By William Rivers Pitt
Tuesday 01 March 2011
If I hear one more person talk about the “liberal media” in America, I will probably vomit on them. It was a stupid and ridiculous thing to say last week – take a long look at which mega-corporations own which news networks, and you won’t find a “liberal” entity anywhere on the list – but the events in Wisconsin have further underscored the absurdity of the statement.
It started in Madison when Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker tried to erase the long and excellent legacy of collective bargaining in his state, and thousands of union and public-sector workers rose up righteous to stop him. Fourteen Democrats from the state senate lit out to destinations unknown in order to deny Walker and his congressional GOP allies a quorum. Tens upon tens of thousands of people poured into the capitol to shout down Walker’s ham-fisted power play, braving freezing winds and snowstorms to do so. Each day, the protests grew; one evening, firefighters marched to the capitol to the peal of bagpipes in a show of support. This past Saturday, supporters of the Wisconsin protest staged rallies in all fifty states to stand with workers in Madison.
On Sunday, Governor Walker ordered the Wisconsin capitol building to be cleared of protesters and locked down. As the deadline for clearing the building drew near, live-feed broadcasts from inside the building were cut off. Police poured into the building…and refused to clear the protesters in the name of union solidarity. The deadline came and went, and finally the word came down: the protesters could stay. The building erupted in thunderous cheers, and the action to stop Walker’s power play continued for another day…until Walker abruptly locked down the capitol building on Monday:
About 60 demonstrators who had slept in the statehouse overnight remained inside as of noon Monday, and they banged drums, sang and danced in the rotunda. They had access to restrooms and, given the dwindling size of the group, appeared to have a decent supply of food. There was no indication that the police were preparing to arrest or eject them, and several said in interviews that they had no intention of leaving.
The events that have been unfolding in Wisconsin, culminating in this past weekend’s national displays of support and capitol showdown, stand tall among the most remarkable popular uprisings in modern American history. Millions around the country have been energized, especially in states where similar anti-union legislation is pending. In Wisconsin, the people continue to peacefully own the streets, and without a quorum in the senate, Walker can only bluster and bluff.
Big story, right? Huge, in fact. No comparable event has taken place in America for decades, and the outcome of this showdown is likely to determine the fate of worker’s rights all across the country. Unions are working hand in hand with public employees, liberals, progressives and regular folks to fight an egregious wrong, and thanks to social media, bloggers, citizen journalists and organizations like Truthout, the movement is catching fire from sea to shining sea.
So, of course, the so-called liberal “news” media has taken a complete pass on covering these events. The sun came up on Monday morning to find every TV “news” network, as well as every newspaper outside of Madison, covering the Oscars wall to wall with nary a mention of the political action taking place in Wisconsin. The Russian media is covering the story with more alacrity than their American counterparts. Were it not for the alternative/online news media, the protests in Wisconsin would be taking place in a virtual information blackout.
Take a moment, please, and cast your mind back a year or so.
Remember the first stirrings of what came to be termed as the “Tea Party” uprising? Never mind that it was created by powerful conservative corporate entities like the Koch Brothers. Never mind that the “Tea Party” was nothing more or less than the GOP base with a new coat of paint. Never mind that virtually everything they were yelling about was based on lies and deliberate misinformation. Never mind that most of them really didn’t know what they were talking about, and couldn’t spell to save their lives.
Three blivets wreathed in American flags and automatic weapons could stand on a streetcorner with signs reading “Keep Your Damn Government Hands Off My Medicare,” and they would find themselves surrounded by camera crews from CNN, MSNBC and, of course, Fox News. But put 50,000 people a day out on the streets of Madison, put tens of thousands more on the streets in every state in the union, and those same news cameras are suddenly too busy covering the Oscars and Lindsey Lohan’s ongoing crime spree to make an effort at coverage.
I wonder why this is? We have a huge story in the making here, rife with old and new politics that cuts across virtually every segment of American life – blue collar workers, unions, protests, Tea Party governors, fleeing Democratic senators, teachers, budget issues, new media, old media, and the power of simple shoe leather – and yet those who represent the protesters in Wisconsin had to fight like wolverines to get just one of their representatives onto the Sunday political talk shows. Just one. As far as the American “news” media is concerned, Wisconsin simply doesn’t exist.
Know what I think?
I think they’re scared.
I think the corporations behind the “news” media are conservatives down to their DNA, but understanding that is a matter of simple logic and observation. They made the “Tea Party” into a legitimate political phenomenon by dint of total-saturation coverage. But now, they are trying to disappear the Wisconsin protests by ignoring them entirely. Is it because they don’t like the idea of workers having the right to collectively bargain? Definitely. Is it because this national action scares the ever-lovin’ crap out of them?
I think absolutely yes.
Keep it up Wisconsin. Keep it up, alternative media. Keep it up, America.
They are scared down to their corporate-owned socks, and as this movement grows, it will be impossible to ignore.
William Rivers Pitt is a Truthout editor and columnist. He is also a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: “War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn’t Want You to Know” and “The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.” His newest book, “House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America’s Ravaged Reputation,” is now available from PoliPointPress.