Why the Wall Street Protest is Failing

October 3rd, 2011 at 5:23 pm | 121 Comments |

| Print

Left-wing populism has never recovered from the sixties. No more damning evidence of this exists than the current “Occupy Wall Street” protests, which despite ample internet promotion and no shortage of passion, have fallen dismally flat, and failed to stir even the most basic conversation about finance, social justice or anything in between. Even ideologically friendly news outlets have dismissed the protesters, as Glenn Greenwald notes with some discomfort here.

Why? Perhaps a good place to start would be with the works of Saul Alinsky which (besides being allegedly influential on the President) provide a damning critique of this protest. Below are three reasons why Alinsky would call these protests abject failures.

1. No clear condition for victory

In his seminal work “Rules for Radicals,” Alinsky writes “The most unethical of all means is the non-use of any means.” By contrast, the Wall Street protestors not only have no discernible goal – they seem uncomfortable with the idea of such a thing. Why? Because goals require means, and means require organization, and Occupy Wall Street bills itself as a “leaderless resistance movement.”

Moreover, despite being clearly on the Left ideologically, Occupy Wall Street has tried to do half-hearted outreach to conservatives, billing themselves as an “anti-corruption” movement. However, most draft lists of their anti-corruption goals have gotten tied up in the protests’ General Assemblies (a term with the wrong connotations if you want to attract conservatives).

Furthermore, without a central organizer (or even “community organizer”), the protests sound more like a bunch of different people talking at once than a single voice calling for a single result. It is, in other words, arguing over which means to use and not using any of them – a classic failure under Alinsky’s model.

2. Failure to speak within the experience of those they’re trying to reach

Alinsky is famous for telling his followers to push their agenda in a way that will appeal to a large mass of people. “Never go outside the experience of your people,” Alinsky wrote. This means blending in with the communities you’re trying to change. By contrast, Occupy Wall Street and its ancillaries in other cities are filled with people who, to put it nicely, stand out.

A quick look at the videos floating around of the protest prove this. Moreover, the usage of terms like “postanarchism” by the sponsor group AdBusters might endear the protestors to your average lefty college student but do little to appeal to the mass of Americans, for whom anything with the word “anarchism” in it is ominous. The protests, therefore, come off as self-indulgent and divorced from the concerns and experience of the average Americans they claim to want to help.

Tim Phillips, President of Americans for Prosperity, summed this problem up succinctly when speaking to FrumForum: “Their message is of such limited appeal to the majority of Americans – destroy the free market economic system that’s been the most prosperous and the best way to bring people up out of poverty and despair that the world has ever created -when that’s your message, you self-limit because so few Americans can identify with that kind of radical viewpoint,” Phillips said.

3. No actual inconvenience to the people being “occupied”

Perhaps no video can better sum up the weakness of the Occupy Wall Street movement than one that depicts protesters marching in lock step, chanting “We are the 99 percent” while a group of bemused and well-dressed Wall Street Executives look on, sipping champagne.

Alinsky, in Rules for Radicals, relates a story of how he got a group of protesters to completely stall a Tony Department Store’s clothes-shipping operation by having them all order expensive clothes from the store and then refuse the packages when they arrived. The store caved to the protesters’ demands.

If the Wall Street “occupiers” have done anything like this, the world hasn’t seen or heard about it. In fact, the main defense the protesters have used when complaining about police brutality has been “We weren’t doing anything!” Alinsky would probably only sigh at this point and say, “Exactly.”

Recent Posts by Mytheos Holt

121 Comments so far ↓

  • paul_gs

    It’s the same with the Keystone XL pipeline protests. Progressives pretend to be concerned about AGW (the greatest challenge to face mankind. Ever!!) but when a chance comes for a meaningful protest, they’re all out shopping at Target instead.

    Left-wing radicals? LOL.

    • ottovbvs

      “(the greatest challenge to face mankind. Ever!!)..Left-wing radicals? LOL.”

      Right wing hyperbole meanwhile is a totally unknown phenomena. LOL

      • paul_gs

        Good comeback otto. You progressives sure are serious about AGW. The commitment! The determination! The resolve! LOL.

        • ottovbvs

          “Good comeback otto.’

          Believe me you’re beginner in the cynicism stakes. That said taking the longer view the tide is probably flowing in the progressive direction for all sorts of demographic and economic reasons. I also think you are perhaps unduly dismissive of youthful idealism.

          BTW on a totally different topic doesn’t this Mytheos Holt look like the very model of Republican youth? He probably has perspiration on his upper lip.

        • paul_gs

          Mytheos looks like the model of Republican youth?

          Considering only one party in the USA has ever been a white supremacist party (the Democrats), I think you’re a bit confused otto.

        • ottovbvs

          “Considering only one party in the USA has ever been a white supremacist party (the Democrats),”

          Why do Republicans always have to play the racial card?

        • paul_gs

          I can’t tell if you’re being serious or joking.

          Help me out otto.

    • jakester

      True, but doesn’t this negate the whole boogeyman mentality the Right has of the Left that they are working tirelessly to undermine & change everything?

    • balconesfault

      Fighting climate change by fighting the Keystone Pipeline is akin to trying to stop pot smoking by protesting the sale of rolling paper. Or hell, matches.

      Anyone who doesn’t think that long-term, the Canadians will find an alternate means of transporting their shale oils, probably to Pacific Terminals and then overseas, if the Keystone Pipeline isn’t built, is delusional.

      The only way to keep the shales from being dug up and burned with all the horrific environmental impacts that will result are global climate change agreements. As a die-hard environmentalist, I’m not particularly interested in fighting meaningless battles, even if prodded by some right wing hack who probably doesn’t even consider climate change to be a real issue.

      • paul_gs

        “As a die-hard environmentalist . . . “

        Sure. Another belief, right? Such sacrifice.

        The only battles it appears environmentalists are interested in fighting are the ones that involve flying to exotic foreign locations for the latest UN climate confab.

  • Watusie

    It comes as news to me that the Wall Street protest is failing.

