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CBS Touts Wall Street Protesters' Music as 'Tool for Social Justice'

On Tuesday's Early Show, CBS's Bigad Shaban, seemingly grasping for straws for any reason to report on "Occupy Wall Street," played up the music performances from protesters down in lower Manhattan. Shaban emphasized how "music has helped spur movements," and gushed that "some believe if history is any indication, they could provide harmony to a movement" [audio available here].

The correspondent highlighted that in the Zuccotti Park, where the protesters are camped out in New York City, "there are more musical performances than actual marches. They're almost constant, but impromptu." He added that "they [the protesters] call it the heartbeat of the revolution, from loud battle cries to soothing throwbacks to the civil rights era. They've become a soundtrack to the 'Occupy Wall Street' movement."


Later in his report, Shaban played clips of Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land" and John Lennon's "give peace a chance" to underline his "music has helped spur movements" claim. He then played a clip from Simon Levinson of Rolling Stone magazine, who stated that "music is more powerful than ever as a tool for social justice, and that's because it's easier than ever for artists to reach wide artists."

Near the end of the segment, the CBS journalist spotlighted the presence of two hip-hop notables at recent "Occupy Wall Street" rallies: "It may be just too early to know whether the 'Occupy Wall Street' movement will lead to a new generation of protest music. But actually, high-profile music moguls- guys like Kanye West and Russell Simmons- have been spotted in the crowd."

Shaban has been the morning program's main booster for the left-leaning movement. On October 10, he failed to disclose the radical views of a Daily Kos contributor during an Early Show report, and filed a puff piece the following morning on the "self-operating mini-community in lower Manhattan" run by "hungry for change" demonstrators. CBS has been part of the Big Three network's consistently positive coverage of "Occupy Wall Street," something the MRC documented in an October 13 report.

The transcript of Bigad Shaban's report on Tuesday's Early Show, which aired 19 minutes into the 8 am Eastern hour:

JEFF GLOR: The 'Occupy Wall Street' protests don't have the same message as the anti-war demonstrations of the 1960s.

ERICA HILL: One thing they share, though- a love of music.

CBS's Bigad Shaban is in New York's financial district with more on that- with soundtrack, we might say, Bigad.

BIGAD SHABAN: (laughs) Well, good morning, guys. Here in Zuccotti Park, there are more musical performances than actual marches. They're almost constant, but impromptu. And some believe if history is any indication, they could provide harmony to a movement.

[CBS News Graphic: "Soundtrack To A Movement: Creating 'Occupy' Protest Songs"]

SHABAN (voice-over): (clip of protesters chanting, "End the war! Tax the rich") What isn't already packed with protesters in lower Manhattan is now filled with music. (clip of protesters beating on drums) They call it the heartbeat of the revolution, from loud battle cries- (clip of protesters singing, "Mayor Bloomberg, why don't you leave us alone?") to soothing throwbacks to the civil rights era. (clip of protesters singing Simon and Garfunkel's "The Boxer") They've become a soundtrack to the 'Occupy Wall Street' movement. (clip of Sam Friend singing, "Brother, help me please") And on this day, 23-year-old Sam Friend is the man behind the music.

SAM FRIEND, PROTESTER: A lot of verses are improvised here just about 'Occupy Wall Street.' It's interesting to see how protest songs that have been written more recently still draw upon the old hymns and old themes and old melodies.

SHABAN: (clip of Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land") From folk songs during the Great Depression- (clip of John Lennon's "Give Peace A Chance") to John Lennon during the height of the Vietnam War, music has helped spur movements.

SIMON LEVINSON, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, ROLLING STONE: I think music is more powerful than ever as a tool for social justice, and that's because it's easier than ever for artists to reach wide artists.

SHABAN: (clip of protesters singing in Times Square) Video clips can be uploaded to the Internet instantly right from a protest, giving musicians like Michael Bomwell the power to rally masses.

MICHAEL BOMWELL: It lifts people's spirit and it lifts morale, and I think it rejuvenates whatever they feel that they are here to represent. (clip of protesters chanting, "We're the 99 percent!")

SHABAN: For Sam Friend, that means mixing the strong sounds of the past with what he sees as the problems of the present.

FRIEND: By tying it back to all the old themes, I think it's able to really reach a lot of people.

SHABAN: He just hopes they like what they hear- an old tune with a new message. (clip of Friend singing, "Man, they take my money and they run right away")

SHABAN (on-camera): Well, there- right now, it may be just too early to know whether the 'Occupy Wall Street' movement will lead to a new generation of protest music. But actually, high-profile music moguls- guys like Kanye West and Russell Simmons- have been spotted in the crowd.

GLOR: Bigad Shaban in lower Manhattan- Bigad, thanks.

— Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.