Monday, October 24, 2011

The Hypocrisy of OWS

NRO's Jim Geraghty points out just a touch of irony that exists in Occupy Wall Street (OWS). OWS cannot seem to avoid the fact that the very things it is supposedly protesting against, are essential aspects of human nature and society—characteristics even OWS cannot escape from demonstrating.

[The full text is not available online since it is an email newsletter, NRO's Morning Jolt. I have included the it below.]

I'm just fed up with the greed of the rich and powerful, man, like those Occupy Wall Street organizers. The New York Post offers us a great belly laugh: "Even in Zuccotti Park, greed is good. Occupy Wall Street's Finance Committee has nearly $500,000 in the bank, and donations continue to pour in -- but its reluctance to share the wealth with other protesters is fraying tempers. Some drummers -- incensed they got no money to replace or safeguard their drums after a midnight vandal destroyed their instruments Wednesday -- are threatening to splinter off."

One occupier laments, "The other day, I took in $2,000. I kept $650 for my group, and gave the rest to Finance. Then I went to them with a request -- so many people need things, and they should not be going without basic comfort items -- and I was told to fill out paperwork. Paperwork! Are they the government now?"

You can hear the laughter at UrbanGrounds:
The obnoxious drummers are upset that their vandalized drums won't be replaced from the $500,000 in the general fund nor will they be getting funds for infrastructure (a shed) to keep them safe. The money collected is actually sitting in a bank, that's right a BANK! Isn't this motley crew opposed to banks AND capitalism? What bank and what is the name on the account? Is it an individual account or is it a corporate account? Is the person or group that the account belongs to registered and is making required filings? The Schadenfreude is strong in this one!

When the "Parasites On Parade" finally ends, and it will, some one or some small group is going to have a lot of "walking around" money, while the smelly masses who panhandled for it will be in the same sorry condition they were in before, blaming unknown individuals and corporations for all their troubles.
The Post also shares:
Filth-ridden Zuccotti Park is a breeding ground for bacterial infection loaded with potential health-code violations that pose a major risk to the public, an expert who inspected the area warned.

"It's like Walmart for rats,'' Wayne Yon, an expert on city health regulations, said yesterday.

"There's a lack of sanitation, a lack of controls for hot and cold water," Yon said. He saw at least 15 violations of the city's health code -- the type that would easily shut down a food establishment.

He noted the lack of lavatory facilities, as neighbors repeatedly complain about protesters defecating in the area and the stench of urine.
A.J. Strata wonders if the Occupy Wall Street crowd understands that they are inadvertent advertisements for why their vision of the world can't work:
So when I watch a tent city culture play government and cry for equality I see [it] for what it really is. Look at these people living in tents, calling one a kitchen and one a counsel center, fighting law enforcement while crime runs rampant amongst them. It's a sad joke!
What, am I supposed to trade in my upper middle class home I worked a life time to obtain, turn in my cars and motorcycle, give up all I have to go play communist commune in a park somewhere?
Are they nuts? Herman Cain wants to change the tax code and is getting nervous ninnies taking shots at him from all sides. These silly people in these occupy zones want to replace our entire society!
Good luck with that one.


  1. "These people aren't protesting money. They're not protesting banking. They're protesting corruption on Wall Street." [ ]

    Sorry but the hypocrisy/irony seen is a willful misreading of why OWS exists.

  2. I'm sorry but I don't just find that completely convincing. You don't protest something within a system. If there is corruption in/on Wall Street you deal with it through legal ways. The alternative is that Wall Street (or something else) is a broken system. In that case, the normal avenues don't work. While I don't believe the system is broken, if you are out protesting (and you presumably know why you are, which I think is dubious for some of these people) than you must believe the system is in some way failing. That's a bigger protest than simply being against corruption.

    The bigger issue, and hence the hypocrisy, is that as I've written elsewhere, the movement does not know what it wants and is rife with contradictions. I don't believe they want to overthrow the system, despite their unhappiness. So they operate within it, while biting the hand that feeds them, so to speak.

    Thanks for your comment.