    • Banty

      It’s not – it’s spreading. It’s not a failure in any sense *yet* except the one my 19 year old son uses a lot if the slightest little thing happens “FAIL!”.

      I have mixed feelings about this movement. On one hand, it brings up those conglomeration of progressive causes in the ’70s that pretty much turned me off, on the other hand, durn straight we should be mad at Wall Street and financial firms, and wary of increasing corporate power.

      I do recall how the nascent Tea Party was described two or so years ago – - “inchoate”. Freedomworks and the like got their hooks into them. I wonder if something similar might happen to this movement.

  • Sinan

    It appears that Alinsky is the mastermind of the world given his repeated references in almost every right wing article these days. I am 56 years old and a long time liberal. Until the far right made Alinsky front page news, I had never heard of him. Could it be that he is Oz and that my entire life and politics have been controlled and shaped by this powerful man hiding behind a curtain? Or could it be that he has only marginal impact and is really nothing more than a 60s radical whose best days were with the Berrigan Brothers and Nkrumah? I find it hilarious watching these young conservatives tell us how our generation became active and who our leaders were. I was there buddy. Believe me, the hippies did not live in Chicago and Saul Alinsky was a side bar on the whole scene until you folks made him into Che Guevara overnight.

    • ottovbvs

      “and Saul Alinsky was a side bar on the whole scene until you folks made him into Che Guevara overnight.”

      Next the tee shirts?

    • balconesfault

      You beat me to it. As someone who regularly reads a lot of progressive-left writings, who supports various grassroots liberal organizing groups (like Wellstone Action), and contributes to various progressive politicians … I’ve NEVER heard Alinski invoked by anyone except a right-winger.

      If there’s any good summation of the protest tactics of the left … it’s that they tend to not really have very well coordinated tactics. They’re not top-down driven machines pushing money from some pot to leaders who can use that money to organize and promote (I’m not going to argue that 50 years ago this was necessarily true, given how much money the Soviets were pumping around the world). This clearly differs from the right, who simultaneously wants to deny the networking that is created and supported by top down funding, and accuse the left of functioning in that way.

    • elizajane

      Ditto on these. There I was, a leftie at college in the 70s. Never, ever heard the man’s name. Not even as a grown-up political junkie. Not until he emerged as the evil genius behind commie radical Barack Obama.
      The person who’s probably most pleased by this whole right-wing schtick is Alinsky himself. There he was, fading off into middle-aged academic obscurity, when Rush Limbaugh et al. resurrected him and made him into a powerful force of the Left.

      • Sinan

        Yep. The right has turned many a forgotten player into a rock star in their mad search for villains and heroes. On the left we have Alinsky, the terrorist mastermind behind the entire liberal establishment. On the right we have Hayek, the noble economist whose tome on Eastern Europe in the late 1930s somehow has relevance to today’s world even though the communists are now capitalists and kicking our arses up and down the globe. It is all just too much for this one man to bear…

  • sunroof

    Judging by the copycat protects being arranged, this movement is growing, not shrinking. The remarkable thing is its very spontaneity. It is poorly organized. It has no complex messaging. It’s not top down driven. Now, unions and other groups are latching onto it, which is the reverse of what you’d expect.

    A better thesis by the author might have been why the movement may not amount to much, and in that regard some of his/her points might be valid. Then again, Israel’s tent city movement sprung up in a similar fashion – spontaneous, lacking in direction, with vague demands for a bigger share of the total pie. And it has captured headlines in that country and forced politicians to at least pay lip service to the issues the protesters raise.

    • Stan

      The French events of 1968 also started the same way – first a small group of university students started protesting, then other students joined them, and finally the unions joined in.

  • Rabiner

    strange how little coverage and promotion these protests have had in comparison to the tea party protests 2 years ago that were all over the ‘news’ 24/7

    • elizajane

      Could this possibly be because the Left does not actually have a media empire trained to cover the every loopy action of their extreme fringe?

      Not that I actually think that all these protesters are loopy, mind you.

  • MattP

    There is a huge difference between these “Occupy Wall Street” protests and the tea party movement.

    When was the last time you saw 700 tea party activists arrested at one of their rallies?

    These loonies are wasting valuable police resources. It’s best that they all go back to their parents’ basements or artist lofts now.

    • ottovbvs

      “There is a huge difference between these “Occupy Wall Street” protests and the tea party movement.”

      Well that would be because the tea party folks are essentially Wall Street stooges even if they don’t understand it (big suprise). Meanwhile those providing the money for the “grassroots” tea party (aka the Koch stooges) protests continue business as usual:


      • paul_gs

        Another Koch Brothers “hit” piece based on innuendo and deliberate distortions. Boring.

        • ottovbvs

          It’s fairly obvious prima facie evidence doesn’t play too big a part in your perceptions of reality gs

        • paul_gs

          There is no prima facie evidence.

          Koch did not make “secret” sales to Iran. Koch uncovered bribes being paid on legal sales and fired the persons involved.

          That is what an ethical business does.

        • Banty

          That’s Bloomberg news, not DailyKos, Paul. Is there any source you’d believe outside the right wing echo chamber?

        • paul_gs

          Why believe Bloomberg simply because it’s Bloomberg? The author of the article appears to be very inexperienced and the sources in the article appear to be chosen simply to support the hit piece. Crap reporting abounds. Bloomberg isn’t immune.

          Fact is, the Koch brothers, on the evidence, appear to be reputable businessmen. Most of the assertions in the article are false, and it is unsurprising that there would be some lapses in a company with 50,000 employees.

  • zaybu

    I’m not surprised that the right is laughing at those protesters — they don’t have guns.

    • dafyd

      Or silly costumes, misspelled signs, tv pundits crying and Pols lying about death panels and yelling that they want their country back.

      • LauraNo

        Also they appear to have healthy weight and do not carry racist signs and appear to include all races and differing nationalities.

  • Linton Barwick

    I find it funny that these protests are being labeled as “liberal” in headlines, as if the people writing the articles know the motives and hearts of every person in the crowd. You didn’t see mainstream news stories calling the revolutionaries in Egypt and Libya “Islamists”, and with good reason. Some undoubtedly were, but some weren’t. Some of those protesting in Wall Street are surely liberals, but can we say that all of them are?

