Sunday, September 25, 2011

A game of thugs

You'll notice that I haven't posted anything this past week about the "Occupy Wall Street" protests. That's because, by and large, they've been meaningless street theater along the lines of, "provoke the cops and then get videos of the results to show the world how mean the cops are." A perfect example is the following video, which has flown around the world and appeared in the news media of both Western democracies and various dictatorships that are using it to say "see? The USA does the same things to protesters that we do!":

The problem is that this means nothing, nada, zero, zilch to the average American. They'll nod and say "Yep, NYPD is brutal", and move on to the next thing on their agenda, because the average American doesn't live in NYC and the brutality of the NYPD is not of personal importance to them. If that was the goal -- to get their fellow Americans to say "Yep, NYPD is brutal" -- mission accomplished. Thing is, that wasn't the goal. Or was it? What WAS the goal, anyhow?

And that's the problem. You look at the above video, and what is most striking about the protesters is that they're young, they're hip, they're dressed in cool clothes, they're completely unlike most Americans. The chances of a non-hip American looking at these protesters and identifying with them as ordinary Americans is pretty much nil. Compare to this photograph:

These civil rights protesters are clearly mature middle-aged men dressed in suits and ties. They're not aliens dropped from another planet. They don't do "drum circles" or spend hours holding "assemblies" to decide what color the ink on the posters is supposed to be. They wouldn't know a patchouli from a partridge, and they wouldn't be caught dead in a tie-dye t-shirt in public. And their signs make no secret about what their objectives are: They want equal opportunity, they want an end to government segregated schools, they want equal rights under the law.

The reason the protests led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. succeeded is because the protesters looked like dignified adults, not like slovenly children on a day trip to the city, and because their demands were serious, focused, and well articulated, not an incoherent chanting of anarchist rant alongside anti-capitalist rant alongside progressive rant. And it took place day after day, year after year, for literally a decade without stop. That is why we remember the success of the Civil Rights movement -- and why we will not remember this "Occupy Wall Street" thing a month from now.

-- Badtux the Protest Penguin


  1. Have you even been watching the live feed?

  2. i'm inclined to agree with you. otoh, it's the 20-something kids who are looking at 20% unemoployment and the guys in business suits who all still [mostly] have jobs.

  3. The average American hasn't been watching the live feed. The average American will look at the above video, see some kid acting the ass and getting slammed to the street, then see some pissed off cop walk over to some folks behind an orange barrier and mace them apparently just on general principals, getting some of the cops around the orange barrier too (you see them back away wiping their eyes). Where are the signs these protesters carry telling what their goal is? What is the message that the average American is supposed to take away from this, other than "yep, the NYPD is brutal to those poor kids"? Compared to the civil rights marches of the 50's and 60's, utterly ineffective at getting any sort of message in front of ordinary Americans. Pointless.

    - Badtux the Pragmatic Penguin

  4. Well, the "average American" (as in WHITE American) could have looked at that civil rights march picture and said "Just a bunch of uppity niggers. I don't live in the South and I'm not a Negro, so I don't identify with them." Lather, rinse, repeat with different language for the long-haired hippies protesting the Vietnam War, unemployed Bonus Marchers during the Great Depression 1.0, unladylike womans' suffragists, you name the cause.

    You're in tune with the snide article the New York Times had on Sunday about how the Occupy Wall Street protesters were a mob of unfocused youths who didn't stay on message and even took some of their clothes off. Sure, they might not all be able to spout thesis-quality critiques of the current economic system. And aside from the leadership of the MLK marches, I bet a lot of black folks in the 1950s couldn't have given a discourse on states' rights, the legal ramifications of Plessy v. Ferguson and similar topics. But they knew something was fucked up in society.

    The slovenly children you ridicule know something is fucked up about the way things are going in the U.S. So they're in the street, getting gassed and beaten, because they care enough to do something about it. I commend them. They might not all be Mario Savios -- maybe a lot of them don't even know who he was -- but they're doing what he said.

    I'd do the same thing, but I care as little for the United States as your fan BBC does for the bulk of humanity. Stick a fork in it...

    Meanwhile, for any of Tux's readers who has the same scorn for Bloomberg's thugs as Tux has for the kids who are getting brutalized by them, have a squizz at some artwork by a guy who calls himself William Banzai, and who's the most brilliant Photoshop artist I've seen.

    Also for those who haven't seen it, the anti-Wall Street movement has a song that's equal to Country Joe and the Fish's "Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die Rag." Jump, you fuckers...

  5. Bukko, the end results of the Civil Rights marches disproves your notion. Dignified middle-aged people marching doesn't look like anything other than dignified middle-aged people marching, other than the color of the skin. The marches worked because they deliberately made efforts to present this image. The most effective marches included women and children in their Sunday best, starched skirts and church hats, clutching their purses and Bibles. When Bull Connor sicced his German Shepherds and opened up the firehoses on these folks, he made clear who were the civilized people and who were the barbarians -- and the rest of America was not going to side with the barbarians, and the civil rights leaders already had legislation primed to be passed in Congress to implement their agenda, the last of which was the Civil Rights Acts of 1965, as well as a top legal team playing the federal courts like a piano to implement it.

    Even when there were young people involved, they were instructed to dress the same way -- like a Wall Street banker, now that I think about it. So somewhere in my archives I have a photo of an action to desegregate a lunch counter in Montgomery, Alabama. It is all young college students, but they are dressed in their Sunday best. They look so squeaky-clean as to be ridiculous.

    The Civil Rights movement basically disintegrated when it stopped being a movement of dignified men and women and started being a movement of radical youth spouting Marxist tracts and burning shit. But then the myth that the hippy anti-war protesters ended the Vietnam War comes to mind... nevermind that the Vietnam War didn't end until 1973, after Nixon no longer needed it for his re-election campaign, and that it ended basically because we'd lost, not because of anything the protesters said or did. While the VFW might whine that Jane Fonda lost the Vietnam War for America, that's just rank racism at play, they don't want to admit that a buncha pajama-wearin' slopes beat them like a drum. But the myth of the slovenly hippy protester ending the Vietnam War persists like the smell of a sewage treatment plant and has tainted every protest movement since, all of which seem to be intent upon repeating the same mistakes of the Vietnam War protest movements because "it ended the Vietnam War, didn't it?".

    So anyhow, my basic critique of the protesters in New York City is this: They have no clear obtainable objectives, no legislative plan for obtaining what objectives they state, no plan for arriving at such legislative agenda, no organization for arriving at a plan for a legislative agenda, and do not represent a wide enough slice of America. They're young, they're white, they're hip, they look like college students day-tripping to the City for an exciting time playing "get beat up by cops". Which might be worthwhile if there was some opportunity to appeal to ordinary Americans, but the organizational methods they're using are more appropriate for a potluck where the goal is simple and what each participant needs to do to make the event a success is easy to understand. Anarchism might work for a potluck, but it simply doesn't scale.

    - Badtux the Pragmatic Penguin

  6. UpDate: "Anonymous" has released the name, address, names of family members, and other information about the officer that was seen on video spraying mace in the woman's face.

    Things are getting...interesting.


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