For America’s New Radicals, a Coming-Out Party—and Brutal Cops
“First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.” —Gandhi
Gandhi lost, but never mind.
#OccupyWallStreet, in its second week as of this writing, is and was important. It is the first major street protest inspired by the economic collapse that began in 2008. It is also the first notable public repudiation of Obama by the American Left. Inspired by the Arab Spring, the Canadian “culture jammer” magazine Adbusters asked people to converge on lower Manhattan’s financial district in order to protest corporate greed in general and—in a reflection of the influence of social networking culture—to develop one specific major demand after they gathered.
Several thousand people arrived 10 days ago but were turned away from Wall Street by a phalanx of NYPD officers manning metal barricades. A few hundred demonstrators, dominated by the scruffy white twentysomething college grads known as “hipsters,” wound up at Zuccotti Park, whose private owners granted them permission to camp there.
There they remain, noshing on donated pizza, talking, hanging out, hoping to replicate the magic of Cairo’s Tahrir Square while remaining committed to “absolute nonviolence in the Gandhian tradition,” as Adbusters commanded.
Occupy Wall Street now seems to be fizzling out.
For me and other older, jaded veterans of leftist struggle, failure was a foregone conclusion. From the opening words of the magazine’s updates to the participants, which it referred to as “dreamers, jammers, rabble-rousers and revolutionaries,” it was evident that yet another opportunity to agitate for real change was being wasted by well-meant wankers.
Michael Moore complained about insufficient media coverage, but this non-movement movement was doomed before it began by its refusal to coalesce around a powerful message, its failure to organize and involve the actual victims of Wall Street’s perfidy (people of color, the poor, the evicted, the unemployed, those sick from pollution, etc.), and its refusal to argue and appeal on behalf of a beleaguered working class against an arrogant, violent and unaccountable ruling elite—in other words, to settle for nothing less than the eradication of capitalism.
Don’t just occupy Wall Street.
Occupy Main Street. Get ordinary people interested and involved. After all, college kid, it’s not just your struggle.
While a lack of political education should not preclude a person from participating in politics, organizers of a movement seeking radical change should make sure they don’t waste the whole time strumming a guitar and flirting. Zuccotti Park should have offered daily classes and study groups to reduce the odds that an attendee will sound like a moron when she gets questioned by a journalist.
“I’m not for interference [with wealthy people],” The New York Times quoted protester Anna Sluka. “I hope this all gets people who have a lot to think: I’m not going to go to Barcelona for three weeks. I’m going to sponsor a small town in need.” Earth to Anna: Rich people know poor people are suffering. They don’t care.
Also, lose the clown clothes. It’s not the early 1960s; you don’t have to wear a suit like the civil rights marchers did. But how about showing up on national TV looking decent, like it’s Casual Friday?
Revolutionaries should not expect fair coverage by media outlets owned by the transnational corporations they hope to overthrow. They also shouldn’t make themselves so easy to mock. Press accounts reveled in photos of topless women and the dudes on stilts who always show up at these things. So much bad hair, so many colors that don’t occur in nature.
A protest is a stage. All over New York City and around the country, people are watching on TV. Ideally, you want viewers to drop what they’re doing, to come join you. At bare minimum, you want them to approve of you. To identify with you. Maybe even send a check.
You say you represent the “99 percent” of Americans getting screwed by the top one percent. So act like the 99 percent. Dress like them.
Be normal, inclusive and welcoming.
Reporters quoted demonstrators who sounded as ignorant about current affairs as members of the Tea Party, albeit nicer. It was a perfect set-up for hit pieces by the likes of Ginia Bellafante, who called the downtown gathering an “opportunity to air societal grievances as carnival” and slammed the “group’s lack of cohesion and its apparent wish to pantomime progressivism rather than practice it knowledgably.”
History has proven that an absolute commitment to nonviolence can never effect radical change. This was shown again on Saturday September 23rd, when police used orange plastic nets to “kettle” and arrest about 80 Occupy Wall Streeters who had been marching peacefully through Greenwich Village. According to numerous witnesses and media accounts, none resisted. Cops went wild, beating several men bloody and macing at least one woman after she had been cuffed.
Sadly, too many people angry at gangster capitalists will look at the YouTube videos of bloodied young faces and say to themselves: I’m willing to suffer for a cause, not a scene.
Back in July, Adbusters wanted the “one simple demand” expressed by Occupy Wall Street to be “that Barack Obama ordain a Presidential Commission tasked with ending the influence money has over our representatives in Washington.”
What do we want?
A bipartisan blue-ribbon commission to study the extension of campaign finance reform!
When do we want it?
As soon as the committee completes its work!
Unsurprisingly and rightly, that uninspiring (and easily satisfied) demand has been set aside in favor of something better but hardly worth taking a rubber bullet for: “a vague but certain notion that the richest percentile of the country remains fat and happy as the going-on-five-year-old recession continues to batter the middle and working class,” as The New York Observer put it.
Occupy Wall Street should have demanded something majestic, reasonable and unobtainable, in order to expose the brutal nature of the system. Something like the nationalization of all corporations, equal wages for all workers, or the abolition of securities exchanges.
Some organizers also called Occupy Wall Street “Days of Rage”; along with organization and focus, rage is what is lacking.
