Occupy Wall Street Shutdown

by Henry on November 15, 2011

I presume that most CT readers know that Occupy Wall Street was, to use the police euphemism, cleared and restored yesterday. Consider this an open thread to talk about it. While it’s a minor part of the story, the confiscation of the OWS library (as best as anyone can tell, the 5,000 odd books are now residing in a dumpster somewhere) hit me particularly hard. Trashing libraries is a very particular kind of political statement.

{ 373 comments }

1

anxiousmodernman 11.15.11 at 6:17 pm

Pardon this kind of post on CT, but I know a some of you folks are in downtown DC…

Solidary action at MacPherson Square today (Tuesday, Nov. 15) at 5PM sharp. Bring rain gear.

The destroyed the library, people.

2

Barry Freed 11.15.11 at 6:20 pm

Apparently there was some kind of co-ordinated effort to shut down a occupations at a number of different cities, at least if this report that is making the rounds is to be believed http://capitoilette.com/2011/11/15/oakland-mayor-jean-quan-admits-cities-coordinated-crackdown-on-occupy-movement/

I’ve heard in addition to NYC, Calgary, Phoenix and Toronto.

3

Jim Harrison 11.15.11 at 6:26 pm

I think it’s time for the various movements to settle on a few proximate goals. In New York, for example, the non negotiable demand should be the removal of Michael Bloomberg from office. Make Bloomberg the face of the 1%.

4

David in NY 11.15.11 at 6:30 pm

As near as I can tell, the NYPD and Bloomberg continuously violated a court order this morning. They’re probably in court now.

5

straightwood 11.15.11 at 6:38 pm

This is just more of the blatant defiance of the Constitution that started with the 9/11 hysteria. Most people have become so accustomed to placing “security” above their rights that they consent to blatant abridgement of civil liberties guaranteed by the Constitution. Our republic is so debased that we are inferior to Egypt in respecting the rights of peaceful demonstrators.

6

Trey 11.15.11 at 6:41 pm

David in NY: They are in court right now, @CityHallNews is livetweeting the hearing.

7

cian 11.15.11 at 6:43 pm

The Guardian has a live blog on it:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/blog/2011/nov/15/occupy-wall-street-zuccotti-eviction-live. Currently it seems to be the best source of information.

8

Barry Freed 11.15.11 at 6:44 pm

Thanks Trey, here’s a more convenient link:

http://twitter.com/#!/cityhallnews

9

cian 11.15.11 at 6:47 pm

My initial thoughts on this is that the authorities have been very stupid indeed. I never really could see how the occupation could survive snow and ice, and it might well have just petered out. Now the authorities have ended it and ended it in the most thuggish way possible. However it lasted long enough for organisations and network to come into being. People are energised by this, people who were sympathetic will now be more so.

I think the test will be the planned demo against wall street on Thursday. If that still happens in significant numbers, then this isn’t going away.

10

kharris 11.15.11 at 6:49 pm

Jim H,

Calls for OWS to become a conventional political movement, complete with a list of demands, have been around just about 24 fewer hours that OWS itself. In an era when there have been very few (no?) other successful popular efforts to call attention to the fading prospects of non-plutocrats, why would you insist that the one successful effort become more like the failures? Why, also, insist on the quixotic, narrow goal of removing single politician (non-negotiable, no less) when the OWS crowd seems, to the extent we can tell, not to have any narrow political goals?

11

kharris 11.15.11 at 6:51 pm

You seem to be drawing parallels to book burnings of earlier times. Maybe. Or maybe the people hired to do the rousting looked at books and saw trash. I’m not sure which version is more troubling.

12

J. Otto Pohl 11.15.11 at 6:52 pm

I can think of a few historical incidences where authorities of the state destroyed libraries. But, the destruction of libraries I am familiar with took place at the hands of a self identified socialist regime. So that is probably not what Henry was thinking about. However, despite the myths still maintained about the USSR by left wing academics they did destroy libraries. So the political statement of such actions can be a left wing one. So no the destruction of books is not that particular as a political statement. The Soviet Union physically liquidated a number of libraries of deported peoples such as the Volga Germans, Crimean Tatars, and Chechens. In 1945 the Soviet authorities actually burned a number of Crimean Tatar language textbooks. The Central Library of the Volga German ASSR was dissolved after their deportation and many of its books dispersed across various libraries in the USSR. The rest of the collection the Soviet government consigned to poor storage conditions resulting in their destruction. So it was not just the Nazis who destroyed inconvienent books.

13

Bill Benzon 11.15.11 at 7:03 pm

I note that these police actions seem to be taking place in the name of public health, among other things. This is the imagery of defilement and impurity that clearly signals that “THEY are not one of US.” This is very dangerous ground.

14

cian 11.15.11 at 7:03 pm

I think the books were just collateral damage. Basically they wanted to destroy all the stuff that the occupiers had to make it harder for them to regroup. Vandalism pure and simple.

15

BJN 11.15.11 at 7:04 pm

@12 WTF?

The Soviets did something, therefore nobody who considers themselves left can ever criticize such an action again?

The Cold War is over, dude. Move on.

16

thompsaj 11.15.11 at 7:10 pm

J. Otto @ 12 – It appears that you’re making Henry’s point for him, as I’m sure neither he nor anyone else on this site is inclined to offer mealy-mouthed apologetics for the crimes of Stalin.

17

dictateursanguinaire 11.15.11 at 7:11 pm

@12, is that kind of comparison really necessary? Godwin’s Law needs to be expanded to Stalin and Mao. It seems that you have misinterpreted Henry. I took him to (pretty clearly) be saying that it is particular in that it reflects a total lack of respect for (rather than technocratic disagreement with) a particular political group, and that the instigators clearly don’t fear repercussions if they’re willing to make such a brazen statement. ‘Political’ doesn’t have to mean ‘politically partisan’, i.e. identified with a particular policy preference; it can also mean ‘political’ in that the action says something about the overall political system or culture. I don’t think Henry meant something as facile as ‘O, Mayor Bloomberg trashed the books, he must be a capitalist and right-wing politician’; obviously he self-identifies as such, so what would the point be of trying to divine his philosophical opinions on capitalism based on what he tells his police force to do? Obviously, that’s not what the OP meant. Rather, he was saying that this event says something about how decayed our political culture and the stunning lack of dedication to rule of law when the law is inconvenient to gov’t or capital but how remarkable such dedication is when the law is, e.g., adherence to a totally arbitrary debt ceiling.

18

Meredith 11.15.11 at 7:11 pm

My husband was in the city yesterday and met up with our daughter (who lives and works in other parts of the city) at Zucotti/Liberty Park. Someone took a great picture of them by a sign proclaiming “Student Loan Justice,” with tent upon tent stretching into the background. My daughter told me later that the occupation was so much bigger than when she’d last been there just a couple of weeks ago. Maybe that’s what was worrying Bloomberg and the NYPD, that this encampment wasn’t going to go away come with the cold weather.

19

Pub Editor 11.15.11 at 7:22 pm

J. Otto Pohl @12:

As I suspect you are aware, the destruction of libraries is hardly limited to the Soviet regime. Off the top of my head, and excluding destruction of libraries incident to the sack of a city by an invading army (e.g. Constantinople 1204, Baghdad 1258):

1. In 1243, King Louis IX of France (aka Saint Louis) confiscated the contents of multiple Jewish libraries in France, and reportedly had several thousand books burned.

2. According to evidence presented by the Soviet prosecution at Nuremberg in 1946, during the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, when the Germans briefly occupied Yasnaya Polyana, some of the soldiers gratuitously destroyed much of Tolstoy’s library.

(This could quickly get off topic.)

20

Pub Editor 11.15.11 at 7:25 pm

And what does it say about this country’s media that the best coverage of these events is by a British newspaper?

21

Jim Harrison 11.15.11 at 7:27 pm

To clarify my earlier post: I absolutely agree with the proposition that the lack of an overarching program is a strength of the OWS movement. What I suggested was an interim, tactical goal that can serve as a rallying point. The advantage of targeting Bloomberg, over and beyond the fact that he richly deserves it, is that it tags his future actions against the movement as self-interested.

22

Dave 11.15.11 at 7:27 pm

Jim Harrison has an excellent idea.

23

rm 11.15.11 at 7:33 pm

JOP, I think you’re reading “particular political statement” where the post said “particular kind of political statement.” It doesn’t have to be an echo of some past action by a particular regime in history. It is a brutal statement by the authorities. It is an assertion of dominance and a denial of any rights or legitimacy on the part of the protestors, an assertion that there will be no democratic dialogue.

24

LFC 11.15.11 at 7:38 pm

Further to 19:
During WW1, the Germans burned the library in Louvain (which was destroyed again, iirc, during WW2, though perhaps less intentionally).

25

J. Otto Pohl 11.15.11 at 7:38 pm

Pub Editor at 19 you make my point exactly. The inference seemed to be that the National Socialists destroyed books including evidently Tolstoy’s personal library so the New York City authorities doing the same thing ideologically links them some how with Fascism. My point is that destroying books, despite the claim made in the OP, makes “no particular political statement.” It is an activity that has been engaged by a wide variety of regimes of very different ideologies. Including not just the Nazis, but the Soviets, and the French monarchy.

26

straightwood 11.15.11 at 7:41 pm

And what does it say about this country’s media that the best coverage of these events is by a British newspaper?

I am sure that the famous American journalist, Chelsea Clinton, will soon be providing excellent coverage, based on her intimate knowledge of Wall Street personnel.

27

Henri Vieuxtemps 11.15.11 at 7:52 pm

Well, book-burning appears to be a normal enlightenment activity, advocated (as I read in this very blog some years ago) by Voltaire himself. Nothing to it.

28

Rich Puchalsky 11.15.11 at 8:01 pm

It’s particularly difficult for me to read the usual CT argument about book-burning throughout history right now.

There has been a concerted crackdown. Particular encampments have gone, the movement has not. Anyone really interested in helping or participating should join their local Occupy group; there should be one within reach at most places near where academics who communicate in English congregate.

29

Russell Arben Fox 11.15.11 at 8:14 pm

Rich Puchalsky (#28), exactly. (Support Occupy Wichita!)

30

Bill Benzon 11.15.11 at 8:19 pm

boingboing has a nice blog devoted to the raid, with some good pictures:

http://boingboing.net/2011/11/15/occupy-wall-street-nypd-raid.html

Rumor has it that Patti Smith funded the support structure for the library.

Find a group near you:

http://www.occupytogether.org/actions/

31

Bruce Baugh 11.15.11 at 8:22 pm

It’s genuinely not possible for me to take part physically in anything going on in Seattle…but I’ll find out today what I can do by way of support. Thanks for the impetus, Rich.

32

Bruce Baugh 11.15.11 at 8:30 pm

…fantastic. According to OccupySeattle‘s website, I can place orders with Great Northwest Soup Company and they’ll deliver hot soup. They’ve also got a beautifully clear list of other needs (and things they don’t need). On it.

33

Dragon-King Wangchuck 11.15.11 at 8:56 pm

Rumour has it that they haven’t been burned yet.

34

nick 11.15.11 at 9:00 pm

j otto pohl–some questions: in what world do you live; what year is it there; & why is it that you seem to believe, on a wide variety of topics, that the most crucial intervention is to chide American academics for their unreconstructed Stalinism?

35

nick 11.15.11 at 9:01 pm

ps–sorry for feeding the troll, folks–I agree entirely that now is the time to rally behind local occupations: the next couple weeks seem extraordinarily important….

36

Barry Freed 11.15.11 at 9:10 pm

Please let’s not derail this thread. Also I’ve not been as regular a reader of CT recently as I have in the past but J. Otto Pohl has never struck me as being a troll. On the contrary I can recall any number of thoughtful and insightful comments he’s left on a variety of threads here. If you click on his name and look at his blog you’ll see what he studies academically and that this may be what has colored his comments here. But really, that should be the last of this part of the discussion.

37

bert 11.15.11 at 9:14 pm

bq. And what does it say about this country’s media that the best coverage of these events is by a British newspaper?

It was partly a timezone advantage.
They were up and at their desks.
In New York it was the small hours.

38

Dragon-King Wangchuck 11.15.11 at 9:16 pm

Photo evidence of the continued existence of the OWS library. OTOH – not all good news. It is in the hands of The Man now, and He’ll be data-mining all sorts of information (for oppression enhancment) out of the scribbled notes in the margins.

39

Barry Freed 11.15.11 at 9:48 pm

TRO denied. No tents will be allowed in the park. – The latest I’m seeing.

40

Meredith 11.15.11 at 9:50 pm

Well, if their library is diminished or destroyed, it just means we’ll need to get back to work. Send a new round of books. (Or order some new ones for them from St. Marks Bookstore, just rescued from a Cooper Union’s attempt at absurd rent hike).

41

Meredith 11.15.11 at 9:58 pm

As for Bloomberg, in a press conference today he noted that the First Amendment protects freedom of speech (and then snidely invited the occupiers to exercise theirs, elsewhere). He failed to mention that amendment’s protection of “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

42

Bill Benzon 11.15.11 at 10:10 pm

Remember, Bloomberg’s the man who got the law changed so he could go for a third term as mayor. That’s like super ALPHA DOG behavior. He may not even think of himself as a dog like the rest of us. He probably thinks he’s a monkey.

43

Sev 11.15.11 at 10:37 pm

#13 “I note that these police actions seem to be taking place in the name of public health, among other things.”

Yes indeed. A simultaneous public health emergency in numerous cities across the nation. Has the blob of DHS now engulfed CDC? Pepper spray their preferred disinfectant. (This particular virus may have been considered a threat to the holiday shopping season.) With truncheons and Newspeak we will cleanse the public square.

44

JM 11.15.11 at 10:41 pm

Well, I was going to respond to the dumbest thing I’ve read all day, but it appears that j otto pohl’s ass is already the most used piece of equipment in the gym, so I’ll pass without comment.

45

cian 11.15.11 at 10:41 pm

For those that haven’t seen them, N+1 magazine have put out two specials on OWS:

http://www.nplusonemag.com/OCCUPY-GAZETTE.pdf
and
http://www.nplusonemag.com/GAZETTE-2.pdf

46

sash 11.15.11 at 10:50 pm

perhaps if OWS had incorporated their 1st amendmnet rights would have been taken more seriously.

On a more serious note, and echoing some of the sentiments already stated, I find it very troubling that the mayor chose self-help. Although I do not agree with the decisoin to remove the protesters, as is evident from today’s ruling, the city has sound legal arguments for being entitled to do so. The Mayor cheapened the rule-of-law by acting first. (And no, I don’t need to be reminded that the rule-of-law is kind of a joke in this day and age.)

47

Adrian Kelleher 11.15.11 at 10:51 pm

Destroying books, or any other information, is just negative propaganda. Lot’s of authoritarian regimes have done it.

A book burning is subtly different as it is a display as well as a practical destruction of knowledge. Like the inquisition before them, the Nazis wanted to be seen revelling in this destruction and did everything except break out the marshmallows as they celebrated the flames.

48

Barry 11.15.11 at 11:04 pm

Barry Freed 11.15.11 at 9:10 pm

” Please let’s not derail this thread. Also I’ve not been as regular a reader of CT recently as I have in the past but J. Otto Pohl has never struck me as being a troll. On the contrary I can recall any number of thoughtful and insightful comments he’s left on a variety of threads here. If you click on his name and look at his blog you’ll see what he studies academically and that this may be what has colored his comments here. But really, that should be the last of this part of the discussion.”

Yes – he studies the history of Stalinism, which is not excuse, and he feels that US academia screwed him over (which boat I believe that he shares with ‘scholars’ of right-wing think tanks all over DC and Manhattan).

I don’t know him, so I judge him by his comments here.

49

Barry 11.15.11 at 11:06 pm

Another: ” And what does it say about this country’s media that the best coverage of these events is by a British newspaper?”

Bert: ” It was partly a timezone advantage.
They were up and at their desks.
In New York it was the small hours.”

This ‘time zone’ advantage has been manifest for at least a decade now.

50

Barry Freed 11.15.11 at 11:21 pm

@Barry 11.15.11 at 11:04 pm

Fair enough. Like I said, it’s been a while since I was regularly reading and commenting on CT threads (and I’m increasingly reminded of why I’d stopped), I just don’t want to see yet another stupid diversion from the matter at hand and I really don’t care much who started it (insert relevant xkcd comic here).

Ditto on your following post.

51

js. 11.15.11 at 11:43 pm

This ‘time zone’ advantage has been manifest for at least a decade now.

And is in evidence as we speak! Real night-owls, those Brits.

52

bert 11.15.11 at 11:51 pm

They have a US office, genius.

53

Bill Benzon 11.15.11 at 11:56 pm

54

Kaveh 11.15.11 at 11:56 pm

@25 The inference seemed to be … doing the same thing ideologically links them some how with Fascism.

It most certainly does link them ideologically with fascism. This type of authoritarianism is a common point of fascism and Soviet communism.

I’m tempted to say unspeakable things about the book-trashing. It’s not just that I’m a scholar. Isn’t our fundamental opposition to people who do this kind of thing an essential part of the American myth–of who we think we are here? Don’t Americans fight Nazis? Isn’t that what my grandfather enlisted to do? Or the Inquisition, or whatever? (And if Voltaire falls in there too, so be it… it’s not like the fascists were strangers to rationalism.) The NYPD have basically said out loud and in public that they are the Other. The NYPD officers who ordered this, their bosses, their defenders, have abdicated any right to call themselves part of a civilized, democratic society. They are out. They have checked themselves out. The gig is up. The goose is cooked. This is an ex-parrot.

There’s not even an attempt to sustain the myth that this is about protecting our freedom. Of course the people who said that never believed in anyone’s freedom but their own (and maybe that of other well-to-do white Judeo-Christian men), of course the government never completely respected civil liberties, but the myth meant something. There have to be consequences for abandoning it.

55

Kaveh 11.16.11 at 12:39 am

(More specifically, it seems to me like any action like dumping or confiscating the library’s books ought to be exploited as a major PR victory for OWS. I think this is the situation in which the application Godwin’s law is suspended.)

56

Natilo Paennim 11.16.11 at 1:16 am

I’m glad that people here are outraged, but I fear it will hardly be enough. The Occupy movement was doomed from exactly that moment in which the first snitch was allowed to stay in a camp. If you can’t trust people not to inform on you to the police, you certainly can’t trust them to have your back when the riot cops come in swinging their truncheons.

57

engels 11.16.11 at 1:28 am

One of things I learned from this is that it is illegal to put up a tent in NYC without a permit. This is apparently to stop homeless people from using them as shelter.

58

Andrew F. 11.16.11 at 1:30 am

Protesting income inequality: excellent.

Less good is: 200 people camping out for months in a park, thereby denying the use of that park to others, harming local businesses in the area, costing the city significant additional dollars to police (to say nothing of the continuing inconvenience caused to local residents).

Sorry, as a New Yorker I’m happy that they’re drawing attention to income inequality, but have long since grown tired of the way they’re doing it. Find a way to protest without harming local residents and businesses, and without removing a public space from use by the general public for months, and I’ll be more in favor.

That said, reasonable people can certainly differ on this.

59

Kaveh 11.16.11 at 1:33 am

“thereby denying the use of that park to others”

Who are these others and why do they have more of a right to be in the park?

60

engels 11.16.11 at 1:35 am

Find a way to protest that doesn’t make any noise or take up any space and I’ll be heartily in favour…

61

engels 11.16.11 at 1:38 am

(I do care about these things you see, just not enough that trying to change them can cost me anything.)

62

logern 11.16.11 at 1:42 am

I’m not sure if this was an exact quote, but it came from (CBS evening news) that a judge had ruled “that there was a right to assemble, but no right to a camp out.”

Mubarak and others probably wonder why they didn’t come up with such a clever response.

63

Steve 11.16.11 at 2:04 am

So, as it turns out, the library was not trashed. The books were moved to a warehouse where they can be reclaimed. Somebody should go get the books back. I already have a nice Po-Mo shelf, thank you.

…and with this revised history, I hear the air being let out of the indignation here and elsewhere. The cops came, cleared out the people by threat of arrest and actual arrest, and moved their books to a garage for safekeeping. And so it goes in a democracy.

The tear gas in the kitchen tent was a fire extinguisher. Nobody has come forward with serious injuries, despite how deft OWS has been at getting these things out. No stun grenades, no rubber bullets, no broken bones. One cop and one protestor hospitalized. People who didn’t want to get arrested could freely leave, and did. People who wanted to be arrested were, using enough force to wrest them free in exactly the manner they said they would be when the warnings came. This is to the mutual credit of both the protestors and the cops.

As for contempt of court: the initial restraining order was signed by a pocket judge who practically worked for the protestors and would’ve signed anything put in front of her, so long as it was written by them and for their benefit. That? That’s not the rule of law, that’s why we hate lawyers in the first place. “Truth, shmuth, I’m gonna use my guild membership to benefit my side…” It’s a move that strikes me as corporate.

So: I agree with much of what OWS has said; they’re spot on in their anger at the prevailing inequalities and the fact that they have been systemically produced and perpetuated. But… you can’t turn a public space into a series of dwellings against the will of the a substantial number people around you. That’s what we did to the Native Americans, remember?

I guess I am just less than impressed with the idea that if you sleep in a park long enough–in any case past the point of getting the necessary attention–it makes your argument better, or more sustainable. I think it just makes you more grating and puerile-seeming. The park was not the seats in the back of the bus, it wasn’t the lunch counter, it wasn’t the wall between Palestine and Israel, it wasn’t the voting booth, it wasn’t the Stonewall Inn. It was just a random public place that became a series of dwellings two blocks from a highly-symbolic location, and dwelling somewhere in a tent isn’t a protected speech act. Not just by my opinion, also by the USSC’s (do your own research; I promise you’ll find it).

So a fairly liberal judge (who supported Critical Mass, against the wishes of the city), selected at random by the case assignment system used in the NYSSC, has decided that it’s not unreasonable to prohibit a park qua tent city, and it’s not unreasonable to prohibit tents and sleeping bags in doing so. The cops came, let anyone leave who wanted to leave, arrested the remainder using what is by national and international comparison very little force, and saved the books.

Eh.

I want OWS to live on based on the power of its core ideas, and not as some tired spectacle of public encampment. They could also use some leaders.

64

Salient 11.16.11 at 2:12 am

Find a way to vacate the park without harming the local protestors by breaking the ribs or bruising the organs of individuals who committed no act of physical violence, and without abandoning the law’s rules for non-excessive use of force by the police within seconds of engagement, and I’ll be more in favor.

65

MPAVictoria 11.16.11 at 2:37 am

“Find a way to protest without harming local residents and businesses, and without removing a public space from use by the general public for months, and I’ll be more in favor.”

Ha! You are a funny guy Andrew.

66

JP Stormcrow 11.16.11 at 2:51 am

A strongly worded letter has been dispatched with extreme prejudice.

67

Lemuel Pitkin 11.16.11 at 3:35 am

I recommend n+1’s OWS Gazette for some excellent first-hand accounts of the occupation. It’s all a week or two old now, but man, Grief, Gessen and co. can really write.

68

Rich Puchalsky 11.16.11 at 4:01 am

I’m very tired, so I’ll try to be brief.

The books aren’t burned. As the photo above shows, the police have them somewhere. Believing atrocity stories like this before they’re confirmed isn’t good; it’s cheap propaganda for the police to show a picture of books in a warehouse and then everything’s OK. In any case I’m more concerned about the people arrested and injured than the books, none of which were rare.

The right-wingers here are just sad. If they actually believed in any core American political values like freedom of speech or assembly, they’d be angry about what happened. But they believe in being against hippies, and that’s all.

The main three immediate problems the movement is facing right now are: police, cold, consensus. The third is especially important both as a source of strength and as a problem. Advice however well-meaning or well-informed doesn’t do any good without being embedded in a group of people who can carry it out. Join and then advise.

69

rm 11.16.11 at 4:15 am

There is not a conflict between those two statements.

Regarding Ishmael Reed:

— He’s written many brilliant things, but also has a long history of idiosyncratic contrarian curmudgeonliness, and this is an example of the latter. No one could read him long without finding something outrageous or offensive — so, my point is, he’s that kind of writer.

— He has a point, perhaps, but it’s a point particular to Oakland and not to Wall Street or Wichita. Occupying a black community that has its own history of radicalism is different from occupying Wall Street.

— Sometimes he can be quite essentialist.

70

Tony Lynch 11.16.11 at 4:15 am

I though “Do Not Disturb”was a notice for hotel doors, but apparently Andrew F has one hanging on his life.

Way to Go!

71

kidneystones 11.16.11 at 4:52 am

Henry’s support for the OWS library and that of others is worth far more than the protest itself, IMHO. Duncan Black notes that if the “Teabaggers” had staged a similar protest, they would not have been forcibly evicted and pilloried by the press. Duncan is undoubtably correct and it’s important to understand why. The “tea party” protesters have not created conditions in their demonstrations that required police intervention. As I noted on Henry’s Berkeley thread, the striking contrast in the behavior of the Occupy people and the tea party is probably lost on partisans. Most taxpayers are extremely unsympathetic to violence against property, as we saw in the British response to the riots several months ago. The steadily accumulating tales of rape, of vendors being attacked, of drug sales and OD’s, and of lice and TB at occupy sites in various locations produced the predictable response. OSW and their supporters are finding their way forward and may yet produce some tangible positive impact. Henry’s efforts were not in vain. If/when OWS acquires some of the self-discipline and maturity of the tea party, Henry’s books are much more likely to be read and appreciated.

72

js. 11.16.11 at 4:57 am

re engels @52: I do think there’re some rather revealing connections to be drawn between the State’s responses to homelessness (in the US) in the last few decades and its responses to the Occupy sites. This Ehrenreich piece is quite good on some aspects of this:

http://www.thenation.com/article/164138/why-homelessness-becoming-occupy-wall-street-issue

bert @52: me at 51 was being mostly lighthearted; sorry if it came off otherwise.

73

js. 11.16.11 at 4:58 am

oops. engels @57….

74

wilfred 11.16.11 at 5:20 am

I was in New York and passed most of an afternoon in an around Zucotti Park. IMO, it’s more than time to move from what looked like a permanent installation of performance art to a real politics. In fact, the one cop and 3 cosntruction workers I chatted to said pretty much the same thing.

By real politics I mean a cogent platform of independent actions aimed at changing the structures that have led to the current situation. To accomplish anything, however, the movement needs the help and support of cops, construction workers and people who have been schlepping into lower Manhattan by subway for their entire working lives.

I’m certainly willing and able to get behind a genuine alternative to the two party system. The occupation served its purpose – time to organize and challenge the existing politics.

75

Adrian Kelleher 11.16.11 at 5:49 am

@Kidneystones, 71

Here are some videos of Gary Younge exploring the “self-discipline and maturity of the tea party”:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2010/nov/01/younge-america-old-farts-club-video?INTCMP=ILCNETTXT3486
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2010/oct/29/younge-america-great-divide?INTCMP=ILCNETTXT3486

Also well worth watching is Astroturf Wars, a documentary available online at astroturfwars.com. It seems the Tea Party tapped a trick or two from Trotsky. That’s political maturity all right, no doubt about it.

76

David 11.16.11 at 6:07 am

The sacking of the library — barbarianism in action — is what leapt out at me this morning. That is just so wrong and so symbolic of the problem authority has in understanding what is happening. I agree with one of the early comments, make Bloomberg the face of the 1%.

77

kidneystones 11.16.11 at 6:17 am

Adrian writes. The first person sensible people think of when considering the tea party is Trotsky. I mean it’s simply so obvious. Like those towers coming down. Factor in the evil Koch brothers’ Secret Plan to End Life in the Universe and it all makes so much sense!! The rapes, ODs, lice, TB, drunks, and “free-loaders” are all paid rightwing plants!!

Of course!!!

78

Steve Williams 11.16.11 at 6:55 am

@kidneystones

Ahem:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/nov/13/undercover-policeman-admits-spying-danish-activists?INTCMP=SRCH

I’m sure ‘all’ of anything is not the work of the police. You will notice, however, that in point of fact the police are not above a little of this from time to time.

79

Adrian Kelleher 11.16.11 at 7:13 am

@Kidneystones

Entryism and the employment of front organisations were Trotsky’s trademark moves.

80

kidneystones 11.16.11 at 8:14 am

Henry will get his books read when OWS starts policing their own.

I blame Trig!

81

Henri Vieuxtemps 11.16.11 at 8:35 am

I’m not too optimistic. The pig power structure is as strong as it’s ever been. And, while in 1971 a likely alternative was to get shipped to a jungle as cannon fodder, today it’s just a matter of going back to your parents’ basement. If indeed construction workers are not on board yet, nothing is going to happen.

82

Walt 11.16.11 at 8:38 am

kidneystones, the voices in your head are not an important audience for political movements to persuade.

83

Smudge 11.16.11 at 9:49 am

One of the frustrations of this site- and the reason I am a rare visitor these days, is the tendancy to abuse, dismiss as “trolls” or occassionally censor dissenting voices. All the odder in thread regarding suprrssion of protest and book burning.

On Voltaire, rely on him for a witty line and some gloriously sharp insight- but look elsewhere for a moral compass or consistant ideology.

84

bob mcmanus 11.16.11 at 10:04 am

81: Watch Samaras in Greece

It’ll get worse, and then the right will get into power, and then it will get really really awful. The social democrats and liberals at best don’t have a freaking clue, and haven’t learned a damn thing since Weber cheered the war and they killed Karl and Rosa.

85

Emma in Sydney 11.16.11 at 10:40 am

Smudge, some of us have had long prior experience of Jack Strocchi on JQ’s blog. We know whereof we speak in relation to him.

86

Andrew F. 11.16.11 at 10:48 am

Kaveh, the number of tents, and the state of the park, was such that the rest of the public couldn’t use it. In Manhattan there are quite a number of public parks, but nonetheless a very limited number; and so the literal occupation of one, for two months straight, is both unfair and irritating to residents and workers. The damage done to local businesses, moreover, shouldn’t be lightly dismissed.

This is a city more liberal than much of America, and whose residents are likely more sympathetic to the emphasis of OWS than most. But OWS didn’t really occupy Wall Street. It occupied a public park.

Protests of course often need to be loud, and they always need to draw attention. That’s fine. But it’s worthwhile, imho, to take the thoughts, feelings, and welfare of the residents and local businesses into better account when you’ll be setting up camp for two months.

Re freedom of speech – this is subject to what are referred to as reasonable time, place and manner restrictions. Regulations that are content-neutral (are not aimed at a particular viewpoint), are narrowly tailored to the achievement of an important public purpose, and leave open ample alternative avenues of expression are held to be consistent with freedom of speech. This is how, for example, a government may lawfully ban trucks with blaring loudspeakers from roaming residential neighborhoods at night. It’s also how a government may enforce regulations long since passed into effect to keep public parks safe, clean, and accessible to everyone.

87

cian 11.16.11 at 10:52 am

I support the protests and the cops are behavior is thuggish (there should be prosecutions and there won’t be) but too many of the comments here a just childish.

Here’s the thing, “an adult”, calling yourself “an adult” is very childish.

88

cian 11.16.11 at 10:55 am

KidneyStones: Factor in the evil Koch brothers’ Secret Plan to End Life in the Universe and it all makes so much sense!! The rapes, ODs, lice, TB, drunks, and “free-loaders”

Senile Dementia is such a sad condition, and so undignified too.

89

cian 11.16.11 at 10:58 am

Andrew F, we get it, we get it. The occupation was cutting into your important time with your soaps. God forbid anything should get between you and Days of our Lives.

