November 15, 2011

RIP for #OWS?

So, what will happen to Occupy Wall Street now that Mayor Bloomberg has given it the boot, and in somewhat goonish style? Will protesters file a legal appeal? Will they reassemble? Will they negotiate with both Bloomberg and Zucotti Park owners for a compromise? Given that one legal ruling's already gone Bloomberg's way, the court process might be iffy. And, given that Bloomberg's NYPD was goonish enough to arrest members of the press and injure a city councilman, he's not in a big negotiating frame of mind, I'm sure. (Especially when his staff is now claiming OWS was making weapons. Surprised the "of mass destruction" didn't get tagged on.)

And elsewhere? The weekend saw crackdowns in Portland, Denver and elsewhere. Will Bloomberg's actions only accelerate a crackdown elsewhere?

 I'd definitely say yes to that last rhetorical question.

What about Barack Obama, who has said he understands OWS, but hasn't even gone so far as to say he feels their pain?


Per al Jazeera's live blog of related events, Dear Leader has now come out and said that dealing with OWS, whether in NYC or elsewhere, is purely a decision of local governments. So, any Obamiac types within OWS expecting "leadership" from him? Forget it.

In NYC, I'll say that some protesters try to reassemble, period. Others will file a further legal appeal, probably while undertaking negotiations at the same time.

Meanwhile, why did Bloomberg do this? As a New Yorker blog notes, a fair amount of OWS action was outside of Zucotti anyway. As for the encampment, let colder weather drive more away and the start of the holiday shopping season sap it of attention. At the same time, John Cassidy notes that the tensions inherent in the movement will now get pushed to the fore.

However, the New York Times says Bloomberg didn't think weather would drive Occupy protesters away: 
City officials could not imagine how the protesters would leave voluntarily — even with winter approaching — because other demonstrators were watching from around the world and there was no way for the New York group to simply declare victory and walk away.
That's certainly believable, that understanding, and possibly true. Did OWS want to "declare victory"? Did it want to provoke a confrontation Thursday on subways and at the NYSE?

Adbusters, interestingly, disagrees:
On Monday, Adbusters, the Canadian anti-corporate magazine that conceived of the movement, indicated that the protesters should “declare victory” and head indoors to strategize.
That, then, leads to the question of who's more obnoxious: Adbusters or Bloomberg? And, Adbusters lovers need to read Doug Henwood, linked below. That said, I agree with Adbusters' take, and think Bloomberg is definitely stupider.

But, the latest story indicates that Adbusters isn't exactly smart:
Kalle Lasn, co-founder of Adbusters, ... said the "original magic" faded somewhat as news coverage of the encampments around the country began to focus less on the participants' youthful idealism and more on drugs, violence and homelessness.
"Somehow, we lost the high ground, we lost the narrative," he said. "Tactically, the moment was right to declare victory, have a big global party and come back swinging next spring."
I highly doubt that a fair amount of the physical Occupiers will turn out next spring, either to physically occupy more spaces on a regular basis, or do other things, unless they get .... leadership, leadership that is visible, and a program.

Anyway, I hope they, the non-Adbusters/Anonymous portion of the movement, whom I might just call a "we" some day, succeed in some way, shape or form.

And LEARN, dammit. More on that below the fold.

Now IS the time to start making policy statements, pushing for them, and taking other actions. Now IS the time for organization, and leadership - and open leadership. Now IS the time for somebody besides the Adbusters/Anonymous wing to step up to the plate.

To riff on the old saying, in the land of no demands, the person with one demand is king. So, the "no demands" myth panders to the iGeneration portion of OWS.

Therefore, without such steps, it will be curtains for OWS. And, should that happen, I'll blame Michael Bloomberg and Barack Obama, while also blaming Adbusters and Anonymous. 

