One of the TV network news shows yesterday went straight from a piece on whether -- as some right wingers persist in claiming -- the Occupy Wall Street protesters were causing economic and social disruption, to a piece on how millions of excited shoppers were racing through department store doors to grab a piece of Black Friday.
On the one hand, you had video of cops pulling down Occupier tents. On the other, you had friendly interviews with crazed shoppers who pitched tents in front of Wal-Mart or Target so they could be first through the doors at midnight. And meanwhile, in Wisconsin, you had the state Republican Party, businesses, and some news organizations tsk-tsking and wagging fingers at progressives standing in parking lots and on sidewalks near shopping malls, seeking signatures to recall Gov. Scott Walker.
Right there in one brief span, on your TV, you could see the modern American Disconnect, a case of cognitive dissonance writ very large.
Occupy protesters pepper-sprayed by cops? Well, it wouldn't have happened if the rabble had minded its own business and go home! Shoppers pepper-spraying other shoppers? Dastardly! But in the frenzy of it all, still somehow understandable, at least to some.
Camping on private mall property for days so you can grab an electronic Precious? In the finest traditions of American consumerism! Pitch a tent in a public park to protest Wall Street rapaciousness? You're a menace to society!
Stand out on a public sidewalk hundreds of yards away from private shopping malls as you seek petitioners to oust a right-wing governor? Wasteful and disrespectful of private property! Even though you're not even on it private property. But stand by the hundreds on private mall walkways, in wait to storm the gates of Macy's? You're all economic heroes!
But the biggest disconnect of all: Another TV network news segment that, without apparent irony, segued from the huge crowds surrounding American shopping malls to the huge crowds occupying the central square in Cairo, Egypt. The depicted shoppers? Largely emblematic of the American way. Those Egyptian protesters, some of whom who were sent home with broken arms, or after being sexually assaulted by soldiers, or even left for dead? Clearly, they're creating uncertainty and unwisely roiling the financial markets -- just like those pesky, lazy, thuggish, unkempt, socialist, college-communist kids infesting the Occupy movement, or the anti-Walker petitioners in Wisconsin.
Go google "Republican" along with "Arab spring" and see what little good the grand old party has to say about peaceful mass protests, no matter the nation in question.
Few in or outside of the news media seem to have detected the inherent contradictions among these narratives. Within our own borders, Republicans love disruptive tea party events, but hate relatively peaceful Occupiers when the cops are "forced" to bash their heads. And the Repubs seem concerned that the Mideast "Arab spring" protests may actually infect thinking back here at home. Too late, dudes; the barn door's already open, and it's actually the case that the protests here inspired some of Arab spring, and not just the other way around.
I say let's decide once and for all if the constitutional right to freely assemble and speak freely is only for conservatives and authoritarians, here and abroad, or if it's also for the other 99 percent of the population. If not, then we've cheapened our democracy every bit as much as the big box retailers are slashing retail prices to boost their bottom line in a very sad and utterly out of balance economic era.