Occupy Wall Street’s Day of Action: the 1% Strikes Back

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Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a freelance journalist and blogger. He considers Bob Dylan and Walter Sobchak to be the two great Jewish thinkers of our time; he thinks Kafka was half-right when he said there was hope, "but not for us"; and he can be reached through the twitter via @eliasisquith or via email. The opinions he expresses on the blog and throughout the interwebs are exclusively his own.

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  1. Avatar James K
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    says:

    Is this really being done at the behest of some sub-set of the 1%, or is this just the NYPD acting like, well the NYPD?  It seems a significant fraction of US law enforcement treats anything short of total deference and obedience from the general public as a sort of personal affront, and acts accordingly.Report

    • Avatar Elias Isquith in reply to James K
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      says:

      There’s been a lot of pressure on Bloomberg from the start — from Wall St and the right-wing of NYC (NY Post) — to crack down harder on OWS. He’s vacillated for a while but it’s become clear where he stands now. As to NYPD’s behavior, they’re always bad but they’re getting worse, and this kind of stuff flows from the top in terms of how institutional cultural norms are established and what kind of behavior becomes acceptable. It would be a straw man oversimplification to say things are being done at a shadowy cabal’s behest; but I think JPMorgan probably feels like this was a good investment.Report

  2. Avatar joey jo jo shabadoo jr.
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    says:

    hippies exist to be punched.Report

  3. Avatar Sam
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    says:

    James,

    When has the NYPD ever – literally, EVER – treated protesters aligned with conservative causes with the same violence?Report

  4. Avatar Tom Van Dyke
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    says:

    One note on “non-violence” I saw from a history prof: Linking arms or resisting arrest in any way is counter to non-violence principles.  Civil disobedience means purposely breaking the law and happily paying the consequences.

    It does not mean exempting oneself from law, but to illustrate its injustice and get it changed.

    “I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.”

    Martin Luther King

    http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.htmlReport

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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      says:

      I agree, actually. But there’s being arrested, and then there’s being beaten.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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      says:

      Linking arms is not counter to non-violence.  It is not strictly in keeping with King’s vision of civil disobedience as you point out.  but it’s not not non-violent.  You slide form one to the other here.  They’re not the same.

       

      The issue being protested here is not the legality of the laws regulating the use of Zuccotti Park or the streets of Manhattan.  They’re not engaging in civil disobedience of those laws, so it’s neither here nor there that they link arms.  They are non-violently protesting economic issues in a way that makes them a nuisance to people trying to go about their business in New York and other cities.  Their willingness to accept the legal consequences of doing so is neither here nor there since they’re not calling into question, at least as the primary point of thier protest, cities’ right to lawfully clear streets and public spaces.  They realize that is a legitimate interest of the city, and they are knowingly bringing the issues they are concerned about, represented by their occupation, into conflict with that interest of the cities they occupy, this forcing a symbolic encounter in which police force is (legally) used to disperse an expressive gathering.  Cites could choose to let the expressive gathering continue uninterrupted – as demonstrated by that fact that they did, for many weeks.  But the protesters’ staying power was robust enough to force the confrontation.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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      says:

      “Civil disobedience means purposely breaking the law and happily paying the consequences.”

      I did think it was a bit much that Kain describes a mob who’d blocked entrances to businesses as “nonviolent protestors”. That you are not punching people doesn’t mean you are not being aggressive.

      On the other hand, if you *aren’t* punching people then there’s a reasonable expectation that the cops won’t just roll up and blast you with pepper spray.Report

  5. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    Perhaps if we had given the NYPD more resources that it could use to police its own members and bigger paychecks to attract more educated people, we could have avoided this.Report

  6. Avatar Patrick Cahalan
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    says:

    Somebody is going to get shot.  (Either that, or somebody is going to set themselves on fire, but that’s less likely).

    When you use shock and awe against a bunch of people who are really just acting like hippies, sooner or later you wind up clubbing and handcuffing some kid who has a lot of repressed violence issues.  The next time he goes to a protest, he’s packing a gun, and then all hell breaks loose.Report

  7. Avatar Jason Kuznicki
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    says:

    I generally agree with you here.  What I’ve seen of the police response has sickened me.  I would also like to see a de-escalation, and I also don’t know how to achieve it.  This though is where I don’t agree:

    One escape path from this maze of conflict and chaos, of course, is for the powers at be to listen and make a concerted effort to address the concerns of the Occupiers — which, conveniently, happen to be shared by many, many more people than just those in the streets.

    Do most Americans really want to see the NYSE shut down?  I doubt it.

    Most Americans certainly want better economic prospects for themselves and their families, too, but I don’t think they find that camping overnight in Zuccotti Park is the obvious route to get there.

    Protest for protest’s sake is what I’m seeing now, and it’s not surprising that Occupy is rapidly losing support as a result.  It’s certainly lost a good deal of my own sympathy recently.