The aggregated wealth of the superrich has been stolen from the rest of us. We should not ask them to give some of it back. We should take it all, then jail them.
Which isn’t going to happen nonviolently.
Rich people are bad people. Someone has to say it out loud.
I have no problems with the organizers of a protest deciding that its marchers will remain nonviolent. I am speaking at such an event on October 6th. However, I think it’s unwise to broadcast those intentions to the authorities.
Few people think about it now, but street demonstrations have always relied on a sense of menace. Sure, people marching through the streets of a medieval city might begin by expressing their demands peacefully. But they drank beer instead of water. On a hot day, things might escalate into a riot. The local lord was wise to give in earlier rather than later.
The rich and powerful never relinquish their prerogatives voluntarily. Only violence or the credible threat of violence can force them to give up what they stole through violence and corruption.
Despite the protesters’ many missteps, which were inevitable due to their lack of experience and political seasoning, the Occupy Wall Streeters should be commended. Sure, they did some stupid things. But they have taken a first (tentative) step into history. They have learned lessons. Hopefully they will be smarter next time.
See you in Washington on October 6th, when the October 2011 Coalition will begin the occupation of Freedom Square near the White House. Our demand is simple: We will not leave until the last occupation soldier and mercenary is withdrawn from U.S.-occupied Afghanistan.
(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)
COPYRIGHT 2011 TED RALL
I don’t know, Ted. Insisting that protesters wear the Corporate Casual uniform while engaging in the violent overthrow of the vulture capitalists doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. It seems counter-productive.
gee, thanks for the support. with friends like you…. 🙁
Did you read my column? I DO support Occupy Wall Street. I critique with love.
You want to swim in the blood of the capitalists? But you’re too tender for constructive criticism?
[…] Ted Rall was pretty hard on the mostly-young people taking part in the nonviolent occupation of Wall Street, which is winding down now in the park nearby, having been forced off the main street by violence from the police. Ted’s point was good, though: Why announce you’re going to be nonviolent, when the police routinely taser nonviolent troublemakers now? Let the police keep their distance a little longer, for fear of a riot beginning. As it was, the NYPD knew they could come in easily with plastic ziplocks for handcuffs, tasers, a minimum of effort, and pepper spray all these people who were not going to do anything about it. The protesters were dead in the water. […]
Adbusters are the people who sell you branded sneakers. That should say everything about their target demographic.
@John: Is it better to keep banging outside at the walls of the fort or to infiltrate and destroy the enemy from within?
There are more than two choices. You can, for example, use some dynamite to blow up the walls.
At the very least they could have worn jeans and non-worded t-shirts, and could have sent a political message to George W. Obama by declaring widespread allegiance to voting for a democratic candidate to Obama’s left (e.g. Dennis Kucinich) in the 2012 democratic primaries.
@freezeframe: this assumes one has dynamite. I agree, there are more than two choices, but if you have the dynamite, why not still infiltrate and destroy from within? Why not work to get the most bang for the buck?
Though I can see this argument running in circles. There’s a Nietzsche quote lurking around here…something about fighting monsters…
@Seth Warren You are right. Dynamite is indeed a bit hard to obtain. Can be frustrating to make too, the nitroglycerin required for adsorption on the saw dust or equivalent is really hard to generate at home without blowing up your oven and taking your kitchen and such with it. Its the nitration step that is killer, classic recipes require high heat, but if you go even a tad over the target temp the nitroglycerin forms and then goes up. There are probably some modern tricks for doing this condensation at lower safer temperatures, I’ll have to look them up.
For easier at home revolutionary fun try making TNT. All you need is toluene (typically available as varnish remover at your local hard ware store) nitric acid and fuming sulfuric acid. combine them all in the right portions and just let them stirr, even at room temperature. You can do this safely in a bucket in your basement (note: use a metal bucket, toluene is a pretty good solvent and some plastic buckets may dissolve with prolonged exposure to it.) Even if you screw the proportions up or have crappy reagents, you should still be able to obtain DNT if you wait long enough. DNT is considerably weaker the TNT but it isn’t exactly a childrens toy either. Bonus: both DNT and TNT are fairly non-toxic and surprisingly stable and detonation resistant given the wallup they can pack. Try it at home!
(Note: all such reagents available to the public in the US are now laced with chemical tracer agents used to leave chemical residues behind in a blast that indicated where certain materials were obtained from. Be careful about where and how you obtained these materials less the chemical residues lead to a paper or money trail that leads to you.)
of course i read your column, ted. but if that’s your idea of love then you have a very warped idea of love. it’s more like bitterness and resentment. i’m not saying you shouldn’t critique them. they could use all the help they can get. but that was not constructive criticism. you basically declared their action dead and ineffective. have you even been down to liberty plaza? i would have to guess not because if you had you would realize that in fact, the very opposite was true. the occupation is only beginning! maybe you could go share some of your expertise with them. they would undoubtedly welcome you with open arms. and maybe help thaw that cold, dead heart of yours.
and i say that with love. 🙂
…wound up at Zuccotti Park, whose private owners granted them permission to camp there.
My oh my, what a surprise: socialist police force repressed a manifestation (ironically, probably socialist leaning itself), while private property owners gave it shelter.
Rich people are bad people. Someone has to say it out loud.
