Thank the NYPD — for Now

Sorry I’ve been scarce lately; I’ve been up to my elbows in Tibetan history. BTW, if you want to read an amazing story that cries out to be made into a major motion picture, check this out.

Anyway — if the Occupy Wall Street movement still exists six months from now, and hasn’t managed to evoke a massive anti-leftist backlash, everyone should send a fruit basket to the NYPD with a thank you card. Without the police overreaction, it would all be over already.

I’m irritated at the number of comments and editorials I’ve read saying “at least somebody has started something.” “Something” was started in Wisconsin last winter. But on top of that, the unions and Moveon and other groups have done quite a lot of startings of somethings since 2008, including marches and rallies. They’ve all failed to “catch on” to something bigger, mostly due to lack of media attention.

And the fact is, clumps of scruffy people carrying signs or handing our leaflets are pretty much part of the landscape in Manhattan, although not so much in the financial district. It’s rare to go by Union Square without seeing some kind of leftist activist demonstration going on, though.

Further, sugar-coating to the contrary, there is plenty of eyewitness testimony even from sympathetic eyewitnesses saying that the crew in lower Manhattan is mostly made up of the same losers who got in the way of forming a cohesive antiwar movement during the Bush Administration — “But come on—legalize marijuana, Free Palestine, anti-fracking—how about, for once, just advocating for economic justice when you’re at a march for economic justice?” Or marching against the war at an antiwar march?

The hopeful thing is that, thanks to the NYPD, these particular demonstrations, unlike the vast number of similar demonstrations that have gone before, got the attention of media. And I understand the groups that have formed in other cities are far more focused on bread-and-butter, economic justice issues — genuinely representative of the 99 percent.

Without a shared vision of something to be accomplished this movement will just march in circles and tire itself out. As the civil rights movement said, “keep your eyes on the prize.” So, OWS, what’s the prize? What will success look like?

There’s some pup who continues to proclaim that the movement has already had many “successes,” but this reminds me of the guy back in the spring of 2003 who sent me multiple photos of Saddam Hussein’s statue being torn down with the words, “Bush was right!” Um, time will tell.

With unions getting involved, however, hopefully there will be enough discipline and direction to put the energy to good use.

I’m taking some trains to Brooklyn today, and if my tricky back will let me I’ll stop by the financial district on my way home to see the thing for myself.

At The Guardian, a group of activists/authors comment on OWS. IMO the last guy, Rushkoff, if s flake, and those who imagine the Tea Party and OWS will join forces against the Man are demented. Eric Alterman sounds several notes of caution that need to be heeded, however.

See also The four habits of highly successful social movements.

24 thoughts on “Thank the NYPD — for Now

  1. I think maha just called me a loser. When it seemed that Bush was hell-bent on launching a war against Iraq, a good sized group of us here in Los Angeles took to the streets in protest. We didn’t march: We stood quietly with our signs. Passing motorists, with a few exceptions gave us a thumbs-up. We didn’t stop the launch in March of ’03, Did we, therefore, waste those Sunday afternoons?

    • Felicity — if you’re a loser I’m one too, because I went to several mass protests against the war. But you misunderstand. Protesting the war was fine. What wasn’t fine were people who took over the demonstrations for their own purposes, which had little to do with protesting the war.

  2. maha – that’s really interesting because in the intermittent years that I’ve protested, I can’t remember the presence of what I’ll call interlopers. Perhaps, with few exceptions, it was because we were organized by and marched with Catholic Worker groups? I have no idea. But, it’s clear now why I misunderstood you.

    (We did have occasional small groups of mostly teens who were basically on a lark of sorts but they always faded into boredom and left after an hour or so.)

    • maha – that’s really interesting because in the intermittent years that I’ve protested, I can’t remember the presence of what I’ll call interlopers.

      Things must be different where you are. Here on the East Coast, attempts to form any kind of antiwar coalition were stymied by too many people either promoting their own agendas or the clowns who showed up at protest to be clowns. I include Code Pink in the latter group. They always were more interested in getting people to notice them than in actually, you know, demonstrating.

  3. The Tea Party’s dearest wish is for The Man to pat them on the head and treat them special because they’re so deserving Super ‘Murkan Patriots, and help them kick and punish the dirty hippies and everyone else.

  4. Yeah, for this movement to mean somthing, and accomplish something, it doesn’t need people who are there to fragmentize it by appearing with signs to get attention for their own narrow special interests and pet causes.

