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The Occupy Wall Street Movement is a now well recognized protest movement that began back in September 2011 in New York City’s Wall Street financial district. The Occupy protesters' slogan "We are the 99%" refers to the protester's perceptions of income disparity in the US and economic inequality in general. The main issues raised by Occupy Wall Street were social and economic inequality (as it had risen to the levels not seen since the Great Depression), greed, corruption and the perceived undue influence of corporations on government—particularly from the financial services sector. But what is the true mechanism between the government and the financial services sector that infuriated so many American citizens all at once? In this documentary we scrutinize the entangled relationship between US politics, the media and corporations which is shaping the life of the 99%. Stay with us to find out how corporate bodies buy and pay for the government leaving the 99% to suffer the dire consequences.

TIME CODE: 00:00 _ 05:00

Kusha :

Mohamed Bouazizi immolated himself in Tunisia on December 17t 2010. What followed were a series of galvanizing protest movements in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria. It was dubbed the “Arab Spring.”. On September 17th, 2011, another protests movement came to life in New York: It became known, as the Occupy Wall Street movement. While the Arab Spring forced massive and fundamental changes across the Middle East, the occupy wall street had fizzled away just as mysteriously as it had assembled . But what is it about the American political system that remained fundamentally unaffected by the OCCupy Wall street movement.

Kusha:

What is interesting is that unlike in Egypt, Tunisia, or Syria, where protest movements were directed against the state and state leaders, the protest movement that came to life in 2010 in America was directed against Wall Street, and not the political system. But why Wall Street? What does Wall Street have besides money? Do we really know how money impacts our political landscape?

Robert:

Today to be a successful or even an unsuccessful politician, running for office at almost any level, but especially the higher one goes means that you are basically spending most of your waking hours trying to raise money.

Kusha :

Professor McChesney is one of the most prominent scholars working on the political economy of media. He caught our attention through his most recent scholarship, which deals with how money is interwoven with politics in America.

Robert:

Even before any voters cast a vote in a race, even before most people even know who the candidates are, whoever that’s raised the most money is often seen by the news media is the favorite, and whoever hasn’t raised lots of money for whatever reason isn’t seen as a serious candidate. So the amount of money you raise determines whether you are taken seriously as a candidate. And there is a pretty strong record that the candidates that raise the most money have a decided advantage over those that can’t even though they might be popular otherwise. Mitt Romney won the presidential nomination for 2012 republican party not because he was especially popular among republican voters, I think it was clear that he was not an especially liked guy among republicans. But he had a huge bank-roll so the republicans held their noses and said well maybe this guy can win because he has at least got serious coin, he has the bank to go in and buy the election.

Robert:

The 2012 is called the 10 billion dollar election. The reason for this is because conservatively that is how much was spent on campaigns in 2012, by the calculations that John Nickelson and I did for “dollacracy.” This is compared to rough 5 billion dollars spent 4 years ago, so its double that. And it is probably about 10 times what was spent just 20, 25 years ago even factoring in inflation, so the spent is rising astronomically. And in our book, in our research …

Robert:

the question of how funds campaigns, is front and center.

Robert:

All you need to know about money and campaigns is simply this, the way that president Obama and Mitt Romney and candidates raise money is not by holding massive events in football stadiums and charging 5 dollars to get in….

TIME CODE : 05:02 _ 10:00

Robert:

…., or 10 dollars to get in, having 80 thousand people with each give 5 dollars and drawing in working class or poor people to contribute. They have it by going to the upper side of Manhattan, or Bell Air or Silicon Valley or San Francisco or Seattle, and have 20 or 50 people show up and drop a half-million each. What are you going to do, are you going to have 50 people drop a half-million each or you are going to go talk to 10 thousand people who are going to give 10 dollars each. Do the math, which one is easier to organize, which is going to come through. But it also tells you everything you need to know about American politics.

Kusha :

A study conducted by the Federal Election Commission on the 2008 election, showed that Obama’s campaigned had in fact NOT been bankrolled by small online donations, as previously claimed. From a half a billion raised just online by Obama, only 24 percent came from those that gave 200 dollars or less. That is to say, 75 percent of the half a billion he raised online, came from big business. The question, however, is how businesses decide which party to suppor? On what basis, for instance, does a prominent business man like Rubert Murdock, decide which party to give money to?

Castells:

As a matter of fact in America his tactic is to provide money to the democrats and ideology and propaganda to the republicans.