That has to be the stupidest thing I read here, and that’s saying something, cause the competition is fierce!
Yeah. Rich people aren’t bad. They’re greedy. Greed is good.
“maybe you could go share some of your expertise with them. they would undoubtedly welcome you with open arms. and maybe help thaw that cold, dead heart of yours.”
If you want to protest a slaughterhouse, you don’t protest at the front gates of that slaughterhouse. You do the protest at a supermarket. The Occupy Wall Street effort is a good piece of street drama, but it is making quite a few crucial mistakes.
1. Social media. Great idea! Because, as we all know, not one single cop can figure out how to log into facebook or twitter. The cops used to have to infiltrate student organizations one at a time. Students would be suspicious. It would take time to get any useful information. That was all labor intensive. Not anymore. Now one cop can do it all at a desk and e-mail reports to all the other cops.
2. Get into one location for many days in a row. By now, the cops have either identified every person at the protest, or have full-face photos of them all. When they get around to arresting these people, they can add in the names. Or, they’ll be able to ID these people off their facebook photos. (Don’t tell me these protesters haven’t all shared e-mail addresses and cell phone numbers. Talk to an old timer about that sort of thing. Nyet. Don’t know the names of any of the others in your group. You can’t give up information you don’t know.) The old timers understood that you don’t want “the Man” to know your name, let alone have a photo of you. But not the young people today who know everything. They have confused “visibility” with “getting the message out.”
3. The season. We’re coming up on winter. In New York. It’s a couple months away. The days will get shorter and colder. Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming along too. At some point, the cops will simply get onto a bullhorn and say something like, “Excuse me. Excuse me. Is this thing on? We’ve received a credible threat that something might happen at sometime in this vicinity. We are, therefore, ordering you all to vacate immediately.”
Then, in keeping with non-violence principles, everyone will be arrested. It will take awhile, but the cops will eventually get everyone downtown. Of course, they will send people all over Manhattan and the outer boroughs.
And all those people will discover that they’re going to be photographed, fingerprinted, held until bail can be arranged, etc. Ever been strip-searched? I never have, but I can only imagine the effect this will have on “solidarity.” It will do exactly what the police want: It will tell them exactly who is in it for the long haul. And those people will be a small number, and the police apparatus will come down on them like the hammers of hell. When they are processed out, now with a court appearance over their heads, they will be told something to the effect, “And don’t go back to the protest site.”
And some of them, because they know better than Ted Rall and people older than him who lived through tear gas and dogs in the 1960s, will head right back there. Which is exactly what the cops want because now they can really use the system to grind you down.
4. Enter the polarizing celebrities. I have matched enough of Michael Moore’s stuff to realize that he is an excellent filmmaker. And you know what else he is? An insufferable, preening, posturing egomaniac. He insists on inserting himself into things despite knowing that many people who might be swayed have such a strong negative reaction to him that they back away.
He could have done more good by sending food and water to the protesters or offering a quiet couple of suggestions. But no, he smelled the chance to get in front of a camera and couldn’t say no. It’s already leaving the “people” and becoming “the talking heads.” Just like always. I expect Ann Coulter will be making some sick and insane comments for FOX any day now, and then the coverage will jump to the regular cast of lunatics.
The oldsters would tell you all this. I don’t think it’s that Rall has a cold heart. It’s more like trying to convince a friend not to marry a golddigger. You can do your best to talk the friend out of it, but friend simply isn’t going to accept that you have a valid point to begin with.
So let’s wait. My guess is that by Friday, the arrests will begin, followed by the order to disperse, followed by more arrests. Media coverage will turn from semi-favorable to dismissive, and then simply disappear altogether.
I hope I’m wrong. I really, really do. Because if this thing fails, it will make it even harder for the next one to succeed.
Excellent points, especially about the weather.
I don’t see the point of a campout or marches that aren’t a pain in the ass to the powers that be. With luck October 6th in DC will disrupt and annoy the right people.
Yah … I think the rich have to be taken on a case by case basis. Saying “rich people are bad” is as dumb as saying “rich people are good” and is no different then saying “poor people are bad/good.”
I will concede that there is a high propensity for rich people to be bad in this day and age just because there is a social system that supports and encourages bad behavior in the wealthy and makes morality immensely expensive while rewording amoral decisions monetarily. As a result, it is a lot easier in this day and age to get filthy rich if one is amoral, and even outright cruel and corrupt, but that doesn’t guarantee that absolutely all rich people are bad. It just means it is much easier to be rich if one is bad and harder if one is good at this time, and as such statistically there should probably be more evil corrupt rich individuals then good ones.
Thus one must take it on a case by case basis and not generalize. Warren Buffet is actually a pretty good guy along with George Soros and many others. While I do not agree with all they do I do not begrudge them their wealth. I am certain people can dig up dirt or sling mud on them if they feel like it, but hell if we are pulling out the sophism I can write you a long piece on the social damage and moral degeneration of mother Teresa (and no I am not kidding).
