As I mentioned in our last article about the Occupy movement, I’m aware that a lot of people observing it, especially locally, dismiss those involved, labeling all the participants as “a bunch of dumb kids” who are incoherent and “don’t even know why they are protesting”. Even people who think the occupation of public property is wrong and their City’s sanctioning of it, irresponsible, still think those “dumb kids” are going home as soon as the weather gets really cold. There’s growing evidence this assessment is seriously mistaken and potentially dangerous.
Oh, and that’s not to mention the precedent set by turning rule of law on its head. (But why should that bother anyone?)
Spontaneous or well coordinated?
This “bunch of dumb kids” seem to have been incredibly well organized “spontaneously” for an indefinite siege. For an “incoherent” bunch, the rhetoric from organizers seems particularly fine-tuned in several important respects; groups’ governance strikingly similar (General Assembly, working groups / committees); their ability to establish a foothold, extremely effective; creepy “facilitators” command and control styles, bizarrely uniform across the country.
Each Occupy encampment on a local level has some number of serious political types who seem to be working directly with the original engineers of the whole Occupy movement. They are the organizers, the “facilitators”. These “facilitators” seemed to know, from the jump, something (or someone) the rest of us missed regarding City ordinances. And the vast majority of local governments somehow, interestingly, missed, for days and days, tents pitched in parks or elsewhere in cities where long-standing ordinances prohibit camping, when usually, unlawful squatting would provoke a fairly swift response. (Ever driven a mile with a tail light out in Lincoln late at night? I was stopped TWICE on Fremont St. between 48th & 70th Streets a few years ago and the second officer radioed head to another officer so I wouldn’t be stopped again before I reached home.)
Whether City governments are sympathetic or just hoping the groups will tire and go home, it seems the majority have waited just long enough to allow the groups to become entrenched. To augment the help some have received from “the top”, they establish non-profit status and now accept cash donations, receive assistance from local businesses, and amass larger numbers.
Another commonality is that when a City finally decides to enforce the law, rather than studying the available information about the groups (especially their dialogue on Facebook and in video streaming chat rooms), targeting likely troublemakers first, it’s likely the number of classes would be significantly reduced, which would avoid an increasing number of ugly confrontations. Images of police shooting tear gas and rubber bullets, with the inevitable vomiting, welts and bloody gashes, has a potential for evoking sympathy for the troublemakers.
But as columnist Manny Lopez pointed out in his November 4 article “Occupy violence a predictable end”[1. As of May, 2012, Manny Lopez’s article has been removed from the Detroit News’ archives, so I cannot, unfortunately, provide a link. Here is the original link, however: http://detnews.com/article/20111104/OPINION03/111040327/Occupy-violence-a-predictable-end#ixzz1d3LK1GG3]:
“For this movement to remain relevant — especially given that it has no agenda or any realistic goals — eventually someone has to get arrested.
Why? Because even the mainstream media, which has sympathetically covered every sneeze and wheeze coming out of these camps, will get bored with the signs and the songs (though based on the promotional coverage it’s hard to say when this might happen).
Arrests and violence bring news reporters and cameras back in to the fold. They reinvigorate the angst. Few things rile up the wandering masses like an attack by ‘the man.'”
So, the outcome is predictable, the perfect set up for trouble is obvious. A die-hard contingent will not go home quietly if ousted and/or they will continue to up the ante.
And these groups signaled, from the beginning, through their intentions, their name, and their rhetoric that they were not intending to necessarily remain peaceful.
The Occupiers want to eat the rich – they’re hungry, they say. But they just want to eat 1% of their fellow Americans. That’s all.
That seems a little bit like, “If you’re not a kulak, you’ve got nothing to worry about[1. For those not familiar with the name “kulak”, it seems an important one to learn. In the early days of the Soviet Union, kulaks were the higher income farmers who had more land and wealth than the peasants. Like the present debate about “eating the rich” – “the 1%”, there were not all that many kulaks.].” It’s not too much to worry about, unless the folks who say they are so hungry get some power and start widening their definition of a kulak, which is exactly what happened in the Soviet Union. Pretty soon, anyone whom the hungry folks don’t like is a kulak. But it must first start with the demonization of a group that is small in number and easy to hate.
That’s just one reason class warfare is dangerous. Another is the character of the movement itself, conveyed by the name.
Look at the name of the movement: “Occupy______”. Just what does that imply?
The word “occupy” actually has martial (military) implications.
Definition of the word “occupy”:
1. : to engage the attention or energies of
2. a : to take up (a place or extent in space) <this chair is occupied> <the fireplace will occupy this corner of the room>
b : to take or fill (an extent in time) <the hobby occupies all of my free time>
3. a : to take or hold possession or control of <enemy troops occupied the ridge> b : to fill or perform the functions of (an office or position)
4. : to reside in as an owner or tenant
An occupation in the military sense:
a : the act or process of taking possession of a place or area : seizure
b : the holding and control of an area by a foreign military force
c : the military force occupying a country or the policies carried out by it
Are the squatters on Wall Street or the residents of Shanty Town Lincoln intending to just get peoples’ attention, to take up, to fill?
