The right-wing media/blogosphere reveled in a gotcha moment this week. Ever since the Tea Party was discredited by the Koch Brothers’ billions and tamed by the Republican party, right-wingers have been hungry for evidence to disqualify Occupy as a legitimate grassroots upswell. They just found some to suit their purposes in Occupy DC’s move to new office space near McPherson Square.
A labor union with strong ties to President Obama is helping make the Occupy Wall Street movement a more permanent fixture in the nation’s capital, moving Occupy DC into office space the group can use to organize and grow through the presidential election.
The Service Employees International Union, one of Obama’s most vocal supporters among labor groups, is paying $4,000 a month for three offices the Occupy protesters will use for at least the next six months to plan future demonstrations, organize and host workshops.
The offices are at the Institute for Policy Studies, a nonprofit progressive group headquartered at 16th and L streets NW, amid the major law firms, trade groups and lobbying shops that Occupiers have spent the past seven months denouncing.
So a prime RWNJ (Right-Wing Nut Job) conspiracy theory is confirmed right there: Big Labor and liberal Think Tanks are underwriting Occupy DC (and therefore, as we’ll see, Occupy in general). And on top of that, the whole thrust of the story is an insinuation: that Obama is demonstrably linked with Occupy. Plus we’ve got a couple cherries on top: Occupy DC now supports Obama, through its master Big Labor, and it’s guilty of hypocrisy. So much accomplished in a few paragraphs!
The right-wing blogosphere immediately jumped all over this. Headlines appeared like “Labor and Occupy: Comrades in Arms,” and “Look who’s paying for Occupy’s DC Digs.” Newsbusters, which purports to expose liberal media bias, sighs, “Don’t hold your breath for the media to report on this development or examine the nexus between the left-wing Occupy movement and Big Labor.”
The conservative Examiner also took the opportunity to gleefully write a scathing editorial, trotting out every grievance it’s had with Occupy DC up to this point:
Any pretense that Occupy DC protesters are just a bunch of ordinary fed-up Americans should be put to rest this week.
This collaboration puts a new light on the protestors… It makes Occupy’s leaders’ previous attempts to distance themselves from the SEIU come off as somewhat disingenuous. On the other side, the fiction that Occupy DC and its counterparts in other cities are completely independent entities has allowed their union backers to distance themselves from protestors’ illegal and embarrassing activities even as they subsidize them.
After contributing millions of dollars and thousands of volunteers to get Barack Obama elected in 2008, then-SEIU President Andy Stern became one of the most frequent visitors to the White House. Occupy DC leaders claim their free rent comes with no strings attached, but interestingly, their lease runs right up until Election Day.
I have to call out Examiner reporter Aubrey Whelan, who usually does such a great job on the Occupy DC beat, on the original news article. The framing of this story is sensationalism–a grabbing headline with no logical basis. SEIU supports Obama, and SEIU supports Occupy DC–therefore, Occupy DC supports Obama.
But buried a few paragraphs in is a sentence that undermines that idea:
Occupiers distanced themselves from the SEIU in the past, saying they were uncomfortable with the union’s vocal support for Obama.
So either Occupy DC has decided to support re-electing Obama–and please show me some evidence of that–or, its position remains unchanged by the association with SEIU.
Note also that the lede not so subtly juxtaposes Obama with “helping …the Occupy Wall Street movement.” Right away we get it that Obama supports Occupy.
The connection of Obama to Occupy by implication is necessarily nefarious. The assumption is that the president is tainted by association, even though mainstream Republicans whole-heartedly embraced their radical movement, the Tea Party. But the fact is, Obama doesn’t really belong in this story at all.
If we were living within the confines of reality, that is. The insinuated association of Obama with Occupy is part and parcel of the right-wing portrait of the president as an unhinged and dangerous radical. If only they could get that damning snapshot of Obama wearing a Guy Fawkes mask leading a phalanx of Occupiers in a tear gas-filled street clash with police….Well, we all know that photo exists somewhere. It’s with the birth certificate.