90

Guido Nius 11.16.11 at 11:10 am

I read it got between him and his walk in the park. It is not healthy when another opinion cannot even be put out there without attracting snark attacks. It is in this case also totally unnecessary. I mean: a walk in the park?

91

kidneystones 11.16.11 at 11:13 am

Cian, I’m curious, would you prefer to ignore the ringworm outbreak, the lice, the tb, the rapes, the ODs, or the threats of violence? You’re clearly having trouble extending let’s pretend land to the spreading rash of occupyfailures. Why not just concentrate on two or three and argue like hell that the rapes, for example, never actually occurred. Or were the acts of Koch brothers’ plants “taking a page from Trotsky.”

I think that OWS 2.0 may well produce positive results.

Let’s hope so!

92

cian 11.16.11 at 11:17 am

It depends. When the option is put out there by a boring troll like Andrew F, people tend not to take it very seriously. I blame… well to be honest I blame Andrew. Nobody made him be a troll.

Or did they. You know when we consider the permissive culture that has arisen since the 60s, is it no wonder that Andrew gets his jollies from writing crap and derrailing comment threads. No it isn’t. If only liberals hadn’t burnt their bras, none of this would have happened.

You damn liberals. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

93

cian 11.16.11 at 11:18 am

Kidneystones, there appears to be drool on the left hand side of your mouth. And your tie has… yep, remains of egg on it. And I don’t really want to know what that wet patch in your crotch area is all about. Could you maybe take a few steps away, or go downwind, or something?

Ta.

94

cian 11.16.11 at 11:22 am

Joke seen on twitter:
“The police have occupied Zuccotti Park. But what are their demands?”

Donuts probably.

95

Barry 11.16.11 at 12:29 pm

js. 11.15.11 at 11:43 pm

Me: ” This ‘time zone’ advantage has been manifest for at least a decade now.”

js. : ” And is in evidence as we speak! Real night-owls, those Brits.”

I’m sorry, I should have been more clear, for those who haven’t been paying attention much in the past decade. The Guardian has had far better reporting than US papers on US affairs. The obvious reason is that they’re not bought-and-paid-for by US interests.

96

Barry 11.16.11 at 12:31 pm

Natilo Paennim 11.16.11 at 1:16 am

” I’m glad that people here are outraged, but I fear it will hardly be enough. The Occupy movement was doomed from exactly that moment in which the first snitch was allowed to stay in a camp. “

Assertion with no proof. In addition, there will be informants in any movement; the movement must be able to survive this.

97

Barry 11.16.11 at 12:33 pm

Andrew F: “…harming local businesses in the area, costing the city significant additional dollars to police (to say nothing of the continuing inconvenience caused to local residents).”

Andrew, as somebody living in NYC, you should be aware of the, uh, macroeonomic unpleasantness originating there?

When the police and Bloomberg give a flying f*ck about that, they and you will be entitled to complain.

98

Salient 11.16.11 at 12:47 pm

One of the frustrations of this site- and the reason I am a rare visitor these days, is the tendancy to abuse, dismiss as “trolls” or occassionally censor dissenting voices.

Repetitive accusations that supporters of OWS have conspired to cover up rapes and ringworm outbreaks isn’t dissent. Honestly, sometimes it feels like kidneystones is trying to get banned.

Add that to the fact that we’re being accused of being unreasonable because police had a legal right to clear the park, even though what we’re denouncing is actually the illegal use of unauthorized force (cracking the ribs of protestors who did not engage in any act more violent than taping themselves to a tree) and illegal destruction of material property confiscated in the course of investigation (books aren’t an illegal substance).

Check Andrew at 86 for an example comment that seems to take it for granted we’re outraged that the police made an effort to clear the park in any way shape or form, when the core concern here is the way and shape and form of their method of clearing.

99

bert 11.16.11 at 12:53 pm

Barry, I got that.
The Guardian has been far more full-on in embracing the web as its business model than other media operations. The sums don’t add up yet, but the strategy involves increasing eyeballs in key international markets, the US being the main focus. They see their opportunity as filling exactly the role you describe. That was the rationale for hiring Mike Tomasky. He’s moved on since, but the strategy remains in place.

I’m not surprised that people on the left feel underserved by the ‘mainstream liberal media’. I occasionally catch the KCRW Left Right and Center podcast. The host, former Clinton hanger-on Matt Miller, in addition to his ridiculous gas-filled self promotion, has taken to calling himself the “extreme center”.
Here in the UK, that translates as “complete wanker”.

100

cian 11.16.11 at 1:00 pm

I have an idea for what the OWS protestors should do. They should hand each and every policeman in the park a donut. It probably wouldn’t defuse thing, though it might help. It would however be funny, would change the coverage and would confuse the hell out of the authorities.

101

Uncle Kvetch 11.16.11 at 1:08 pm

Must the trolls be fed?

102

kidneystones 11.16.11 at 1:13 pm

A final word which is sure to cause more consternation from those demanding participants adhere to group-think ground rules. My initial post on this topic addressed the reasoning behind the clearing of the park and the positive role model for dissent set by the tea party. I see no particular point, generally speaking, to garden variety ad homs. Hence, I bypassed Walt’s empty insult and cian’s rather sad little post. Not his/her best by a long shot. But consistently trying to paint a lipstick on the current OWS pig clearly takes a toll. Adrian and one other, I forget, brought up the Koch brothers astroturf meme, which happens to be one of more suspect excuses employed to defame the tea party. The tea party’s own homegrown loopy economic views require no outside fertilization or funding. And many of their grievances are exactly like those of the better class of occupy protester.

The fact is that Bloomberg has done the Occupy movement an enormous favor. The movement is clearly unable, in its current incarnation, to either enforce any level of difference or even articulate a clear agenda. The good news is that the movement enjoys the support of some extremely bright and committed people. Not cian, I’m afraid. Yves Smith has been banging the income inequality drum for a long time and that message, as John and others have observed, is finally entering the national conversation thanks to some slick messaging and timely advice from Yves and others.

Bloomberg has relived organizers of the burden of trying to police itself. Blame Bloomberg all you want. The fact is that OWS has been forced to separate itself from its most unruly and suspect branches. There can be no more stories of empty tents in the Daily Mail if the tents have been removed.

The tea party owes its success to legitimate grievances. Their politics, however, are the politics of pure self-interest, combined with anti-government dogma. Their resentment at having to pay the mortgages of those who bought too much house and the salaries of the executives who profited off such shabby practices is legitimate, but narrow and clearly inspired by self-interest. The OWS message of “end income inequality” is not yet competing with the tea party message of “end all debt now.” The sooner the camps are cleared and disinfected and the errors acknowledged, the more salient and sale-able the OWS message is likely to become. The movement cannot, imho, survive too many more weeks of ringworm outbreak stories etc. Without Bloomberg, public opinion would almost certainly have eventually turned on the OWS movement, which now gets to reform itself. Whether it will, of course, is another question.

Three cheers for Bloomberg!

103

J. Otto Pohl 11.16.11 at 1:19 pm

Dyadya Kvetch:

Yes us trolls must eat as well. I just had some yummy wakeye.

104

a different chris 11.16.11 at 1:29 pm

> would you prefer to ignore the ringworm outbreak, the lice, the tb, the rapes, the ODs, or the threats of violence?

The beauty of the way society’s mindfucking works on people like you is that they can feed you little details – details to you, clues to others – knowing you will just start spouting off without the slightest effort to put the big picture together. Let me try:

1) Occupy whatever provided food, shelter, medical equipment
2) This attracted a lot of people at the bottom of economic ladder, surpise
3) Thus physical manifestations like lice and mental conditions just, as Chrissy Hyde said, eventually “come with the scenery”.

Why does it not bother you that, in the richest spot of the richest country of the world, one that just had an extra ridiculous transfer of weath, should the provision of substandard food and shelter attract so many? WTF is up with that should be your question.

Now, sorry about feeding the troll.

My feeling is that the thuggishness is not as sure to help as maybe we could hope. In hindsight (and this can still be done), I think a better visual would have been if the Occupies had set their own time limit right up front, and left with dignity. *But* with a firm date and, I think, place (make it a moveable event) to reassemble.

That changes it from a unwieldy protest to a real movement. “Coming to your town in March” works a lot better than “we’re going to stay here until things stop sucking” when everybody knows that things can suck longer than you can keep the lid on the activities happily quoted by people like kidneystones to prove, well I don’t know what he/she thinks they prove, but whatever.

105

a different chris 11.16.11 at 1:32 pm

Ah, and as soon as I finish I discover kidneystones has written a post cutting the distance between us in at least half.

I withdraw the mindfuck and like parts of my comment! :) Still don’t see how you see any of that in the teaparty.

106

bert 11.16.11 at 2:17 pm

Occupy London is still up and running, and the Daily Mail is still on its case.
The protesters are lucky to be at the mercy of the Church of England. If there’s an issue on which the Church of England doesn’t split like a cheap binbag, I don’t know what it is.

Incidentally, I’ve not seen mentioned here that Occupy Zurich was shut down at the same time as OWS. I’m no conspiracist, but that does make me think about who was in the room besides Bloomberg when the decision was made.

107

Rich Puchalsky 11.16.11 at 2:31 pm

“That changes it from a unwieldy protest to a real movement.”

Oh, thank you very much, a different chris. We’ll be especially sure to listen to you first next time. Since we all move in lockstep, I’m sure that that will be easy for us to coordinate.

kidneystone’s BS at least has the benefit of overt hostility. You can read his screeds about lice and TB and how the rapeo vermin need to be cleansed out of existence and know where he’s coming from. It’s the supposedly helpful, clueless comments that still, 2 months later, are telling us what to do as if we’re the Vanguard Party ready to swing into respectable and respected action at some commenter’s idea, that I wish that people would get over.

108

Steven 11.16.11 at 2:37 pm

I think when the cops occupied the park yesterday, as goes the oft-RT’d joke also made here, their sole demand was “no more living in the park.”

Last night, the protestors met their demand. And I think they could benefit from such clarity of message, resolve, and unity of leadership.

109

Natilo Paennim 11.16.11 at 2:37 pm

97: “Assertion with no proof” There have been multiple reports, on several different websites of liberal Occupy protestors ratting out other protestors to the police. I am not your slave, so I am not going to ask “how high?” when you say “frog”. Find your own links and you may learn something.

110

bert 11.16.11 at 2:39 pm

Interesting to hear from you, Rich. Reading between the lines, I take it that consensus (the priority you mention upthread) is proving tough to come by. That fair?

111

bert 11.16.11 at 2:42 pm

Forgive me for continuing the red herring.
The Daily Mail namechecked by kidneystones is the other UK media outlet that’s had a lot of international success online. They’ve gone the full scumbag route for maximising pageviews, with long lens photos and keyword-heavy teaser headlines.
It makes an entertaining contrast with the prim moralising of their printed product.

112

Natilo Paennim 11.16.11 at 2:44 pm

103: “the positive role model for dissent set by the tea party”
Funnily enough, I agree with this. If the left started bringing guns to every protest there’d be a hell of a lot less tear-gassing and pepper-spraying going on. I certainly don’t advocate the direct threats to public officials that the Teabaggers have made, but it was effective. And stomping that woman who tried to counter-protest? That’s definitely an efficient means of keeping the other side at bay.

113

cian 11.16.11 at 2:50 pm

Hence, I bypassed Walt’s empty insult and cian’s rather sad little post. Not his/her best by a long shot.

But good enough apparently. Did little troll got his feelings hurt. Diddums.

114

cian 11.16.11 at 2:54 pm

If the left started bringing guns to every protest there’d be a hell of a lot less tear-gassing and pepper-spraying going on.

and more bullets. Great. Come to a protest, get show.

I certainly don’t advocate the direct threats to public officials that the Teabaggers have made, but it was effective.

Or it could it be that they weren’t seen as a threat in the same way by the authorities. White, aging, middle class people with the strong backing of the Republican party. Hmm.

Is this true naivety, or simply a refusal to see the facts in front of your face.

115

cian 11.16.11 at 2:55 pm

get shot – rather than get show. Though getting show at a protest could be kind of fun.

116

Kaveh 11.16.11 at 2:55 pm

bert @107 Incidentally, I’ve not seen mentioned here that Occupy Zurich was shut down at the same time as OWS. I’m no conspiracist, but that does make me think about who was in the room besides Bloomberg when the decision was made.

I don’t think the word “conspiracy” is helpful. All politics is conspiracies. If the question is whether the idea is overly speculative, it shouldn’t even have taken this much evidence to seriously consider it, given the mayors all know who each other are, but here we are:

“I was recently on a conference call of 18 cities across the country who had the same situation where what had started as a political movement and political encampment ended up being an encampment of the people who started them,” said Oakland mayor, Jean Quan.

http://thinkprogress.org/special/2011/11/15/368928/are-mayors-coordinating-uproot-occupations/

117

Guido Nius 11.16.11 at 3:00 pm

Anyway the thing definitely had its impact already on public discourse putting the left on the front foot after decades. The right may still have the power for a while, but to capture the imagination of the people is going to hold longer term.

I was one of the lucky ones surfing a good wave (after the 60s) & I for sure hope that my kids can say the same later (about the 10s).

Pinning yourself to a physical spot is, however, not something that I see as very wise.

118

bert 11.16.11 at 3:03 pm

What prompted the thought is Zurich’s function as a world financial hub. So the other people in the room (and in Bloomberg’s network) aren’t mayors. They work in quite a different part of the economy.

119

Rich Puchalsky 11.16.11 at 3:08 pm

I don’t know whether you’ve ever been in a consensus-driven organization, bert. But consensus is always difficult. It’s not so much “tough to come by” in the sense that there are different groups of people pulling in different ideological directions. But think about what would be involved in “a different chris”‘ suggestion for a moment.

Let’s say that you decided that you wanted encampments to move from one place to another on date X. First of all, there is the very real logistical factor that many of the people in the movement are either poor and don’t have cars, and/or have working or middle class jobs that they can’t leave, so they can’t exactly just pack up and move their lives from place to place — one of the big reasons why Occupy movements sprang up all over rather then everyone just going to Wall Street. But let’s say you overcome this somehow. Where are you getting the authority from to convince people to do this? Do people all just magically agree with you because it’s such a great idea?

Let’s say, I don’t know, you’re some great charismatic leader. OK, you convince some subset of people that this is a good plan, despite its obvious problems. Now the question is where to go and when and how. While you’re arguing about this — because of course you’re arguing; people don’t show up for something like Occupy if they’re not opinionated — every day, new people are arriving at your camp with their own opinions. People who may be surprised to hear “Hey, we’re all moving to Philly 5 days from now.” “I think I’ll just stay here and Occupy. I just got here!” the new person says. Sure, you can re-consense them into going along, but then new people have arrived…

Or perhaps “a different chris” thinks this all should have been done beforehand? That’s completely ignorant about how Occupy formed and grew. There wasn’t some master plan by Adbusters that a cadre sprung into existence to carry out. Adbusters and a few old-style leftist groups wanted a march from here to there and a lecture, which would have been over in one day just like everything before, and which no one would have heard about. But by staying in place, a couple of hundred original people served as a nucleus for a group to grow around. There were no people to organize to move before there was an encampment.

Go to a local GA, try to introduce one of your great ideas, is my advice. Then look at other people’s faces and think “Wait… these people are actually other people, with their own lives and opinions. How am I going to actually convince them to all spend actual labor carrying out what I think is a great plan?”

120

Natilo Paennim 11.16.11 at 3:09 pm

115: Come to a protest, get sho[t]

I’m not saying it would be more fun, forchrissakes. I don’t even like to go to protests where there’s intentional Civil Disobedience resulting in arrests. I’m saying that heightening the contradictions, as it were, is a lot more effective than just chanting and holding a sign.

I read that many mainstream liberals find themselves in sympathy with the Occupy protests, feel that the protesters are making good points, etc. etc. And yet…those same liberals seem completely unwilling to back up their yap. Verbal expressions of solidarity are totally worth the paper they’re printed on. Yeah, go ahead, order some protesters a pizza. That’s great and all, but it doesn’t protect anyone from getting hit by a beanbag round, does it?

Even today, when it should be exceedingly obvious to any reasonable observer that the police are NOT in sympathy with the protests, do NOT consider themselves part of “the 99%”, and will NOT disobey illegal orders; even today there are still liberals at OWS trying to be all lovey-dovey with the cops. That doesn’t sound like any effective protest I’ve ever heard of. If you want to get the cops to refuse to do their jobs, praising them for doing their jobs seems like an awfully funny way to go about it.

I am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood.

121

Sev 11.16.11 at 3:20 pm

#107 Bert “Incidentally, I’ve not seen mentioned here that Occupy Zurich was shut down at the same time as OWS. I’m no conspiracist, but that does make me think about who was in the room besides Bloomberg when the decision was made.”

Well, I’m no conspiracist either, until someone shows me- ok, you just did. London tomorrow. Guess the G-20 wasn’t just a buck up the eurozone pep rally.

122

Sev 11.16.11 at 3:25 pm

After all, it was an austerity fest, and their probably getting nervous about the public appetite for such. Austerity for you, austerity for me, we have plenty of austerity for everybody! Ok, not everybody- it’s a means tested program.

123

Sock Puppet of the Great Satan 11.16.11 at 4:01 pm

“The Guardian has been far more full-on in embracing the web as its business model than other media operations. The sums don’t add up yet, but the strategy involves increasing eyeballs in key international markets, the US being the main focus.”

The fact that the Guardian’s owned by a trust rather than shareholders makes a difference. In fact, the organizations that seem to have adapted the best to the web – the BBC, or NPR in the U.S. – are not-for-profit organizations.

In the U.S., where most media was dependent on local monopolies on news and advertising, the web, especially Craigslist, royally messed up their business models.

124

Sock Puppet of the Great Satan 11.16.11 at 4:03 pm

I’ll note that the best coverage of Occupy Oakland, IMHO, is on the Guardian’s website and on the BBC.

Meanwhile, the Oakland Tribune has stopped publishing on Monday’s. At a time when Oakland’s in the public eye more than it has been for a decade.

125

cian 11.16.11 at 4:11 pm

#122 Natilo: even today there are still liberals at OWS trying to be all lovey-dovey with the cops.

There are? What does lovey dovey mean here exactly? AFAICT the protestors know exactly what the cops are doing, and who they represent. On the other hand, fighting with cops has never been a hugely successful tactic in the USA.

That doesn’t sound like any effective protest I’ve ever heard of.

Whereas getting shot by the police holding a gun is an effective way of protesting?

If you want to get the cops to refuse to do their jobs, praising them for doing their jobs seems like an awfully funny way to go about it.

Whereas shooting at them is the way to make friends?

I am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood.

Well maybe you should go to your local occupy meet and tell people that. I’m sure they’re all dying (literally) to martyr themselves to your cause.

126

Henry 11.16.11 at 4:35 pm

It appears as though a large part of the library , perhaps the greater part of it has indeed been destroyed. But Rich is entirely right to emphasize that this movement is not about a library (the library is the part that I feel personally most attached to, but I am emphatically not offering any kind of general strategy – just general support for a movement which I may have specific problems with, but which I think is a healthy and important development in US politics that deserves all the nurturing it can get).

127

straightwood 11.16.11 at 4:50 pm

Evidence is emerging of Federal (DHS and FBI) coordination of the police shutdowns of multiple OWS sites. Homeland Security seems to be evolving toward something very ugly.

link

128

Rich Puchalsky 11.16.11 at 5:11 pm

I’m a freelance librarian myself, but… here’s an extended quote from a post that Bill Benzon linked to above:

“Campers across the park quickly climbed out of their tents screaming, “WAKE UP THE POLICE ARE HERE!” I ran into the library and let the handful of people sleeping in there know what was happening, then unlocked and pulled the OWS POETRY ANTHOLOGY from the shelves and strapped them to my body, then climbed atop a table in the park and read poems from the anthology. Immediately, the people of Liberty Plaza launched into action, a group of about a hundred protesters took to the kitchen and U-Locked/tied themselves down. After reading the third poem, the cops began to enter the park and I realized that I would most likely lose all of my possessions so I quickly grabbed a bag of my personal stuff, ran into the library and dumped a bunch of boxes of books onto the floor to make the cleaning up more difficult for the cops then ran my personal stuff and a few amazing books to a friends house around the corner. “

Not to after-the-fact hindsight this person, but I suggest that if you really want to preserve a library, dumping boxes of books onto the floor to make the cleaning up more difficult for the cops — as if they are going to carefully clean the place up — is not the right idea. But, as Henry writes above, it’s not like the place was organized around the library. People can certainly feel most attached to that part of it, but there’s something about that attachment that is not really about what the movement is about. Zuccotti Park was providing a lot of services to the homeless people that the likes of kidneystones above thinks never had health problems before they gathered there. But it wasn’t a homeless shelter, and the people who are most attached to the idea that the police shut down a charity aren’t getting it either. Some people made some pretty good art. But when that art was broken or destroyed, that was certainly not a good thing, but it wasn’t that the police were trashing an art gallery.

129

Barry 11.16.11 at 5:15 pm

Natilo Paennim 11.16.11 at 2:37 pm

” 97: “Assertion with no proof” There have been multiple reports, on several different websites of liberal Occupy protestors ratting out other protestors to the police. I am not your slave, so I am not going to ask “how high?” when you say “frog”. Find your own links and you may learn something.”

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

*multiple* posts, on *multiple* websites. That nails it.

And you didn’t seem to read my second statement, which is the real point.

130

Bruce Wilder 11.16.11 at 5:17 pm

The social mechanisms by which acts of mass civil disobediance work to change political cultures are:
1.) to prevent business-as-usual on the terms or within the structures, which the protesters mean to change;
2.) to provoke conspicuous violence by established authorities, who are seeking to maintain those established terms and structures of social cooperation.

It seems to me that OWS pretty much failed to do either, well — at least so far.

Liberals want to credit OWS with changing the terms of the national political debate, though liberals still want to talk politely about the “inequality”, not about predation. Popular concerns about elite failure narrowed to Joe Paterno pretty rapidly; not a white woman lost in the black caribbean of nightmare, but pretty close.

131

kidneystones 11.16.11 at 5:24 pm

Hi Rich, Wonderfully perceptive observation re: overt hostility. Unfortunately, TPM has a great big banner headline that pretty much screams: Kidneystones is Right!!! http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/11/poll-public-opinion-turning-against-occupy-wall-street.php?ref=fpa

You’re entirely free to argue that the steady drip-drip-drip of rape stories etc. I cite is a manifestation of some peculiar psychological twists. The opinions I offer are those of the majority, however. I noted my problems with the tea-party up-thread. My principle problem with some of the people here, as I’ve written on several occasions is that partisan blinders prevent you from seeing how much damage OWS’ lack of discipline has caused the movement. The TPM report and poll may make you wake up. I won’t hold it against you if you want to stick to your: the facts don’t matter defense.

The icing on the cake, as it were: more Americans now support the Tea Party than OWS. Kind of sums up the last three years, doesn’t it? Yglesias, is now singing from the Bloomberg did us a favor songbook. Troll!

132

straightwood 11.16.11 at 5:47 pm

@133

Well, that settles it, all we need is lots of soap and good hygiene to accomplish meaningful political reform. The Hippies were dirty, and thus they failed. We must never put morality above personal cleanliness.

The men who fire Hellfire missiles from drones are wearing neatly pressed uniforms, and as they guide a warhead into a group of ragged suspected terrorists, their deoderent prevents even a drop of sweat from forming on their well-toned bodies. Yes indeed, order and cleanliness are the defining traits of the superior being and the higher civilization!

133

Salient 11.16.11 at 5:56 pm

You’re entirely free to argue that the steady drip-drip-drip of rape stories etc. I cite

You haven’t cited anything. You’ve alleged that OWS is harboring, abeting, and/or enabling a variety of criminal activities, without offering corroboration. The only cases with which I am familiar, were male bystanders harassing and attacking female protestors. The general response was to surround the attacker, getting in between them and their victim, and ‘escorting’ them to the nearest police officer (who pretty quickly indicated they had no intention of following up on ‘hearsay’) or away from the park (now standard practice because the cops refuse to do a damn thing about butt-squeezing.)

It’s very hard to not infer malign intent from your conduct here. Maybe because you savor the possibility that the repetition is triggering victims of previous sexual assaults? That’s purely speculative, but what else is there? What are you wanting? Why are you here?

I seem to remember on a previous thread you had an equally monomaniacal determination to accuse universities, instructors specifically, of harboring and enabling drug abuse among students. So, yes: Troll!

it wasn’t that the police were trashing an art gallery.

A dozen officers appearing at the park in ordinary uniforms at 10am and informing everybody they have three hours to pack all this stuff up and carry it away or the remainder will be discarded as trash, would be pretty reasonable. Raiding the park at 1pm and dumpstering all the stuff set up there, which has been allowed to be there every previous night for months, is an act of aggression.

134

Henry 11.16.11 at 5:58 pm

kidneystones – you appear to be moving from being annoying and stupid into active trolling. Please consider this a quite emphatic warning to cease and desist.

135

Rich Puchalsky 11.16.11 at 6:29 pm

Salient, I’m sorry that I seem to have not communicated well. I didn’t mean to imply that the police weren’t trashing something; they certain did trash everything in the encampment, coming in riot gear at 1 AM so there would be no press. It’s just that it’s a political protest in the form of an encampment, not a library, homeless shelter, or art gallery. All of those things may have existed within it in some form. But they weren’t it.

It’s OK to focus on the library if that’s really what someone in particular is most interested in. But it’s a kind of fetishization. OWS and Occupy in general is not all intellectuals and books. You can reach a point where “I’m most interested in their library” becomes “I want to see the movement in my own image”.

I’m not in NYC; I’m in a small town. But when police kicked us out of our park, our first concern wasn’t books. It was how to find shelter for people who had nowhere else to sleep, and how to get the guy who was having a medical crisis to the hospital. People are picking up the pieces of OWS now, and that includes inventorying the books that are left. But that’s not the critical part of what needs to be talked about — which is, what’s next.

136

Rich Puchalsky 11.16.11 at 6:45 pm

Since “an adult” points to #75 as what should be talked about, I’ll point to it as exactly what shouldn’t be talked about.

“By real politics I mean a cogent platform of independent actions aimed at changing the structures that have led to the current situation. To accomplish anything, however, the movement needs the help and support of cops, construction workers and people who have been schlepping into lower Manhattan by subway for their entire working lives.”

OK, Wilfred. Go ahead and organize a cogent platform of independent actions. Oh, wait, you mean that you need more people than just yourself to do that? Hmm, that is a problem.

Maybe you’d like to organize a left vanguard party, complete with the discipline that you think will be necessary? Or maybe that would scare off those construction workers.

“I’m certainly willing and able to get behind a genuine alternative to the two party system. The occupation served its purpose – time to organize and challenge the existing politics.”

Yep, we’re all waiting for Wilfred to show us a genuine alternative to the two party system… go ahead and organize us. Not as we actually came together, but how you’d like us to have done things. We have naively done the initial work that your sophisticated intelligence can build on.

“an adult” might consider what protestors from “Egypt to Chile to Colombia to Bahrain ” have actually gotten in response to their concrete demands. Eygpt got rid of a dictator and got a military junta. I’d bet that if we had a dictator, we could do that too. In fact, we have a quite different political system that we’re starting with — one in which about half the people are motivated by eliminationist fantasies about cleansing society of hippie corruption, not by whatever ideals Wilfred has.

137

bert 11.16.11 at 6:50 pm

bq. the Bloomberg did us a favor songbook

An early warbling from it: http://crookedtimber.org/2011/11/14/occupy-berkeley/comment-page-1/#comment-387327. (That’s how we spell Zuccotti where I come from, if you wondered.)

The Tea Party’s main effect was on the Congressional GOP.
The emphasis on purity and principle ramped up intransigence.
The result was a do-nothing Congress in the middle of a crisis.

If people can get it together to punish vulnerable Republicans in House and Senate races it won’t mean ponies for everyone. But it will open up more space for better outcomes than leaving them unpunished would. I know that in some cases this approach may involve voting for Blue Dogs, the drawbacks of which I’m not blind to. It would be great if every race had an Elizabeth Warren option. I just think there’s both a clear choice and a clear cost involved in opting for the Democratic equivalent of Sharron Angle or I-Am-Not-A-Witch, which is what some people will be faced with next year. Prioritise your enemies, that’s what’s next.

138

Adrian Kelleher 11.16.11 at 7:05 pm

@Rich Puchalsky

I really don’t see what you’re trying to get at or where you’re going. The strawman argumentation doesn’t help either.

OWS’s objectives can only be met by the political authorities. There are various ways of achieving that but I don’t understand how denouncing the concept of political organisation helps.

The Tea Party found its answer in parasitising an existing political block. The sorry succession of anti-Romneys that have each flickered so briefly onto the national stage has been the outcome, but they have achieved some of their objectives.

OWS must either form its own party, take over an existing one or pressure one to accept its views. The first option isn’t entirely unrealistic at least in city or state politics, but I’m sure you’re aware how long it’s been since there was a genuine three horse race in a national US election of any sort — not since Teddy Roosevelt’s time IIRC. The only exceptions have been the hari kiri candidacies of the likes of Strom Thurmond and Barry Goldwater designed specifically to damage a friendly party that was regarded as drifting too far from the ideals of fringe elements.

Political forces compromise their values precisely because of the advantages organisations confer. That’s fairly fundamental to the concept of politics. OWS will need to address this fact regardless of what is chosen. My advice is that winning elections with the intention of establishing a utopia is a noble aim but a utopian organisation will never win elections in a less than perfect political system, which covers just about everywhere.

139

Kaveh 11.16.11 at 7:12 pm

The Tea Party’s main effect was on the Congressional GOP.
The emphasis on purity and principle ramped up intransigence.
The result was a do-nothing Congress in the middle of a crisis.

And the Democratic party has the opposite problem, it needs to be MORE intransigent. So if one outcome of OWS is making Dems more partisan, that’s a good thing.

Also I’m not sure you can blame the do-nothing Congress in the middle of a crisis on teabagger demands for ideological purity. If anything, trying to keep stuff from getting done during Obama’s presidency has been their deliberate strategy.

140

Lemuel Pitkin 11.16.11 at 7:14 pm

OWS must

Unless you’re actually going to General Assemblies, you really shouldn’t be saying these words.

The question is, what must *you* do, concretely, to help build a movement that can take over the Democrats (if that’s what you see as the way forward)?

141

AcademicLurker 11.16.11 at 7:29 pm

Since electoral politics are ultimately unavoidable if we want real structural change (unless someone is suggesting a full on take to the barricades scenario), it becomes a tough question whether the Occupy movement should intersect with electoral politics in any way, even if only in the form of registration drives, or remain totally apart.

I honestly don’t know the answer. The complete sapping of the energy and momentum out of the Wisconsin movement once they switched their focus to elections suggests that maybe the best thing is to just remain stubbornly, provocatively visible and hope that that will spur some movement in the electorate.

In my (frequent) moments of despair, I suspect that that strategy requires a country with better citizens than ours.

142

Henri Vieuxtemps 11.16.11 at 7:29 pm

OWS’s objectives can only be met by the political authorities.

Sometimes mass-movements do have objectives (e.g. an agrarian reform), but sometimes they don’t. When people don’t believe they can get a fair shake, they might come out and protest, and/or refuse to obey the rules, refuse to be governed. This seems to be what’s going on out there at the moment.

And then it’s up to the political authorities to find a way to appease them, or to kill them, or whatever.

143

Rich Puchalsky 11.16.11 at 7:34 pm

“OWS’s objectives can only be met by the political authorities. There are various ways of achieving that but I don’t understand how denouncing the concept of political organisation helps.”