    Which is not — I repeat, not — a justification for any of the ugly and shameful behavior by the police.  And there’s been a hell of a lot of that.Report

  8. Avatar Koz
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    says:

    Everything would be so much easier if they just went home and voted Republican.Report

  9. Avatar bluntobject
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    says:

    More importantly, that disgust has inspired a broader conversation about the relationship between cop and citizen in America today, and whether or not our police have become overly militarized and out of control.

    I would really like to believe this, but I’m not sure it’s actually happening.  For example, you write:

    If the 1% are this scared, this threatened, already — if they’re already willing to endure the bad press and the bruises to their legacy that result from condoning this kind of thuggery — where will this go next?

    …which reduces the issue of police militarization to “the 1% are still nasty bad guys, and the NYPD are just another tool they’re deploying to Keep The 99% Down”.  This comment thread, too, is all about the ethics of hippie-punching.

    My cynic’s perspective is that the widespread disgust you write about isn’t disgust at police violence: it’s disgust at police violence against white middle-class peopleMike Riggs writes:

    The Occupy Wall Street movement is composed largely of people who have never before been cuffed to anything but a headboard, if that. Many of them are white, and some of them are probably urban gentrifiers, which means their previous attitudes toward police likely ranged from indifferent to fond. And now those same cops, who used to only screw with blacks and hispanics, are suddenly going after highly educated, well-bred, pale-faces, AKA “skinny intellectuals.”

    Few of the people who’re outraged over Keith Gessen getting beaten up by the NYPD were outraged over NYPD arrest quotas or fabricated drug arrests.  They weren’t outraged over puppycides or rogue prosecutors.  Why?  Those were bad things, maybe, but they were bad things that happened to poor people.  And #Occupy’s broad complaint is that they did all the right things to become rich, or at least remain middle-class, and now they’re being unjustly treated as if they’re poor.

    Once the #Occupy police violence has passed out of our collective short-term memory, police violence will go back to being something that happens to people with more melanin and less money, and the outrage will go away.  Maybe Radley Balko will get a few dozen more RSS subscriptions.  Woot.Report

    • Avatar Elias Isquith in reply to bluntobject
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      says:

      Good comment. But I think you’re conflating populations — and you’re also being a bit impatient.

      For one thing, the people who are getting clubbed by the NYPD are almost certainly *not* folks who liked police before September of this year. That’s a very silly comment from the Reason writer (though the headboard line is great), and it’s either disingenuous or grossly misinformed. These people can’t be anarchist hippie far-left nutjobs AND bourgeoisie sell-out clueless teat-suckers of white privilege. I mean, they can if we want to belittle them as much as possible and claim every possible corner of the moral high ground we can get our hands on, but otherwise…

      As to the fact that the NYPD has always been awful, and being a poor person of color in America has always sucked: yes and yes. But I’m of the mind that having the target be someone Like Us (us being white people of relative means…aka most of the league) is beneficial towards having there be reform. After all, rarely is reform on the scale we’re talking about here done through widespread altruism sans self-interest. Scrap rarely and replace with never. It’s too early to tell whether this will cause people to look at police differently — and if OWS becomes really chaotic and fringe-y, I don’t think it will, as I was trying to express in the OP — but I think it’s *way* too early to be all despondent over class/race solipsism.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Elias Isquith
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        says:

        These people can’t be anarchist hippie far-left nutjobs AND bourgeoisie sell-out clueless teat-suckers of white privilege.

        Does the possibility exist that they are anarchist hippie far-left nutjobs because they can’t be bourgeoisie sell-out clueless teat-suckers of white privilege?Report

      • Avatar bluntobject in reply to Elias Isquith
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        says:

        I’m being a lot impatient, honestly, and it’s unfair to take it all out on your post.  One of my biggest libertarian frustrations is watching people who seem like they ought to know better pooh-pooh abuses of authority, from Kelo to TSA patdowns to arrest quotas to no-knock SWAT raids, because that Radley Balko fellow wrote about them once for Reason and therefore the issue has Koch Brothers cooties.  The sudden appearance of police brutality on the List Of Important Issues only after white people get cuffed and roughed at OWS makes me feel a lot like this.

        These people can’t be anarchist hippie far-left nutjobs AND bourgeoisie sell-out clueless teat-suckers of white privilege.

        I don’t think they’re either: I think they’re real three-dimensional people who maybe stayed a bit too far inside their comfort zones until the credit crisis kicked them out.  Now they’re disoriented, scared, and angry, and I sympathize.  Freddie deBoer wrote something similar (and me agreeing this much with Freddie deBoer is about as commonplace an occurrence as the Cincinnati Bengals winning their division):

        I keep seeing photos of people holding signs, or watching interviews with people, or reading blog posts or on Facebook, that express some measure of this: the problem is that young college graduates have lots of student loan debt and can’t get jobs, and so now they’re taking to the streets. And to me, if that is the message here, heaven help us.

