APM's Marketplace Promotes Occupy, Defends Alinsky

Marketplace, the daily business program produced by American Public Media (APM) and broadcast by public radio stations throughout the country, has been doing its best lately to support the decrepit Occupy Wall Street movement. While odd, perhaps, for a program ostensibly focused on financial news, the obsession with promoting Occupy has become a feature of public radio in general, and Marketplace is no exception to that rule.

Yesterday, for example, Marketplace‘s Kai Ryssdal hosted an organizer from Occupy and a leader of the Tahrir Square protests in Egypt to explore “common ground” and connections between the two groups. The intent was clearly to flatter Occupy by association with the success and idealism of the Tahrir Square revolution–although the fact that Islamist parties swept the vote in Egypt’s recent elections was not mentioned in the segment.

Curiously, the political advice offered by the Tahrir Square activist at times spoke more to the concerns of the Tea Party about big government, and inadvertently punctured some of the socialist pretensions of Occupy: “[You should] engage those 1 percent and you tell them: ‘Take bureaucracy and take away corruption. We could do way much better.'”

Nonetheless, in a related story by Ryssdal and Mitchell Hartman from Jan. 24, Marketplace sought to find the inspiration for the Occupy Wall Street protests in the Arab Spring: “Young people feeling squeezed, demanding better opportunities and a fair deal. The issues sound similar — from Maged in Cairo, to Max and Brian in Portland.”

At one point, Hartman even compared the protests against former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak to the protests against Wisconsin’s new Republican governor, Scott Walker, last spring–an inflammatory comparison favored by public sector unions in their attempt to demonize Walker and his collective bargaining reforms. Hartman suggests that the symbolism of the Wisconsin protests may have inspired the Occupy demonstrations–without noting the financial and institutional role played by public sector unions in both.

While casting the Occupy movement in a heroic mold, Marketplace often attempts to downplay and debunk the Tea Party and its concerns.

On Jan. 23, for example, the show featured a story entitled, “Why Saul Alinsky Matters in the 2012 Election.” Instead of shedding light on who Alinsky was, what he believed, and why he is important to understanding President Barack Obama and the organized left, Ryssdal and interviewee Bob Bruno from the University of Illinois attempted to obscure the true nature of Alinsky and his ideas:

Ryssdal: It sounds to hear speaker Gingrich say it like Saul Alinsky wanted nothing less than armed rebellion and the overthrow of American life. Is that true?

Bruno: No, not even the overthrow of life in Chicago. He actually was quite a pragmatic, quite a conservative guy. He understood being very strategic, very tactful. He understood that at the end of the day all groups had to reach a deal. The idea behind it — was motivating Alinsky — was to create a people’s organization that could represent average people at the bargaining table. So he really was about compromise but he realized that at the grassroots, people would have to organize to do that.

Having presented a straw man–“armed rebellion”–which is not a charge any serious person in the Tea Party or the conservative movement has made, Ryssdal set Bruno up to make the equally deceptive counter-claim that Alinsky was actually “quite a conservative guy.”

Alinsky may have believed, tactically, in working “inside the system,” but his strategic goals of “revolution” were just as radical as the communists who were committed to destroying it. He was committed to overthrowing society in a struggle between the “Haves” and “Have-Nots,” and shrewdly masked his antidemocratic ideology in democratic-sounding words:

In this book we are concerned with how to create mass organizations to seize power and give it to the people; to realize the democratic dream of equality, justice, peace, co-operation, equal and full opportunities for education, full and useful employment, health, and the creation of those circumstances in which man can have the chance to live by values that give meaning to life. We are talking about a mass power organization which will change the world into a place where all men and women walk erect, in the spirit of that credo of the Spanish Civil War, “Better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.” This means revolution. (Rules for Radicals, p. 3)

That sounds very much like a young Barack Obama, and President Obama has not strayed too far from those themes–though Alinsky would approve of Obama’s evasion of words such as “power” and “revolution,” the better to achieve those objects without scaring the “masses.”

Regardless, what is happening at Marketplace is an example of what is happening in the mainstream media in general–and worse, because when business journalists begin carrying water for the very political forces that wish to destroy the free economy, we may, as a society, have reached a point of no return.