Blog Post #8
FIGHTING FOR A VOICE IN CAPITALISTIC AMERICA
The dehumanizing of minorities through selective representation and media erasure has been a long time coming; throughout history, the void of just and accurate portrayals of poor non-Whites in the media has paved the way for prejudices that dictate public perception of them today. This insidious conditioning of public perception towards the quiet majority in the media is arguably another form of discrimination and a buttress of white supremacy in capitalistic America. The fundamental needs of society are essentially ignored to advance the agenda of institutions with the most money and power. Thus, it is arguable that the infiltration of mainstream media with narratives of the masses produced by the masses is both a radically subversive and highly effective form of self-liberation and healing. In this blog post, I will engage with the people-powered Occupy Wall Street movement to illustrate this phenomenon.
Occupy Wall Street was developed as a tactic to fight against the unparalleled power of multinational corporations and major banks in determining the democratic process for the silent majority. Beginning on September 17, 2011 in Manhattan’s Financial District and spreading over 1,500 cities in the nation, Occupy Wall Street was a clear display of the public’s discontent with Wall Street’s corrupt role in the 2008 economic collapse that sent entire generations across America into an endless spiral of recession (OccupyWallSt.org). According to Colorlines, the 99% refers to the income inequality between the wealthiest 1% and the rest of the population in across the nation (Zlutnick). By subjecting these 99% to narratives conceived by the affluent 1%, citizens were blatantly being stripped of agency and the ability to mandate their own futures in the public sphere, transferring power into the hands of those who oppressed them.
Nonetheless, the unique interplay between public digital and physical spaces was crucial in mobilizing Occupy Wall Street toward a common objective: to provide agency to an otherwise passive community and to fight against the countless injustices suffered by the people. Note that this movement was created using “new power” by the people for the people– without influence from“old power” by traditional institutions (Ortellado). This interaction self-representation on social media allowed the movement’s positive influence to increase ten-fold, continuing to give poor non-Whites a voice even after the dispersion of the initial event.
At the time, Hacktivist group “Anonymous” released a short video urging supporters to participate in Occupy Wall Street, while various crowdsourcing and social media websites such as Reddit and Facebook disseminated crucial information. Adding to the fire came large labor unions, including AFL-CIO and Service Employees International Union, which began stirring up the nation’s socioeconomic scene. Solidarity protests and assemblies in major cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, amongst dozens of others sprouted like wildfire and took over many news channels — pushing public-figure President Barack Obama to express sympathy for the protestors’ views in front of millions of viewers around the globe (Sanchez). Even hashtags such as #OWS on Twitter and Instagram gave Occupy Wall Street traction to bring awareness to the public. It is evident that this continued impact is highly attributed to social media, celebrity endorsements, crowd-sourcing sites, and labor unions — topics heavily touched upon throughout this course. Through this synergistic cycle of online and offline interaction collectively created by the masses, Occupy Wall Street became a worldwide phenomenon and continues to be a relevant topic today.
“The way movements work is they sort of enlarge the circle of possibility.”
While Occupy Wall Street was criticized as a leaderless following of Millennials without a clear goal, this movement can be credited for catalyzing significant grass-roots movements targeting racism, police brutality, and inequality. Though it is extremely difficult to measure the success of social movements, Occupy Wall Street was successful in the sense that it raised the level of national awareness, propelled long-term conversations about injustices on minorities, and gave the people power to fight against the nation’s corruption. The trickling impact of OWS no doubt led to the recent Black Lives Matter movement, the ascent of Bernie Sanders, and Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protest against institutional racism (Sanchez).
As explored throughout this blog, I argue that media is a double-edged sword, just as it can be used to uphold the interests of the wealthy and incarcerate the well-beings of a whole people, it can also be a method of liberation. Social activism today must never be removed from the issue of media representation; by penetrating a white-dominated media and disrupting the status quo, one is setting into motion a wider movement of ‘reeducation’ and rewriting of America’s future. As renowned Civil Rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr once stated: “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
- “About Occupy Wall St.” Occupy Wall St, occupywallst.org/about/.
2. Sanchez, Ray. CNN, www.cnn.com/2016/09/16/us/occupy-wall-street-protest-movements/index.html.
3. Zlutnick, David, Rinku Sen, Yvonne Yen Liu. “Where’s the Color in the Occupy Movement? Wherever We Put It.” Colorlines, May 1, 2012. http://www.colorlines.com/articles/wheres-color-occupy-movement-wherever-we-put-it