If it were not for the advent of the Internet and the "blogosphere," enabling "citizen journalists" to report and disseminate information to the public nation- and world-wide, it is unlikely that anyone not in the immediate vicinity of the protests would have known they were even happening, let alone would they have known enough to have it affect their perspective on national issues. The manner in which the media worked to remove the Occupy protests and the issues raised by the protestors from the public discourse demonstrates the same problem that exists in accessing the government, however in this incarnation it is access to society that is being limited. While the Occupy protests might have been born out of frustrations at the lack of access to the government, they because just as much about lack of a voice in the nation as a whole.
The relationship between the media and democracy is of vital importance, even more so in the age of instant mass communication and competing media sources than ever before. Walter Lippmann, in his book Public Policy (1922), even discusses a very similar issue arising in Waorld War I and propoganda used by the Allies. It was not merely that false or misleading information was given out, but on a more profound level it is by the limiting of access to the actual information and events that propaganda is successful. If there can be no story other than the official story, there can be no discussion of other facts or implications, and no pondering on the deeper ramifications and tangential considerations of any issue.
Controlling the public discourse and limiting the access to power and the voice in society that the common man has access to means limiting the amount of democracy that truly exists. As democracy depends on the sharing of ideas and the equal access to power for each individual constituent within that democracy, lack of access to government is a direct denial of democracy and lack of access to the forces of the media and the public voice is a de facto denial of democracy. Though Zakaria (2003) suggests that the lobbying structure leads to increased democracy but decreased liberty, with more diverse access to power that creates greater government intrusion, he is using a very narrow perspective to arrive at this judgment (p. 63). Though the diversity of lobbyists and special interest groups has grown considerably since the middle of the twentieth century and there is certainly more diverse and greater access to the federal government through these groups, this by no means translates to greater democratic power for the common citizen. In fact, it is the recognition of certain entities as constituents over and above the average citizen that was part of the underlying problems protested by the Occupy movement, and truly this represents a limit on liberty and democracy, as the government grows more intrusive in order to meet the demands of special interest groups.
The problems with American democracy were debated during the founding years of the country, and the debate continues today. Far from being settled, these issues still cause real and immediate problems for millions of American citizens.
Lippmann, W. (1992). Public Opinion. Accessed 9 May 2012.
Zakaria, F. (2003). The Future of Freedom.…