Thoughts on the Wall Street Occupation

A few days ago I posted a link that suggested police violence in New York was the result of powers-that-be pressing for results because they are concerned about the police budget. Then I learned that JP Morgan Chase has gifted the NYPD with $4.6 million. You get what you pay for, I suppose. Anyway, here are some other disjointed thoughts about the Occupation of Wall Street. (many of these links are via zunguzungu).

1. The Failure of Mainstream Media

Everything you want to know about why the media are distrusted can be seen in this item from the once-proud New York Times, now just another rag:

The NY Times changes its story.

 2. What are They After?

A lot of wordage has been expounded on the fact that Occupy Wall Street has made no demands, but that, it seems, is part of the process. The original Adbusters call-out suggested that people could get together and decide on the one big demand to be made. Now it appears that people are making their own lists of demands and discussing them in various meetings. There may never be any formal demand or demands. But there is We Are the 99 Percent if anyone genuinely doesn’t understand why these people are demonstrating.

 Does anyone really not know what the basic message is of this protest: that Wall Street is oozing corruption and criminality and its unrestrained political power — in the form of crony capitalism and ownership of political institutions — is destroying financial security for everyone else?


…there does not have to be a set of demands at the outset. This is not The Further Adventures Of Action Item. Organizers are at the “building support” phase, where they get their message out. It seems straightforward to me that by being there day after day they are saying: We object to what has gone on here; we do not agree with it and do not support it; we want it to change. For now, that is message enough. What they need is to get the word out – which, given the informal media blackout, is no small feat. Not everyone is jacked into the Internet, and there is a huge amount of WOMP (word of mouth publicity) required. That is slower, so it will take longer to build up a head of steam. Concrete demands can wait.

3. Criticism of Tactics, Methodology, Theory, and so forth.

“But these kids are so disorganized!” is a chant from those who control organizations and wonder why they have no sway over these demonstrators. Well, it’s because you’ve done fuck-all in the past and no one expects more from you in the future. There is some theory, mostly ex post facto, about what people are up to; this has to do with occupying space and being free there and thus demonstrating that people can be a useful community without coercion. That has value, at least for a time, and what-you-see-is-what-you-get is not a bad way to view polities. Check this out:

¶Create territories. Multiply zones of opacity.
¶Travel. Open our own lines of communication.
¶Flee visibility. Turn anonymity into an offensive position (“No leader, no demands, no organization, but words, gestures, complicities. To be socially nothing is not a humiliating condition, the source of some tragic lack of recognition — from whom do we seek recognition? — but is on the contrary the condition for maximum freedom of action.”)

Even so, this is where I show my age and prejudice, I suppose. “Direct democracy” calls up visions of referendum-ruined California with citizens demanding services and refusing to pay taxes for them. And “consensus politics” brings to mind the Tyranny of Structurelessness and the manner in which groups are often controlled by the glib and charismatic. Of course, that also translates to electoral politics. Meanwhile, the occupiers have made friends with organized labor: postal workers and locked-out Teamsters. Transit workers have refused to move arrestees for the NYPD and, Steel Workers, the Pilots’ Association, and Verizon workers are joining the Occupation. Or at least are “in solidarity” with the occupation. Still, this says something about the value of tactics so far: Occupy Wall Street has attracted attention and allies.

4. What Can They Accomplish?

This is the $64 question. Can all this sound and fury actually result in any meaningful change? Maybe the story is how much has been accomplished so far:

Generating attention to an issue that the Beltway wants to go away, building support among disparate groups the old-fashioned way, supporting local workers who might otherwise feel isolated, and breathing oxygen into alternative outlets. The OWS movement has been racking up some really important successes. What’s not to like?

5. A Final Thought

I can’t say this any better:

 …for those who believe that protests are only worthwhile if they translate into quantifiable impact: the lack of organizational sophistication or messaging efficacy on the part of the Wall Street protest is a reason to support it and get involved in it, not turn one’s nose up at it and join in the media demonization.  That’s what one actually sympathetic to its messaging (rather than pretending to be in order more effectively to discredit it) would do.  Anyone who looks at mostly young citizens marching in the street protesting the corruption of Wall Street and the harm it spawns, and decides that what is warranted is mockery and scorn rather than support, is either not seeing things clearly or is motivated by objectives other than the ones being presented.


3 comments on “Thoughts on the Wall Street Occupation

  1. Owen says:

    I’m sorry I just don’t get it, yes I read the 99 percent article, but it still makes no sense to me. Why are these people protesting? So they went to school and paid through the nose to do so. Now they can’t find employment, pay their bills, buy food, etc. These poor people just don’t understand. This is because they live in the USA. What do they expect? Their country doesn’t care about them. If it did they would have a universal health care system or a decent welfare system. Boo Hoo Try getting a student loan or a decent job in a third world country, then come talk to me about how unfair it is in the USA.

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