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'Occupy Wall Street': Drawing the Battle Lines

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occupy wall street new york city police
Police officers look on as activists participate in 'Occupy Wall Street' demonstrations in New York City.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

I was speaking at a conference in Boston yesterday when one of the attendees asked me, "How come the media isn't covering the protests on Wall Street?"

I was about to give a pithy answer about how the press doesn't cover marches unless someone sets a car on fire or someone throws a rock through the window of a Starbucks, when I realized that I myself hadn't even written anything about it.

I don't know a whole lot about Occupy Wall Street, although I'm going to check it out when I return to New York. There are times when one wonders how effective marches are – one of the lessons that the other side learned from the Vietnam era is that you can often ignore even really big protests without consequence – but in this case demonstrations could be very important just in terms of educating people about the fact that there is, in fact, a well-defined conflict out there with two sides to it.

There is a huge number of Americans who simply don't realize that they've been victimized by Wall Street –  that they've paid inflated commodity prices due to irresponsible speculation and manipulation, seen their home values depressed thanks to corruption in the mortgage markets, subsidized banker bonuses with their tax dollars and/or been forced to pay usurious interest rates for consumer credit, among other things.

I would imagine the end game of any movement against Wall Street corruption is going to involve some very elaborate organization. There are going to have to be consumer and investor boycotts, shareholder revolts, criminal prosecutions, new laws passed, and other moves. But a good first step is making people aware of the battle lines. It sounds like these demonstrations have that potential. Anyway, I'm going to check them out tomorrow. In the meantime, I encourage people to check out their site, and investigate for yourselves.

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Matt Taibbi

Matt Taibbi is a contributing editor for Rolling Stone. He’s the author of five books and a winner of the National Magazine Award for commentary. Please direct all media requests to taibbimedia@yahoo.com.

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