Since his departure from CBS News in the wake of his 2004 presidential campaign scandal, former anchor Dan Rather appears occasionally in media to provide his perspective on current events.
On Sunday, Rather raised some eyebrows when he appeared on "The Chris Matthews Show." The former anchorman made a number of curious comments about the Occupy Wall Street protests. The first, of course, is that the protests are a "mirror image" of the Tea Party rallies that have taken the nation by storm over the past two years.
This is a comparison that others, including comedian Jon Stewart, have been making. Then, Rather continued, giving his take on the individual he believes is coordinating the Wall Street protest:
“The real moving force behind this, what’s happening in the Wall Street protesters and the efforts to spread it around the country, is a woman operating out of her apartment in New York. She’s brilliant with the internet. She goes under the nom de plume of Grim. And Grim is the real leader of this movement operating out of her apartment. She is internet savvy and whether it succeeds or fails she’s the key.”
Watch these comments, below:
These statements arouse images of a woman sinisterly utilizing her computer to coordinate the take-down of the American economy. Furthermore, Rather seems to be placing the entire power and fury of a movement in the hands of one individual. But wasn't this a "leaderless movement?"
To call her the "real leader" is a fairly bold statement and to place her as "the key" regardless of the success or failure is also a wide leap to take on the matter. Mediaite's Josh Feldman attempts to set the record straight:
First of all, it’s important to point out that “Grim” is not organizing the protests per se, but is merely one of the two creators of the “We Are The 99 Percent” meme you may have noticed spreading on the internet. However, according to NewsBusters, Rather’s more glaring omission was that “Grim” is, in real life, an independent media maven working alongside someone who works full-time for a small media organization. Priscilla Grim (her real name) and her anonymous friend Chris (a self-described anarchist) told Mother Jones why they were inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Thus, it seems that Grim and her partner, Chris, are responsible for a message and a Tumblr page, not a movement (the site encourages people to send in pictures as well as their stories about how the current economic system has negatively impacted their lives).
While their popular "99 percent" mantra has spread rampantly, it's very clearly a play on the political sensitivity that is often utilized to rile drama between the nation's class structure. Creating (based on popular political rhetoric) and strumming a popular line is one thing, but organizing an entire, multi-city movement is another.
On the Tumblr page they created, which is entitled, "We Are The 99 Percent," the following description is given:
We are the 99 percent. We are getting kicked out of our homes. We are forced to choose between groceries and rent. We are denied quality medical care. We are suffering from environmental pollution. We are working long hours for little pay and no rights, if we're working at all. We are getting nothing while the other 1 percent is getting everything. We are the 99 percent.
Brought to you by the people who occupy wall street. Why will YOU occupy?
Here's a screen shot of the site:
Glenn Beck and his radio crew hilariously commented about the "99 percent" last week. Watch and listen, below:
But here's the really odd part about the Grim scenario. Rather, who credits Grim with launching and sustaining the entire Occupy Wall Street protest, overlooks the fact that it was Chris who initially created the web site and messaging in the first place. Mother Jones reports:
Chris has also been busy managing logistics, including food drives, for Occupy Wall Street in Lower Manhattan—so about two weeks ago, he started sharing the blog's increasingly demanding curation duties with a friend in the cause, Brooklyn-based nonprofit worker and independent media maven Priscilla Grim.
Thus, to call Grim the individual who has coordinated and with whom the entire movement's success or failure lies simply isn't accurate. Rather also failed to mention the fact that Grim's friend Chris is a self-described anarchist. According to Mother Jones, he characterizes himself as follows (emphasis mine):
I am 28 years old, college educated, full-time job, part-time freelance job, and I volunteer to feed the hungry and needy every Sunday...I am an anarchist, though my belief is that anarchism should be more about building things up than tearing things down. I am a dedicated pacifist...
And Grim describes herself in the following manner:
I worked for nonprofits for 10 years, have studied online media in school, and I am currently in grad school studying information science. I helped to organize online actions pre-MoveOn. I love serving people and improving the world, firstly for my kid and secondly for the rest of us. I worked in a lot of different realms and know how to build organizations and make them sustainable, if I am working with like-minded, determined individuals.
Below, see a snapshot of a LinkedIn profile that is registered to a "Priscilla Grim." What is most striking about her profile is her education. Grim isn't someone who lacks formal training. In fact, she has attended Columbia University, New School and The Webb School -- all premiere institutions.
She has also held positions at some well known companies and organizations, including Time Warner Cable and the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers. Clearly, this is someone who has attended excellent higher educational facilities and who has a great deal of work experience.
In her interview with Mother Jones, she claims that she has a link to her own "99 percent" story. Currently, she does not have her employment listed (her last contract position, at Time Warner, apparently ran through September 2011). In describing the protests, she said, "This is an occupation, and we are not leaving until there is systemic change." Here's the screen shot from her profile:
In a 2004 interview with Gothamist, Grim, who claims that she "misspent" her youth living in small-town America, discusses working for the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers. But she also uttered some extremely curious quotes. In describing President George W. Bush she said:
George Bush is one of the worst presidents, with the worst administration EVER. The election that placed him in the oval office was so obviously rigged, yet the people of the United States did nothing to fight the Supreme Court Decision that placed him in the White House.
While the aforementioned quote may not seem all that surprising, the comments that follow it are. In describing why, in her view, Americans did nothing to fight against Bush's "rigged" election, she said:
Because it has been so long since real political action has fallen into the hands of the people. I really believe that American Society, outside of the activist community has no clue how to change the country.
But aren't the forces and people behind Occupy Wall Street heralded as real people who are undertaking an extremely organic and un-calculated movement? Apparently Grim, the woman Rather credits with owning the Wall Street protests, doesn't (or at least she didn't back in 2004) believe that American society understands how to "change the country."
In the end, though, it's not surprising that Grim is involving herself in the Occupy Wall Street movement. Even in 2004, well before these protests took form, she said her one question for God, should she be allowed to ask him, would be, "If you are truly on the side of the people, why does only a small percentage of the world's population own such a large percentage of the wealth?"
Is it possible that Grim is taking a larger role in the protests than she claims?Absolutely. But Rather's account to Chris Matthews is flatly inaccurate. In describing her current role, Grim tells Mother Jones that she is sleeping in the park occasionally. "Other than that I am around," she says "Doing what I can, lending professional consult when asked."
Of course, it's possible that Rather was simply mixing his facts. As Feldman writes, "In fairness, Dan Rather probably has no idea what Tumblr is, but all these people are responsible for is starting a meme that has allowed people to share stories about their personal financial woes."
Being confused is certainly a possibility, but this neglectful nature is exactly what got Rather in trouble back in 2004.