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Occupy the Washington Post

Oct 24, 2011, Vol. 17, No. 06 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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One of the many unwritten rules of journalism is that business reporters should be temperamentally hostile to business. This is the opposite of another unwritten rule​—​that environmental reporters should be propagandists for environmental organizations​—​but, given the ideology governing most American newsrooms, it makes sense. On the business pages of most American newspapers, you will find business treated as a semi-criminal enterprise, and businessmen with disdain. 

The Washington Post is no exception​—​although the Post Company is a business enterprise like any other, if slightly more rapacious than most. Steven Pearlstein writes a business page column from a moderate Marxist perspective (he is opposed to firing squads) while Michelle Singletary writes another business column (“The Color of Money”) which explores the ways in which the American Dream is a nightmare for most African Americans.

As you might expect, the chants, anger, smells, and street theater of Occupy Wall Street in New York have enchanted these two chroniclers of American capitalism. “I wish it were true,” wrote Pearlstein, “that Occupy Wall Street could morph into our ‘American spring,’ a left-wing counterweight to the tea party.” After enumerating the various ways in which the Obama administration has failed to sufficiently embrace OWS, Pearlstein concludes,

Here’s a little free advice for Secretary [Timothy] Geithner and Chief of Staff [William] Daley: This weekend, put on jeans and a sweatshirt, ditch the security detail and make an unannounced visit to Zuccotti Park. You just might learn something, but for sure you’ll let everyone know what side you are on.

Singletary is somewhat less cerebral, a little more caught up in the excitement of the moment. “Rage, rage against Wall St. greed” is the headline of her column, and she excitedly quotes her usual sources (Public Interest Research Group, Adbusters magazine, Consumer Federation of America) to the effect that today’s anger and rage will be swiftly transformed into “a positive program about political and social change.”

Singletary is nothing if not subtle, reminding readers that “throughout history, great change has evolved from small civil protests.” For example, “It took a Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat on a public bus to a white man, to inspire the Montgomery bus boycott that eventually resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that segregation was unconstitutional.” (Brown v. Board of Education [1954] was decided the year before the Montgomery bus boycott [1955]​—​but whatever.) She even furnishes the address of the Occupy Wall Street website “for those who want to take action against corporate greed.”

Now, The Scrapbook is the CEO of nothing, and harbors many complaints about the Masters of the Universe​ ​who contributed to the financial crisis of 2008. But here’s a question for the bosses over at the Washington Post: Is the purpose of business journalism in America to help readers comprehend this complicated subject, and draw informed conclusions? Or is it to serve as well-paid cheerleaders for inchoate radicals and middle-class anarchists, whose skills are confined to tying up traffic and manipulating the press?

Protesters Only the Media Can Love

As you likely recall, the media lost their collective minds when the Tea Party movement first emerged. The Fourth Estate turned Fifth Column and went out of its way to portray earnest and concerned citizens as racist, paranoid, and violent. The Scrapbook is as weary as anyone of pointing out media double standards, but reading the adoring news reports about the Occupy Wall Street movement is enough to leave even the most jaded media consumer reaching for an airsickness bag.

A quick recap of some of the goings-on, since you’re unlikely to have read about most of these incidents in major media outlets: So far the most memorable image of the protest is of one of the participants defecating on a police car. A uniformed military officer was harassed and spat on while walking past protesters in Boston. An SUV in Eugene, Oregon, was set on fire and spray-painted with Occupy Wall Street slogans. A speaker at the Occupy L.A. protest warned that “ultimately, the bourgeoisie won’t go without violent means,” before making several animated interjections about revolution and socialism.

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