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D.C. Occupants

Enjoying the lovely weather of yesterday in Washington, I went out to go see some of the Occupy D.C. protestors who were planted downtown in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement. Tents were set up in Freedom Plaza, not too far from the White House, and an eclectic group of people held varying signs while people took turns speaking atop a stage set up in the far side of the plaza. Of late the Occupiers in town had gone about protesting at all sorts of various things--the World Bank, the Federal Reserve, K Street lobbying and non-profit organizations, the Treasury Department, the White House, the Chamber of Commerce, etc. They even laid siege to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, leading museum security guards to employ the use of pepper spray after one of them was rushed by a group of protesters (no doubt giving the museum guards one of the most exciting days of their careers). Startling absence of protests on Capitol Hill though; not quite sure why Congress is currently being spared. (Update--Word is that OccupyDC and the AFL-CIO will be protesting Congress on Tuesday now).

What struck me most about my visit was how exceedingly unorganized they were--and a different type of unorganized than the Tea Party. The Tea Party was successful in large part because, though decentralized and lacking any sort of leadership, it still maintained a general message and goal: stop President Obama's healthcare law and reign in the size and spending of government. Thus, while there was often a lot of variety among Tea Party crowds and disagreement over how far it was appropriate to shrink government and how to accomplish that, there was nonetheless a sort of unifying message. I saw no such thing among the Occupy D.C. group, save for them wanting to send the message that they are currently unhappy with the way of things today.

Most complaints were focused on the stale economy and our continuing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, and the other countries that we are routinely bombing people in. While open socialists and hippies (for lack of a better word) did seem to make up the more visible bits of the group, there was also a mixture of other types--libertarians railing against the Federal Reserve and the War on Terror, unemployed people from out of town expressing their frustration with the job market, peace activists, even a few Tea Partiers, and a handful of not-volunteers. Some of them were normal people just frustrated with things, some of them were young people who just think it's cool to go out and yell about things and pretend like they're making a difference, some people were crazy people. It was just a conglomeration of people venting whatever they felt like venting, and I do commiserate with some of them. I understand the frustration with the economy; there are people very close to me who are unemployed and near-homeless despite years-long efforts to avoid such a sad state. But blocking traffic in the streets and camping out on public land to get out incoherent and angry messages it not the way to resolve this situation.

Due to this lack of a central message and the general chaos associated with these rather rambunctious gatherings, I think that this "Occupy" movement will burn itself out rather than go on to the type of electoral success that the Tea Party had last election. The Taste of D.C. Food Festival, taking place on the street just beside occupied Freedom Plaza (pure coincidence, no doubt), ends today, and the weather is going to start getting colder soon. Judging from the looks of some of these people, they won't be out yelling once it gets uncomfortably cold. After all, it's hard to text or tweet on an iPhone when you have to wear mittens (though I'm sure that the market has noticed this demand and is already working to invent a way to solve that problem if it has not already done so).

The group in D.C. in particular does seem to find one common denominator: they are angry that the banks got bailed out. Of course anger at the bank bailouts has been a staple of the Tea Party for two years, but who's paying attention? Overall, Reason TV's ever-clever Remy Munasifi has the best description yet of the protests. Enjoy.
Categories > Pop Culture

Discussions - 15 Comments

Some random thoughts:

1. The protests are going to reinforce to average folks that the economy is bad. This does not help the current occupant of the White House, nor does it hurt the Tea Party. Most people will simply not see a linkage between the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street crowd, nor will they automatically think the Tea Party is the cause of the economic troubles, so they will start thinking to themselves that "my God, it's all going to pot. *Everybody's* protesting now, something's got to change", and it is the establishment as a whole that will take a hit.

2. The embrace of the protests is only going to hurt Obama, because its going to be nigh impossible to hide the true nature of the protesters. People will think that electing Democrats means enabling unruly young people to have the decisive say. It will reinforce certain beliefs about the Democrats and the Left that really needs no more reinforcing.

3. The MSM will not be able to escape another nail in the credibility coffin, as coverage of the Tea Party in the last two years is contrasted with coverage of the Occupy Wall St. crowd. Doesn't matter whether the coverage of the current protesters is accurate or if it hides things--it will be contrasted with how the Tea Party was treated in relationship to what the Tea Partiers actually did in relationship to what the Occupy Wall St. crowd is doing.

Since I'm getting the run-around on posting this, let me try it without the source-links:

I'm really shocked that a recipient of a Koch Fellowship would have words of praise for the Tea Party:

and refer to the OWS as "hippies" (so original!), "crazy people," and "young people who just think it's cool to go out and yell about things and pretend like they're making a difference" and put an emphasis on the protesters' appearance.

Almost as suprised as I am that you would bring up the protest at the Air and Space Museum and not mention that the most "rambunctious" participant in that particular bit of "chaos" was a confessed agent provocateur who also happens to be Assistant Editor at The American Spectator - Patrick Howley.

