Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Occupy the Daily News

I've been watching the "Occupy Wall Street" and its hundreds of spin-off demonstrations with great interest.

We watch two channels for news, the CBC for national and international News and Global TV (for local and national news). The CBC usually has a fair and balanced approach to almost any story on the national level. Global TV in Calgary has an ethnically diverse news team and fair coverage regardless of race, economic status or the usual factors which news channels often use to drum up controversy.

So it's been interesting to see the coverage of the "Occupy" movement and compare it to the many YouTube clips coming from the different protest sites. Global TV visited the "Occupy Calgary" site several days before the protest was scheduled to begin and focused on the fact that it was not protesters, but street people, in particular trouble-makers who have been expelled from the shelters who had set up camp.

Most news clips of "Occupiers" have focused on the heavily tattooed & dreadlocked drummer, a yawner, those lounging in conversation. One "live" reporter in Toronto said "Oh, maybe 150 people here," and 10 minutes later another reporter, across the square said, "There are 1000 people here".

In a shocking interview CBC commentator Kevin O'Leary accosted Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and economist Chris Hedges, referring to him as a "Left-wing Nutbar". As Hedges said, "I'd expect such behaviour from a Fox News commentator, which is why I don't go on Fox, but not from the CBC." He ended his interview by saying he would not be returning to the CBC. In general media coverage has been pretty dismal.

Apparently TV stations don't understand that social media is as useful at getting out the real news in North America as it is in the Middle East. The real news here is that TV "news" is a five minute clip designed to manipulate you into tut-tutting about the awful things happening elsewhere while you wait for the next round of commercials for anti-wrinkle cream and pizza to begin.

In my senior year of high school my English teacher had us read and discuss two books by Vance Packard one called The Hidden Persuaders on how advertising agencies use psychology to make you want their products and how voters are manipulated into choosing candidates; and another called The Waste Makers which criticizes how companies build planned obsolescence into products to encourage customers to discard functioning items in favour of a new "improved" version which offers little real increase in value.

As a 17-year-old high school student I was disgusted. I threw my "Seventeen" magazines, with their ads for clothes and hair products and perfumes and make-up, in the garbage. Without knowing what it was I adopted the philosophy of voluntary simplicity then.

So it is, that a good many decades later I have no more use for the advertising industry than I do for a three-legged jumping horse, and I have even less tolerance for "news" programs which purport to offer viewers facts which allow them to make up their own minds but instead manipulate information to serve their own purposes.

The message is clear. Politicians and corporations have formed an increasingly unholy and incestuous relationship for the past 30 years. During that time 99% of us have been sold down the river to the greed of the 1% at the top. Rules governing the behaviour of banks and other financial institutions have been relaxed to the point of paralysis.

My elderly neighbour came one day, white-faced and trembling, after a visit to her bank. After her husband's death the year before she had put her investment portfolio in the hands of the bank's investment manager, with strict instructions that she was financially conservative and invested only in bonds and safe markets. Reassurances were made. Papers were signed.

The bank's investment manager had called her in to tell her that they had invested 90% of her money in a risky South American currency exchange, which had been making fabulous profit - until the country defaulted on its IMF loans and went bankrupt. They said they were sorry but they had lost 90% of her money for her. That's investing for you, win some and lose some. Good-day madam. Thank you for allowing us to serve you.

"How am I to live?" she asked me, "I told them I depend on the interest from my investments as my income. How could they do that to me without any consequences?"

The bank took her money, gambled with it, and lost. They suffered no consequences (and made over a BILLION dollars profit that quarter) while she was left trying to figure out how to afford food and pay her electricity bill. BTW, she was a veteran as was her husband. Both had medals for heroism for their service in WWII.

What can we do? I can't occupy much besides my rocking chair, but there are several avenues, some of which may be open to you and some of which may not.

1) We can stop buying those things which are unnecessary to life and health

2) We can move bank accounts to local banks or credit unions

3) We can refuse to vote for any candidate who now holds political office and begin NOW to organize a party of independent candidates who are known by, selected from and accountable to the people of their districts. Campaigning need not be expensive if done on a grass-roots level. Scare the sh*t out of Washington, Ottawa and every other government who has been profligate enough to favour greed over the common good.

4) Be prepared to cinch in the belt - no one is entitled to live above his means - even those in the 99%

5) And let your "news" channel know that you are capable of making up your own mind if they will just present the facts.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I so totally am hearing you.
I am aghast at how many people think that everyone who is strapped to last notch on their financial belt are losers, lazy or lack motivation.