Sunday, November 20, 2011

Who are "they?"

Okay, in the previous post I said the Occupy movement is something "they" don't know how to ignore so "they" want to crush it because "they" don’t know how to contain it. "So," I can hear some of you saying "Who are 'they?'"

It's a legitimate question so I'll answer it: "They" are the 1% who own 40% of the wealth in this county along with their minions, their bought-off enablers in government, media, and academia, their Walter Mitty followers filling their time with daydreams of how rich they will be someday, and the drooling mouth-breathers who populate most of the right-wing reaches of the Internet.

"They," in short, are the Empire and its foot soldiers, including the bought, the buffaloed, and the buffoons.

Various among them get their marching orders - rather, their thinking orders - from one of the three main Corps of the Army of the Empire, each of which has its own battle cry in the war against Occupy and all it stands for (like economic justice and fairness).

First is the Government Corps. Its battle cry is "Unsanitary Unsafe." Officials go on and on about how they "support free speech and the First Amendment" but they can’t allow the "unsanitary unsafe conditions" supposedly found at the Occupy encampments to "persist." One such example comes from Occupy Vancouver (Canada), where, tragically, a 20-year-old woman was found dead of a drug overdose. The mayor declared that proved the Occupy camp is "unsafe" and must be shut down. The question with the obvious answer is that if this same woman was found dead of the same cause in some alley or doorway, would the mayor have declared this proved the city is unsafe and must be shut down?

Several cities, including San Francisco, have now said that the camps have become a magnet for the homeless and people with drug problems, which is why, they say, the camps are "unsanitary unsafe" and must be emptied. Yet if that's true, another question with the obvious answer is that doesn't that mean by their own logic that they know their cities have problems of homelessness and drug dependency but are mostly concerned with keeping them invisible rather than doing anything about them?

Certainly, there have been problems with sanitation and/or drug use at some of the sites and in many of those cases the Occupiers have tried to provide what help they can to those who need it, even as they lack the resources to do so effectively - but instead of dealing with such problems or trying to work with protesters to solve them, officials are using them as excuses to shut down the protests completely.

That was the tack New York took:
After weeks of fruitlessly trying to talk to the protesters through intermediaries, Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson, the mayor’s top political aide, said he was thrilled when he received a call in mid-October from Rabbi Peter J. Rubinstein of Central Synagogue in Midtown Manhattan [who] had been approached by members of the demonstration’s “comfort working group” seeking the city’s permission to set up tents and portable toilets.

Mr. Wolfson agreed to a meeting immediately, but it took two weeks to arrange one with the demonstrators....

On Oct. 31, Mr. Wolfson sat down in a carpeted conference room owned by Trinity Church across a table from five members of the protest, an imam and the rabbi looking on.

Mr. Wolfson hoped to work through the Bloomberg administration’s problems with what it saw as an increasingly lawless and unmanageable campground in the pulsing heart of the financial district. The protesters only wanted to discuss the need for toilets and tents. Mr. Wolfson told them their requests for permits had been denied, and the negotiations were over before they had begun.

“The city was interested in engaging in a dialogue,” Mr. Wolfson said. “It was made clear that that was not something that Occupy Wall Street was willing to do.”
So a meeting is arranged to talk about tents and port-a-potties, the folks from Occupy come wanting to talk about tents and port-a-potties, the city dismisses the idea out of hand, and uses that as an excuse to claim that Occupy Wall Street refused to "dialogue." What really happened is that the NYC Division of the Government Corps refused to give up its battle cry.

Next, there is the Ideology Corps, the battle cry for which is "occupy a job." It's enough to make you laugh, the number of wingnuts who have used exactly that phrase. (Try doing a search on the phrase.) There's even a Facebook page with the name.

Not only does this harken back to the '60s, when no demo or picket line was complete without some one driving by and shouting "get a job," it's absurdity on top of absurdity when you recall not only that many of them are employed, but that unemployment is one of things people are upset about.

Of course, this is not surprising as the Ideology Corps is often confused: It in one breath declares the movement is composed of anarchists who want the government to control every facet of our lives (figure that one out) and in the next declares it's not a "real" movement because it was started by unions which since then have "hijacked" the "original" OWS.

