As the protests continue to grow, the media is increasingly taking notice. Yet many of these media outlets are insisting on referring to the protests as “anti-capitalist.” Here are just a few examples:
— The Washington Post: The leading paper wrote today that “New York’s budding anti-capitalism protest movement began last month with a vague sense of grievance over the widening gap between the rich and poor in America.” [10/3/11]
— Fox News: “Anti-Capitalist Protests Spread Across America” [10/3/11]
— The New York Daily News: In a photo slideshow published last week, the paper referred to the demonstrators as “anti-capitalist protesters” who were targeting “corporate greed.” [9/30/11]
— Mediaite: Mediaite referred to the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations as “vaguely left-wing, anti-capitalist protesters.” [10/01/11]
This morning, Rep. Allen West (R-FL) advanced this meme. During an appearance on C-SPAN, West was asked about the protests. The congressman responded that it was wrong for the protesters to be saying they “hate capitalism” and that the United States would be “lost” without faith in the free market. Watch it:
There are indeed some anti-capitalist protesters among the people at Occupy Wall Street, just as there are protesters who are against the death penalty, or want to combat climate change, or any number of other causes, which is the norm at most mass protests. Some of the protesters are even supporters of the ultra-capitalist Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX).
But the actual organizing principle of the demonstrations is to speak with moral clarity of the economic inequality of our current system. The purpose is not to attack capitalism but rather an industry whose wealth was guarded to the hilt by government intervention — backed up by trillons of dollars of taxpayer money through programs like the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and near-zero interest Federal Reserve lending — a form of government intervention that the banking industry received but millions of foreclosed on homeowners and debt-laden students did not get.
During a teach-in at Zucotti Park, the site of the occupation, Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz explained that what Wall Street is practicing is “not capitalism.” “We are bearing the costs of their [bankers’] misdeeds,” he said. “There’s a system where we socialize losses and privatize gains. That’s not capitalism. That’s not a market economy. That’s a distorted economy, and if we continue with that, we won’t succeed in growing.” Watch the video of Stiglitz’s teach-in:
One of the popular viral offshoots of the Occupy Wall Street movement has been the slogan “We Are The 99 Percent” — referring to an economic struggle between 99 percent of Americans and the super-rich 1 percent. Hundreds of Americans have contributed to the We Are The 99 Percent Tumblr. These Americans aren’t Marxist radicals nor are they anti-capitalist ideologues. They, like most Americans, are angry about being squeezed by an unjust economy wrecked in part by Wall Street’s misdeeds.