        […]

        Consider what the idea here is: that this protest becomes something worth considering when and only when it becomes about those who are most visible. Only when the young and college educated begin to express grievance, and only when that grievance concerns their material wealth and opportunity, do the protests begin to take off.

        I don’t see this as a knock on or slander against #Occupy, by the way.  Okay, it doesn’t measure up with our professed ideals for how Altruistic Caring People ought to behave or be motivated, but so what?  Group affiliation is how people are wired, and it takes a lot of effort to rewire ourselves to mitigate — not stop — it.  So when you write:

        But I’m of the mind that having the target be someone Like Us (us being white people of relative means…aka most of the league) is beneficial towards having there be reform. After all, rarely is reform on the scale we’re talking about here done through widespread altruism sans self-interest.

        I’m in perfect agreement.  I’m just worried about the precedent: that this episode of state brutality will be written off as a statistical aberration, and we’ll go back to the status quo ante of a handful of libertarian agitators pointing to puppycides and saying “This could be you!”, and a vast middle class replying “meh”.  I’m also frustrated about playing Cassandra for the last five years, and apparently it takes me about a thousand words to say “I told you so”.  Sorry ’bout that.Report

        • Avatar bluntobject in reply to bluntobject
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          says:

          Oops; this paragraph:

          Consider what the idea here is: that this protest becomes something worth considering when and only when it becomes about those who are most visible. Only when the young and college educated begin to express grievance, and only when that grievance concerns their material wealth and opportunity, do the protests begin to take off.

          was Freddie’s, not mine.  Not sure how I forgot to indent it.Report

          • Avatar Elias Isquith in reply to bluntobject
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            says:

            Hey, I hear you! I don’t think you’re directing it at me, but, fwiw, I’ve never not been a dirty hippie when it comes to authority and the police state. I think Kelo is terrible and liberals who argue otherwise aren’t seeing the forest (what’s right) for the trees (what right-wingers say). And in general I have enough psychological issues with authority that I could never be, politically, otherwise.

            I’m choosing to be optimistic about this because, well, I think the things that are making people pay attention — their economic struggles, inequality, corruption, stagnation — won’t be getting better any time soon. So it’s a kind of optimism that stems from a more engrained pessimism, I suppose. But we’ve always got to look at the glass as not only half-empty but leaking from a crack at the bottom….right?Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Elias Isquith
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              says:

              I suspect that you will be disappointed by how purchasable the OWS folks are.

              My alternate post for what appeared above was “what happened the last time that anarchist hippie far-left nutjobs were offered chances to become bourgeoisie sell-out clueless teat-suckers of white privilege?”Report

            • Avatar bluntobject in reply to Elias Isquith
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              says:

              I don’t think you’re directing it at me, but, fwiw, I’ve never not been a dirty hippie when it comes to authority and the police state. I think Kelo is terrible and liberals who argue otherwise aren’t seeing the forest (what’s right) for the trees (what right-wingers say).

              Not directed at you at all.  In that particular case I was mostly annoyed at people like Kevin Drum, who argue that having the TSA sexually humiliate rape survivors in public is no bad thing because it only gets media attention when white men complain and besides there’s a Democrat in the White House and this is — I quote — GOP catnip.  Well that’s just ducky, Kev, we didn’t need that Fourth Amendment anyway.  For the record, I’m no less annoyed at Repugnicans who’ve supported, for example, the TSA’s molestation campaign against, say, people with disabilities right up until January 20, 2009, at which point they suddenly discovered their small-government “principles”.  Tolerance in the face of tyranny is no virtue, even if your boy is in the White House.
              Report

              • Avatar Elias Isquith in reply to bluntobject
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                says:

                Kevin Drum seems to be a really nice guy and often brings good things to the blogging table; but I often am *really* frustrated with the amount of water he’s comfortable carrying for the Democratic Party. His infamous post on trusting Obama’s judgment more than his own was…not surprising.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to bluntobject
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          says:

          I keep seeing photos of people holding signs, or watching interviews with people, or reading blog posts or on Facebook, that express some measure of this: the problem is that young college graduates have lots of student loan debt and can’t get jobs, and so now they’re taking to the streets. And to me, if that is the message here, heaven help us.

          Yeah, well, so this isn’t Freddie’s protest then.  He doesn’t care for the idea that relatively affluent (in the world context) middle-class white people should value prosperity so highly that they take to the streets to cling to it.  He’d prefer they be in the streets trying to topple capitalism (and a few of these folks are, but not many).  But it’s happening anyway.  Newsflash: sometimes the world disappoints Freddie DeBoer.Report

    • Avatar Rob in CT in reply to bluntobject
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      says:

      <i>Occupy’s broad complaint is that they did all the right things to become rich, or at least remain middle-class, and now they’re being unjustly treated as if they’re poor.</i>

      OUCH.  But that strikes me as dead on balls accurate.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to bluntobject
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      says:

      Excessive police force is not the issue the movement was organized around, and it has not suddenly become one of the core issues of their activism.  They didn’t just discover the issue and are now making it a big part of their program now that it’s happened to them, ignoring the fact that it is experienced on a regular basis by people all over the country and the world.  Rather, they’re just not making it a part of their program, regardless of any claims to the contrary.

