Wall Street protests get larger, media images of protesters get shallower

As coverage gets heavier, protesters start to look like cardboard cutouts, not people with just motives.

Editor’s note: On November 13, 2011, the following corrections were made to this article: The gender of @Korgasm_, the reference to her as “Anon” was changed to “person”, the language “pressing for more confrontation with police” was struck, and "organize" protests" was changed to "document".

After a month filling up parks, marching in the streets, annoying cops, videoing each other and posting it all to Twitter and YouTube to make it real, while fast approaching the expiration of their permission to protest, the OccupyWallStreet protesters are still going strong.

The longer the protests go on, the most cities the protest spreads to and the more media coverage the original sit-in gets, the less we see about the people actually doing the protesting. Despite acres of personality-profiling media coverage during the past weekend especially, the image of the protesters seems to become more one-dimensional all the time.

The flood of media covering the protest may have been particularly heavy this weekend because it was a beautiful fall day in the Northeast and (presumably) every reporter with any chance at all of talking an editor into paying travel and hotel bills for a reporter and a +1 flew to New York to cover the gritty protest story for a couple of hours before enjoying a most-expenses paid holiday weekend in the Big Apple.

The picture most send back is of either vapid, trust-fund hipsters, generically leftist communist anti-capitalists or granola-crunching grannies, grad students and academic anarchists with no job and no plans to find one.

They're not.

They're not any one thing. They're mismatched, awkward, intent, focused, chaotic, control-freaky, mostly young with some old, some non-conformist, some all-too-conformist, some are hackers some are users.

They don't share one set of goals to accomplish with the protests. They don't share one set of ideals to promote or dogma to follow.

They're just depressed or angry or sick of feeling taken advantage of by banks, financial services companies, the companies they work for. They're sick of not doing anything about the growing gap between ultra-rich and ultra-poor and the chasm into which the middle class has fallen, to be crushed by costs that grow and opportunities that shrink. They're sick of what they think of as the establishment saying, in the voice of Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain – if you don't have a job it's your own damn fault.

They feel left out and they resent it; not always with as much justification as some of you would like, probably.

The alienation a lot of people feel and depression about an economy with a real unemployment rate high in double digits (when you add in underemployment and those who have stopped looking for work), is exactly why the protesters are protesting rather than working.

"The government hates Anonymous," according to a person who Tweets as @Korgasm_ " We are all anonymous to them. Why? Because we are a nameless sea of filth to them. Because we want a fair shot at life. Because social programs that take care of society take money out of their pockets. Because ending endless wars would mean an end to the rampant profiteering. Because to let all people enjoy their lives in peaceful societies would threaten their way of life.

"Yet they play war with our lives and our livelihoods. They play games with our economy. They kick us out of our homes, to sleep in the cold, on a bench or sidewalk or in a tent, if we’re lucky.

"They send our poor, patriotic sons and daughters off to be killed, because their own legacy matters more to them than a lesser human life." @Korgasm_ Xo99percent.wordpress.com

 A little self-pitying, maybe, but not untrue, and not simple mumbling. @Korgasm_ is one of the people planning to travel to DC and other cities to document protests there.

She lost her job this week, partly due to the time she spent on the barricades, and is asking for donations and setting up page to sell her personal items so she can afford to stay.

Another protester, Kenneth Lipp, lost his brother, an Anon who died at 31, leaving behind a beautiful daughter barely more than a toddler, who won't understand where he went.

Lipp was helping organize the DC protest. He apologized via Twitter for having to leave to be with his family.

The Anon, in case you've gotten an impression of them as snarky, heartless bastards who don't care about anyone or anything, poured out more sympathy and support through Twitter and other links than I've seen from some churches when someone young passes away.

My point is not to defend the Anon, or the protesters, or the people that oppose the protesters.

Just to point out they're not cardboard figures hanging out in the rain and cold in Manhattan to tell traders who are getting $5 million a year but to earn the enmity of their peers that they should give up some salary – or maybe just switch to being a regular carnivore instead of a cannibal – for the good of people they don' t know.

They're not any crazier than you. They're not even any angrier than you.

They're just willing to go out and risk arrest or attack or pepper spray to stand up for what they believe in. Even when it costs them and their friends more than a wet night on a park bench.

Read more of Kevin Fogarty's CoreIT blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinFogarty. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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