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OWS Spring Offensive

Posted on 01 April 2012 by John Johnson

OWS Spring Offensive Need Not Repeat Fall Tactics

Why ‘going Left’ is not necessarily ‘going forward’

by Danny Schechter

For years, in the last century, when I was in School and learning about the early days of journalism, we were taught that author Horace Greeley who founded the New York Herald Tribune, was famous for saying, “Go West Young Man And Grow Up With The Country.”

One problem, as we learned recently, he didn’t coin the phrase but only popularized it. (Another media mistake involving a top dog in the media!) Indiana newspaper writer John Soule actually gave the advice in 1851 and, it would serve as the mantra for 19th century “action” in the form of Westward migration.

These days, those good and the great men and women who won their struggle stripes in the civil rights and anti-Vietnam war movements have a new mantra for action.

Some, who recently appeared at New York’s annual Left Forum, were sharing it with younger people: “Go Left.”

They would probably agree with Mitt Romney who said recently he can’t think of any reason for any young person to support a Democrat — but for different reasons.

Those who are going left have left the Democrats behind.

Even Bruce Springsteen who campaigned for President Obama, played at his inauguration is singing a different tune these days.

He recently told a Music festival in Texas about the first songs he loved. “They were a revelation…the first records of full-blown class consciousness I ever heard,” he explained, playing a bit of “We Gotta Get Out of This Place.” After reaching the line, “there’s a better life for me and you,” he added: “That’s every song I’ve ever written. That’s all of them. I’m not kidding, either. ‘Born to Run,’ ‘Born in the USA’… Everything I’ve done for the past 40 years, including all the new ones… That was the first time I felt I heard something cross the radio that mirrored my home life, my childhood.”

Many of today’s more conscious young people seem to be gravitating not into traditional radical class consciousness but into the ranks of the Occupy Movement, even as the movement’s main tactic seems stuck on liberating public space, not organizing youth or other communities.

Their philosophy of “horizontalism” has been effective in inspiring young activists because of its small-d democratic and participatory ethic.

Yet, this process to many seems more important than the product or result. Propelling an “action faction” or camping as a community is not the same thing as challenging power or remaking it.

Clashes with the police play right into their hands when the story becomes one of confrontation, not pursuing a clear political agenda. The media’s love of “when it bleeds, it leads” is well known.

The Occupy Wall Street website reported on Tuesday:

“After the brutal attack on the attempted re-occupation of Liberty Square by NYPD on the 6-month anniversary of #OWS, a number of Occupiers have relocated their base of occupation to Union Square in midtown Manhattan, a point of convergence for several #OWS protests over the past 6 months.

According to reports on the ground, several dozen people slept in the park after the illegal and violent raid on Liberty Square. Over 70 people remain, now on Day 3. Although tents and tables are still banned, Occupiers have brought blankets and sleeping gear. Many are calling it ¨The New Occupation.¨

In addition to holding General Assemblies, Union Square Occupiers are providing vital jail support for those arrested on #M17 as they are released from NYPD custody. So far, the NYPD has made no attempt to remove Occupiers or prevent them from sleeping in the park.

Our ability to occupy the commons in order to voice dissent is a vital political right. We do not need a permit to exist in public space. We call on all those who would stand for equality, justice, and liberation – and against the banks, corporations, wealthy elites, and corrupt politicians who have stolen our democracy and ruined our economy – to join us now.”

Yes, but why the continuing focus on a return to the parks?  The problem seems obvious. When a movement becomes focused on itself, when it seems to have only one tactic, it loses contact with the people it is fighting with and for. [Update: Dozens of NYPD cops oust 300 Occupy Wall Street protesters from Union Square Park]

Building community is critical but so is building alliances and encouraging organization as a means for fighting back.

Saying “We Are The 99%,” doesn’t make it so unless there is a way for new people to get engaged. Not everyone has the time or the disposition to stand through hours of General Assembly meetings that can be unproductive.

Some of the movement’s sympathizers are working or have family responsibilities. The OWS work groups are important but there needs to be more coordination with other direct action and community groups, not just more inward facilitation.

Not everyone believes in leaderlessness. Cultural styles and generational choices can be divisive as well as unifying.

Not everyone is on Facebook or tweets. We can’t be fetishistic about one way being the only way.

•How about a broader campaign to place stories in community papers, even “shoppers,” write letters to the editors and challenge media outlets that distort the movement’s outlook?

•How about speaker’s committees to book an OWS presence at churches, union meetings and conventions?

•Can’t we find ways to broaden/diversify the tent and also make it bigger so others are more comfortable being involved.

•Can’t we more effectively occupy the mainstream so that 99% we say we speak for can speak for themselves?

•And why can’t Occupy also borrow a page from digital activists like the people behind the Kony 2012 campaign.

Whatever you think of its politics, it reached tens of millions of people. We can do the same and come up with our own media for better outreach.

• The Occupy Newspaper and related journals offer one direction. The new OWS radio show is another way to make media, not just respond to questions from mainstream press. Why aren’t we holding screenings of the many documentaries made about OWS and the issues it is rasing.

Spring is here but we don’t have to fall back to what was done in the Fall. It’s a time to move forward, experiment with more configurations of action and make the OWS presence felt in more arenas of public life.

 

Mediachannel’s News Dissector Danny Schechter investigates the origins of the economic crisis in his book Plunder: Investigating Our Economic Calamity and the Subprime Scandal (Cosimo Books via Amazon). Schechter has been covering the Occupy movement for his News Dissector.com blog and other websites including Al Jazeera. He has collected his reporting into a new book, available next week, with a preface by writer Greg Palast. Comments to dissector@mediachannel.org

 

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Fascism Lurking

Posted on 01 February 2011 by John Johnson

Is Fascism Lurking in America?