@Bucephalus while I am more in agreement with you than the others on this thread in regards to the “evilness” of the rich I would like to point out that most of the “evilness” in the social systems you malign, such as say the police in this example, behave as such because they have been co-opted by those who do fall into the category of the evil rich. As Noam Chompski pointed out the purpose of this corruption of the social systems by certain members of the wealthy is to turn people against their own government and their social systems and thus social contract. That way when people get angry at the corruption and collapse of society they, in their corporate conservative propaganda addled minds, go blow up a government building (e.g. Oklahoma City bombing and similar events) instead of say The Cato Institute or John Birch Society and other conservative think tanks and sources of illegitimate power and control that are the true route of their suffering. This serves a dual purpose: 1) people’s anger has been misdirected away from their true oppressors to those who are actually not really part of the problem, and 2) once the people have finished turning against their government and destroying it, then they will have destroyed the last protective barrier, however flawed weekend and corrupted it may have been, against the full brunt of brutal domination and relentless abuse by the transnational corporations and the evil among the rich. Getting people to believe their own government is the source of the problem, instead of occasionally a facilitator of the problem due to corrupt manipulation, is the start of the cruel capitalist dictators final solution for the rest of us.
Yes…. it takes a very special kind of courage to beat on a 95 lb young lady.
That said, I must confess that I was unfamiliar with the term “noshing”…. the urban dictionary, shining beacon of knowledge that it is, had some curious suggestions.
Alex, excellent points. The logic is busted.
Ted, thanks. I have followed them for about a month now, it did not make much sense, so I asked one of the organizers why they are doing it. What are they hoping to accomplish? He said then, they did not know yet, they were talking about it. From the reports I gather they were still talking about it at the plaza. Argh.
alex, you are tired. go back to sleep. you obviously don’t know what you’re talking about. have you even been down there? and ted, the fact that you didn’t answer my question leads me to believe that i was right. you haven’t been down to liberty plaza either. so you’re basing your critique on what you’ve read in the times? and how is alex’s point about the weather especially excellent? is the weather in dc that much better in the winter? for you to dismiss #occupywallstreet (and all the other occupations popping up around the country) so easily smacks of petty jealousy. how dare these inexperienced kids steal our thunder?! either that or you are so filled with rage and the need for vengeance that anything less than a violent revolution won’t do. or something. i’m disappointed in you, ted. you should take a page out of debra sweet’s book and embrace these kids (and grandmas and veterans, etc.). i know you’ve been fighting the good fight for a long time and i respect and appreciate that but you could actually learn a thing or two from them.
Believe me, I would love the revolution to come. I don’t care who starts it, who gets credit. Just let it happen.
To answer your question, yes, I went down there twice.
One thing I should have said in their favor was that they’re doing what I advise in the Manifesto: just revolt, don’t think you have to spend years getting ready. Now is the time. The Wall Street people have that right. But it’s been two weeks and no one knows their demands yet. That’s serious ass-dragging on the part of people who claim to want to reorder the political and economic system of the world’s richest nation.
No, Pork. It isn’t “How dare these young kids steal our thunder.” It’s “How dare these young kids ignore all the excellent tactics that were learned the hard way from the 1950s and 60s on up so that they can offer ‘and pizza ;)’.”
Pork. Face it. Nothing that is being done at “Liberty Plaza” will amount to shit. Why? For the reasons I outlined. Winter’s coming. And if I were a police chief being told, “Dammit, I want this over with! Now!” by a superior, and the temperature outside was 40 degrees? I would end the whole thing by spraying the protesters with fire hoses (which, I believe, has a historical precedent).
And you’re right Pork, I haven’t been down there. But let me make a guess (based on all the photographs I’ve seen — posted outside of the MSM sources): Most of the protesting individuals are white and relatively young. Look at the pretty young thing in her toe shoes striking a ballet pose on the top of the Wall Street bull. Are you blind, Pork? That’s the iconic image of the movement? A white, privileged girl engaging in an activity reserved for privileged white girls?
That’s why I’m so angry Pork. Because you simply aren’t experienced to understand that in this matter, I am right. I’m right. Ted’s right. The aging 1960s agitators are right. And the people blowing off classes to camp out (and that’s what it is to them — a campout) at Camp Liberty, are screwing up, plain and simple.
When they become too noxious for the power structure to tolerate, they will neatly be rounded up, terrorized, and then put back out into society. for most of these protesters, this is all just a game so that later in life when they are pulling down fat coin (or think they will be at the present time because they honestly don’t think it’s going to get really worse) they can brag about how they paid their dues.
Bullshit. got that, Pork? Bullshit. The billionaires on Wall Street don’t care one way or the other. Why? Because all the money making is going on in server farms. That these idiots down in Liberty Park don’t realize that is what disgusts me.
You won’t get the public agitated by camping out and singing songs. You need to disrupt society. You need to make it so that a midwest housewife gets pissed. And you need to make she sure understands that the reason you’re pissing her off isn’t because you want to piss her off, but because Wall Street is stealing her blind. You have to show her. Not swap e-mail addresses with some hot somebody you want to shag at Liberty Park.
Now either start thinking, Pork, or go the hell home.
And don’t pick on my name. It’s trite. And no protest ever won by being trite.
Indeed, disruption is the point of the movement.
I don’t understand why Occupy Wall Street doesn’t demand the following:
Immediate end to foreclosures (just like that, millions of Americans facing foreclosure are on your side)
Immediate compensation (for the full value of the lost home) by all banks who foreclosed on Americans since 2000
Immediate ban on all layoffs (all endangered employees suddenly love you)
All layoff victims still out of work given full paychecks from previous employer until national unemployment is 1% or less, or, if the company is out of business, they receive it from taxes on the wealthy and corporations
Nationalization of all companies found to have broken laws
Immediate withdrawal from all overseas military installations
Immediate forgiveness of all student loans
Immediate abolition of credit card debt, coupled with abolition of credit card industry
and so on.