    I’m sorry, but while I’m sure that left-handed liberal lesbians for liberty, geriatric gay men for Gaza, bifurcated dark/light beer-loving bisexuals with bifocals, transgenders against totalitarianism, soy plants as pets for PETA, voracious volunteer vegans for vegetables, and kinetic knitting kibitzing kvetching knights for a kosher Kurdistan, are all worthy causes, but let’s stick to the theme of the 99% of us who are the victims of economic malfeasance by the ‘Malefators of Great Wealth,”, and not the .0009 to .0011% of us whose sole interests are advancing our own narrow interests.

    We have a nation to take back, not some narrow nebulous notion which you feel needs some attention.


  5. Well, I’m hoping they have every success. I understand Maha’s point. When you’ve got someone protesting irradiated foods in the midsts of what should be a dedicated objective to a specific goal it kinda of waters down the seriousness of their intentions. Never the less I think the underlying theme that the rules have changed and the game is stacked against them is of paramount importance. It’s for that reason I’m hoping they gain traction and develop into a protest movement that will bring about some change.

    My mind keeps going back to that Paulson guy who made the billion dollars in picking guaranteed “losers” in the deriviative market. That billion dollars just didn’t materialize out of thin air…It was extracted from the backs of millions of people who worked hard to earn that money only to have it snatched from them in a system designed to serve itself. There is no one watching on behalf of those who don’t control the system.

  6. Ooops, I meant “Malefactors.”
    I’d apologize to the ‘MaleFATors,’ but I’m sure they’re part of the larger group of “Malefactors.”

  7. Swami, even in a craps game, where people are betting that someone won’t get a particular roll, there’s someone watching to make sure no one games the game.

    I don’t believe they’re called “Regulators.” I think they may be called “Bouncers” – and not for their jaunty, bubbly, and bouncy personalities, either.
    If they don’t want ‘regulators’ put in place, maybe we can give them big, beefy, bad-assed ‘bouncers’ instead?

  8. I just got home from a week in Salt Lake City Utah, wqhere there was a protest to take back wall street. The coverage by the press was VERY positive.
    People interviewed voiced their opinions against multi national corporations, big box stores, and national chain stores sucking the life out of communities.
    The protestors also stressed support for local business and unions.
    The news headlines were favorable, as was the commentary on local news stations. The only criticism I heard was that the welcome might wear out for protestors camping (literally) in the down town area where the farmers market is held every Saturday.
    Local businesses seemed to be supportive, reportedly contributing food to the protestors.
    Most of the protestors were young men and women who realize they live in a world where $10.00 per hour IS NOT a liveable wage, but that’s what they are being offered ( without the certainty of 40 hrs, and possible benefits AFTER a year of service).

  9. cundgulag – Unfortunately, those promoting their “narrow, nebulous notions” (camera whores, really) are often what move the media to cover the event.

    erinyes – apparently camera whores don’t frequent Utah protest rallies? The media deigned to cover the event anyway, probably given that protest rallies in Utah are not every-day events?

    There may be a message here. Protest anywhere but NY City.

  10. Felicity,
    Salt lake City is not what I expected in terms of being a conservative mecca.
    There is a growing population of progressive young people who realize the big business conservatives are screwing the economy into the dirt, but they still value the social values that make their community a great place to live.

    As far as “camera whores”, I suppose the press carefully selects who will be interviewed; “if it bleeds, it leads” seems to be the mantra in the media.

  11. Zuccotti Park is filled with unfocused frustration and rage. It is a mall of injustices competing for attention. The Church St end is where the “reagan sux balz”, “end the fed”, bang the drums loudly crowd stand as a gauntlet to the forum of ideas behind for the curious pedestrian and the 9/11 memorial ticket holders alike.

    Corporatism, greed and xenophobic policies all have there outcomes laid bare if one spends the time to listen. Privatized prisons, nuclear power and Monsanto all have their vocal critics within. Everyone there seems to agree that things are getting worse.

    No mention or attention is paid to Citizens United or the Chinese Yuan manipulations which give the powers at be the license and incentives to continue their ownership of government and the outsourcing of their future.

    Guess it’s time for me to get back down there.

    Also see: These trust fund bytches are NOT OUR FRIENDS!

    • The Church St end is where the “reagan sux balz”, “end the fed”, bang the drums loudly crowd stand as a gauntlet to the forum of ideas behind for the curious pedestrian and the 9/11 memorial ticket holders alike.

      If you’re trying to be a movement, there is a time and place for openly discussing and generating ideas, and there is also a time and place for public demonstration to gain support for your ideas. It’s counterproductive to mix these two things together, however.

  12. I’m not all that expert in Indian history, but from the movie, it seems to me that Gandhi’s march to the sea was meant to provoke a response. If the establishment didn’t react, it would be nothing–that seems like kind of a meaningless argument.

