Tuesday, January 29, 2013

NYT Class-baits OWS

In a post called "In ‘Occupy,’ Well-Educated Professionals Far Outnumbered Jobless, Study Finds" The New York Times' City Room Blog dropped a bombshell today:
More than a third of the people who participated in Occupy Wall Street protests in New York lived in households with annual incomes of $100,000 or more, according to a study by sociologists at the City University of New York, and more than two-thirds had professional jobs.
Holy fuck! OWS was just a bunch of spoiled rich kids! I KNEW IT.

Ah, the power of data without context. You know what would not be a headline, but would be equally true? "In New York City, Well-Educated Professionals Far Outnumber Jobless." Manhattan is the most expensive city in the country, and Brooklyn the second. New York City as a whole has an unemployment rate of around 9.5%, disgusting, but, as of 2010, 36% of New Yorkers had at least a bachelor's degree, thus "far outnumbering" the jobless.

Under thirties in America have the highest rate of college graduation of any generation: occupy was 40% under thirty, almost two thirds as young as New York as a whole. And that "New York as a whole" counts babies and school kids, who weren't exactly well represented at occupy, for obvious reasons. Occupy was way younger than your average cross section of New Yorkers over, say, 16. See how this game works?

What about those eye-popping income numbers? Well, as of 2009 (the last time such data was available) 24% of New York City households made over 100k, meaning that OWS was wealthier than the whole of New York. The study points this out clearly: but then it does something very dishonest. It doesn't break down the wealth of New Yorkers by race, age or gender. But OWS was twice as white as NYC as a whole and 10% more male, and, as a result, proportionally wealthier. If you only look at white people, then OWS looks like a pretty direct representation of (white) New York City class make up. 29% of white New Yorkers made more than 100k in 2009; 46% of white people living in Manhattan break that barrier. And all this data is from 2009: Gentrification continues apace, so those numbers are low.

OWS was more educated, and wealthier than New York City as a whole: it was also younger, whiter, and more male. What this data shows, if you look at it honestly, is that OWS represented a privileged portion of the population, but the education numbers mostly reflect the college privilege (read: debt indenture) of youth, while the economic numbers mostly reflects the race and gender make up of the movement in New York. That is not to deny the fact of this privilege or claim somehow that Occupiers were proles: but the fact is, New York City is chock full of fucking rich white people. That's a big part of what makes this place hell. And I'll put money on the fact that the readers of the New York Times are whiter, older and wealthier than OWS.

Playing the spoiled rich kids card and throwing income and education numbers out willy-nilly obscures the inherent privilege of being old, white and male. And the numbers don't cross reference wealth or employment by gender, race or age: what are the odds that the majority of the rich people in the survey were also the over 30 white folks?

The fact that Occupy was whiter and more male than New York as a whole is fucked up, it was the biggest problem with the movement and undoubtedly part of why it was less radical than it could have been. But that's the only news here, and, sadly, it's not news to anyone who participated.