In my latest column for the American Prospect, I write:
In 2011, grassroots economic-justice organizations mobilized protests at six corporate shareholder meetings. This year, there have already been 20, including the stunning disruption of Bank of America’s shareholder meeting last week to protest foreclosure abuses and funding for mountaintop removal mining, and another 20 protests are scheduled in the coming weeks. That alone says something about the rising scale of public anger at the abuses of crony capitalism, but such anger—even when it takes to the streets—doesn’t always lead directly to concrete policy change.
Yet last month, Citigroup shareholders rejected a lavish $15 million exit pay package for the company’s chief executive, Vikram S. Pandit. Shareholder activism is nothing new, but this was the first time on record that shareholders at a major bank successfully blocked a CEO pay package. Taken as a whole, this suggests that protesters aren’t just lone wolfs tilting at windmills but, rather, represent the moral mainstream of America, agitating for and starting to achieve changes in an economic system that no longer works for working people.
Evolving toward what? Read the piece!
Great thing about the Internets… You get a chance to say more than a few sentences on a fast TV block.
Today, on Eric Bolling’s Follow They Money — which airs at 10pm EST — on the Fox Business Channel, we discussed accusations by the conservative Daily Caller that protesters outside the conservative CPAC gathering this weekend were all nothing but paid, union reps with no idea what they were protesting. Here’s the Daily Caller’s “evidence”:
I responded with some obvious questions about the video. They only interviewed one person, which, in journalism terms, means the claim is uncorroborated. And it’s noteworthy that the person interviewed isn’t wearing the same hat and t-shirt union attire that all the other protesters seem to be wearing. Given the deep history of misleading video footage on both sides of political debates being used to lob baseless accusations, I think it’s reasonable to scrutinize this tape.
But…. What I also should have said is that if the footage accurately represents the situation and, indeed, even one person was paid to attend the anti-CPAC protest, that is shameful and stupid. It’s a tactic that puts petty political posing ahead of the real people putting their bodies on the line to protest, and it distracts from the very authentic and legitimate frustrations of the many, many more who are there out of their own volition and deeply held beliefs.
On some level, it’s understandable that unions with out of work members would take the opportunity to throw a little money their way to bolster a cause the union has decided to endorse. But let me go on record as saying while I completely support unions and other organizations facilitating the ability of their members to protest (by paying for buses and materials and such) or even allowing them to attend protests during work hours, I do not support any superficial protesters-for-hire astroturf efforts. If proven true, I would be as critical of these actions on the left as I would be on the right (and yes, they’ve happened on the right — see, e.g., Sarah Palin, at least one Tea Party activist who was paid $100,000 to show her support for the cause, not to mention the black Tea Party “star” who was paid for his attendances).
But the frustration I have with these accusations is that, even if true, paid Occupy protesters are merely one ore two examples amidst an ocean of authentic, ordinary American voices standing up for the middle class and against runaway corporate greed and inequality. Moreover, promoting such exceptions (whether true or false) is merely a pathetic attempt to discredit a movement that is not only now larger than the Tea Party but more popular in terms of public support and more impactful, not only electing a few legislators who have stalled their agenda in Congress, but actually changing the political discourse of our nation to finally talk about economic inequality and a path to prosperity for all.
The haters can rail all they want against a few low-hanging, (alleged) bad apples. The much, much larger tree of social change is once again taking root in America.
Segment produced by Geraldo at Large team for their Fox News show, which I helped scout interviews for and offered some commentary.
Doesn’t fully capture the spirit or focus of OWS, but is certainly better than other coverage. Still, I wish they’d put me in less and put in more of the truly amazing interviews we did with compelling and convincing protesters from all walks of life.
What do you think?
The protesters are not anti-American radicals. They are the defenders of the American Dream, the decision from the birth of our nation that success should be determined by hard work not royal bloodlines.
“Occupy Wall Street is inspiring and uniting Americans from the left, right and middle who are sick and tired of our rigged economy that works for big business and hurts ordinary workers and entrepreneurs.”
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