut down the OWS movement. They used force and violence, though this isn’t how they won. They successfully cleared the park, restoring it to the condition it was in before the OWS protests began two months ago. This has done little to change the resolve of the protesters. They have already returned, and apparently in greater numbers. I suspect that the nature of the movement will change, though the spirit and message will remain the same.

The NYC Police and government won through the exclusion of the press on the ground, from the air and the stifling of citizen efforts to document the forced eviction. As of 9 am yesterday, there was little on any of the major news outlets aside from the passing mention that the park had been cleared. Believe me, I searched. I was skeptical that OWS protesters had been cooperative enough to allow “cleaning” of the park, though, lacking any accounts to dispute that assumption stuck with it for a while.

My friend Mark, wrote me and told me that a city council member had been beating and arrested, that the press were forced into a “Press Pen” before the eviction, and that the city government even went to the extra trouble to close the airspace over the park to prevent press helicopters from recording the event. Press members were beaten, corralled and harassed.

I was stunned. Stunned not at the actions of the NYPD and the NYC Government, but stunned at my own gullibility. I really should know better at this point.

The coordinated efforts of the NYC leadership and the mass media led to an effective writing off of the OWS movement in the popular mind. Images of council members being beaten, or police violently suppressing kids and protesters of all demographics would only solidify citizens that sympathize with the loose goals of the OWS. They would harden even those who may not agree, but are concerned with the right of protest and free political speech. This was the case in the escalation of protests in Seattle in 1999.

One doesn’t have to agree with anything the OWS protesters say. I think we can all agree that the stifling of the press on any subject is a bad thing for the US and a bad thing for democracy around the world. This isn’t what we’re supposed to be, though it is certainly what we are. The events yesterday are actually more represetative of oppressive Latin American countries, China, and worse yet, backward and despotic countries such as Yemen. The only difference (or similarity in the case of China) is the vast and insidious nature of American technological and strategic sophistication.

What happens from here out is anyone’s guess. My feeling is that the storyline will become too complex for America to handle. A collection of freaks in a NYC park make easy television interviews and good fodder for rightist smears. The vast suppression of a populist political movement by police and government bodies adds far too many loose ends to the narrative for the sound bite to handle and unfortunatley, I think that OWS will be marginalized to only occupy an active fringe on the internet. That’s the pessimist in me speaking but let’s hope this doesn’t happen.

Fortunately though, some of the major liberal news outlets have attempted to keep up, though I feel that the timing is far too slow.

My friend Mark wrote a great piece on this subject this morning. Please go and check it out. All 10 of you.


Here’s what the park looked like last night. Despite the characterization from the right of OWS as a movement of unemployed, grimy hippies, I see a wide variety of people here.

About Pete Larson

Researcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. Lecturer in the University of Michigan School of Public Health and at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I do epidemiology, public health, GIS, health disparities and environmental justice. I also do music and weird stuff.

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