Finally, there is the Media Corps, the enforcers of orthodoxy, the empire’s own Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It's battle cry now is "increasingly violent protests." Every fracas, no matter how minor, is played up. Every crowd scene that involves police shoving or hitting or tackling and striking protesters is described as protesters "clashing" with police. Every incident of vandalism or destruction is portrayed as being done by "occupy protesters." For one tragic and egregious example, the fact that those involved in the shooting in Oakland - one of over 100 murders in Oakland this year - had at some point been at Occupy Oakland was enough in some accounts to connect it to the movement.

This is an important point. On my show, I had previously mentioned the unexpectedly "respectful" media coverage I found early on, describing that as a sign of the movement's unexpected strength. I referred specifically to a protest in London where some trouble occurred which was described by the media as having been "infiltrated" by trouble-makers who tried to "hijack" a peaceful march. Now when it’s clear the protests are not just a cute fad, not just a 21st century version of phone booth stuffing or goldfish swallowing, not something that was going to fade quickly when the novelty and fun wore off, but a real, serious, movement reflecting real, serious, concerns about economic injustice and inequality, those distinctions between protesters and "hijackers" are no longer being made.

In fact, CBS News actually covered how so-called "black bloc" protesters can hijack movements by instigating violence and drawing the media’s attention away from less dramatic but more meaningful actions - and then they went ahead and did it anyway, letting black bloc protesters in Oakland commandeer media coverage. That is, CBS ignored its own reporting because it didn’t fit the script being written by the Inquisitors.

(Sidebar: My own opinion of black bloc protesters is that they are politically infantile egomaniacs wandering in revolutionary daydreaming who think that breaking the windows at a BoA branch is a significant political act. I also like the first two definitions here and would include the fifth if it was to be said in a sarcastic tone of voice.)

Unfortunately, as is too often true, The Inquisition appears to be having the desired effect, at least according to the linked survey from Public Policy Polling, which says while support for the movement's goals remains steady at 33-35%, opposition has risen to 45%. Considering that the same outfit says it has found overwhelming support on issues the movement by its very existence addresses (such as raising taxes on the rich), both the shift and the dichotomy itself can only be ascribed to how the movement is presented by the Media Corps. That is, the more The Inquisition focused and continues to focus on the cheaply dramatic as opposed to the substantive, the more its attention and description are based on the level of noise rather than the level of dedication, the more it issues its battle cry, the more likely that shift became.

But despite everything, protests go on and continue to spread. There is also some perspective to be had in the fact that during the dreaded '60s, anti-Vietnam and other protests were quite unpopular - even as their message penetrated and came to be adopted by clear majorities. The bottom line is that a lot of people may not like the Occupy camps but they like what we have to say. So carry it on - because the Army of the Empire is not invulnerable; it can be defeated.

Footnote: I have some doubts about the poll I cited, since PPP had OWS at the same level of support a month ago, at a time when other polls were showing majority support -besides which, it's done via automated phone interviews, which means landlines, something which itself could skew the results toward a less sympathetic pool. However, the immediate issue at hand is the shift in attitude rather than the actual numbers.


Marc McDonald said...

Great article, lots of very good points.

>>"They" are the 1% who own 40% of
>>the wealth in this country

I've found over the years in my debates with right-wingers that they simply don't care about the concentration of wealth in the U.S. The Top 1 percent could own 99 percent of the wealth and the right-wingers could care less. "That's our system of capitalism," they always predictably say. "Why should we worry about how much the Top 1 Percent owns?"

However, I HAVE found that (at least a few) right-wingers DO care that all the wealth gains in this country have gone to the Top 1 Percent since around 1980. That is: if they only become aware of this fact. After all, they're never going to hear about it on Rush or Fox "News."

I rarely have any success in "debating" right-wingers. But one point that I have had a little success on is when I manage to finally convince them that the Top 1 Percent are getting all the gains and, for the past 3 decades, wages have stagnated for everyone else.

The problem THEN becomes, what to do about it. One right-winger I talked to said it must be "all the fault of the unions(!)"

Sigh. So much ignorance and so little time.

LarryE said...

that they simply don't care about the concentration of wealth in the U.S.

That's been my experience, too, although I think you subsequent paragraphs struck more at the heart of it: It's not so much that they don't care; it's that it just doesn't register as affecting them personally, which for them is the baseline requirement for caring.

The other wall I sometimes run into is that they really are caught up in the dream that they, too, can be filthy rich and they don't want anything that would screw it up for them when they get there.

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