    I think of the Paul supporters and their “end the Fed” rhetoric, and of the murky political ideology of Anonymous which has also spoken out against Wall Street. Heck even one of the original “Tea Party” people, Karl Denninger, has said that the Tea Party has failed because of its inability to speak out against corruption on Wall Street.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    well, that was 5 minutes of my life that I won’t get back. What a silly little article. Virtually every protest can be dismissed if it doesn’t lead to immediate change, will Holt say every right to life march was a complete failure since Roe Vs. Wade is still the law of the land?

    When Liberals march, it is rabble rousing, when Conservatives march it is the silent majority making their voices heard.

    And enough with Alinsky already. Honestly, I get Frum gets to use interns to write free articles, but have an editor so they don’t embarrass themselves with such trite nonsense as this.

    • paul_gs

      “When Liberals march”, windows often get broken, fires get started and vehicles tend to be destroyed. That’s the difference.

      • Levedi

        Baloney. I saw a number of liberal and union protests when I was a grad student at OSU. The protests I saw organized made very, very clear to their participants that signs and chanting were fine, but violence, threats, or property damage were completely off limits. The only time I saw property damaged and the riot police called was when the students partied after a football game.

  • SteveT

    You know what else could fail?

    BoA, The Euro…

    If either or both of those things came to pass you might see a lot more anger at Wall Street/Global finance than just from “kids” in a park in Manhattan.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    oh Holt, before you think Wall street is not paying attention, here is William H. Gross, managing director of PIMCO, a global investment management firm. Gross complains that “almost all remedies proposed by global authorities to date have approached the problem from the standpoint of favoring capital as opposed to labor. Even conservatives,” Gross writes, “must acknowledge that return on capital investment, and the liquid stocks and bonds that mimic it, are ultimately dependent on returns to labor in the form of jobs and real wage gains. If Main Street is unemployed and undercompensated, capital can only travel so far down Prosperity Road.”
    “Long-term profits cannot ultimately grow unless they are partnered with near equal benefits for labor. Washington, London, Berlin and yes, even Beijing must accept this commonsensical reality alongside several other structural initiatives that seek to rebalance the global economy. The United States in particular requires an enhanced safety net of benefits for the unemployed unless and until it can produce enough jobs to return to our prior economic model which suggested opportunity for all who were willing to grab for the brass ring – a ring that is now tarnished if not unavailable for the grasping.”

    We are, of course, headed in precisely the opposite direction, with Republicans in Congress–purportedly in thrall to capitalists like Gross, but in fact in thrall only to an absolutist, borderline-psychopathic ideology–pushing to dismantle as much of the federal government as they can get their hands on.

    “There are no double-digit investment returns anywhere in sight for owners of financial assets. A modern day, Budweiser-drinking Karl Marx might have put it this way: ‘Laborers of the world, unite – you have only your six-packs to lose.’ He might also have added, ‘Investors/policymakers of the world wake up – you’re killing the proletariat goose that lays your golden eggs.’”

    To review: Some members of Wall Street are saying that working people need to be paid better and the unemployed need a stronger safety net, and until these things happen investors aren’t going to get rich. When the only people in mainstream discourse who care about the working class are Wall Street investors, it really is time to ask where our politics went wrong.


    So unless young Mr. Holt is a managing director of a Wall Street firm, I have to say his thesis is completely off. Try reading some financial news kid instead of Redstate.com

    • Anonne

      Beautifully said, Frump.

    • zaybu


    • Banty

      NPR this morning had a venture capitalist, Bill Frezza, pointing out that business wants to *minimize* job creation, for the sake of their investors and their bottom line.

      All I could think of, was how employees want to maximize their incomes, and the only thing in their way right now is such an unfavorable job market. But we haven’t been hearing that; it’s been more on the lines of people as sheeples waiting helplessly for work who would be cared for by business if we were friendlier to business.

      It’s a very unbalanced narrative.

    • rubbernecker

      What Frumple said!

    • LauraNo

      Oh goll, thanks for this!

  • Gramps

    Frump…you might want to consider takin’ an Evelyn Wood course…it would only have cost yah, 1.3 minutes…! ;)

  • Gramps

    “A banker is a fellow who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining and wants it back the minute it begins to rain.” ~~~ undetermined attribution

    Politicians take note…!

    “…When the only people in mainstream discourse who care about the working class are Wall Street investors, it really is time to ask where our politics went wrong.”

  • Oldskool

    Left-wing populism has never recovered from the sixties.

    I never associated 1960s protests with populism. Either way, they had some spectacular effects. One began when four college guys wanted to be served lunch in a department store. Their decision changed history. I’m not surprised the Wall St protests have started to spread but I am surprised they didn’t begin three years ago.

  • paul_gs

    It’s not that the protests that are failing it is that progressives tend to be the most opportunistic hypocrites out there. “Causes” are chosen to bring them to power, nothing more.

    From Guantanamo remaining open to assassinations of American citizens to gun smuggling illegal weapons used in murders in Mexico to complete indifference about “the greatest challenge to ever face mankind” (AGW), the Left loses all enthusiasm for their professed beliefs as soon as power is won.

    The biggest goal of Democrats and other progressives nowadays is guest appearance on the John Stewart show, and little more.

    • Demosthenes

      When you mock climate science it makes you (and no one else) look like an idiot.

      • paul_gs

        I only mock progressives who claim to believe in climate science. Where are all the believers now??

        • valkayec

          Don’t believe in climate science? Check out NASA: http://climate.nasa.gov/

          If you can come away from their site as a climate change denier, then I really do have to wonder about your intellectual capabilities.

        • paul_gs

          I don’t believe progressives believe in climate science. They most certainy don’t live their lives like they do.

        • Demosthenes

          I don’t believe progressives believe in climate science. They most certainly don’t live their lives like they do.