In fact, he was apparently the only one from the group to get inside the building. I'm sure the guy hopes to be the next James O'Keefe on Wingnut Welfare, complete with a string of interviews on FoxNews and such - "He saw the vicious hippies for the radical extremists that they are - and he saw it from the INSIDE!" - but I do have to wonder what was going on in that guy's head. Leading the charge and getting pepper-sprayed and risking arrest for something you don't believe in. I just can't fathom what his actual journalistic purpose was.

Yes, your Koch Fellowship had its desired effect.

The hit-and-run agent provocateur from The American Spectator, who got sprayed by the heroic guards at the Air & Space Museum:

http://spectator.org/blog/2011/10/08/standoff-in-dc

http://www.businessinsider.com/right-wing-blogger-infiltrates-occupy-dc-and-gets-pepper-sprayed-leading-the-protest-2011-10

"...and the weather is going to start getting colder soon. Judging from the looks of some of these people, they won't be out yelling once it gets uncomfortably cold. After all, it's hard to text or tweet on an iPhone when you have to wear mittens (blah, blah, the glorious free market will bestow its divine gifts even upon these dirty cretins, etc.)"

Ya think?

"Posted: 2:38 PM Feb 21, 2011
Weather Doesn't Slow Down Protest in Madison
MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Thousands of people are rallying in favor of workers' rights outside the Capitol despite freezing cold temperatures and wind."

http://www.wsaw.com/politics/headlines/116612113.html

It wasn't even 8 months ago...

"Hipster" might be more appropriate for the younger ones. But I have no shame in calling people sitting in a drum circle wearing headbands "hippies." They and socialists and people from all sorts of beliefs were there, among other normal and frustrated people as well; the more boisterous ones are the ones attention is drawn to though, and those tended to be the hippies and the eat-the-rich socialists. The jab about the "young people who just think its cool" came from my trying to figure out why they were there and them just spouting off vague things about evil corporations instead of actually highlighting anything whilst they munched on some chili-cheese dogs from the nearby food festival.
Same thing for the Tea Parties; some wackos and silly people dressing up in costumes and spouting off insane and sometimes xenophobic things, with a lot of normal and frustrated people among them as well. Large grouping like this are is always a hit-and-miss, and at least among the late Sunday afternoon crowd at Freedom Plaza, it was more miss than hit.

Infiltration story is an interesting one; thanks for the heads up on that.

As for the Koch stuff, I've also had portions of my life sponsored by Hollywood movie money, volunteered with the NAACP on a project, been employed by the Heritage Foundation, and worked to help advance both Republican- and Democrat-sponsored items in both California and Ohio. But if you want to go ahead and say that just because I've ever had my name attached to all of those entities then I automatically encompass all that they stand for and fight constantly for their causes, go right ahead and try work all of that out.

Re-weather: We'll see. I don't think DC people have as much endurance for the cold than Wisconsinites. Also, there is the issue of messaging again-- the Wisconsin protests were clearly focused on a political issue (like the Tea Party was/is with Obamacare). The Occupy protests are much less clear, much less unified, and much less sure of what it is that the movement is trying to accomplish other than vague things like "fighting corporate money" and "standing up for the 99%". Not quite the same as "stop this Union-calling bill" or "recall this politician" or "end Obamacare" or "elect this politician." Messaging is key to success, or at least determination.

@John: Cool! Too expensive for me to justify buying, but cool nonetheless.

If you think the Tea Partyers had some laser-like focus on Obamacare, then I've got some property for sale that you might be interested in...

"As for the Koch stuff, I've also had portions of my life sponsored by Hollywood movie money, volunteered with the NAACP on a project, been employed by the Heritage Foundation, and worked to help advance both Republican- and Democrat-sponsored items in both California and Ohio. But if you want to go ahead and say that just because I've ever had my name attached to all of those entities then I automatically encompass all that they stand for and fight constantly for their causes, go right ahead and try work all of that out."

I don't see where any of those things are necessarily contradictory from the others. Ashbrook, Heritage, IWP, and Kirby Ctr. - all well to the right. I get it though, you're against racism and homophobia, I suppose, and perhaps you've got qualms with the War on Drugs, and when a Dem is in office you start to question the inherent greatness of war. So, within some circles of the NLT world that makes you a real maverick.

Or am I all wrong, and there's a LOT more nuance to the idea of "No Left Turns" than one might imagine?

We don't know what "Craig Scanlon"'s source of funding is because he comes here under an assumed name.

Priceless.

Your take on OWS is much less reasonable (although much more convenient to the 1%) than these:

Some Say Occupy Wall St. Protesters Aimless; Facts Say Otherwise:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/matthewherper/2011/10/07/some-say-occupy-wall-street-protesters-aimless-facts-say-otherwise/


This Ain't No Tea Party: A Conservative Defense of OWS:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/10/this-aint-no-tea-party-a-conservative-defense-of-occupy-wall-street/246549/

98% believe that health care should be free
32.5% think the government will do a bad job managing healthcare
Okay....

