Occupy Wall Street Infiltrates NYTimes Stories on Play Revival and Titanic Anniversary (Again)

February 27th, 2012 9:30 PM

Times Watch has shown how deeply the Occupy Wall Street movement has embedded itself into the liberal psyche of New York Times reporters, who can’t help clogging their stories with flattering references to the lefty sit-in. The protesters may be dispersed, but the dream lives on in Times stories on such seemingly unlikely subjects as a revival of an Arthur Miller play and the sinking of the Titanic (marking the second Titanic anniversary story from the Times containing a “99%” percent reference).

New York Times theatre critic Charles Isherwood wedged in some praise for the Occupy Wall Street movement in a story on the revival of the Arthur Miller play “Death of a Salesman” in Sunday Arts & Leisure section, “‘Salesman’ Comes Calling, Right on Time.” Isherwood thinks it comes at just the right moment, a corrective to the “ethos of the banker-gods and C.E.O.’s set the overriding cultural tone for much of the last 30 years.” (He’s talking about the Reagan era.)

The ethos of the banker-gods and C.E.O.’s set the overriding cultural tone for much of the last 30 years, as the salaries of leading company executives have skyrocketed, figures like Donald Trump and Warren Buffett have become national luminaries, and the care and tending of the stock market became not just a primary priority of the government but an obsession of the average American too, endlessly exposed to the gyrations of the markets via cable and network news channels.

The economic collapse -- the Great Recession, it has come to be called -- has ignited a prickly questioning of these priorities. The Occupy Wall Street movement has brought an intensified focus on the growing inequities in the economy and the dubious practices of the bankers so recently seen as worship-worthy titans, if not oracles. I expect there will be particularly hearty chuckles greeting a line I had forgotten from the play. When Willy is boasting to his brother that his sons are “fearless characters,” his neighbor Charley wryly comments, “Willy, the jails are full of fearless characters.”

Denver-based reporter Kirk Johnson managed to weigh down his story on the upcoming Titanic anniversary with Occupy Wall Street references to the “99 percent” as well (“The Titanic That Really Won’t Sink – 100 Years After the Atlantic Iceberg Disaster, the Tale Is Still Going Strong.”)

But the resurgence of everything Titanic is also fueled by questions of class and privilege -- a major theme of the Titanic’s reality back then, reinforced and reshaped now, Titanic buffs and scholars say, by the Occupy Wall Street movement and the accompanying discussion of the 99 percent and the 1 percent. Among first-class passengers on the Titanic, more than 6 in 10 survived, including 97 percent of the women. Among third-class passengers, only one in four survived.

Funny how Times reporters never casually threw around flattering references to how deeply the Tea Party’s message has sunk into society.