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Why Occupy Wall Street style protests will always fail

The belief that the masses are a power that can really influence history, or even more so, throw down the established order is part of the propaganda of the French and American Revolutions, and is one of the most effective myths of modern society. The notion that any of these movements succeed because of popular support, or rather that popular support is what determines their success allows modern “popular” governments to legitimize their existence, from the old Soviet “People’s Republics” to liberal democratic regimes of the “Free World”. The failure of the Occupy Wall street movement to electrify or mobilize people against the bureaucrats and international finance illustrates the ineffectiveness of modern political activism and the futility of public protest in several ways.

The fact is the only way a “popular movement” succeeds is when there is a tightly organized cadre behind it that mobilizes the protesters behind a brave cause, pushing it and perhaps manipulating it. But when the time comes to take the reigns, it will never be “the masses” that seizes control, but daring men who prepared and acted at the right time.  Lenin’s Bolsheviks, for example, were not “workers and peasants” but a tightly organized revolutionary group with cells and hierarchy.  As Kim Il-Sung, the leader of the Korean Revolution once said, “Only when the masses are organized and mobilized can they win the revolutionary struggle. Therefore, the leaders of the movement must go among the masses and awaken them so that they themselves wage the revolutionary struggle as masters.”

The “Occupy” protests, like most political activism, have hitherto leaderless and without any direction.  At most, it has a few organizers here and there, but these leaders are merely a hodgepodge of misguided bourgeois students, focusing not on the important issues, but on identity politics.  Protests show people bandying about causes from anything from the usual sexual deviant identity politics to things as absurd as “Cyclists Against Wall Street”. It seems the idea of unity of purpose was lost on people who preferred to make this protest about them and their interests or hang ups rather than about the genuinely negative effects international finance and the bankers are having on not just the American economy but the world economy.

Then there are the methods, and here once again the OWS failed.  Without direction or clear cut leadership it was aimless, chanting here, a drum circle there, holding up signs and idling in a park. The name itself; “Occupy” in the past meant a literal military occupation, but today it just means squatting and occupying space, to the inconvenience of commuters and everyone else at best. The protestors themselves made easy fodder for the media, which picked up the most freakish looking eccentrics, or the most absurd signs to highlight. This is another factor which nearly all of these grass roots “activists” fail to grasp, especially student movements- appearance matters. Here a page should have been taken from the civil rights sit ins in the 50s and 60s. Those protestors realized the power of the media in highlighting what they were doing. They were generally told to wear their “Sunday best” to these protests so when images of these protests were broadcast across the United States and the world, they were images and footage of clean cut, well dressed and well groomed young men and women being abused. Whatever side one takes on the issue, psychologically this creates sympathy instantly for the protestor. One can also look to the political movements prior, both of nationalist and communist leanings. These generally marched wearing suits or distinctive uniforms, singing marching music or performing services for whatever cause.

Wall Street Protestors

What do we see at OWS and in many other protests today? We see blue hair and tattoos; strange piercings; white, middle-class college students in dredlocks dressed as if they were homeless!  How can they expect to resonate with their supposed 99% audience when they carry themselves like vagabonds and derelicts?  If anything, these protesters, with their ample time and disposable income are at odds with the vast majority of the working class.  The average working class man here as elsewhere has very little sympathy for the activists for this reason among others but they are hardly going to join hands with eccentrics who look abnormal!

While there may be people with legitimate grievances, and even a few members of the working class among the Occupy Wall Street protesters, the vast majority of the  “activists” shown do not project an air of seriousness or importance to the protests, but rather one of neglect. Neat and clean clothes, a suit and a dress perhaps, portrays an image of professionalism, seriousness, and good character. One should remember the advertising trick of using a person in a labcoat to promote a product regardless of its actual health benefits. How one appears is sometimes as important as what one says. It does not matter that the homeless looking derelict OWS is a Mensa genius, this will be lost on the bystander who has already subconsciously tuned him or her out. Of course, even trying to set such guidelines would be impossible, one would be hard-pressed to get these activists to even agree on the color of the sky let along any sort of cohesive political platform.

“Peaceful “Libyan demonstrators

Not too long ago we had the bomb throwing anarchists who believed in propaganda of the deed, or revolutionary outlaws organized underground. These men, for better or worse, at least were willing to burn for their views. Today our self styled revolutionaries believe squatting in a park and holding up placards will change the world. Any comparisons to the media manufactured “Arab spring” or any protest movements of that sort, even, must be dismissed. Whatever legitimate grievances say, Libyan protestors may have had initially, their protests were hardly “peaceful” and certainly peaceful protestors don’t come to possess predator drones and NATO armaments that quickly.

The media didn’t have to work hard to portray the OWS protesters as misguided or obnoxious, while those in the Middle East, especially the manufactured ones in Libya and Syria were romanticized with constant unverified accounts
(continuing today in Syria) of atrocities against the population by pro government militias and soldiers. The reason for the “success” of such protests is outside interference, subversion and opportunistic elements in the military taking advantage of the situation. These “protests” are simply outright rebellions/military coups funded by and probably directed by western powers to destabilize and remove governments that are not pliable enough to suit them. The same thing happened in a way in 1989 to Nicolai Ceausescu where public protests ended in his kangaroo court trial and execution by elements of the military. Had these protests carried on they did without the military overthrowing Ceausescu for example, the result would have been similar to Tiananmen Square or the periodic protests in Myanmarover the last few decades.