Otherwise, he polled a larger demographic than I did, and I really do think that, just given the nature of Washington, the groups here are far more varying than in other cities. That said, I have in two more instances encountered protesters, including the attempted siege of the Hart Senate Office Building earlier this week (which I'll put a blurb up about when I get the chance), I reached the same conclusion about overarching problems presented by the DC protesters are bank bailouts, lack of jobs, and wars (given the amount of healthcare discussion he encountered, it did not seem to be on the top of everyone's lips here)--which I mentioned in my post above, at least concerning bailouts and the stale economy.

Thing is, though, that they are not specific enough to be effective, and I disagree with the Atlantic piece on them, and find myself more in agreement with President Clinton and Senator Lieberman recently insofar that if these protests want to achieve real electoral success, not just P.R., they need to start adopting Tea Party tactics. That is, rather than just sitting in a street and yelling about things or holding signs up, they need to start organizing themselves around the country a bit more effectively and backing candidates who can run on a particular platform for their goals. The ballot box is ultimately where things are important as far as changing things in America is concerned, and I have yet to see any evidence that this movement will be have much influence at all there, especially if it continues in its current fashion.

Since posters and commentators here are so fond of evoking "the majority," I'm posting this without comment further:

Here's a poll commissioned by Time magazine:
http://swampland.time.com/full-results-of-oct-9-10-2011-time-poll/
What it shows is that the Occupy Wall Street movement appears to be more popular than the Tea Party. The poll asked:

Q11. IN THE PAST FEW DAYS, A GROUP OF PROTESTORS HAS BEEN GATHERING ON WALL STREET IN NEW YORK CITY AND SOME OTHER CITIES TO PROTEST POLICIES WHICH THEY SAY FAVOR THE RICH, THE GOVERNMENT'S BANK BAILOUT, AND THE INFLUENCE OF MONEY IN OUR POLITICAL SYSTEM. IS YOUR OPINION OF THESE PROTESTS VERY FAVORABLE, SOMEWHAT FAVORABLE, SOMEWHAT UNFAVORABLE, VERY UNFAVORABLE, OR DON'T YOU KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT THE PROTESTS TO HAVE AN OPINION?

VERY FAVORABLE 25%

SOMEWHAT FAVORABLE 29%

SOMEWHAT UNFAVORABLE 10%

VERY UNFAVORABLE 13%

DON'T KNOW ENOUGH 23%

NO ANSWER/DON'T KNOW 1%

Compare that with this question in the same poll on the Tea Party:

Q8. IS YOUR OPINION OF THE TEA PARTY MOVEMENT VERY FAVORABLE, SOMEWHAT FAVORABLE, SOMEWHAT UNFAVORABLE, VERY UNFAVORABLE, OR DON'T YOU KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT THE TEA PARTY TO HAVE AN OPINION?

VERY FAVORABLE 8%

SOMEWHAT FAVORABLE 19%

SOMEWHAT UNFAVORABLE 9%

VERY UNFAVORABLE 24%

DON'T KNOW ENOUGH 39%

NO ANSWER/DON'T KNOW 1%

In political terms, Occupy Wall Street has a +21 favourability, while the Tea Party has -6.

While public opinion polls can be useful for gauging some things and ought not be completely discounted, I'm not a real fan of them because they are essentially populist and the one thing about populism is that its mood is as fickle as fire. One year ago, an NBC/WSJ poll had 42% of people saying that the Tea Party had been good for America, and 18% calling it bad for America. Popular opinion only began to turn very heavily against the Tea Party this past summer. If it will be around that long, I'd be more interested in the polls they showed a maintained favorability of the Occupy movement through the next election. But, without actual political action, I don't think it will be around to be polled long-term. If it is, then it will have to have actually begun participating in the political process via elections, at which point, like the Tea Party, its popularity will likely start to fade--people always like the idea of something far more than the political reality.

You've got that hipster Remy mocking and twisting the OWS protesters' messages (haven't seen their ire directed against economies of scale) - although there were a couple of funny lines there - but OWS is going to have Lech Walesa.

I had a feeling you wouldn't post it, and I knew for sure that NLT's #1 fan of Poland and The Vatican (Paulette) wouldn't post it, so here you go:

http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/occupy_wall_street/2011/10/12/2011-10-12_lech_walesa_former_polish_president_to_visit_new_york_in_support_of_occupy_wall_.html

"A former shipyard worker who led Poland's successful revolt against Soviet communism, Walesa said "capitalism is in crisis" and not just in America.

"This is a worldwide problem," he told the Lublin-based Dziennik Wschodni newspaper. "The Wall Street protesters have focused a magnifying glass on the problem.""

Ok, so OWS will probably score Walesa, but to be fair you guys did get Glenn Beck and some Ben Franklin impersonators in tricorner hats.

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