On Tuesday, June 19th, at 12:15pm, The Common Good hosted author Todd Gitlin for a lunch discussion with about his new book Occupy Nation and how the protest movement has shaped the political landscape. One of the major leaders of the original movement, Jesse LaGreca, also joined the discussion and provided an insider’s perspective.
About Todd Gitlin
Todd Gitlin is a writer, sociologist, communications scholar, novelist, poet, who has become a prominent critic of the tactics and rhetoric of the Left as well as the Right. He emphasizes what he sees as the need in American politics to form coalitions between disparate movements,which must compromise ideological purity to gain and sustain power by working together within the two major political parties. He argues that the Republican party has managed to accomplish this with a coalition of what he calls two “major components – the low-tax, love-business, hate-government enthusiasts and the God-save-us moral crusaders” but that the Democratic Party has often been unable to accomplish a pragmatic coalition between its “roughly eight” constituencies.
Mr. Gitlin is the author of fifteen books, including Occupy Nation: The Roots, the Spirit, and the Promise of Occupy Wall Street, an e-book from HarperCollins, released on April 10, 2012. Before that, he published the novelUndying and (with Liel Leibovitz), The Chosen Peoples: America, Israel, and the Ordeals of Divine Election. Other titles include The Bulldozer and the Big Tent: Blind Republicans, Lame Democrats, and the Recovery of American Ideals; The Intellectuals and the Flag; Letters to a Young Activist; Media Unlimited: How the Torrent of Images and Sounds Overwhelms Our Lives; The Twilight of Common Dreams: Why America Is Wracked by Culture Wars; The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage; Inside Prime Time; The Whole World Is Watching; Uptown: Poor Whites in Chicago (co-author); three novels,Undying, Sacrifice and The Murder of Albert Einstein; and a book of poetry,Busy Being Born. These books have been translated into Japanese, Korean, Chinese, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish. He also edited Watching Television and Campfires of the Resistance.
You can read the blurbs for The Chosen Peoples and order here.
You can order Undying, published Feb. 8, 2010, here.
He gave three lectures on media, revolutions, and democracy as a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the American University in Cairo between March 23 and 29. Audio of lecture 2, on the incomprehension and comprehension of revolutions from the French through the Russian and the Egyptian, is here. Audio of lecture 3, on WikiLeaks, Facebook, Twitter, al-Jazeera, and other media in the contemporary revolution, is here and the full video experience is on YouTube, here. Coverage of the second lecture inDaily News Egypt is here.
He has contributed to many books and published widely in general periodicals (The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, Boston Globe, Dissent, The New Republic, The Nation, Wilson Quarterly, Harper’s, American Journalism Review, Columbia Journalism Review, The American Prospect, The Occupied Wall Street Journal, LA Review of Books, Washington Spectator, et al.), online magazines (tnr.com, prospect.org, openDemocracy.net), and scholarly journals (Theory and Society, Journal of Communication, Critical Studies in Mass Communication, et al.). He is on the editorial board of Dissent and a contributing writer to Mother Jones.
He has been a columnist at the New York Observer and the San Francisco Examiner. During the 2008 campaign he is wrote a weekly “Sunday Watch” column for Columbia Journalism Review online and the Huffington Post. His poems have appeared in The New York Review of Books, Yale Review, andThe New Republic.
In 2000, Sacrifice won the Harold U. Ribalow Prize for books on Jewish themes. The Sixties and The Twilight of Common Dreams were Notable Books in the New York Times Book Review. Inside Prime Time received the nonfiction award of the Bay Area Book Reviewers Association; The Sixtieswas a finalist for that award and the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award.
He holds degrees from Harvard University (mathematics), the University of Michigan (political science), and the University of California, Berkeley (sociology). He was the third president of Students for a Democratic Society, in 1963-64, and coordinator of the SDS Peace Research and Education Project in 1964-65, during which time he helped organize the first national demonstration against the Vietnam War and the first American demonstrations against corporate aid to the apartheid regime in South Africa. During 1968-69, he was an editor and writer for the San Francisco Express Times, and through 1970 wrote widely for the underground press. In 2003-06, he was a member of the Board of Directors of Greenpeace USA.