So go ahead and organize. We’re waiting.

What, there are difficulties in organizing for party politics? Like, for instance, that the U.S. electoral system is mathematically set up so that there can really only be two parties, both of which have been captured by oligarchic interests? And the existing left models have pretty much been discredited? We really should have a broad-based, popular movement about that. Oh, wait. We’re trying our best, but I guess that we need people like you to give us advice to make us respectable. We’re waiting.

Wait a minute — I see that people aren’t taking your advice. Why aren’t they? Hey, people, Adrian Kelleher here is telling us important things that we’ve certainly never thought of ourselves, since we individually and communally have no history of prior electoral activism! Adrian, I’m sorry but… apparently there’s no reason why we should respect you and your “advice”, since you’ve done nothing but sit on the sidelines and lecture us. I don’t know why that should be! Surely we should respect your superiority, your grave and serious tone, your willingness to tell us what to do.

I can only repeat: your audience awaits. Go to GA, try to convince people.

144

js. 11.16.11 at 7:34 pm

Barry @96:

Sorry, yes, I understood your original post perfectly—have relied on the Guardian myself for 10+ years. I was simply making a bad joke that seems to have radically misfired.

More importantly, Bruce @132, you don’t think the more or more violent responses we’re seeing right now (Berkeley, Oakland, etc.) are significant? I’m not at all unsympathetic to your point, but it does seem to me like the authorities’ responses are getting more explicitly violent, , and while this is obviously a very bad thing for a host of reasons, it may also be important for the sort of reason you mention.

145

Adrian Kelleher 11.16.11 at 7:41 pm

@Lemuel Pitkin

The “OWS must” was a logical imperative, meaning that the options listed were implied to encompass all possible routes to the defined aim. It was not any sort of instruction or directive. You can argue about the merit of the routes or of the objective selected, but it’s really not helpful to jump at shadows.

146

cian 11.16.11 at 7:44 pm

The Tea Party found its answer in parasitising an existing political block.

You think the tea party were calling the shots? For real?

I think everyone who’s arguing for electoral solutions needs to read “Winner Takes All Politics” and thing long and hard about the message. The solution is not voting. The solution will require voting for Democrats, but unless people can find ways to place consistent pressure on Democrats, and indeed Republicans, nothing will happen. That’s only a part of the solution, and its the least important part.

What the left needs are organisations, just like the right has organisations. Organisations that day in, day out, can persuade people to contact their congress man. That can keep hammering away in Washington. That can inform its members how the issues affect them. Unions used to play part of that role, but while unions are important they aren’t coming back. We need to think about new forms of organisation, just as the right did in the 60s and 70s. Think Grover Norquist. Think the Business Coalitions. That’s what we need to fight. That requires organisation – real ones, rather than stuff like MoveOn.org

Maybe we need to think post-union. I dunno.

147

William Timberman 11.16.11 at 7:47 pm

View with alarm. View with dismay. View as long as you can while sinking into the mire of Democratic Party opportunism. View with a jaundiced eye, having been there, done that. View with the borrowed energy of a seemingly unfounded optimism. Turn a blind eye, being busy with seemingly more relevant affairs. Remain unaware as long as you can — if it’s important, important people will announce it in the media.

All attitudes, if not all actions, are possible these days. Some are helpful, some not. All are simultaneously in progress, and all are calling for volunteers, even when none are needed. How you gird your loins, and why, is your own affair, but I don’t mind hearing your reasons. I might learn something, at least while the signal to noise ratio is still favorable.

148

bert 11.16.11 at 8:00 pm

It’s a counterfactual, isn’t it, Kaveh.
Obama’s original idea was that he could detach people like Olympia Snowe.
She was subject to all kind of countervailing pressures.
And in the only world we’ll ever know, the eventual balance of pressures led her to vote with the crazies.

149

Rich Puchalsky 11.16.11 at 8:12 pm

“The “OWS must” was a logical imperative, meaning that the options listed were implied to encompass all possible routes to the defined aim. It was not any sort of instruction or directive. “

The comment in question started with “OWS’s objectives can only be met by the political authorities. ” If you think that that encompasses all possible routes to the defined aim… well, yes, that’s pretty much what I figured you thought. People who don’t think like you do evidently aren’t just wrong, they’re logically impossible.

150

William Timberman 11.16.11 at 8:21 pm

People who don’t think like you do evidently aren’t just wrong, they’re logically impossible.

Doesn’t it seem that many of the most popular political ideologies are founded on precisely that premise? Inevitable, I suppose, but it does make me nervous when their adherents arm themselves in an attempt to make reality conform to their rather impoverished notions of it.

151

Adrian Kelleher 11.16.11 at 8:23 pm

@Rich Puchalasky

Wait a minute—I see that people aren’t taking your advice. Why aren’t they? Hey, people, Adrian Kelleher here is telling us important things that we’ve certainly never thought of ourselves, since we individually and communally have no history of prior electoral activism! Adrian, I’m sorry but… apparently there’s no reason why we should respect you and your “advice”, since you’ve done nothing but sit on the sidelines and lecture us. I don’t know why that should be! Surely we should respect your superiority, your grave and serious tone, your willingness to tell us what to do.

This is just a fatuous and childish outburst. I don’t know where you think you’re going by pouring contempt on any effort to reason about the OWS movement.

You don’t know anything about me or what I’ve achieved in politics. I may as well admit that in practical terms that’s negligible, though maybe not for the reasons you might imagine. But I do have a ready excuse for failure thankfully; I tried to point things out to people but they simply didn’t believe me. So I failed and your contempt may have some justification even if it’s only because I’m handing it to you now.

But suppose we could go back 5 or 7 years into the past and I were to start constructing interminable and convoluted arguments to try and establish the validity or otherwise of how those with political or economic power anticipated things might turn out. Do you think that argument would have moved you immediately to construct barricades and we’d have saved the world together? Or does it seem like a concern of no importance even now?

The question isn’t academic. The fundamental cause of the economic disaster was that a vague optimism and an allergy to critical thinking caused those in power to anticipate growth and profits that would never arise. They then told homebuyers, savers and so on that things were great and those people in turn spent money they anticipated earning but which never materialised in reality.

But trying to test those vague assumptions that have replaced the (flawed) visions that the more ideologically minded political leaders in the 20th Century favoured would have been a monumental task requiring great patience, whereas the evidence suggests patience is not your strong suit. I’d guess you would have marked me down as a crystal-ball gazing crackpot inside the first two minutes and walked off. After all, it wouldn’t have been the first time.

Psychological defensiveness insulates the ego from harsh reality, but let me tell you something bitter personal experience has branded into my reluctant and fearful brain: it’s the most crippling character defect that can afflict a person. We all have prejudices, but if it’s indulged defensiveness makes a mental prison of them.

152

Adrian Kelleher 11.16.11 at 8:44 pm

@Cian

You think the tea party were calling the shots? For real?

Well it depends on how you define “Tea Party”. It has many components: sympathetic congressional elements, opportunistic non-ideological members of congress, genuine individual activists and spontaneous local groups as well as entryist and astroturf elements and media outlets who, if Ron Paul’s 2008 candidacy is any guide would happily use the Tea Party for a little mid-term merriment but would ditch them once the stakes get serious. These elements have cooperated to an extent, however they’re also aware that their minimum objectives aren’t all shared by all the others. They did all find it convenient to collude in hijacking the Rebublican party in 2008.

153

Salient 11.16.11 at 8:44 pm

Lots of discussion of what we need to do, but it seems like a bunch of people just hanging out in the elites’ general vicinity for an extended period of time have freaked the elites out enough to prompt their calling for rib-cracking baton assaults.

As a general rule, we don’t have any responsibility to do a thing. We’re not in charge, and we stand no chance of taking charge. All we’re doing is disconcerting the elites enough to prompt them to take action. It’s their job to fix this to our satisfaction. They have failed us. We’re a loose group of people volunteering to pester the elites until they decide it’s easier to their job well enough to sate us than it is to be pestered by us.

And they’re already taking action in response. They apparently prefer asymmetrically brutal violent actions of questionable legality over attempts at appeasement–nobody could have predicted!–but hopefully, once they realize the brutal violent methods aren’t working, they’ll try to appease. (Unless the brutal violent methods work, as they did e.g. for the Bonus Army and thousands of other unsuccessful protests destroyed by state violence. Not being in power means ultimately we can be violently suppressed into oblivion. Sucks to be us.)

I have to admit, why they’re disconcerted by a bunch of people hanging out in a park indefinitely still kind of baffles me. It seems so mild. If they started camping on your lawn, ok, I can see getting freaked out. But in a park?

I guess maybe the folks in charge have rather delicate sensibilities, and we have to do barely anything at all to prompt an emphatic response. Well, hell, that’s a good thing. Now all we need to do is weather their violence, and continue pestering until they decide it’s cheaper to pay us off then kill us.

When you can accomplish meaningful civil disobedience just by hanging out in a public space, it feels like you just entered an Easy Mode cheat code into Reality Sims: The Powers That Be Edition. I mean, WTF, I’m sitting here with a laptop VPN-linked to my university via nearby wi-fi, with the book I’m studying beside me, working away (which makes me grin atrociously whenever someone driving by yells ‘get a job!’) A few people are milling about, this is about as nondisruptive as it could possibly be.

Of course, we haven’t been cleared & cleaned, either. The police were very helpful in explaining how to set up a tent in a legal way, the acceptable time before we need to take it down, clarifying the rule that we can’t post a sign on a street sign pole but we can hold signs that meet requirements A, B, C [pro tip: while STOP THE THEFT OF OUR PRODUCTIVITY is perfectly fine signage-verbiage, don’t put a giant realistic stop sign on any of your roadside protest stuff].

154

Adrian Kelleher 11.16.11 at 8:55 pm

Should have read “…hijacking the Rebublican party in 2010.”

The ref to Paul’s run for the nomination did refer to 2008, natch.

155

Adrian Kelleher 11.16.11 at 9:12 pm

@Rich Puchalasky

I’ll try and break it down for you a little more…

The “OWS must” was a logical imperative…

See below.

…meaning that the options listed were implied to encompass all possible routes…

Implied is the key word. I made specific claims: that “OWS’s objectives can only be met by the political authorities”, and that “form[ing] its own party, tak[ing] over an existing one or pressur[ing] one to accept its views” are the only routes to its aims. If you’d taken the care to read what was written, you’d have realised that “can only be met by the political authorities” had been decomposed into three alternatives.

Now anyone is perfectly entitled to criticize the formulation I adopted, e.g. by asserting that other routes exist or whatever. It was all pretty off-hand to be honest and shoehorning all possible actions into just three possibilities naturally entailed eliminating without argument avenues others might find reasonable. What’s unreasonable is to try to dress it up as some sort of command or order even when it’s been explained to you that it was nothing of the sort.

…to the defined aim.

That is, its acceptance by the political authorities, the aim defined by me for the purposes of argument which as with every other claim made is open to dispute by whoever.

I hope that’s clear. Reasonable people may differ, but if you flat out refuse to accept that I mean what I say I mean when the relevant statements are compatible with the meaning I attribute to them then all discussion becomes futile.

156

Mr Punch 11.16.11 at 9:13 pm

This was always OWS’s endgame. They couldn’t stay forever; they couldn’t stay until the board of Citibank was indicted; the end was going to be a confrontation with municipal authorities — but in NYC that meant Michael Bloomberg, a fine representative of the Wall Street establishment. Jean Quan and Tom Menino aren’t like that, which is a [further] reason that the manifestations elsewhere should be regarded as supportive of the main event in NYC.

157

Andrew F. 11.16.11 at 9:21 pm

Salient, where are the reports of police brutality in the clearing of the OWS camp at Zucotti Park? The impression I have is that they acted professionally and within the bounds of the law.

I’m not sure OWS really gets the extent to which they alienated the local community, or the extent to which their actions long since ceased to be constructive. They say that by camping out they kept attention on their cause – but they fail to realize that their cause had long since been dropped as a story. The story was filthy conditions at OWS; drums at OWS; local businesses being harmed by OWS; etc.

Not all the stories were justified, of course. Many were not. But the point isn’t that the stories were justified – the point is that OWS’s strategy had stopped capturing the kind of attention they need.

158

cian 11.16.11 at 9:30 pm

The impression I have is that they acted professionally and within the bounds of the law.

Andrew also believes that Angels are watching over each and everyone of us, and that Santa rewards all good girls and boys. That’s because Andrew is special. Special Andrew.

Or alternatively he’s trolling. Either way, move on folks, nothing to see there.

159

cian 11.16.11 at 9:33 pm

Well it depends on how you define “Tea Party”.

Well the activists on the ground, who would seem to be the closest equivalent to OWS. Well some of them; others were as you say Astroturf operations. They were very useful to a variety of interests, and to the extent that they wanted things those interests also wanted, they got them. Medicare, not so much.

Whatever the faults of OWS might be, it is an autonomous movement in a way I really don’t think the Tea Party movement was.

160

Watson Ladd 11.16.11 at 9:38 pm

So let me get this straight: knowing this was going to happen, Occupy Wall Street did nothing to protect the books in the library like removing them to safe spaces?

161

Adrian Kelleher 11.16.11 at 9:56 pm

@cian

Certainly.

What I pointed out was the Tea Party’s tactical response, in so far as the phrase is meaningful when applied to such a diffuse group, to the problem the two party system represents for a third force. It wasn’t meant to be implied that this approach be emulated.

162

Lemuel Pitkin 11.16.11 at 10:50 pm

As a general rule, we don’t have any responsibility to do a thing. We’re not in charge, and we stand no chance of taking charge. All we’re doing is disconcerting the elites enough to prompt them to take action. It’s their job to fix this to our satisfaction. They have failed us. We’re a loose group of people volunteering to pester the elites until they decide it’s easier to their job well enough to sate us than it is to be pestered by us.

Yes. That’s exactly right.

163

engels 11.16.11 at 11:31 pm

We’re not in charge, and we stand no chance of taking charge. All we’re doing is disconcerting the elites enough to prompt them to take action. It’s their job to fix this to our satisfaction.

cf. Lacan in ’68: “As hysterics, you demand a new master. You will get it!”

164

Salient 11.16.11 at 11:36 pm

Salient, where are the reports of police brutality in the clearing of the OWS camp at Zucotti Park?

Seriously? Dude, have you even, like, checked #ows on twitter, like, at all? Are you asking me to google “Zucotti Park violence” or “Zucotti injuries” for you? Seriously? FFS.

…wait, #ows is down on twitter. Crap, ok. Well, let’s see. I guess I can summarize a few things off the top of my head.

There was the woman who was forcibly knocked out of her wheelchair, left face-down on the ground for quite a long period of time, and then arrested.

The police frozen-zoned the park, which is an extremely ambiguous implicit assertion that the occupiers reasonably pose a lethal resistance threat (normally reserved for hostage and terror type situations). This allowing them to SWAT-swarm the eviction, immediately arrest people without cause or a statement of what crime had been committed, and immediately begin bulldozing tents.

Specifically, the frozen-zone designation immediately pre-escalated authorized use of force to sublethal hard contact, which more or less means broken ribs from batons are ok but no tasers or gunshots — if I understood correctly the police technically received authorization to forcibly disable people who occupied the park at time of eviction completely regardless of those people’s behavior, though thankfully it didn’t get that bad, and there’s probably a mix-up in the communication I’m receiving somewhere, like, there’s just no effing way they’d do that, right?).

The police doused various crowds at various times, including people literally running away from them (how much more compliant with an order to leave can one get?), with tear gas and pepper spray. For some reason people who haven’t been exposed to these things tend to completely misunderstand how violent they are. Just because it’s in gas form doesn’t mean it’s nonviolent.

LRADs (sometimes called ‘sound guns’ in the same way that tasers could be called ‘nip of static shock devices’) were deployed and there are reports that they were used (the frustrating part is that there’s no way to document the use of these things, so you can use them to hurt people with impunity).

There’s one confirmed instance of a person peacefully offering themselves up for arrest, getting batoned in the head until they collapsed and only arrested after the officers felt satisfied with the head injuries they had inflicted. Oh, but they let him lie there long enough that witnesses started screaming in alarm, before making the arrest.

Oh, and one reason that instance is especially well-documented — that person was an NYC councilman. (No less an authority than the Council of the City of New York condemned the eviction procedure, FWIW.)

But the biggest reason we don’t have audiovisual documentation of the dozens of injuries inflicted on nonviolent protestors fleeing from cops: the “frozen zone” designation also allowed the police to categorically refuse media the right to access or bear witness to the event (including declaring the airspace above the park and surrounding area off-limits — a restriction normally reserved for hostage/terrorist type stuff). Police confiscated audiovisual equipment within a three block radius of the park, turning back journalists by shoving them down, and taking their stuff.

Police received pre-authorization to use sublethal hard force on any journalist who attempted to document the event from a public space. And so they did. For example, one journalist got headlock-choked into submission, several got pushed by riot shield and told that doing anything other than walking away could result in use of hard force. (Maybe the cops were bluffin, but I can’t really blame the journalists for not putting that to the test.)

Let’s see, what else. People with laptop computers were chased away from them by police in riot gear with batons, and then the laptops were kicked and batoned into nonfunctionality. (I hear you can get your possibly-smashed laptop returned to you, unless it was one of the laptops that got thrown out as trash.)

Quite a lot of intact property was destroyed and then trashed, which sure as hell is violence (I gather that ‘cleaning’ may legally entail not giving you enough time to lift and carry your stuff, busting it up even as you’re trying to remove it and comply with the just-issued eviction order, and then trashing the stuff and telling you you’re lucky they don’t arrest you for littering it).

Anyone entering the park is still automatically subject to search and seizure (as part of an ongoing terror investigation or something — I haven’t been able to verify if the park is still frozen-zone or if they’re just doing whatever they feel like at the moment). I also haven’t been able to verify whether or not audiovisual equipment is subject to immediate seizure, like it was for the 3.5 hours following the eviction notice.

Oh and not that you actually give a shit about anything I’ve been saying, but the local medical facility was literally overrun with patients with injuries, to the point where emergency services were temporarily restricted to “life-or-death situations.” But I suppose all those injured people, like, hurt themselves or threw themselves onto the batons or something, right?

sheesh, whatever, we had video of people getting beaten by cops and you said you wanted “more context.” I’m halfway tempted to delete this whole comment, and really the only reason I’m not is ’cause I figure others might find specific stuff in it they want to google.

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dictateursanguinaire 11.16.11 at 11:39 pm

@LP and others

Exactly! To repeat something I said (maybe elsewhere on CT?) I’m not sure when it was decided that one had to have a coherent political/economic plan or even viewpoint in order to have valid experiences of being dicked over, but, alas, some people seem to think that if you don’t read and comprehend FT or Felix Salmon, you really ought not to speak (speaking as a someone reads the latter but not the former for being a thrifty college student.) It strikes me as a little funny that some folks think that, if only OWS had been running around talking about the benefits of NGDP targeting vs. price level targeting, things would have been different (and even still, there were a good number of teach-ins from relevant technocrats.) But then again, there are a strikingly large number of people who basically hew towards legal positivism no matter how nominally radical their policy preferences are; (parallel to that) politics is something you /believe/, not /do/. The people who strongly disbelieve in even the weakest form of a ‘false consciousness’ theory (the Free Press and Public Discourse Will Solve It [and already have, in fact]!) but also disdain anyone with the temerity or uncoolness to try to educate their fellow citizens via that free press or public discourse (i.e., everyone has, like, a right to avoid the public sphere, man.) Why can’t we have better…oh, what’s the use…

166

Natilo Paennim 11.17.11 at 12:04 am

where are the reports of police brutality in the clearing of the OWS camp at Zucotti Park?

There should be some internet proposition, along the lines of Godwin’s Law, such that “For every instance where a conservative sees an assertion they dislike, they will call for proof in direct proportion to the number of links proving the assertion that may be found with a simple search.”

Seriously. There’s been a huge amount of police brutality documented against left-wing demonstrators for as long as there’s been documentation and left-wing demonstrators. What we’re seeing with the Occupy crackdown is just par for the course, and those of us who have been in the activist scene for awhile were expecting every bit of it. The only people taken by surprise are the naive liberals who still think the police are their best buddies, little matters like Oscar Grant notwithstanding.

167

Lemuel Pitkin 11.17.11 at 12:47 am

@LP and others

They were Salient’s words, I was just quoting them.

FT or Felix Salmon, you really ought not to speak (speaking as a someone reads the latter but not the former for being a thrifty college student.)

You could read the FT’s Alphaville blog. It’s quite good.

168

Bruce Wilder 11.17.11 at 1:05 am

@170:

You don’t have to be a great chef to have an appreciation for good food, or an opinion about what you like to eat. You don’t have to be a great director or a skilled writer or actor to appreciate and enjoy what you evaluate as a good play or movie. Still, people read restaurant reviews and movie reviews, and respond on cue to publicity promoting movies and restaurants.

Consumerism is part of the rot of late capitalism. Flattering to the consumers, just as regular feedings are, no doubt, comforting to the pigs.

If the elites prosper by feeding you crap debt and decaying public goods and predatory state policy, merely pestering the elites is not going to persuade them to feed you quality debt, even if there were such a thing. It is going to persuade them, perhaps, to hire more critics and reviewers to tell you that crap debt is quality debt, and that decaying public infrastructure is saving you lots in taxes. Oh yeah, and manly self-reliance is so much better than consumer protection, unions, socialized medicine or social security, . . . but I digress.

Political change needs a business model. It is something you do, collectively and individually, but the doing is the thing, in the end, that gets done. It is not politics as a theatre review, or a thrown tomato.

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Andrew F. 11.17.11 at 1:25 am

Salient, that’s interesting. Some what of you write clashes with the account given by some of the press on the scene, and with the story that’s been circulated regarding the preparation for the raid (extensive preparation is the line being given). The emphasis would have been on avoiding excessive force; Ray Kelly was personally present at the raid, in fact.

Much of the rest sounds like pure and unlikely rumor. Most stories I see are along these lines which indicate that there were very few serious injuries. Nothing about hospitals being overwhelmed.

But, if there are actual cases of excessive force that occurred, then I’d hope we would see some lawsuits and evidence, so that the public can be informed and those responsible can be punished.

As to why I’m even asking the question, the answer is that it is in the interests of NYPD, and Bloomberg, to avoid excessive force cases here. Given the preparation, the sheer numerical superiority, the attention focused on this action, and the lack of evidence of excessive force as reported in the press anyway, I’m not inclined to jump to the conclusion that there was.

As to the wisdom of pestering the elites… the point of a protest is to focus public attention on an issue, and to sway public opinion sufficiently to your side to motivate political action (or to spur enabling actions – donations, volunteers, etc. – that lead to the achievement of the desired political action). By the end, the “static protests” had begun losing public opinion (in NYC I suspect Bloomberg will get a bump in the polls as a result of the police action), and the donations that were being consumed in maintaining the protesters had therefore actually become a waste of money.

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kidneystones 11.17.11 at 2:37 am

Hi Henry,

Understood. I’ll close with this. I’ve been active online since 2006. CT is one of the very few sites on the left that tolerates any dissent in comments. The rush to brand dissent as trolling occurs more slowly here than most and you can take that observation as a compliment, or with a large dump truck of salt.

There never has there been less opportunity to offer ideas that question existing memes than now. Never. I stand by all my remarks made on this thread. I’ll leave it others to determine whether I’ve gone out of my way to throw the first punch or the first drink at anyone in the CT community including you.

171

Kaveh 11.17.11 at 2:44 am

There should be some internet proposition, along the lines of Godwin’s Law, such that “For every instance where a conservative sees an assertion they dislike, they will call for proof in direct proportion to the number of links proving the assertion that may be found with a simple search.

Oh hells yeah.

and the lack of evidence of excessive force as reported in the press anyway

You mean the same press that were at least mostly excluded from covering the raid?

172

Tom Bach 11.17.11 at 2:50 am

Free speech isn’t the only right promised American citizens in the first. We get the, or more precisely the state can’t stop us from, assembling and demanding redress of grievances. How, one wonders, does forbidding an assemble designed to demand redress not violate the right to, you know, assemble and demand redress.

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Rich Puchalsky 11.17.11 at 3:21 am

“I don’t know where you think you’re going by pouring contempt on any effort to reason about the OWS movement.”

Reason based on ignorance is futile. You could put in the effort to find out something about the movement before opining about it, you know.

I’ll try to rephrase what I’ve been writing one more time. Sweeping statements about what the movement should do next reveal ignorance about the Occupy movement. It simply doesn’t work the way that you seem to think it does. Too many people here write as if they are elite technocrats designing political strategy. Well, you aren’t, and even if people were listening, there is no party apparatus or whatever to carry out any organized plan.

Should there be some kind of party apparatus? Perhaps, but the movement as it actually exists could never have formed if there had been. Old-tymey leftists tried to control the movement at its inception, and luckily they failed and we got this far. If you want the movement to organize and discipline itself — well, this gets into advanced concepts now that frankly the people here aren’t ready for. Let’s see whether you can follow along with this first. But note that the recent police raids came shortly after the formation of a Spokes Council on the anarchist model.

But yes, when you start your argument with the claim that “OWS’s objectives can only be met by the political authorities”, you’re giving advice whether you realize it or not. You can describe this as “making a claim” or whatever, and I suppose that ignorance excuses you from knowing about the interminable advice-giving stage during the first month in which many, many people told the movement that they needed to define what they wanted and organize to affect electoral politics, but that doesn’t make things like that worth reading for anyone else.

Salient is the only one writing sustained good sense in this thread, although other people have chimed in with short bits that are fine. I suspect that this is because Salient seems to be writing out of experience in this movement. Other people are writing things that might have made sense once upon a time, like “Political change needs a business model”, but that just sound hopelessly out of it now. If you have a business model, go right ahead. If none of them seem to be working, why do you think that is? Perhaps it’s because there are lots of business models and no one thought to hire any workers?

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William Timberman 11.17.11 at 3:32 am

If all you wanted to know was what to do, the Krugman/DeLong/Yglesias/Bernstein/Galbraith/Baker axis might suffice. These are smart guys — among the smartest we’ve got — and they know their stuff.

If only their stuff were enough…. If you want to know how to do what needs to be done, they can’t help you very much. Neither can the ghost of Jefferson or Marx, or the living monument to things-that-might-have-been, Barack Obama. Something more is demanded of us now, not as individuals, but collectively. I suggest that we all tear off a piece for ourselves and go gnaw on it for a while. It almost doesn’t matter which piece. If we’re doing it right, we’ll have company by and by.

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dictateursanguinaire 11.17.11 at 4:08 am

@LP ahhhh no sorry I meant to agree with you against what you were quoting, I got too sarcastic to be clear, my bad, and yeah I should read more of tha, had assumed it was paywall for the longest time

176

Meredith 11.17.11 at 4:09 am

Two reasons I support OWS:
The people involved are NOT collectively proposing or advocating specific policies (although some groups in their midst are free to do so, and often do). Rather, they are calling attention to fundamental problems shared by the vast majority of people in this country. (Everyone, really, if you believe as I do that the 1% would also be” better off,” in a meaningful sense of that phrase, if they lived in a more equitable and just and loving society.) Until more people acknowledge these problems, there can be no productive public debate or imaginative engagement in how to solve them.
The people who actually do the day-to-day occupying enact and bear witness to many of the fundamental needs and desires that bring people together in community. (And people like me on the sidelines try to help.) Providing one another with food, clothing, shelter, sanitation. With friendship, affection, or at least respect. Stimulation and exercise of the intellect and the imagination. Trying to balance conflicting needs and desires, trying to handle bad or evil actions in a constructive way. Simple stuff. Hard stuff. The stuff “Wall Street” needs reminding is what it’s all about. And truth be told, we all need reminding.

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straightwood 11.17.11 at 4:16 am

The crucial difference in this conflict is that the David faction is honest and the Goliath faction is dishonest. For all their lack of program, process, and cunning, the OWS people are stating the plain truth of their discontent. For all their savvy, power, and wealth, the Wall Street gangsters and their political lackeys are lying about their motives in suppressing these demonstrations. They are not defending public health and sanitation; they are defending their wealth and power.

A culture built on lies cannot endure, because falsehood undermines constructive activity, and that is why the Davids will win. Above all things, truth beareth away the victory.

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Kaveh 11.17.11 at 4:46 am

@179 I suddenly feel the need to clarify my remark at 55, when I said the book-trashing (which apparently did happen after all) ought to be exploited as a PR victory for OWS, I didn’t mean that OWS as some kind of organized entity should do this, but that I think it’s a good stick to beat Bloomburg and the NYPD with, whoever wants to do that. I’m an internet denizen speaking to other internet denizens who (I presume) sympathize with OWS and may either go out and attend meetings or join a camp, or write about it on the internet, or talk to friends, or whatever, I don’t know.

Yes I get that OWS is not an organized partisan political movement, does not have an ideology, is more about creating the energy, the venue needed for discussions to be had, for people to meet others and get motivated to organize, or just come up with altogether new ideas. To connect. And I’m sure it’s a good idea to remind people once in a while that kibbitzing OWS on what their next move should be is just talking to the wind, but I don’t see anything wrong with people who are not directly involved in OWS, but who have a similar agenda, discussing the relative merits of occupations and political organizing, using this as a way to primary bad Democrats, &c.

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Rich Puchalsky 11.17.11 at 5:39 am

Sure, Kaveh, I didn’t mean to get on the case of people who say something “Oh, event X just happened, we should take advantage of that”. But there’s a big difference between “we should each tell people about the book-destroying incident” and “we should make a grand plan to move encampments from city to city at certain dates” or “we should organize to affect electoral politics”. Each of us can tell other people about things; literally no one can make the decision for the other two.

But about the books specifically… here I’m going to quote Watson Ladd, who is fast turning into one of my favorite CT commenters because he writes straight from the most absurd core of many common CT positions — whether it’s inadvertent or not doesn’t matter:

“So let me get this straight: knowing this was going to happen, Occupy Wall Street did nothing to protect the books in the library like removing them to safe spaces?”

Well, yes, Occupy also didn’t move the people to safe spaces. That would rather be missing the point of a “protest” and “occupation”, after all.

But if straightwood is right that we’re honest and they’re not … not that honesty will lead to victory or anything like that, but it’s one of the few luxuries we have left … this is a really equivocal book-destroying incident. The police appear to have carefully smashed any electronic equipment that might carry a video recording of what they were doing. But some of the books are still there, many or most aren’t. Here’s a self-description from one of the last people in the library: “[I] ran into the library and dumped a bunch of boxes of books onto the floor to make the cleaning up more difficult for the cops then ran my personal stuff and a few amazing books to a friends house around the corner. ” I would guess that the police tossed everything into dumpsters, and then the books that were in plastic boxes survived. The ones that got tossed on the floor, or that got taken home by various people, didn’t. The occupier on site was not focussed on saving the books above all else; they used the books as part of a last effort to resist, if only to make things harder to clean up. That wouldn’t have been my choice, but… it’s consistent with what the camp is about; it’s about resistance, not about having a protected library.

I’m vaguely dissatisfied with focussing on the books. If we’re going to each tell people about this, let’s tell them that the police violently drove people out of the park.

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Adrian Kelleher 11.17.11 at 7:55 am

@Rich Puchalsky

While throughout history religious movements have persecuted heathens they have always reserved the most creative and demonstrative sadism for heretics.

The reason is simple. A heathen starts out from alien premises and unsurprisingly arrives at alien conclusions. A heretic, starting out from the same premises, arrives at different conclusions. Precisely because they have something in common, the heretic starts out inside the true believer’s mind and if the issue is as emotionally loaded as heaven and hell that presence may prove too corrosive to be endured. It works the same whether it’s catholics and protestants or trotskyites and stalinists.

