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Independent Media Stalwarts Katrina vanden Heuvel & Danny Schechter Speak Out at Occupy Wall Street

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“The moral clarity of this movement is what I think has moved people to get up and walk and be in motion,” says Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation magazine. “And what’s so interesting to me is—I was here last Wednesday for the march to Foley Square—that so many groups, which have been trying to get some energy, are finding the spark in here and coming together.” [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: I think I see Danny Schechter in the crowd, with a major poster he’s got there and a T-shirt that says, “We love TV.” This is Danny Schechter, the News Dissector. The corporate media has been very quick to ridicule, to mock, to show the face of the clown, to tear apart what people are saying, or more importantly, to say there’s no message. What do you think is the message here?

DANNY SCHECHTER: Well, first of all, the initial reaction: ignore it, you know, basically, and it will go away. Then, after the police arrested people, suddenly they determined there was a story and began covering it, first by ridiculing people. But now, more reluctantly, you find the New York Times and others writing editorials supporting what’s happening here, editorial writers saying, you know, they’re impressed by the sincerity of the people here. So the media attitude has changed.

Now, Fox has been, you know, beating up on these people. And there’s a good reason for it: they realize it’s effective. I don’t think they would go into attack mode the way they have if they thought this was something that could be ignored. And so, obviously, the longer this goes on, the more people who turn up, the more people support them, the more interest there is in the issue.

AMY GOODMAN: But it’s not only Fox, of course.

DANNY SCHECHTER: No, of course not. But I’m saying, what’s—

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, wouldn’t it be accurate to say that the media depicts the spectrum between the Democratic and Republican parties? There, they’re willing to go, if there is a debate there, like the presidential campaigns. That’s the debate for them. Where do the Democrats and Republicans stand on this? Would you say closer together or farther apart?

DANNY SCHECHTER: No, I think they’re kind of united in being horrified by it. OK? The Republican Party—you know, Cantor called these people “a mob,” you know, and denounced them, blamed it all on Obama, of course. If there’s bad weather, he blames that on Obama. It doesn’t seem to matter what it is. But the Republicans are also, you know, clearly having their own problems. They can’t agree on a candidate. You know, they’re losing public support in the Congress. You know, so they don’t know which way to turn, either.

The Democrats have sort of tried to bless this, but not get too close to it. And the remarks we’ve seen, you know, by the various people in the White House are really concealed contempt, I would call it. You know? “Oh, it’s wonderful. It’s wonderful. But, you know, don’t ask me anything substantive about it.”

I think what we have here, an independent spirit, people who don’t want to be involved in partisan squabbling, who don’t want to propose things, because they feel that to propose things recognizes the validity of the system, and they don’t feel the system really can solve anything, so they don’t do it. And I think that’s a smart move, because what they’re trying to do right now is to build numbers and to build influence. And they’re doing that. You know, this thing is spreading across the country and across the world, and it’s very exciting.

AMY GOODMAN: Danny Schechter, the News Dissector. There’s a march that just formed. They’re going by, looks like they’re headed down to Wall Street. And we’re joined by Katrina vanden Heuvel. She is the publisher of The Nation magazine. It’s great to have you—well, to see you here.

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: Democracy now! I mean, no, this is an—I mean, intensely democratic. And I find it so powerful, because I think, Amy, you and I, I mean, politics, in the broader sense, is a moral—is a moral issue. And the moral clarity of this movement is what I think has moved people to get up and walk and be in motion. And what’s so interesting to me is—I was here last Wednesday for the march to Foley Square—that so many groups, which have been trying to get some energy, are finding the spark in here and coming together. And I think this movement is strong enough to stand tall for its issues. But the broader building across the country and with different groups, that have been working hard for years, is very exciting.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you traverse two worlds. You’re in the independent media, and also you’re often invited into the corporate media, into the networks. What do you think of their coverage of what’s going on here?

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: Good question. I think, first of all, corporate media has a very hard time covering movements, unless it’s the Tea Party, covering direct, democratic action. At first—you know this—the beginning of coverage in the corporate mainstream media was very contemptuous, was kind of snarky. But it has moved in many places. It has—the New York Times editorial yesterday was respectful. And there was—people can’t avoid the voice they’re hearing from here, Occupy Wall Street, and from Occupy encampments around the country. There will be a backlash. We’re already hearing people talk of mobs. But right now—

AMY GOODMAN: Talk of…?

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: Mobs, mobs, mobs. I mean, this is democracy in action. There will be a backlash. But I think the important thing is that it’s spreading, the idea of the 99ers, the 99 percent. And this idea that this is class warfare isn’t even making it into the corporate media as quickly as it used to. The independent media—I think you’ve been extraordinary. And I think the independent media, as you know, Amy, has—understands that politics in this country, in the corporate mainstream, has never done a service to people. It’s never shown the real diversity of views and voices and people in this country, and we’ve had a downsized debate. And now that debate can open up, and this voice, these people are now part of it. They are no longer the voiceless. And—

AMY GOODMAN: And what do you think this means for President Obama and the Democrats?

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: Well, I think already you see, even inside D.C., so disconnected from the real economy, you see the beginning of people, I think, who are—there are decent people. Bernie Sanders has endorsed, and Dennis Kucinich, the Progressive Caucus. Nancy Pelosi has endorsed. And President Obama was forced to say the protesters have a point.

What does it mean? I don’t know, because I don’t see here electoral energy. I do believe—and maybe I’m retro—that there needs to be, not from Occupy, but from the spark it lights around this country, some electoral energy to push in the reform direction, as we build for more radical, systemic change.

But I don’t—for President Obama, you know what it shows? It shows that he’s behind the curve. He’s lost the momentum. He’s not a leader. However, it also shows one thing you know well. In our history, what has led to transformational change, whether it was the New Deal, it was labor or militant labor, it was the civil rights movement with Johnson. And it will take this kind of movement to move—could move a president. But all great change in this country has come from women’s movements, gay rights movements, environmental movements.

And we’ve seen a lot more. I don’t know. Were you arrested in Washington at the pipeline, the Keystone pipeline? That, too, got shamefully little media coverage in the mainstream. Think of the shift in just a few weeks. Shamefully. Can you imagine if a thousand Tea Partiers had handcuffed themselves to the White House? So this is moving that, too.

AMY GOODMAN: And the critique that there’s no one message?

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: There are a statement of principles, which are powerful in their moral clarity. Let others make demands. But out of here, there’s a message: we want a different world. We want a world in which there is fairness and justice and economic justice. We’ve seen many groups—Amy, you know this—which have of a litany of policy demands. Demands mean assume that the system will respond. What is important now is a message of principle, an ethical reset of our politics. And I think that this speaks to that. And may it light a spark and let others, who have toiled long and hard, fighting foreclosure evictions, fighting for economic justice, which do have those demands—let it illuminate their work. But let this movement have its moral clarity and principled stance.

AMY GOODMAN: Katrina vanden Heuvel, publisher of The Nation magazine.

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: Thank you, Amy. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Thank you so much.

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