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Tue, Oct. 11th, 2011, 09:29 am
Why "Occupy X" makes me nervous

The "Occupy X" stuff makes me very uneasy, and I've been thinking about why this is. The country and the world economy are certainly in a lot of trouble, and the wealth gap is breaking the social compact on which America is built.

But you've got a large number of idealists who, having seen the made-for-TV fiction "The Arab Spring", believe that they can fix things by street demonstrations. [For example, look at this week's news from Cairo, where Copts are slaughtered and the junta's still in charge. Or look at Israel, where weeks of peaceful street demonstrations in Tel Aviv demanding social justice and the dilution of power of the "tycoons" actually got the government to issue a report!]

And while there is general agreement about what they're against, there doesn't seem be an idea of what they're for, in terms of specific plans/demands. Aside from channeling their anger, I don't see how this effort is going to accomplish anything.

So what's going to happen when winter comes and these idealists are getting nowhere? Or when the police start to disperse the crowds? (And the rhetoric is flying fast and thick here in Boston this morning.) Will the protesters be able to maintain their non-violent stance, or will we end up with Watts or Chicago? Will a charismatic leader like Father Coughlin or Malcolm X come to enflame their hearts and set their agenda? Will they end up taking action against a scapegoat group --- Jews, Muslims, immigrants, the "intellectual elite", scientists, the "media"?

So that's what scares me. These sorts of demonstrations almost never accomplish what they set out to, and they usually hurt people in the process.

Tue, Oct. 11th, 2011 01:50 pm (UTC)

I’ve seen various people describe the Occupy X protests as “the Tea Party of the Left“. I obviously don’t think much of the causes that Tea Partiers are rallying for, but as a political strategy, it has worked to define the direction of the Republican Party.

If someone had organized a protest by drawing up a list of ten sensible policy reforms, it would have attracted about twenty people and it would have dried up over a weekend. “I feel angry and betrayed by what the government has done for the top 1% at my expense” is not very detailed, but it is a legitimate expression of protest. We could do worse than having pundits spend the next year wondering which candidate for a given office will get “the Occupy Wall Street vote”.

The American political system has become severaly dysfunctional; the speculative danger of protests getting out of hand (I think that is a risk, but I also think that the protest leadership, such as it is, is equally aware of the risk) pales in comparison to the other effects of this dysfunction.

Tue, Oct. 11th, 2011 08:55 pm (UTC)

Well said.