Now when someone is as smug about his convictions as I am let me tell you that no heretic will worry him. You on the other hand don’t, as might be expected, ignore the “irrelevant” “old tymey leftists” you’ve decided are against you, appearing instead driven to do battle with their irrelevance.

You denounce those not at the meetings as pointless failures, yet those “old-tymey leftists” who satisfied this demand and turned up are denounced for “interminable advice-giving” and “tr[ying] to control the movement”. Who then really wants to “control the movement”, and exhibits most stridency and intolerance to that end?

In denouncing the organizational advice others have offered, you’re implicitly endorsing… another form of organisation. You then make this explicit when you endorse the spokes council concept. Again, who insists on control? Is it not the case that rather than rejecting organisation as such you’re instead insisting on a preferred form, one neither spontaneous nor organic to OWS but rather inherited from anti-globalisation protests of the past?

I find it completely impossible to believe that a single movement can be radical enough to demand a thorough redrafting of the US constitution and simultaneously represent 99% of the population. To suggest it can be both these things and furthermore embody “advanced concepts … that frankly the people here aren’t ready for” is wholly unbelievable.

A given political movement can represent a fringe and embody (someone’s idea of) advanced concepts, like Tea Party elements or those vanguardists you seem to assume everyone else here is, or it can reflect the minimum amount the bulk of the electorate have in common politically which it’s safe to say would preclude the radical redrafting of the constitution your earlier summation of the US electoral system would demand.

To convert even the simplest ‘advanced concepts’ into politics even 15 or 20 percent of people might accept is the work of decades as Marx and Von Hayek — who have no peers in this endeavour — understood. Political opinions are notoriously hard to shift. Generally, people prefer to process ideas within their existing framework but political frameworks evolve precisely in ways that insulate believers from alien and disturbing ideas. This is the exact reason people tend to identify with named political groupings having memberships whose opinions are basically interchangable. They serve as components of individual identity as well as ideological movements; members react to alien ideas as they would to rejection of their personae.

If an organisation is to represent 40% of the population, let alone 99, it had better boil down its programme to easily digestible mush in the way centrist political parties do.

If on the other hand it wants to advance an agenda anything like as radical as your blog suggests you want OWS to then there’s simply no escaping all that “interminable advice giving”. That’s the only way a block can be both radical and ideologically cohesive enough to endure. I can’t think of a single example in history where a movement that was both broad-based and enduring arose both rapidly and spontaneously.

Ambiguity about objectives can prevent a split only so long as decisions can be deferred, and a fractious split in a moment of crisis is not just as bad as a negotiated parting of the ways beforehand; it is much worse.

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roger 11.17.11 at 10:03 am

I think the poll figures about the slippage in the popularity of OWS are not unexpected – given the stupid coverage – but are not, as well, something to wave away. One of the great things about the OWS protests is that they are so open; but in my opinion, there is a need for a spring strategy. My suggestion is to follow the sixties and hold hearings and, to an extent, teach ins. The refusal to list demands still strikes me as a good idea – it is an invitation to think of one’s own demands. And here, OWS could intervene pretty brilliantly by combining an old form of protest – the demonstration – with a new form of seizing the information high ground. Why not ‘subpoena’, for instance, the four people who just got golden parachutes from Bank of America and a number of the people who were simply laid off? I imagine the golden parachute crowd wouldn’t come, but one could find some proxy – say Robert Frank, the author of Richistan – to describe their condition and prospects.
I sorta decided, in the 00s, after going to protest after protest against the war, that the demonstration is a worn out tool. I’m not sure now, as it seems to have worked in the Middle East. But I do think that, alone, the demonstration just doesn’t work. I would never have predicted that the return to the Hooverville would work, but it did. Now it might be time to rummage through the trunk of extra-party, movement tools for social change and find other things that might work. I’ve been thinking, in particular, of cahiers de doleance – since OWS has popped up in so many different places in the U.S., the collection of grievances (already started with the Tumblr – might be a very powerful weapon.

182

Bill Benzon 11.17.11 at 10:40 am

Too many people here write as if they are elite technocrats designing political strategy.

Yep. And, on the whole, technocratic wisdom isn’t looking too good these days, as we’ve seen in the financial sector and in Fukushima. Not to mention No Child Left Behind.

A more interesting mode of advice-giving is what journalist Naomi Wolf’s been doing on Facebook and on the ground at Zuccotti Park. Her concern is press relations, so she went to Zuccotto Park yesterday and talked with people, giving practical advice on how to deal with the press, how to get yourself booked onto TV shows.

Naomi Wolf FB:

http://www.facebook.com/?ref=tn_tnmn#!/naomi.wolf.author

Naomi Wolf Media 101:

http://naomiwolf.org/2011/11/media-101-in-zuccotti-park-november-16-2011/

We’re in a new world folks, and that means we’ve got to make a lot of stuff up.

183

cian 11.17.11 at 11:31 am

A few observations.

First of all, all these people giving advice to OWS, or criticising them, or whatever. Lets just remember something. They did something that nobody else on the left has been able to achieve. Not unions, not the interminable marxist sects, not the professional “progressive” politicians, or those arguing for electoral approaches to reform.

They put the elites on the defensive and they changed the media debate. Now maybe these aren’t huge victories, but I’m not seeing any other victories out there. Prior to this the best we had was a defeat in Wisconsin. Okay it made the victory very costly to the Republicans, but it was still a defeat (and yes I know other things may emerge – but so far they haven’t).

Secondly, many of the people giving advice have been wrong and consistently wrong. We were told that voting for Obama, more Democrat Senators, whatever – would change things. It didn’t. Now that’s not a reason to give up and vote Republican, but it does suggest that voting isn’t going to change anything in itself. Most of the tactics people have argued for on this thread have been tried and have not worked. Demonstrations – not so much (I won’t even dignify the Tea Party comparisons with a response).

Thirdly, people arguing about demands are completely missing the point. This is a nascent movement. Committees have formed, leaders are emerging, strategies are being evolved and tried out (the use of the people’s mic on Scott Walker and the School’s meeting in New York). People, who have been separated for too long, are getting to know each other. In New York alliances are being built between black groups, and middle class students. Some of them are demonstrating together against police brutality. This is huge. Seriously, do people not get what a big deal that is?

At the end of the day the occupation did three things. First of all it finally forced the media and politicians to actually at least admit some reality.

Secondly it got a group of people who were tired, fed up and angry together. Again, this is big. People complaining to their friends, or despairing on the internet, is not going to change things. Get those people together in a critical mass – that’s a potential movement.

Thirdly it created powerful propoganda. The left has sucked at propoganda for a long time. Now we have the 99% meme, and the astonishing 99% tumblr blog. And the right’s response about that was panic – and they really didn’t know how to respond (as the 57/5% blog, or whatever it was, so amusingly demonstrated). The right have been forced to use the language defined by the left. They’re fighting on our turf. Again that’s a victory – maybe a small one – but a victory nonetheless.

Finally, on the polls. The most unpopular people in the USA today are running things. Look at the polls on bankers, and CEOS, or rich people generally. They’re hated. Politicians are despised. Politics is not a popularity game. Its about the surgical application of force. Sometimes (though more rarely than people think) popularity can be that force, but mostly it cannot for the simple reason that the USA is not a very democratic place. The right did not win because they are popular. They won because they were organised. They created pressure groups in Washington. They created groups of like minded people who could be relied upon to turn out when a show of force was required. They won because they made their ideas, as stupid as they are, the default ideas of the elite.

That’s what needs to be fought. Until it is defeated, it won’t matter how many Democrats are placed in the house/senate. Nothing will change.

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cian 11.17.11 at 11:35 am

I’d also add, that those people giving these guys technocratic advice. Whatever their faults, this has been the most creative campaigning force in a long while. While I’d agree with those who’d argue that the park occupation was probably taking focus away from the important things – I’d also cheerfully admit that I’ve been wrong on almost everything on OWS so far, as have most armchair commentators. I get why people are cynical after years of failures and defeats – but at some point people have to recognise that the cynicism has just become a default response, rather than a realistic assessment of the situation.

185

Watson Ladd 11.17.11 at 11:36 am

cian, let’s not forget that the professional revolutionaries took over Russia in 1917. Compared to that, OWS is nothing.

186

belle le triste 11.17.11 at 12:08 pm

Nothing speeds present-day change more than pro-capitalist niche-Trot nerds pointing out how much more amazing things were 100 years ago, eh, Watson?

187

Barry 11.17.11 at 12:14 pm

cian FTW!

188

Watson Ladd 11.17.11 at 12:16 pm

belle, the question Occupy Wall Street raises isn’t one of change. It’s going to degenerate into elect Obama. Here in Chicago Occupy Chicago is dead in the water. This was what I was predicting would happen, and what the optimists didn’t realize would happen. What we need to do is remember what change was. Present-day change is happening without OWS being involved, or any segment of the Left.

189

Bill Benzon 11.17.11 at 12:24 pm

And one of the things that I found most fascinating was a woman named Marisa Holmes, who I think has been on the show before and said, you know, at those early meetings, a lot of the traditional left groups walked out, and they weren’t there, and it left artists and media makers and writers and people who just were sort of thinking in terms of imagination rather than kind of very strict, you know, policy 10-point programs. And I think that’s key to what happened, is that imagination.

From: http://www.democracynow.org/2011/11/16/as_occupy_enters_third_month_a

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J. Otto Pohl 11.17.11 at 12:35 pm

belle le triste

What is a “pro-capitalist niche-Trot nerd?” It sounds like some sort of implausible hybrid like a platypus, part bird and part mammal.

191

Andrew F. 11.17.11 at 12:50 pm

cian somewhere above: [OWS] did something that nobody else on the left has been able to achieve. Not unions, not the interminable marxist sects, not the professional “progressive” politicians, or those arguing for electoral approaches to reform. They put the elites on the defensive and they changed the media debate. Now maybe these aren’t huge victories, but I’m not seeing any other victories out there.

The initial protest DID grab attention. That much was good.

But the weeks of occupying parks were entirely counterproductive. There have probably been more column inches written on OWS’s travails with the homeless, their “general assemblies,” their relationship with the local McDonald’s, their security, their odors, than there have about any of the dozens of policy proposals behind which they could have organized.

Also understand: the elites don’t take OWS seriously. Voters don’t take OWS seriously. The camp-out is a neat gimmick, like Cain’s “9-9-9” tax plan/pizza promotion. It gets attention, but you’ve got to do something with attention.

As to no other victories on the left… really? Crushing defeats of “personhood” initiatives are victories. Defeats of anti-union initiatives are victories. Pro gay marriage legislation is a victory. Health care reform was a huge victory. Financial reform was a huge victory. The end of Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell was a victory. I think the Wisconsin protests actually accomplished a great deal, though that’s arguable.

Those victories required organization, discipline, and engaging within the political system. They required the avoidance of alienation of voters who might be allies, the crafting of a message, and the calculated expenditure of resources to win crucial sources of support.

192

Rich Puchalsky 11.17.11 at 12:58 pm

“Now when someone is as smug about his convictions as I am let me tell you that no heretic will worry him.”

Um — well, if that’s the self-description that you want, fine.

But when I’m talking about attempted control, I’m really talking about two stages. Here’s stage one, at the inception, from an interview of David Graeber by Ezra Klein:

“July 2nd. That was the first actual meeting. What happened was AdBusters put out this call for these protests. We had heard there was supposed to be a general assembly on July 2nd. So I just showed up. But it was a rally, not an assembly. Some Marxist groups had set up stages and megaphones and was making speeches and were planning a march. So we said we don’t need to do this. We pulled a small group together and decided to have a real assembly.”

Luckily, the initial organization failed, or we never would have had a movement to argue about. Then there’s the second stage, the one we’re in now. You do realize that you have exactly as much control over the movement as I do, don’t you? Your head is full of this heretics and heathens stuff, but you have just as much ability to go in front of some GA and propose something as anyone else. So when people give advice — and yes, you may describe your speaking-from-smugness as something else, but that’s what you’re doing — just go to GA and give it to them already. Don’t give it to people here, who are trying to have a somewhat more informed conversation about this movement and about what’s actually happened recently.

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belle le triste 11.17.11 at 1:04 pm

Here’s the locus classicus of the form, JOP: it’s a tweak that micro-sectarian ultraleftism seems repeatedly to throw up, as it hunts for its share of the market. (They’re almost always in favour of imperialist warmongering, also…)

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Rich Puchalsky 11.17.11 at 1:34 pm

And a few words to many other commenters who’ve said that OWS is better off for being evicted, because this removes whatever liability the encampment was supposed to represent; I’ve never met anyone participating in OWS who believes this. If we take it seriously, it’s the same kind of argument that sparked the derisive “11 dimensional chess” meme about Obama — that anything that seems to be going badly is really part of a clever plan by which things will actually go well. It’s take a representative case as Mr Punch at 161:

“This was always OWS’s endgame. They couldn’t stay forever; they couldn’t stay until the board of Citibank was indicted; the end was going to be a confrontation with municipal authorities […]”

No, it wasn’t the endgame, because OWS hasn’t ended. And the goal of the movement was never defined as “we keep protesting until the board of Citibank is indicted.”

Really, what it seems to be is a way for people who vaguely feel like they should be sympathetic to Occupy but who have never bothered to become part of it can express relief that the messy parts of the movement — those uncontrollable horizontal democracies and homeless lumpenproles and the people lounging around a park — are gone. That leaves the movement free to reorganize along lines that they’re more comfortable with, with leaders, an apparat, people to listen to them, and so on. But by doing so, they’re really buying into the same propaganda cycle that kidneystones and Andrew have been here to encourage, the one about lice and TB and criminals and how it’s better off that the movement is all clean now.

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cian 11.17.11 at 1:35 pm

cian, let’s not forget that the professional revolutionaries took over Russia in 1917. Compared to that, OWS is nothing.

Jesus, Watson, I wasn’t expecting someone to actually prove my point about cynicism in the very next post. Watson, you more than anyone on this thread typify the tired, redundant, Marxist left. Which is what makes your posturing about a “new left”, or whatever, so amusing.

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Barry Freed 11.17.11 at 1:38 pm

belle le triste 11.17.11 at 1:04 pm

Spot on. I came back to this thread without reading the intervening posts and I knew immediately to whom belle was referring.

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Bill Benzon 11.17.11 at 1:50 pm

…professional revolutionaries…

Where’d they get their degrees in Professional Revolutionary Studies? Were they licensed by the International Association of Professional Revolutionaries and High-Toned Rabble Rousers? Have they read the Little Revolutionaries Handbook or Changing the Course of History with a Single Bound? How many of them went through the certificate program at the Camp Krusty College of Disruptive Knowledge and Revolutionary Revelation?

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Steve LaBonne 11.17.11 at 1:51 pm

Also understand: the elites don’t take OWS seriously. Voters don’t take OWS seriously.

Before you ask me to “understand” these propositions, you need to establish that they’re true. I think both are obviously false. Their have been many signs- including the concerted crackdown- that the elites are worried about OWS, and polls show- and the changing discourse of politicians reflects- that it has significantly influenced voters.

As to what will happen next, I’ll leave figuring that out to the OWS people, who obviously know a lot more about organizing than I do (which admittedly isn’t a high standard.)

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cian 11.17.11 at 1:53 pm

Just to be clear Rich.

First when I was saying that I thought it was good the occupation had ended, I was placing that in the context that I’ve mostly been wrong so far. Its just my opinion, and to be honest my opinion has been 95% wrong to date.

However, I think there’s a danger with any movement when it becomes too institutionalised, or crystalised. And there seemed to be a danger that OWS would become about the park, about being there. What seemed most important about it were the committees that were emerging, the social connections people were making, the teach-ins and the spontaneous activities that were emerging out of it. That seems like the important thing to preserve, rather than a particular space. If that can be created in local churches, or squats – it doesn’t matter, surely?

So for the kind of thing I’m thinking of – the action against the education meeting in NY emerged out of the fact that there were lots of teachers in a single space. Its that proximity and that energy that people need to think about preserving at a guess.

That leaves the movement free to reorganize along lines that they’re more comfortable with, with leaders, an apparat, people to listen to them, and so on.

That’s not really what I meant. I’m fine with flat hierarchies. Its more I suspect that’s what needed to fight the “system” is a thousand strategies. Some will fail, some will succeed, whatever. Some will end up becoming organisations. Others will be more like flashmobs. Maybe we’ll see community organising. Or entryism into the Democrats. Or who knows. Let a thousand flowers bloom. I don’t think there is a single strategy that can work – but I do think if the OWS people can find a way to maintain that flat network of people, and that energy, then multiple strategies will emerge.

At this stage I don’t think its the strategy, or the message, that’s critical. Its building a community that generate and sustain ideas and actions.

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cian 11.17.11 at 1:55 pm

Where’d they get their degrees in Professional Revolutionary Studies?

Actually it was an MBA at Princeton.

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cian 11.17.11 at 2:12 pm

Steve you can tell how much OWS doesn’t matter, from the amount of time Andrew has devoted to it on this thread. He only ever comments on trivial things of no importance. No, if Andrew F is this desperate to prove that it doesn’t matter, then by god it doesn’t matter. As his forthcoming magnum opus: “Why Occupy Wall Street Doesn’t Matter – and You Shouldn’t Take it Seriously Under Any Circumstance And… OI You, Stop Sneaking Off to the Protest … And OWS Protestors Should Be Rounded Up and Deloused”.

At 2800 pages, it proves once and for all that OWD simply doesn’t matter – and if OWS continues to exist after publication, he has a deal with the Heritage Foundation for a trilogy.

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Barry 11.17.11 at 2:20 pm

cian 11.17.11 at 1:35 pm

Waston Ladd: ” cian, let’s not forget that the professional revolutionaries took over Russia in 1917. Compared to that, OWS is nothing.”

cian: ” Jesus, Watson, I wasn’t expecting someone to actually prove my point about cynicism in the very next post. Watson, you more than anyone on this thread typify the tired, redundant, Marxist left. Which is what makes your posturing about a “new left”, or whatever, so amusing.”

No, he’s not left, he’s right. He just likes to concern troll.

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Rich Puchalsky 11.17.11 at 2:25 pm

cian, the basic problem is that if “building a community that generate and sustain ideas and actions” is what you want, there’s no substitute for people meeting at a central place where they can actually talk to each other. You write: “If that can be created in local churches, or squats – it doesn’t matter, surely?” But I’m not sure whether it can actually be created in local churches or squats. Those are smaller spaces. Whether the energy and networks can be maintained is still an open question.

I realize that very few people tend to openly advocate “I want leaders and a hierarchical organization”, but those organizational features are to some extent a natural consequence of coordination problems. There’s a reason why the classic old language is the ” right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Taking away the assembly takes away the ability to communicate directly with each other.

Maybe this will lead to some unintended positive effect. But when both sides of a conflict view something the same way… both the powers that be and Occupy think that this was a blow struck to try to shut down Occupy. Well, officially it was a blow struck for public hygiene, or for public use of parks, or something, but that’s silly enough so we can ignore it.

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Barry 11.17.11 at 2:27 pm

Andrew F: “Also understand: the elites don’t take OWS seriously. Voters don’t take OWS seriously.”

Steve LaBonne : ” Before you ask me to “understand” these propositions, you need to establish that they’re true. I think both are obviously false. Their have been many signs- including the concerted crackdown- that the elites are worried about OWS, and polls show- and the changing discourse of politicians reflects- that it has significantly influenced voters.”

Seconding this. I’m not sure if Andrew F has *ever* posted a true statement; in all of the financial/economic discussions, he’s be a pure BS artist.

And adding on to your great point – it’s amazing how many right-wingers and allegedly liberal concern trolls are all so concerned about something which, by their statements, doesn’t amount to much.

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cian 11.17.11 at 2:37 pm

You write: “If that can be created in local churches, or squats – it doesn’t matter, surely?” But I’m not sure whether it can actually be created in local churches or squats. Those are smaller spaces. Whether the energy and networks can be maintained is still an open question.

They are. I wouldn’t disagree that that’s the challenge. And maybe it needs to become more about temporary spaces. How important is it for example that people sleep in the meeting space? What are the authorities going to do if people simply congregate in an area, and then leave to sleep (in local churches if necessary).

I think the ability to generate a place where people meet is critical. I’m not sure at this stage in the game that sleeping there is so crucial. I hope I’m right about this.

But when both sides of a conflict view something the same way… both the powers that be and Occupy think that this was a blow struck to try to shut down Occupy.

Well of course it was. But the thing is if really is a genuine movement, then its bigger than simply camping in Zucotti park. The authorities clearly think that’s all it was. I like to think they’re wrong about that. We’ll see.

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Kaveh 11.17.11 at 2:59 pm

Rich, you’re absolutely right that those nuances should be mentioned, and the NYPD might have gotten off on that technicality, except now they apparently did it again.

And people understand the power of a symbol. Dorly Rainey, the 84-year-old woman who was pepper-sprayed in Seattle, brought up Goebbels WRT the Stop Internet Piracy Act: “I remember Goebbels. I remember–I grew up over there.” in an interview with Olbermann. Not in reference to the library, but part of the same larger picture.

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Eleanor 11.17.11 at 3:05 pm

I didn’t read every comment above carefully, so I may be repeating other people.

OWS is a work in progress. I have no idea how it will turn out. I don’t have advice. I bring coffee to the local Occupy group and wait and see. The Occupiers are raising the right issues and getting national attention.

Second, they are not a political party, vanguard or otherwise, they are a movement, like Civil Rights and the Anti-War Movement. I think we need to look at those for comparison re action and goals.

Third, in New York especially, OWS was/is creating an alternative society with housing, food, medical care, a library. It was/is a society that works by concensus, and it welcomed everyone, even the homeless. This strikes me as hugely important. A new world in the shill of the old. This is why the camps matter, and this may be why the camps are being destroyed.

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cian 11.17.11 at 3:09 pm

No, he’s not left, he’s right. He just likes to concern troll.

Oh Barry, if he wants to be the leader of the Tooting Popular Front, where’s the harm.

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belle le triste 11.17.11 at 3:20 pm

concern tooting

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Lemuel Pitkin 11.17.11 at 3:44 pm

Meanwhile, from today’s Times, why Occupy is threatening:

Linda Gerstman, 40, who lives near the stock exchange — “the barricaded world,” she called her neighborhood — said she was grateful for the city’s action because she had grown concerned about health conditions in the area. “We’re touching the same doorknobs,” she said.

They are not supposed to be in the same social space as us. It’s like some old caste prohibition.

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Bill Benzon 11.17.11 at 4:50 pm

Lemuel Pitkin @216, and the prohibition is being stated in terms of dirt and purity: THEY are dirty and make OUR world impure. This is gut level stuff, ritual and symbolism, taboo.

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Kaveh 11.17.11 at 4:51 pm

Eleanor @213 Third, in New York especially, OWS was/is creating an alternative society with housing, food, medical care, a library. It was/is a society that works by concensus, and it welcomed everyone, even the homeless. This strikes me as hugely important. A new world in the shill of the old. This is why the camps matter, and this may be why the camps are being destroyed.

I agree, and I disagree that their destruction is a good thing. Yes there is fuel for propaganda in that, and more attention, but the camps already had attention.

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Rich Puchalsky 11.17.11 at 5:05 pm

“and the prohibition is being stated in terms of dirt and purity: THEY are dirty and make OUR world impure. This is gut level stuff, ritual and symbolism, taboo.”

Yep. And I didn’t mention it before, because “an adult” seemed confused but lots of things, but “The hippies you celebrate were fools by and large” — no, “an adult”, the word hippie in this context does not refer to actual hippies of the U.S. 1960s and 70s. “Hippie” has long since become American slang for anyone shunned by the right wing because of this ritual and taboo dirtiness though association with non-right-wing ideas. It’s used rather similarly among many people to how “queer” is used in the gay community. The right wing is all about being against hippies, not about being for any traditional American freedoms.

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Tim Wilkinson 11.17.11 at 5:10 pm

One thing to remember is that homelessness, unemployement, hardship are going to continue getting worse – at least they certainly are here in Britain and I guess the same is thought to be the case in the US. Having a visible, committed and somewhat civilly disobedient movement in existence is useful in that context.

The general issue of class has been raised and is being kept live via a drip feed of news coverage.

(BTW, in that useful news coverage I think I’d include the familiar style of propaganda about lice, etc. At the very least, reciting lists of visceral aversive stimuli as kidneystones does makes you look like a serious wrong ‘un to a lot of people, many of whom can recognise a scurrilous, deeply manipulative smear job when they see one. I’d guess (with a strong dash of hope) that most of those who actually enjoy indulging in kidneystones-style games are confirmed and self-conscious right-wing partisans. There’s an element of the playground taunt there – you’ve got fleas, you smell. But of course it’s a deadly earnest propaganda campaign, not a playground, so the childish aspect only makes the whole thing more sinister.)

Just that continued presence is a good thing, I’d have said, for a number of reasons.

1. Most simply and obviously, it helps to prevent the whole issue from disappearing from the media and political discourse, which is of course pretty well a precondition of anything else getting done.

2. People have in many cases a new lens through which to look at unfolding events phenomena as they are evicted, sacked, or whatever.

3. As the screws turn, there is already an examplar and potential centre of gravity for discontents to work with.

(I see the point about visceral propaganda has been made since I started sporadically tapping this out)

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straightwood 11.17.11 at 5:17 pm

@216

The NYT buried the OWS coverage on page 29 today, with their usual condescending view that the dirty nuisance was the most important part of the story. Any hope that the Times would recover some of its journalistic respectablility after the departure of Keller has been dashed. This newspaper is a lapdog of Wall Street and a propaganda outlet for Bloomberg.

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Rich Puchalsky 11.17.11 at 5:58 pm

Briefly watched TV news in between work and childcare (my spouse has bronchitis, so I’m not going to any protests today). The announcers were voice-overing live footage of a crowd slowly tearing down barricades around the park. One of them quoted some right-blogger about how people were seeing the face of the left, and it wasn’t pretty. Then he started asking whether this really contributed to a discussion of income inequality, whether we were really talking about that or whether we were talking about the protest. It was completely laughable. Where was the discussion of income inequality before the protests started? Were people supposed to have them and then stop as soon as it was discussed?

There never is going to be a protest “safe” and “clean” enough so that it won’t be pooh-poohed by the Andrews of the world. Nor will anyone ever talk about things like income inequality without protest. So this is really crunch time for the moderates who have been observing from the sidelines, not for us. Are people going to join in on how what we’re doing is just too dangerous, too wild, too undisciplined, even too static in people’s strange attachment to the place where their community came together? Or is the time to finally say that its a big movement and it’s time to join it?

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Kaveh 11.17.11 at 6:17 pm

I just picked up this Greenwald piece emphasizing the importance of the kitchens. http://www.salon.com/2011/11/17/ows_inspired_activism/singleton/ I can see why they’re scared. One of the things that made the Iranian Revolution of 79 work was that activists, including the clergy and their supporters, created a network of institutions outside the state that provided basic services the state was neglecting in spite of its windfall oil revenue.

Free speech is all fine and good but don’t start feeding people…

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Barry 11.17.11 at 6:18 pm

““We’re touching the same doorknobs,” she said. “

The NYT had lots of stuff to use (they didn’t just interview one person); they have very deliberately chosen ‘filth’ as their theme.

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Barry 11.17.11 at 6:20 pm

“This newspaper is a lapdog of Wall Street and a propaganda outlet for Bloomberg.”

The only way to make it clearer would be for them to change their name to ‘Wall Street Times’. They probably considered that, and figured that they’d be hit with a lawsuit.

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Adrian Kelleher 11.17.11 at 6:21 pm

@Rich Puchalsky

The point about heretics and psychological security seems not to have registered. Having been summarily burned at the metaphorical stake already, I feel entitled to labour the point.

I don’t feel the need to pour contempt on affiliated political elements to reinforce my own psychological security. Egomania consists of self importance or exaggerated self belief. Narcissism by contrast is characterised by a desperate need to demean others in order to nurture an idealised identity that is in reality fragile and fearful.

When I see so much commentary devoted to denouncing the failures of affiliated political groups, combined with self congratulation that is — and I encourage refutation here — out of all proportion to any achievements that might be attributed to what remains a young movement, it leads me to believe I’m observing a form of political narcissism. Narcissism is always self-defeating in the end.

You seem to have little idea of what OWS is — which might be fine on its own depending on the programme(s) it is pursuing — but a very clear and derogatory idea of what it is not. The logical contradiction in this doesn’t require the mind of a koan master to figure out.

You have made no effort to address the last six paragraphs of my previous post. You don’t have to answer to me, but answers will need to be found.

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Lemuel Pitkin 11.17.11 at 6:40 pm

the prohibition is being stated in terms of dirt and purity: THEY are dirty and make OUR world impure. This is gut level stuff, ritual and symbolism, taboo.

Exactly.

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cian 11.17.11 at 6:43 pm

You have made no effort to address the last six paragraphs of my previous post. You don’t have to answer to me, but answers will need to be found.

Those would be the paragraphs that contained this:
I find it completely impossible to believe that a single movement can be radical enough to demand a thorough redrafting of the US constitution and simultaneously represent 99% of the population.

To be honest I almost stopped reading at that point, because you seem to be having an argument with somebody in your own head. I read your post a couple of times, and I’m still not sure what your criticism is, except that you don’t like the OWS movement. Its possible that your complaint is that they’re not campaigning for Democrats, or maybe it isn’t. I really don’t know, and I’m not sure you do. Maybe it would help if you did.

There is nothing terribly constructive about the criticism you’ve offered. Some of it has been ill-informed, some of it has been Armchair quarterbacking and some of it has been simply odd. That’s fine, I’m not hugely proud of the criticisms I’ve made. I’ve mostly been wrong. However, there’s nothing constructive about the criticisms you’re offering. You just seem to be trying to do down the OWS movement, which is why ultimately Rich is getting pissed off I suspect. If there is any narcissism here it’s yours.

You’re right OWS might fail. You seem to hope it will, though no doubt you’ll deny that. But nothing you can do will affect that. Its a movement driven ultimately by the people involved – and guess what, you’re not involved. That’s a choice you made, and one result of the choice is that your opinion doesn’t count. You want it to count, get involved. I don’t really think it could be simpler. That has in fact been Rich’s point all along. If you think its the wrong movement, then start your own one. Just stop your BLUDDY MOANING. Honestly, like an old woman you are.

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cian 11.17.11 at 6:43 pm

The above was to Andrew Kelleher. Damn cut and paste.

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Bruce Baugh 11.17.11 at 6:59 pm

Recommended reading for a bunch of people in this thread: Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy, by Barbara Ehrenreich (link to Powell’s). As always with Ehrenreich on this kind of subject, there’s a lot of really solid history, a lot of cultural study, and a fair amount of engaging speculation. Part of her argument is that some strata of the modern West have embedded a genuine pathology in their dislike and fear of groups gathered to share strong emotions and their glorification of the solitary spectator, often depressed, as the most insightful member of the community. She provides some historical, social, and scientific context for a bunch of the answers I see Rich giving and some others not wanting to accept, about how and why ongoing gatherings matter, about ways in which occasional or scheduled meetings wouldn’t do the same job, about how and why the scale matters, and a bunch else.

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Adrian Kelleher 11.17.11 at 7:02 pm

@cian

You couldn’t be wider from the mark. I’ve made no criticisms of OWS — none, nada, zip.

It’s a nascent movement that is full of possibilities. The symbolic power of some actions, such as the parallel institutions referred to above may prove to have tremendous power.

