Just as President Obama used Hurricane Sandy to wash away his sins of incompetence, the Occupy movement has also found an opportunity for reviving their image in the wake of the disaster. The movement has spawned "Occupy Sandy," a relief effort that has garnered positive press, while similar work by religious groups has gone unheralded.
In a disaster the magnitude of Sandy, anyone who brings help deserves praise; to that extent the Occupy movement has offered legitimate aid to people and deserves credit. That being said, Occupiers haven't received this much positive press since… well, the birth of the Occupy movement itself.
As demonstrated in the film "Occupy Unmasked," when the Occupy protests started to pick up steam in September and October of 2011, the media practically tripped over itself to give the nascent movement positive press. A quick Google search reveals that same pattern of boosting by the press is being repeated with Occupy Sandy.
The goal of the glowing media coverage couldn’t be more transparent: to restore the tarnished image of Occupy Wall Street. After squandering hundreds of thousands of dollars, being plagued with rapes and violence, and then devolving into inevitable anarchist Black Bloc direct actions, the Occupy movement could use a boost. Just like President Obama did in the 2012 election, they have the media on their side.
The Huffington Post reads, "Occupy Sandy Emerges As Relief Organization For 21st Century, Mastering Social Networks." On Public Radio station WNYC’s blog, the headline is, "Occupy Sandy: With a Hurricane, a Movement is Reborn," and the story declares, “After disappearing from both the political conversation and the streets of New York City, the Occupy movement is back.”
CBS News New York says, "Occupy Wall Street Wins Kudos For Sandy Relief Efforts." NBC4 New York writes, "Occupy Sandy: Onetime Protesters Find New Cause." The same story was picked up by The Christian Science Monitor.
The New York Times has a piece titled, "Occupy Sandy: A Movement Moves to Relief":
“Candles?” asked a dull-eyed woman arriving at the door.
“I’m sorry, but we’re out,” said Sofia Gallisa, a field coordinator who had been there for a week. Ms. Gallisa escorted the woman in, and someone gave her batteries for her flashlight. As she walked away, word arrived that a firehouse nearby was closing for the night; the firefighters there were hurrying their rigs to higher ground.
“It’s crazy,” Ms. Gallisa later said of the official response. “For a long time, we were the only people out here doing relief work.”
The only people doing relief work?
You might think so if you did another Google search, using a term such as “Sandy Mormon relief.” You won’t find a peep from the Huffington Post, the New York Times, NBC, CBS, or any other mainstream media outlet. You’ll find – surprise – one article from Breitbart News covering the Mormon church's actions. But the mainstream press that spent so many words praising Occupy Sandy doesn’t seem to have any space to mention the efforts of a religious group, particularly a religion that Mitt Romney is a member of.
If you do a little research, you’ll find that even focusing on just one religious group – the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints – reveals that they have a larger, more extensive operation involving more people than Occupy Sandy. I’m sure that more research would yield any number of other religious groups helping out too, but they don’t get the press either.
But looking at the scope of the Mormon Helping Hands outreach, it’s clear that they are a force to be reckoned with in the relief efforts. As this article explains:
Missionaries and Church members in New York have been out in force since the storm subsided, providing assistance in all five New York City boroughs and beyond. In the first five days following the storm, more than 3,800 volunteers worked over 37,500 hours.
On Long Island, Church members have been organizing crews to look for neighborhood homes with fallen trees and help to clear them out. They have also delivered fliers to neighbors. “We want them to know we are willing and able to help,” said Mark Hardman, a local leader in the area.
On Saturday and Sunday, 200 missionaries and 300 Church members worked to clear debris from some of the thousands of flooded homes in the five boroughs. New York New York South Mission President Kevin Calderwood said debris was stacked 10 feet high on some streets, and missionaries helped sanitation workers load trucks where they could.
Rockaway, an area home to many first responders, was particularly hard-hit. About 450 volunteers worked to clear debris in that area, and they plan to focus future efforts on 105 homes of first responders.
To reiterate, it’s good that Occupy Sandy is lending a hand, but the media coverage they are receiving is disproportionate when compared to the work of religious groups. A left-wing group doing the work is apparently much more newsworthy than a religious group doing the same in the view of reporters and editors.
The mainstream media has now set the stage for the triumphant return of Occupy protests in 2013, just as the legislative battle to avoid taking America off the fiscal cliff is about to heat up. Sandy may be over, but the Occupy storm is just beginning.