By Danny Schechter

Fascism is one of those words that sounds like it belongs in the past, conjuring, as it does, jackboots marching in the streets, charismatic demagogues like Italy’s Mussolini or Spain’s Franco, and armed crackdowns on dissent and freedom of expression.

It is a term we are used to reading in histories about World War II–not in news stories from present day America. Yet the word, and the dark reality behind it, is creeping into popular contemporary usage.

Radical activists on the left have never been hesitant to label their opponents with this F word whenever governments support laws that limit opposition or overdo national security or abuse human rights. Government paranoia turns critics paranoid.

One example: writer Naomi Wolf forecast fascism creeping into America during the Bush years, accelerated by the erosion of democracy. She wrote:

“It is my argument that, beneath our very noses, George Bush and his administration are using time-tested tactics to close down an open society. It is time for us to be willing to think the unthinkable — as the author and political journalist Joe Conason, has put it, that it can happen here.”

Wolf feared Americans couldn’t see the warning signs:

“Because Americans like me were born in freedom, we have a hard time even considering that it is possible for us to become as unfree — domestically — as many other nations. Because we no longer learn much about our rights or our system of government — the task of being aware of the constitution has been outsourced from citizens’ ownership to being the domain of professionals such as lawyers and professors — we scarcely recognize the checks and balances that the founders put in place, even as they are being systematically dismantled. Because we don’t learn much about European history, the setting up of a department of ‘homeland’ security — remember who else was keen on the word ‘homeland’ — didn’t raise the alarm bells it might have.”

Now, those alarm bells are now being rung by John Hall, an outgoing Democratic Congressman from upstate New York. His fear of fascism has less to do with repressive laws and militarism than the influx of corporate money into politics, swamping it with special interests that buy influence for right-wing policies and politicians.

“I learned when I was in social studies class in school that cor porate ownership or corporate control of government is called fascism,” he told the New York Observer. “So that’s really the question — is that the destination if this court decision goes unchecked?”

Reports the Observer, “The court decision he is referring to is Citizens United, the controversial Supreme Court ruling that led to greater corporate spending in the midterm elections, much of it anonymous. In the wake of the decision, Democrats tried to pass the DISCLOSE Act, which would have mandated that corporate donors identify themselves in their advertising, but the measure failed amid GOP opposition. Ads from groups with anonymous donors were particularly prone to misleading or false claims.”

Hall said the influx of corporate money in the wake of Citizens United handed the House of Representatives to Republicans. “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of State and corporate power.”

Many in mainstream politics who understand that big money can dominate elections, although not in every case, share Hall’s fears. In California, two well-known female candidates from the corporate world raised millions but still went down in defeat.

So money alone is not the be-all end-all of a shift toward a red, white and blue brand of fascism. Other ingredients are needed and some may be on the way–like an economic collapse, defeat in foreign wars, rise in domestic terrorism and the emergence of a right-wing populist movement that puts order before justice and wants to crush its opponents

Some argue we have just such a movement in the Tea Party, although other critics focus on the rise of the Christian Right promoting fundamentalist politics in the name of God.

The Tea Party is not just after Democrats; it has started a campaign against the liberal Methodist Church. It is not internally democratic either, having no elected officers or set of bylaws. It seems to be managed and manipulated by shadowy political operatives and PR firms, financed by a few billionaires who support populism to defang it.

Already militias are forming because of fears of immigration, and there are concerns that if unemployment remains high there is likely to be more violence with police forces understaffed because of government cutbacks. Gun sales went up after the recent shooting in Arizona.

The erosion of economic stability with the rise of foreclosures and the shredding of social services is already turning a financial crisis into a social one.

We already have sharp partisan divide and inflation of hateful rhetoric with vicious putdowns of President Obama and condemnations by members of Congress calling him corrupt, even a “traitor.”

One of the characteristics of fascist nations is “a disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights” — because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

“In place of human rights, enemies are turned into scapegoats as a Unifying Cause. The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists; terrorists.” This process is already far along in the U.S.

Among the classical characteristics of fascism is a shutting down of debate and a focus on the state–which in our country is controlled by lobbyists and private interests. Wall Street and the military-industrial complex have far more clout than elected officials.

In the past, during the Depression, there was a plot to overthrow Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It was exposed and neutralized. Could something like that happen again? Maybe it doesn’t have to, with hawks already in control of Congress, major media outlets and the military, and poised to slash the power of unions and curb progressive social programs including public education.

Several writers believe that if and when fascism comes to America it will be packaged in a friendly form tied to beneficial advertising slogans and public interest messaging. It will be sold, 1984-style as being unavoidable, even cool, and in our best interest.

Louisiana Senator Huey Long, a mesmerizing agitator, once said, “Fascism will come to America in the name of anti-fascism.”

Danny Schechter writes the News Dissector blog for MediaChannel.org. His latest book is PLUNDER: Investigating Our Economic Calamity (Cosimo Books).

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Change-Links April 2009

Posted on 01 April 2009 by John Johnson

The Print Edition PDF
Pitchforks and Protest By Danny Schechter
The Virtures of Public Anger By Glenn Greenwald
Paul Lion Responds By John Johnson
El Salvador Turns To the Left By Carlos Quintanilla
Editorial By John Johnson

April Calendar

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