      But when something happens to you, you talk about it.  So they’re talking about it.  That’s what humans do.  But OWS has not of late become a movement about inequality, lack of jobs…. and now excessive police force!  It’s a movement about inequality and lack of jobs, which experienced excessive police force… giving them the right to discuss and address their experience of excessive police force for a little while, amongst themselves and in public.  To the extent that this has been incorporated into the animating ideas of the movement at all (we’ll have to wait and see, but I expect that to be only a small extent), it likely will take the form of an acknowledgement that what was experienced this week was really only a shadow of the kind of lawless brutality that is experienced day in and day out in even more marginalized communities.  But that is speculative; we’ll have to wait and see.  Any claim to know the extent to which they have already done this is premature and imaginary.

      But!  You are right about one thing: OWS is largely a movement of the middle class (the younger part of it, which experiences itself as in danger of slipping out of that station) about the fortunes of the middle class.  That is exactly what it is.  It is, in other words, an authentic expression of economic self-interest on the part of a self-identified segment of society. And it is not all that much concerned about excessive police use of force – now or previously – *except when it happens to them*.  I congratulate you for paying close attention and making largely accurate characterizations of OWS, bluntobject, except on the question of whether excessive use of police force has suddenly become a major animating concern for them (as opposed to merely becoming a topic of discussion among the group once it was experienced by them, something that is common to situations in which people, um… experience things), which is something you have imagined.  Still and all, we could use more astute observers and accurate givers of accounts of all manner of things in this world such as yourself, so:  Bully, sir!Report

      • Avatar bluntobject in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        I congratulate you for paying close attention and making largely accurate characterizations of OWS, bluntobject, except on the question of whether excessive use of police force has suddenly become a major animating concern for them (as opposed to merely becoming a topic of discussion among the group once it was experienced by them, something that is common to situations in which people, um… experience things), which is something you have imagined.  Still and all, we could use more astute observers and accurate givers of accounts of all manner of things in this world such as yourself, so:  Bully, sir!

        If this is sarcasm, it is fantastic sarcasm, in the face of which I can only sit my uneducated ass down and take notes.  If not… well, it probably deserves to be, and either way I tip my hat to you, sir.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to bluntobject
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          says:

          Certainly my tongue was in my cheek to some extent, in any case I was going for a humorous tone.  But I really meant both things: on the larger question of the basic features and aims of OWS, I find you to be refreshingly clear-seeing, which has been an oddly rare characteristic where this movement has been concerned.  You have a lower opinion of the merits of what they are in the street about, so i simply sought to recast your description is a way that simply owns it.  But the point is – you’re right about their basic features, and you deserve credit for that.  The thing about excessive force is a lesser issue for me (though the primary one we’re addressing here), so i didn’t want to have that completely obscure the fact that I appreciate your clear vision of the movement.  I think you simply leapt to a conclusion that police violence was going to become a major cause for the movement, and I think that was an exception – but just an exception – to your otherwise clear vision.  (on the other hand, you may turn out to be right – the main point is that it si too early to say). And even on that, I found your opinion of this, were it real, to be on point.  It would indeed be risible if OWS now shifted its focus to police brutality.  Totally out of its lane, even though it has experienced some if it, and way late to the party.  If that happens, I join Elias in agreeing with your dim view of such a turn.  I think it’s just premature at best to say that this has happened.

          In any case, cheers! Enjoy your weekend.Report

  10. Avatar James Hanley
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    says:

    If the 1% are this scared, this threatened, already

    Eh, color me exceptionally disgusted by NYC’s shock and awe approach, which is exactly the second worst type of policing possible (with the worst being secret police).  But this colossal fascist beat-down is not happening at the bequest of the 1%.  The ugly reality that OWS needs to face up to is that a large portion of middle class America is not joining them and approves of this police response.  That portion of middle class America does not deserve any respect, but they’re very real and they’re not the 1%.

    But let me say that overall I’ve really appreciated your commentary on OWS, even when I’ve been in disagreement.  Heck, I’ve really appreciated each of the League’s authors who have written about it.  There’s been a lot of thoughtful commentary on the topic. (And a handful of nutters chiming in in the comments.)Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley
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      says:

      “a large portion” is vague.  20% could be a large portion. In fact, I would say it would be if we are talking about support for what happened this week in NYC.  But at the same time that 20% would be a large number to support such actions, given the actions, a plurality could simultaneously oppose them.  So it’s not clear hat you’re claiming here (again, about things about which there is a fact of the matter without citing anything).

      It’s still less clear what you are suggesting is the case about public reaction to cities’ responses to OWS, since you say that a large number approve of “this response.”  The subject of the post and in this thread is the specific response in New York this week.  Are you saying you already have a poll on that?  That would be remarkable.

