Prayer, song, meditation and ‘rage’

I had forgotten that this weekend was what some called the “Day of Rage” where protesters hoped to occupy Wall Street. Why? Well, as the New York Times put it:

For months the protesters had planned to descend on Wall Street on a Saturday and occupy parts of it as an expression of anger over a financial system that they say favors the rich and powerful at the expense of ordinary citizens.

The protest was organized on the left but some of the themes probably have broader appeal — such as gripes against the bank bailouts and complaints of crony capitalism and the role lobbying plays in currying favors with the government. One of the signs I saw read “I can’t afford a lobbyist.” You might find a sign like that at a Tea Party. Of course, right next to it was one calling for the end of capitalism.

Usually protests make for some significant media coverage. Not always, and not always because of bias. For instance, while many an essay has been written about the disparity between coverage of pro-life and pro-choice protests, a small part of that might be due to the fact that pro-lifers come out en masse every January while the pro-choice movement tends to hold big marches only every few years.

And another issue is that reporters can be a bit lazy. The better your protest group’s media team is, the better your coverage might be. By definition, I learned from the video embedded above, this was a very decentralized effort. That probably has something to do with the fact that the media coverage has been very slight.

Likewise, while the media coverage of that very first Tea Party protest in Washington was seriously lacking, I don’t think anyone — including the organizers — had any idea how large it would be. My husband and I headed down to cover it and were gobsmacked at how difficult it was simply to get on the Metro because of how overloaded it was with protesters. When we arrived at the protest site, it was really weird to see that many people with mostly just conservative and foreign press around. In this case, I think the organizers hoped for much larger crowds than turned out.

Still, I can’t believe how lacking the media coverage of this Wall Street event has been. I had to work really hard to just find basic facts out about the protest and its size, much less anything interesting about it.

I think it was in the video I embedded above, from an independent media site called Waging Non-Violence, where I noticed a Celtic cross in one of the scenes. That intrigued me. I wanted to find out if there were any interesting religion angles to this protest.

Again, I had to find this out on my own, basically. I looked in various odd places but came up short. I did find this clue in a New York Times blog post.

At one point in the early afternoon, dozens of protesters marched around the famous bronze bull on lower Broadway. Among them was Dave Woessner, 31, a student at Harvard Divinity School.

“When you idealize financial markets as salvific you embrace the idea that profit is all that matters,” he said.

A few minutes later about 15 people briefly sat down on a sidewalk on Broadway, leaning against a metal barricade that blocked access to Wall Street. For a moment things grew tense as officers converged and a police chief shoved a newspaper photographer from behind.

Could he be the holder of the cross? I don’t know, but I found this group called The Protest Chaplains and they’re pictured holding the same cross. They say they have ties to Harvard Divinity School and the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts and they explain that they’re there to protest but also to provide a service:

We also want to be of service to those camping with us. We draw strength from the rituals of prayer, song, meditation, and devotion that we have inherited as the very best and brightest points of the troublesome Christian tradition. We’re not out to evangelize anyone – seriously. We’re not going to New York in order to convince anyone that Christianity is a good thing: we too are very critical of the genocidal, anti-Semitic, homophobic, etc abuses of the Church and the Christian faith over the past 2000 years.

They add that they’ve seen burnout in the social justice movement and hope to be of use to everyone who’s camping out. You can follow their tweets here. It’s a small group, to be sure, and it’s hard to know how representative, if at all, the progressive religious contingent is. But it’s even harder to know when there’s so little coverage of the protest to begin with.

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  • Dave

    I hate to kick off the comments with cynicism but I suspect the protesters would have more ink if they’d broken something (on purpose).

  • Jerry

    Having lived through religious activism on the left and religious activism on the right, are we now seeing the pendulum start swinging back? A single data point like this does not make a trend, of course, but I did find the story interesting.

    There was a recent piece about hype and media coverage that Mollie’s comments brought to mind:

    Though hype is, in part, the difference between individual and collective judgment, hype does not always need to be subjective or solitary. Here are some objective criteria for determining whether news is hype, disproportionate to its relative impact.

    Amount of coverage: How much time and space is this news occupying?

    Dominance of coverage: Is this news taking over a platform (website, newscast, front page) and/or dominating several platforms?

    Prominence of coverage: How prominent is this news? Is it leading a newscast, on the front page?

    Type of coverage: Is the news trivial or vital? Are respected newsmakers acting as if it’s vital? Is the event unexpected, rare?

    Tone of coverage: How urgent is the message, how intense the delivery? Are the graphics and images conveying crisis?

    Context of coverage: What else could or should be receiving our attention instead?

    These criteria explain why journalists are rightly accused of hyping the disappearances or murders of young, white females and ignoring the disappearances of young, black females. The context of coverage, in particular, points toward hype: We pay unequal attention to girls in peril, depending on their race.

  • Jordan Reachi

    This is an interesting protest. I think some organization or a leader would have helped them to get a main point across. Even after watching the video I’m still unsure as to what it is they want.

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  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    It will be interesting to see how the media covers this Days of Rage stuff as compared to how it covered the growing Tea Party movement.
    It seems the media did everything possible (with virtually no evidence) to smear the Tea Party as racist, fascist, etc. Will they now caricature this new “rage” movement of the left as promoting class warfare and communism?? Or will the media just not report on the “rage” movement–as seems happening so far????? …

  • Karen Vaughan

    Coincidentally I spent an hour or two last night speaking with my activist son who was quite involved with the protest about the press coverage. (He never once referred to it as the Days of Rage, so I wonder who or what group dubbed it as such.) He claimed that the Lyndon LaRouchies who have a different agenda showed up and were filmed. Fox News reporters were apparently surrounded, followed and only able to film “about 7 protestors.” (I haven’t verified that.) But his most telling point, which goes to your point on laziness and news action, is that most of the press followed fringe groups of protestors who were trying to storm the barricades by going down the side streets, ignoring the less visually compelling speeches and quiet protest of the vast majority of protestors.

    Reminds me of 1960s protests when agent provocateurs instigated violence and the duties of protest organizers were to identify them and send them on bogus assignments away from the main action.

  • Mollie


    While the protest was not centrally planned, one of the main references was for Saturday as “Day of Rage.” This was a reference to Arab Spring activities, I believe.

    As for LaRouchies, I almost made a point that the New York Times blog post inexplicably called him a “far-right figure” as if that comes even close to describing the idiosyncratic cult of personality that is LaRouche. Though he ran repeatedly as a Democrat and Labour Party candidate, he is a jumbled mess of views and his small band of supporters aren’t really representative of anything but themselves.

    They were the same folks who had the Obama-Hitler mustache signs at the Tea Party events last year and the media tended to glom onto those, too, as if they were carried by Tea Partiers …

  • Julia

    The LaRouche crew are equal opportunity event crashers.

    I wish a NYT reporter would do a piece including interviews on what they think they are gaining by showing up at these divergent events.

  • Will

    Recall that LaRouche’s — whatever started as a splinter of the infamous SDS, then became the “Coalition of Labor Committees”, then…. So, apparently, we are expected to swallow that LaRouche’s organization used to be “extreme left”, but some time when nobody was looking the movement became “extreme right”.

    … Which also reminds me of the occasion when TIME identified David Duke as a “libertarian”, an identification supported by nothing whatsoever, and refused to retract it.

  • Mollie

    An interesting discussion of the media “brownout” for Day of Rage.