Occupy: The Truth That Hurts

From The New York Times, a comment about Occupy Wall Street from a reader in Chicago:-

The leaderlessness and the lack of any agenda or even the desire to engage the system. Shows an almost total lack of faith in both our system of government and the future. It is interesting to think that those people who protested during Vietnam and the Civil rights era during the height of the Cold War had enough faith to organize , to vote to engage the system. The OWS have none of that. What is their most frequent demands. Forgiveness of Student loans. Talk about being self centered. During the 30’s during far worse economic times. Unions strengthened, people marched, went on strike. So what we have is not some form of post cold war reality but spoiled children who can’t face the facts that we now live in difficult times.

For all the criticism of the Tea Party notice what they did. They organized they showed up at Town Hall meetings, at caucuses they ran for office or supported politicians who embraced their positions.

So tell me who will have the greatest impact those who embrace the system looking for ways to change it or those who snub their noses at it.

Amongst a lot of the pragmatic variety of Progressives, there’s been a lot of discussion and a fair bit of worry about this protest and how it hopes to effect the changes it wants to see. I know this is supposed to be apolitical, but more than that, it seems to be almost anti-political, especially in the sentiments uttered by some of the protests, which seem to indicate that it simply isn’t worth voting.

Or, like Joe Diaz, the self-styled “Everyman” from Occupy Atlanta, who thought John Lewis had nothing worthwile to contribute to any protest movement, they think voting basically sucks, unless you vote for a far Left third partier. Diaz says:-

Voting alone is a dead end. But I vote. If you don’t vote, you leave yourself open to criticism if you are also participating in any activism – people will tell you that your protest is illegitimate because you’ve given up on our formal system for the redress of problems. So, while I understand withholding the vote in the spirit of not wanting to legitimize the system, I vote in order to cover myself. I just won’t vote for either of the major parties.

Uhhhhh … yeah. I gotcha. Did you understand that? Voting is a dead end, but he votes in order to legitimize his right to protest. OK. Fair enough, but he refuses to vote for any Democrat no matter how far to the Left the politician says he might be. Instead, Diaz says, he “looks to” Bernie Sanders and socialism in Vermont.

Fair enough, but Diaz is from New York and resides in Atlanta, where he’s studying for his PhD. Openly socialist politicians are scarce in New York. They’re like hen’s teeth in Atlanta. So if this chappie, whose academic expertise is political science, is advocating that most of his ilk vote a socialist third party candidate, we know where that will lead – to the same end that always results when a third party challenge is mounted from the extreme Left.

Just cast your mind back to 2000 and remember what that got us. Diaz might as well have openly advocated voting Republican, because his socialist vote could very well enable the mirror image fringe takeover of his Tea Party brethren.

This line of thinking shows a dangerous arrogance, as well as a lack of basic common sense, but then, Diaz is a man who thinks anarchists are “good people.”

There are some scary things emanating from the punditry of the Left. Joan Walsh encourages  trolls daily. Bill Maher subtly hints that it may not be worth voting in 2012. Both these themes are played up by that fringe of protesters on whom the media – cable and mainstream – are concentrating. Far be it for these people to blurt out the plea not to vote, the way the walking piece of low-hanging fruit AKA Ed Schultz did prior to the Midterms. They are too clever. They use the power of suggestion, faux concern about the President’s ability.

The protesters are right about one thing: at this point in time, the Democrats and the Republicans both suck. The Republicans are a lot suckier, but the Democrats on the Hill are pretty rank as a whole too. The President is above that, however; but he can only go as far Left as his own party in the legislative branch of government are willing to go, and only then, if they control the respective Houses. Once again (and I’ll say it until it sinks in), if you want a more liberal President, for fuck’s sake, give him something with which to work in Congress.

And that means voting.

So, I was worried about the antipathy to the voting process expressed by some of the OWS protesters; but then I read an essay on the Crooks & Liars site, written by the self-styled “pop historian” and general flaming asshole, Rick Perlstein, and that worried me even more:-

I spent the entire day Friday at Occupy Wall Street in New York, and I learned a secret—something I haven’t heard from its backers and boosters, not from its participants and organizers, and certainly not from its lunatic detractors, the ones like Senator Orrin Hatch, who says, “We are going to have riots in this country because of what these people are doing,” or Herman Cain, who says the whole thing must have been “planned and orchestrated to distract from the failed policies of the Obama administration,” and Eric Cantor, who says they are “occupying mobs,” incredulous that “some in this town have actually condoned the pinning of Americans against Americans.” Here’s the secret. Drummmmmroll:

This thing is just a huge, non-stop party.