      More likely, you are referring to some polling you have seen about police response generally to OWS across the country, prior to this week (if you are referring to any real polling).  It’s very relevant what the phrasing was of any survey questions that were asked in whatever polls you would refer to to substantiate your claim here.  If the question was “Do you support cities’ right to disperse protesters in order to maintain order and safety?”, the results you are likely to get are going to be of one kind.  If it is, “Do you support the actions the NYPD took Nov. 15-18th?” followed by an accurate description (highly unlikely), the results are likely to be something rather different.

      Lastly, are you so sure that you are strategically in tune with OWS enough to be able to say what hey do and don’t need to face up to?  What about OWS has suggested that they have chosen tactics meant to win a popularity contest in the heartland, or even to try to engender broad sympathy for the group itself?  It seems to me that fro the beginning they have been seeking to be maximally obnoxious to the end of increasing attention to a group of issues that middle-class Americans are strongly (in the 60% range) aligned with them on.  Even while the popularity of the group has fallen, peoples’ views of the issues themselves have remained roughly steady, while the media discussion has swung strongly toward those issues from concerns over spending and debt.

      “Fac[ing] up to” the reality you assert exists amount to other than abandoning the approach that has had precisely the effect OWS has intended their methods to have, and what reason from their perspective is there for them to do that?

      Will Wilkinson and Julian Sanchez have similarly had enough and are crying Uncle.  ‘You’ve made your point, now de-escalate and come back to the democratic bargaining table (where we are more confident we can defeat you with what we regard as our hyper-rational dismissals of your concerns),’ or even, ‘Please  decamp to your assigned partisan corner and limit your democratic participation to the parameters that have traditionally applied to these types of debates in the two-party system.  In other words, ‘Please just let things go back to how they were before you so profoundly changed the facts on the ground.  We liked it better that way.’

      But why would they do that?  To please The Economist’s WW? The movement from the start was a statement about the demonstrated insufficiency of those arrangements to address the issues the movement was concerned with. Matthew Yglesias says, “You Can’t Abandon Electoral Politics,” but, though some activists no doubt has done this, the movement as a whole certainly has not foresworn electoral politics as an object upon which to try to exert its influence.  But how is this advanced by lowering the pressure of elected officials by discontinuing the high-visibility, confrontational approach that has made the movement something worth discussion in the first place?

      We should think it will because the public narrowly supports the police’s efforts to take back the streets and and public spaces?  I don’t see a great public outcry on that question, I just see at most a divided response to a question that was put to them.  On the other hand, I do see robust public support for the issues OWS is making a nuisance of themselves over.  If that was not the case, it would not matter what they did – certainly brash tactics would not help to popularize an unpopular program.  But that’s not the situation.  They have a popular agenda that they are bringing visibility to, which is raising the pressure on politicians to come up with a response.  The group’s popularity is suffering as a result, but not the agenda’s.  I don’t see how now changing to a strategy of deescalation and civil engagement on the terms that pre-existed the movement will serve to keep the pressure on policy makers. And keeping pressure on policy makers is how you advance a policy agenda by participating in democracy (as if gathering in public spaces and marching in the streets, even to the point of occupying the public spaces indefinitely to force authorities to choose to use force to disperse your expressive gathering in the legitimate though elective end of reclaiming the space for public use and maintenance was not also already a quintessential way to participate in democracy).

      It’s remarkable to see how quickly some libertarians suddenly about face and assert the legitimacy and supposedly representative nature of our democratic institutions when the real alternative to those institutions – unmediated democracy itself – pokes its nose under the tent.  Suddenly our creaky institutional infrastructure becomes the only legitimate vein for expression of democratic impulses, as if the people relinquished the prerogative to take more direct democratic action when the representative institutions were established.  Remarkable indeed.Report

      • Avatar Elias Isquith in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        Tempted to break this into a Guest Post.Report

      • Avatar James K in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        As one of the more anti-democratic (or at least less pro-democratic) people on this site, I’ll say that while I’m not a huge fan of representative democracy, I’ll support it as a lesser evil over direct democracy.Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to James K
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          I’ll bite the bullet and just say it:  What’s happening on the streets of New York City may be free expression, but it’s not democracy in any meaningful sense at all.

           Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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            says:

            It may not be democracy, but it is something.  And it seems to me that genuine democracy that responds to the impulses we are seeing would be a damn fine way to defuse this distasteful thing we are having to endure here.  Instead, Will Wilkinson refers them to the institutions we have, which have faltered so obviously.  I understand nearly despairing of those institutions.  What I don’t understand is despairing of or denigrating the idea of democracy as exactly the kind of outlet that is needed to defuse and govern these impulses.  I know that you do not despair of or denigrate the idea of democracy.  What you do have to say about to idea of democracy, beyond pointing to the halting words of two dead Europeans, I know not.  But you don’t do those things, I understand.Report

            • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Michael Drew
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              says:

              “It may not be democracy, but it is something.”