-This is Professor Manuel Castells. He is the world’s most sited communications scholar. He has written over 22 books that have been translated into 30 languages, and he currently teaches at the University of Southern California. What is unique about Castells’ perspective, is that he shows how the information revolution is facilitating the massive transformation of our material cultural. More specifically, he looks at how the information revolution has changed business and politics in America.

Castells:

Fox News is a network that is clearly completely Republican, completely conservative, and that is a business strategy to corner 25 percent of the American audience which is conservative, and all the others must share the remaining 75 percent. which makes Fox News extremely influential. But at the same time, to take into the consideration the possibility that democrats may also win, then Murdoch has to open up some of his media to them and support certain candidates of the democrats.

Amelia:

If you look at the history of the News Corporation’s support for different candidates across the ideological spectrum, I think that the fact that they lunched Fox News which is the most conservative news channel in the U.S., has eclipsed some of the realities behind the scenes.

Kusha :

Dr. Amelia Arsenault is a former student of Professor Manuel Castells. She teaches communication at Georgia State University.

Amelia:

I think that there is a broad conception that Rupert Murdoch and the News Corporation are conservative and that they only contribute to conservative causes, wherever it be in the world. But if you look at it, it is much more calculated than that. So in 2000 under the election of George W. Bush, Murdoch’s contribution was much higher to the Republicans, but if you look at 2006 and 2008, they were much higher toward Democrats. Murdoch himself gave money to Hillary Clinton’s campaign for senate in 2006, and then for the presidency in 2007. Murdoch’s son James, has given a lot of money to the democratic party.

Robert:

The question is often asked, who are some of the people that give to both republicans and democrats, and the answer is most everyone. There are a handful of stridently partisan pro-corporate interest people, who might only go with one side or the other. Usually republicans, republican party prides itself of being the champion of corporate power no matter what, but the democrats should hardly be seen as any adversary to them, they have done their share, especially since the 1970, becoming if not the most popular pro-corporate party in the world, the second most popular pro-corporate party in the world. And they get their share of corporate money as well.

TIME CODE: 10:45 -15:00

Amelia:

Every year news corporate does a corporate retreat where they invite illustrious political figures. One year they would have Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, George Bush, and a number of people down the chain, and there is no ideological bent to those people.

Robert:

It is Big money that runs the table. Here is an example of how that works. The last presidential race, the first presidential debate between Mitt Romney and Barak Obama, got everyone’s attention, Obama was ahead in the polls and looked like he was going to cruise through the election. Romney was floundering, he was in a desperate situation, coming off have the revelation that he had just classified half of the American people as welfare bums. And in that first debate, Obama was horrible, he was asleep, it was a horrible performance, even democratic apologist admitted that, you know, he didn’t really do a very good job. And suddenly in the polls Romney made up a lot of ground. Well we now know that one of the reasons, why Obama’s performance was so lackluster in that debate was because in the three days prior to the debate, he was doing unlimited fundraising with 50 thousand dollar donors, raising a lot of money. So instead of preparing for the debate, he was raising money, and that is the new era of politics. All money raising, all the time.

Robert:

And if you are going to be looking for money, you are probably going to do what the great bank rubber Willy Sutton said. They asked him why do you Rob banks, he said that is where the money is.

Kusha :

Its interesting that most businesses and prominent business persons like Rupert Murdoch give as much to democrats as they do to republicans. Its interesting because we have this idea that businesses are in fierce competition, without taking to account that they can also act as cohesive networks, bankrolling the whole of the American political system. But how did these economic and business networks come about, how do they operate, and how they leverage their money to impact both republicans and democrats?

Castells:

in the 1970 networking became the predominant form of organization for multinational corporations.

Amelia:

First you had decades of unprecedented growth following WWII, and that really begins to stall in the 1970. So doubt is casted over the traditional fordist models of production, and Keynesian economic theories.

Castells:

and one way to overcome it was globalization. Another way was to make the whole business model, leaner, more flexible, and more agile. And to organize it in such way that you needed fewer resources for greater productivity. And because exactly in the 1970s there is an explosion of micro-electronic communication technologies that were critical for fast and large networking, then multi-national corporations were the first ones to use these technologies to become internally networked, externally networked with others, and to organize in global networks.

Kusha:

As Castells argues, firms need information for their daily operations, and information travels through networks between companies and within companies.

TIME CODE: 15:00 _ 20:00

Kusha:

To take full advantage of the flexibility of networking, companies organized themselves into networks as well.

