"To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it." — Thomas Jefferson
On Tuesday, May 1st there were demonstrations by the Occupy Wall Street crowd in various cities across the United States. With the exception of Cleveland, Seattle, and Oakland most of the demonstrators were a big bust with little or no news coverage. In Cleveland the FBI, through a sting operation arrested five anarchists who wanted to blow up a bridge and in Seattle, known for its leftists leanings, arrests were made for vandalism and attacks on the police. Outside of these highly publicized events the occupy crowd did not make much of impact. Perhaps this was due to the coming end of the college year with final exams and the usual suspects now looking for jobs that are hard to come by.
Robert Weissberg writes in his article in American Thinker entitled Deciphering the Occupy Wall Street Movement:
“How are we to understand the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement? Is it, as many on the left insist, a commendable reaction to "obscene" inequalities in wealth? Or is it, as according to the right, a union-financed, thinly disguised Obama-supported ruse to stir up egalitarian envy? Both interpretations are partially valid, but let me offer a different take, and one that links OWS to countless similar political outcroppings that have flourished since the 1960s.
My descriptor is "recreational politics" and as such lies somewhere between, say, the well-organized ideologically driven Communist Party USA and the spontaneous, disorganized 1992 LA "Rodney King" riot. The ancestors of today's recreational politics would include a small portion of the civil rights movement and much of the opposition to the Vietnam War.
As a biologist might identify the key characteristics of new species, here are the Occupy movement's essential traits.
First, the ideological "glue" holding the movement together is a collection of alluring slogans and clichés that evaporate into nothingness when probed. Critically, if asked (and I have asked), no two participants can flesh out terms like "social justice" or "ending poverty." This is predictable, since recreational politics lacks anything resembling officially certified dogma, let alone leaders who can impose orthodoxy. No Communist Manifesto or Chairman Mao's Little Red Book here. This is make-it-up-as-you-go-along politics, and the result is, naturally, a cacophony of strident voices light-years away from anything resembling a legislative agenda.”
Mr. Weissberg is correct when he points out that the OWS movement, if it can be called a movement, lacks any comprehensive agenda, or any agenda at all. For the most part the OWS is comprised of upper middle class college students, who have been indoctrinated by a bevy of left-wing and communist leaning professors, wanting not to pay back their exorbitant student loans, loans they took with their free will for colleges and universities that promoted them knowing the federal government would guarantee the loans.
While the OWS gang point at the banks and corporations as the culprits in our stagnant economy and cause of many of the ills in the country they say nothing about the colleges who have taken them and their parents to the cleaners for, in many cases, educations that will not do them much good in the job market. I just can’t see how breaking the windows of a Starbucks, a left leaning corporation, and promoting anarchy will do them much good.
Mr. Weissberg continues:
“The ideological incoherence is displayed in any OWS event. I recently watched their Manhattan May Day parade; dozens of signs and banners abounded, most homemade, and no two were precisely alike. Messages covered the ideological waterfront -- everything from opposing racism to calling for bankers to be put on trial. There were signs for open borders, a Palestinian flag, and demands for government-supplied well-paying jobs. Some marchers just shouted obscenities at nearby police. Try assembling these messages into a sensible political agenda. Hopeless.
Second, participants gravitate to the easy, "fun" aspects of movement politics while neglecting essential drudgery. My forty years as a college professor confirms that this is typical for today's politically inclined (often lazy) youngsters. Who wants to collate mailing lists if one can chant slogans while dancing to the drum beat? With no hierarchy to assign odious tasks and monitor performance, "pop-up" crusades tend toward chaos. Beyond calling for the marchers to assemble so as to "confront the ruling class," running OWS is akin to herding cats.
Third, since the movement lacks any concrete agenda, there can be no pay-off; absent this incentive, the only available fuel is passion, and we all know how passion wilts with time. The upshot, then, is that tactics abandon accomplishing anything tangible (too tedious, anyhow) to favor behavior whose real purpose is sustaining the passion. Given a choice between, say, drafting a legislative proposal to help the poor versus walking down the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge to instigate a media-circus police confrontation, the latter wins every time. After all, who can get excited over researching the impact of the minimum wage on poverty? But five minutes on the local 6:00PM news and screaming "police brutality" is such great fun -- enough fun to keep doing it, at least for a day or two more.”
The Constitution gives these useful idiots the right of free speech, but I venture to say that most of them have no idea of the mind of our Founders, the Federalist Papers, or the rise of the progressive movement. I can’t see how a farmer in Nebraska working 24/7 or a welder in the North Dakota oil fields, who are working hard to earn a good living, give a tinker’s damn about the OWS crowd and look at them as a bunch of pampered and spoiled children who have come of age in a society devoted to progressivism, plunder, and cultural Marxism.
The presence of such a "movement" is evidence of our abysmal public education system. If each of these kids had received about two hours of training on basic economics, western civilization and United States government, they would be embarrassed to hold the silly positions they do.
If they really wanted to protest the one percent they should have demonstrated outside of last week’s correspondent’s dinner in Washington, D.C. where hundreds of liberal print and media journalists were gathered in the tuxedos and designer dresses drinking expensive champagne and eating $100 dollar meals. These are the folks that use the OWS gang for ratings and news stories, but would not relinquish one penny of their wealth to the OWS.