              Khalsa, 29, has no experience in professional kitchens. About a month ago, he took a break from his job as a trucker to attend the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial; he hasn’t left yet. A previous gig as an inventory analyst with Coca-Cola, he says, gave him the skills to pinpoint problems on the spot. He works 16 to 17 hours a day and doesn’t suffer fools who dare bog down his operation.

              http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/to-feed-occupy-dc-protesters-it-takes-a-firm-hand/2011/11/08/gIQAvcOL6M_story.html

              It’s something that would violate both DC and Federal labor laws if one were to simply give Mr. Khalsa 100 dollars cash a day for his efforts. But since he’s doing it for free, and all he’s getting kudos, it’s all good.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Kolohe
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                says:

                Hmm.  Okay?Report

              • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Michael Drew
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                says:

                If you really want to radically change the existing power structures and relationships, more power to you.  Most most of your movement (if I may call it your movement) probably don’t.  Or even if most do, they don’t realize what they would have to give up.  And those that genuinely do, those that are willing to throw a wrench in the works and stop the whole world, most underestimate the amount of unsustainable free riding that is already occurring to maintain their outdoor laboratory alternative social network.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Kolohe
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                says:

                It’s definitely not my movement.  I share many of the doubts that have been expressed, including, to the extent I follow you, the one you are outlining here – namely, as I understand it, the criticism that they, like some libertarians, don’t acknowledge the extent to which their critique actually assumes into existence much of what they critique; that the very institutions they reject provide the foundation upon which they that which they stand while calling for new ones.  (Though I continue to be somewhat confused about how the issue of the paradox of volunteerism in the context of a minimum wage relates to that.)

                My response would only be that, to the extent I can sympathize with OWS’ views – that is, I think that there do exist some among them whose claims only go so far as this: that our institutions are broken but not beyond repair, and that for now, action is needed outside of the traditional processes to spur a program of remediation, but that ultimately, our institutions can be restored, and that when they have been, they will again work for people.  But again, I do not think that claim is actually the extent of what is being said down there, so for that reason and others, no, really you can’t call this my movement.  i certainly don’t identify with it.

                On the other hand, I do think that the vast majority of attempts to characterize it all over the place have just been piss-poor, when there really is plenty of information available that gives a better picture (this is not unlike what happened to parts of the Tea Party).  So over time, I have found myself analytically and substantively drawn to the organization, on its wavelength in a way I didn’t expect to be, if only because by comparison to most everyone else’s miles-off attempts to explain and describe it, it simply seemed to explicable and uncomplicated to me.  Again, not entirely so – but by comparison very much.  And that’s why I’ve found it so easy to write about, even while not actually identifying with it.Report

            • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Michael Drew
              Ignored
              says:

              I don’t understand a good deal of this comment, so I’m going to pass on responding directly.

              I’ll just say this.  From where I sit, Occupy has three choices.

              They could participate in democratic politics.

              They could continue with their glorified camping trip.

              Or they could start a violent revolution.

              Given those choices, it shouldn’t be ridiculous to suggest that trying democracy might be the best idea.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jason Kuznicki
                Ignored
                says:

                What possible logical reason can you give why they couldn’t do both the first and second?Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Michael Drew
                Ignored
                says:

                They could try it.  No argument there.  I suspect from what I’ve read though that many of the activists see the camping trip as possibly more effective than democracy, which is just silly.  At least, if they really do represent the 99%.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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                says:

                I think for now many feel that way (actually, I have no frickin’ clue really), but i think that many of them have what you refer to as democracy (participating in institutions more or lass as directed to do so) still in the back of their minds for down the road.  They obviously would say they are currently vigorously participating in democacy more broadly understood, and while I understand your objection, i have to say I tend to agree with them more than you.  This looks like democracy to me – the pre-institutional kind.  i would say that before a full reintegration with democracy as you understand it occurs, probably the most fundamental aim they have, institutional reform, needs to be at least underway if not accomplished.  That’s why i made such a big deal of it (in general terms) in the post I just put up. Though I also certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see selective engagement in elections from some parts of the movement before then, either.