Amelia:

if you look at the dominant internet and media companies there is a dense web of interconnections between them. I think that if traditionally, you are examining these sort of companies, you might be tempted to just look at whose wining. But if you at the actual number of partnerships, temporary agreements, and investments, you’ll see that while they might be competing at times, like NBC against ABC, but their parent companies are collaborating on a completely different venture.

Kusha :

Networking between firms has allowed for media ownership to become increasingly concentrated. This takes place through partnerships, cross-investments, and sharing personnel. Sumner Redstone’s National Amusements company, for instance, has an 80% stake in both Viacom and CBS

Kusha : To get favorable deals, the media giants need these partnerships and cross-investments. Not only do these large media organizations own more properties than ever before, their content is delivered through an increasing number platforms, most of which they also own. Let’s look at distribution platforms that are owned by the top five media firms, Time Warner, News Corp, Disney, Viacom, and NBC:

Amelia:

You look at the board of directors of any major media corporation, and they are stacked with people from private equity groups, from venture capital firms, from some of the biggest names in advertising. Like Estate Lottor a huage make up company, Proctor and Gamble some of the biggest makers of consumer products,, but you are also going to see Al Gore, the former President of Spain on the board of News Corporation, the former secretary of Labor under George Bush on the board of news corporation. So they are leveraging those connections all the time.

Kusha :

In fact, the very success of these media corporations depends on their ability to use their connections with other critical networks in finance, in technology, and in cultural industries. To do this, these three networks must share key management with each other. Let’s look at the executives and managers that the top five media firms share with financial, technology, and creative industry firms:

TIME CODE: 20:00 _ 25:00

Kusha :

Now we have already seen the interconnections between various media, financial, and creative industries. But to better understand how this network of networks is formed, it would be worth to also look at a number non-media organizations and persons that have significant stakes in these five large media corporations.

Kusha:

So now we now that a network of networks of the rich has formed in a way never seen before. And that this concentration of wealth was made possible by the networking of companies, itself made possible by the information revolution. We also know that this network of networks doesn’t discriminate between republicans and democrats when it comes to contributing money. This is because the interest of the network as a whole supersedes the interest of any individual within that network. So even if a particular person or a company prefers a republican over a democratic presidential candidate, the persons that receive the largest contribution in order to be taken seriously, are candidates that are not, at the minimum, detrimental to the interest of the network as a whole. But there is still one question that remains. Why do presidential candidates need this much money in order to be taken seriously? How does money translate into votes?

Robert:

most of the money in campaigns goes to TV advertising. Approximately 6 billion of the 10 billion dollars spent in the 2012 election cycle was paid for television advertising. So it is an enormous amount of money and it costs a lot of money to run these adds.

Kusha (over footage):

In fact, in 2012, and in March alone, Obama and Romney spent 119 million on television adds in florida, 113 million in Ohio, 83 million in Virgina, 57 million in North Carolina, 55 million in Colorodo, and 47 million in Iowa. As Obama’s Campaign Manager, David Alexrode noted back in 2008, Media is the Nuclear weapon of campaigning. But why is media so important to politicians?

TIME CODE: 25:00 _ 30:00

Castells:

well you see throughout history power has been exercised through two main mechanisms, one is coercion the other is persuasion. Coercion is I force you to do what I want by force and intimidation. So what Max Webber and Machiavelli say. But there is another form of persuasion that is more related to Gramsi in terms of theory, and that is that I contribute to the shaping of your mind, and the shaping of your mind depends on me modifying your communication environment. Communication simply means, making meaning through the exchange of information. So the way we think is made up of the process of information where we are imbedded. And therefore the new forms of communication shape the new forms of power making through the shaping of the mind.

Robert:

We see this in all the research on political advertising. People look at the flood of advertising during elections and say who could believe all these idiotic negative adds. I don’t believe them, I don’t know anyone that does, they must be a total waste of money. Then the logical questions is how stupid are these people who are spending 6 billion dollars on something that doesn’t work. But what the research shows that is that they do work. The biggest difference between an election and a commercial market place, is that in the commercial market place if you get 40 percent of the market and you are Pepsi, and coke has the rest of the market share, you are still one of the most profitable companies in the world. But its not like that in politics. if you get 49 percent of the vote, and your opponent gets 51 percent, you are out of business. So the key thing for you is to get to 50.01 percent in a two party system. so if you just turn up enough votes, to that margin, then it pays off big time to do all those adds. And that is why it makes sense to run those advertising. And the research shows that they have done focus groups, and what they ask is what is going to effect you to vote, and voters will always say you know I hate these negative adds. It will not have an impact on me. And they will interview the same people and ask who they voted for, and ask why they didn’t vote for the other guy, and they repeat exactly the talking points they heard on the adds. Oh I don’t like this guy, he doesn’t like children. Or that guy is soft on crime. You know so just verbatim what they heard in the adds.

