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Why the Occupy Movement Freaks You Out

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If you don’t understand what the Occupy Wall Street movement is about, you’re not alone. A paradigm shift like this one, which seeks to ban partisan bickering and relies on basic human respect as a catalyst for change, is not a political strategy to which modern-day Americans are accustomed. We haven’t seen this kind of attempt to unify political opponents since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

Martin Luther King, Jr. believed that segregation was wrong, but that segregationists were human beings just like him, deserving of love and respect. “Through nonviolent resistance we shall be able to oppose the unjust system and at the same time love the perpetrators of the system,” he once said. How far we have strayed from those principles in our modern day media flame wars. Myself most woefully included.

As a vocal liberal in the media, I was struck by the discouragement of partisan signs and slogans at Occupy events. (It’s a democratic movement, so they won’t stop you from doing it.) Comment trolls on the various Occupy Facebook pages are greeted with patience and understanding. In Austin, at least, police officers are lauded for their professionalism. Public figures clearly associated with one party or another, such as Geraldo Rivera from Fox News or Representative John Lewis (D-Georgia), are kept at arm’s length lest they try to co-opt the Occupy movement in the same way the Republicans co-opted the Tea Party, perpetuating the broken system in the process. And then there’s the Occupy movement’s unique view of the regular, old “liberal” media.

I was present at the initial planning meeting for Occupy Austin, which took place at Ruta Maya coffee house on September 29. There, about 300 people—many of them under age 30—gathered to express a desire to work together for change.

The first order of business was to decide whether the group would adopt an official cause by October 6, when they were to begin their Occupation of Austin City Hall.

“If we don’t have a cause, the mainstream media won’t cover us,” some said.

“Screw the mainstream media,” came the response, which caused the room to erupt in applause.

History’s most media savvy generation is shunning the use of traditional media because of the belief that it’s just another arm of the corporate world. A fact that was reinforced last night when I visited the Occupation at City Hall, where I was mostly ignored for the more important business at hand—figuring out what the heck they are doing next.

Instead, the Occupy movement leaders are relying on their own personal social media pages on Facebook and Twitter, their own websites designed by volunteers, their own donated fliers and hand-painted signs, to appeal to people’s innate sense of what is right and wrong.

As a result, the mainstream media calls them “un-focused”, “lazy”, “hippies”, “commies”, “un-American”, “unemployed” and anything else they can say to discredit this thing that is happening that they simply cannot wrap their heads around. 

Tonight, outside Austin City Hall, a group called Creation Flame, which has a “Church of Awesome” outside town, is holding a group meditation to “bring a HUGE dose of love, positivity, and creative solutions to the movement.” Yes, these people sound a little crazy.

Unless you consider that the United States is still involved in (at least) three wars after we voted a man into the White House who said bringing troops home was his first priority, not one banker has paid for crimes of fraud perpetrated against the American people, and the undocumented immigrant issue goes unresolved. Meanwhile the Obama administration  announced Friday that its current priority is hassling the landlords of legalized marijuana dispensaries in California.

They say the definition of crazy is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. So, you tell me. Who’s crazy now?

Cindy Casares is a columnist for the Texas Observer. She is also the founding Editor of Guanabee Media, an English-language, pop culture blog network about Latinos established in 2007. She has a Master's in Mass Communications from Virginia Commonwealth University Brandcenter. Prior to her career in journalism, she spent ten years in New York City as an advertising copywriter. During her undergraduate career at the University of Texas she served under Governor Ann Richards as a Senate Messenger during the 72nd Texas Legislature.