What typically is the purpose of an occupation?
Of course, typically, and it is now clear, in this case, it is to take hold of a piece of land and stay put, until their demands are met or their goals are achieved. (But just what are those demands and goals? That’s the troubling question.)
Participants think they are entitled to lay siege to public property for as long as they like. I actually had some “conversation” with some Nashville Occupiers in an online chat room, for the express purpose of understanding just how common certain traits in different groups might be.
While several of the people were quite polite and interested in engaging in a serious debate, the sense of entitlement was palatable. When I questioned why other groups were required to abide by permit requirements and ordinances when they conducted their events, but in the majority of cities, the Occupiers were not, I was pointedly informed, that groups like the tea parties were just holding rallies, but Occupy is a political movement.
Command and control “facilitators“
Interestingly, my attempts to challenge such a statement were obstructed by the new forum moderator who had just come on duty. I was informed that the chat was not for questions, debates, or mentions of political parties; it was for supporting the movement and encouraging participants. This censure was accompanied, each time it occurred (I don’t listen very well, I guess) with a keyboard smiley :) which reminded me of what author Jonah Goldberg has called “fascism with smile”.
And there has apparently been some effort by the fellow who appears to be the key organizer here in Lincoln to lock down some of the discourse and to commandeer the group’s Facebook page. After peoples’ posts kept mysteriously disappearing, the creator of the Facebook page became angry and deleted most of the other administrators, but Justin Tolson, Political Science Major at UNL, either quickly re-established or never lost his access. Justin explained to those who dissented about the new centralized control of the page, that it was not censorship; it was for the good of all the 99% to reduce the amount of input.
Occupier Brian, who clearly believes in some kind of representative government (General Assembly is supposed to be the group’s governance), challenged the Facebook takeover. Note how Political Science Major Justin didn’t really answer Brian’s question regarding how the decision was made.
As New York Magazine’s Alex Klein stated in his positively hilarious October 20th article:
“All occupiers are equal — but some occupiers are more equal than others.”[2. Alex Klein is referencing George Orwell’s book Animal Farm, which details how pigs lead a revolt and take over of a farm and employ their political philosophy of “animalism”. Governance begins with rules, including one that states “All animals are equal”, until the power corrupts the ruling class of pigs, who eventually move to a single rule: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”]
Klein’s article, “The Organizers vs. the Organized in Zuccotti Park“, is well worth the read, if for no other reason than it is incredibly entertaining. More importantly, it is very instructive. Klein details events at the park which are “the anatomy of a commune”. Perhaps parents with young adults who are in any way sympathetic to this movement, age 16 – 25, should just ship their kids off to one of these Occupy encampments for a few weeks (if it weren’t for the reports of rapes, etc.). Youngsters would learn in that period of time just what happens to “leaderless movements / collectives”.
Occupy Wall Street is a month ahead of the rest of these groups. So, just how is that whole direct democracy thing working out? Klein reported:
“In response to dissatisfaction with the consensus General Assembly, many facilitators have adopted a new ‘spokescouncil’ model, which allows each working group to act independently without securing the will of the collective. ‘This streamlines it,’ argued Zonkers. ‘The GA is unwieldy, cumbersome, and redundant.’“
Hmm. Smells like a power grab – whoddathunkit?
A comparison of other Occupy Wall Street events, detailed in the New York Magazine article, to Occupy Lincoln’s Facebook dialogue reveals many of the same – inevitable – issues have reared their heads. Wall Street “facilitators” in their “button-down shirts”, and Lincoln’s Political Science Major Justin, respond in similar ways.
Organizers, Organized, Occupiers —> Same Thing?
Wall Street Facilitators stated to Klein that there were some pesky, “silly kids”, panhandlers, and hangers-on among the group (shocker!). Some homeless folks latched on here in Lincoln. The difference? In Lincoln, the LPD is far more accommodating, so the Lincoln group called the LPD. And a discussion of the whole episode revealed yet another phenomenon that seems prevalent among various Occupy groups; some “facilitators” aren’t really Occupiers, they’re truly just organizers. One former camper, Allen, generally fed up, had this comment for Justin:
“Perhaps if you were actually living down there, especially after this last weekend, Justin, you would have an entirely different perspective than the few hours of GA Sunday and popping in here and there.”
But it isn’t just the organizers who aren’t really camping – another common trait of encampments is – many of them aren’t really even all that occupied. At least not by a whole lot of people – tents are being used to create that impression.
In a recent visit by dark to the Centennial Mall, it seemed to myself and those whom I accompanied that the majority of the tents (40 – 50 about a week and a half ago) were empty.
It doesn’t seem the majority of supporters or the “front men facilitators” are even sleeping in the tents. The majority may visit Shanty Town Lincoln (or any other tent Shanty Town encampment) for the Saturday marches or attend the “General Assembly” meetings. (In Lincoln, the meetings are on Wednesday, and Sunday, respectively.)
