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Rachel Maddow hit on something in this segment with Glenn Greenwald that dovetails with this excellent Matt Taibbi piece about the Occupy Wall Street movement. It's a message that isn't widely reported in mainstream media reports, and because it isn't reported, it plays nicely into conservative criticisms that this movement is all about class warfare. It isn't. What it is about is justice.
Taibbi writes of a conversation he had with someone at a party the night before:
Oh, Christ, I thought. He’s saying the protesters are hypocrites because they’re using banks. I sighed.
"Listen," I said, "where else are you going to put three hundred thousand dollars? A shopping bag?"
"Well," he said, "it's just, they're protests are all about... You know..."
"Dude," I said. "These people aren't protesting money. They're not protesting banking. They're protesting corruption on Wall Street."
"Whatever," he said, shrugging.
These nutty criticisms of the protests are spreading like cancer. Earlier that same day, I'd taped a TV segment on CNN with Will Cain from the National Review, and we got into an argument on the air. Cain and I agreed about a lot of the problems on Wall Street, but when it came to the protesters, we disagreed on one big thing.
Cain said he believed that the protesters are driven by envy of the rich.
"I find the one thing [the protesters] have in common revolves around the human emotions of envy and entitlement," he said. "What you have is more than what I have, and I'm not happy with my situation."
But this isn't about envy and entitlement. I can understand the misunderstanding in some ways, but it's just not about that. The people out there in Zucotti Park are there because they have to live by different rules than the 1 percent. It's really that simple. If they default on loans, they lose everything. If the 1 percent defaults, they get government bailouts. If they commit crimes, they go to jail. If the 1 percent commits crimes, they aren't even investigated.
Glenn Greenwald points all the way back to Gerald Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon as evidence that there are two justice systems in this country: One for 99 percent and another for the privileged 1 percent.
MADDOW: And that is an important -- that last transition point, that it became not just something -- not just an unpleasantness to be avoided, but it became an active political good to insulate elites from accountability for the good of the institutions that they represent, for the good of the nation's stability, that justified all of the pardons of the Reagan administration officials after Iran Contra. It's what you say - you name a chapter, "Too Big to Jail" as opposed to " too big to fail," coming after our discussion with Eric Schneiderman, New York's attorney general who does not believe in too big to jail. How did it become an active political good to excuse wrongdoing rather than just bad to be avoided?
GREENWALD: Well, keep in mind, there's a big split on this question between media and political elites on the one hand and ordinary Americans on the other. So, as you pointed out, the pardon of Richard Nixon was something that triggered revulsion among the American population. You even listen to it now and you recoil at the idea that this criminal, this clearly fragrantly criminal individual, Richard Nixon, was simply protected by virtue of a status, at the same time that hundreds of thousands of Americans were being prosecuted for trivial offenses. And so, what you see is that there's an elite class that supported that pardon and it continues to say, we cannot have investigations of the Bush torture regime. It was good that Casper Weinberger was pardoned because he's a good man who doesn't belong in prison. And so, you see this elite class whose interest it is to maintain this elite immunity constantly arguing for it, whereas if you look at polls, it's not just the pardon of Nixon that triggers revulsion. At the beginning of the Obama presidency, large numbers, large percentages of American, majorities, wanted investigations into what the Bush torture scheme, whether the eavesdropping program, whether the obstruction of justice were criminal and illegal because inculcated in the American mind is the idea that we are all equal before the law. And it's because we're not you see citizen anger and loss of faith and legitimacy of political institutions.
MADDOW: And the reason we have faith in those institutions is not just because they are institutions and they are stable, but because we want to believe they are just. Now, it's, I think, a transient point and a confrontational point, and I think you make it beautifully, Glenn. So, thank you for writing this book. I think it's a really big deal and I think it's really important.
Rep. Paul Ryan gave a speech today at the Heritage Foundation alleging that President Obama is stirring up these protests by creating class divides, as if there were no reason for people to be angry other than because they listened to what the President said.
Responding to Mr. Obama’s comment that the Republican job plan is “let’s have dirtier air, dirtier water, and less people with health insurance,” Mr. Ryan said, “Can you think of a pettier way to describe sincere disagreements between the two parties on regulation and health care?”
Mr. Ryan, speaking at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said Mr. Obama is engaged in the cheap point-scoring he’d pledged to transcend.
“Instead of working together where we agree, the president has opted for divisive rhetoric and the broken politics of the past,” Mr. Ryan said. “He is going from town to town impugning the motives of Republicans, setting up straw men and scapegoats, and engaging in intellectually lazy arguments as he tries to build support for punitive tax hikes on job creators.”
WorkingAmerica.org's response echoes Taibbi and Greenwald:
Where has Ryan been when it comes to reining in the big banks and the dodgy practices that caused the financial crisis? Where has he been when here’s a chance to put people to work on infrastructure projects? Where has he been when it’s time to help keep people in their homes or make it easier to pay for college? Where has he been when it comes to protecting working people from abuses by insurance companies, banks or their bosses? The same place he’s always stood: on the other side.
Give politicians like Ryan a tiny bit of sympathy: they’re trying to defend the same policies aimed at the top 1% that they always have at the very moment that a broad movement is emerging asking for politics and the economy to work for the other 99% as well.
It is and will continue to be about justice and fairness. All but 1 percent of us are tired of seeing these bankaneers dismantle everything in this country but their own profits. Will the media pick up on that theme? It seems doubtful.