Days Of Protest Past - looking at the protest movement from the deep-distant past via a radio documentary produced by NBC News' Monthly program Second Sunday broadcast in October 1968.
As the Occupy Wall Street movement spread throughout the country this weekend, I was reminded of how much the nature of protest has stayed the same, but the methodology of Protest has changed in a lot of different ways the last 40+ years.
On the one hand, demonstrations and marches in the 1960's were routinely covered by mainstream media outlets most likely because they made for interesting viewing; those exploding teargas canisters and sounds of screaming made for riveting viewing. But also because, like the Vietnam War, the protest movement of the 1960's was the first of its kind to be televised.
Times have changed in that regard - mainstream media have lost the sense of curiosity to ask why certain things happen, have given up trying to get factual or even relevant information and have come under the influence of those powers who have become the very object of this protest. Rather, they appear to have followed the lead of the Egyptian government in the early days of their Protest and simply blocked it out of regular channels hoping it will go away. Only when the rest of the world and outside media sources took notice was it deemed too embarrassing to ignore that the government-run media in Egypt finally broke down and showed what was going on in Tahrir Square. By then of course, it was too late.
Although some areas of International Media are quick to assess what's going on with our current Occupy Wall Street Movement as something of an American Autumn - it sounds nice and makes for colorful word images, I'm afraid we're a whole ways away from that.
However the nature of Protest, at least this one, has evolved immeasurably since those heady days of 1968. For one thing, there is a conscious effort not to provoke violent confrontation. If you noticed (or could notice, owing to the msm "black out"), the violent confrontations and provocations going on during the protests this past week have been largely brought about by the Police (contrary to the shading and trivialization some outlets have given it). In 1968, protests and marches were marked with the distinct presence of malcontents and chaos merchants bent on forcing a violent outcome and overreaction. And the exploding teargas canisters and screaming made for good ratings. The end result, I think, is that a lot was learned from the mass protest movement in the 60's as to how not to discourage support.
This past week protest organizers have gone out of their way to stress that malcontents and chaos merchants go somewhere else and not join them, as evidenced by a flyer for the Occupy L.A. rally this past weekend ("no alcohol, no weapons, no fireworks"). How long it stays that way is a matter of just how successful this new method of protest will be over the long run. Will there eventually be a tipping point, or will this really become the truly mass protest so many say it will be. Hard to predict. We Americans are a funny bunch in that respect - our motivations and priorities are completely unpredictable.
So in contrast to what's been going the past two weeks is a documentary produced by NBC Radio as part of their Second Sunday series, originally broadcast in October of 1968. Titled "The Young Rebels" it focuses on many aspects of what was happening with society at that time. This was what mainstream media were doing about it.
At least they were trying to some degree, no matter how maladroit they went about doing it.