I’ve yet to go check out the people Occupying Wall Street. Truth be told, I don’t love crowds. Or people.
For years, the political left (of which I’m a part, as my four readers (I’ve probably lost a couple due to recent inactivity) well know) has actually annoyed me quite a lot. The establishment party of the left (that’s the Democrats) is one big feckless weenie when it operates as a whole. The left-leaning popular movement outside the establishment party tends to be unfocused and unmotivated. I do not excuse myself from this crowd.
Single-issue movements are occasionally a bit more effective, if you think, for example, about marriage equality here in New York. You can also find examples from the past, even for the long fights, such as Civil Rights in the 50s and 60s.
Other single-issue movements seem to lack longevity or media coverage or both. Back in 2003, the anti-war left had a pretty clear message (i.e. “No War”), but it seems to have deserted its cause, particularly since Obama took office. Millions of immigrants have marched in the past few years, and those marches might’ve been incredibly powerful, except that they couldn’t get a minute of media coverage.
So even objectively, outside the realm of whether I care about the Occupy Wall Street issues, this is a pretty interesting movement. They stuck it out long enough to get beyond being ignored. Then the police arrested some people (a lot of people, actually), and the media started paying attention. Usually with scorn and dismissiveness.
Even friends on the left have complained about a lack of coherent message. Which is true, but I don’t know how much that really matters at the moment. And anyway, a coherent message is pretty rare from the left, so let’s not expect too much.
Back in 1992, when I went to a pro-choice march in DC (which I partly signed up for because I really wanted to hook up with one of the organizers — and it totally worked), I remember becoming aware for the first time at the lack of focus the left had with its messaging. Most of the marchers were carrying signs or shouting out about a woman’s right to choose.
And then there were also some jackasses holding “Free Mumia” signs.
Yes, the left can be infuriatingly unfocused. And that’s been a primary complaint about the Occupy Wall Street movement. “What do they want??”
I call, “Bullshit” to some degree on that complaint. Yes, there are tons of people down there. Some of them — let’s face it: most of them — will be incoherent, inarticulate, nervous idiots, when speaking to someone with a microphone and/or a camera. So if you interview one of those idiots, you’re going to hear a mess. They will be the subject of cheap, easy mockery.
(Random interviews within the Tea Party marches also sounded messy or stupid or racist, and were easily mocked. But the Tea Partiers had the advantage of Fox News’ 24-hour coverage to help them clarify their message. The left doesn’t quite have the same advantage.)
But if you listen to the coverage from a show such as Democracy Now! (a perennial favorite here, on B&E), you’ll hear the activists worth listening to. Imagine that: a reporter actually spends time finding an articulate, intelligent, coherent activist to interview. The movement sounds a lot better then.
So what are they doing down there? And what do they want? Here’s why I’m not sure it matters that we understand them completely. At least not yet.
They have a bogeyman. And it’s a fucking great bogeyman. Wall Street. People understand that Wall Street equals greed and preying on everyone who isn’t part of Wall Street. Wall Street doesn’t just represent the harm inflicted on the people of this country; the firms of Wall Street actually inflicted harm on this country. Wall Street is both the figurative and literal bogeyman for all of our ills.
Bank of America might be a quintessential example because they got tons of TARP money, continue to foreclose upon the people they gave shitty mortgages to, and now charge you $5 to access your own money. Bank of America has, by itself, pissed off millions of Americans. Bank of America is just one Wall Street firm. There are millions of people pissed off now.
And because it’s a left-leaning movement, it seems unfocused. That’s because just about every pet cause of the left can trace their ills back to Wall Street. Sometimes the firms of Wall Street may not deserve it. Most of the time they fucking do.
So no, for once, I don’t have a problem with a lack of coherent messaging from the left. Maybe it’ll bother me more over time. But for now it’s fine that they just have a clear starting point: “FUCK WALL STREET.”
Now maybe I’ll go down there and join them for a while this weekend. Or at least take some pictures.
Well, we’ll see. I’ve got some stuff to take care of with my new apartment…