Well, I’ll go with pork on one thing. What the heck are ya gonna be doing in DC that is different, Ted?
Weather? They got winter weather in DC too.
We have one primary demand. We have reached out to many groups and organizations with experience doing this sort of thing. We are disrupting, being a pain in the ass that cannot be ignored by seizing control of a major intersection two blocks from the White House.
Those are different.
Unlike “the rich” the police are almost always evil, be they in the service of the wealthy (who can purchase influence from the powerful), be they in the service of “the people”, the proletariat or whatever other abstraction those in power use to justify their power. Police are the ultimate expression of the violence of the state, and the only way to have a safe police force is to have less of it, and less state.
Well, I just clicked on the october2011.org site, and one, they stress NONVIOLENCE in capital letters, and second, they have a list of 15 demands that we all know by heart and know it ain’t gonna happen. What gives? Ted? I am bewildered.
Yeah, well, I didn’t write that stuff. October 2011 might be a clusterfuck, who knows? I’m nervous but hoping for the best.
You make great points. I heard Matt Taibbi (I think it was him) say that there were a few tea partiers down there. Maybe #OccupyWallStreet could have reached out to folks in the tea party who would ask– Where’s my pension money? Or just generally expressed their outrage at the Wall Street bailout.
What was the last protest movement that was successful? I think we can all look back at the Civil RIghts movement with awe. It is amazing how the people in the movement were able to effect change in this country… As for a more recent movement, I think the pro-life movement has been successful. Pro-lifers represent (as far as I know) a minority viewpoint, yet they have politicians bowing to them. I suppose one characteristic protesters have to have to be successful is to risk a lot (maybe even their lives) to get what they are demanding. It can’t just be a bunch of people saying– This isn’t fair policy. The policy they are protesting has to hit them where they live, and they have to be willing to make sacrifices for it.
I like MIchael Moore and consider him a credible figure in the protest movement, but as for other celebrities, I have to wonder if their presence actually helps a movement.
I was thinking about the similarities with protests in Europe. As I understand it, the Indignados in Spain wound up forcing an election that ushered in a new government that was the same as the old government– it imposed similar austerity measures as did the old government.
I have been following the protests in Greece (I speak Greek). One flaw I see in common with the protests there and here is that they appear to be non-ideological. At least in Greece, the Indignados think it is a good thing not to carry the banner of a party. I don’t get it. As I understand it, these people are fighting capitalism, right? Well, there is a certain party that is too, and it has been around since before they were born– the Commies! Why not embrace them? Or at least reach out for some help? In the US, how about starting a leftist third party?
still no response, ted? are you really letting tired old alex (sorry, alex, i couldn’t help myself) argue for you? or maybe you’ve read this great article by glenn greenwald (http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/09/28-9) which says what i’m trying to say, only much better, and had a change of heart? you should read it too, alex. if you’re not too tired. and thanks, vera! i was wondering the same thing! 🙂
Well, I read Greenwald, and while I agree there is no need to mock the protesters, his points are weak. He says that the message of the protest was “that Wall Street is oozing corruption and criminality and its unrestrained political power — in the form of crony capitalism and ownership of political institutions — is destroying financial security for everyone else?” Hm. Would I want to get abused by the police to tell people that snow is white?
The problem with these protests are that their time has passed. They don’t work. The logic does not work. And those young people are gonna be abused and hounded, and the potential for doing something bold and useful is lost.
People already know that Wall Streeters are running amok. Will a protest change it one iota? No. That is the fundamental problem. I appreciate the kids having the spunk to go out there, but I think the spunk would be better spent in finding something that can actually get something done.
Oh and pork, picking on Alex makes you sounds like a jerk. Are you one?
Read Greenwald’s article. Many problems exist in it, but I don’t want this spiraling into a “Now what was the original discussion about” kind of things. But, briefly, take this one paragraph (there were others, but I will not — repeat, will not — engage in a sentence-by-sentence dissection of everything Greenwald wrote. Some of it made sense, and some of it was completely off.
“But much of this progressive criticism consists of relatively (ostensibly) well-intentioned tactical and organizational critiques of the protests: there wasn’t a clear unified message; it lacked a coherent media strategy; the neo-hippie participants were too off-putting to Middle America; the resulting police brutality overwhelmed the message, etc. etc. That’s the high-minded form which most progressive scorn for the protests took: it’s just not professionally organized or effective.”
Yes. That’s exactly correct. It isn’t a protest if you don’t have a message. It isn’t a protest if you don’t have a media strategy. It isn’t a protest if you put-off the very people you’re trying to convince.
Take a look at the Occupy Wall Street website. Where are the list of demands? I couldn’t find them. They should be on the front page, clear as day. Get rid of little miss dancer and put some information up there. I notice the “and pizza” part has been removed. Is it possible someone is starting to realize that presentation of message matters?