  3. In order:
    "You don't protest something within a system": I think this is referring to an assumption that they're putting their money in BofA or a similar national too-big-to-fail bank? They're not, one component of the movement is the support of nonprofit credit unions, hence "Bank Transfer Day" on November 5th advocating such a move from national banks to nonprofit credit unions.

    "If there is corruption in/on Wall Street you deal with it through legal ways. The alternative is that WS is a broken system. In that case normal avenues don't work...that's a bigger protest than simply being against corruption." There's some conflation here between a number of factors and entities. The protests and marches are legal, though local laws do differ on camping out in parks (maybe you were referring to going through one's representatives or something?). Since you're describing "Wall Street" as a system I'm not sure if you're trying to make it synonymous with "capitalism", rather than as referring to the specific financial entities and persons who helped precipitate the financial crisis. The political system, which is a system, is definitely seen as unresponsive to the needs of most Americans (hence the "99%"), part of the justification for the protests. So I guess you could see it as about more than just Wall St corruption, as that corruption is not just a financial corruption but a political one that allowed such criminal behavior to happen (and protected it from prosecution). So the movement represents an unhappiness with the level of influence money has in the current political system, and how that money is crowding out the representation and interests of most Americans. This has been seen in the financial crisis recovery, the DC fixation on entitlement cuts while unemployment floats at 10%, the budget ceiling crisis, etc.

    So regarding "the bigger issue", I'm a bit confused why people have trouble seeing the movement's grievances (which OWS-NYC has actually published): it's clearly focused on financial influence of the political system, and how that has in turn perpetuated itself with friendly revolving-door relations with regulators and tax cuts (note that here in DC it's called both "Occupy DC" and "Occupy K St"). And as income inequality increases the feeling of political disenfranchisement among non-financial-elites increases.

    Because of this lack of enfranchisement, the movement proactively encourages participation. Obviously as it has gained national attention there will be people seeking to take advantage of the exposure to push other ideas, but most proposals and demands I've seen in the media have been financially related (ie these protests are not about the presidential power to kill US citizens without due process, nor concerning protecting torture regimes from domestic and international law under an expansive "state secrets" interpretation). All things considered in the current state of American politics I'd say the protests are pretty focused.

    Regarding what you've written before on the subject: "Wall Street, CEOs, and bankers have been pilloried simply because of their identity and their perceived positions of power"... "America's economic woes are all of our faults—we should be coming together to find solutions, not playing rounds of 'point the finger.'" I suggest a reading of the Matt Taibbi article I linked to above. It's pretty short and to the point. And I can't think of a better way "coming together" to find solutions than physically doing so.

  4. First, when I generalize about the "system" I am referring to our entire financial system - capitalism if you will. Wall Street, in my opinion, is a made up entity. It is a caricature - there is no monolithic Wall Street that acts in a certain way. This is part of the reason why there is some misguidance in my view on the part of OWS.

    Second, I think you are correct to point out economic grievances. I am not trying to dispute that. But I don't think OWS really has anything together in terms of being a genuine protest. If you look at the slogans, look at the pictures, and interviews, it is composed of the so-called hipsters who are essentially elitists that reject the system (simply because it is the "cool" thing to do), the "burned-out hippies" who are left-over from the 1960s and protest just to protest, and an assortment of kooks and political "advantage-takers" (unions). Now I'm not saying there aren't people there with real grievances, but there isn't an alternative vision.

    I don't believe you go to the streets to fight for marginal changes. While there are some socialists that may want to overthrow the system, I think most in OWS, even if they spew the rhetoric only want marginal reform. I'm talking changes in tax-rates, greater reporting obligations for financial firms, campaign finance issues, etc. But these aren't protestable issues. They make this big scene about Wall Street, but how many would do away with "Wall Street"?

    I think the movement is very much one of protest-for-protest sake. Sure, there is a kernel of grievance that motivates it. But that isn't the point and isn't what brings most people out. The hypocrisy comes in when it comes down to it, despite the rhetoric and the protest slogans and attitude, there isn't too much they demand - certainly not more than some representatives, senators, and pundits have demanded through 'normal' means.


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