#occupywallstreet — a discussion has broken out among leftie bloggers about whether Occupy Wall Street is really deserving of that much respect. And this does touch on one of my long-time pet peeves, about the difference between stupid protesting and smart protesting.
Compare/contrast Occupy Wall Street with last winter’s protest in Madison, Wisconsin. Now, y’all know I found the Madison protests thrilling. What I loved about it is that the people who participated really were there for the cause, not just to draw attention to themselves. And the cause was not just some amorphous sense that, y’know, stuff is bad and we’re angry about it. There was a specific focus, a particular message, that everyone came together to deliver. And they’ve been following it up with good old-fashioned shoes-on-the-pavement, door-to-door political activism that resulted in the recall of two state senators.
This is how it’s done.
Occupy Wall Street, on the other hand, reeks of the usual crowd of juvenile attention-seekers who protest for the sake of protesting. Their “demands” (which, they are careful to say, are not really demands, just ideas) are a grocery list of feel-good sentiments, not a call to action.
During some of the Iraq War demonstrations I got the impression many of these exhibitionists really don’t understand what they’re protesting; they just like to hog megaphones. They and groups like International A.N.S.W.E.R. who wanted to piggyback their own agendas onto the antiwar marches pretty much killed any chance of forming a genuine antiwar movement.
Occupy Wall Street doesn’t actually have an official agenda, other than how they want to formulate an agenda. I’m serious. They plan to hold “people’s assemblies” someday to decide what they want to demand.
I cannot tell you how weary I am of this kind of pretentious shit. I’ve seen it at too many liberal/progressive gatherings over the years. Somebody comes up with some too-precious gimmick that’s going to change the world, and they whip up a little enthusiasm for it for about ten minutes, and then everyone loses focus and goes home.
Truly, the only thing Occupy Wall Street has going for it is that they are getting beaten up by cops, and by all means let’s focus on the cops and the pepper spray and the orange netting, because that’s wrong. But the larger mystery to me is why the NYPD even bothered. Just ignoring them would have been more effective.
Someone at Firedoglake wrote a post titled “Why Establishment Media & the Power Elite Loathe Occupy Wall Street.”
They don’t loathe you, dear. You probably don’t even interest them much. You are no threat to them. If major media aren’t covering you, it’s because there’s nothing to cover but some rowdy people hanging out in a park pretending to have a purpose.
The Bigger Asshole rule always applies.
Update: Really excellent blog post about how to stage effective protests in the 21st century. Recommended reading.
Update: I think Glenn is right when he says this,
That’s just the nature of protests that take place outside approved channels, an inevitable by-product of disruptive dissent: those who are most vested in safeguarding and legitimizing establishment prerogatives (which, by definition, includes establishment media outlets) are going to be hostile to those challenges.
However, I think he’s totally wrong here–
A significant aspect of this progressive disdain is grounded in the belief that the only valid form of political activism is support for Democratic Party candidates, and a corresponding desire to undermine anything that distracts from that goal.
You see that attitude among the bobbleheads in television; not to much the blogosphere. I don’t personally give a hoo-haw whether the Democratic Party supports a particular protest. I care if the protest is smart and has a chance of having some effect.
Glenn goes on to describe how awful Wall Street has been. Yes, Glenn they are very awful. Lots of people think so. Even a lot of the teabaggers think so. But Wall Street is also very , very powerful, which is why carrying a cardboard sign around saying “bleep Wall Street” really isn’t helping anyone.
Political activism isn’t political activism unless there is a specific goal in mind, whether freeing India from the British empire or getting voting rights for African Americans or recalling Wisconsin state senators. Just expressing dislike of someone or something is not political activism. And what is happening in and around Zuccotti Park is not political activism, it’s political masturbation.
And a collection of self-indulgent dilettantes who want to feel good about themselves and play out some fantasy of being big bad revolutionaries is not a movement. A movement has direction. It has goals. It has a clear purpose.
If you don’t have a clear message attached to an actual call to action, then it’s just protest theater. The dilettantes will make some noise for a while and go home, and nothing will change.
Of course it’s true the establishment overlooks genuine grassroots populist activism, far preferring the astroturf variety that is being directed by someone with ties to the establishment, albeit standing behind a curtain. But that doesn’t mean I have to genuflect every time somebody writes “war is bad” on a piece of cardboard and marches down the street. I’ve seen with my own eyes too many times that stupid protesting is counterproductive.