Too bad they didn’t put the demands somewhere they could be seen. Perhaps a crawl across the top of the screen? A link? But no such thing is there. That’s unforgivable. It’s amateurish. It’s stupid. Most of these protesters are exactly the group that has web skills. That something this deformed is their public-facing image is simply unacceptable.
The October2011.org site puts the demands on their second page. Again. YOU DON’T MAKE PEOPLE HUNT AROUND TO FIND OUT WHY YOU’RE DOING ALL THIS.
Also, let’s get to the demands themselves. Fifteen demands. Really. I ask you, pork, or anyone else, please, to give me an instance of any group obtaining ANY 15 demands in a protest format like this one. “What do we want?” “The following 15 demands which will need to be explained in greater detail!” “When do we want it?” “You mean ‘Them’.” “Right. When do we want them?” “Now!”
It’s another amateur mistake, and it’s setting the whole thing up for public ridicule. And I notice there’s nothing in there about birth control. Why not? Why is the Movement so pro-life? (See? That’s how easy it is to turn the whole thing into a shouting match of subdivided groups arguing among themselves.)
The Movement went nuts because there were no rational voices saying, “Okay, okay. Before we remake the entire world, how about this. What’s the one, two, or three biggest things we want?” I’d say the end to corporate personhood, the immediate investigation and prosecution of those people suspected of ruining the economy, and the end of investment practices that allow “flash trading” and short selling. These all tie together into one overarching message: Corporations and a few of their wealthiest owners have rigged the stock market so that the small investor can’t get a fair turn. It has to stop.
But 15 points? In a culture where the attention span is 11 seconds? Simply unforgivably stupid and naive.
And finally. Another Occupy Wall Street mistake. When the thug maced those women? He gave you the biggest PR opportunity in the world. THAT is your iconic image. Not some trust-fund, rich, white girl whose biggest problem is whether her dance tights are available in beige or only ecru. You’ve got a shot of a woman shrieking in agony because she’s just been maced for no reason. THAT is your rallying cry. THAT is your rallying image. THAT is your first demand: the arrest, prosecution, and if guilty, incarceration of the police officer involved. If he was acting on orders from a higher up, the same for that higher up.
See you on Monday, when all this will probably be over anyway.
Mks: embrace commies? Haven’t they done enough damage for one ideology already? Sheesh. But maybe you are joshing.
Parties are part of the same crappy package that does not work. It’s like trying to bring out new chairs on Titanic’s deck…! Enough! Has humanity completely run out of ideas? Do we have to keep re-running the stuff of the 20th century… oh if we only try it one more time, maybe this time it will work? Argh.
A better list of demands, for sure, Ted. But how to get from here to there?
Well, the Arabs have laid down a roadmap.
Here is a question to ponder:
Is disruption of the status quo an effective tactic? To my mind, the best it can do is force the status quo to make some concessions. The worst it can do is help the status quo evolve even better ways to counter disruption.
It’s like with bacteria or bugs… if you just all out mess with them, they will evolve right past your assault.
An excellent concern. In the past, capitalism proved itself very adaptable. Now, however, it seems unable to respond to challenges and will collapse nearly of its own accord. The trouble is, what comes next: us or Them?
The Arabs have wrested some concessions. Got rid of the top thugs. The rest of them remain in place. Am I missing something?
I hope we are not underestimating capitalism’s wiliness. Really, Ted, all they have to do is cancel debt and start the predatory cycle all over again. Ancient elites did it over and over. I grant you, the crises they are facing may be too much for such tinkering. We’ll see.
What comes next… the crux of the matter, eh…
Indeed, the Arabs have not carried a single full revolution. But they have shown what is possible with the right combination of spontaneity, tenacity and quick organization. What was missing, outside Libya at least, was the willingness to take up arms.
We cannot apply a one-size-fits-all solution. What works in one Arab country might not even successfully translate to another Arab country, let alone America.
In the TV show “Breaking Bad,” one of the characters has a monolog where he explains about how, when he was a cop, he took a serial wife-beater out into the middle of nowhere and tried to scare him into leaving his wife alone. It didn’t work, and the guy kills his wife a couple weeks later. The character’s conclusion was that he had tried to apply a half measure, and that he no longer employs half measures, only full measures.
You want to fix Wall Street? Then the people who deliberately lied, cheated and stole, wiping out the economy just to enrich themselves, have to lose EVERYTHING. All of it. No matter where it’s hidden or in what form. Irrevocable trust? Not that irrevocable. In the wife or kids’ names? Stolen goods, friends. Back it goes. The children can take student loans to get through college, just like the rest of us. The spouses can go to the food pantries and pick up 5-lb. blocks of surplus government cheese. They can have their houses taken from them and end up in the streets.
You cannot do a half measure and expect it to have the necessary corrective effect. Remember Mike Milken? He was fined one billion dollars. Wow, you’d think that’s pretty steep. But he was worth two billion at the time. He simply sat down and wrote a check. Did it sting? Sure. Did it impact his life in any real way? Absolutely not.
Jail sentences won’t work. The death penalty won’t work. What will work is the complete confiscation of all their wealth and their permanent disbarment from ANY job in banking or finance. And that’s the ONLY thing that will work.
Willingness to take up arms? The rebels were not really supported by the western powers. After all, Moob and that Ali Baba chief of the thiefs in Tunisia had the full support of America’s and France’s ruling elites. Weapons? It does not make sense. How do you picture it working, realistically?