But my dominant impression on stepping onto the square after taking a little tour of the Ground Zero site (it’s about two blocks to the West), and walking the four corners of the space, was that this is just like walking into the open door of an apartment where a giant old house party is happening, one so big that you know anyone is invited, where the only qualification is a willingness to feel welcome. Where you can talk to any stranger without feeling awkward—dance with any stranger without feeling awkward, as I did in the scrum in front of the drum circle on the western edge of the park—and maybe even feel yourself part of a conversation that’s been going on for days or weeks, even with someone you’ve just met. I did that with a young college student named Melinda (Belinda?) after Jeffrey Sachs spoke in the designated speaker’s corner by the giant red I-beam sculpture by Mark di Suvero (I just looked it up, and it’s called “Joie de Vivre”—ain’t that grand?),


Fun? A dead-on Sarah Palin impersonator. Folks taking turns shouting questions at her: “Is Africa a country or a continent?” “Tell us again about Paul Revere.” She, in turn, plays her part to the T. Also: a parody Fox News camera, interviewing volunteers. Marvelous fake “arguments” break out, everyone playing their parts—a ritualized exorcism of the stupidity of our media discourse. We are all the performers, the audience, the directors and producers. Fun! “FOX NEWS,” read a sign: “DON’T WORRY! WE DON’T TAKE YOU SERIOUSLY EITHER!”

The signs. Signs are fun!
“THIS IS LEVERAGE” (arrow poitning in all directions beneath it)

Again: we are all the performers, the audience, the directors and producers, seeking to out-clever one another. And if you didn’t bring your own sign, or can’t think of anything clever, pick up your own from the free piles of them on the east side of the proceedings. Right by the library. What? You didn’t know about the library? The one where the volunteer anarchist librarians sort and index dozens—hundreds?—of free books, there for the taking if you want to sit and have a chill? It is right by, in turn, the buffet line. The one maintained by the volunteer anarchist cooks, presiding over piles and piles of free food.

I said it’s easy to come here. It’s also easy to stay here. For days and days and days, if you feel like it. There are piles of sleeping bags; I suppose you are allowed to just borrow one. Although—people are having fun—maybe you can find a friend and share. Then read the newspaper in the morning: the “Status Board,” updated daily. (“STEVE JOBS DEAD AT 56—BUT THE DAILY NEWS AND NEW YORK TIMES PUT US”—”us” underlined three times—”FIRST.”)

Yep, that’s it. One big, unending block party, so big that the death of the man who was arguably one of the biggest IT entrepreneurs of modern times pales in comparison to OWS – not OWS, but its participants. After all, no less than the New York Times put “us” (underlined three times) first – a point which brilliantly illustrates the unknown and unheralded Times commenter, who remarked upon the selfishness and the narcissism he perceived to be apparent amongst the protesters.

Ironic, too, that in both Perlstein’s twin tomes which chart the rise of ueber conservatism in America – Before the Storm and Nixonland – he’s positively scathing to the point of open disdain and hatred for the student protest movements of the 1960s, indeed almost any protest movement associated with that era, from Civil Rights to the SDS. But, hey, give Rick a protest in the form of an open-ended party, with drums, dancing, comedy entertainment, free nosh and sleeping bags and a pretty girl to chat up, and he could stay for days. Never mind the message. Never mind that this is the man who hates Obama because he’s uppity – oops! – arrogant.

Perhaps if John Lewis, almost fifty years ago, had boogied down on the bridge, he’d have been the kind of hero whose words of wisdom would have resonated with “Joe the Bummer” Diaz and Occupy Atlanta. Perhaps if John Kerry had shaken his booty at the head of a column of Viet Nam Vets against the War, he wouldn’t have been swiftboated, and Baby Bush would have been a one-termer.

It just seems to me that this is turning into a mixture of a nostalgic desire for a carpe diem moment for some of the older people involved in this and an effort on the part of those too young to remember the Sixties, to recreate their version of that era too.

Either way, it’s beginning to seem less and less about effecting some sort of change and more and more about the people in the protest.

The Times commenter perceived it, and Joe Diaz and Rick Perlstein proved it.

And perception, they say, is reality.