Naomi Wolfe has written a screed for the UK’s Guardian, “The shocking truth about the crackdown on Occupy,” that is sympathetic to the OccupyWhatever movement, in response to several events where occupiers where pepper-sprayed or arrested. She claims to have received emails that list the wishes of the occupiers and to be privy to a government conspiracy to “suppress” the movement.
I believe that the wish list is Wolfe’s, and that she has inflated the cohesiveness of purpose around her favored agenda:
The No 1 agenda item: get the money out of politics. Most often cited was legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which lets boundless sums enter the campaign process. No 2: reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act – the Depression-era law, done away with by President Clinton, that separates investment banks from commercial banks. This law would correct the conditions for the recent crisis, as investment banks could not take risks for profit that create kale derivatives out of thin air, and wipe out the commercial and savings banks.
No 3 was the most clarifying: draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.
(The Wall Street Journal reports a much less focused OccupyWhatever, today.The demands among various New York State occupiers include reparations for slavery and local city political disagreements.College students from the New School, who have “occupied” an art gallery, are demanding gender-neutral bathrooms and no more tuition increases.)
Ms. Wolfe seems to miss the implication that it is her imagined “suppressors” are the powerful on the Left. She inflates the power of Congress, ignoring the true chain of command within the Department of Homeland Security, which is run out of the Executive Office of the Obama White House. Instead, she asks, “[W]hy on earth would Congress advise violent militarised reactions against its own peaceful constituents?”
But mostly, she ignores the fact that the Occupiers are not “peaceful,” innocent, or harmless activists. They are obstructing traffic, knocking down little old ladies and interfering with school children. They are incubating disease and violence among themselves, which spreads to anyone who comes near them. Private businesses in some of the cities have been harassed and shut down – for example, restaurants and food vendors who cannot give away their product and make a profit(horrors!) that allows them to stay in business and take money home to their families.
The video of the chanting at Walmarts on “Black Friday” are great examples of the ridiculous nature of the objections. Very young, well-dressed and -fed men and women (just look at those jeans and sweaters – where do you think they bought them?) telling the employees and the customers that they are slaves, and decrying consumerism is hypocrisy.
Civil disobedience has always carried with it the very probable risk of being arrested and prosecuted. Frankly, those of us who have avoided certain parks or who have been heckled while minding our own business are not sympathetic to those arrested or pepper sprayed.
The agenda that Ms. Wolfe reports is not pure, either. For example, the Citizens United opinion supports and protects free speech. Just as the occupiers join in a group on the street or in the aisles of Walmarts across the nation, those of us who wish to do so, voluntarily give our money to support Political Action Committees (PACs) that represent our desired political speech in ads and to pay lobbyists. The difference is that I have to give my name and occupation when I donate, the PAC must organize and file reports. The OccupyWhatevers refuse to do so and since they don’t like the speech that my money enables, they try to limit my freedom to walk down the street, in addition to my organizing with others in political speech.
However, what concerns me the most is the purposeful submission of individuality by the OccupyWhatever organizations. There is nothing normal or healthy in the chanting and parroting of the words of a leader as the protesters do. They voluntarily turn themselves into interchangeable units of the mob, automatons who apparently do not think for themselves. Watch the videos of a leader who speaks a few words, which are then repeated in unison by the group.
Tell me Occupiers: are these speeches worked out in advance in a truly democratic manner? What happens if one of you has an original thought in reaction to what is going on around you?