Per the New York Review of Books, from a previous post, this is part of why I'll blame Adbusters, if OWS goes RIP. Adbusters, in a word, a magazine I found pretentious when I first looked at it 15 years ago. From the story author's "welcome to Adbusters" email:
Thank you for joining our network. You are now part of a 90,000+ strong global network of activists, cultural creative’s [sic] and meme insurgents—a revolutionary force that, with your active involvement, just might reshape how power and meaning flow in the 21st century. Together lets live a little more on the wild side, launch a few telling cultural interventions and pull off some surprising pranks, jams and other essential mental resuscitations.
And, even without receiving such a "welcome" email, the "antic, Dadaist tone" is exactly what I saw 15 years ago, too.

Oh, and Adbusters folks? To be very snarky, per the "sic" in the email, if you don't know how to use apostrophes, maybe that's part of why Madison Avenue ad agencies wouldn't hire you!

Finally, beyond street art, let's be realistic. Two months in, and even in NYC, "Occupy" crowds are nowhere near the size of those of the Arab Spring. What's the Zucotti Park numbers -- a few tens of thousands? Not hundreds of thousands, let alone more.

A true political movement, per Jeffrey Sachs, would be nice. But, I'm not holding my breath on OWS bringing this about. First, the Anonymous wing wouldn't want it. The Adbusters wing might not. Second, even in Obama's "heralded" 2008 campaign, youth voting wasn't that much higher than in previous elections.

Doug Henwood, also linked in comments, also says OWS needs to get political, and get smart. Small business isn't necessarily "good," and banking as a system isn't necessarily evil. In fact, it's the social lubricant for modern society he notes -- AND, he's a left-liberal. Henwood has a summary of part of the podcast, in text form, here. (Basically, he says, moving your money to a credit union won't solve much.)

(Henwood also says what I've been saying all along -- OWS has leadership; he even uses the word "cabal," and I'm sure it's a word he chose deliberately.)

None of this is to be unsympathetic to unemployed recent students with high debt loads. It is, though, beyond the iGeneration issues, to wonder if fair chunks of OWS were relatively unidealistic three years ago, just how idealistic they are now? Or, if they were possibly that relatively uninformed a few years ago, just how much better-informed they are now. Or, to wonder how much of this they learned from helicopter-mom type parenting, or at least that the protestors got this from the tail end of Gen Xers, such as in expecting media and entertainment to be free.

Finally, if OWS doesn't act and make decisions -- AND from a non-Adbusters/Anonymous angle -- don't expect anything other than more scorn from this quarter.

That said, I'm not unsympathetic to OWS "rank and file," by and large. Not only am I not unsympathetic to non-Communist, reality-based OWS ideas, I'd like for them to succeed. As I told several people during a Facebook conversation thread, that's how OWS's "backers" differ from, say, the 1960s civil rights movement.

What that movement had was A: Plenty of leadership. B. Leadership in the open. C. Leadership willing to take responsibility. None of that, IMO, describes Adbusters or Anonymous, nor will it in weeks and months ahead. If OWS is to wind up accomplishing anything, it will have to move in the direction of A/B/C and without Adbusters/Anonymous leaderless underground "leadership." I truly hope OWS can do that. But ... I won't hold my breath. In part, that's because it is such a youth movement. Even for Obama 08, youth voting rates in the US didn't tick upward all that much. (That's as much a myth as is his "small donors" campaign fundraising in 2008.)

Again, I'd love for it to succeed. But, I'm not holding my breath. And, this is why I'm skeptical about my own left-liberal political world, too.


Sheldon said...

You might find this podcast interesting

JM said...

Eh, I'd look at Sachs' carefully, he's only become progressivish inrecent years
Plus I read somewhere the OWS groups are trying to reform and the like.

Gadfly said...

Sheldon, the podcast sounds good. A snippet of interpretation from it:

Henwood cautions that a love of small biz as the flip side of a loathing of big biz can be shortsighted itself, among other things. He also talks about how most of Ron Paul's ideas, starting with goldbuggery and junking the Fed without replacing it, would be of no helpfulness to addressing today's problems.


JM, true to a fair degree. He foisted neoliberalism on Russia via a half-drunken Yeltsin. He's gotten enough better to be left-of-center within today's Democratic Party, but, not necessarily a lot more than that.