          Look, the hypocrisy and uncritical ideological blinders of progressivism is one of the main reasons I self-identify as Conservative. And you do have a point about how progressives talk vs. how they behave, on this issue and on many others as well. But climate change or “AGW” is very very real. I do not believe that this necessitates implementing items from the progressive policy wish-list, but some kind of coherent response on a national level is absolutely essential, even if it doesn’t mean mandating an all-electric fleet by 2014 or an all-solar grid by 2012. Energy stored in the chemical bonds of hydrocarbons is a losing proposition, not just because of AGW, but also for public health, economic, strategic, and other reasons as well.

        • elizajane

          I don’t know what progressives you know, but my family and all our progressive friends (among whom I count various smart Republican neighbors) live our lives in accord with our concern about AGW. Maybe we don’t chain ourselves to fences (yet) but we absolutely have made changes to our lifestyles and habits.

        • paul_gs

          I’m glad to hear you say that eliza. I don’t believe action on AGW will ever gain real traction until far, far more people who “believe” in AGW take similar actions to what you have.

    • Going Forward

      And the biggest goal of conservatives is getting a check from the Koch brothers. As for “opportunistic”, I’m sorry which party uses a couple of issues to rile up the working and middle class then proceeds to do nothing about them while screwing over those same voters in favor of the wealthy and corporations?

      • paul_gs

        Ooooh. Those Koch Brothers are s-o-o-o-o scary. Did you know they’ve donated millions of dollars to right-wing organizations. Scary I say.

        Greenpeace, the leftish Hewlett Foundation, Bill Gates, etc., spend far more on their pet progressive causes all the time. I’m more worried about them.

        • Going Forward

          When you’re working for 10 cents an hour so deep in debt to the business you work for because they own your whole town, don’t come whining to me.

        • sweatyb

          I know you’re just trolling here, but this is too rich

          I don’t believe progressives believe in climate science. They most certainy don’t live their lives like they do.

          and then…

          Greenpeace, the leftish Hewlett Foundation, Bill Gates, etc., spend far more on their pet progressive causes all the time. I’m more worried about them.

          I can’t decide if arguing against yourself in two successive posts is a debate fail or a troll win.

        • paul_gs

          Progressives still don’t live by their professed beliefs, at least very few do. Instead, their foundations spend money attempting to force their radical policies onto everyone else.

          “You first”, I say.

        • balconesfault

          You’re making the argument made by hardcore liberals through the 00′s who declared that chickenhawks who did everything they could to avoid seeing combat in their youth had no right to cavalierly be sending men into wars which had nothing to do with an immediate existential threat to the United States.

        • paul_gs

          Live by your beliefs. Hardly a difficult concept to understand. Except for progressives who “believe” in AGW it appears.

    • valkayec

      Pardon me, but your partisan skirt is showing while apparently causing a paralysis of your intellectual brain centers. Surely, you can do better than mindless partisan ranting.

  • valkayec

    I agree with the others posting comments, Mythos. If you’re going to post editorials to FF, you have to be better than this article. The people who comment are not typical of what you’ll find at Redstate or The Hill or Politico. They are widely read, extremely knowledgeable on a wide range of subjects, and are highly critical of ideological displays.

    As someone who came of age during the ’60s and was fairly politically aware, I had never heard of Alinsky until the GOP brought him up during the last presidential campaign. As a result, I find all this GOP mania about the influence of Alinsky to be more a boogyman of the right than an influence on the left.

    Oh, I understand the reasoning for using Alinsky now. There’s nothing better than dragging out a long forgotten political influence to scare voters. I’m quite sure that using that using the more recent examples of Atwater and his acolytes Rove and Gingrich would motivate liberals. But the kids and tea party participants of “Occupy Wall Street” undoubtedly do not even know who these people are, except for Rove and Gingrich.

    As for your notion that the movement is loosing steam because it has no leaders or platform, might I remind you of the “Arab Spring.” These people apparently took their cue from the Egyptian movement…and have no intention of letting up until the system is changed. It’s open; it’s varied; it’s digital; it’s spreading; and it reflects the will of the people. Oh, and they are putting together a cohesive platform of changes they want made. Perhaps you should spend some time on their website as I did today. The movement is a cross section of the populous: families, students, tea partiers, old and young. They are people that are sick and tired of being used and abused by corporate and political leaders, tired of corporate socialism and welfare and private, family loss; sickened by a financial sector that rewards gambling, opacity, lies and economic failure; and disgusted by a political system that is corrupt and purchased by the highest bidder.

    Today’s WaPo had an interview with Eric Schmidt of Google in which he excoriated Congress and DC at large for being bought. Dylan Ratigan spent three evenings down amongst the protesters over the weekend and found they agree with him regarding the corruption in DC. Nobel prize winning Joseph Stiglitz joined the protestors during the weekend.

    The movement is expected to expand to encompass K St in DC this next weekend and in state capital and major cities all over the country as the movement grows. In Europe, the “Occupy” movement has taken flame in England, Iceland, France and other EU countries.

    As Michael Lewis told Maddow this evening, governments have lost their credibility because the financial losses have been and are being socialized while the gains have been privatized. This is not a right vs left protest. It is a people’s protest, reminiscent of the kind of people’s army of the late 20s and the populace movements of the 30s…and perhaps more importantly an American version of the Arab Spring.

    Personally, I hope the flame explodes into a full blown forest fire that threatens the entire “pay to play” political establishment, leads to a Constitutional Amendment banning money in politics, ends influence peddling, and rightens our ship of state For The People.

    • chephren

      Hear, hear. Good points, every one.

      The end result of a successful, national ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement would ideally be to reinvigorate capitalism in a more equitable mold – in other words, to save capitalism from itself.

  • Gramps

    valkayec… “As someone who came of age during the ’60s and was fairly politically aware, I had never heard of Alinsky until the GOP brought him up during the last presidential campaign. As a result, I find all this GOP mania about the influence of Alinsky to be more a boogyman of the right than an influence on the left. ”

    Professor Alinsky was dredged up by “wingnut” opposition research with respect to President Obama’s college and university, association’s as a young student and activist…

    If I were subjected to the same anal examination, methinks I would be residing in the Graybar Hotel…
    Please don’t contact my parole officer…!


  • Churl

    If the Wall Street protest isn’t failing, can someone point out what its successes have been?

    • Gramps

      CHURL…you are commenting…

      • Churl

        Thank you for the hugs. I really would like to find out what successes the Wall Street protests are achieving.

    • hisgirlfriday

      Changing the discussion from austerity and deficit cutting proposals to the issue of corporate greed and Wall Street fraud/incompetence?

      Making people less afraid of speaking the truth for fear of someone shouting “class warfare” at them if they point out the reality of a growing inequality in income in American society?

      • Churl

        “Changing the discussion from austerity and deficit cutting proposals to the issue of corporate greed and Wall Street fraud/incompetence?”

        Folks have been railing about corporate greed and Wall Street for as long as there have been corporations and Wall Street. This is not news. It wasn’t news even in the glory days of William Jennings Bryan, Frank Norris, or Upton Sinclair, let alone now.

        “Making people less afraid of speaking the truth for fear of someone shouting “class warfare” at them if they point out the reality of a growing inequality in income in American society?”

        Please identify someone who has been afraid to enunciate the truth of which you speak because of fear of having someone shout “class warfare” at them. Such a person would be so pathologically timid as to be a worthy subject for psychological study.

        • Frumplestiltskin

          so churl, you think every right to life march in places like NYC are a complete waste of time as well and that they should not therefore do it, that freedom of speech is somehow contingent of ability to affect outcomes otherwise you should shut up? How enlightened of you.

      • Banty

        “Changing the discussion from austerity and deficit cutting proposals to the issue of corporate greed and Wall Street fraud/incompetence?
        Making people less afraid of speaking the truth for fear of someone shouting “class warfare” at them if they point out the reality of a growing inequality in income in American society?”

        I think this will be the greatest effect – disseminating a different narrative.

        I think the Tea Party may have taken the oxygen out of the room as far as organizing around anger in 2008 and 2009. At first, they also put themselves forward as a spontaneous movement, at first their philosophy was disorganized and inchoate. They were rapidly infused with right wing money and organizing power, there was a fairly rapid culling of various factions. Media attention was consumed with it and it was very demoralizing for a lot of people.

        Now, belatedly, starting with college students dissapointed with job prospects, the anger that was shoved aside the past three years, is bubbling up again.

  • valkayec

    paul_gs // Oct 3, 2011 at 10:31 pm: I don’t believe progressives believe in climate science. They most certainy [sic] don’t live their lives like they do.

    Do you have a survey or poll of progressives to prove your allegation? What’s that old saying: “I’m from Missouri….” I like proof of posited statements.

    • paul_gs

      Who needs a survey or poll? The hyprocrisy of progressives is apparent to anyone who looks!

      Secular, narcissistic progressives aren’t big into self-restraint and sacrifice. Yet their professed “belief” in the science of AGW demands exactly that.

      I don’t take progressives seriously because their lifestyles contradict their beliefs.

      • balconesfault

        Secular, narcissistic progressives aren’t big into self-restraint and sacrifice. Yet their professed “belief” in the science of AGW demands exactly that.

        Such a wonderful catch-22 these right wing hacks construct. If someone makes an extreme effort to live a low-carbon footprint life, they’re dismissed as unrealistic tree-hugging hippies who are too extreme to deserve a place in the national discourse.

        If someone takes more moderate steps to reduce their carbon footprint – well, they’re a hypocrite to be dismissed because they don’t move themselves out of the mainstream.

        I believe in market based solutions. If the cost of burning carbon is increased via taxation, then people will make choices … raising their thermostat in the summer, or using the bus more, or buying a fuel efficient vehicle … that reduce greenhouse gas production. The tax revenues can be dedicated to funding more public transportation alternatives and renewable energy production, dropping the need for burning carbon. I don’t want to go grab people who commute to their office job in a Ford F-350 out of their vehicle, but I would like to make them pay for the efforts that society is going to have to undertake to offset their profligacy.

        • paul_gs

          I don’t criticize people who live an extreme low-carbon lifestyle. I criticize the fact that there aren’t millions more of them or tens of millions of progressives who live moderately lower carbon lifestyles.

          Because so very, very few progressives have made any measures to reduce their carbon footprint beyond mere tokenism, I can’t take progressives as a group seriously on the topic of AGW.

      • ottovbvs

        “The hyprocrisy of progressives is apparent to anyone who looks!”

        Happily hyprocrisy (sic) is entirely absent from the Republican belief system.

      • zaybu

        Paul wrote: I don’t take progressives seriously because their lifestyles contradict their beliefs.

        It would seem to you that only someone who lives in the jungle, sans modern technology, would qualify as a “true” progressive. Thanks for that strawman. Anything else, genius?

        • paul_gs

          Another progressive hypocrite. All talk. No personal responsibility. Everything is somebody elses fault.

      • Banty

        “The hyprocrisy of progressives is apparent to anyone who looks!”

        Says who? Whose looking? Looking where? What exactly are you talking about?? This doesn’t even rise to the level of argument from the masses.

        I know of no political philosophy that can boast perfect adherence from those who profess it. We’re all embedded in a society. I’m tired of these arguments that progressives are all to live on self-sufficient farms or go out of their ways to send their kids to inner city public schools (or whatever the heck you expect them to do), or that pro-lifers have to all adopt 10 kids each (or whatever the heck people want of them). Many times, this sort of argument is really a wish that proponents one doesn’t like to go off somewhere and busy themselves so as to be ineffective proponents.

        I gotta say, the one and most outstanding hypocrisy that I see is on the right, and that’s the chickenhawk hypocrisy of the eagerness for war on the part of policymakers who carefully steered themselves away from military service, or into the most cushy and safe corners of military service. That’s one reason why, for his faults, I admire McCain. He won’t be getting all 24 (as in the TV series) about how to handle prisoners of war like the Bush bafoons did – he KNOWS.

        • paul_gs

          =”I know of no political philosophy that can boast perfect adherence from those who profess it.”=

          What adherence? AGW “believers” believe believing in their belief in AGW is all that is required.

          =”We’re all embedded in a society.”=

          How lame. Avoid personal responsibility in regards to AGW and blame it all on society.

        • Banty

          This is about – what exactly – can you tell us?

        • paul_gs

          This is about the idea among progressives that “belief” is enough. If you aren’t living what you claim to believe don’t expect society to pay much attention.

  • shediac

    Falling? Maybe not having a 24/7 ‘so-called’ News Network promoting their cause has an effect? Maybe that the media is owned by Wall Street is having and effect? Maybe they have to dress like clowns and spew racist-ism, would that help? Worked for that other group.

  • orangettecoleman

    I hardly think it matters how the protestors dress, since despite the fact that there are Marines, ex-factory workers, and all sorts of other ‘normal’ people protesting, the media is always going to find a college kid with dreadlocks or an old hippie in tie dye and that’s going to be the image they choose to publish under the story header.

    Also, the author misses the whole point about the purpose of these protests: it isn’t to force a confrontation with the police and build the whole thing into a riot, the purpose as I understand it is to give a bunch of people who have a range of grievances (and problems which they share with a huge number of citizens regardless of party affiliation) a public forum where they can make their concerns known, network, and ultimately start working on formulating solutions. How else will they do it? News networks and websites ignore stories that threaten the livelihoods of their corporate sponsors, social networks like Twitter censor content for the same reason, and these people don’t have the same organizational infrastructure that groups like the Tea Party have in the form of Fox News, AM radio, and conservative religious organizations like the Evangelicals and Mormons.

    The fact that Occupy Wall Street participants didn’t show up at the park three weeks ago brandishing a pre-written manifesto is beside the point. It’s inevitable in a decentralized group like this that you’re going to see a lot of different things being said and demands being made, some of which are reasonable and well-thought-out and some of which are absurd and soft-headed. Now, as the protests have been going for a while, we’re starting to see the advancement of lists of grievances and demands agreed upon by most of the protestors: crowd-sourced solutions formed by consensus.

    Lastly, it’s not a protest against capitalism per se or the free market economy, it’s a protest against the fact that a tiny minority of elites are able to dictate policy to the government, to their own advantage and to the disadvantage of a huge majority of the nation’s citizens; the idea is not to abolish the free market system but to bring attention to the fact that for our society to be truly free, institutional safeguards need to be in place to ensure that one group of people can’t manipulate government policy to their own exclusive benefit. I would not call a nation in which bankers and financiers run the economy into the ground and are able to use their influence on our lawmakers to avoid any consequences while the average taxpayer foots the bill and is driven into poverty by predatory lending practices, unfair taxation, and skyrocketing health insurance premiums free by any stretch of the imagination; it’s time for us to recognize that we live in a corporatocracy and start discussing ways to get the country back on the right track. That discussion is what Occupy Wall Street is intended to provoke.

    • hisgirlfriday

      Excellent post.

      You and many others have made so many good points that also resonated for me (like the Alinksy obsession WTF?) while reading this post and thread, so I’ll try to keep this succinct.

      Basically, I think the notion of proclaiming the protests a “fail” at this early stage is kind of hilarious.

      Maybe these will just flame out like the war protests have over the last decade. But maybe not.

      The odds were certainly against Daphne Leef’s single act of pitching a tent in a Tel Aviv park to protest the lack of affordable housing being the catalyst to bring hundreds of thousands of Israelis marching under the broad cause of social justice less than two months later. But that’s precisely what happened this summer.

      Same thing for a single desperate man setting himself on fire being the catalyst to the toppling of the leaders of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya and perhaps also Syria, Yemen and Bahrain.

      If anyone tells you they know for certain where all this is headed, they’re lying.

      Especially in the case of a Wall Street protest where the financial crisis is FAR FROM OVER with Greece on the verge of default, the Euro possibly evaporating before our eyes and Bank of America stock now trading under $6 in a sea of bad news from their PR-nightmare debit card fee, Website outage, mortgage fraud legal liabilities and the general crap economy.

  • orangettecoleman

    I don’t have a problem if someone works hard and makes millions of dollars: that’s great, the spirit of entrepreneurship is part of America. I do have a problem when you make millions of dollars and then donate thousands to lawmakers to give yourself a tax cut, claiming to be a ‘job creator’, revel in your increased profit margins without creating any jobs, and then I see the budget of the public school my kids go to get cut in order to make up the budget shortfall caused by the tax cut you bought. THAT’s the problem.

  • chephren

    What does Mytheos Holt know – about “left wing populism” or anything else?

    Mr. Holt’s photo looks like that of a fresh graduate. His one-note commentary on Saul Alinsky reads like an essay for a sophomore PoliSci class.

    Skeptics would be well-advised to note the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ gathering has grown in spite of the lack of funding from friendly billionaires and think tanks, the initial lack of media coverage and support, and a total lack of logistical help and free advertising such as that overtly provided to the Tea Party by Fox News. Unlike the Tea Party, which very quickly become an established element of the Republican party, populist only in name, OWS appears to be a genuinely grassroots movement.

    It’s a little early to call this thing a failure just as it has begun to spread across the country. There’s no telling where OWS will lead, but whatever Mytheos Holt thinks, it has legs.

    • balconesfault

      His one-note commentary on Saul Alinsky reads like an essay for a sophomore PoliSci class.

      Ding! And not an “A” essay, I might add.

    • Sinan

      The kid who wrote this article has lived in a state of denial about the real world his entire life. He thinks he knows how it works because one concept or another in the conservative platform conforms to his worldview but in reality, the world he grew up in was based upon one fallacy after another. First fallacy was that free markets are actually free. Second fallacy was that low taxes increase revenues and spur demand. Third fallacy was that boom and bust cycles cannot be managed. Fourth fallacy was that Keynes was some kind of marxist socialist communist whose advice was wrong for the better part of 50 years. Fifth fallacy was that aggregate demand has nothing to do with economic performance. Sixth fallacy was that free trade increases wealth at home across the board. Seventh fallacy was that the booms we have experienced were not the result of easy money and dangerous credit expansion. Eighth fallacy was that a war could be fought without paying for it. Ninth fallacy was that the nation is actually conservative at heart when in fact the majority of people could care less about either party. And the last fallacy is that a young man who grew up in an era where these fallacies became mainstream could actually understand the world as it really is instead of looking at it from the eyes of a person with no real world experience at all.

      Perhaps market clearing is exactly what his generation needs to wake up. Perhaps what he and his fellow young conservatives need is a healthy dose of extreme poverty, despair and hopelessness to wake them up. It worked for our parents in the 30s and 40s and they built the world this young whipper snapper inherited. Perhaps he may wake up after a good decade of grief. Perhaps.

  • Fart Carbuncle

    Despite their honest intentions, many of the Occupy Wall Street protesters are being suckered into a trap and calling for the very “solutions” that are part of the financial elite’s agenda to torpedo the American middle class – higher taxes and more big government.

    The protesters just don’t get it. They are calling for the government to use force to impose their ideas, all in the name of bringing down corporations who they don’t realize have completely bought off government regulators. Corporations and government enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship – getting one to regulate the other is asinine and only hurts smaller businesses who are legitimately trying to compete in a free market economy that barely exists.

  • nextfoolmartyr

    “They are calling for the government to use force”

    Huh? Is that the way the report it on FOX?

    Declaration of the Occupation of New York City

    As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.

    As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.

    They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.

    They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.

    They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.

    They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.

    They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless nonhuman animals, and actively hide these practices.

    They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.

    They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.

    They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.

    They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.

    They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.

    They have sold our privacy as a commodity.

    They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press.

    They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.

    They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.

    They have donated large sums of money to politicians supposed to be regulating them.

    They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.

    They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantive profit.

    They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.

    They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.

    They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.

    They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad.

    They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.

    They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts.*

    To the people of the world,

    We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.

    Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address
    the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.

    To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.

    Join us and make your voices heard!
    *These grievances are not all-inclusive.

    • Banty

      ““They are calling for the government to use force”

      Huh? Is that the way the report it on FOX?”

      When I read that, I took it as the usual libertarian rant that anything gub’mint does, is by force.

  • Slide

    hey, chalk me up as another one of those progressives that has been around a long time, and had participated in many a demonstration, that had never heard of Alinsky until the right brought him up a couple years ago.

    Saying that the protest is failing is really a rather simplistic way of looking at things. Protests generally try to get the political discourse in this country moving in a certain direction. The very fact that we are discussing the protests in this forum is an example of that and I imagine there will be much more discussions as the demonstrations continue. I’m reminded of the Mark Twain quote when his obituary was falsely published, “the reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

    • LauraNo

      He is another of their boogeymen, like ACORN or the New Black Panthers or the rampant voter fraud. Where there is no trouble, some like to imagine it. I wonder why they do that.

    • Primrose

      I would agree. We can’t say they’ve failed if they have gotten attention.

  • confounded

    The protests have been more successful than I believed possible.

    Remember, this whole thing started 18 days ago!

  • Solo4114

    To say that the protests have “failed” misses the point because, at present, there are no terms for success. That’s one thing the article gets right. This protest strikes me as basically just a venting of frustration, without any clear direction or purpose beyond the act of venting. Hell, look at the very language of the “manifesto.” It opens with a discussion of expressing “a feeling of mass injustice.” The rest of it is just a litany of complaints and a call to mass public assembly.

    The real problem with protests of this nature is that, absent any concrete political goal, they can generally be dismissed after the initial hubbub dies down and the protestors run out of energy, unless either the protesters turn violent or are opposed with violence.

    I know it’s popular to have these grass-roots, “leaderless” movements, but those types of movements inevitably fail due to a lack of organization and coherency. Unless this “movement” can advance some sort of specific demands for political action, it’ll be dismissed and forgotten. Just standing around saying “Corporations suck! Do something about ‘em!” is a start, but it’s only a start, and without any follow-through, without taking this energy and focusing and directing it, this protest WILL fail to accomplish anything.

  • Graychin

    “No clear condition for victory” may be a feature, not a bug. It puts many related grievances together and makes allies out of mere acquaintances.

    The demonstrators aren’t trying to “reach” Wall Street. They’re trying to change Wall Street from outside.

    On the last of your three points, I agree. Wall Street isn’t “inconvenienced” by the demonstrations -yet. This is best seen in the pictures of the banksters sipping champagne on their balconies while laughing at the demonstrators.

    It will take time, but the specific ideas will crystallize as the demonstrations continue. My money is on an attack on “corporate personhood.”

  • Bebe99

    It seems premature to say Occupy Wall Street is “Failing.” A movement that had almost no media coverage for the first two weeks has now spread to other cities in less than 3 weeks. From their reaction, the NYPD apparently think this is a serious problem. I think Mr. Holt has done a great job of getting comments on his article though.

  • Solo4114

    There are plenty of specific grievances that they could level at Wall St. and at the government. They could demand better oversight via a reform of the SEC. They could push for more investigations into corporate wrongdoing. They could advocate for higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy and a lowering (or maintaining low levels) of taxes for “the 99%.” They could demand more regulation of specific industries.

    But without specific goals and clear demands, without turning this protest into actual political action, the protest will ultimately just run out of steam, the protesters will go home, and nothing will change.

    • Steve D

      Clawbacks. Make every CEO and board member personally liable for damages done by his corporation, and eliminate personal bankruptcy protection. It’s not a tax, it’s liability, and it can be far more effective. Liability can take 100%, no tax will.

  • medinnus

    Salon (very Left) article about how the Far Right and Faux News are targeting the movement:


    I guess the Right is feeling pressure from their Corporate Masters.

  • economicmaverick

    Here’s Yves Smith on the structural challenges


    “I’m beginning to wonder whether the right to assemble is effectively dead in the US. No one who is a wage slave (which is the overwhelming majority of the population) can afford to have an arrest record, even a misdemeanor, in this age of short job tenures and rising use of background checks.”

    On Twitter blocking:

    “The organizers were using Twitter to promote participation and visibility. And so Twitter intervened. From AmpedStatus:

    On at least two occasions, Saturday September 17th and again on Thursday night, Twitter blocked #OccupyWallStreet from being featured as a top trending topic on their homepage. On both occasions, #OccupyWallStreet tweets were coming in more frequently than other top trending topics that they were featuring on their homepage.

    This is blatant political censorship on the part of a company that has recently received a $400 million investment from JP Morgan Chase.”

  • PW43

    Credit to the protesters for attempting to change the narrative. But what exactly is that going to lead to and how will that change anything when you have so much corruption running the country?

    Tunisia and Egypt were successful because those demonstrations disrupted normal business. They became impossible to ignore and the governments were afraid to use excessive force to end them.

    It’s fine for the current demonstrations to patiently wait for more to join in and for the protests to spread. Ultimately, however, there must be confrontation, otherwise nothing will change at the top. Civil disobedience does require breaking current laws. The alternative is hanging around a park while the rest of the world gets on with its business. If the target is Wall Street then it is time to inconvenience Wall Street. Sooner or later the protests must take to the streets to stop business or occupy the stock exchange to stop trading.

    Are Americans more afraid of their government and security forces than Egyptians and Tunisians were? People in Yemen, Bahrain, Syria and Libya risked their lives for change. Are Americans willing to go that far? Or are all westerners still too comfortable to be willing to risk anything for change?

    Simple fact: most Canadians supported the G20 crackdown in Toronto. Instead of seeing a thousand false arrests they saw demonstrators getting what they deserved. They also fail to understand how Greeks are fighting our battle for us right now. We may be heading into a neo-feudal world but it’s one still loaded with excessive material wealth. Westerners will not embrace revolution, not even moderate change. It will all have to first fall apart. Then it will be too late to save anything.

  • Southern Populist

    A must read for anyone naive enough to believe Barack Obama is not in Wall Street’s corner.


    - DSP

  • Anonne

    Failing? It is growing, despite the corporate media doing its best to smugly look down their noses at angry people other than the Tea Party.

  • paul_gs

    The Occupy Wall Street protests were conceived of and organized by foreigners meddling in American affairs.

    Anti-corporate Canadians associated with a left-coast outfit called AdBusters are the brains behind these marches.

    “Grassroots” protests. Imported from Canada. LOL.

    • hisgirlfriday

      There’s Canadian left-wing folks meddling in American politics?! Oh no!

      Only Canadian-born conservatives like David Frum are allowed to do that.

      • Sinan

        Ouch. That was good, really good. I will have to watch out for you. Well done.

  • angeleno

    I love this forum. Lots of smart people here. Quick question: Have you guys heard of Umair Haque of the Harvard Biz Review blog? Any thoughts on his work?

  • Churl

    Frumplestiltskin says, // Oct 4, 2011 at 10:29 am, “so churl, you think every right to life march in places like NYC are a complete waste of time as well and that they should not therefore do it, that freedom of speech is somehow contingent of ability to affect outcomes otherwise you should shut up? How enlightened of you.”

    I don’t want to put contingencies on anyone’s freedom of speech, I merely ask what the occupy Wall Street folks are accomplishing by their efforts. The answer seems to be “not much”.

    Indeed, I’m especially happy to have the silly ideas of the occupiers spread before a candid world. I wish there were more demonstrators and that they had even more media coverage than they are getting.

    • Primrose

      Well, what did the Tea Party accomplish? They got their voices heard and their issues at least given lip service. With time this could do that as well.

  • PracticalGirl


    What you’re seeing here is reaction to the last several years of GOP utter failure to do anything but redistribute wealth, the rise of the Tea Party idiocracy and record and unprecedented un-and-underemployment of a young, educated population with motivation, technology at their fingertips and plenty of time to burn.

    Before you decide this has “failed” you’d do well to recognize 3 things:

    1. Unlike the Tea Partiers, this group is showing signs of organization and isn’t determined to shy away from leadership.

    2. Unlike the Tea Partiers, these are Liberals- smart ones- and many of them are the children and grandchildren of 60s radicals who gathered, protested, stopped a war and then went “legit” to change the political landscape. They’ve learned a few lessons, and they’re disenfranchised enough to apply them to their own plight.

    3. Just like the Tea Partiers, this is spreading city by city.

    You’re right. They haven’t disrupted the targets yet, but stay tuned. The Teamsters are on the scene now.

    • Gramps

      “Hear, hear…!”

      … is an expression used as a short, repeated form of hear her, hear her. It represents a listener’s agreement with the point being made by a speaker.

  • Gramps

    For all those “doubting Thomas’s and Toni’s” concerned about the “scope and reach” of this populace expression of discontent; may I direct your attention, here…!


    This ain’t yer Granny throwing a pie at the Mayor, during a meeting of the Town Council…;)))

    Hugs Hons…!

  • Gramps

    This little “donnybrook” in NYC…reminds me of how we just recalled three GOP State Senators only months ago here in the Great State of Wisconsin and how we’re gonna recall our “corporate stooge” governor…”Scotty “Me Koch Boye” Walker as soon as he’s legally and politically, vulnerable in 2012…!

    Hugs, Scotty…!

  • rbottoms

    The 99% movement will crest right about the time our GOTV effors kick into high gear. Perfect time to make the GOP defend their stance on unemployment insurance, health care, Wall Street and the rich. The Teahadists peaked too soon.

  • jem colain

    “… the current “Occupy Wall Street” protests, which despite ample internet promotion and no shortage of passion, have fallen dismally flat, and failed to stir even the most basic conversation about finance, social justice or anything in between.”

    Awesome punditry, dude.

  • Primrose

    While I often express impatience at diffuse movements of the left which refuse to close the door on any issue, I don’t think that is precisely the point. (I was in a few of them during the divestment/anti-apartheid movement.)

    It think this is the, mainly, young reminding the mainly old that they are here too. That their concerns matter. They are in a sense “coming out” to a nation that pretend they don’t exist, or are somehow only worthy of mockery. If people with similar values see that they are not the lone person in their community, more concrete action and language may arise.