Castells:

The way this is achieved is by planting some ideas or images in the minds of the people, and offering what people would receive. Now the most important function of media in that sense, is the absence or presence of content in the collective mind of the people. Lets say a political candidate does not appear on television does not exist. So it is a dual system. existence or non-existence. If you want to do anything now days, you have to be in the presence of media. Otherwise you and I may now something about someone but the large majority of the population doesn’t know. So the mainstream of the population, media are the main conveyers of messages.

Kusha:

In order for politicians then to spread their message and achieve their objectives, they have no choice but to go through media. Politics transforms into media politics as a result and American politicians view media not as the power-holders...but as power-making spaces. countless political warlords and their armies of media advisers, consultants, and spin-doctors seek passage through various media spaces across the world. And the way they present politics is in the language of “infotainment”. That is, part information, and part entertainment.

Castells:

information through the media is shaped in terms of entertainment. It is aimed at having a light content.

Robert:

The coverage is who is ahead of the polls, who is behind, how effective is the campaign. There very little about who funds these campaigns, what are the real issues at stake, what are the genuine differences between candidates, something that will affect what they do once they are in office and voters might actually want to know about.

Castells:

who is going to win, and how many score points, which are the chances of every candidate, what is the latest poll.

Robert:

Instead you hear what the latest spin is, or whether the propaganda is effectively deceiving people or not. And journalists more often than not, if spin works you congratulate them, and if their spin fails, you chastise them. But the fact that it is spin is irrelevant.

Castells:

it is not about the substance, not about the content, not about the context, it is fundamentally about who is going to win. And that is horse race.

Kusha:

So with the exception of a small segment of elite media that caters to a minority of Americans, politics for everyone else is presented as both a laughing matter and human drama. A consequence of this condition is that while people go to the polls every four years in the U.S., substantive political discussions are generally absent from everyday life.

TIME CODE: 30:00 _ 35:00

Why is politics presented as infotainment? Is it something about being American that pushes politicians to speak in terms of infotainment, or does it have to do with the nature of American Politics?....

Robert:

Why did the democrats in 1984 abandon this one road map to possibility wining power. Walter Mondale was ruining against Ronald Reagan who was running for re-election. And in the polls Reagan was up and Mondale didn’t really have a chance. The economy was recovering, Reagan was getting all the credit. They had won a war in Grenada. You take your victories at that point. He looked unbeatable. And Mondale commissioned a study to find out what they could do to win the election six months out to the election. And what they discovered was that there is only one way you can win this election. You would have to do aggressive voter registration, union workers, poor workers, and especially African American and Latino voters, people who disproportionately do not vote in elections. And if you can get the voter participation rate from 50 percent to 60 to 65 percent you have a very good chance of wining the election. You get people that don’t normally vote, but to do that you have to offer them something different, because they aren’t coming out now. Issues that will benefit their lives. That is the only hope of wining. And the Mondel Campaign studied that, and said nope, that is not what we are going to do. We rather fight for the 50 percent that do vote, who are disproportionately rich, than bring all these other people in. and I think the reason is clear, in 1984 they knew that if they brought in others, they would be cutting off the money supply. And that in conventional American politics is your death now. But that spoke volumes, about their commitment that they went that rout in 1984. By the time Bill Clinton came they would never even commission that study.

Kusha:

It is important to undrestand that what Walter Mandale did was extreemly logical. In order for him to get voter participation rate up to about 65 percent, he would have had to discuss an issue like, say, the nationalization of banks. But that would have meant cutting off his money supply which comes from people that do not have an interest in the nationalization of banks. Now if you don’t have money, you can’t go to the media, and if you can’t go to the media, you can’t get your message of nationalizing banks very far. So what do you do instead, you try to get 50.01 percent of votes, by creating as much excitement as possible, through dram, through humor, through horse race, through infotainment.

On every important issue, the working class people, middle class people, the great bulk of the population have no influence on policy whatsoever, it is purely determined by the wealthiest people most afloat people and debates within them over how it should be done, mostly in a way that benefits them.

