Occupy Oakland: RAN Deplores Violence — But Come On Media, Get It Right

By Rainforest Action Network

Most of RAN’s staff joined the call from Occupy Oakland for the general strike yesterday. We had an energizing and inspiring time marching in the streets in solidarity with the emerging Occupy movement. We were there, we took part, and we are against any violence. But the issue galling many of us today is how the mainstream media corporations are once again playing up minor property destruction as “violence” and ignoring the historic nature of what happened yesterday.

RAN Banner at Occupy Oakland, Nov. 2, 2011
RAN Banner at Occupy Oakland, Nov. 2, 2011

The mainstream coverage of the Occupy Oakland demonstrations has been, by and large, so shallow and narrowly focused it is outrageous. Last night’s shut down of the Port of Oakland left many of us with a deep sense of optimism and inspiration from participating in a collective action with tens of thousands of people from all walks of life — young and old, black and white, Teamsters and Longshoreman, anarchists and hipsters — people from across all divisions of class and identity, gathering peacefully to express a deep dissatisfaction of the status quo with a firm and remarkably unified voice.

It was an amazing experience. It was electric and it was vast — the numbers being reported by the press are wildly low. I saw it with my own eyes.

That a couple dozen yahoos got excited and burned some trash cans after the day of marching was over is annoying, and their actions are counterproductive and devoid of strategy, but the fact that the national media across the board fetishized this minor property destruction to the point where it eclipsed the historic nature of what happened yesterday has many of us incensed. Not surprised, though, because this kind of rote sensationalism is Big Media’s standard MO, and it makes me mad as hell.

It also makes me want to call on this new movement to begin to target these corporate media giants alongside the other corporations undermining our democracy. The editors of these outlets are far more dangerous than the few amped-up kids in the streets who threw some water bottles at cops after midnight.

Ran Staffers at Occupy March
RAN's Robin Averbeck and Hillary Lehr at Occupy Oakland March

When the media systematically makes its headlines of our mass gatherings out of side stories about the antics of a few, they irresponsibly elevate the actions of a tiny percentage into the public perception of the whole. Every time they parrot the same predictable bullshit about “protestors turning violent” while failing to meaningfully communicate the larger context or the momentous nature of the moment, they are doing a disservice to us all.

Eventually, we are going to need to start calling them out for it in a big way.