Alex, these people run things. That is why they are stealing with impunity. So blabbering about bringing them to justice is just pie-in-the-sky. Look at Iceland. They have a democracy there, much more than here. And one of the banksters is being tried. One. The fall guy. And I doubt they will confiscate all his loot though they will take some.
Why the heck are we full of “this needs doing” without any clue of how to bring it about? That’s a real disconnect. If you listen to alternative econ people, same thing. Full of pie in the sky solutions with not a clue of how to get from here to there.
Some still dream of seizing the power via weapons, like the Bolshies of old. That only leads to new power abuses stepping into the shoes of the old power abusers. Unless. Unless a whole different culture has been grown in the grassroots first, and the weapons are merely the defense of a revolution that’s already come. (Like in colonial America.)
Yes, the Wall Street thugs own pretty much everything that isn’t nailed down, but if we’re gonna talk about “pie in the sky,” then pretty much the whole point of the exercise is moot. And I don’t think it is, just yet. If it were, if “They” did own every single thing, if it really were too late to do anything, the police would have trooped into the park, shot everyone dead, and the media wouldn’t have covered it at all. The Powers still need the complicity of the Masses to get away with what They do.
The elites always need the complicity of the masses. Naked brutality is expensive and unstable over the long run. (That’s why they always cultivate a large posse of mystifiers.) When they killed the women and kids at the Ludlow Massacre, those miners were able to connect with the middle class masses and the powers cleaned up their act some. At this point, they are not interested in shooting everyone dead. They want their game to continue. But enough about the scum that rises. 😉
Why do you say that if we talk about pie in the sky, the whole point of the exercise is moot? What do you mean?
I mean that if one accepts the condition that “they” control everything, then “they” cannot be beaten. If “they” cannot be beaten, then all of this stuff about “We should do this, we should do that” is nothing more than pie in the sky. It’s like playing against people who have a marked deck.
Therefore, we must start from the assumption that yes, we can make a difference, that we can force a more just, more humane world into existence. But you do not accomplish that by treating this whole thing like a lark, you don’t accomplish it unless you’re willing to set realistic goals, and move toward them in a rational, mature fashion.
Going back to my initial posts, that means that you take Ms. I Took My Top Off, Look at What a Free Spirit I Am aside and send her home. You tell her she isn’t welcome back until she becomes an adult. Yes. That’s right. You treat this whole thing with the seriousness it deserves. The people meditating because they can sense auras or past lives or channel chi or whatever nonsense mumbo-jumbo they weally, weally bewieve in? Tell them they’re making you all look like idiots. Meditation is great for helping you to control blood pressure, but if meditation got anything political done, the world would be run by Buddhist monks.
Ah! Thank you for explaining. Not at all what I meant. Let me try again: they control enough things, they have accumulated enough power, that they can steal with impunity. Of course, no matter how controlling control freaks get, they can never control everything.
My own belief is that they can be beaten. But not with tired old methods that have been failing for 6,000 years, some of them. They certainly cannot be beaten head-on. We gotta be sneaky and clever and find their weak spots, and hit and run like the guerrillas.
And on the pie front, I fail to see how making demands that we bloody well know have no chance of getting from here to there is of any help. Make a radical demand, do. But tell me how to get there. At least try. Otherwise, you are selling pie in the sky, and I ain’t buyin’.
I really don’t give a fig about “professionalism” in terms of clothes or such. As Emma Goldman once said or did not say, If I can’t dance, I don’t want your revolution. I am not blaming the kids for playing. I am not happy because they have no clue what the heck they were doing there, and what they meant to accomplish. If you don’t have that, then it’s about ego and getting in the news and most of all, it’s about pretending that “we are doing something.”
I think we’re at a slight disagreement on this, Vera. I think that they THINK they can steal with impunity because, for a very long time, they’ve been, literally, stealing hand over fist with nary a word of complaint.
No movement will succeed unless it connects, deeply, with a realistic fraction of the majority (say 1 in 10). The aging hippies can talk all they want about how they ended Vietnam, man. But they didn’t. Vietnam ended because the number of Americans who had died had crossed a statistical threshold. It goes like this: At the nth fatality, Y% of Americans knew, either personally or by only one connection (e.g., the neighbor’s child, a friend’s son), someone who had died in Vietnam. When that happened, the public’s willingness to allow the war to go along ended.
In the same way, a Movement must connect successfully to enough of “the squares” that they will start considering the movementist “valid.” The most crucial part of that? Rapport. When I see people dancing or having a good time, I do not accept that what they are trying to draw my attention to is serious to them. It’s just another shiny to distract them until the next thing that they really don’t care too much about.
