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Participating in Our Democracy

Not surprisingly, Jon Stewart last night provided some of the most thoughtful coverage of the growing Occupy Wall Street movement, which yesterday was bolstered by union members in a big rally and march from Foley Square to Zuccotti Park.

The Daily Show‘s bread and butter is its effortless exposure of the rank hypocrisy of Fox News — at this point, for Daily Show writers, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. Here (at the 3:20 mark) Sean Hannity is shown praising the “quintessentially American”-ness of Tea Party protests in 2009, then declaring yesterday that the Occupy Wall Streeters “really don’t like freedom.”

Another highlight is a clip of one eloquent protester being interviewed by a Fox News reporter (around 1:50):

After 30 years of having our living standards decrease while the wealthiest 1% have had it better than ever, I think it’s time for maybe, I don’t know, some participation in our democracy.

[UPDATE: That activist is Jesse LaGreca and the NY Observer has video of the rest of his interaction with the Fox News producer.]

The segment also does a nice job summarizing the criticism mainstream media outlets have heaped on the movement for what they see as a lack of a clear message, demands or proposed solutions. To those talking heads, media theorist Douglas Rushkoff says, “You don’t get it.”

Are they ready to articulate exactly what that problem is and how to address it? No, not yet. But neither are Congress or the president who, in thrall to corporate America and Wall Street, respectively, have consistently failed to engage in anything resembling a conversation as cogent as the many I witnessed as I strolled by Occupy Wall Street’s many teach-ins this morning […]

Anyone who says he has no idea what these folks are protesting is not being truthful. Whether we agree with them or not, we all know what they are upset about, and we all know that there are investment bankers working on Wall Street getting richer while things for most of the rest of us are getting tougher. What upsets banking’s defenders and politicians alike is the refusal of this movement to state its terms or set its goals in the traditional language of campaigns.

That’s because, unlike a political campaign designed to get some person in office and then close up shop (as in the election of Obama), this is not a movement with a traditional narrative arc. As the product of the decentralized networked-era culture, it is less about victory than sustainability. It is not about one-pointedness, but inclusion and groping toward consensus. It is not like a book; it is like the Internet.

Occupy Wall Street is meant more as a way of life that spreads through contagion, creates as many questions as it answers, aims to force a reconsideration of the way the nation does business and offers hope to those of us who previously felt alone in our belief that the current economic system is broken.

And as Stewart says near the end of the Daily Show segment, “If the people who were supposed to fix our financial system had actually done it, the people who have no idea how to solve these problems wouldn’t be getting sh*t for not offering solutions.”

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