I'll be the first to admit I do not understand fully what all's going on at Occupy Wall Street. I am old fogey out of place in a Deep Red South, caught up in my own middle-aged life and its parochial concerns. My first reaction is, natch, cynical: Who's counter-organizing here? The corporate-, Koch-funded Tea Party movement managed to stimulate the Right-wing base sufficiently to swing an off-year election in 2010. So, now, the tactic shifts to the other side, and instead of appearing authoritarian and right-wing, the 99%-ers claim to be an anarcho-, de-centralized, left-wing, non-violent, populist, grass roots movement. Is it a movement in preparation to stimulate the Democratic/liberal/progressive base for the upcoming elections in 2012?
Am I off-base so far?
That being said, my natural sympathies necessarily flow to the Occupy Wall Streeters. This goes back a ways: I got kicked out of junior high school in the 7th grade for wearing a black armband in support of the Moratorium against the Vietnam Police Action. The Tea Party tried to capture the magic of the bottom-up style of Sixties' protests, but it became apparent quickly how most of them were useful idiots for oily corporate interests. It was like they had all lived through the Sixties and missed out on all the fun, so they wanted to get some of their own in before it was too late.
I don't—yet—get the sense that what's happening in NY has the flavor of useful idiocy. That doesn't mean it isn't, or won't be, if it's not already, co-opted by The Man. One reason is that the PR machine has yet to latch on to Occupy Wall Street, much less political co-opters. A few yahoos at their local congressmen's town halls made loud national news during the Tea Party summer. Their significance was blown way out of proportion by outsized media attention and, frankly, outright propaganda by FoxNews. Moreover, their signs and slogans felt too glib, too scripted. Neither seems the case with the current batch of protestors. This movement feels like both a reaction to the attentions of the Tea Party and a domestic response to the Arab Spring uprisings. They are being ignored by much of the US media to the same extent as their earlier cousins who marched in the MILLIONS against Bush's drumbeat to invade Iraq.
The Tea Party, also, felt like a 'movement' (let's call it) of stirred-up 'geezers' (let's call them) who never quite got the talking points. Remember: "Keep the Government's hands off my Medicare?" The Occupy Wall Street crowd is young. Their dissatisfaction is against what? "The occupation of Washington by Wall Street" seems to be the best they can come up with. (h/t BDR). Not bad, though. It has an organic feel: where the Tea Party was a corporate-organized and -financed political operation, this is a groundswell against corporate corruption of democratic government—something Mussolini once described as Fascism.
Correntewire (again, h/t BDR) points to this:
"their solution to hacking out a platform knocks me flat with amazement: The group is going to use the next few days to talk about these demands. And then here's what they'll do: on Friday, they will spread blank sheets of white paper all across the park. Some will have topic headings, some will be all blank. Magic markers will then be distributed, and everyone will write, in large letters, the issues and goals they think are most important. If you agree with someone's poster, you can put a "Check".
Fascinating! It is actually rather Chinese in technique. It reminds me of the student Big Character Posters that appeared in Tienanmen Square.
After the writing exercise, they'll collect all the papers and collate them into a larger online manifesto, which can then be debated/modified/changed online in a Wikipedia-style collaboration."
I do question, however, how far such an unorganized, even disorganized protest can sustain itself. Tea Parties thrived because of the influx of money, the congealing of leadership, the coordination with a well-oiled propaganda machine. And because they had co-optative candidates lined up with platforms and talking points ready to swoop into power. How these youngsters fare after the first burst of enthusiasm blows itself out remains to be seen.
If you're curious about the origins of Occupy Wall Street here's, a brief history of "How Anonymous, AmpedStatus, the NYC General Assembly, US Day of Rage, Adbusters and Thousands of Individual Actions Led to the Occupation of Liberty Park and the Birth of a Movement."
In the meantime, though, if you're interested in heading to the frontlines of Occupy Wall Street or Occupy [Your Town's Name Here] or Occupy America or Occupy Together or Occupy International, or whatever they decide to call the burgeoning occupista movement, here's a Survival Guide to get you through.