Thursday, October 6, 2011


by Lisa Barr
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 6, 2011 Washington D.C. Freedom Plaza
Walking away from the metro stop for the White House, Thomas Jefferson’s letter to George Logan (November 12, 1816) rattled in my brain:
“I hope we shall...crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and to bid defiance to the laws of our country.”  
Two monuments to our nation’s mistaken path appeared--Woodrow Wilson Plaza and the Ronald Reagan Reagan International Trade Center Building.  
But in the distance, drums sounded.
Freedom Plaza. 
Veterans for Peace were pounding a huge drum with a Native American motif on its face.  
The ‘drums of peace’ helped me arrive at the nascent demonstration area.  I was reminded of 19th century Scottish journalist Charles McKay:  “Men go mad in herds, but only come to their senses one by one.”  Journalists are taught that it is the demonstrators who are crazy.  This is a tendency which must be disabused by all who have worked in any corporate newsroom.
For, upon arrival this morning, as at other such demonstrations, a feeling of safety washed over me--even as I had just walked amid a ‘security’ grid that was quickly beginning to surround the area of 13th and 14th Streets and Pennsylvania Avenue.  Not to be hyperbolic, but Joan Didion’s ‘Salvador’ always comes to mind at such events.  So many questions fill the brain:
Is this what those working for human rights in San Salvador felt like, after the junta killed union organizer Gilbert Soto, among others, in 1981?  
How can D.C. residents live here--knowing that protesters are regularly flanked by what appear to be steroid-fueled ‘undercover’ agents for a police state we are told must remain secret?
I remembered the night before, at 10 p.m. in the same place.   Amid streetlight, a circle of  30 of us sat on the ground listening to the organizers--who were listening to--us!--the newly arrived, non-D.C.  activists and independent journalists who had answered their call to “Stop the Machine, Create A New World.”  Their event would start in fewer than 12 hours and they still needed help painting signs to avoid the professed media ‘confusion’ about what the Wall Street occupation wanted to accomplish. 
“We want to thank Occupy Wall Street,” began a laughing attorney and activist Kevin Zeese.  Zeese and other activists planning the “Stop the Machine” action see themselves not as leaders but organizers who can vanish into the background of a people’s movement that is growing simultaneously and organically in a manner which clearly delights them.  
I had interviewed Zeese, Margaret Flowers, and Dennis Trainor a few weeks before for indy media pieces run on, among other places, Cindy Sheehan’s Soapbox radio show.  Since then, Zeese’s crew of activists--including Zeese and Flowers--had dropped everything to help advise the Occupy Wall Street movement.  Zeese and crew hadn’t seen the “Occupy” movement coming--but they welcome and assist it.  Their gentle steering is helping the Occupy movement avoid pitfalls common to such movements--such as wireless bills amassing tens of thousands of dollars in less than a week, or the surprise arrival of tens of thousands of dollars overnight into a PayPal account.  
The corporate media fears the current uprisings.
They don’t know how to report on protest because they have been taught for generations to trivialize and ignore it.  
So--for any corporate media lackeys ‘slumming’ on this site--here’s a broadcast news-style summary of the demands Zeese and others spent the past 6 months formulating. 
*Ending corporate rights and notions that money equals speech;
*Ending wars and militarism;
*Supporting human rights that end exploitation of all peoples;
*Guaranteeing worker rights and jobs;
*Real transparency for government and accountability to international law;
*Barrier-free elections;
*Ending private-for-profit prisons and starting evidence-based drug laws;
*Universal Health Care;
*Education as a right through university or vocational training
*Safe, affordable housing rights for all;
*Environmental policies that create a non-carbon-based energy economy;
*Ending policies fostering the huge wealth divide for finance and the economy;
*The creation of systems protecting the land and water to create a sustainable food network
*Affordable, clean, convenient public transit system for all--including safe spaces for pedestrian, non-automobile travel. 
I believe that reads very well for broadcast--and, as an unemployed mass media academic am available as a voice coach for any media worker stumbling over Stop the Machine’s solution-based demands.   However, any media worker wanting to read such a list of demands, or get them placed in digital print for broadcast on today’s mass media would no doubt need to lobby (or trick):
 a supervisor--such as an editor, a producer, or 
a peer--such as a videographer or an editor.
I know this, as only a refugee from the corporate news media can know this.  But even corporate media lackeys know enough to admire Edward R. Murrow, who famously said  “A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.”  Murrow famously challenged the status quo in his journalism--not every day--but when the moment presented itself.
This is that moment. 
 It is not exaggerating to say that news workers will, in the days to come, distinguish themselves as either relevant to solving the huge problems of the day, or true enemies of a sane path out of today’s morass. 
As organizer and indy media activist Dennis Trainor explains, “It’s a statistical certainty that empires will end.  Right?  So, the scary thing for me--and sometimes this comes off as hyperbolic--but the scary thing for me is how do you bring down an empire smoothly in the post-nuclear era.  Right now I don’t see our government  letting someone else up on the hill.  We’re playing a game of king of the hill--and we have to figure out a way, gently, to bring this thing down in a safe landing.”  
Zeese believes this is a historical moment, and notes that such pronouncements are, or course made after-the-fact.  “There is a lot of power we have--that we have been told we don’t have!  We can look at Cindy Sheehan sleeping outside George Bush’s ranch and reigniting the anti-war movement.  We can look at the refusal to sit in the back of the bus.  You can look at sitting at a lunch counter.  There’s 3 examples, sitting on sleeping outside and sitting at a lunch counter.”
I reflected upon his words of encouragement as I sat on a ledge in Freedom Plaza this morning.  Only about 50 people had arrived.  Below, on the sidewalk, a red-clad Washington D.C. worker pushed a trash cart.    The African American man stopped working his broom when I asked him if he’d be joining us.  “I gotta work,”  he said, smiling.  Dr. Margaret Flowers smiled and said, “Come after work.”  He paused.  “How long you gonna be here?”  Not missing a beat, she chirped, “It’s our new home.”  He laughed and continued cleaning the street.  
As I bundled up my computer to find a wireless cafe--in the manner of all non-corporate media workers and volunteers--I saw the bottom of the “Stop the Machine” event flyer.   A Frederick Douglas quote providing U.S. citizens even today a roadmap to sanity:
“Power concedes nothing without a demand.  It never did and it never will.”
Lisa Barr is a mass media academic and independent journalist whose work is available at  Cindy Sheehan’s Soapbox Radio featured her pre-event report on Stop the Machine Create a New World at: