Having been intensively involved with liberty activism for the past few years, I believe that the emergence of the #OccupyWallStreet movement is a source of enormous promise. The political clout of well connected financial institutions was the reason the bailouts got muscled through Congress, and, in the years since, virtually no one has been held accountable for what amounts to one of the largest heists in human history. As such, the presence of thousands of protesters camping out a stone’s throw from the epicenter of our financial system serves to spark a much needed national conversation about true accountability for the criminality of the last decade.
Unfortunately, I’ve also noticed that, in the last 24 hours, a lot of disinformation has been spreading around the liberty-oriented blogosphere about #OccupyWallStreet. As such, I felt it would be useful to lay out and dissect some of these criticisms, which I believe are being disseminated in an attempt to prevent an anti-corporatist coalition from forming that might actually have the power to challenge the immensely corrupt status quo.
(1) The #OccupyWallStreet movement wants to re-elect Obama/enact socialism/[insert feared outcome here]
The fundamental flaw with this point is that no one individual or group is, or can be, empowered to speak for the occupation as a whole. Rather, anyone involved in the protest can make demands or claims, but to believe that they represent the movement is to profoundly miss the point of what’s going on (for more on this, see this interview with David Graeber). The fact is that the protest is made up of people with a wide diversity of ideologies and opinions on what reforms are needed, but who are bound together by a shared outrage at the corruption of the Wall Street-Washington nexus. Indeed, the way the public perceives the message is heavily influenced by who shows up, so more liberty folks attending = a more libertarian narrative.
(2) They’re a bunch of lazy, dirty hippies who should get a job!
I’ve noticed that there is a population of people for whom this is a knee-jerk reaction whenever there is a protest, period. In fact, I had a powerful face-palm moment recently when I saw such a comment posted about a rally in my town that happened on a SUNDAY. Even leaving aside the aforementioned diversity of the group, this criticism is pretty ignorant considering the current, and rising, unemployment rate in this country. It was one thing to yell this at hippies in the mid-sixties when there was full employment, but I met plenty of smart, hardworking people there who’ve been laid off and were desperately struggling to find work. The “lazy hippies” narrative is simply a false meme that echoing around the Internet because it allows people to put the protesters in a cognitive box that deems them to be ignored.
(3) I saw one of them interviewed, and he was a total idiot calling for authoritarian solutions. Thus all of #OWS reflects his views.
In addition to the points made above, I’d like to ask the liberty community to remember the ways in which the early TEA Party was delegitimized by the MSM. By picking out and focusing on the sign that said “keep the government out of my Medicare” or a racist attendee, they attempted to tar the whole movement with the brush of its lowest common denominator. Similarly things are afoot with the #OWS movement – there are plenty of people at the rally talking about the FED, complementary currencies, etc., but the folks who don’t want it to succeed are desperately trying to draw attention to the less thoughtful occupiers in order to forward their divide and conquer agenda.
(4) This is a “Tea Party of the Far Left” that is being astroturfed by MoveOn, Soros, SEIU, etc.
As much as the institutional left would like to co-opt #OWS in the same way that the institutional right bought out the TEA Party, this has not happened yet and is by no means a done deal. In fact, the best way to prevent this movement from falling into their hands is for liberty advocates to show up en-mass as a counter balance.
In closing, the #OccupyWallStreet movement has the potential to be a space in which an alliance can come together that is powerful enough to challenge the clout of the corporatists in the banks and DC. In response to that possibility, the interests that would stand to lose from the movement’s success are engaged in a desperate divide-and-conquer attempt to squelch the effort and preserve their corrupt privilege. As such, it is essential that we resist those deceptive attacks and continue stand with the #OccupyWallStreet movement if there is to be any hope of restoring our liberties and our republic.