He is now a professor of journalism and sociology and chair of the Ph. D. program in Communications at Columbia University. Earlier, he was for sixteen years a professor of sociology and director of the mass communications program at the University of California, Berkeley, and then for seven years a professor of culture, journalism and sociology at New York University. During 1994-95, he held the chair in American Civilization at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. He has been the Bosch Fellow in Public Policy at the American Academy in Berlin, a resident at the Bellagio Study Center in Italy and at the Djerassi Foundation in Woodside, California, a fellow at the Media Studies Center in New York, and a visiting professor at Yale University, the University of Oslo, the University of Toronto, East China Normal University in Shanghai, the Institut Supérieur des Langues de Tunis in Tunisia, and the American University of Cairo.
He lectures frequently on culture and politics in the United States and abroad (Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Russia, Greece, Turkey, India, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Canada, Mexico, Morocco, Egypt). He has appeared on many National Public Radio programs includingFresh Air as well as PBS, ABC, CBS and CNN. He lives in New York City with his wife, Laurel Cook.
About Jesse LaGreca
Mr. LaGreca has worked as a freelance writer for the Daily Kos under the name MinistryOfTruth for the last three years and is one of their most frequent writers and commenters. He’s a member of various subgroups on the site, including their Anonymous forum, Environmental Foodies, and the Progressive Policy Zone. Mr. LaGreca was a major activist during the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York and a frequent speaker on behalf of the movement. His introduction into mainstream media came when an unaired Fox News interview with Griff Jenkins was put on YouTube. In the clip, LaGreca spoke articulately and intelligently about the OWS movement and criticized Fox News for marginalizing the movement. He was named the face of “The Budding Stars of Occupy Wall Street,” according to the Atlantic Wire and was featured in various interviews from ABC’s This Week to The New York Observer.
New York Observer – When Fox News turned their cameras on the 31-year-old Daily Kos writer Jesse LaGreca last Wednesday, they didn’t know what they were in for. Not only did Fox producer Griff Jenkins get schooled all over the Internet — forcing Greta Van Susteren to respond on why they didn’t air the footage of Mr. LaGreca’s statements – but suddenly the somewhat haphazard movement was given a clear and distinct voice.“Fox News wants to laugh at us,” Mr. LaGreca told us in a phone interview Tuesday evening. “To say that we’re unruly, that we’re to be laughed at….because that fits into their narrative, which is that only free markets can save us. Only unregulated capitalism can save us. And anyone in opposition to that needs to be attacked and marginalized.’”
Mr. LaGreca certainly does not fit into the media’s stereotype of the obtusely disenfranchised neo-hippies that have been camping out at Zuccotti Park. He’s been a freelance writer for the Daily Kos under the name MinistryOfTruth for the last three years and is one of their most frequent writers and commenters. He’s a member of various subgroups on the site, including their Anonymous forum, Environmental Foodies, and the Progressive Policy Zone. Mr. LaGreca is no East Coast liberal either: though he currently resides in New York, it’s only been for a month. His previous homes were in Colorado and Illinois. He does not (as far as we know) have health insurance. He is subsidized for his writing mostly by a Paypal link he set up on his articles. He is articulate, with framed arguments that have obviously been rehearsed in advanced. Not only is he the face of “The Budding Stars of Occupy Wall Street,” according to the Atlantic Wire, but his presence is large enough to inspire its own legion of fans. (We noticed that he had a larger Twitter following than our personal account.) Basically: Mr. LaGreca is Fox News’ worst nightmare.
“Their first question was whether we were inspired by Greece,” said Mr. LaGreca, referencing the the way the network would lead protesters to inflammatory answers, “Which had a couple of incidents of student violence…It’s a running meme in the right wing media: that if we don’t do something about our economy we’re going to end up like Greece. But the only thing we can do is what Fox News has been showing us since the day Obama was inaugurated.”
Mr. LaGreca is not, like the media has portrayed some of the protesters, a brainwashed Obama-ite. His Daily Kos article from August is a scathing critique of Obama’s nomination of Sen. Mike Lee’s general counsel for U.S. Attorney of Utah.
When asked if he would be willing to go on Fox News and finally get to tell his side of the story, Mr. LaGreca surprisingly demurred. “I don’t want to go on with anyone who has a history of misconstruing people’s statements. There’s certain networks that I have an obvious bias against. But there are people like Keith Olbermann, Dylan Ratigan…Jim Axelrod, who was a total gentleman. I’m willing to give anyone a fair shake. I’m willing to talk.”
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