    I’m with Charles Pierce on this–at least they’re yelling in front of the right buildings, which is more than we’ve seen from our political elites.

  13. Raenelle,
    Our political elites aren’t yelling in front of the right buildings because they’re IN them, begging for more money to get elected or reelected.

  14. Pingback: Sunday Link Encyclopedia and Self-Promotion « Clarissa's Blog

  15. “No taxation without representation.” “All men are created equal.” “Liberty, equality, fraternity.” “Land, peace and bread.” We are the 99%. The idea doesn’t have to be really complicated.

    Look, I went through the 60s too, and I became cynical and hopeless until 2008. Then I got hope again. Then, well, we all know how disappointing it’s been to hear Democrats talk about rolling back the safety net. But perhaps, perhaps, perhaps, my cynicism and willingness to settle for just a gentle roll-back to avoid a tidal wave, perhaps that isn’t wisdom. Perhaps that isn’t the lessons of experience. Perhaps it’s learned helplessness.

    I don’t think this movement has a snow-ball’s chance in hell of setting up utopia. But can it move the center to the left? A lot, perhaps? Maybe. I know the odds aren’t good. But it’s sure as hell a lot better for my happiness, my equanimity, to listen to these guys than to have to listen to debates between Harold Ford, Jr. & Lynn Cheney, or the usual pablum that passes for political discourse in this country.

    • “No taxation without representation.” “All men are created equal.” “Liberty, equality, fraternity.” “Land, peace and bread.” We are the 99%. The idea doesn’t have to be really complicated.

      The expression can be simple, but I would point out that behind the first two slogans you provide there was a large body of writing that robustly fleshed out what the bare bones of the slogans meant. “Land, peace, and bread” was focused; I doubt the people marching behind the slogan were trying to piggyback 87 unrelated causes onto the revolution. “We are the 99 percent” is a good slogan, but it’s not going to inspire a growing movement if the people chanting it also are pushing a boatload of fringe ideas that most people don’t relate to.

      If the slogan is supposed to mean “we are the 99 percent of Americans whose economic interests are not being addressed in Washington,” then that’s precisely what the demonstrations should be about. Not trutherism, freeing Palestinians, legalizing marijuana, fighting global climate change, or anything else, whether the causes are worthy or not.

      I’m about to write a post about the group (egged on by a right-wing infiltrator) that shut down the Air and Space Museum in Washington because they were protesting unmanned drones. I doubt very much “the 99 percent” are all that opposed to unmanned drones. And this is exactly the kind of crap that got in the way of building an effective anti-war coalition during the Bush Administration. Every group that sponsored or participated in a march came with a laundry list of causes that usually had nothing to do with the war, and most of them were more bent on promoting their particular group (i.e., Code Pink) or their unrelated cause than in actually ending the war.

  16. “We are the 99 percent” is a good slogan, but it’s not going to inspire a growing movement if the people chanting it also are pushing a boatload of fringe ideas that most people don’t relate to.

    Not to argue with your point, but look at the tea party. Not your best example of course..they are composed of stew of nut jobs that most are hawking agendas that are tangential to the founding idea. They might be tied by a common thread of “liberty”but other than that they are very diverse in their objective. Gun worshipers,anti- abortion,anti- taxation, racists, homophobes, and a host of other unrelated causes. And I’m not saying that the Tea party has arrived or is here to stay, but it has made a noticeable impact on the national dialog no matter how detrimental.

    • The “Tea Party” is being defined by the right-wing media infrastructure. It doesn’t matter much what the baggers do; they just have to show up, and the corporate media interprets and explains it as ordered.

      Lefties don’t have that advantage.

  17. Swami,
    It didn’t matter that the Teabaggers didn’t have any coherent positions!

    Hell, that wasn’t THEIR jobs.
    Or their “FUNDING Fathers!’

    That was the MSM’s!!!

    And they did a damn fine job, may I add.

  18. “if it bleeds, it leads”
    Any garden variety parade has many different banners.
    From the local high school band to the lady’s auxillary and the VFW.
    The problem begins when the fanatics get the bull horn.

  19. The Tea Party members are, no doubt about it, a diverse group of, basically, malcontents. BUT, their public persona, their message is very simple – smaller government, lower taxes. The Left, on the other hand, seems incapable of putting out a simple, easy to agree with, message – AND, it also consists of a vast array of malcontents. (Somebody, I can’t, should be able to psychoanalyze the Left personality/the Right personality and perhaps explain this phenomenon?)

Comments are closed.