Where we diverge is in the need to wave away the lessons of history. It’s perfectly straightforward — if the disregard for other groups and historical examples were rooted in analysis of past experiences it would be one thing.

To be perfectly honest the manner of their presentation suggests not an overcoming of historical precedents but a disregard for them, a disregard I’ve a hard time believing is rooted in deep study of CNT/FAI, the Socialist Revolutionaries, the Makhnovists or any of the other anarchist groups that were ruthlessly destroyed by cynical and brutal adversaries.

If someone devotes his life to wheels, studies wheels assiduously and tries to perfect an understanding of wheels then it’s wise to pay attention to his or her opinions of round objects used for the reduction of friction via axial motion.

If on the other hand someone shouts out “The wheels of the past have failed! If the wheelists weren’t ineffectual we wouldn’t still have punctures and road accidents after thousands of years” then my suspicion is that that person doesn’t really have any deep interest in or commitment to the subject — that they’re really just catapulting themselves to the front of the whole wheel debate by simply rendering all informed opinion redundant by sleight of hand.

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Rich Puchalsky 11.17.11 at 7:05 pm

“That’s a choice you made, and one result of the choice is that your opinion doesn’t count. You want it to count, get involved. I don’t really think it could be simpler. That has in fact been Rich’s point all along. “

Yes, that’s it. Other than the minor addition of pointing out the difference between being “summarily burned at the metaphorical stake” and being “mocked for self-important writing”, that seems like a pretty good response to Adrian.

One addition: I certainly don’t think that the movement represents 99% of the population. “We are the 99%” is a slogan, not a poll result. In fact I think I’ve mentioned above that nearly half of the population is pretty much guaranteed to dislike the movement, no matter what we do, because hating hippies is what drives them and there is no possible way in which we can not appear as hippies in their propaganda.

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Adrian Kelleher 11.17.11 at 7:05 pm

“…if the disregard for other groups and historical examples were rooted in analysis of past experiences it would be one thing but what’s been in evidence has been their dismissal out of hand.”

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Adrian Kelleher 11.17.11 at 7:12 pm

@Rich

You started the abuse and strawman argumentation before I was ever involved.

http://crookedtimber.org/2011/11/15/occupy-wall-street-shutdown/comment-page-5/#comment-387578

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cian 11.17.11 at 7:14 pm

Its not just the complaints about cleanliness – its the implicit complaint about homeless people contained in this stuff. “Oh these guys aren’t real protestors, some of them are just homeless!” because you know, homeless people don’t matter.

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cian 11.17.11 at 7:23 pm

Yeah but Adrian you’re not really saying anything very profound. If you have something profound to say say it. But so far you haven’t really said anything that you couldn’t read in an editorial of the NYT. With all that entails.

And this just makes you sound pretentious:
If someone devotes his life to wheels, studies wheels assiduously and tries to perfect an understanding of wheels then it’s wise to pay attention to his or her opinions of round objects used for the reduction of friction via axial motion.

So you’re the guy on social movements, eh? Good to know.

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Rich Puchalsky 11.17.11 at 7:31 pm

Oh yes, poor Wilfred at #75. Yes, I’m afraid that I found his willingness to define what real politics was, and to say that what we were doing wasn’t real politics, to be just as silly and self-important as your comments were. While each of you may well be a unique individual snowflake personally, your sentiments aren’t exactly new or unusual.

And if you want to play the tiresome “deep study”, “how dare you get involved in politics without reading Voline’s _The Unknown Revolution_” game, I invite you to argue with David Graeber, if he has time for you.

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Adrian Kelleher 11.17.11 at 7:39 pm

@Cian

The CNT/FAI lost in spite of integrity and sacrifices of an order that bear no comparison with what OWS has had a chance to display as of yet. Many devoted and erudite people were on their side. George Orwell took a bullet in the throat for them, and still they ended up with Franco.

Orwell, as well as Stephen Spender and others who’d fought in Spain, found themselves vilified by their former allies once they returned to Britain. Spender was expelled from the Moscow-dominated communist party.

So here’s my question to you. How would you do things differently from the likes of Orwell, who was brilliant, shrewd, dedicated and someone of immense integrity. How would you prevent the tragedy from reaching its inevitable end?

Is it suggested that the achievements of OWS are greater now than those of the International Brigades which had been activists their whole lives?

If anyone had made an effort to address these questions, even obliquely, I would not have made any of my remarks. But when I see self-congratulation of the sort this thread has witnessed then my blood boils at the dishonour that is done to the memory of those who went before.

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john c. halasz 11.17.11 at 7:47 pm

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Rich Puchalsky 11.17.11 at 7:51 pm

Oh, poor, sad Adrian! We’re dishonoring Orwell and all the International Brigades! That is certainly what’s causing his blood to boil, not that he’s showing himself to be a rather vain buffoon.

What tendency do you represent, Adrian? I’d like to pick out which historical martyr that you evidently think that you can do better than by the fact of your political existence. I’d also like to see the quote about how people here were claiming great accomplishments for OWS, much greater than those of the International Brigades. Surely you wouldn’t have made that up out of whole cloth…. right?

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Kaveh 11.17.11 at 7:57 pm

If you’ll pardon my harping on this (but it was the original topic of the post)… we complain that the left is bad at propaganda. Well, here’s your propaganda. Boingboing’s headline: OWS library is rebuilding after being trashed by NYPD, needs your donated books. “The librarians of Occupy Wall Street saw their carefully catalogued collection of over 5,000 books and archive of original writing, art and other material from the historic protest destroyed by the NYPD.” It’s a creative, helpful activity that people all over the world can participate in, and the mere act of asking and passing along the request makes a big statement for OWS. I wonder how much it would cost to put out a big ad in the NYT or other papers soliciting book donations? Probably more than I could help with, but the word can go around on the net…

Of course Bloomburg and the NYT and friends are playing up the “dirty” angle. They think they can convince people that OWS are a bunch of thugs and hoodlums, and removing them is what they need to do to govern the city responsibly. But hoodlums and thugs don’t build libraries, and responsibly governing officials don’t destroy them while complaining about people being dirty: fascistic ones do.

So, I say we not let this be just a conversation among academics and people who read academic blogs. Put out the word far and wide that OWS needs books!

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Adrian Kelleher 11.17.11 at 8:01 pm

@Rich Puchalsky

There’s a difference between ignoring history, though that would be bad enough, and actively excluding it from consideration as you have done. Once again you prefer to address the point you want your adversary to make instead of the point he actually has made.

Your analysis of OWS is 100% reflexive, hence the reference to re-inventing the wheel.

http://www.theonion.com/articles/historians-politely-remind-nation-to-check-whats-h,26183/

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cian 11.17.11 at 8:21 pm

There’s a difference between ignoring history, though that would be bad enough, and actively excluding it from consideration as you have done.

We’re still talking about the Spanish Civil War, right? The one with planes, Franco. Nazi dive-bombers. Just to be clear. And your complaint is that we’re ignoring the lessons of the Spanish Civil War. Um. WTF?

Seriously, are you drunk? Because I’d rather think you were drunk, than that you had so lost touch with reality that you thought was a sensible argument, or that anyone should seriously engage with it. You really need to stop now, before you make an even bigger fool of yourself.

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Adrian Kelleher 11.17.11 at 8:42 pm

@cian

CNT/FAI was an anarchist movement organised along non-hierarchical lines that promoted the abolition of power be it political or economic. It enjoyed the support of some wonderful and dedicated people such as Orwell.

I don’t think it’s stretching credulity to claim it might have some relevance to OWS.

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rf 11.17.11 at 8:43 pm

Good God, and another thread goes to hell due to a minor disagreement and inane grandstanding

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J. Otto Pohl 11.17.11 at 8:45 pm

I have seen some very bad historical analogies, but the OWS movement as the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War and presumably the NYC cops as Franco’s army is particularly bad. Who plays the Condor Legion? There is very little in common with Spain in the 1930s and the US today. The fact that Spanish is widely spoken in the US today may be the closest similarity. But, what do I know, apparently I am just a troll. Not that anybody on the Internet ever took me seriously before I was labelled as such.

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Walt 11.17.11 at 8:46 pm

rf, welcome to the left, my friend. Every argument on the left leads inevitably to esoteric debating points.

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cian 11.17.11 at 8:54 pm

In a vague attempt to return to reality, are there any numbers on the demonstration in Wall Street today? Or a good place to find out what’s going on. All I’ve seen has been a bit chaotic, which of course may just reflect events on the ground.

Otto – perhaps not a troll, but you did also rather go off on a tangent earlier in this thread :-)

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Adrian Kelleher 11.17.11 at 8:55 pm

@J Otto Pohl

There’s more than Franco to consider — there’s the manner in which the British communists were hijacked and destroyed by Moscow once the war was over, the ease with which CNT/FAI was destroyed by the Spanish communists and so on.

The manner of organisation of OWS entails certain weaknesses, as does any such structure. Parties force members to compromise their values, groups coalescing around elite cores risk falling victim to dishonest vanguardism and so on.

I think the lessons of CNT/FAI and in particular the fate of the likes of Orwell and Spender on their return to the UK are of relevance. The cynical Moscow faction found it easy to control the bulk of the movement once leaders like those two had been cast out.

@All

BTW you’ll find me pouring scorn on OWS, being uninvolved civically and generally undermining the movement here.

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Adrian Kelleher 11.17.11 at 8:58 pm

@J Otto Pohl

“I have seen some very bad historical analogies, but the OWS movement as the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War and presumably the NYC cops as Franco’s army is particularly bad.” (Emphasis added)

As a professional historian you should be able to do better than to present a caricature of what’s written.

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rf 11.17.11 at 9:00 pm

Well J. Otto Pohl if you are a troll you’ve certainly put a lot of work into it, a couple of books on Stalin if a quick amazon search is anything to go by? I for one salute you on such dedication.

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Bill Benzon 11.17.11 at 9:10 pm

Live stream @OWS, currently at Union Square (4:04 PM Eastern Time) heading toward Foley Square:

http://crookedtimber.org/2011/11/15/occupy-wall-street-shutdown/comment-page-5/#comment-387710

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Kaveh 11.17.11 at 9:17 pm

Bill @252, wrong link

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Watson Ladd 11.17.11 at 9:25 pm

cian, I’m not being cynical. I’m being realistic. Adrian is also raising the point that OWS does not yet represent history on the scale of even the defeats of the left. To change this I think some acknowledgement that there has been no left for a generation would go a long way towards letting Occupy really confront the realities of its situation. J. Otto Pohl also seems to be raising that question of history and possibility.

Right now what we have is something akin to the 1999 Seattle moment. The result was shilling for the democrats: the disruption of the WTO conference did nothing, but create an activist milieu tied to the democratic party. The possibility for an independent left is even dimmer then it was in 1999, in part because the anti-war movement spend its existence arguing for the democrats and dissolving into it once Obama was elected and the wars continued.

OWS is not a product of those in it. It also is constrained by the political possibilities today. What would Occupy have looked like in 1933 when the Stalinized US left was at its strongest? What about in 1968, when the New Left was about to collapse? What about 1973 with the workerist turn in full swing? I would be happy to be wrong with my assessment: maybe it does make a US left. But that’s unlikely.

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Bill Benzon 11.17.11 at 9:30 pm

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Bill Benzon 11.17.11 at 9:34 pm

Who knows, maybe it’s not about ‘the Left’.

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Rich Puchalsky 11.17.11 at 9:43 pm

To add to Bruce’s reference — I haven’t read _Dancing in the Streets_, though I’ll try to — I see a connection with the complicated history of techno-optimism as it applies to Occupy. Occupy has made extensive use of cell-phone-to-Youtube- video — and, to a lesser extent, Twitter, Facebook, etc. So there seems to be a not unjustified feeling that one central meeting area isn’t needed. That’s sort of how I take cian’s idea about people meeting in local churches, or squats, although cian didn’t mention anything technological; it seems like that would only work if there were some kind of way that the scattered, smaller groups had of keeping track of each other, presumably through the Internet in some fashion. In a prior era it would have been through Movement paper publications and functionaries, but OWS doesn’t really rely on that.

I think that’s it’s easy to overvalue technology of this kind. People really can’t come to consensus through electronic chat-plus-voting in the same way that they can when talking face to face. There are all sorts of social cues that people miss. In the present, the scattered Occupy groups really don’t come to consensus with each other in the same way that each does internally; it’s more that each one comes up with projects, and sometimes another one will join in. Having a site that’s large enough to come up with advanced projects is one of the things that we’ll miss.

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J. Otto Pohl 11.17.11 at 9:45 pm

I don’t know enough about OWS to raise any question of possibilities or to make any good historical analogies. But, I think Benzon is right to suggest that the term ‘the Left’ might not be the best one to use here. I personally think it is outdated as a descriptor of 21st century social movements. Whatever OWS is it is not a Leninist Vanguard Party such as dominated both the Old and New Left movements in the US. I do not think it is comparable with anarchist movements in Spain or Ukraine either. Unlike Makhno’s followers they have not taken to raping and killing Mennonites on a large scale. I am not sure if any of the alleged rapes were of Mennonites, but I doubt it. The problem is not ignoring history it is the attempt to apply the history of European countries to the US. It does not work very well.

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Tom Bach 11.17.11 at 9:52 pm

I’d like to third the Benzonian notion that left and right might not be the proper terms here. In the unscientific concluding section in Graeber’s debt he seems to argue that what happens next is unlikely to grow out of pre-existing whatchamacallems.

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cian 11.17.11 at 9:55 pm

What do we want! New watchamacallems!

Now THAT should be the OWS demand.

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cian 11.17.11 at 10:01 pm

Rich, I’m not really doing techno-utopianism. Its more what is the strategy if a central meeting point cannot be found. Which is a very likely outcome. The more I think about it, the more I think a central place where people can hang out is important. There’s never really been a technological solution to that problem.

On the other hand I think there are things that can be adapted from anarchist techniques, which might work. I dunno – I’m babbling. Have you seen the size of the crowds in NY, that has to count for something.

Oh, and yes to the Benzolian notion obviously.

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Tom Bach 11.17.11 at 10:03 pm

cian,
I think it really is one of the OWS demands, ayna?

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Bruce Wilder 11.17.11 at 10:03 pm

David Graeber is not Buenaventura Durruti! Now there’s a revelation.

To my mind, the “political possibilities” which I do not feel myself competent to survey comprehensively, include the manifest and increasingly acute failures of the elites and institutions. We are in a Depression. We are at the end of great cycle. We are approaching the end of fossil fuels. We face the reality, not the prospect, of overpopulation and ecological collapse. We face the end of American military, political and economic hegemony; possibly, the end of the European project. The rule of law, itself, is under serious threat, as the worst financial crisis in generations coincides with a dearth of prosecution for financial fraud.

It isn’t that people, generally, want radicalism. I don’t. I am, tempermentally, a moderate; nothing about millenial utopias attracts my interest — I don’t look for an “alternative” to capitalism. I think most people, instinctively and near-sightedly, are groping forward with a vaguely preservationist or restorationist mentality.

What I see in OWS is the gradual emergence of an understanding that the 1% are neither competent nor kind. Radicalism is appropriate to the circumstances, and the political necessities of the situation will generate it, even in the absence of “political possibilities”. The “failure” of OWS is its first political function; this will not be nearly enough.

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Adrian Kelleher 11.17.11 at 10:05 pm

@J O P

Wilfred made some innocuous points and was met with contempt instead of engagement, refutation or even obliviousness. He hasn’t been back, you’ll notice, and why would he be?

If the Makhnovists aren’t held to be relevant then the Youth International Party surely must be, and by 1980 Jerry Rubin was doing motivational speaking for corporations and endorsing Reagan.

A tin ear for history is needed not to hear the echoes of 1968 in the intemperate and instinctive denunciation of dissenting voices as a first resort. Where’s the sense in telling people “your opinion doesn’t count” or that unstated “advanced concepts … that frankly the people here aren’t ready for” will solve all problems? Left unchallenged, such thinking will guarantee a repeat of bitter experience.

I said earlier that I can’t think of a single example in history where a movement that was both broad-based and enduring arose both rapidly and spontaneously. Organisation might offer a route out of that, but maybe as a historian you can think of examples I’m not aware of?

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cian 11.17.11 at 10:07 pm

Its amazing what you learn from Watson. For example, I never knew that the anarchists from the anti-WTO movement joined the Democrat party. The WSF was presumably a front group for Moveon.org. Oh what is to be done with you Watson; you can’t spend your whole life as a Monty Python character.

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Tom Bach 11.17.11 at 10:16 pm

In terms of both broad based and enduring, how about some definitions of either term. Blickle’s notion of communalism would seem to fit. The animating principles of the “simple folk” during the Peace of God movement. Let’s see, Albigensians and Bequines were broad-based and spontaneous and organized and things ended badly for both, although less violently for B’s than the A’s.

The problem here is that the past is, at best, a rough guide to what works or doesn’t because of the contingent nature of historical causation. It helps to know what happened but it’s important to realize that lots of the stuff that worked was something of a surprise and without any real precedent.

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Salient 11.17.11 at 10:54 pm

Andrew @ 174, I started compiling a list of references for you to check, including commentary from witnesses James West (who carefully documented the police preventing media from accessing or witnessing the event), Anthony Du Rosa (who followed up on and confirmed the “frozen zone” designation and no-fly zone), Josh Harkinson (who was hauled in front of a dumptruck by a police officer who then threatened that the truck could run him over if he didn’t behave), and even the fellow doing narration for the only Livestream camera to (briefly) record activity during the protest and have it survive, because it was streaming the feed (with footage of perfectly unsmashed electronics equipment getting thrown in the trash for example).

And of course, if I was going to bother to attend to it any further, next I would have trace down the variety of sources that witnessed and reported on the ‘wheelchair incident’ and the overloading of the clinic thing (a ‘medical facility’ is not a hospital, dude). But… it’s been nearly half an hour, man.

But what amazes me is that in the article you linked they have an account of a very extreme case of violence that I had no idea happened. Cutting down a tree while people are sitting in the higher branches of it out of reach should qualify as lethal use of force, the same way a taser is classified. (I assume that you find the source credible, since you were the one to share it with me.)

So, uh, there’s that. And there’s the fact that earlier, when there *was* video footage of protesters getting assaulted by police in clear instances of unauthorized use of force, you said you needed “more context” — look, I’m just in no mood to go compile shit for you, and (though this may be ad hominem it needs to be said) I just don’t have any faith anymore that you’re interacting in good faith. You want to know why?

* I said a local medical facility was overwhelmed enough to restrict their services to emergency-only. You responded that there were no reports of hospitals getting overwhelmed. Well, yes, most med facilities (whether insta-care or small/free clinic) don’t have the resources that a hospital does.

* I said that police were given completely inappropriate instructions to clear the park. You responded that the police carefully followed their instructions. (Did I say anything about police acting chaotically, or did I point out their exceptional coordination, e.g. in successfully enforcing a categorical media blackout?)

* I said that it was inappropriate for the people ordering in the police to authorize the frozen zone designation, and (by implication at least) asserted that those on the top of the executive food chain were the ones to commit the worst violation, by issuing inappropriate authorization to legalize an inappropriate plan. You responded that the Commissioner was personally there to witness police executing his plan–as if that’s contradicting my account rather than bolstering my point?

* I said that protesters were not given adequate time to vacate the park after the eviction notice was declared at 1am. You responded that police spent a lot of time (in their headquarters) preparing for this.

We’re talking past each other, because at this point you’re not even attempting to talk with me. I listened to what you asked for and tried to provide relevant information, and any of those things you could have googled to follow up on sourcing.

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Adrian Kelleher 11.17.11 at 10:58 pm

@Tom Bach

I wouldn’t mark the Albigensians down as a failure (or the Hussites, who would maybe be a better parallel as AFAIK they were very progressive by the standards of the day). They were isolated amid a sea of catholicism, and went down only after a titanic struggle. The fortresses built to contain them were still in use in the 1800s, six hundred years later.

I suppose it was spontaneous, but it certainly was organised; one feature distinguishing them from other heretical movements was that a big chunk of the nobility joined in. They were basically lopped off of the existing social order.

I’m not familiar with the Bequines at all, I’m afraid, or with the other movements mentioned. I stand ready to be enlightened if they offer useful precedents.

As regards definitions, “broad based” would mean a minimum of 55% of the electorate to achieve a majority sufficient to effect constitutional change in the USA, but in practice much more than that if the less than well regulated militia are to acknowledge its legitimacy.

As regards “enduring”, I could probably do better but for starters I’ll hold up the French revolution and the February revolution in Russia as cautionary tales. The window of relative pluralism after the Bastille is little remembered outside of France. Scope existed to avoid the terror however the emergent institutions were not up to the task.

Likewise, even if Kerensky’s policies were inadequate, the possibility of something infinitely better than what finally emerged was real. IIRC the Socialist Revolutionaries were the most popular block. Any number of imaginable coalitions could have prevented either the return of the reactionary right or the triumph of the Leninists. The infamous Order Number 1 of the Petrograd Soviet wasn’t as utopian as it looked. It represented a cynical and conscious destruction of a possible alternative to the bolshevik power base.

Optimism about human nature is a fine thing. I don’t think it’s impossible at all for spontaneous movements to be both non-hierarchical and meaningful. For them to stand up to manipulation, however, they must substitute distributed grassroots control for the centralised control other political movements, however democratic, employ. This suggests it’s possible to create a stable non-hierarchical organisation from a hierarchical precursor but that there’s a serious obstacle to creating one spontaneously.

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Bruce Wilder 11.17.11 at 11:03 pm

You could turn around and ask the same question of history — what works? — but take the point-of-view of authoritarian reaction.

In many ways, the course of policy in the United States regarding the financial sector and the economy is a deliberate replay of the Great Depression. The conservative fantasy of a Great Depression, in which plutocracy survived, wages were ground down and a New Deal never surfaced, outlined by Friedman and Bernanke, is what is being enacted. History certainly wasn’t forgotten by the American right-wing of inherited wealth and financial chicanery.

I, personally, put my hope in the proposition that such societies are too brittle to survive long, but, in the ancient world, the Roman Empire survived for four centuries* after Caesar, even if the Republic didn’t survive Sulla, and the Catholic Church is still with us. Maybe the technology of panopticon makes centralized control possible, and discarding hundreds of millions of people is a kind of solution to the problems of resource limits.

The reactionaries may be smarter than we are. They certainly look way smarter so far.

*a thousand years in the East.

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Salient 11.17.11 at 11:09 pm

Its not just the complaints about cleanliness – its the implicit complaint about homeless people contained in this stuff. “Oh these guys aren’t real protestors, some of them are just homeless!” because you know, homeless people don’t matter.

Yeah, OWS is really bringing out the ‘these people aren’t people’ assumption from its righty opponents in all its ugly glory. liked Patrick Nielsen Hayden’s quip summarizing of the other side of this coin — “conservatives think some people are better than others just because.” Maybe the synthesis is “conservatives think some people are better than others because they’re less likely to be smelly.”

They came in here and they trashed the place, and it’s not their place!

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Tom Bach 11.17.11 at 11:12 pm

Hey there, I mentioned the As were organized; so, indeed, were the Hussites and things ended badly for them, to say nothing of Hus’ fiery end.

And, as by the way, it’s totally unclear, to me in any event, how any of these movements offer any insight into the current OWS movement. Perhaps you could, with circles and arrows and paragraphs on the back, explain what about these unrelated events from centuries ago when the world was a radically different place confronting radically different whatchamacallems offers any guidance to folk trying to do something radically different in the here and now.

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LFC 11.17.11 at 11:13 pm

J.O.P. @258
Whatever OWS is it is not a Leninist Vanguard Party such as dominated both the Old and New Left movements in the US.

Maybe you should stick to pronouncing on subjects you know something about. The New Left in the U.S. would not appear to be one of them.

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Adrian Kelleher 11.17.11 at 11:21 pm

@Tom Bach

It was you who brought up the Albigensians etc. Jesus.

I addressed what I regarded as the movement’s core dilemmas above.

Ambiguity about objectives and means may not obstruct certain outcomes and may even help others. However they will guarantee the failure of more ambitious aims. Constitutional transformation cannot be effected by street protest in isolation from civic society. Sooner or later, decisions will need to be made but if these lead some to believe the ideals they subscribe to are being betrayed or that they’ve been brought aboard under false pretenses then the organisation will split.

Do you disagree that Von Hayek and Marx are the archetypes of political transformation? They succeeded in introducing radically new patterns into politics — but it was a labour of decades rather than weeks and they started out by acknowledging that no influence could be gained until a critical mass of opinion formers — elites if you like — had been won over.

It’s reasonable to disagree with them. To pretend they have no relevance is just wierd.

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LFC 11.17.11 at 11:27 pm

@ A Kelleher – Excuse me for being blunt, but I really fail to see what the Cathars and the Albigensian crusades have to do with anything. (or the Hussites for that matter)

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LFC 11.17.11 at 11:28 pm

Oh, sorry, i thought you brought them up.

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Adrian Kelleher 11.17.11 at 11:28 pm

@LFC

I didn’t introduce them to the exchange.

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Barry Freed 11.17.11 at 11:37 pm

Twas Tom Bach @ 11.17.11 at 10:16 pm

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LFC 11.18.11 at 1:35 am

yes. My mistake.

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straightwood 11.18.11 at 1:51 am

no influence could be gained until a critical mass of opinion formers—elites if you like—had been won over.

How we shrink from radical novelty. What if a new politics could arise without elites? What if elites are necessary only in information-poor societies? What if all that has gone before the invention of ubiquitous cheap communications is just a kind of preamble to a new kind of society?

The most revolutionary thing about OWS is its radical departure from organizational hierarchy. The elites are terrified that society may find a way to eliminate their concentrated power. OWS, by accident and design, is trying to find a way.

We have been betrayed repeatedly by elites. Why would we seek to create yet another group of traitors to the common good?

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Adrian Kelleher 11.18.11 at 2:25 am

There was a persistent pattern in the colonial conflicts of the 20th century of civil war following hard on the heels of independence. Movements that proved extraordinarily tenacious and cohesive under foreign oppression paradoxically fell apart once relieved of their greatest problem.

One reason was that often the only thing that united them was what they were against:their shared enemy. Difficult negotiations about the future could be put off while hostilities lasted, but as soon as they moved in to the governor’s mansion they found out that the things they were for were all different.

Another reason followed from the nature of negotiation itself. There was a status quo power (the colonist) and a party trying to change things and each was constrained in the kind of deal it could offer by the demands of its power base.

The status quo power will want to offer the minumum necessary, but needs the agreement of its enemy if a deal is to be secured. It has one ace card, however: it is the one holding the very thing that is in dispute. It can negotiate until the cows come home.

Ultimately, a deal is struck but there will always be elements on the insurgent side for whom only total victory will suffice. The only questions were how many and whether the status quo negotiators had sufficient vision to offer enough to ensure the other side could make the deal a reality without a new civil war proving as indecisive as the last. This pattern was in evidence on any number of occasions from Ireland in 1922 to East Timor in 2006.

Suppose the US government were shaken by serious unrest. It would have to deal with the demands not only of the left but also of the right, to whom concessions would be anathema. If it wanted to offer more than the minimum the other side might accept, it would already have enacted those provisions. Ideally, it wants to offer nothing.

Like the colonial powers, it can afford to negotiate forever. Sooner or later, the opposition may break off negotiations but they’ll lose a few moderates if they do so. Even if the government offers a generous deal, there’ll be a few who regard it as a betrayal. The most dangerous possibility is that the government might cynically calibrate its offer so as to split the opposition evenly, in order to ensure a lengthy and indecisive conflict on the other side. The locus of conflict would then move from between the protestors and the government to between two factions of the protest movement — a neat and economical trick for their adversaries.

It’s possible for a political movement to stand up under such strains, and its even possible for a non-hierarchical movement to do so. At a minimum, a clear and agreed programme is needed even for negotiations to start, however.

Agreeing the programme may itself split the movement, but in that case the factions will not be under stress and there’s a chance of a velvet divorce. The newly independent factions would then be free to continue parallel struggles precisely as before. If the movement splits at the very moment at which a deal is at hand, however, its implications for its credibility with the electorate will be devastating.

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bianca steele 11.18.11 at 2:25 am

At least the Beguines got a tune out of it. Maybe the Albigensians are an attempt to bring over those Grail romances from the other thread, draw some women into the conversation. I had something else funny to say that I thought of in the car, but I forgot it, so never mind.

More ideological hairsplitting, please.

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Adrian Kelleher 11.18.11 at 2:30 am

@straightwood

Believe me, I endorse neither Marx nor Von Hayek. It’s simply foolhardy to ignore the two though, IMO.

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Tom Bach 11.18.11 at 3:16 am

You know my point was and is if you want to insist on historical analogies, outside of beginning the beguines, it’s helpful to not depend on some superficial understanding of the past. Sorry if that was unclear.

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Watson Ladd 11.18.11 at 3:48 am

cian, that is exactly what happened. Maybe not the hard anarchist core, but those who were brought into politics via Seattle certainly did. Today’s green movement or anti-globalization movement The World Can’t Wait campaign was a front for the US RCP and spent its energy calling for driving out Bush, as though that would be the end of the wars. Michael Moore’s conservative critique of the current moment was enthusiastically adopted by the anti-war movement and again by #Occupy and the anti-cuts rhetoric. Maybe they wrap this up in faux radicalism, but the fundamental message is “back to the welfare state” even for the anarchists.

So what’s your narrative? The constant concessions, the celebration of defeats as victories as due to an implacable force of reaction that brings along the innocent leftists for the ride even as they seek to master history?

straightwood, not everyone at OWS does everything. But those who do things are not accountable to those who do others. There is far more voice in banding together to support a common goal then each saying the same thing independently. “I am Raphel and I speak for the trees” vs each sapling creaking out its message.

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Cahokia 11.18.11 at 4:02 am

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Adrian Kelleher 11.18.11 at 8:37 am

@Tom Bach

Here’s what I wrote originally:

“If an organisation is to represent 40% of the population, let alone 99, it had better boil down its programme to easily digestible mush in the way centrist political parties do.

If on the other hand it wants to advance an agenda anything like as radical as [Rich Puchalsky’s] blog suggests [he wants] OWS to then there’s simply no escaping all that “interminable advice giving”. That’s the only way a block can be both radical and ideologically cohesive enough to endure. I can’t think of a single example in history where a movement that was both broad-based and enduring arose both rapidly and spontaneously.”

Here’s the rider I added later in case the first version wasn’t clear enough (to J Otto Pohl):

“I said earlier that I can’t think of a single example in history where a movement that was both broad-based and enduring arose both rapidly and spontaneously. Organisation might offer a route out of that, but maybe as a historian you can think of examples I’m not aware of?

Now I know nothing about most of the groups you mention, but I’d guess there was a lot of discussion before large numbers of people seized on a whole new theology. It seems unlikely that they all lighted on a single theological construct individually and only realised afterwards they’d all hit on the same one without a lot of “interminable advice giving” going on somewhere.

Theological formulations in Christianity have always been narrow because appropriate beliefs are a prerequisite for salvation. I can’t think of anything more “ideologically cohesive” than a given Christian church.

If you can tell me of a group as described that retained its cohesion through stresses in spite of no organisational effort of any sort, then I’d still be very interested. That’s why I asked the question.

I don’t see how it’s fair or reasonable to characterise a statement about my own knowledge as a superficial reading of history. You have yourself made no attempt to create a historical context for the movement.

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cian 11.18.11 at 9:57 am

So what’s your narrative?

