NYT's Laudatory Occupy Wall Street Anniversary Coverage Vindicates Public Editor's Concerns

The New York Times celebrated the one year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street encampment in Zuccotti Park near Wall Street in a fashion that vindicates former Public Editor Arthur Brisbane's concern that the paper celebrates left-wing movements like Occupy "more like causes than news subjects."

First was Sunday's "Dear Bankers: Thanks for Wrecking Our Lives..." by Mark Greif, the founding editor of n+1 magazine and editor of  “The Trouble Is the Banks: Letters to Wall Street," with illustrations by Mike McQuade featuring letters written to the big bad banks. Greif introduced the letters:

Tomorrow is the first anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement’s encampment at Zuccotti Park. Some of the protesters there created a Web site for Americans who couldn’t join them in Lower Manhattan. Called Occupy the Boardroom, the site invited people across the country to write detailed letters to the executives and directors of banks. The site’s developers promised to deliver them as e-mail and in person.

The more than 8,000 letters that resulted (to Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citibank, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley) supply some insight into the way different Americans experienced the financial crisis and recession since 2007.

On Monday, Metro reporter Colin Moynihan, a bit of a booster for Occupy Wall Street, marked the anniversary in a news story, "Rallies Planned Today for Occupy Wall St. Anniversary." A pretty pathetic turnout of about 300 people at an NYC rally on Saturday was reported by the Associated Press, but Moynihan discreetly avoided actual numbers in his story.

The crowd sat in a circle at the edge of Battery Park on Friday, as two young women held up a large map of the financial district that had been divided into sectors and marked with assembly points. They explained the plan for early Monday: protesters will gather at those points, then converge in an attempt to surround the New York Stock Exchange.

“We want to to block all the access points leading to the stock exchange by linking arms and sitting,” said one of the women displaying the map.


Planning for what became the Occupy protests began in the summer of 2011 when a Canadian magazine, Adbusters, called for people to “flood into Lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street.”

The police sealed off the heart of Wall Street last Sept. 17 and a few hundred protesters were able to set foot there only briefly. But the tents and kitchens eventually appeared nearby, in Zuccotti Park, and that camp was followed by more than 100 others across the country and overseas.

In the weeks that followed, a signature phrase used by the protesters to refer to themselves, “the 99 percent,” became part of the political lexicon, and the topic of financial inequity became popular nationally. And Zuccotti Park, with its library, kitchen, clothing dispensary and bicycle-provided energy, became the center point of a populist movement that steered clear of both major political parties.

After ludicrously calling the lefty OWS movement "populist," Moynihan suggested the police had something to hide:

The police sometimes arrested protesters in large numbers and in controversial circumstances. Then, in mid-November, hundreds of officers cleared Zuccotti Park, arresting about 200 people in the process and preventing many journalists from observing the operation clearly.

Moynihan concluded with a hopeful quote.

“We want to show the world we are still here,” said Brendan Burke, an organizer. “And we still have momentum.”

Meanwhile, the Tea Party, without getting anyone arrested at their protests, is somehow actually electing candidates to Congress, despite the lack of celebration from Times reporters.

When Moynihan gushes that the class-war phrase "the 99 percent" has "became part of the political lexicon," he could have been thinking of the OWS enthusiasts at the New York Times, who have eagerly plugged it into unrelated stories. An editorial in Monday's paper on a bill to provide jobs for veterans threw in the figure in arbitrary fashion: "It makes sense for the 99 percent of Americans to find new ways to pay their debt to the 1 percent who serve in uniform."