Thursday, November 17, 2011

Occupy Wall Street is a protest movement

Public Policy Polling just published a study showing that Occupy Wall Street is dropping significantly in the public's regard: Occupy Wall Street Favor Fading 11/16/2011:

The Occupy Wall Street movement is not wearing well with voters across the country. Only 33% now say that they are supportive of its goals, compared to 45% who say they oppose them. That represents an 11 point shift in the wrong direction for the movement's support compared to a month ago when 35% of voters said they supported it and 36% were opposed. Most notably independents have gone from supporting Occupy Wall Street's goals 39/34, to opposing them 34/42.
Digby comments on the report in Old fault lines Hullabaloo 11/16/2011 and Oh. Homeland security AND the FBI 11/15/2011.

Charles Pierce weighs in on it in The Manufactured Narrative (and Delicate Future) of Occupy Esquire Politics Blog 11/16/2011.

This development doesn't especially surprise me for the reasons that Digby and Pierce describe. At this point, it's even a measure of the effectiveness of the Occupy movement.

This movement is a protest movement. It's not a mobilization effort for a political party. It's not a campaign for a candidate running for office. It's not a membership group offering policy solutions for a broad range of problems. It's a protest movement.

Protests aren't needed around issues that aren't problematic. Protests are needed around things that aren't going right, around problems that aren't being adequately recognized or addressed. Protests are meant to break the routine order of daily business. They are meant to disturb established habits of thinking. They are meant to change priorities. They are meant to shake people out of complacency and apathy, to raise issues others aren't bothering to raise, to make people uncomfortable with the current situation in hopes they will see it needs to be changed in a positive way.

The Democratic and Republican Parties have both competed for decades now primarily over which can more effectively comfort the comfortable. That was the theme of Kenneth Galbraith's The Culture of Contentment (1992), and that process has continued the last two decades. So it's not at all unusual that a massive protest movement like Occupy would generate doubt and opposition, not only among the most comfortable one percent, but also among the large portions of the 99% who feel comfortable enough with current social arrangement that they resent or fear anyone who tries to rock the boat.

The Occupy movement has created one of what Jerry Brown has called a "democratic moment", in which ordinary people bypassed failing party and governmental channels to inject themselves directly into the political process. And they have generated widespread sympathy and activism across the country and the world, feeding into the already existing anti-austerity protests like those of the indignados in Spain and Greece.

The fact that they don't have polls showing a majority agreeing with them doesn't change the nature or significance of what the movement has accomplished. They have exposed the capture of both major political parties and the Supreme Court by the Money Power (to use a Jacksonian terms) in a new and immediate way. They have exposed the corruption and militarization of police departments and their blatant hostility to dissent, including in several major cities (Chicago, Oakland, Portland, Seattle) with Democratic mayors.

The movement has given the maldistribution of wealth and income new prominence in the public discussions and media coverage, even in the mainstream media, while the Democrats and Republicans blithely chug along in the ridiculous Congressional "super-committee" proposing to slash vital civilian programs and to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits while cutting tax rates for the wealthiest. It shows the extent of the practical corruption of the Democratic and Republican parties. But the pressure created by the Occupy movement also contributes to the pressure to force this ludicrous super-committee scheme to end in a meaningless deadlock, the best outcome that can be expected at this moment.

This edition of the Brooks and Shields Clown Show from last Friday's PBS Newshour (11/11/2011) illustrates the effect the movement is having on political conversation (Shields and Brooks on GOP Race After Perry Flub, 'Occupy' Movement):

Sleepy Mark Shields was downright alert in talking about the Occupy movement.

I think the message, which is, people say, unclear is a lot stronger than the messenger.
Sleepy Mark wouldn't stray far enough from Beltway Village conventional wisdom to not gripe a little bit about the hippies.

But after making his ritual pledge of allegiance to Beltway conventional wisdom, he actually had something to say worth listening to:

Not -- certainly not Mayor Adams of Portland, but I think some of the critics and opponents of the movement itself have tried to discredit the movement by focusing attention on the exotic, eccentric, erratic behavior of some of the Occupiers.

But it hit home to me this past week when this question was put. The current economic structure of the country is out of balance and favors a small proportion of the rich over the rest of the country; America needs to reduce the power of major banks and corporations -- 76 percent of Americans, Wall Street Journal poll, agree with that; 60 percent strongly agree with that.

It cuts across partisan, religious, racial, age divisions. So I think that is a direct consequence of the movement. I think the movement's message has been very effective in getting across. I doubt if it would have been that strong three months ago. [my emphasis]
David "Bobo" Brooks became a caricature of himself. Bobo's specialty is explaining why Republican attitudes and Party positions of the day are entirely sensible and do so in a soft, restrained tone. Usually, when he adopts the most exaggeratedly calm tone is when he's spewing the most undiluted hogwash. Here he says - with a straight face - that the Koch-brothers-front-group-funded Tea Party rightwing protesters were raising the same issues as the Occupy movement! Following directly on Shields' comments just quoted, Bobo declares:

That's exactly what the Tea Party movement has been saying.
Yes, and it's the stork that brings babies into the world, too! Bobo might as well have been doing a comedy routine mocking himself at this point. He continues:

My problem with that movement and the Tea Party movement, both of them, is they have no leaders. They have no institutions. And you can celebrate democracy if you think it's useful to have a movement with no leaders. But if have no leaders and no institutions, you have no direction, you have, I think, no lasting power. But you have nobody to be serious and be rigorous and say, here are the problems we all agree on. Here is what we are offering.

And if you have no leaders, you're not going to have any structure for a set of solutions. And, politically, you're not going to be defined by your best people. You're going to be defined by your worst, who are going to be the most disruptive. And that's, I think, what has happened to the Occupy movement.

So I just think a movement needs leaders and institutions to have staying power, as the civil rights movement did.

JIM LEHRER: What about Mark's point, though, that all of that aside, it has raised the consciousness about this very issue that Mark...

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I think it has.

The Tea Party movement really was talking about financial concentration. This was their core message, the concentration of finance in Washington, and which is the core message of the Occupy movement, obviously, from a different perspective.

But -- so, that issue is something that a lot of us agree with. A lot of us -- I'm no Occupy type, but I think the banks should be broken up, as they do. And, nonetheless, it's not enough just to raise the issue. And I give them credit for that. You have got to have some solutions. And that involves studying the issue.

Things are complicated. And so -- and then the final point -- and this is what the mayors are facing all around the country -- is you have a right to raise issues. You have a right to protest. You don't have a right to occupy parts of your city.

And so there is a balance mayors are dealing with. And I think they have been very lenient with the Occupy movement. But as these efforts mount, I think they're right to try to restore some order, while giving them the right to protest. [my emphasis]
You have a right to protest, says Bobo. It just should be somewhere like a caged-in "free speech zone", safely out of sight and out of mind of Very Serious People like Bobo and other Beltway star pundits.

Bobo is continuing the Establishment media trend mocked so effectively by RT America's Alyona Minkovski in this clip sending up CNN's Erin Burnett's famously clueless coverage of the Occupy Wall Steet protest (Halloween:'Seriously, Protesters?!' 10/31/2011):


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