It’s like when 12-year-old girls burst into tears when they see Justin Bieber. In 15 years, they’ll all say the same thing, “Oh, I had such a crush on him when I was a girl. I wonder what ever happened to him. Oh, hey, here’s the waiter, I’ll have a salad…”
Until the people in the park start acting like this ISN’T something on the emotional equivalent of Justin Bieber crushes, I cannot take them seriously. Until I can take them seriously, I cannot support them. And that’s not just me. It’s a lot of people. The biggest obstruction to the success of this movement is the people it has attracted. The best filter to remove them from the process would be the tired old nagging stuff I’ve already suggested: Everyone, dress appropriately. That doesn’t mean a tuxedo and $400 shoes, but put on something clean. Shave, guys. Do any of you own printers? Then print some nice signs. Vagrants write in block letters on cardboard offcasts. Show me you aren’t vagrants. Show me you aren’t sleeping off a Three Roses hangover. Hold a teach-in on a subway car. Two of you have a loud conversation. “Hey, Fred, did you know that 1% of Americans, and that one percent pays practically nothing in taxes, controls over 40% of the wealth in this country?” “No, Jim, I didn’t know that. I did know that the real rate of unemployment is about 16% right now.” “Gosh, where’d you learn that, Fred?” “I went to occupywallst.org.” They’ve got all the documentation and links right there. And you can do it at work…” “If you have a job, Fred.”
See? I just wrote that on the fly. I’m not saying it’s great. I’m not even saying it’s good. But it’s a way to reach out to people who might be sympathetic.
As it is, I suspect the movement will be given its marching orders any day now. I thought the cops would arrest everyone on Friday (thus sticking everyone in cells for the weekend). That hasn’t happened. My guess now is that the owners of the park will simply ask the police to remove everyone, after setting conditions that cannot be met (e.g., the park may only be used by any person or group for a maximum period of two hours out of every 24). When the protesters don’t leave, the cops will come in and remove them for violating the law.
Minor differences, Alex.
I feel similar as you though seemingly for different reasons. Seeing seriousness in knowing how to get things done.
And, btw, there is no movement out there. Just bursts of this and that.
I would love to see any thoughts you may have on what I wrote earlier: “And on the pie front, I fail to see how making demands that we bloody well know have no chance of getting from here to there is of any help. Make a radical demand, do. But tell me how to get there. At least try. Otherwise, you are selling pie in the sky, and I ain’t buyin’.” I am restating this because I see this “demanditis” everywhere, and nobody talking whether the logic of it makes sense.
You’re absolutely correct in your evaluation of the practicality (or should I type “impracticality”) of pie-front demands. If anything, I’d add that pie demands actually weaken any other demands, regardless of how rational or good they are. Imagine a country with only 3 laws on the books, and one of those is that on Tuesdays, everyone must wear a silly hat. Don’t you think people would have a little trouble accepting the other two laws as being particularly compelling, regardless of what they are? “Sure, Law #2 is ‘Don’t rape people.’ but Law #3 is about silly hats. Let’s go hide in the bushes and wait …”
The, um, non-insane way of formulating a protest demand is by showing that it can be done. You show that the only reason it hasn’t happened is because people simply haven’t done it. That there’s no impossible barrier that cannot be crossed. You make the demand the last part of it, you make the demand the obvious conclusion. (Gosh, the blacks are right. If you pay the fare, you should be able to put your ass on any damned seat on the whole damned bus.)
For instance. Demanding Universal Health Care for everyone. As soon as you say it, some people, because they’ve been conditioned correctly by the corporate masters, will think “But, that’s unpossible. I know it to be so because I was told it can’t be done by people who work for the for-profit health-insurance market. It’s um, Marxism or something.”
The way you push for it is by pointing out the following: Health insurance works by taking a group of people and sharing out the costs among everyone. So, rather than going bankrupt when you or your spouse gets a visit from the cancer fairy, you settle for a small loss out of every week’s pay cycle, even when you’re in tip-top health, so that when you do suddenly fall over into your lentil-carrot smoothie with a heart attack, you can live. Every insurance plan in the world works on this principle: spread risk out among the largest pool possible.
Now, let’s apply this premise to the whole population. Everyone pays in, everyone gets health coverage. But some of you are shrieking, “I’ll have to pay for fatso over there when he needs a triple-bypass!”
Guess what? You’d have to pay for fatso, anyway. If you have a heart attack, and have NO insurance, there’s a government plan called Medicaid for the indigent. And if fatso had HAD insurance, he probably would have gotten treatment BEFORE he had his big-ass expensive heart attack.
And what if fatso had, say, a house before the heart attack that he could sell? Okay. So now, fatso lives, but he’s out on the street. Do you know how much more he’s going to cost now in health coverage (which, now because he’s indigent will come under Medicaid)? Even more, because all of his trips into the system will be via the ER. (Ask some of the people who deal with the homeless. When it’s 5 degrees outside, homeless people will harm themselves so that the ER will admit them for the evening to the hospital: a free meal, a safe room, a shower. It’s like the frickin’ lottery.)
So, the downside to universal health care appears to be that a few people will not be able to make a profit off of human sickness and suffering. So why would anyone support that?
(Obviously, I’m painting with some pretty broad strokes here, but the point is that it isn’t very difficult at all to show people that the fuss in a lot of issues is usually mostly a creation of people who have a vested interest in the situation continuing as it is. You can get people to support “wild” ideas — let’s end child labor! — if you simply go point by point and show them that the people who would suffer the most from the end of child labor is the people whose factories require child labor to turn the biggest profit.)
Alex, your argument in the first para makes good sense. Excellent point.
After reading the rest, I was thinking… we lack some sort of “wisdom process” that would allow the whole society to come to conclusions like the one with the bus. It won’t come from Washington, that’s for sure. I am gonna pursue that line of thinking and see where it leads. 🙂
Kunstler weighs in: