Hard News by Russell Brown


About Occupy Wall Street

I haven't written a blog post about Occupy Wall Street because I was focused on other things and because I wasn't quite sure what I thought about it. To be honest, I'm still not sure what I think of it.

The movement is acknowledged to have begin with a call from the long-established Canadian group Adbusters, which stated the protest's purpose thus:

Beginning from one simple demand—a presidential commission to separate money from politics—we start setting the agenda for a new America.

Adbusters' OWS website displays a further account of the campaign:

#OCCUPYWALLSTREET is a people powered movement for democracy that began in America on September 17 with an encampment in the financial district of New York City. Inspired by the Egyptian Tahrir Square uprising and the Spanish acampadas, we vow to end the monied corruption of our democracy … join us! We're now in DAY 24.

Since then we've seen sincere and thoughtful statements from many of those involved, some expressed with real wit and incision in the ubiquitous protest signs.

Michael Moore and Keith Olbermann have weighed in behind the campaign and notorious douchebag PJ O'Rourke has conveyed what has largely been the Right's standard line about the protestors: they're smelly hippies who should be ignored. And Kanye took a break from rapping about how rich he is to pop down to the frontline.

But ... in a story about what now looks like a real breakthrough for the campaign, Talking Points Memo notes Van Jones' comment that:

... if the progressive tea party comes, this will be the month that brings it. Looks like he was right: though where it all ends no one knows, it’s clear that Occupy Wall Street has hit the sweet spot and is now driving the political conversation the way the tea party once did.

There’s still a lot of weird and confusing stuff going on in the streets of cities where OWS and its offshoots are making their stands, but the general message that corporate wealth needs to be examined as solutions for fixing the economy are weighed is becoming the dominant topic in politics.

Weird and confusing is right. And after seeing this video, which is being liked on Facebook and replicated all over YouTube, I'm wondering if Occupy Wall Street, rather than being a polar counterpart to the Tea Party, is begining to blend at the edges:

The guy is a Paul-bot. His rhetoric is largely about tax as theft and minimal goverment and how Americans should "elect Ron Paul" to save their country (Paul is a perennial libertarian figure in the Republican Party with some vile racist tracts and several major conspiracy theories to his name). He has clarified his position several times with statements like this:

Hi, I'm the guy from the video, please excuse me if i wasn't clear on some of my points as i came across I had been talking and educating some of the lost people all day. If you were listening to the Glenn Beck Show I didn't mean to abolish fractional banking, that's essential, but i believe that the ratio should be something like 4/1 not 10/1. I AM NOT for ending capitalism, i believe in the free markets, i believe in ending corporatism. We need true laissez faire capitalism.

I really don't think the people protesting America's dreadful private health care system are campaigning for "true laissez-faire capitalism".

And then there's this excruciating video from Atlanta, in which an Occupy crowd is led by the nose into humiliating civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis by voting against his right to speak:

There have been many comparisons between Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party movement -- generally in the context in which Jones characterised the relationship to TPM.

But, as this fascinating roundup of commentary put together by the Guardian makes clear, it's equally correct to say that Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party movement not only have some common cause but are merging at the edges. Fox News commentator Sally Kohn observes:

A conservative activist who regularly sends me emails that Islam is inherently evil and Obama's birthplace is still in question recently has been re-posting videos and articles about Occupy Wall Street. "Do you support the protests," I asked her.

"Yes, in most respects. I think the banksters are raping the world," she wrote. "I am not against capitalism per se. It helped make this country great but the corporations got greedy and power hungry and have way too much power worldwide." This from someone who also sends emails discouraging the intermingling of races.

The Democratic leadership has decided, probably correctly, that there's more for them in aligning with the movement than standing clear of it. But, as the Republicans have discovered in the case of the Tea Party, they may get more than they bargained for.

The two movements share an animating anti-establishment passion, and they posit big, unmissable and wholly unsympathetic enemies -- corporations and rich bankers. As OWS experiences what is widely regarded as a media and political breathrough, with protests in 70 American cities, it's going to be interesting to watch what happens. And I'm not quite sure it's always going to be interesting in a good way.

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