                I certainly expect most of them to vote, in any case.  And given that, I have a hard time seeing how this type of action doesn’t amount to a plus/and in addition to their electoral role in the category of democratic participation, rather than a not/other or category error.  I’m confused about what it is they are doing if not participating in democratic politics, especially since that is so clearly how they in fact conceive of what they are doing.  It’s not as if democracy isn’t expressive and subjective in nature.  Nevertheless, I still do understand why that is your reaction.  It is not what we are accustomed to when we think of democracy.  But it has been said on this website before that the expressive range of our political discourse is unfortunately constricted.  i don’t see why this should be less unfortunate when it comes to modes of expression than content.  that said, the protesters need to focus on being scrupulously lawful and peaceful, regardless of how confrontational they choose to be, going forward.  Their own slogan says as much: “The world is watching.”Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to James K
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          says:

          The question then is, to what extent will you then support the representative kind?  If our institutions are ultimately the only legitimate repository for the kind of democratic energy that they are now failing to contain by them, then are you willing to support and defend the legitimacy and true representativeness of the actions of those supposedly representative institutions as real, literal representations of a democratic accounting of the will of the people?  Are you willing to say that something like PPACA really represents, inasmuch as our representative apparatus can be imagined in the best case to be able to represent it, the Will of The People?  Because if not, what is it that you are offering by way of support for the legitimacy of democracy?Report

          • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Michael Drew
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            says:

            I’m not sure if this is directed at me, but it reads that way, and I don’t see it applying to James.  Also, I understand it, so I can answer.

            Are you willing to say that something like PPACA really represents, inasmuch as our representative apparatus can be imagined in the best case to be able to represent it, the Will of The People?

            It represents the will of the majority, insofar as we have been able to arrive at it.  In our country, the majority does get to make the rules on many, many subjects.  And that’s fine by me!

            I don’t agree that whatever the majority wills should become the will of all, or that it somehow represents my “true” will — which is what Rousseauan democracy would entail, and I reject that approach.  I do agree, however, to be governed by the majority on a wide variety of subjects, including this one.  Because that’s how democracy works, and I like democracy.

            Next question:  If the Supreme Court decides that it’s unconstitutional, what will you do?

             Report

            • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jason Kuznicki
              Ignored
              says:

              It was actually directed at James.  I’ve always been unclear on your views on democracy, but in any case you have been less vocally critical of it than either James, so I’m not surprised by this view.

              If it’s ruled unconstitutional, that will perfectly okay with me (I think it wouldn’t be so bad to have to start over, and actually I think something even better than current law would actually have to emerge if only the mandate were struck, but full repeal didn’t follow – though it likely would).  But then I’ve always been willing to more or less say as a formal matter that our democracy represents a certain kind of true democratic will of our Republic, however strained that view is.  Precisely because i want us to be responsible for the actions of our government, even the ones we dislike or oppose.

              The issue comes when people who, as far as I understood, always resisted that notion – who always strove, as far as i could recall, to emphasize an alienation between the government and the governed, suddenly change emphasis to insist that the traditional processes that have underlay exactly that notion of linkage that they resisted are in fact the only legitimate arteries for the expression of public will.

              Ultimately, I think that what is going on is an attempt to burnish the representativeness of our institutions in the long run – to force responsiveness, and thus to pursue greater responsibility and connection between government and governed.  And this is fundamentally unwelcome to the likes of Wilkinson and Sanchez, so they are changing their tune and are now willing to offer up their endorsement of the idea of a real connection between government action and public will embodied in existing institution, if these actors will now only accept them as sufficient as they are.  (Again, unless i am just mistaken, and these are the kind if libertarians who for some reason always stressed the truly representative nature of our institutions all along, unlike some here).Report

              • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Michael Drew
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                says:

                <i>The issue comes when people who, as far as I understood, always resisted that notion – who always strove, as far as i could recall, to emphasize an alienation between the government and the governed, suddenly change emphasis to insist that the traditional processes that have underlay exactly that notion of linkage that they resisted are in fact the only legitimate arteries for the expression of public will.</i>

                May I say, though, that traditional processes, broadly defined, are the only thing that’s ever worked?  Women’s Suffrage, Civil Rights, Prohibition (and the subsequent repeal thereof), all these things were achieved, ultimately, through the existing political processes of the time.  By the people currently in power voting on them.

                Even with the abolition of slavery, it came about because the *bad* guys complained bout alienation, went outside the system, and then (rightly) got their asses kicked.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Kolohe
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                says:

                Not traditional processes. Established institutions.  Because, you know, they hold the power. In any event, they are the inevitable objects of any movement for change.  But that says nothing about the process that eventually produced a response in them.

                The processes you mention were absolutely not, in their time, traditional.  They were extraordinary, and placed extrinsic pressure on institutions.  The traditional processes, in other words, electoral politics alone – exactly the ones Wilkinson and Sanchez ask for retrenchment to – were not enough to achieve transformation in each of the historical examples you mentioned.  Instead, each of those examples of popular change were much more like what we are seeing now, and, yes they eventually resulted in

                the people currently in power voting on them.

