I fluctuate between thinking OWS might really turn into something and then thinking the usual hotheaded halfwits who tend to take over leftie demonstrations will sink it.
OWS is still a much smaller movement than the antiwar movement was ca. 2003. Some jerk left a vulgar message on the comment thread (caught in the filter and deleted) taunting me because OWS has gone global. Well, child, according to some accounts between January 3 and April 12, 2003, 36 million people across the globe took part in almost 3,000 protests against the Iraq war. OWS hasn’t come anywhere close to that.
I’m reading that hundreds of protesters marched to Times Square today, There were hundreds of thousands of people in the streets of New York in February and March 2003. Nobody noticed.
And my point is that getting a lot of people out into the streets isn’t the same thing as actually changing anything. I’ve noticed a lot of OWSers are contemptuous of the anti-Iraq war demonstrations. And I’d be the first to say (in fact, I have said) there was plenty to be contemptuous about regarding the anti-Iraq war demonstrations.
But, children, there’s times you don’t look all that different to me. Like it or not, some of you are making the same stupid mistakes. And what was the point of marching to Times Square? Were you trying to scare the tourists?
The riots in Rome ought to be a lesson that things will get out of control sometimes. Groups with no leadership and no self-policing authority and a fuzzily defined purpose — but getting a lot of publicity — will attract all kinds of hotheads and whackjobs, which could undermine everything you are trying to accomplish.
The anti-Iraq war movement couldn’t maintain momentum largely because the “movement” was like a multi-headed hydra, with each head wanting to move in a different direction. There was no cohesive coalition; just a collection of factions who would drag their diverse agendas to demonstrations and compete for attention.
Now, I understand the NYC OWS is considering electing an executive committee, which is a hopeful development. I would also strongly suggest setting some ground rules and coming up with some kind of enforcement procedures.
That may be anathema to many of the OWSers, but if they want to be taken seriously by most of the 99 percent, such things as public nudity, drug use, vulgarity, and off-message signs need to be firmly discouraged. I’m not saying they should hire bouncers; sometimes a little non-violent peer pressure goes a long way.
I’m sure they’re all very high with having started something now, but they need to keep in mind that they haven’t actually changed anything yet.