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[Editor's note: Click on the gallery arrows above to see photos of the Occupy gatherings in Vancouver and Victoria, taken by Tyee readers unwilling to leave it to Big Media to tell the story.]

The Occupy Wall Street/Occupy Canada protests seem to be occupying, and perhaps unhinging, the minds of media pundits -- at least, those who are mired in the dogma of "free market" fundamentalism.

One recent example from CBC Television came in the form of a personal attack on author Chris Hedges. Hedges, a well-known American writer, had agreed to appear as a guest on the Lang & O'Leary Exchange to discuss the Occupy movement. He was in the process of calmly and lucidly explaining that movement's rationale when interviewer Kevin O'Leary interrupted to dismiss Hedges as "a leftwing nutbar."

O'Leary earned a rap on the knuckles from the CBC ombudsman. But he's still very much on the air.

A second example, also from CBC TV, came from the Oct. 13 edition of The National's "At Issue" panel. Along with two journalists, the panel consists of a senior advisor with a Canadian partner of the global public relations giant Burson-Marsteller, and the economically conservative commentator Andrew Coyne.

Asked whether the rallies currently sweeping the globe could bring about real change in Canada, Coyne could barely contain himself:

"Even in the U.S. where people have far more problems to actually worry about, it's not clear that these people represent anybody other than themselves," he frothed. "There's always a constituency that doesn't like capitalism (or) rich people... They just decided to get together and shout about it some more."

Evidently, Mr. Coyne can't bring himself to read opinion polls showing many middle-class Americans share the demonstrators' worries about growing economic inequality and unemployment. Concern about corporate greed and corruption is certainly not confined to those currently in the streets.

While the Occupiers are not supported by the "99 per cent" their slogans evoke, Time magazine, hardly a bastion of radicalism, reported in its Oct. 24 edition that 54 per cent of Americans have a favourable view of the protests -- compared to only 27 per cent for the right-wing Tea Party. And in Canada last May (had Mr. Coyne forgotten?), 30 per cent of voters elected the NDP as the official Opposition -- a party with progressive policies on a range of issues.

So Coyne's glib dismissal is itself easily dismissed. But the pundits (and some journalists) also make a more plausible point. The protesters, they say, are a motley bunch. They don't have a single message, or specific solutions.

What Occupiers have already achieved

It is true that the movement hasn't answered the question posed by Adbusters, the Vancouver-based magazine that originally inspired the rallies: "What is our one demand?" But that's not surprising. And it's certainly no reason to dismiss the movement.

Social movements have often started out with a shared grievance, not a particular solution. Think of one of the flagships of today's global movements, environmentalism. It ranges from conservationists who want to preserve wilderness, to more politically oriented groups advocating policies to counter global warming, to radicals who see civilization itself as the problem. A smorgasbord of approaches, but united by a concern that the ecosystems on which humans depend are threatened by human activity, and need our conscious protection.

So too with Occupy Canada. The people involved share one belief: that the currently dominant "neo-liberal" or "free market" version of capitalism is not working for the vast majority of people. While it creates wealth for some, it is also the destructive global engine behind massive and growing inequality, the current fiscal and economic crisis, and climate change and environmental collapse.

An economic system that is careening out of democratic control creates so many types of perceived injustices, affecting so many different constituencies, that it is hardly surprising that there is no "one size fits all" solution.

What does rebellion look like?

It's also hard to nurture citizen-based political campaigns in a society that teaches people that rebellion is a matter of buying edgy fashion accessories. That so many people have come out into the streets demanding change -- political change -- is an impressive achievement in and of itself.

That didn't stop certain journalists from complaining that they don't know what Occupy Wall Street is about. Perhaps they don't know how to deal with a movement that doesn't provide glossy handouts, blue-suited leaders ensconced in glassy office towers, and a narrow message box test-marketed in focus groups. Today's generation of activists values participatory and consensus-based processes, more than programmatic statements.

To observers like me, schooled in the movements of the 1960s and '70s, that can be frustrating. I'm told that the first 90 minutes of the Occupy Vancouver rally on Oct. 15 were taken up deciding how to make decisions. But in a networked, "social mediatized" society, maybe that's the way to build the trust and buy-in needed to launch a new and sustainable movement.

Eventually, protest must be turned into policy, if there is to be change in how the world allocates resources. And there is no shortage of ideas about policy alternatives. Adbusters itself has touted a tax on financial transactions (originally proposed by conservative economist James Tobin) to reduce the volatility of global money markets, and to raise funds for international development. Amongst the folks I met at Occupy Vancouver, there would likely be common ground in policies like a more progressive tax system, and public investment to reduce youth unemployment and develop sustainable energy and technology.

The respectful and the glib

To be fair, there has also been respectful coverage by a number of columnists and commentators in the dominant media.

My beef is that the movement was dismissed too quickly and glibly by too many in those media -- and that's particularly unfortunate in the case of CBC Television, which is publicly funded and has a mandate to offer balanced opportunities for the expression of differing views on matters of public concern.

Free market dogmatists have a right to their fair share of air time -- arguably, even more than one per cent!

But maybe one of the demands of the Occupy movement should be this: that media pundits on our public airwaves should better reflect the economic realities and political diversity of our society.

[See more Tyee photo galleries here.]  [Tyee]

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