                But not only through electoral political campaigns.  Extra-electoral democratic pressure was applied in each case.  What can Wilkinson and Sanchez and Kuznicki be calling for other than dialing back to simple electoral politics?  Contrary to your assertion, that was never enough in the past.  Strenuous bloggy activism?  Why is any of this exclusive?  This can all co-exist: what is so important about ceasing the active, visible part of what is going on?  It couldn’t be that this has been objectively effective and is threatening, could it?Report

              • Avatar Creon Critic in reply to Kolohe
                Ignored
                says:

                Kolohe, direct action is an important part of understanding the histories of the social movements you highlight. Social activists have long history using a broad range of tactics, sometimes with intra-activist community disputes over pursuing insider methods or outsider methods. Those advocating using more traditional democratic means are looking for protesters to pursue an inside the system strategy while the more radical want to pursue outside the system means, theatrical protests, civil disobedience, and direct action for instance. This divide, inside or outside the system, exists in varying degrees in efforts for slavery abolition, women’s suffrage, and civil rights. Like the suffragist versus suffragette distinction, with the suffragettes being more willing to take more controversial action, hunger strikes when imprisoned, chaining themselves to statues or railings, “setting fire to mailbox contents, smashing windows and occasionally detonating bombs” (Wiki). Those taking direct action certainly contributed to the larger social shifts, even though their means of protesting might have been very unpopular at the time.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Creon Critic
                Ignored
                says:

                What he said. ^Report

              • Avatar Bozo The Imbecile in reply to Creon Critic
                Ignored
                says:

                Sorry, off topic.    CC, have you seen what the Maestro Music Wizard has done with local street urchins down in Venezuela? Just about turned them into the Berlin Philhamonic. The second movement of the Eroica had my hair catch on fire–it’s the most madly, ecstatic, volcanic Beethoven I’ve EVER heard!! Find it and listen–you’ll never be the same. I mean that in the best possible way.Report

              • Avatar Creon Critic in reply to Bozo The Imbecile
                Ignored
                says:

                Bozo The Imbecile, I think you’re referring to the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra conducted by Gustavo Dudamel. Found part of a rehearsal on Youtube, and I think this is them in Bonn(according to a Youtube commenter) – I recall hearing good reviews of them and Dudamel’s interpretations. I’ll take your characterization, “local street urchins”, as a kind of humor that is meant well but really doesn’t work for me. Suggestions of recordings/orchestras/conductors though, that’s always welcome.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Creon Critic
                Ignored
                says:

                I just think that ‘direct action’ in the Thoreau/Gandhi/MLK mode is a bit overrated as an agent of change.  I’ll grant it had the most effect (a lot because by then it was intellectually mature) during the Civil Rights movement of the 60’s, but for one, (as has been discussed) it was only able to get so far, and for two, I think other factors that were changing the culture of the South, like the WW2/Cold War continuum and air conditioning, are a bit under-rated and under-analyzed.

                The changes that occurred from the 1880’s to 1920 are, imo, much less a result of direct action (non-violent or otherwise) and more the result of a grand political coalition of good-government reformers, ‘scientific’ economic determinists, prairie populists, religious folks on a mission*,  and a bit of dumb luck (Teddy taking over for McKinley).   Though also granted, the various strikes, protests, and outright disasters gave this coalition something to rally around to be against.

                *this faction, btw, has been part of every successful reform movement in American history, and afaict, is mostly absent from OWSReport

      • Avatar Bozo The Imbecile in reply to Michael Drew
        Ignored
        says:

        Well, here’s my riddle for the day.  Who hates Libertarians more than anyone else? 

        Answer:  Libertarians. 

        We have self-hating Jews (Chomsky).   Do we now have self-hating Libertarians?  It certainly seems it.Report

  11. Avatar Bozo The Imbecile
    Ignored
    says:

    We cannot dismiss the reality that we live in the most free, powerful, intelligent, prosperous, generous, innovative, nation in the history of mankind. And yes, we have never asked those we have fought for and with anything more than a place to bury our dead soldiers.

    Wow, that’s a lot to hate. The nitwit, lice-infested gnats and bong-heads “bringing it to the streets” are, in reality, just frustrated children upset that the price of their hallucinogens and cannabis are becoming a luxury beyond their means especially now that it’s time to pay the piper for their educations. Just a hunch–have no facts or stats to back it up. but I bet easily 90% of the Che loving revolutionaries are degreed in the social sciences. Victimhood is a powerful addiction–especially when fomented by the power structures of the academy. (most definitely, not you Prof. Hanley) And these clueless, bib-wearing stoneheads are getting exactly what they deserve and wanted.
    They should know by now that you mess with a cops horse or canine, you’re going down, big time. They were throwing steel pellets on the ground to cripple the horses which would eventually kill the horses and that’s not going to happen or tolerated, not no way, not no how. Hey, where’s PETA through all this? And where’s the White Lightning Acid? If you really want to steal a page from Lincoln Park ’68, you better get better actors than this inarticulate, motley crew!. In desperation, I heard one of the Freedom Fighters say they were going to dump enough LSD into the Atlantic Ocean to turn on the whole world! Timothy Leary lives! He’s changed the lyrics though– Don’t Turn On, Don’t Tune In, and, most importantly, DO NOT DROP OUT– There ain’t nothing out there.

    To the Castro/Che loving redistributionaries, this is the ghost of your future. Please. Do, take heed.

    Report

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