On Saturday, October 15, I lost my faith in the media. I never saw the need to jump on the media-sucks bandwagon, from both the left and the right. By and large, I had faith that if something big was going on, it would get reported--even if just for the sensationalism. That Saturday, however, I joined Twitter to look at a picture of the Occupy Wall Street movement which happened to be quickly filling Times Square. Hundreds and hundreds of people filled the Square. I searched in vain on television for any reporting, even in the form of the bottom-of-the-screen ticker. I followed the protests on Twitter for hours that night and felt a new sense of cynicism grow within. [Here is a great video about the role of the media in OWS.]
What is clear from Old Media is that they are confused by the movement (or at least feigning confusion to save face with their corporate ownership). There are many, many reasons why my generation is leading the charge. Here are three reasons why Occupy Wall Street should NOT be surprising at all.
1. The myth of college. For some time now, going college has been billed as a way to get a job. Go to college, recruiters have told us, and you can get a job and make money and have the house and car you want. Evacuated of any kind of truly humanist ends, higher education has become almost entirely a very drunken means to a very certain end. One of the many ways in which the lies of deregulated capitalist enterprise have been exposed is through the crumbling of this particular myth for people in their 20s and 30s. [Not to mention that if you educate a whole bunch of lawyers, social workers, philosophers and teachers, they will probably do something creative if they aren't employed.]
2. Hipsters. OWS has also managed to parlay hipster angst into a very organized movement. Drawing heavily on latent frustration with the cultural status quo, OWS has harnessed hipster counter-cultural impulses into its own critique of oppressive cultural systems.
3. MLK, Jr. Day. I spent some time watching a livefeed of a "facilitation training" in NYC. This training was educating protesters on how to facilitate direct democracy. What is not surprising about the organization, inclusiveness and progressive assumptions about this movement is that the people leading the charge grew up learning the tradition of civil disobedience from elementary school on. What IS surprising is that despite the persistent efforts of Americans to co-opt and domesticate the witness of someone like Martin Luther King, Jr., we somehow managed to tease the radicalness of Rev. King out of our elementary school history lessons. Our generation grew up learning to value those who stand up against injustice, and although it was taught with an implication that the time for direct action had passed us by, we took the examples given to us and are running.
This movement is for the 99 percent but Gen X and Y are leading it. If Old Media wants to understand OWS (and it's debatable that they do), they need to examine these generations in more thoughtful ways.