My narrative? There is no f***ing narrative. A lot of different things happened to a lot of different people. Seriously the whole Marxist Theory of the Perfect Revolution got really tired in the 70s. You’re a one man re-enactment society. I’ve seen this particular play a million times, and it wasn’t any good the first time. Please stop trying to fit everything into your stupid, dogmatic theories. Or if you must do it, please stop inflicting it on everybody else.

Anyway Adrian seems to have effectively killed this thread. Hey professor, I have a question for you. Hey, how many political movements were killed by ideological hairsplitting, or bizarre historical analogies? I’m going with 7.

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Andrew F. 11.18.11 at 11:21 am

Salient, you claimed that “the local medical facility was literally overrun with patients with injuries, to the point where emergency services were temporarily restricted to “life-or-death situations.”” I did infer that to mean a hospital, where emergency services are provided and where those with serious injuries are referred. You say now “Well, yes, most med facilities (whether insta-care or small/free clinic) don’t have the resources that a hospital does.”

Okay, so you mean a “small/free clinic” that ordinarily provides emergency services, which became so overwhelmed that it could only provide emergency services for “life and death” situations. Which clinic is this?

– You say that the police had declared the area a “frozen zone.” That seems likely to be true; I didn’t contradict it because I agree with that claim. It is worth noting that declaring an area to be a frozen zone has nothing to do with the level of force an officer may use against someone who attempts to trespass into that zone. A frozen zone simply designates that persons cannot enter it.

– I noted the careful preparation, and the interests of the NYPD in avoiding excessive force cases here, to make clear why I’m unwilling at this point (without more evidence) to believe some of the more extreme allegations, e.g. “a person peacefully offering themselves up for arrest, getting batoned in the head until they collapsed and only arrested after the officers felt satisfied with the head injuries they had inflicted.”

– You refer to the use of less than lethal force, especially batons, “hard” hands, and pepper spray. I agree that it is likely that all three were used. I don’t agree – at this point – that police were pre-authorized to strike anyone not leaving with a baton (and especially not in the head).

– The protesters were given ample time to leave the park, and many did so. Those who stayed did so deliberately (rightly or wrongly).

– Councilman Rodriguez says that he sustained minor injuries to left temple when he was pushed to the ground and arrested – not that he was beaten about the head until officers were “satisfied” with his head injuries, as you put it.

I’m sure that those who claim excessive force will be filing suits, and perhaps we’ll see more evidence at that point. At this point it’s just not there.

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Andrew F. 11.18.11 at 11:32 am

Steve at 204: Before you ask me to “understand” these propositions, you need to establish that they’re true. I think both are obviously false. Their have been many signs- including the concerted crackdown- that the elites are worried about OWS, and polls show- and the changing discourse of politicians reflects- that it has significantly influenced voters.

I think the crackdown shows concern that the actual camp-sites had become too much of a nuisance to tolerate further – not that OWS as a political force was being taken seriously.

I agree that voters are concerned about inequality – but that tune has been playing for a while now, and certainly well before OWS.

You and I have different impressions of the discourse of politicians. I see the same lines being followed as were there before OWS. These are lines driven by the economy. But what evidence could we use here to determine whether OWS did significantly affect political discourse, and go beyond an exchange of different impressions?

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cian 11.18.11 at 11:34 am

Andrew F: I think that everyone gets that you’re a fascist, an admirer of the jackboot and so forth. Is it really necessary to prove it on each and every thread at interminable length. Don’t you have, I dunno, fellow fascist friends? A dog that needs attention? Maybe your flag needs ironing – or I heard there’s a trouser press that can get the perfect crease.

God knows, anything must be better than endlessly spouting shite on the internet.

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Andrew F. 11.18.11 at 11:41 am

cian, comments that do nothing but personally attack someone only disrupt and derail discussion. You’ve managed to pollute this thread, and others, with quite a few of those posts. This will be the only time I address such a post, and I’ll ask: why not stop and focus on the issues of discussion?

I post here about once or twice a day. I focus on the issue under discussion. I refrain from insulting the person with whom I am speaking, or uncharitably assuming that person to be a “fascist,” or racist, or anything else. Give it a try. And have a nice day.

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Neville Morley 11.18.11 at 11:52 am

The basic tendency – not always, but generally – of arguments from history or demands for a historical perspective is conservative: that the future will conform, in one way or another, to what has happened in the past, and that nothing new is ever possible. And I speak as a historian who believes fervently in the power of history to help us make sense of our situation.

Otherwise, just to say that I have found this discussion frequently enthralling and enlightening, and only wish there was a ‘Like’ or ‘Recommend’ button for particular posts…

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cian 11.18.11 at 11:55 am

Andrew F: You don’t come on these threads to argue in good faith. You come on them to hippy bash. Most long term commentators know that about you. Unfortunately some people still get sucked into your trolling bullshit, and so thread after thread gets derrailed into engaging with your crap.

You’re not a serious person, therefore I don’t treat you seriously. Nothing personal – Watson isn’t a serious person either, though unlike you, I think Watson actually believes his crap.

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Salient 11.18.11 at 11:58 am

I did infer that to mean a hospital, where emergency services are provided and where those with serious injuries are referred.

Well, gee, you did infer that and I did tell you you were wrong.

Which clinic is this?

Are you serious? Really? Please tell me you’re just being an asshole to me for the sake of being an asshole, I can’t take dealing with the possibility that you are literally incapable of figuring out that the OCCUPY WALL STREET 24 HOUR CLINIC is Occupy Wall Street’s local medical facility. Did you think the Occupy Wall Street 24 Hour Clinic was serving Maine? I mean, I know you already knew the Occupy Wall Street 24 Hour Clinic existed, because I still have enough respect for you–though it’s rapidly diminishing–I still have enough respect for you to believe you would have typed “occupy wall street clinic” into google before making an ass of yourself. So you’re being a jerk for the sake of nettling me, is the most charitable interpretation I can muster. And it’s working. I just can’t take it anymore. I can’t take it.

Councilman Rodriguez says that he sustained minor injuries to left temple when he was pushed to the ground and arrested — not that he was beaten about the head until officers were “satisfied” with his head injuries, as you put it.

Are you saying the officers were unsatisfied with the head injuries they inflicted by beating his head into the ground? Surely you’re not trying to suggest Rodriquez has said his head wasn’t beaten into the ground, but just in case, I happen to have Marshall McLuhan right here:

“Immediately, a group of police officers started using their batons to push me back, I didn’t have a choice,” he said. “I never raised my hands, I just told them I wanted to go to the park.”

The next thing he knew, he was knocked to the ground by a cop, who allegedly proceeded to assault him.

“A crime was committed here, but it was not committed by Councilman Rodriguez,” Rodriguez’s lawyer Andrew Stoll said Wednesday. “It was committed by the police officer who chose to falsely arrest Mr. Rodriguez and grind his face into the ground.”

I dunno, is your issue that “grinding” someone’s face is materially different from “beating” someone’s face? I don’t have enough faith in you left to believe that, because you’d have said something more like “Salient, I dispute the description of Rodriguez’ experience as beating; his lawyer speaking on his behalf called it a grinding, which to me is different.”

Not only that, but Rodriquez (the living breathing Rodriquez, not the parody in your head) offers substantiating evidence on my behalf (of the more general claim of widespread injury):

And while he [Rodriquez] was incarcerated and run through the system, he says he saw firsthand the horrific results of police violence at Zuccotti under the cover of dark early Tuesday morning. He knows it happened, he says, because his cellmates bore the injuries that resulted from the NYPD’s overzealous response.

“It was bad. People were bleeding, people were hit in the stomach,” Rodriguez said.

…ok, what else…

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Salient 11.18.11 at 12:09 pm

You refer to the use of less than lethal force, especially batons, “hard” hands, and pepper spray. I agree that it is likely that all three were used.

Yes.

I don’t agree – at this point – that police were pre-authorized to strike anyone not leaving with a baton (and especially not in the head).

Uh. I don’t really need to say anything to your statement that batons were used to strike people (yes, along with “hard” hands and pepper spray) but that police weren’t pre-authorized to use them. The only thing I can think of that makes this make any sense is that your interpretation of “pre-authorized” is far off the mark from “authorized in advance.” Cops don’t normally wear riot gear, and they don’t usually approach a scenario with batons drawn. Is the prefix “pre” what’s disputed here? We can drop the “pre” if that satisfies you, though I’m not sure I understand your dispute at this point.

And as for (and especially not in the head), see above regarding beating vs. grinding–I don’t mind acknowledging corrections so long as my interlocutor seems to be acting in good faith and their issue has some basis in reality, but you’re really not doing much to convince me that’s the case here.

I’m sure that those who claim excessive force will be filing suits

Well, yes — and Rodriquez among them, presumably, he’s retained a lawyer who has asserted the arrest was . What astounds me is the fact that you’re apparently completely comfortable with audiovisual evidence of abuses getting confiscated, and you’re ok with media not being allowed to document the eviction, but you’re demanding hard evidence (as if beaten and bleeding people in the jail isn’t evidence enough).

A frozen zone simply designates that persons cannot enter it.

David Weigel:

So, what’s a “frozen zone”? It’s an area secured by police typically because they’re guarding it from possible terror threats.

And for what the zone designation implies, see here and the extended Josh Harkinson quotation I’m going to put in a comment after this comment because apparently you can’t be bothered to look it up yourself even though it shows up in over half the front page google searches for frozen zone occupy.

At this point it’s just not there.

At this point it’s just not even remotely plausible that you’re acting in good faith. You’re polite, sure. And I do appreciate that, it’s a necessary condition for me to continue to respond at this point. But regardless of politeness, it’s getting harder and harder to find it in myself to continue to trust that you’re engaging in good faith.

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Salient 11.18.11 at 12:10 pm

The following is an extended quote from Josh Harkinson. I lack the patience to go through and put every damn paragraph in italics marks, so normal comment-vs-quote designations are reversed in this comment. The original source text is here.

He grabbed my arm and began dragging me off. My shoes skidded across the park’s slimy granite floor. All around me, zip-cuffed occupiers writhed on the ground beneath a fog of chemicals.

“I just want to witness what is going on here,” I yelped.

“You can witness it with the rest of the press,” he said. Which, of course, meant not witnessing it.

“Why are you excluding the press from observing this?” I asked.

“Because this is a frozen zone. It’s a police action going on. You could be injured.”

His meaning was clear. I let myself be hustled across the street to the press pen.

“What’s your name?”

His reply came as fast as he could turn away: “Watch your back.”

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Salient 11.18.11 at 12:15 pm

Some description of historical frozen zones, helping clarify they are indeed specifically media blackouts: normal police-media relations are suspended.

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Bill Benzon 11.18.11 at 12:26 pm

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Salient 11.18.11 at 12:34 pm

12:37 PM post here includes witness testimony that LRAD sound guns were deployed and used that day (1:06) and that media were attacked during their attempt to document the event (1:40). “It does not seem like the police are making distinctions between press and protesters” (2:12) and there’s press witness testimony that the police inappropriately employed “heavy-handed” methods against protesters who had not acted violently (2:15 – 2:26) and what heavy-handed means is clarified (2:43-) “who knew that stepping off of a curb is a crime worthy of getting slammed down to the ground and handcuffed and having your neck stomped on which is something we have seen and filmed”

If you watch to the end there are links to further videos, and the website itself has other documentation of police brutality — “Officers pinned a young man down and hit in the kidneys with batons” (Ryan Devereaux)

See also Glenn Greenwald e.g. here.

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cian 11.18.11 at 12:47 pm

Yeah, but unless Andrew is able to actually witness the assaults himself, how can he really trust that it happened. I mean be reasonable.

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Andrew F. 11.18.11 at 1:18 pm

Oy. Briefly:

Salient @169: There’s one confirmed instance of a person peacefully offering themselves up for arrest, getting batoned in the head until they collapsed and only arrested after the officers felt satisfied with the head injuries they had inflicted. Oh, but they let him lie there long enough that witnesses started screaming in alarm, before making the arrest.

Salient @293: “A crime was committed here, but it was not committed by Councilman Rodriguez,” Rodriguez’s lawyer Andrew Stoll said Wednesday. “It was committed by the police officer who chose to falsely arrest Mr. Rodriguez and grind his face into the ground.”

I’ll let the contrast stand for itself.

As to the “local medical facility” that was “so overrun with patients” that it could only provide emergency services for life and death situations – the evidence you offered of a flood of serious injuries resulting from excessive force – you say now that you’re referring to the OWS medical tent. The one inside Zucotti Park. And again, I’ll let that stand for itself.

Regarding the destruction of property, it sounds plausible that items may not have been treated with appropriate care in their removal, and the city would be liable for that.

Regarding frozen zones, they have nothing to do with media blackouts. An area around the ceremonies at the Ground Zero site was designated a frozen zone, for example; did you think those ceremonies lacked for media coverage?

In any event, since you seem convinced that I’m arguing in bad faith, and I have no interest in conversing with someone who’s going to be insulting, there’s no need to continue the conversation. You’re persuaded that there were any number of cases of excessive force at the eviction, and that this was the real problem with the eviction; I remain less persuaded, and want to see additional evidence before I draw that conclusion. Take care.

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straightwood 11.18.11 at 1:36 pm

I remain less persuaded

Yes, Andrew, nobody can make you say that you are wrong. This is the fortress of argumentative invulnerability into which you retreat after being bloodied in your CT thread forays. We look forward to your next amusing assault on reason and common sense.

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dk 11.18.11 at 1:36 pm

> You have made no effort to address the last six paragraphs of my previous post.

An Internet meme is born!

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Steve LaBonne 11.18.11 at 1:38 pm

there’s no need to continue the conversation

‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.

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Kaveh 11.18.11 at 2:15 pm

@303 Yes!

More stuff from those dirty hippies at OWS: http://boingboing.net/2011/11/17/interview-with-the-occupy-wall.html#more-130081

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Salient 11.18.11 at 2:40 pm

I’ll let the contrast stand for itself.

Fair ‘nough. A dude offers himself up for arrest, peacefully, clarifies the reason he is there, ensures it is clear that he has no intention of being violent. He gets pushed with batons (read: this is copspeak for jabbed, a use of the baton that is two escalation steps beneath lethal force) and then he gets outright hit by an officer. He collapses to the ground. (It’s not clear whether he was pushed to the ground or just went down in pain from the jabs/blows he sustained thus far, so I separated those into two distinct sentences.) Then the officer ground his face into the ground. Eventually–it’s not at all clear when or why, and I thought “once satisfied” was a reasonable assessment–the officer makes the arrest and carts the person off. People around at that time were crying out “shame. shame. shame.” I suppose it’s not clear whether that was in specific reference to the arrest of the councilman or whether it was in reference to the other jabbings and forceful arrests of peaceful harmless individuals happening all around him (he was not alone, he was part of a small group).

Ok, so what was freaking people out was not continued beating, it was an escalation to grinding a person’s face against the ground. Well hell no wonder people got freaked out. My first thought after reading that was holycrapthat’ssomuchworsethanIthought, but your mileage (and by ‘mileage’ I specifically intend ‘sympathy for the suffering of a peaceful human being subjected to assault’ here) may vary. How is that conceivably not excessive? I am willing to accept the continued beating escalating to face-grinding correction and admit I was mistaken about that (only so much you can gather from tweets in real time, but you’re free to hold it against me if you feel that’s fair).

you say now that you’re referring to the OWS medical tent. The one inside Zucotti Park. And again, I’ll let that stand for itself.

I suppose maybe you’re nettled by the word ‘facility’ but I wasn’t sure what to call it (calling it a ‘tent’ is inappropriate because at the time the injuries were coming in the medical ‘facility’ or whatever-you-call-it had already moved and wasn’t in a tent anymore). It’s not just a tent with band-aids, dude. It has its own medical staff, nurses, a couple volunteering medical doctors, and plenty of professional-grade supplies. Sure, they relocated their medical supplies and themselves, but it’s not like they disbanded into oblivion. Sure, it’s not a hospital, but it is an actual operational clinic, and it really is the only ‘local medical facility’ to speak of, so I’m not sure what you could have possibly confused it with.

Regarding frozen zones, they have nothing to do with media blackouts.

Don’t be an arse and cite something indicating that, then. I gave what sources I could find.

An area around the ceremonies at the Ground Zero site was designated a frozen zone, for example; did you think those ceremonies lacked for media coverage?

Okay, the police said that ‘frozen zone’ in this case meant media with police press passes had to leave or faced arrest. I can’t for the life of me find any statement of precisely what portion of the ceremony grounds were ‘frozen zone’ or any clarification of what that meant beyond what I have provided. I gave you evidence that the police were blacking out media access and that their given justification was ‘frozen zone’ — are you saying the police were in error when kicking journalists with police press passes out of the zone, because ‘frozen zone’ should not have meant media blackout? ‘Cause, uh, then we agree that media blackout was a huge problem here (possibly a larger and more disturbing problem than the patently obvious excessive uses of force).

Feel free to point to a single place where all the implications of ‘frozen zone’ status are explicitly laid out. It would be a public service; nowhere and no one else I’ve consulted had the slightest idea.

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Bruce Baugh 11.18.11 at 3:01 pm

For what it’s worth, Salient, I’m really appreciating the round-up and quotes.

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Uncle Kvetch 11.18.11 at 3:39 pm

In any event, since you seem convinced that I’m arguing in bad faith, and I have no interest in conversing with someone who’s going to be insulting, there’s no need to continue the conversation.

Take heart, Andrew. You can always console yourself that the folks at the NY Daily News are with you:

http://www.newseum.org/todaysfrontpages/hr.asp?fpVname=NY_DN

Get it? “Bloody nuisance”? LOL, right?

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cian 11.18.11 at 4:33 pm

I’ve never seen a picture undercut a headline quite so effectively.

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Barry Freed 11.18.11 at 4:42 pm

Yes, all of the relevant organs seem to have been constantly bewildered by OWS and how to deal with it. It’s one of the things that’s made this such a wonderful thing to behold these last two months.

BTW, I’d thought the cops were at least being media savvy enough to know that head wounds bleed an awful lot which was why there’ve been so many reports of people being jabbed in the chest and stomach with batons.

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Rich Puchalsky 11.18.11 at 4:54 pm

“An Internet meme is born!”

Yes. I saw that one too, and really thought it had “aware of all Internet traditions” potential.

But Adrian’s heart is (maybe?) in the right place, even if his head is in the fog somewhere. So I’ll make one last attempt to address him seriously:

1. The Occupy movement are not Makhonovites. Nor are we, obviously, Spanish Civil War fighters, etc. etc. I don’t know if there really is an easy historical comparison, but the ones you’ve started with are silly.

2. The search for an easy historical comparison is beside the point. No one here was claiming tremendous success for Occupy; you said that we were, but you’d have quoted someone if you could find a quote. People are doing Occupy not because they have expectations that it will be hugely successful based on some historical model, but because nothing else is working. In particular, starting off with “the movement can only achieve its goals through the political authorities” means that you aren’t conscious of what isn’t working.

3. Holding up Marx and Hayek as examples of people whose ideas worked is pretty risible. Marx succeeded in getting his ideas to be promulgated so widely that he caused a world-historical failure of the left. Hayek never got to be more than a tool of the right wing. You’ve cleverly not said what you do support, but looking at Occupy without considering previous failures makes the movement incomprehensible.

4. For someone who claims to be a historian, you seem to be very poorly informed. The most direct ancestors of Occupy are previous U.S. populist movements, some of which had a good deal of theory involved in them. If you instead want to consider the anarchist roots of Occupy, feel free to confront the works of David Graeber. Your ignorance does not mean that we as a movement don’t want to think about anything — but it does make individuals less interested in talking to you.

5. Under that same heading — and as I’ve tried to say repeatedly — the problem for Occupiers is not that we don’t listen to advice. On the contrary, we listen to a huge amount of advice, given at GA from all sorts of people. Do you want to be listened to? Then go to GA.

6. This one is just here so that unless you take the time, I can write “You have made no effort to address the last six paragraphs of my previous post.” Yes… that one is good enough for a meme, sadly.

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Barry Freed 11.18.11 at 5:06 pm

You have made no effort to address the last six paragraphs of my previous post.

Meme-worthy indeed. It does bring to mind the classic “aware of all internet traditions.”

I think OWS has been a success. It has succeeded in changing the conversation from the destructive supposed necessity of spending cuts to reduce the national deficit to the problems of structural income inequality. I think it’s laid bare the hollowness of much of the plutocratic rhetoric and at least high-lighted if not exactly heightened the contradictions.

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cian 11.18.11 at 5:34 pm

I think OWS has been a success.

Tactical success certainly, and enough of one to reverse the momentum. The enemy is better organised, and has better resources though.

I wonder if the real lessons are on the small scale though. Providing health care (even at a minimal level), resisting evictions and fighting back. The union movement was in part about improving people’s lives on a day to day basis – and if you look at the stories people are telling, that’s where people are connecting to this. Its about them losing a house, or a friend, or a relative. Providing legal advice, assistance, support whatever. I mean its got so bad, you could probably build a mass movement on a consumer rights body these days.

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Adrian Kelleher 11.18.11 at 6:05 pm

@Neville Morley

I agree completely, and the further back you go the more naturally conservative the perspectives become. Donald Kagan is wonderful on the Thucydides and dire on the present day.

One of the first taunts thrown at OWS was that it was ’68 all over again, but OWS supporters come across as practical, realistic and moderate in interviews. They appear to represent a cross section of society.

It’s still a fairly practical matter for an organisation to look at similar ones in the past and to analyse their strengths and weaknesses.

There are a number of persistent factors that obscure the significance of history, and some are more prevalent now than ever. The modern world cultivates a sense of superiority over the past in a variety of ways.

Things that seemed once seemed like permanent additions to the edifice of progress are often revealed later to be mere fads. Looking back they seem quaint, but we forget that the present day is also full of fads which time has not yet exposed.

Central characters in historical fiction are like missionaries from the present, sent back by us to explain their faults to the ignorant pasties. They seldom exhibit the extreme sexism or racism that characterised many eras because that would pull focus from the heroic story. Historic fiction focused on social or political issues then defines the past precisely through our perceived superiority.

We’re pandered to in innumerable ways in the media and advertising and told we’re living faster, more energetic, more complex lives than ever before.

A year zero mentality can be exhilarating, catapulting people by a leap of imagination into a heroic roles where they are at the forefront of something new. Milan Kundera vividly describes such feelings about the commnunist takeover in Czechoslovakia. Such thrilling experiences sadly often cause true believers to grow extremely hostile to ideas that threaten the idyll either practically or ideologically, and shattered dreams have often resulted.

Few of the ’68 leaders both retained relevance and remained anyway true to their ideals. Daniel Cohn Bendit and Joschka Fischer come to mind. Ironically, another is the current incumbent at the Elysée Palace who actually marched against the protestors. Imagine him chanting “Vive la guerre en Indochine!” as he went and it imparts a lurid emotional impression of how the succeeding years must have felt for Fischer and Cohn Bendit.

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Adrian Kelleher 11.18.11 at 6:07 pm

@cian

Where did I engage in “ideological hairsplitting”? I have not made ideological statements of any sort.

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Bill Benzon 11.18.11 at 8:12 pm

Democracy Now:

http://www.democracynow.org/2011/11/17/paramilitary_policing_of_occupy_wall_street

… New York Supreme Court Judge Karen Smith, who worked as a legal observer Tuesday morning in New York after the police raided the Occupy Wall Street encampment. “I was there to take down the names of people who were arrested… As I’m standing there, some African-American woman goes up to a police officer and says, ‘I need to get in. My daughter’s there. I want to know if she’s OK.’ And he said, ‘Move on, lady.’ And they kept pushing with their sticks, pushing back. And she was crying. And all of a sudden, out of nowhere, he throws her to the ground and starts hitting her in the head,” says Smith. “I walk over, and I say, ‘Look, cuff her if she’s done something, but you don’t need to do that.’ And he said, ‘Lady, do you want to get arrested?’ And I said, ‘Do you see my hat? I’m here as a legal observer.’ He said, ‘You want to get arrested?’ And he pushed me up against the wall.”

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Tim Wilkinson 11.18.11 at 11:13 pm

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Adrian Kelleher 11.19.11 at 1:51 am

@Rich Puchalsky

I’ve prepared a response to the other issues, but want to isolate von Hayek and Marx as agents of political change.

Generally, you cannot evolve from one political ideology to something radically different — such a change requires a clean break from the past. You cannot evolve to communism from liberal capitalism because all the fundamental premises would need to be changed at once, so conversions might occur individually but never enough at once to alter the power balance within the relevant faction.

A move from Keynsian interventionism to Hayek’s version of radical individualism was likewise a paradigm shift. And a paradigm shift cannot be achieved in weeks or months — such an event has never happened in history.

Hayek understood this and, in a series of conferences held in Switzerland the 1940s, discouraged his acolytes from involving themselves in politics. He told them not to waste their energies on elections they couldn’t win and to focus instead on an intellectual offensive on the right wing political orthodoxy of the era.

His followers founded so-called think tanks, which not coincidentally behaved much like the professional revolutionary cadres that Lenin espoused.

By the time Reagan and Thatcher rolled around much of the right was still deeply suspicious of the alien ideology. Neither Nixon nor Heath subscribed to “supply side” reforms and George H Bush famously labelled it “voodoo economics” when contesting the nomination for the 1980 election against Reagan. The oil shocks and stagflation opened a window for the new conservatism, though, and the movement at last tasted electoral victory with Thatchers 1979 ascent to power — more than 30 years after Hayek’s Swiss conferences.

Stating that “holding up Marx and Hayek as examples of people whose ideas worked is pretty risible” is misrepresentation. Hayek was successful in getting his ideas put into practice. I never endorsed those ideas in any way.

Stating that “Hayek never got to be more than a tool of the right wing” is just backwards. If anything, the right wing was a tool of Hayek.

When Margaret Thatcher learned the new breed of conservatism it was from the Institute of Economic affairs which was founded by a Hayek acolyte. Likewise, Reagan inherited a ready-made programme from the American Enterprise Institute which, as the American Enterprise Association had been taken over by Hayek’s followers in the 1950s. Reagan could have had them mail his manifesto to him in 1960, let alone 1980.

Hayek is the reason the 1% have so much more power and money today than in the 1970s. Nobody played a greater role in the conservative takeover.

The movement’s ultimate success could only be achieved because, like the Bolsheviks, it held together through those long decades in the wilderness and it could only do that because, again like the Bolsheviks, it was rigidly uniform ideologically.

These were only possible because new adherents understood the precise ideological framework they were signing up to.

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straightwood 11.19.11 at 4:19 am

The most provocative novelty of OWS is its anti-heroic character. There is no single-combat champion or intellectual rock star leading the movement, and this contradicts everything we have learned about politics since the ancients. Already, the conversation here begins to seem dated, because it is all focused on contending ideological champions like Marx, Lenin, Hayek, and all the rest of the destructive ideologues whose devotional cults have spread so much misery.

We may be witnessing the birth of a non-ideological anti-heroic political movement that departs from millenia of great-man cultism. Something new is trying to be born, and we are all very fortunate to be witnessing its creation.

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Adrian Kelleher 11.19.11 at 4:44 am

Oh dear. I never endorsed any of those people.

Hayek had all the rationality of a cuckoo clock. Nobody takes his economics seriously and he felt that offering a free prenatal checkup to expectant mothers or eye tests to school children lead inevitably to totalitarian dictatorship.

But his movement was a model “flat organisation”. There were no org charts or leaders — at least until his adherents started taking over established political parties.

However I did make some points:

1) In a democracy, a group must choose between broad-based popularity and the pursuit of radical change. Both objectives cannot be pursued initially.

2) Radical change, meaning between two political systems with few fundamental precepts in common, cannot occur by evolution. This is one of the reasons 1 is true. Transforming an existing faction is extremely difficult. Best to choose the wilderness in the interests of cohesion.

3) If a protest group is founded on minimalist redistributive aims (“We are the 99%”), attempts to transform the movement to effect more dramatic change later will cause mass desertions or outright power struggles, possibly defeating both aims at once. If radical political objectives are the aim, either new members must be clear on those objectives from the outset or the radicals must leave the movement because otherwise they’ll destroy it.

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Rich Puchalsky 11.19.11 at 5:25 am

I think that the history involved in this summation is quite questionable. Did Hayek really teach Thatcher / Reagan a new type of conservatism? Or did they have basically oligarchic interests from the beginning and chose a little bit from Hayek when that suited, just as the right wing chose to pick up on global warming denialism later? And, by the way, your anecdote about free medical care seems to be wrong — he wrote (quoting from wiki) “There is no reason why, in a society which has reached the general level of wealth ours has, the first kind of security should not be guaranteed to all without endangering general freedom; that is: some minimum of food, shelter and clothing, sufficient to preserve health. Nor is there any reason why the state should not help to organize a comprehensive system of social insurance in providing for those common hazards of life against which few can make adequate provision.”

But you’re missing the point. The failures of the past include those failures in which someone cleverly or skillfully or luckily propounded their views to a wide, influential range of people — and those views turned out to be harmful. Why should that be something that we try to emulate? No one knows what the right course is right now, or those people who do think that they know are generally fools.

And you’re missing the larger point of why the whole movement is leaderless in the first place. It’s not that we simply forgot. Instead of choosing the goal first and then fitting the movement to it, people chose a form of community first and are willing to let the goals and tactics evolve. Your whole premise, from the start, reflects assumptions about top-down organization that Occupy has rejected.

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Bruce Wilder 11.19.11 at 10:02 am

Adrian Kelleher @320

It seems to me that ideas interact with interests reflexively, and that this reflexive relationship explains some things about ideology, radicalism, incrementalism and popularity.

There are profound differences between a political program, which favors the interests of the few and rich, and a political program that favors the many and the poor, beginning with the well-known proposition that the few and the rich possess the advantage of a superior capacity to organize. Hayek favored a political program, which offered advantages to the few and the rich, not least of which was an enhanced ability to exploit and oppress the many and the poor. The essential nature of the program excluded the possibility of it being popular (though, it might become “popular” should sufficient, unopposed propaganda resources be devoted to its promotion). It isn’t the “radicalism”, per se, of his program that made it unpopular, but its substance.

OWS is a movement in search of a popular program, that is a program, which is popular because it is, substantively in the broad, general interest. Almost by definition, any substantively popular program is going to be radical, in the sense that it will deprive the rich and the few of wealth and income they derive from predation against the poor and the many, by modifying established institutional arrangements, which aid the rich in predation.

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Bill Benzon 11.19.11 at 11:01 am

OWS has created an opening. What/who goes through that opening, how&why, that’s unknown. Maybe nothing.

Also, it’s not as though OWS is ‘those guys over there’ and its up to TGOT to attract more and more people into OWS so OWS, led by TGOT, can orchestrate The Big Push to the New Land. OWS is about changing, if you will, political topography. We’re operating in a different landscape. There’s TGOT but there’s also USguys and YouALL and We’uns. How does OWS/TGOT change your opportunities for action?

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cian 11.19.11 at 11:03 am

I think treating OWS as a single organisation misses the point. My feeling is that you’ll see different organisations (in the loosest sense) emerging, with different aims and purposes. Some will have short term tactical strategies, others will be focused on the long term. Some will be single issue obsessives, others will be broader. Some will have less support, some will have more – and so forth. OWS isn’t the organisation – its not even the movement. Its simply the starting point – and as a starting point its a nutrient rich environment in which lots and lots of people have met, networked, educated, learnt, discussed and planned. Its also an environment that people have found inspiring. A different way of living and being. Perhaps utopian, perhaps temporary – but people need dreams.

Its those networks, those ideas (and hopefully the continuing spread and intermingling of these) which will be where new things will emerge from.

