Saturday, October 15, 2011

Big Media's Search for the Meaning of the Occupy Phenomenon

#BigMedia 's search for coherence, for  an articulated purpose or clearly enunciated demand -  for the  "real meaning" of the #occupy movement - is  amusing if not characteristic.  ("What do they want?"  "What are their demands?" "Who are the leaders?" "Who are the spokespeople?"  "It seems so incoherent." "They're not proposing solutions.")  If we can centre it, if we can reduce it to this one thing, if we can structure it, we can understand it and then either control or, through  binary oppositions, confront it.  And the media, especially TV, if it loves anything, it loves binary oppositions - black and white, wealthy and poor - and its ever faithful sidekick, reductionism, which involves depleting the complexity out of an issue. 

The most common reduction strategies we've seen since the beginning of #occupywallstreet  include the following:  it's about fixing abuses in the banking system (Mark Carney's take), it's about economic or income inequality, it's about corporate greed,  or it's about the failure of governments.  All of these presuppose, as Carney does, that all that is required is some sort of fix  of the current system, be it banking or government.  But it's not about fixing. It's about changing, transforming, the system completely - maybe even creating a new one - and in order to begin that public conversation we need all the disparate social and economic elements to mass in one giant incoherent mess, as they are now, across the globe both in physical and virtual space.

Critics of the movement are saying it will fail since it appears to lack coherence and a so-called goal, but the absence of these protest conventions are the very things that give the movement a heretofore unseen and unusual power. Demand implies negotiation, as Naomi Klein has said, but this is not a negotiation. This is not a protest. It's  a self-enabling distribution of power - a dispersal of power if you will.  It's a magnificent sloppy movement in which everybody is talking to everybody about everything. 

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