Tabloids depict Occupy Wall Street as sex-and-drug-fueled orgy. Are they outraged or envious?

Imagine Woodstock 1969 with worse music and more sex and drugs. Many tabloid newspapers like The Daily Mail and The New York Post did just that this week and called it Zuccotti Park.

The Mail story was particularly scurrilous, claiming that lurking prominently among the Occupy Wall Street protesters congregating in lower Manhattan’s financial district were junkies and homeless people.  The headline focused on sex and the photos tried their best to show an orgy of sex-and-drugs.  But the best the Mail could come up with were a couple hugging innocently and another, naked to the shoulders, tousling under a blanket, plus a couple of young ladies who must have lost their way because they looked as if they were getting ready for a slutwalk.  

The Post story followed the Mail model of putting sex in the headline but talking about crime, with one difference: the photos suggested that the protest had become homeless city central for the three-state New York metro area.  

These sex-drugs-and-crime stories represent the slimiest sort of journalism because they use a few isolated incidents and turn them into a false impression that they then serve to an innocent public. There can be no doubt that like in every large gathering of young people some will light up a joint and a few will express their sexuality inappropriately.  And what crowd does not attract its share of pickpockets and other rip-off artists? Marches do, parades do. The Louvre Museum, which is packed all the time, has signs everywhere to watch for pickpockets.  So big deal! There’s nothing different—nor newsworthy—about these occurrences at Occupy Wall Street.

This tabloid press fear mongering plays to the lowest common denominator of public discourse.  The rhetorical strategy is to make those who are afraid of crime, the homeless or sexual freedom come to dislike the protestors and what they are saying.  Studies over the past few years suggest that the very groups most prone to fearing crime, the young and the homeless are also the groups that have been left behind because of the financial machinations against which the Occupy Wall Street protestors have organized. We’re talking about the less educated population, especially but not exclusively in rural areas.

What remains to be seen is if this approach will turn tabloid readers against the Occupy Wall Street protesters.  Will they channel the anger they are rightfully feeling about the growing inequality of wealth and income towards those who have taken to the streets on their behalf?

I have no idea, but I don’t think it’s going to matter.  Without a political platform, the Occupy Wall Street movement will eventually die out.  The Tea Party had a set of action points from day one.

The next step for Occupy Wall Street should be for each local movement to elect someone to a central national committee that would then develop a 10-, 12- or 16-point plan that could be described in one page.  Another next step would be to identify candidates who will run in Democratic primaries as Occupy Wall Street candidates. 

All the movement has to do is imitate the Tea Party to become a political power.  It’s true that the mainstream news media won’t be helping the Occupy Wall Street movement along as it did the Tea Party, at least not until the Occupanti can claim it made the difference in winning a few elections.  The standard for Occupy Wall Street will no doubt be higher at every step of the way than the Tea Party, to be sure.

But if organizers don’t get busy and draft a list of real-world demands, there will be no steps beyond the monotonous thump of the marchers until the weather turns bitter cold and the crowds begin dwindle into tiny pitter patters in the snow.

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2 comments on “Tabloids depict Occupy Wall Street as sex-and-drug-fueled orgy. Are they outraged or envious?
  1. Tonya Dorst says:

    Hmm… how many Occupy Wall Street protestors that’ll remain once it drops below freezing? You think they’ll stay in their tents? 🙂

  2. hat we need is to get people involved with the movement ! I’m talking about around the world ! In every country and every hamlet , every village , We need to let all these folks that we all are sick and tired of being sick and tired !!!!

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