As I reflect today, day 3X of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement that is quickly become one of the places to be if you are an aspiring socialist/communist/anti-banker/anarchist/free spirit, I find myself coming to a few realizations. Seeing the Greeks, Spaniards, and Italians tangle with riot police, and toss Molotov cocktails, while their government struggles to find some way to pay their un-payable bills, I wonder if we, here in the United States, can expect to see something similar. In Europe (Greece especially), it appears as though trade unions and public sector workers are at the forefront of their riots.
So, what are we to think about the disgruntled and disgusted supporters of the movement? Various unsavory parties have recently endorsed the Occupation – The American Nazi Party and American Communist Party to name two. These movements have lengthy histories of violence and extremist ideologies. This is not to say that the OWSM is in and of itself violent, but if it is any indication of the beliefs held by the majority of the participants, I have not heard many of the participants renounce the endorsement. The usual reaction is to separate quickly those endorsements from the endorsements of others – namely the administration and Congressional leaders, like Nancy Pelosi. It seems whenever there is a negative story that surfaces about OWS supporters, the story is quickly squashed, and the person in question is painted as an outsider, who is unaffiliated with the movement. In my mind, the influx of so many disparate endorsements undermines, rather than helps, legitimate endorsers, while lending a sort of credibility to the others.
What worries me are those “legitimate” endorsements. While people see them as a sort of, “isn’t-that-nice-they-want-to-help” support by Washington, D.C., here is the thing – the movement, while starting out disorganized, and lacking a main message, has recently begun to coalesce into something that sounds more confrontational and more willing to act out in violence. But there is no proof of that, you must thinking. A recent spate of thefts of money, equipment, and other personal items, not to mention the report of a rape in Occupy Cleveland, shows the movement is changing. One convicted felon was picked up and re-arrested for illegal possession of a firearm (a folding-stock rifle) at Occupy Seattle.
Add to that, a presidential administration who has verbally supported OWS, who also has close ties to known leftist terrorists and bombers (Ayres and Dohrn), and a Department of Justice who is both, slow to act (if they act at all) and embroiled in a huge scandal. A former presidential staffer in the administration reminds us to, “Never let a crisis go to waste.” These allied interests, who masquerade as “supporters” have merely found themselves a group of useful idiots, who will allow them to try to advance their positions, while dodging blow-back. It also allows the allied politicians to attach their wants and needs to the movement, while avoiding the low approval that the public may feel for them. And it is not like less-political allies have taken over movements in cities – already, the original Occupy St. Louis movement has been pre-empted, and original organizers threatened.
It feels to me like the movement is increasingly more pre-empted by the day, but it still claims to have no leaders, and to be “organic” and grassroots. It is one agent provocateur from some sort of confrontation that will accomplish nothing, possibly injure many innocent people, and finally lead to the end of any goodwill or political capital that the early movement may have built. As the protesters become increasingly desperate, they may begin to realize that they must increase their confrontations and confrontational style, and try to create a situation where they will be able to “prove” that those they stand in opposition to (whichever group(s) they may be) are the evil and cold-blooded groups that OWS claims.
By now, most people have gotten wind of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, and has been affected by its polarizing actions and beliefs. The protesters and their signs scream out at their collective outrage, and list their many grievances. While the movement is seen as something noble and worthwhile by some, by others, it is seen as a group of spoiled, petulant young people, intent on obtaining entitlements. Whatever the case may be, I feel as though there are enough fundamental problems with the “movement” that it lacks any chance to secure any of the real changes it seeks.
Too much diversity
Yes, there can be such a thing as too much diversity. In the case of Occupy Wall Street, signs and grievances run from: criticism of greedy, corrupt money makers, to the redistribution of wealth, to the high unemployment rate among young people, the elimination of capitalism, and finally, to the effects of lobbyists in Washington D.C.. Some media sources have even shown people dressed up in greasepaint and with torn clothing to resemble zombies. I am unsure what message that is supposed to represent – perhaps it has something to do with Halloween? To maximize their efforts, the group needs to focus on one or two main messages, and drive those home. As it is, the fractured, myriad concerns of protesters are doing more damage than any good. They must coalesce into fewer, more well defined issues to maximize their effort. As the movement appears now, it is unclear whether the protesters are anarchists (as some have claimed in the television media), socialists (as some in the television media have claimed), or just disgruntled young people, seeking a solution to the many problems the nation has run headlong into.
Pre-emption of the movement
While the original message may have started out of an on-line organizing force, in the last week, the protest crowds in New York have seen various other groups and “sympathizers” lend their support. During this spring and summer, unions saw governors and legislatures force their members to pay for more of their own benefits and retirement packages. In a well-publicized series of recall elections in Wisconsin, the unions were again rebuffed. The support for various unions may have never been lower, and along comes a popular movement of self-described disenfranchised citizens. The unions saw a golden opportunity to attach themselves to this movement and possibly earn back some support. Celebrities too, have seen fit to make appearances, and lend their support as well. These stars who “feel the pain” of the broke protesters, show up, and bring the cameras along. Suddenly, a photo op. breaks out, the stars swear that they know how the protesters feel, and the protesters are made to believe like these multi-millionaires and they have something in common. Cheap appearances for celebs threatens to undermine any messages.
The movement doesn’t have a leader
For a movement such as this, it strikes me as a disjointed group of people, in search of someone to lead them. Now, I am not talking about some fire-brand, urging the protesters to start chucking bricks through store fronts, but someone who can lead the throngs and either accept or reject support from those seeking to take over the movement. There have been a few scattered whispers that the protests are supposed to be modeled upon the Tea Party movement – which has no leaders, but is just loose nationwide groups – however, the Tea Party groups began growing and coalescing around the idea that taxes and spending were too high. There is the single issue that laid the foundation for a movement. It sounds as though many of the protesters are asking for more oversight any way — but government oversight is not what anyone needs at this point. Indeed, if people would stop and consider for a moment, government “oversight” lead to much of the current financial and economic mess the country finds itself in at the moment.
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