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Thursday, October 6, 2011

FUN IN THE PARK: ZOMBIES AGAINST GREED

The political environment in the country is pretty crazy as doubts about the economy escalate, the related financial crisis in Europe adds to the gloom  and the stock market seems to be riding Superman's trampoline.  In the campaign arena, the Liberal establishment is frantically trying to destroy the presidential prospects of Rick Perry with irrelevant charges about capital punishment in Texas and now a rock with a racially provocative word (long since painted out) that was found at a hunting camp Perry had used.   All this, even while Perry's own missteps are dragging him down in the polls, a circumstance which primarily benefits the more moderate Mitt Romney who Democrats fear more than Perry.

But the Left seems to be going from "dumb to dumber".  A Twitter and FaceBook  inspired protest movement which calls itself "Occupy Wall Street" has appeared in New York City and is currently camped out in Manhattan's Zuccotti Park.  It remains unclear exactly what the movement's goals are and even the self appointed organizers and participants don't seem to know. The New York Times quoted a "pep talk" given to a new protestor; "It doesn't matter what you're protesting; just protest." 

What it is so far is a mostly 20-something sit-in, sleep in, march and holler, carnival complete with balloons, costumes, music and the favored simple minded slogans covering the usual wide spectrum of Left wing causes and complaints.  The Washington Post reports "women in brightly colored wigs playing with hula hoops". Others were encouraged to paint their faces white to portray "corporate zombies and eat Monopoly money.  But mixing songs and silly behavior with self-important outrage can be fun, certainly more fun than educating oneself on the issues and voting. Wiljago Cook (yes, that's her name) quit her job in Oakland, California to come to New York and block other people from getting to their jobs on Wall Street . . . to protest unemployment.  This convoluted thinking seems to support protest organizer David Graeber's acknowledgement that outside opinion sees the protest as ". . . a bunch of kids who don't know economics and only know what they're against.  But Wiljago's logic challenged reasoning, the hula hoopers and those folks seeking their "inner zombie" makes even Graeber's broader strategy seem disconnected from reality:  "So we're trying to reform things away from the rhetoric of demands to a question of visions and solutions."

One "vision" on the protest web site says the goal is to "attract twenty thousand supporters to set up beds, kitchens and 'peaceful barricades' in order to 'occupy Wall Street' for a few months in an effort to end corporate greed."  How keeping thousands of traders, secretaries and janitors from going to work  would end "corporate greed" i.e. profits, they haven't said and certainly don't know.

But it's the nature of Left wing, post-adolescent protestors to think "big", as the presence of the young self styled Marxists and anarchists, and the "Abolish Capitalism" signs attest.  So far, however, the "movement" is a few thousand people short of the twenty thousand people goal with a "few hundred core supporters" camped out in the park and an estimated 2000 locals joining in the fun when the "movement" starts to "move", as in march.  Following the usual evolution of public mob protests, the dominant issue has now become the charge of "police brutality", as "New York's Finest" struggle to keep the public thoroughfares open and the protestors go happily into "victim" mode. But the prospect of twenty thousand people sleeping in a park without food, water or sanitary facilities “for a few months” is absurd on its face.  Setting up "peaceful barricades", an oxymoron, to shut down the most important street in the world and deny thousands of people access to their jobs is a simple minded invitation for the "mother of all" police confrontations.  But of course, they do it in Greece, so. . .?

The protest's lack of focus, and thus seriousness, has been criticized even from some on the Left and is apparent in the signs complaining about everything from "global warming" to capital punishment, as do the "demands" listed on the web site.   The demands are nothing more than a list of complaints against "them"/"they", the sinister, faceless, Wall Street millionaires who are allegedly and single handedly responsible for all the nation's woes.  Most of these indictments are without merit and without benefit of specific or thoughtful policy proposals.  "Foreclosures"; "gender, race and "gender identity" discrimination"; "poisoned food supply"(?) and "undermined farming"(?);  "They", "used the military and police to prevent freedom of the press"; "accepted contracts to murder prisoners"; and "create weapons of mass destruction".  No social ill, alleged victimization, or cliche'd Left wing charge is left out.

The “movement” can be further characterized by its supporters and cheerleaders.  The usual group of Left wing celebrities have appeared to urge them on.  Susan Sarandon, who always seems to be around these things; black radical Princeton professor Cornell West and actor Alex Baldwin have chimed in, and of course those anti-capitalist, capitalists, Michael Moore and George Soros have offered their “support”. Van Jones, the defrocked former Obama "green jobs czar" who "resigned" after his association with a Marxist group in San Francisco became known, is starting a sister protest group.

What does all this mean?  It’s largely in the eye of the Left wing beholder.  “Solidarity” protests have sprung up in a few other large cities and some liberal commentators have tried to make the case that Occupy Wall Street is the beginning of a significant “revolutionary” movement  that will be the Left’s answer to the Tea Party movement on the Right.  The problem with such forecasts is that the Tea Party has a focused and specific, actionable agenda:  lower taxes, cut spending to reduce the deficit and federal debt and reduce the size and scope of government, and it appeals to a broad range of Americans.  It's strategy does not include "peaceful barriers" and instead focuses on elections.

The complaints and implied solutions to the issues raised by the far Left are higher taxes; “income redistribution”; more government spending, bigger more intrusive government i.e. an enhanced regulatory state, and more social engineering.  In short, it is close to an advocacy of socialism which is specifically evident on the signs carried by some of the protestors.  As such it will at best generate a lot of noise, confrontation, and over analysis by the media but in relative terms, little support from middle class Americans who can't take "a few months" off to live in a park and disrupt traffic.  

All the political “signs”, from chicken entrails, Tarot cards, astrological movements to political polls and punditry, indicate a continuation of the 2010 conservative electoral surge in the 2012 elections.  The Left are beside themselves, frantically striking out at conservatives, fighting among themselves and busily looking for some tactic or strategy to save Obama and themselves.  This opens the door to fringe dwellers and extremists.  Occupy Wall Street is just the latest manifestation of this tendency.  What is likely to happen in the short term is that the more organized, more self serving, issue specific groups on the Left that are now joining or supporting the disorganized Occupy Wall Street protest, will in effect take over the movement and the headlines.  Labor unions and advocacy groups like MoveOn.org will "move in" and as the energy and "fun" of the youthful protest becomes less a part of the movement the political confrontation between conservatives and liberals will return to the usual playing fields of blogs, media and electoral politics.  Occupy Wall Street should disappear soon after the first snow falls on Ziccotti Park.

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