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Bill Benzon 11.19.11 at 11:45 am

Cornell West: “you can’t evict an idea whose time has come.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/19/business/occupy-wall-street-has-plenty-of-potential.html

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Kaveh 11.19.11 at 1:29 pm

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Rich Puchalsky 11.19.11 at 1:38 pm

I strongly suspect that Cornell West wasn’t the one to come up with that phrase. But the linked article can serve as a template for the various typical kinds of stupidity being passed around by clueless elites at the moment.

1. “The issues that spawned the movement — income inequality, money in politics and Wall Street’s influence — were being drowned out by debates over personal hygiene, noise and crime.”

Notice how these “debates” are supposed to have implicitly supposed to have responded to events, instead of being products of Murdoch media propaganda. Whatever the movement does, there will be new propaganda about it. The only way to avoid it is to cease to exist.

2. “it didn’t spawn the mass demonstrations some local politicians had predicted, let alone attract the throngs that the Tea Party mustered for a march on Washington in 2009.”

Anyone can turn out large numbers for a march on Washington. And everyone has — especially Astroturf organizations with plenty of money behind them. And marches on Washington, after the novelty of the Million Man March, are almost universally ignored.

3. “Mr. Prell hopes that doesn’t happen and is adamantly opposed to what he considers the movement’s big government agenda, but points out that ‘last generation’s protesters are today’s leaders.'”

Isn’t it great that the first two substantive paragraphs of this were devoted to some Tea Party guy who can reinforce the propaganda that doing anything about Big Money’s control of politics is a “big government agenda”? And that of course we can accomplish nothing except making future leaders 20 years from now or whatever.

4. “He added: “My advice to them is, ‘Move on.’ The encampments were running out of steam. They’ve achieved the best they could hope to achieve, which is to draw the country’s attention to extraordinary inequality. In my view, they should pack up their tents and march on Washington.'”

Oh, thank you for that advice. Sidney Tarrow has certainly achieved a perfect distillation of the conventional wisdom. If we took that advice, we’d achieve the resounding success that the left has enjoyed over the last couple of decades.

5. “Jeff Goodwin, a professor of sociology at New York University, who has both studied and at times joined the protesters, said he felt Mayor Bloomberg did the protesters ‘a big favor. The attempt to disrupt or suppress the movement will backfire.”

I’ve read a whole lot of people confidently stating that Bloomberg did the movement a favor. Why did he do it, then? Are the people who say this smarter than the repressive apparatus of the country at knowing what hurts a movement that depends on consensus and what doesn’t? I don’t think so. Mostly I think that this is a veiled sigh of relief that the supposedly embarrassing parts of the movement will go away and that suitably radicalized leaders will take over. And if people take this seriously, why should they be angry at Bloomberg for doing us a favor? It’s inside political baseball applied to social movements, and sounds very stupid.

6.”‘We’ve got to regroup and bounce back,’ he said of this week’s evictions. “

Looks like Cornell West said the most reasonable thing after all. With all of the slogans, though, I don’t like the attempt to take them literally. “You can’t evict an idea whose time has come”, sure — but you can evict the actual people who need to come together to carry out actions. The movement is not the product of an idea, and an idea by itself isn’t going to do anything.

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Bruce Wilder 11.19.11 at 6:20 pm

“clueless elites”

It is the clueful elites I worry about.

The “clueless elites” are real enough, including the professional neoliberals, who play [serious] George Burns to the [libertarian] Gracie Allen.

A popular radicalism requires a lot of mass education, and it has to overcome the emotionally defensive assumption of the powerless that the powerful are not dangerously hostile. OWS, with the courage to be pepper-sprayed is at least beginning the process of drawing attention to the police state that the clueful elites have been building.

There’s an innocence, though, in choosing carefully neutral, including almost antiseptic references to “income inequality”, when the powerful global elites are busy crashing the world economy for fun and profit.

It is good to be king. It is ugly to not be king. And, when it is time to kill the king, better to do the deed than talk too much about it.

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cian 11.19.11 at 6:20 pm

I’ve read a whole lot of people confidently stating that Bloomberg did the movement a favor. Why did he do it, then?

Seriously Rich you’re overreaching here. It wouldn’t be an intentional failure, it would be an unintentional one. The US cops beating up protestors, and arresting people on the Brooklyn bridge did the OWS movement a favour. Obviously they didn’t think they were doing that, but nonetheless they did.

People screw up all the time. Maybe Bloomberg screwed up. That’s all he’s saying. Maybe he’s wrong, maybe he isn’t. Its way too early to say.

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Salient 11.19.11 at 6:47 pm

For folks who would, y’know, like further evidence of police excessive use of force: via ABL at John Cole’s place, videotaped police brutality and excessive use of force. And the protesters’ aggregate reaction, in the latter half of the video especially, was so inspired and perfect that it’s the kind of thing you’ll want to bookmark the video for later reference as a model of nonviolent resistance.

Lieutenant John Pike walks up to a line of protesters sitting on a sidewalk, steps over them without incident (0:07 — this part’s not a problem, I’m just narrating), and holds a can of pepper spray up triumphantly (0:08-0:09). He then proceeds to spray them in the face with the pepper spray, walking up and down their line for (0:11 – 0:23 — this part’s a problem). It is slow, careful, deliberate brutality. For those blessed enough to never have encountered this sort of scenario, I’ll note that Officer Pike is using an empowered spray device that’s designed to be sprayed into crowds from behind a riot shield. Most of the protesters are sprayed a second time in the second pass.

There’s really no need to say any more, but let’s go ahead and utilize the fact that there is minutes of “context” for us to look at (camera-phone video of what happened before is available elsewhere searching for “police” + “UC Davis” on Youtube and elsewhere, I’m heartily sick of catering to Andrew at this point, but here’s a summary: a couple other officers walked up to the protesters sitting there, informed them they were going to get arrested, and told them to lie down [face down on the concrete] so that they could be handcuffed; the students just sat there and refused to comply with the instruction — this is as charitable-to-the-police a summary as I could bring myself to write, and I’ll note again I’m just narrating this).

Officer Pike then walks toward the videotaping person, spraying the person in a read coat sitting nearest the recorder (0:24) and, it seems, attempting to spray the camera or cameraperson (who pulls away in self-defense a second before when the canister is raised in their general direction).

The camera keeps rolling. There is some audio of other protesters responding with a “shame on you” chant as the cameraperson circles around the crowd, trying to get a better view (0:34-1:30 or so). Not much happens until the 4-minute mark; we get a brief view of the protesters getting arrested face down on the ground, but not for long enough to really see what’s happening.

Around 2:04, an officer (Officer Nohelmet) tries to wave cameras away even though they’re a reasonable distance away from the arrests. (Don’t miss Officer Who Looks Like Robocop at 2:10-2:25, carrying a gun in his hands.) Nohelmet steps in between the cameras and the arrests, continuing to shoo away cameras, cracking a grin (2:52) when the cameraperson complains they can’t see the arrests from behind the police line where they’re being told to go. I mention this mostly just to indicate it was basically impossible for cameras to witness and document the entire arrest.

The “shame on you” chant intensifies again at 3:15 as the officers form two outward-facing rows of helmeted cops with guns (rubber pellet I think, which I’ll note is lethal at such a short range, but they might be gas guns or sound guns — does anyone recognize them?)

As the police withdraw (~3:50 – 4:30) , the protesters close the cap on the far end from where the police have withdrawn, forming a U shape. Around 6:15, a handful of protesters start to move in between the police crowd and their destination, just standing there. But then the crowd as a whole starts chanting “we give you a brief moment” (6:25) and “take your weapons take your friends and go please do not return” the people take a hint and clear themselves out of the way.

The police respond by raising their guns (6:30) and shaking up cans of pepper spray (6:36).

The chant switches to “We give you a moment of peace. You can go. You can go.” (6:45). The police stop moving, despite the unobstructed path to their destination. Around 7:05, they do the right thing and respond to the “you can go” chant by withdrawing.

And around 8:25, “Join our strike. Join our strike. Join our strike.”

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Rich Puchalsky 11.19.11 at 7:11 pm

cian, I’ve met a number of people who were at Zuccotti Park when the eviction happened. They said various things about the police and the destruction. Not one of them said “Bloomberg did us a favor”. Do you know why?

Sure, Bloomberg may have made a mistake. But let’s imagine now that someone has been trying to hold on to the family farm. It’s arguably not very profitable. A developer comes in, smashes through whatever resistance the farmer can put up, and gets the land. Do you then go up to the farmer, put your hand on his or her shoulder, and say “Ah, that farm was holding you back anyways. It was dirty and people didn’t think very well of you for having it and it took a lot of effort to keep it going — you can do something else now. Plus it makes him look really bad to have pushed you off the land. Even though the developer thought he was beating you, that guy really did you a favor.” What would you think of the person who said that?

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cian 11.19.11 at 8:11 pm

Not one of them said “Bloomberg did us a favor”. Do you know why?>

Because they’re not fortune tellers? How on earth could they know? How on earth could anyone know at this point.

And actually I do know somebody who lost their land in similar circumstances. And to be honest the developer did do them a favour. He didn’t do it to be nice, obviously – but they’d have lost it eventually, and at least this way they ended up with some capital.

The police hosing down, and beating, protestors in the South in the 60s weren’t dong them a “favour” – but of course in the long run that’s exactly what they did.

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Adrian Kelleher 11.19.11 at 9:42 pm

@Rich Puchalsky

Splitting away Reagan, Thatcher and Hayek’s ideology as tangential…

Hayek invented small government. It’s his campaigning rather than what he campaigned for that I’m interested in, but the statement on welfare provision is misleading without context. As he was dead set against market distortions, it implies a universal wage after the Friedman model. Such a universal wage could only be so low as to make it debatable whether it could indeed provide “some minimum of food, shelter and clothing, sufficient to preserve health”. His provisions for social insurance were more progressive as was his acknowledgement of market failures in environmental matters.

However he was incredibly doctrinaire in other ways, for example supporting free education to the extent of compulsory schooling and only for the poorest, opposing collective bargaining rights etc. If his philosophical leanings insulated him from some of the extremes of his adherents, they made him quite extreme in other ways. His suggestion to deal with the Falklands conflict was to bomb Buenos Aires until the Argentines gave up.

Thatcher and Reagan were ideologues and both could exhibit callousness, for example Reagan dumped the mentally ill into poorly resourced and thought out community care schemes that resulted in more than a million ending up on the streets. Neither he nor Thatcher identified as cynical promoters of privelege, however, and more pertinently the small army of zealots each attracted and which proved the core advantage enabling a radical instead of a centrist agenda to be carried out were driven by what they felt was the superior fairness of opportunity. They characterised their ideology as meritocracy and meritocracy is simply the idea that some people are of more merit than others — in this case, the wealthy.

Claims of oligarchic power beg the questions of why the welfare state ever arose in the first place and how oligarchic power has grown simultaneously in so many places. Why weren’t Nixon or Heath interested in the oligarchs’ millions if that was what drove the transformation? The mechanism outlined below accounts for the effects of oligarchic power without the need for corrupt politicians selling out their supporters or complex plots rigging political processes. This isn’t excluded as a possible mechanism, it’s just rendered superfluous.

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Adrian Kelleher 11.19.11 at 9:45 pm

@Rich Puchalsky

On the central point…

I made no assumptions about OWS. I agitated neither for moderate nor radical aims — I just pointed out that radical aims are not achievable with a movement founded as OWS has been.

It seems reasonably representative of society at large, and most members will have pre-existing political frameworks, frameworks that in a statistical sense will have been reflected in stump speeches and op eds and so on for years. It’s membership may be safely assumed to represent some amalgam of centre-left or centrist opinion.

Now I must get into ideological territory for the first time, but it is necessary to explain why such a movement cannot halt the erosion of social democracy.

Social democracy isn’t suffering ideological defeat; global economic circumstances make it impossible for reasons that have been discussed here before. Social democracy is suffering a one-step-forward-two-steps-back slow death. Even where voters want it, whoever is in charge ends up saying that sadly circumstances don’t permit it right now.

No existing political party or ideological movement tackles Rodrik’s trilemma because tackling it in isolation in a single nation state that is a WTO member involves costs too great to be contemplated.

Halting this decline of social democracy in a globalised economy involves challenges so immense that it’s safe to say it cannot be achieved via incremental evolution from some existing mainstream political movement. Neither can a mass movement coalescing around minimalist redistributive aims attain this goal.

To try is to row against the tide of history. Gains may be made in the short term only to vanish in short order. A consistent trend of rightwards drift has taken place not just in the USA but in a progressively greater number of countries world wide, and has been sustained over decades. It is safe to say that this is not because of the persistently greater genius of conservative politicians. Those (one time) left wingers such as Clinton or Blair or Schroeder that have attained office have not only failed to halt the slide, they have in certain ways propelled it.

None of this has occurred by accident. In a globalized economy, corporations may shop around for not just the lowest labour costs but also the lowest environmental standards, overheads, taxes, and financial controls. The financial markets are moreover global. Capital controls are forbidden in normal circumstances nearly all developed nations due to WTO commitments. But there is no political or democratic analogue to the global financial system or to the global markets generally.

In this context, the markets inflict severe punishment on any country that threatens to drift to the left — cash flows out, interest rates go up, the stock market tumbles and so on. No presidential candidate or congressional party has promised the expansion of the state in the US in decades, but an examination of the markets in the run up to the 1992 election in the UK will demonstrate the pattern. I’ve only read the abstract of this paper however, in summary Labour’s manifesto promised new public programmes funded by specific tax rises, the markets varied in inverse proportion to Labour’s poll ratings and this was news regularly during the final days of the campaign.

So powerful is this mechanism that it works almost invisibly. The commentariat and the political professionals won’t even countenance the candidacy of left wingers because they know that the campaign will be hamstrung by the markets holding a lit torch next to voters’ retirement savings. It is one of the pillars upon which the new power of the very wealthy has been constructed and works the same basically everywhere, and it was a power that wasn’t there in the 1960s when the possibility of controls to curb capital flight existed.

The freedom of governments to reflect democratic will is simply proving increasingly illusory. The only meaningful choice is between participation and non-participation in globalization. The EU or USA might imaginably withdraw though at immense cost, but for smaller economies the effects would be so devastating the freedom to do so is not meaningful.

In seeking electoral success politicians of whatever persuasion need to convince voters their policies are as close to ideal as is practicable. In the context of globalisation, this consists of convincing the electorate that further motion to the right is (for the left:sadly) necessary. Thus it isn’t just the legal and regulatory framework itself that drifts rightwards — where ever you go — but the political centre itself. The language of necessity has come to dominate politics: the idea that there is no alternative. There is no alternative to radical budget cuts, there is no alternative to “liberalising reforms”, there is no alternative to fossil fuel use or whatever.

There is no alternative because countries are geographically limited and the markets are not. Political leaders have over decades come to convince people that these necessary measures are like axioms of politics, which is why if you poll them you’ll find that the centre- and centre-left voters of OWS support many propositions that not just Hubert Humphrey but also Richard Nixon would find very surprising. Globalisation has rigged the game in favour of the right for so long that the electorate have internalised many of its claims. Ideas contingent on globalisation have solidified into immutable facts in voters’ minds.

To halt the erosion of social democracy requires either a new internationalist movement or for a country to withdraw from the global economic system with all the vast costs that entails. I wouldn’t at this stage rule out the latter personally, but my firm opinion is that it will never be achievable electorally. Moreover, if a great many countries were to do so, the pool of shared interest between those countries — an internationalising force in itself — would be removed, arguably a dangerous development.

Somehow freezing globalisation in place would contribute to arresting recent trends but no legal mechanism exists to achieve this. Such a proposal would be inequitable in any case as it amounts to placing the lowest quintile of workers at a permanent disadvantage.

The only alternative remaining is to create the minimal standards at a global level and on a democratic basis. The argument gets involved from that point on, but obviously such a transformation is not envisaged by any political force of significance at the present time. No obvious route to the goal exists.

Whichever solution is preferred, it is radical. But for the purposes of OWS in its current incarnation, the option selected doesn’t matter because a broad based movement the membership of which joined up on the basis of minimalist redistributive aims cannot be converted to radicalism once the membership is in place.

It’s certainly imaginable that in a purely US context OWS could restore balance to the tax system. What is impossible to imagine in the present context is halting on a permanent basis the decline of the state because of the summary judgement that the markets would mete out. If you look at the budget plans anywhere in the developed world, you’ll discover they are far more radical than anything Reagan or Thatcher tried to effect. Whether it’s Obama or Cameron or Sarkozy or whoever, the language is of regrettable necessity. This implies any such victory could only be illusory.

Ideology is nothing more than a practical political philosophy. It is needed to unify values and policies. The left is particularly vulnerable to the erosion of ideology because when policies are evaluated singly on an ad-hoc basis in the current context, the outcome in aggregate must be right wing. This process is so pervasive that the Clinton/Blair tendency that started it has lost sight of the fact that the context shaping its choices, globalisation, is not a fact of life but a human construct open to change.

Anyone wary of leaders should value ideology as an alternative to coalescence around a unifying personality. People haven’t grown meaner. The spirit that made the Beveridge report or the Tennessee Valley Authority possible still exists. It simply needs to be realised that agreeing to play against a stacked deck as the previous generation of leftists did will guarantee failure. A new game must instead be invented, one where rather than a race to the bottom, globalisation enables the rights gained by workers in the developed countries to be extended around the world.

A new philosophy must be created adapting to the new circumstances those universal and timeless values that enabled social democracy to transform the lives of hundreds of millions in the postwar period.

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Martin Bento 11.19.11 at 11:25 pm

When I was at Occupy Oakland, the “snitch” issue Natilo is talking about was very much alive. The issue was not so much “police informants”, if by that one means people sent by the police specifically to spy on the movement. The issue was whether it was legitimate for members of the non-violent faction of the movement to cooperate with police in suppressing the violent faction.

The overwhelming majority of the participants in Occupy seem to want to eschew violence, where “violence” is defined to include willful property damage (a debatable definition, but that’s just semantics). A minority want to engage in acts such as breaking windows, burning cars, and throwing rocks and bottles at police as part of the same movement and at the same events. Hence, a conflict.

A non-violent movement cannot have a violent adjunct. That is just a less violent movement, not a non-violent one. That is the big mistake Seattle made: embracing both kinds of tactics together. There was very little violence, far too little to have any direct effect, but it was sufficient to undermine the non-violent movement. A violent faction that operates within a non-violent movement, such that the two cannot be readily distinguished by the public, is parasitical. Non-violence is intended to engender public goodwill, which protects the violent when sympathy for the non-violent makes people reluctant to condemn them. Conversely, the violent consume the goodwill generated by undermining the claims of the non-violent. When the two are mixed at one demonstration, it is harder for police to isolate the violent, so they either punish all (usually) or fail to punish. This, too, benefits the violent at the expense of the non-violent.

In light of this, what sort of solidarity is owed by the non-violent to the violent? Given that the fact of violence undermines a non-violent movement, it would seem the duty of the non-violent is to do what they can to prevent the violent from acting. Failing that, do they have the right to call the police? Let’s not get hung up on the definition of “violence” here. Clearly, for the police to arrest someone is abduction – an act of violence – even if they do not do it brutally, and brutality is not unlikely in this context. Breaking a window is more ambiguous (I personally would argue that it is symbolic but not actual violence). But that doesn’t change the issue. Breaking windows is behavior that non-violent think their movement must avoid and is partly defined by avoiding, and the most effective counter to it, at least if shaming and blockading have failed, is to involve the police or to cooperate with the police if they become involved..

The solution to this is for the violent and non-violent factions to remain clearly separate. This used to happen. Malcolm did not, to my knowledge, preach his violent message at MLK events. Huey did not brandish his machine gun at NAACP meetings.

What we had instead at Oakland was threats of violence against “snitches”. This is the morality of prison and of the schoolyard, and in both contexts it primarily protects aggressors. Oakland does not have the commitment to non-violence that most of the movement seems to; a blanket condemnation of violence and vandalism failed to get a consensus at GA.

Ultimately, the violent may be correct that non-violence is not sufficient to achieve what must be achieved (I personally don’t think breaking windows and burning cars accomplishes anything helpful at all, and it accomplishes much ill). But non-violence must be seriously tried first, and, so far, Occupy has been making enormous strides with it: every time the police attack unprovoked, the movement grows stronger. This makes me hopeful for non-violent tactics, and I frankly think violence is a arena in which the left, and the general population, will lose badly.

The police have been quite violent, and this understandably creates bitterness around the idea of some protestors cooperating with them in some ways against other protestors. However, if the violent people will not separate themselves from the non-violent, I don’t see what else there is to do. You can throw rocks at police and break windows every day of the year. You don’t need to do it at otherwise deliberately non-violent demonstrations.

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Watson Ladd 11.19.11 at 11:37 pm

Adrian, what about the old philosophy of international socialism? That seems to me to be the only way out from the dilemma you pose. Forget minimal gains: the abolition of capital and a single democratic world society must be our goals.

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Martin Bento 11.20.11 at 12:06 am

Rich wrote:

” If you want the movement to organize and discipline itself—well, this gets into advanced concepts now that frankly the people here aren’t ready for.”

Like what? Surely these concepts can at least be clearly stated. Then it will become clear whether people here are ready for them or not.

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Kaveh 11.20.11 at 12:18 am

Salient, I believe Mr F has ceased to troll this thread, but I’m finding the round-up of reports very helpful, too.

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Bill Benzon 11.20.11 at 12:50 am

As I read it, #334 says:

We are fucked. We are well and truly fucked. Not only that, but we have been and always will be, well and truly fucked. Furthermore, and beyond a shadow of a doubt, cross my heart and hope to die, we are royally screwed.

Ponies for everyone!

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Bill Benzon 11.20.11 at 1:28 am

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/20/opinion/sunday/kristof-occupy-the-agenda.html

“A reporter for Politico found that use of the words “income inequality” quintupled in a news database after the Occupy protests began. That’s a significant achievement, for this is an issue that goes to our country’s values and our opportunities for growth — and yet we in the news business have rarely given it the attention it deserves.”

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Rich Puchalsky 11.20.11 at 2:37 am

“Whichever solution is preferred, it is radical. But for the purposes of OWS in its current incarnation, the option selected doesn’t matter because a broad based movement the membership of which joined up on the basis of minimalist redistributive aims cannot be converted to radicalism once the membership is in place.”

I’m sorry that I keep coming back to this, but really, this analysis of OWS is based on ignorance. (I’m not saying that the part about why social democracy is in decline is based on ignorance — I’m not addressing that, because it’s not really relevant.) The problem is that you don’t know what OWS’ current incarnation is. The membership did not “join up on the basis of minimalist redistributive aims.”

This is reminding me of David Graeber’s bit about the people who can wander through an orgy thinking only about marginal rates of return, but the people who join OWS to don’t tend to think something like “I have minimalist redistributive aims”. They don’t tend to think “I am a radical fully committed to my revolutionary ideology” either. They tend to have the idea that our system is badly broken, that they’ve given up on existing methods of fixing it, and that they aren’t going to wait for someone to figure what they should believe before they start trying new things. The encampments aren’t just tactical devices. They are or were, in part, attempts to recreate society on a better though vague model. It’s possible for someone to have quite conventional political views and yet act quite differently within a social situation that is different.

And your view of ever-dwindling social democracy (which I suppose I have to come back to in passing after all) suffers from the same illusion of omniscience that makes so much of this faux-technocrat advice not worth reading. You write as if there is no chance that the system is going to fail. Not through any deliberate human agency, through revolution or ideological takeover or anything like that, but simply because it’s a dysfunctional system, both environmentally and economically. Once it starts to fail, all of this analysis goes out the window.

And after all, if the system is never going to fail by itself, then why would we want to change it? Neverending stability would be rather a triumph, I’d guess… but there are problems that can not be neglected forever. When that failure happens, people in OWS will have friends that they can trust, people who they’ve worked with at a very elemental level.

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Adrian Kelleher 11.20.11 at 2:50 am

Steve Bell’s If… strip from Apr 8 1992 introduced a pin-striped financier warning of the dangers of a Labour victory. The next day, Apr 9 1992 was election day. That day’s strip featured the “offshore” threat that had become a major feature of the campaign.

Labour leader was a very mild social democrat by the earlier standards of his party yet no election since in any developed democracy has featured a realistic leadership candidate even nearly as left wing as him.

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Adrian Kelleher 11.20.11 at 2:51 am

“Labour leader Neil Kinnock…”

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Salient 11.20.11 at 2:55 am

A non-violent movement cannot have a violent adjunct. That is just a less violent movement, not a non-violent one.

Whaaaaaaaat. So because a lone shooter attempted to assassinate Antichrist Obama in the name of evangelism, can I now accuse all Christian evangelists across the world of belonging to a violent movement? Nah, c’mon.

There’s probably some base issue with calling entire movements violent, instead of groups of people. S’ok and true to say there’s a group of people want to divert OWS into violence and destruction of property and such, but to call OWS ‘violent’ is unfair to the much larger group of people OWS contains.

I think as a general rule of thumb if less than 10% of a group feel supportive or lukewarm about a violent faction, then it’s only fair to identify the faction more specifically when assessing who’s being violent.

I’d say the same about e.g. the tea party: the proportionally small group of people who carried firearms into town hall meetings were aggressive; most tea party folks I met were assuredly not.

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Adrian Kelleher 11.20.11 at 3:14 am

@Bill Benzon

Well I should have written “To try by these means is to row against the tide of history”. Solutions are imaginable, though not it seems to the current generation of politicians.

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Martin Bento 11.20.11 at 4:12 am

Salient, the issue is solidarity. The violent are demanding that the non-violent support them at least to the extent of not cooperating with the police against them. If some evangelical church attempted to shield the attempted Obama assassin from the authorities, it would be entirely fair to group them with him. And, as I said, condemnation of violence failed to get consensus at Oakland. That means that more than 10%, at least at that particular meeting, would not condemn the acts. Furthermore, a movement has to do what it can to create its own image, and if it wants the public to distinguish between the violent and non-violent, it has to do this itself, by, as I said, having the two factions be clearly separate entities. You cannot expect the public to make this distinction if the entities do not do so clearly.

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greg 11.20.11 at 4:23 am

Adrain Kelleher@334

A very good analysis.

The upshot of global integration then seems to be a race to the bottom, as establishing global minimums by political action would seem to be practically impossible. By bottom I mean the sharp division of the world into haves and have nots, and the destruction of, where they still exist, the middle classes. The system cannot stop until all but the few are impoverished. This destruction of the tax base of the nation state will result in effective elimination of the nation state by international business, and would remove the balance of force, represented by social democracy, which maintains the very market, and police, upon which that business depends. Under these conditions, the maintenance of high technologies and long range transport will become impossible, and the planet will devolve, with much violence, into that ideal of the libertarian: A world fragmented into localized feudal states.

Perhaps if our masters were shown the ultimate consequences of their policies? Or would they drool with eager anticipation?

PS: I think the political process may preclude the election of anyone who offers a solution.

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greg 11.20.11 at 4:33 am

PPS: I think we are seeing this already in the drug violence in Mexico, where the cartels have essentially become governments in themselves. This is what you can expect when your government is small enough to be drowned in a bathtub. Businesses will be compelled to provide their own instruments of force which, without the resources of a nation state, they will be unable to project.

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Salient 11.20.11 at 5:00 am

Salient, the issue is solidarity.

Not sure I understand what you mean well enough to know whether I really disagree with you in substance, or just in how to word things. I’ll note “support them at least to the extent of not cooperating with the police against them” takes a whole ‘nother flavor when the police are beating and attacking everybody around you; I can’t really blame anyone in OWS for just refusing to interact with the police at all until they stop by not in riot gear.

You cannot expect the public to make this distinction if the entities do not do so clearly.

…I guess? Maybe? But who cares if the OWS entities do so clearly, the ‘papers and TV won’t bother to be careful to distinguish, so the public won’t have any better chance to distinguish. The OWS General Assembly has not authorized or endorsed any act of vandalism or property damage; as firm distinctions go, that lack of endorsement is good enough for me.

I get that your concern is genuine, but broadly speaking, the ‘denounce the people among you who did bad things or risk getting grouped in with them’ schtick has been lame since the days of Jesus. Let he who has never neglected to tattle on an acquaintance cast the first stone (but not at a window!)

My take on this is admittedly colored by my lack of sympathy for windows, which lack a central nervous system. Better to spray a wall than spray a person in the face–when we have evidence that Occupiers are systematically covering up for hooligans who are running around pepper-spraying cops, I’ll be happy to revisit this.

The strong and overwhleming and full-throatedly intolerant reaction to the discovery that some Occupiers were formally discouraging assault victims from reporting the crime to the authorities has reaffirmed my faith in the core goodness of the OWS populace. And so far as anecdata goes, the amount of shouting and protest and confrontation I received from fellow Occupiers, literally just for chalking some stuff on a wall, makes me suspicious of claims that your average Occupier is willing to cover for a vandal… but I’m in a tiny city, and YMMV elsewhere.

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Bill Benzon 11.20.11 at 10:40 am

It’s possible for someone to have quite conventional political views and yet act quite differently within a social situation that is different.

Bingo!

When that failure happens, people in OWS will have friends that they can trust, people who they’ve worked with at a very elemental level.

Bingo! Bingo!

Let my invoke Marley’s Theorem, named after my old buddy Jason Marely: “If you want to know what it’s like to drive a car, you’ve got to sit in the driver’s set and drive the car.” Sitting in the passenger’s seat watching the driver won’t do it, nor will sitting in the back seat, and certainly not sitting at home in your den imagining what driving a car is like. You’ve got to be IN the car, making decisions about traffic, the road, and pedestrians. It’s that elemental.

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Neville Morley 11.20.11 at 10:51 am

#334: “To try is to row against the tide of history. ” Even if you amend this to “To try by these means is to row against the tide of history”, aren’t you simply trapping yourself in a metaphor? Talk of the ‘tide’ of history, like talk of the ‘inexorable progress’ of history, is simply a rhetorical move to present the status quo as the only possible option, all resistance is useless etc. History is not a tide, or a force, or a superhuman principle; it is an idea. A very powerful idea, granted, that holds sway over a great many people’s minds, but only an idea, that can be questioned, criticised, revised or rejected.

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cian 11.20.11 at 12:47 pm

Adrian, I’ve heard this argument before many times and I find it increasingly unconvincing.

First of all, neither Blair nor Clinton were ever on the left (Blair’s ideological travellers would include many of Cameron’s cabinet at the moment). So I don’t see that as an argument for anything very much – except the ways that as Hacker and Pierson point out, political power has been captured by a small wealthy elite.

Secondly, international markets have much of their power because countries let them have it, or deliberately gave it to them. Deliberate policy decisions were made, and in some places (Europe), those are looking likely to be reversed to some degree. Certainly recent destabilising effects have changed the narrative there. And we may well be moving again to an era of capital controls of some kind, which would destroy much of their power (as it has in SE Asia).

Thirdly, the affect of markets on countries tends to be greatly exaggerated. Short term perhaps, but its hard to say what causes any short term market movement, save when its really obvious (recent events in Europe – the crash of 2007). Long term, markets move on economic fundamentals.

I’m also skeptical of the ever increasing globalisation story. Globalisation has happened before, and was killed in circumstances much like the ones we’re living through. Energy costs, plus rising labour costs, make it harder and harder to produce stuff economically offshore (as the US furniture industry discovered to its cost) – plus globalisation as an approach for corporations has been far less successful than claimed. Much of it has been driven by fashion, rather than economics.

Globally at a political and treaty level it’s been driven and maintained in current forms by the US, whose dominance is fading very quickly, and who may not be replaced by anybody else.

