In Tuesday's 'Anti-Wall Street Protests Spreading to Cities Large and Small ,' New York Times reporters Erik Eckholm and Timothy Williams bolster the 'populist' left-wing activists protesting against greedy bankers (among other items of the standard left-wing wish list) in Lower Manhattan.
While the Times' coverage of conservative Tea Party rallies invariably pointed out the most extreme and 'fringe ' elements present, the paper has thus far eschewed labels like "far-left" or "liberal" for the Wall Street crowd, and has ignored the cadre of Communists  and offensive posters decrying 'Nazi bankers' in Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan.
And while the massive-yet-peaceful Tea Party rallies were seen as ruptures of inchoate and ignorant anger orchestrated by conservative think tanks  that constantly threatened to explode into violence, the young, arrest-prone leftist campers near Wall Street are portrayed as the thin edge of an uprising of justified citizen anger.
A loose-knit populist campaign that started on Wall Street three weeks ago has spread to dozens of cities across the country, with protesters camped out in Los Angeles near City Hall, assembled before the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago and marching through downtown Boston to rally against corporate greed, unemployment and the role of financial institutions in the economic crisis.
With little organization and a reliance on Facebook, Twitter and Google groups to share methods, the Occupy Wall Street campaign, as the prototype in New York is called, has clearly tapped into a deep vein of anger, experts in social movements said, bringing longtime crusaders against globalization and professional anarchists together with younger people frustrated by poor job prospects.
Yet the actual attendance figures spotlighted by the Times were less than overwhelming:
In Chicago on Monday morning, about a dozen people outside the Federal Reserve Bank sat on the ground or lay in sleeping bags, surrounded by protest signs and hampers filled with donated food and blankets. The demonstrators, who have been in Chicago since Sept. 24, said they had collected so much food that they started giving the surplus to homeless people.
Strategists on the left said they were buoyed by the outpouring of energy and hoped it would contribute to a newly powerful progressive movement. Robert Borosage, co-director of the Campaign for America's Future, in Washington, noted that the Wall Street demonstrations followed protests in Wisconsin this year over efforts to suppress public employee unions and numerous rallies on economic and employment issues.
The new protesters have shown a remarkable commitment and have stayed nonviolent in the face of aggressive actions by the New York police, he said. 'I think that as a result they really touched a chord among activists across the country.'
The Times barely mentioned the 700 people arrested for blocking traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge at the Occupy Wall Street protest. By contrast, much larger Tea Party rallies have been virtually arrest-free, though that never stopped the paper from relaying the potential for violence, as it did in an offensive March 2010 article  by Benedict Carey likening Tea Party protestors and the domestic terrorist group Weather Underground. An accompanying online headline: 'When Does Political Anger Turn to Violence?'
- Clay Waters is Editor of the MRC's TimesWatch  site.