While there has been widespread speculation about largely vacant tents in many localities, thermal imaging scans in London proved the case there. Despite the rapid deployment of spin meisters to refute the imaging as “junk science”, many organizers have confirmed that there are empty tents, that people rotate from one camp to another in cities where there are multiple encampments, and that people come and go.
Translation: the tents are being used as placeholders. See the Occupy Lincoln Facebook comment by James. Is that a Freudian slip that he mentioned tents before people as forms of free speech? (Note: I am glad that James is clearly be an advocate of non-violence.)
But besides some tents, who are the actual human “Occupiers”?
As noted, they don’t seem to constitute the majority of supporters. While it’s always difficult to categorize the sentiments of any large group of people, especially groups spread across the whole country, in this case, it does seem the majority are involved in Occupy because of general anger about the economy. A good many of them are young adults, mostly college students who don’t know history and who don’t have critical thinking skills, but they do have a sense of entitlement. (A sense of entitlement and lack of actual responsibility are required for a twenty year old with a smart phone in their $100 jeans pocket and a $500 iPad in their leather backpack to point at “the rich” and complain.)
The rest of the majority are adults, many of whom actually have jobs. Whether it is “underemployment”, inflation’s pinch, or some other frustration, part of the reason they are attracted to the movement may be due to their traditional political affiliation, which some polling data reveals is Democratic.
Whether they are the young or the old, however, obviously, this largest group of people are not thinking all of the issues out to their logical conclusions, are missing information, or are so traditionally aligned with the Democratic Party, at this point they simply cannot hear or see a broader perspective. They decided to aim their ire at Wall Street and the corporations – because their party has been fomenting such rhetoric for some time and the Occupy is “doing something about it”, right now.
There are two other groups of people involved in this movement which are actually key cause for concern. They are most certainly not confused about why they are involved in these occupations. One segment of this coherent and committed contingent are serious Progressives who see an opportunity to wage class warfare for political purposes that are expedient to the Democratic agenda and especially to President Obama’s re-election. The remainder of the committed contingent are Marxists, communists, and anarchists who see an opportunity for fomenting chaos that leads to overthrow of the system. They want revolution (no, I’m not kidding). Just how many Progressives, Marxists, communists, and anarchists exist in each group depends upon the individual city. In larger urban areas like New York; Oakland, California; or Austin, Texas, there are a larger number. In Lincoln, there seem to be a handful.
Campaign of Mass Distraction
The primary purpose of this entire effort was to provide a major distraction from the state of the economy. Barack Obama’s policies, like FDR’s following Hoover’s have taken years of ballooning government / overspending, preliminary redistribution of failure via bailouts in 2008, and the Fed’s disastrous policies (“quantitative easing“, zero interest, etc.) and added disaster through revolving bailout slush funds, payoffs of corporatist cronies through “green jobs” Stimulus and loan funds, Health Care “reform” boondoggle, EPA power grab, and on and on.
There’s an election coming up and quite obviously, Obama’s numbers don’t look good. By launching an answer to the Tea Party, Democrat-style, the class warfare drumbeat, getting louder throughout Obama’s term, can be pounded, loudly and angrily. And propelling a bunch of angry youngsters into fomenting a bit of civil unrest, knowing this sort of group will actually provoke police, has the potential for evoking sympathy for the protestors, such as when a war veteran is portrayed as victime when he gets a gash in because he stands too close to police when they deployed tear gas.
Those ’60’s dippy hippies may have been free-lovin’, mellow doobie-smokers for the most part, but there were just enough agitators among them to keep the thing hard-edged. And ultimately, wasn’t it effective? It launched an entire movement of professional-agitators-turned-community-organizers, many of whom are today’s elected officials. As instructed by Sal Alinsky, they launched their dippy hippie selves or were inspired by them, and worked their way into positions of power all over the country.
Come to think of it, there are at least two locations in the country actually occupied by the organizer / “faciliator” types; the White House and the Chicago Mayor’s Office, to just name two.
The Progressive politicos, working with the Marxists, communists, and anarchists constitute the politically religious, the radical element that is working to pull debate, and public policy, as far left as possible. Heck, compared to the Occupiers, Obama looks reasonable. It’s easy to get the point of the whole thing when viewed in such terms, isn’t it?
The problem is, the true believers – the religiously committed – are prepared for, at minimum, civil disobedience, and, if necessary, violence. Trouble is, such folks can be a bit hard to control. This campaign of mass distraction is, of course, the worst kind of demagoguery – incredibly irresponsible. While the political hacks amuse themselves with their distraction ploy, they apparently don’t give a darn what they have set off. Since City governments all over the country, including that of Lincoln, they are aiding and abetting the unlawful encampments. This allows embedded organizers and true believers to rut in, garner support, and make future plans. And they are setting up confrontations all over the country.