We’re also moving into an era where protectionist forces are going to become much stronger again. I suspect historians will look back at the early 000s and see that as the high point of the second great wave of globalisations.

Maybe a return to social democracies is not possible. But the era we’re in is ending, and with astonishing rapidity. The recent past is unlikely to be a good guide.

The future is up for grabs. The old ideologies are dead, or dying. The right has nothing – they are literally bereft of ideas and are bankrupt. That doesn’t mean they’ve lost, but it means its going to be very hard for them to offer up alternatives, just as it was in the 1970s for the left to offer up ideas. And apparently you, and whatever political ideology you represent, are equally bankrupt.

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cian 11.20.11 at 12:49 pm

I think we are seeing this already in the drug violence in Mexico, where the cartels have essentially become governments in themselves.

Not really true. The cartel that is winning seems to be backed by the government (who are largely targetting the other cartel), and is strongly integrated into the Mexican financial system.

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cian 11.20.11 at 12:55 pm

I’d add that Adrian’s analysis of the 1992 election is dubious.

1) Kinnock was just not popular with the public, and that played a big part in the election
2) There was a big swing from one party to the other in British terms.
3) I don’t actually remember the market reaction playing a big part in the election. It was mentioned, sure, but then it was mentioned in the last election as well.

Major also had an an advantage going in that he had only been primeminister for two years, and so was able to partially detox the Thatcherite brand.

Maybe markets move elections elsewhere, but I’m not seeing it in the 1992 election.

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Yarrow 11.20.11 at 6:48 pm

Martin @ 335 and 346: What Salient said at 349.

In my town the people I’d vote Most Likely to Break a Window (who have not, in fact, broken any) are also the people who’ve been feeding the homeless and visiting the imprisoned for years while I’ve been doing other things. I hope they don’t break any windows; that would be stupid and counterproductive. But turn them in to the cops!? Get outta here!

For a long time most people in the U.S. responded to police brutality by assuming the victims deserved it. You (at 335) seem to be saying that window-breakers don’t deserve to be abducted by the police, but that we should nevertheless arrange for their abduction so people know that we don’t deserve it. That won’t work: as Salient says, “papers and TV won’t bother to be careful to distinguish”.

Either the mood of the country swings around to “yes, some stupid folks broke some windows, but did you see what the #$^#$% cops did?” or it won’t. I agree that the best way for that to happen is many many nonviolent (and non-window-breaking) actions; and I think the best way to get our window-breakers to rein themselves in is to ask them to be on the side of what works; not for us to be on the side of the cops.

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Adrian Kelleher 11.20.11 at 8:43 pm

@cian

All analyses of the 1992 campaign describe Labour as constraining its options to satisfy the city. It planned for no increase in public borrowing, presented well-researched figures showing that its tax plans would benefit most families even apart from the extra government services its alteration of the tax structure would provide for etc. It had already moved very far to the right from the Michael Foot era.

The career of Gerald Kaufman illustrates the trend. He famously described Foot’s 1982 manifesto as ‘the longest suicide note in history’. By Kinnock’s time he was on the front bench. After 1992, he was no longer right wing enough and was returned to the back benches where he was a left-wing critic of Blair’s ‘New Labour’ in goverment.

Here’s an analysis of media portrayals of financial market reactions to poll figures during the campaign:

Glasgow Media Group Reader: Industry, economy, war and politics
Eldridge, J.E.T & Philo, G.
Routledge 1995

Ch 10, Political advertising and popular belief
Greg Philo

“On ITN, when Labour took the lead in opinion polls the City sounded near collapse:

NEWSCASTER: Billions of pounds were wiped off the value of shares this morning, as the City, which traditionally favours Conservative governments, took fright asthe clear Labour lead in opinion polls.

INDUSTRIAL CORRESPONDENT: It was headlines like these [refers to headline in the Times] showing Labour pulling into the lead which helped to turn City dealing room screens red. At the start of trading this morning billions of pounds were wiped off shares

(ITN, 12:30, 1 April 1992)

The BBC told a similar story, reporting that “In the City, worries about a Labour victory pushed share values down sharply’ (BBC 1, 18:00, 1 April 1992)” – p 192

“…the Guardian (26 March 1992) reported on its front page about the movement of millions of pounds out of the country: ‘Millions of pounds are leaving Britain with every opinion poll that puts the Opposition ahead, winging out via electronic transfer systems to all points of the compass.’ The article pointed out that £870 billion, or half of the total personal wealth (excluding houses) was controlled by just 5 per cent of the population and that: ‘By freighting a large proportion of this mobile capital abroad, the rich are reducing further the spending power in the economy.’ A large transfer of captial into other currencies would also mean a run on the pound with an incoming Labour government pushed into putting up interest rates.” – p 193

“The [Centre-Left] Guardian not of course draw the same political conclusions from this as the right wing press. But this analysis is not so different from the front-page ‘warnings’ in papers such as the Daily Mail (7 April 1992) ‘WARNING: A Labour government will lead to higher mortgage payments. There is no doubt about it. Interest rates will rise within days of Kinnock entering Number Ten.’ This was also the sense of the Sun’s message on its election day front page: ‘If Kinnock wins today will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights.’ (9 April 1992) We can find other versions of such warnings on television news, in this case from a City expert speaking on ITN: ‘If Labour were to win, I think people would be worried about public spending, public borrowing and what might happen to the exchange rate’ (ITN, 12:30, 1 April 1992). It is no surprise that opinion poll research after the election showed serious worries among some voters about Labour’s economic competence.” – p 193

In understanding this reportage, it should be noted that the interest rate fears (at least) would not have applied in the 1960s when capital controls were in place in the UK.

Ironically, within 6 months of the Conservative victory, with interest rates hitting 12%, the pound was dumped out of ERM on Black Wednesday as the Bank of England lost billions of public funds in a failed effort to defend sterling.

Integration of capital markets has dramatically increased since 1992.

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Adrian Kelleher 11.20.11 at 10:34 pm

@Neville Morley

The statement wasn’t made in a vacuum, though.

What might have been more correctly presented as “the tide of politics” is the pressure globalisation places on democratically elected leaders to “reform” in one direction only. But, as was stated, these pressures do not result from the nature of reality (or ‘modernity’ as the right-wing press styles it either) — they result from international economic treaties that are subject to change.

Critically, changing them would require either that countries act in isolation (at immense cost) or in concert (at much less cost, but against what would be intense attack by the financial industry in particular).

What Rodrik’s framework provides is a general means of evaluating policies in this context. In unifying otherwise anomalous and disconnected phenomena — a persistent rightwards drift occurring simultaneously across the developed world that cannot otherwise be explained — it does something rare in economics: achieve the gold standard of scientific merit.

So it wasn’t intended to become trapped in the metaphor, although that certainly is what all mainstream politics has done in reality. On the contrary, the intent was to show that routes out of the morass do exist.

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cian 11.21.11 at 11:52 am

All analyses of the 1992 campaign describe Labour as constraining its options to satisfy the city. It planned for no increase in public borrowing, presented well-researched figures showing that its tax plans would benefit most families even apart from the extra government services its alteration of the tax structure would provide for etc. It had already moved very far to the right from the Michael Foot era.

Yes it did. None of these facts mean that they were forced to do so by the city, and a number of analyses since then have shown that they could have completely ignored the city and still won handsomely. The analysis was wrong – in part because the results of the analysis suited Blair and Mandelson, both of whom were very right wing.

Kinnock was very unpopular. People did not like him, they did not want to vote for him. Major was still (just) in his honeymoon period. And still the Tories barely won the election. Your analysis is based upon a popular myth, well more propoganda really, but one it isn’t true.

And seriously, the “Daily Mail”. “The Sun”. Its clear that you don’t live in the UK, or you wouldn’t realise how ludicrous citing their front pages actually is in this instance. That this ludicrous threats were made is certainly true; demonstrating that they were effective is something entirely different.

As for the 1997 election. Labour really would have struggled to have lost that election – there was nothing the city could have done to change things. And there was huge overwhelming public support for far higher taxation and spending than was planned.

Incidentally I read Rodrik’s piece at the time (and subsequent pieces by him would seem to back this up) that further globalisation is unlikely, and the tendency will probably be reversed. I think the move to non-democracy in the EU is peversely demonstrating this – I just don’t see it being sustainable, and when it breaks there will be a huge backlash against further globalisation which will probably reverse the trend. This being how politics typically works in practice.

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cian 11.21.11 at 11:53 am

The first paragraph is referring to the 1997 election, rather than the 1992 election.

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Adrian Kelleher 11.21.11 at 6:39 pm

@cian

Classic goalpost moving.

What you wrote was “I don’t actually remember the market reaction playing a big part in the election. It was mentioned, sure, but then it was mentioned in the last election as well.”

Well, as was shown, it was front page news and TV segments were devoted to precisely this topic throughout the campaign. Note that the instances cited were representative, not exhaustive. Now you demand it be demonstrated that it dominated all other feature of the election, which was never claimed in the first instance.

Already by 1992 Labour had moved far to the right from 1987, let alone 1982. John Smith spent considerable energy on a tour of city banks trying to win confidence and support prior to the campaign.

You seem to posit growing oligarchic power as the mechanism driving the move to the right in Labour, but have provided no analysis, data or argumentation of any sort in support of this claim. It requires an oddly simultaneous upsurge in such power across many countries at once. Rodrik’s framework makes sense of this trend, highlighting the diminishing freedom of leftist politicians due to globalisation pressures that place countries acting individually at a severe disadvantage.

Your understanding of EU politics is nil. Current choices involve some sort of fiscal union (which hypothetically might provide for the political means to counter the race to the bottom but is not projected to be democratic in any way) or the collapse of the eurozone which would leave the EU dead in the water politically as a free trade zone where capital controls are banned in all circumstances by treaty.

The latter option aggravates precisely those circumstances that have caused swings, sometimes dramatic, to the right in virtually every member country in recent decades. The former blunders yet further down the road that has stripped the EU of popular legitimacy over the years.

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cian 11.21.11 at 7:41 pm

Classic goalpost moving.

It is. Oh.

You’re arguing that the election was decided by the markets. Your “proof” for this was that some people in the markets made threats, as did right wing newspapers. Well yeah, they did. I remember, I was there. Whether this had an affect on the election is an entirely different matter. If that’s moving the goalposts, I’m sorry. It has however been my point right from the beginning.

There are a whole range of reasons why Labour, like many Social Democrat parties, might have moved to the right. And many theories have been offered for it, though noone has supplied the smoking gun. You have offered one of the less popular theories. You seem to think because the theory fits your view of the global system it must be right.

You seem to posit growing oligarchic power as the mechanism driving the move to the right in Labour

I have no idea why you would think this. Given this is post 360, and you are putting bizarre arguments into my mouth, this seems unproductive.

It requires an oddly simultaneous upsurge in such power across many countries at once.

Decline of communist parties, declines of unions. In the UK the change of the ideological climate by Thatcherism. The strong links that many of the new generation of Labour leaders had to various US orgs/think tanks. The fact that many of the new generation of leaders had connections either to the city, or management consulting; rather than the unions as older generations mostly had. None of these seem vaguely significant? I suppose the leap by many ex-communists into the right of the Labour party about this time was also driven by the markets?

And Rodrik’s point was that you can’t have all three things at once. He’s skeptical that globalisation in its current form will last, precisely because of democratic pressures. Well, riots might have been how he put it.

Your understanding of EU politics is nil.

Or maybe I’m just not assuming that the current situation is stable.

Current choices involve some sort of fiscal union (which hypothetically might provide for the political means to counter the race to the bottom but is not projected to be democratic in any way) or the collapse of the eurozone which would leave the EU dead in the water politically as a free trade zone where capital controls are banned in all circumstances by treaty.

The former seems to be politically impossible. I have no idea what point you’re trying to make with the latter. I think if the Eurozone collapses, assuming business as usual with regards to the EU would be foolish. I would guess that if a depression occurred, capital controls would probably become very attractive to quite a few countries very rapidly. That’s certainly been the pattern globally, when the option presented itself.

The latter option aggravates precisely those circumstances that have caused swings, sometimes dramatic, to the right in virtually every member country in recent decades.

Actually they’ve just resulted in swings away from whoever’s in power.

The former blunders yet further down the road that has stripped the EU of popular legitimacy over the years.

And you don’t think this is likely to weaken, or destroy, the EU as a political project? Extraordinary.

You seem determined to both assume that the current situation is immutable, as well as preach for acquiesence to I’m not sure what. TINA maybe?

356

Adrian Kelleher 11.21.11 at 7:53 pm

The Politics of Inflation Management
Matthew Watson
Political Quarterly, 74(3), 2003, 285-297

Emphasis added in all instances.

“…it is necessary to look back at the strategy deployed by the Labour Party in its efforts to win the 1997 General Election. In particular, we must revisit the extent to which it sought to capture for itself a reputation for governing ‘competence’ – which, in economic terms, it understood solely as a reputation for counterinflationary credibility.

“Labour acted as if the stock market were the primary arbiter of the Party’s reputation in this respect. Any evidence of falling share prices on the expectation of a Labour victory was assumed to signify market concern about the strength of the Party’s counter-inflationary commitments. Or, as proved to be the case, rapid increases in the value of the stock market in the immediate pre-election period, coupled with the general feeling that Labour would win, were taken to indicate that the markets were now unconcerned about the likely inflation performance of a Labour Government. Low inflation and governing ‘competence’ were thus elided, with the stock market cast as judge of whether the prevailing inflation rate constituted evidence of a competent government.

“Moreover, this understanding of the relationship between stock markets and governments, which vested all sense of power in the former, was by no means confined to the British Labour Party. It had also become commonplace within the academic literature to argue that markets had acquired a virtual veto over government policy. It was assumed that the veto was enacted at those moments where coordinated selling expressed the markets’ disapproval with governments who prioritised other policy goals over that of containing inflation.”

[…]

“The constraints on feasible policies are thought to be particularly pronounced whenever governments, or even prospective governments, reveal progressive political aspirations in their proposals for the economy. Set in such a context, an obvious contrast is to be made between the reactions of the financial markets to the possibility of Labour victories in the General Elections of 1992 and 1997. During the four weeks of the 1992 campaign, for instance, the headline FTSE-100 index of leading shares recorded a points loss equivalent to 7% of the market’s value. The most substantial losses in that period came in the immediate aftermath of opinion polls that showed a strong Labour lead. By contrast, no similar cluster of ‘vulnerable’ shares emerged during the course of Labour’s surge to victory five years later. […] Labour’s erstwhile progressive political aspirations did not cause concern amongst the financial markets in 1997 as they had in 1992, because the Party’s leaders had used the intervening period to extricate themselves from such aspirations.”

[…]

“The construction of a binary opposition between ‘Old’ and ‘New’ Labour by the Party’s managers served to highlight the latter’s acceptance that the range of feasible policy options was heavily constrained in an era of heightened capital mobility and speculative asset pricing. More specifically, ‘New’ Labour presented its policy preferences in a way that mirrored its perception of the inflation preferences of the financial markets.”

It should be noted that Watson in no way endorsed the New Labour assumptions about competence in economic management. On the contrary, he highlighted what he referred to as the “profound economic and political pathologies” — specifically rampant credit expansion creating the illusion of growth — that resulted from assuming low interest rates should be the sole objective of economic management.

However the key issue for the purposes of this argument is not the merit of New Labour’s policies but perceptions of them, in particular that such perceptions were shared by New Labour and the capital markets.

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Martin Bento 11.21.11 at 8:50 pm

For the problem of the public separating the two, it’s pretty simple. The violent should use a different name and not strike at Occupy events. If the media try to conflate them nonetheless, it will not work. People will be able to distinguish the huge non-violent demo one week and the bit of property destruction the next, and media attempts to elide the distinction will backfire. The media cannot distort current events to the point of lying about the day on which they occur, if only because of the media’s own minute-by-minute nature. To be fair, there was some effort at separation. It was planned that only non-violent protest would take place during the day, and property destruction and such at night, which is what happened for the most part. And the media reports that I read did distinguish the non-vlolent actions of the day from what happened at night, but it identified both as the work of Occupy, which was correct, actually, at least in the sense that many of the destructive people were people who lived at the camp.

And let’s stop talking about only “breaking windows”. You realize that adopting the weakest point of a multi-point argument to refute is a form of strawman, right? They burned a car producing flames 15 feet high (protestor estimate, not police). That is considerably more dangerous than breaking a window. They went behind protestors who were trying to appeal for sympathy from the police and threw rocks and bottles over their heads at the police. And they openly threatened violence against “snitches” at GA. The last is what really concerns me. This is criminal ethics, and it is very dangerous to accept.

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Adrian Kelleher 11.21.11 at 8:56 pm

It was Rich Puchalsky who pointed to oligarchic power. It seemed reasonable to assume you endorsed this claim given your consistent support for him.

On the general and simultaneous surge to the right, you cite reasons as follows:

Decline of communist parties, declines of unions. In the UK the change of the ideological climate by Thatcherism. The strong links that many of the new generation of Labour leaders had to various US orgs/think tanks. The fact that many of the new generation of leaders had connections either to the city, or management consulting; rather than the unions as older generations mostly had. None of these seem vaguely significant?

Of course they’re significant. What you don’t explain is why these things should occur at once. Rodrik provides the unifying element.

The suggestion that democratic opposition (without elaboration) can turn it around is oblivious to the key feature of the whole argument however — the enormous costs such an action would entail, precisely the constraining factor Watson identifies.

Stalin was able to pursue “socialism in one country” because the USSR was isolated economically already. “Globalisation in one country” is not a meaningful concept. Should countries turn against globalisation they’ll do so individually, each in accordance with its own electoral cycle. However each will suffer severe punishment from the markets as it does so, each vulnerable in isolation, like an army choosing to charge the enemy guns one at a time.

The alternative is to secure the agreement of all other WTO signatories at once while making credible promises not to act unilaterally. This requires belief that literally all signatories can be converted in the teeth of what is certain to be ferocious opposition from multinational businesses of all sorts.

I never assumed current global trends would proceed ad-infinitum. On the contrary, such leads directly to a scenario similar to the one Greg outlined above and which I’ve argued elsewhere, i.e. the evaporation of the power of democratic politics.

Neither does Rodrik assume a benign outcome — quite the opposite.

In this regard, it is correct that no feasible option in the EU is attractive. Death of the euro implies acrimony and political deadlock — i.e. a freezing in place of the very market mechanisms lacking a political counterweight that have driven the march to the right. On the other hand, the political counterweight actually proposed is notable for lacking any democratic component.

No political force of significance at the present time proposes alternatives. What I have set out to achieve is to point out that alternatives do exist, and the broad argument applies equally to the EU and to the WTO.

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Adrian Kelleher 11.21.11 at 9:02 pm

@Martin Bento, Salient etc.

Charlie Brooker looked at media representations of the (overwhelmingly peaceful) G20 demonstrations in London in 2009 in the outstanding Newswipe.

He highlights media bias, but also how formats shape coverage. For instance the (right wing) Sky News is at a loss to find excitement in its rolling footage but the BBC focused instinctively on the isolated and exceptional instances of property damage in its 6 o’clock bulletin. Naturally, by the time Bill O’Reilly got hold of the footage, matters had become distorted beyond recognition.

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cian 11.21.11 at 9:32 pm

It seemed reasonable to assume you endorsed this claim given your consistent support for him.

You have a strange definition of reasonable. And why you’d extend that to assume I’d think it about the UK I have absolutely no idea.

I never said that Labour didn’t believe it (though why they believed it is a separate matter). I said that I don’t believe that the markets do have that power. Which Watson doesn’t argue either, at least in the bit you’ve quoted. He merely argues that they believed it to be true.

Of course they’re significant. What you don’t explain is why these things should occur at once. Rodrik provides the unifying element.

Huh? I’m completely losing the plot here. Are you saying that communism fell, and Thatcher held power and the unions collapsed because of liberalised international markets? Because that would be an extraordinary claim. One that in the fact of it would seem to ignore a number of other facts.

The suggestion that democratic opposition (without elaboration) can turn it around is oblivious to the key feature of the whole argument however—the enormous costs such an action would entail, precisely the constraining factor Watson identifies.

Well he mostly states that the stock market fell. Which is of no great economic significance. And short term market movements tend not to be very good predictors of long term movements. I’d also note that he seems to ignore the other significant change between 1992 and 1997 – the completely disastrous and unnecessary recession, plus Black Wednesday. Prior to that Labour had the reputation for economic incompetence, after it the Tories gained the repuation. Cause and effect is not as simple as you’re making it out to be be. The 1997 Tory party was utterly utterly discredited, even among its natural friends.

The suggestion that democratic opposition (without elaboration) can turn it around is oblivious to the key feature of the whole argument however—the enormous costs such an action would entail, precisely the constraining factor Watson identifies.

yeah here’s the thing. In a global recession/depression, or fiancial crisis – not so much. I don’t know how many more times I can say SE Asia.

However each will suffer severe punishment from the markets as it does so, each vulnerable in isolation, like an army choosing to charge the enemy guns one at a time.

So SE Asia are vulnerable then?

The alternative is to secure the agreement of all other WTO signatories at once while making credible promises not to act unilaterally.

Or that the WTO can hold in a global crisis. Which is equally utopian, though I guess I’m not going to get you to realise this.

Neither does Rodrik assume a benign outcome

Whereas I am? What is it with you and Watson? The 1930s weren’t benign – however they were not business as usual. He’s arguing that a breakup of the EU. Which I thought I was arguing was likely also. Though you’ll probably tell me that I was actually arguing for a Social Democrat paradise.

I don’t see a situation where the EU breaks up, the US and Europe fall into recession/depression (along probably with China) and continual financial crisis as being one where globalisation is sustainable. Any more than it would be if there was an outbreak of global war. Its a project that requires stability and a certain amount of unity among governments.

Death of the euro implies acrimony and political deadlock—i.e. a freezing in place of the very market mechanisms lacking a political counterweight that have driven the march to the right. On the other hand, the political counterweight actually proposed is notable for lacking any democratic component.

I have absolutely no idea what this paragraph means.

What I have set out to achieve is to point out that alternatives do exist, and the broad argument applies equally to the EU and to the WTO.

Good god you have? where? I’m not being sarky, I’m just absolutely baffled by this statement. You said something vague about a democratic globalisation movement and that was about it.

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Adrian Kelleher 11.21.11 at 9:50 pm

You have now resorted to what’s sometimes called fisking. This denies the possibility of a coherent reply given the blog format.

I outlined the parameters defining the options above; the treatment is brief, but any number of choices are allowed for.

The decision to refrain from prescriptions I might prefer personally was deliberate. Many options exist, though all are alien to prevailing orthodoxy. It is not my desire to foist a particular version onto anyone.

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Adrian Kelleher 11.21.11 at 10:10 pm

I thought it was clear enough, but anyway…

In this regard, it is correct that no feasible option in the EU is attractive. Death of the euro implies acrimony and political deadlock—i.e. a freezing in place of the very market mechanisms…

Meaning EU treaties guaranteeing the freedom of movement of goods and capital.

lacking a political counterweight

I.e. EU-level decision making bodies are not empowered to issue directives sufficient to ensure fair competition while halting the race to the bottom in public services that has accelerated to a sprint across the EU in recent years.

Simply, no government exists to regulate that single market in goods and financial services. Government restrictions on capital flows are illegal.

that have driven the march to the right.

By the mechanisms Rodrik identifies.

On the other hand, the political counterweight actually proposed

I.e. fiscal union as proposed by Merkel, combined with business as usual at the ECB.

is notable for lacking any democratic component.

It’s being devised by the so-called Frankfurt group, almost all of whom have no mandate. Neither does the proposal itself have any political, let alone democratic, component.

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cian 11.21.11 at 10:17 pm

You have now resorted to what’s sometimes called fisking.

That “word” doesn’t mean what you think it does. Anyway, there’s clearly no agreement to be found here. I bow out.

364

cian 11.22.11 at 12:03 am

No its not adult. What I’m doing is no different to what I and lots of other people did in the early 90s on usenet. Or still do today on mailing lists.

I have no idea why you think I’m mocking him. But mockery isn’t fisking [1] either.

[1] A word I hate.

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cian 11.22.11 at 12:04 am

And you fisk an article, or at best a blog post. I’ve never seen it applied to a message thread.

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Yarrow 11.22.11 at 12:48 am

Martin Bento @ 363: They burned a car producing flames 15 feet high

I can’t find this by googling — burning barricades, yes, but not a burning car. Do you have a link?

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Martin Bento 11.22.11 at 2:46 am

Adrian, I’m not sure of your point. If it is that the media will exaggerate any violence that does occur and try to paint it as the essence of the event, sure, that’s why I want the violence constrained to separate events, operating under a separate identity. If it is that my view of the violence is itself probably distorted by media, I’m going primarily by what I saw and heard at the camp, not media accounts. To my knowledge the threats against snitches have gotten no media attention.

Yarrow, I’m going by what was said at GA, not the media. This was a couple of days after the strike when people were discussing it. Perhaps I misheard barricade as car, only hearing the first part of the word (they were using regular mics, not the human mic thing). 15 feet high was very clearly enunciated, though, for emphasis, complete with expletives. The person emphasized that the area was crowded, there were old people, children, etc. in the immediate vicinity, and she (a protester speaking at GA) felt she was in serious danger of catching on fire. She also said the window-breaking at Whole Foods was not safe, as it was done while the store had people inside, and glass was sent flying in.

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Adrian Kelleher 11.22.11 at 3:06 am

Would you prefer the gish gallop?

Here you stated: “I don’t actually remember the market reaction playing a big part in the election. It was mentioned, sure, but then it was mentioned in the last election as well.”

So I provided direct quotes from newspaper headlines and news reports.

You responded:”And seriously, the “Daily Mail”. “The Sun”. Its clear that you don’t live in the UK, or you wouldn’t realise how ludicrous citing their front pages actually is in this instance. That this ludicrous threats were made is certainly true; demonstrating that they were effective is something entirely different.”

So I produced the Watson paper — and you’ll notice I’m all of the heavy lifting, conducting actual research in response to your ever-widening list of demands.

According to Watson “…an obvious contrast is to be made between the reactions of the financial markets to the possibility of Labour victories in the General Elections of 1992 and 1997. During the four weeks of the 1992 campaign, for instance, the headline FTSE-100 index of leading shares recorded a points loss equivalent to 7% of the market’s value. The most substantial losses in that period came in the immediate aftermath of opinion polls that showed a strong Labour lead…”

Your memories were then miraculously amended:”You’re arguing that the election was decided by the markets. Your “proof” for this was that some people in the markets made threats, as did right wing newspapers. Well yeah, they did.I remember, I was there.

Only I never argued that “the election was decided by the markets”, only that it presents progressive politics with a hill to climb — a hill that didn’t exist in the 1960s when capital wasn’t mobile and only a very small proportion of voters owned shares.

Neither did I refer to “proof” of something I’d neither proven nor set out to prove — if you’re going to quote someone, best to restrict it to things people actually said or wrote.

What I actually wrote was:

“…the markets inflict severe punishment on any country that threatens to drift to the left—cash flows out, interest rates go up, the stock market tumbles and so on. No presidential candidate or congressional party has promised the expansion of the state in the US in decades, but an examination of the markets in the run up to the 1992 election in the UK will demonstrate the pattern. I’ve only read the abstract of this paper however, in summary Labour’s manifesto promised new public programmes funded by specific tax rises, the markets varied in inverse proportion to Labour’s poll ratings and this was news regularly during the final days of the campaign.

So powerful is this mechanism that it works almost invisibly. The commentariat and the political professionals won’t even countenance the candidacy of left wingers because they know that the campaign will be hamstrung by the markets holding a lit torch next to voters’ retirement savings.”

All points supported by reference to Watson and Philo.

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Rich Puchalsky 11.22.11 at 3:23 am

This is still going? Adrian hasn’t said anything about Occupy. He’s said a good deal about a theory that he supports about the decline of social democracy, and why some imaginary social movement can’t reverse it with its current structure. Since the imaginary social movement is imaginary, I don’t see the point.

As for Oakland… well, not to be too blasé, but Oakland’s problems are Oakland’s. Rome had a relatively violent demonstration on one of the worldwide demonstration days. People collectively shrugged; Rome isn’t the center of the movement, and there’s a lot of variance from one place to another. Oakland was the center of gravity only briefly, and its problems seem to have been self-correcting in that they hastened it no longer being where everyone was talking about. Sure, it would have been better if the nonviolent and property-damage-violent / police provocateur people had been able to work things out, but let’s stop asking for impossible things. That’s really no different from what tiresome centrists say when they keep asking that Democrats and Republicans work everyone out as if there are no differences between them.

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Bruce Baugh 11.22.11 at 4:17 am

And to add to Rich’s wish there, demands for the impossible should be mocked. It’s like asking why the world’s good Christians haven’t put a stop to the activities of people like Fred Phelps, James Dobson, and the Pope. It’s because they can’t. Likewise, it is genuinely impossible for any social movement to rigorously purge itself of every disruptive jackass trying to exploit it as a better stage for their antics. It can’t be done. If it could be done, we wouldn’t need something like OWS because we could go fix all the existing institutions. But…no. It cannot happen.

Anyone saying “you folks must do X” really should feel a burden to show it’s possible, with examples. It might be nice to do the impossible, but it can’t be the prerequisite for anything else. It would be much better to say something like “I’m simply not prepared to accept the validity of what you’re doing” and be up front about it.

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Martin Bento 11.22.11 at 11:06 am

I didn’t say the violent and non-violent can work together. I said the opposite: that they should clearly separate. I have shown that it is possible for them to be separate by showing how violent (at least rhetorically and sometimes actually) and non-violent components of the civil rights movement (later black power) coexisted while staying out of one another’s way. This happened with the ANC and Tutu, too. If it has been done, it is possible. And some things the non-violent might do are clearly possible. It is possible to explicitly condemn violence and vandalism, but Oakland chose not to. It is possible to call the cops. There are arguments against doing so, to be sure (and there certainly will be understandable emotional reluctance to do so), but that it is impossible is not one of those arguments. If it really is a matter of a few a-holes, the movement can disavow them. But it wasn’t (it was about 150 people directly participating, according to people at GA, with much broader support. Many people knew it was coming), and they didn’t.

But the thing that really set off alarm bells for me was people threatening violence against snitches. That is an attempt to set ground rules that put the violent in control, and use violence to do it. And the non-violent can impose the separation by doing precisely what they are being ordered not to do: call the police. If the non-violent consistently do this, it is impossible for the violent to work within their movement. It is a hard thing to do in that situation, I know. I would have trouble calling the police in some cases too. It would create hard feelings; it should be a last resort after many warnings. But it is not a question of it being possible. Nor is it a question of it being contrary to most philosophies of non-violence, as these usually recognize the legitimate function of the police in suppressing violence.

I suspect and hope Rich is right about these problems being specific to Oakland, though. I saw that some of the “old-timey” East Bay radicals and groups were present. I’ve had dealings with some of them before and frankly think many of them are crazy.

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Salient 11.22.11 at 9:19 pm

Martin, links for your various claims please? I’m not aware of any vehicle burnings at OWS, and the usual sources for looking these things up are failing me (mostly because there was a widely reported vehicle burning at Occupy Rome that’s overwhelming search results). I’ve read enough other stuff written by you to know I shouldn’t dismiss what you’re saying and should take the time to follow up. Thanks in advance (if you have the time to share, I know it’s holiday-time and this thread might close too soon for replies).

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Martin Bento 11.23.11 at 10:28 am

salient, email me bentosbox – hotmail

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