October 25th, 2011 17:54 EST
The Internet is The Real Story Behind Occupy Wall Street, and It's Endangered
Big stories are often drowned in the torrent of little stories in the news business.
Sulky and dismissive, the American press had to be prodded and nudged to cover Occupy Wall Street. One might have thought the editors would have been glad to see it fizzle to justify their inattention. Not so the foreign press. News organizations like Al Jazeera and the Guardian in the United Kingdom have covered the story diligently.
In its aborted attempt to marginalize what has clearly become a global story the American press inadvertently helped to frame a story as big as the protests: the American people aren`t getting their information from a single newsroom anymore. In fact, they`re acting as their own news editors.
Each Facebook page is a newspaper, each Facebook participant an editor, and stories are whizzing back and forth from page to page across the world. Not just stories from identifiable media but videos from witnesses and participants in events, eyewitness accounts, tracts, posters, slide shows, essays, speeches, even documents. The mainstream media establishment no longer defines the game. It has been sidelined by our ability to share information, giving the Share button on Facebook a significance comparable to the advent of the computer. Never in the history of mankind have we been able to share such a wealth of information and viewpoints. The Share button and Occupy Wall Street represent a new ball game "the American press saw that and cowered.
The power of the mainstream press to filter, to vet, to censor and to prioritize has been lost. Readers and viewers themselves are deciding what`s important. The significance of this development can hardly be underestimated.
Traditional media are trying to find ways to embrace this evolving revolution, but they are mired in a 19th Century sense of self-importance. They find it difficult not to be the arbiter of what is and what isn`t important.
It`s true that much of the information exchanged in cyberspace originates from media organizations, but never before have ordinary people around the world had such a wealth of resources. Better yet, they can refer to Poynter Institute, the Pew Research Center, FactCheck.Org and other media study organizations to verify information and to identify misinformation.
This is a global revolution, just as Sir Timothy Berners-Lee, the founder of the Internet, hoped would ignite. And Occupy Wall Street is one result of this revolution, but where have you read about this revolution? The reason you probably haven`t read about it is because the traditional news organizations are profoundly uneasy and ambivalent about it. They perceive it as a threat to their societal preeminence. The last word, until some dictator shuts them down, has always been their prerogative, and now it isn`t.
The likelihood of the protests spreading as rapidly as they have without the Internet is small indeed. People are no longer struggling to understand issues through the looking glasses of their hometown newspaper and television station. Today they can see what the Guardian has to say, or Al Jazeera, or Asahi Shimbun in Japan or Le Monde in France. They are no longer limited by the news hole " of their local newspaper or the air time of their local stations. They are no longer handicapped by one publisher`s world view, one editorial board`s opinions. They are no longer restrained by the pressure local or even national advertisers bring to bear on the news.
Many young Americans can`t appreciate the magnitude of this revolution because they were born into it. But those of us who remember the situation of Americans vis-Ã -vis the press in the 1950s and 60s can savor the mind-blowing impact of these developments.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York sought to shut down the protests by evicting protesters from Zuccotti Park, their headquarters. A man who made his billions because the First Amendment exists sought to abrogate the First Amendment rights of fellow Americans. Mayor Bloomberg is a press lord. He understands these developments and their threat to the hegemony of press oligarchs.
Perhaps the arrival of Poland`s Lech Walesa on the scene dissuaded the mayor, perhaps that and the vehement reaction of ordinary people around the country, but the next step of the press lords will be to gain control of our access to the Internet so that these kinds of movements will be easier for the one percent to marginalize. The House of Representatives has already voted to hand over control to predatory media giants. How much attention did that story get in the mainstream press? And yet it was bigger than anything the politicians had to say.
The ability of the press giants to bury stories like this one is at stake. It`s next to impossible to bury a story that may just pop up anywhere in cyberspace. I once quit my job on a newspaper that was deliberately burying the fact that a giant food processor was buying up properties, an action that diminished adjacent property values. That kind of story is no longer so easy to bury.
Think about this when you read about the protests. Think about how the Internet is the one percent`s next target. Is this a right you`re willing to surrender? Think about how many countries, like Finland and Japan, to name but two, are decades ahead of us in the area of connectivity, and ask yourselves why this is so. Who is profiting by impeding our ability to communicate as well as other countries? How well would we be able to give voice to our ideas if the communications giants were dictating what kind of access to the Internet we could and couldn`t have?
The reason the talk show pundits are so boring is that they represent the yak world within which Corporate America is comfortable. It would be a considerable ecological leap if we could recycle waste as well as the pundits recycle their views. Their controlled dialogue is like those prescription drugs Big Pharma is always pushing and then warning us about in a fast whisper. The ill effects of the pundits` narrow parameters outweigh any good they do. Sunday talk shows represent the comfort zone of American corporatism, and the degree to which Americans tune them out is the degree to which Americans are beginning to think outside the box. The Internet is a standing invitation to think outside the box. The box is the press establishment.
We should be able to rely on the press to tell us what the bad guys are hiding. That`s why we celebrate Watergate, and justifiably so. But in this environment of unfettered greed we have to ask ourselves what the press is hiding.
Djelloul Marbrook`s first book, Far from Algiers (Kent State University Press, 2008) won the 2007 Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize and the 2010 International Book Award in poetry. Artists` Hill, an excerpt from his unpublished novel, Crowds of One, won the 2008 Literal LattÃ© first prize in fiction. Artemisia`s Wolf, a novella, was published by Prakash Books of India early in 2011. Alice Miller`s Room, a novella, was published in 1999 by OnlineOriginals.com (UK) as an e-book, and Bliss Plot Press of Woodstock, NY, recently published his novella, Saraceno, as an e-book. Orbis (UK), Smashwords.com, Potomac Review (Maryland) and Prima Materia (New York). His second book of poems is Brushstrokes and Glances (Deerbrook Editions, 2010). Recent poems were published by American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, Oberon, Meadowland Review, The Same, Reed, The Ledge, Poemeleon, Poets Against War, Fledgling Rag, Daylight Burglary, Le Zaporogue, Atticus, Long Island Quarterly, ReDactions, Istanbul Literary Review, Arabesques Literary and Cultural Review, Damazine, Perpetuum Mobile, Attic, and Chronogram. A retired newspaper editor and Navy veteran, he lives in Germantown, NY, with his wife Marilyn, and has lifelong ties to Woodstock.
Del`s book, Far From Algiers: http://upress.kent.edu/books/Marbrook_D.htm
New review of Far from Algiers: http://www.rattle.com/blog/2009/05/far-from-algiers-by-djelloul-marbrook/
Artists Hill, Literal LattÃ©`s fiction first prize: http://www.literal-latte.com/author/djelloulmarbrook/
His blog: http://www.djelloulmarbrook.com
His mother`s art: http://www.juanitaguccione.com
His aunt`s art: http://www.irenericepereira.com