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Rebels Without a Clue

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After a long period of forebearance, police finally made arrests in the Sacramento version of the Occupy movement, Cynthia Hubert, Darrell Smith and Cathy Locke report in the SacBee.

Historically, protests have been for some particular goal.  Thoreau refused to pay his taxes to protest the Mexican War.  The famous protest at the Lincoln Memorial where Martin Luther King delivered his "I have a dream" speech was to call for passage of the Civil Rights Act.

What do the Occupy protesters demand?  Their demands are not just diffuse, as has widely been reported, they are contradictory.  Some demand jobs.  Others demand expansion of job-killing regulations.  An earlier version of the story linked above quoted one person demanding both.

I actually agree with a few of the protestors' positions.  (Given the breadth of views, it would be hard not to.)  But why does anyone think extended occupation of public spaces is an effective way to achieve anything?  The most effective protests in our history were the focused and disciplined protests of the civil rights movement of the early 60s.  These protests are the diametric opposite.  People speak of the protests as an expression of anger.  The longer it goes on, the more anger is going to be flowing in the opposite direction.

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The protestors lack corporate funding, of the sort that the Koch Brothers provided for Tea Party protests, and a major news network effectively sponsoring their rallies, as Fox News did for the Tea Party protests as well, but I see no more diversity of views than I did at those rallies.

People are justifiably unhappy that as a result of thirty years of government policies, investment banks saw fit to loot our economy and treasury through the massive fraud involved in securitizing inescure mortgage debt and treating it like AAA T-Bills, and then forcing us all to bail them out.

And who, among the rating agencies and investment banks and big insurers, has gone to prison for looting us blind? No one. It's still good times on Wall Street, and all we hear from the GOP at the federal and state levels is that we should reverse Dodd Frank, lower taxes on the wealthy, "broaden the tax base" to raise taxes on everyone else, fire nurses, teachers, police, and firemen, and slash Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

And while were at it, the Supreme Court is happy to deregulate corporate spending in political campaigns to give the corporations that basically run Washington even more pull. The top 1% of wage earners are doing dandy, while the rest are insecure or falling behind.

The unhappiness at the heart of these rallies isn't hard to figure out. As Warren Buffett noted “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

Was the above comment perhaps mistakenly appended to the wrong thread? There is no discernible relevance to the point of the post.

You say they are rebels without a clue. I say they are rebels with a point, not without a clue, as an editorial in today's New York Times noted:

"As the Occupy Wall Street protests spread from Lower Manhattan to Washington and other cities, the chattering classes keep complaining that the marchers lack a clear message and specific policy prescriptions. The message — and the solutions — should be obvious to anyone who has been paying attention since the economy went into a recession that continues to sock the middle class while the rich have recovered and prospered. The problem is that no one in Washington has been listening. At this point, protest is the message: income inequality is grinding down that middle class, increasing the ranks of the poor, and threatening to create a permanent underclass of able, willing but jobless people."

You say they may prompt anger flowing in the opposite direction. I can see the anger flowing in the opposite direction, flowing from, for example, Eric Cantor, who has denounced them as a mob, Mitt Romney, who described them as dangerous, and Herman Cain, who remarked that "if you don't have a job and your not rich, blame yourself." I can't say I'm much impressed when entrenched defenders of privilege, who support little but deregulation and further tax breaks for the wealthy and lauded the tax party protests, belittle the justified protests I see in the streets of my own city.

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