Professor Weissberg concludes his critique of the OWS movement by stating:
“Political participation is one of my academic specialties, and my lectures always cite the great German sociologist Max Weber to explain political successes and failures. In a nutshell, successful movements must transition from charismatic leadership to bureaucratic organizations, where aims are advanced business-like. The contemporary gay rights movement illustrates this perfectly -- from ragtag spontaneous Stonewall demonstrations to the Human Rights Campaign with an impressive Washington headquarters and a paid, ample professional staff to promote gay rights with specific proposals, expert fund-raising, and all the rest. Most bottom-up movements cannot make this transition and are thus doomed to become historical footnotes.
Finally, down deep, OWS, like so many spontaneous recreational movements before it, is not serious about accomplishing anything other than some fun therapy. How do I know? Oscar Wilde once quipped that only shallow people do not judge by appearances, and I judge by appearances. If you want to shape American public opinion, you must outwardly respect public norms, and one look at the OWS crowd shows that they don't. Thanks to living in lower Manhattan, I've long observed these people in their various habitats, and take my word: with few exceptions, they look like unwashed, ill-clothed street people. To make matters worse, their trash-laden venues only confirm this rejection of public sensibilities. And I suspect that this is intentional -- they have no interest in winning public sympathy by looking like well-scrubbed all-American college kids. Once more, fun outweighs accomplishing anything.
In general, the attire of movement participants is, in my estimation, the best indicator of seriousness. Remember the pictures of Southern blacks conducting sit-ins or marching for the right to vote? Every single participate was in a dark suit, white shirt, and tie and was neatly groomed! And they made a point of speaking clear English with zero profanities. Let their opponents dress like slobs and curse. In 1968, many students traveled to New Hampshire to elect the anti-war Eugene McCarthy, who was running in the Democratic primary against the hawkish President Lyndon Johnson. Given that many of these volunteers faced the draft, this was serious business, and their slogan was "Neat and Clean for Gene." Thus, rather than alienate conservative New Hampshire voters, they got real haircuts, shaved their scruffy beards, and dressed like preppie college students. And it was worth it -- McCarthy fell short, but his strong showing forced LBJ not to seek a second full term.
The bottom line, then, is that OWS is not a serious political movement -- not a movement to be feared, let alone respected. It exists thanks to a kind and gentle political system that has a warm spot for wackiness and dissent that stops well short of treason. Only in Western democracies do police receive special training on how to handle protestors with kid gloves. Actually, street theatre, not political activism, better depicts OWS, and perhaps we should be thankful that its most serious offense is occasionally disrupting traffic, a few minor police scuffles, making too much noise, and generating millions in police overtime. America has seen and occasionally experienced far worse.”
Professor Weissberg makes an astute academic analysis of the OWS, but as Paul Harvey used to say there is more to the story.
Last fall when the OWS began by occupying New York City's Zuccotti Park the Washington Post described the movement, which has been described as a "democratic awakening" by Cornel West, difficult to distill to a few demands. On October 12, the Los Angeles City Council became one of the first governmental bodies in the United States to adopt a resolution stating its informal support of the Occupy movement.
It did not take long for Democrat luminaries like Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama to praise the movement’s tactics and goals even though they did not know what the goals were. They were also quick to compare OWS to the Arab Spring in Cairo’s Tahrir Square — and we know how that all turned out.
It did not take long for the union bosses like Richard Trumka and the SEIU to jump on the bandwagon. Even Mayor Bloomberg took a conciliatory stance by not evicting the OWS from the park until conditions became so unsanitary and deplorable that he had to take action in the interest of public health. Also it has been reported that George Soros provided financial support for food, medicines, and kitchen and sanitary facilities.
With this in mind one has to think there is a larger elephant looming in the background. The dedicated communists and socialist have always used useful idiots like the passionate students of OWS. Hitler used it to gain power in Germany, Mussolini and Italy and the master of the use of the useful idiots Lenin in the Soviet Union. In fact it was Lenin who coined the phrase.
James Madison warned of factions such as the OWS movement in Federalist Paper No. 10 where he posed the argument for establishing a republican form of government when he wrote:
“…Among the numerous advantages promised by a well-constructed Union, none deserves to be more accurately developed than its tendency to break and control the violence of faction. The friend of popular governments never finds himself so much alarmed for their character and fate as when he contemplates their propensity to this dangerous vice. He will not fail, therefore, to set a due value on any plan which, without violating the principles to which he is attached, provides a proper cure for it. The instability, injustice, and confusion introduced into the public councils have, in truth, been the mortal diseases under which popular governments have everywhere perished, as they continue to be the favorite and fruitful topics from which the adversaries to liberty derive their most specious declamations.”
…” By a faction I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”
The progressives, socialist, and communists hiding behind the scenes will no doubt hijack the OWS movement use the boneheaded radical students until they are no long of use to them. Once this happens the face of the movement will change. Gone will be the anarchists and vandals. They will be replaced with the people like Van Jones and Bill Ayers. They will look and talk like the “Clean for Gene” crowd and push their social justice and fairness agenda. This is the point Professor Weissberg misses or elected not to delve into.