Are Americans Getting Angrier?

BY Paul Solman  November 2, 2011 at 10:29 AM EST


Photo of Occupy Wall Street by Getty Images.

While shooting at the end of day recently at Zuccotti Park, I was heckled twice while “re-asking” several questions. That is, with only one camera, it’s impossible to create a dialogue between interviewer and interviewee unless the camera swings back and forth. Given that the sun had already set, we had to light each person and thus re-set to shoot me asking, on camera, the questions I’d just asked off-camera.

Making Sense

That’s what appeared to occasion the heckling.

“Very spontaneous!” yelled one passerby with whom I thought I’d just had a pleasant exchange, explaining that we were from PBS. “Just what the media are like!” (or words to that effect).

Minutes later came another: “Could you be any more SCRIPTED???!!!!”

“Substantially,” I replied.

What to make of it?

I guess, with suit and tie, I looked to come from a somewhat loftier economic percentile than most denizens of the park though not, I wouldn’t have thought, the top one.

Tigranes and four vassal Kings

Not having been born yesterday, or even last month, I do understand that general resentment of the media is nothing new: Plutarch claims that the Armenian emperor Tigranes really did kill the messenger who told him of the Roman general Lucullus’ advance. Lopped off his head.

And surely, general resentment fuels Occupy Wall Street, as it does Tea Party rallies and perhaps rallies in general. But mostly, the vibe at Zuccotti Park is hospitable, welcoming, so it came as a surprise, particularly since I myself was friendly, I thought.

So I wonder: Is spontaneity becoming an end in itself? Are the media becoming more reviled? Are Americans getting even angrier? The Other 99 more frustrated? Or — and I’ll leave it here — maybe I shouldn’t read too much into an isolated pair of reactions on the sidewalks of New York.

Photo: Tigranes and four vassal Kings. By Fusso, 19th century. Via a Creative Commons license.

This entry is cross-posted on the Making Sen$e page, where correspondent Paul Solman answers your economic and business questions _Follow Paul on Twitter._