Last year I used my time-travel capability to describe what to look for in the Occupy Wall Street movement, how the media will cover it, how opponents will try to destroy it, with suggestions on how to change the narrative by understanding the media. I’ll do it again this year. So, back to the future, today!
97.3 percent of the time the media are as predictable as Borgovian Land worms*. They are attracted to movement or noise. Like mina birds and toddlers they like shiny objects. Like Klingons they like a fight and conflict. They look for novelty because they are bored. And of course TV media love action – bonus coverage for blood! “Holy crap, the cops are throwing flash bang grenades? Scramble the Action News van, we’ve got our lead story!”
Occupy Wall Street is coming up on an anniversary and the media LOVE anniversaries, they can revisit the action with ‘perspective’ which is often a rehash of their conventional wisdom. Here are some of stories you will see, and not see.
Overarching Story Line: “What has Occupy Wall Street accomplished?”
On one hand this seems a natural story line, but the problem is that the MSM looks at accomplishments only through certain narrow lenses. Advertisers and marketing people have drummed into their thin skins and thick heads to only look at certain metrics by category such as:
Numbers and dollars: If you are selling a product they want to know how many cap snafflers were sold. What is the profit per cap snaffler?The media will pick the metrics that they think are important or have been told is important.
Expect stories about how much the Oakland Occupy cost the city in police overtime and clean up.
The media will contact the police and city public information people because they are easy to reach. What they won’t be doing is calling them liars when they exaggerate numbers because they will need to talk to them again in the future. They don’t know if they will ever talk to Ketchup again.
They won’t be covering how much the financial sector’s illegal activities have cost the city in revenue. For example, how much more money would the city have if the LIBOR scandal didn’t hurt them? How much did the foreclosure misdealings cost the city in revenue? Did they back the state’s Attorney General in cases against banks? How much did the city lose in revenue compared to what the states got back for them?
Who is impacted? Say you are a TV show like Leverage, it’s good to have lots of people watching but it’s better to have the “right kind” of people tuned in. Expect the media to categorize the Occupy attendees as “real Americans” with jobs vs. hippies in a drum circle.
They won’t be explaining how the Wall Street financial crisis impacted employment. I was asked by one reporter. “How many of the Occupy people are unemployed?” The MSM has this idea that “real Americans” with jobs protesting trumps students or unemployed. You don’t become less of an American when you lose your job. Unemployment driven by the financial lawbreaking and misdealing of Wall Street is an essential part of the protest. How lucky for the protestors that economic destruction has lead to having “free time” to protest!
Did your Candidate Win? If you are categorized as a political movement the only question that matters to some of them is: “How does this help Candidate X or Candidate Y?” They will want to compare the movement to the Tea Party. Expect, “Where are all the Occupy Wall Street candidates?” stories.
They won’t be pointing out that being an “Occupy” candidate would be a financial kiss of death for either party. For both Democrats and Republican candidates getting corporate money is job one. Why is it that a “tea party” candidate wouldn’t conflict with taking truckloads of money from Wall Street? Remember, the Tea Party complained about the bank bail outs. Would any reporter ask a tea party candidate, “The tea party members hated the bank bail out, why did you take money from banks?” But of course the tea party candidates aren’t really committed enough to the cause to not take bank money, a Occupy candidate would never be able to take bank or Wall Street money.
Messaging success. Hey, did you hear a Cupertino firm announced a new product last week!? If you have, then the PR people have done part one of their job. Ever wonder how much that cost? Or how many people make that happen? I’ve helped hundreds of people get out the message for their new products, service or company, and I know just how much they spend to get the right message out there. I know that a bad spokesperson can send the wrong message and hurt their brand. So smart companies train their spokespeople to deliver a great message and story. They also prepare them so they don’t put their foot in their mouth.
Expect the media to compare professionally trained and highly paid spokespeople and messaging experts to “random protesters they can collar on the street.”
What you won’t see is the media interviewing random Wall Street employees and asking them about their role in the 2008 financial crisis.
Corporations are a command and control hierarchy. They can and do tell all employees. “Don’t talk to the press about anything. Refer all press to the official spokespeople.” When the media ask a random person in the Occupy movement a question they don’t say, “Let me get you to a someone who can best answer your question. Who the media go to is the luck of the draw. Will they give a pithy sound bite or a goofy answer? And as Fox News has shown, when you DO get an articulate spokesperson you just don’t run his segment. It’s a bit like Jay Leno’s “Jay Walking” they look for the person who looks the part and who wants to talk. If they don’t get what they want they go to another.
Also, you think reporters are deferential to politicians? Imagine a reporter grilling a major advertiser like Citigroup about their role in the financial crisis during Occupy last year. First, the trained CEOs would run circles around most reporters, second if they ever got that far it’s not like they are under oath or anything. And the financial press who are supposed to know this stuff? Don’t make this Vulcan laugh.
Who Won? Who Lost? If you are a prosecutor the question is, have you sent any bad guys to jail? If you are the defense, did you keep your people out of jail? “If the suit fits you must acquit!” The media love to pick winners and losers based on their own metrics. If they decide that one metric for Occupy Wall Street is financial executives who are going to jail, well Occupy just lost. But of course it’s not really Occupy’s job to prosecute corporate executives. It is also not Occupy’s job to act as investigative journalists and bring wrong doings to light. Yet those will be metrics they will be judged on.
What you won’t see is the media talking to prosecutors and asking them, “Why haven’t you sent any bad guys to jail?”Are you at all embarrassed that you were outsmarted by corporations? Could you talk about how many people you have working in your financial crimes unit? How many lawyers are they usually up against? How many people who worked for the SEC or other regulators now work for the companies that they “regulated.” And finally, “Did the Occupy movement help or hurt you in your desire to go after people with financial crimes?”
The media will treat Occupy like a political movement that has failed because it is not a funder of candidates for office, a successful criminal prosecutor, an investigative journalist and a professional messaging machine. They will compare Occupy to the Tea Party in areas where they were successful but not to the areas they failed. They will gloss over and take for granted the messages and ideas they brought to light internationally such as the problem with income inequality and the 1% ripping off the 99%.
The movement has brought people’s attention to the issue without a 100 million dollar ad budget and PR machine, but the media has also assigned to the movement the role of prosecutors, anti-corporate candidate promoters and investigative journalists. Why? Because the people whose job it is to do these things weren’t doing it.
If you are out there at an Occupy protest and you get approached by the media you might want to ask the media person some questions of your own based on some of these suggestions. If you aren’t at a protest look out for *Borgovian Land worms, they are very dangerous, financial executives should never run across their hunting ground — but they never listen to me so at least I’ve done my duty to protect all life, no matter how abhorrent.