TIME CODE: 36:56 _40:00

Castells:

What we have observed over the last few decades is that the force of institutional democracy are very limited in terms of the representation of diverse interest. They are concentrated in one mechanism which is electoral politics, which is controlled by the media, which means controlled by big businesses and corporations, which therefore, allows only a limited range of options to have all the resources to compete for politics.

Robert:

The one sort of consolation we have had, is that well we are still free. In America you can say whatever you want, you can die your hair, you can run around with a tattoo on your butt, you are free. You aren’t free anywhere else like you are in America. And I think what we are learning now in America, the really hard message that is just now starting to sink in, is that in a country where democracy really no longer exist, those freedom’s we love so much suddenly are on very weak ground. Then your ability to say what you want only exist to the extent that you are saying something very trivial. For example, Kim Kardashians butt, but when you talk about something important, like how the economy should work, or foreign policy, suddenly you find that you liberties don’t exist anymore.

Castells:

Every four years, there are basically two options, that share some basic parameters of the system, like I said before, you don’t touch the banks. You put both in a political market, which is data base, targeted, organized in messages in ways that is fake, in order to obtain support for the vote, once of the vote, is finished everything remains into the hands of the political class, within corridors of power, and there is no participation of citizens at large. At that point citizens, can only demonstrate, then demonstrations can either be ignored or repressed by the police. And then the system reproduces itself

TIME CODE: 40:20 _ 48:19

Robert:

In all of my work the question of whether internet and digital revolution will solve our problem, and the question is always based on a very self evident point. the internet is revolutionizing many instituions, and the world we are living in today is unrecognizable from 20 years ago. And these technologies have had a large impact. So on its face you are saying that this has to be a sort of positive change. And that arguments appeals to Americans; they love nothing more than a technology solving all their problems. “boy isn’t that sweet here is a technology that is going to solve our problems and I can just go get loaded now.” It doesn’t work that way, the research shows in my book digital discontent, that capitalism has influenced the internet far more than internet has influenced our society.

Castells:

Well see, for the moment what is happening in the world is that using the new communication networks people are broadening their sphere of communication. And they are able to introduce masseges that you rearly see in the corporate world. For instance, in the US and OWS, the notion of the 99 percent being under the economic occupation of the 1 percent. after the OWS people started to talk about this. now everyone in the US understands that there is inequality, all these issues had been brought up by groups that started in the internet, and then the mass media picked it up.

Kusha:

I would agree with professor McChesney that digital media and the internet are not going to solve anything on their own, but I also agree with professor Castells that the internet allows people to break through the orthodoxy of media, forming a more inclusive democratic system in the process. However, there must also be at least another condition of possibility, alternative to the present system. This is in fact the point Zizak tried to make during occupy wall street in New York in 2011. In doing so, he told an interesting story. A guy was sent from East Germany to work in Siberia. He knew his mail would be read by censors, so he told his friends: “Let’s establish a code. If a letter you get from me is written in blue ink, it is true what I say. If it is written in red ink, it is false.” After a month, his friends get the first letter. Everything is in blue. It says, this letter: “Everything is wonderful here. Stores are full of good food. Movie theatres show good films from the west. Apartments are large and luxurious. The only thing you cannot buy is red ink.” This is how we live. We have all the freedoms we want. But what we are missing is red ink: the language to articulate our non-freedom. The way we are taught to speak about freedom— war on terror and so on—falsifies freedom. And this is what you are doing here. You are giving all of us red ink.

occupy wall street in Zuzziti park new york. It was, date, and I was there, and he said, let me tell you a funny story…(follow sentence by sentence). And we don’t yet have a language with and through which to construct an alternative. We must create that language. And even though OWS vanished as mysteriously as it had assembled, even though it didn’t seem to have achieved anything fundamental, the very fact that people gathered, the protest itself, which was unimaginable a year ago, was ah achievement. It was the first step in imagining an alternative system, that the present system doesn’t work.

A guy was sent from East Germany to work in Siberia. He knew his mail would be read by censors, so he told his friends: “Let’s establish a code. If a letter you get from me is written in blue ink, it is true what I say. If it is written in red ink, it is false.” After a month, his friends get the first letter. Everything is in blue. It says, this letter: “Everything is wonderful here. Stores are full of good food. Movie theatres show good films from the west. Apartments are large and luxurious. The only thing you cannot buy is red ink.” This is how we live. We have all the freedoms we want. But what we are missing is red ink: the language to articulate our non-freedom. The way we are taught to speak about freedom— war on terror and so on—falsifies freedom. And this is what you are doing here. You are giving all of us red ink.

   

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