Without serious outside support and organization, any protest is bound to fail invariably. But it serves the governments to hold up as examples “peaceful protest” movements as these movements placate both the more hard-line activists on one hand into believing at least they have the “right to free assembly”, free speech and so forth while also discrediting them in the eyes of the majority. Whatever message they may have is lost on the masses that only see a few misguided college students and eccentrics disrupting traffic on the way to work, or whining about something they don’t fully understand. This is not to say that there weren’t intelligent, well-read people at the OWS, but by and large these were needles in the haystack. At the end of the day, these protests have not and will not weaken or change any political decision already made because they don’t threaten the system in any significant way. The government infact needs these types of protests just to show how free a society is that it can allow this “freedom of expression”. The government’s response to protests that genuinely threaten its coffers however, are far different as tax protestors can attest. Why? One can hold up a sign saying “end the war in Iraq/Afghanistan/Libya/Vietnam” for a few hours but at the end of the day they are still going home, paying taxes, consuming and therefore funding each bomb and bullet going to those causes. Real change requires real sacrifice and the coddled population of the western world can’t be bothered to get up off the sofa or miss the game!

Alas, as stated earlier, most of these protests don’t have real aims, just the most shallow notion of whatever ideas are en vogue. They protest more for the sake of protesting than out of any belief in what they are protesting. While some protests have a worthwhile cause, today it seems just about anything can rile up a protest, as can be witnessed by the Pussy Riot case, the shameful “ slutwalks”, and New York City’s latest protest against regulations on the size of sugary beverages.  Or they pick up on some foreign conflict and demand something be done, without a clear cut understanding of the nature of the conflict or what would have to be done; enter Darfur, “free Tibet”, etc. There is no doubt the “1%” of Wall Street, hand in hand with the political elites, are traitors who shamelessly line their pockets at the expense of both their country and their souls, but most protestors had no real answer as to what is to actually be done. Wall Street carries on with business as usual, Zuccotti Park is empty, and the political elites today are the same as they were a year ago and all the years before that.

And still the question remains – What did Occupy accomplish?

About Ray Wilson

Ray Wilson resides in New York City. He holds a degree in history and studies philosophy, theology and entomology in his free time.
  • Jay

    There is some mis-info in this article, however the statement “The fact is the only way a “popular movement” succeeds is when there is a tightly organized cadre behind it…” is pretty accurate. The problem with OWS is that we are dealing with a myriad of young people who know very little about The US Constitution and what liberty actually means. 

    • http://www.ridingthetiger.org/ William van Nostrand

      There is very little organization at “Occupy Wall Street” to begin with.  They are divided into dozens – if not hundreds of pet causes that ultimately have little, if any, importance in the long run.  They are focused on these issues and pet causes, while ignoring the bigger picture.  Sure, they may have started out with some good ideas, but the few people with any potential were soon drowned out by the band-wagon jumpers and the rabble.

      In my opinion, though, rot reaches far beyond US Constitution or “liberty” into the very heart of our current culture.

    • Septimine

       I don’t think you need a small inner circle, what the circle would mostly do is give the entire protest a point, an agenda, something to work towards rather than simply being against the status quo. The tea party isn’t all that organized, but they’ve done much better for themselves as they have something they’re aiming FOR rather than saying “I’m against”.  It’s not that having a leader automatically gives a group legitimacy, but having the leader does give a group an agenda.  That’s why I think it works — having one guy say “this is what we want” is preferable to having 100 guys banging a drum with no message beyond “we’re pissed”. 

      The Constitution is a framework.  It doesn’t guarentee much as the document itself can be re-written by amendment, so having a culture like ours that has very different ideas of freedom from our ancestors likely means that the constitution will either be amended or re-interpreted to meet the culture.  Privacy is going to mean something different under constitutional law in 2076 than it meant in even 1976, by the very fact that a generation or two will have grown up with the idea of twitter and facebook and putting their entire lives on the internet.  They might think anything online is “public” and thus you don’t need a warrent to read the twitter feeds and facebook page.  In areas like free speech, it’s likely that the notion will be the ability to say dirty words but not the idea that you could say things that offend certain protected groups.  When it comes to things like jury trials, it’s an open question whether the jury needs to be on site — we can stream meetings, so why not simply stream the trials?  But is it still a jury trial when the jury is a bunch of people who are watching a youtube of the trial, perhaps at different times of day, never meeting each other, and perhaps still being in their homes?  Is that merely a convienience to keep the public involved, or have we changed what a jury is by not having them physically in the room?  Gun rights may take a turn as well, for example, if some future state decides to do an end run by banning bullets.

      • Ray Wilson

        your last paragraph is apt at showing how modern society is anti social in every way, as i described in the article on the Aurora shooting- people are more and more isolated from each other, more secluded, and every day more and more so- with telephones conversation no longer had to be had face to face, now with instant message, email, and texting we need not even hear the voice of a person to communicate, all this does is make communication in the way we need it- face to face, in the flesh more difficult. The same is true for sexuality with the prevalence of pornographic material easily accessed online, completely isolated the viewer from the act, essentially turning an important facet of life into a dehumanized, detached peep show. Even in the old days with a prostitute one had to stand face to face with one’s actions, now it is all anonymous. This makes it easier, and more widespread, men who in the past would have never gone near a brothel have far less qualms about a few clicks of the mouse. The effects on the relations between the sexes and family life are all around us. With information in general the same thing is true, before one wanted to learn about a subject, they had to go out and research it, either at a library, or whatnot. Nowadays the knowledge a man only 15 years ago would have only been able to amass with hours of research and book reading can be learned with the click of a button on wikipedia. Knowledge that is easily attained is not easily appreciated, and this knowledge doesn’t even require one to leave his or her home.

  • Jay

    @WvN –
    I do agree with you that there is very little organization with OWS.  Whether it was grass-roots or funded from the start is certainly another issue in itself.  The US Constitution is not so much about culture, it is about principles on retaining liberty. People are fooling themselves if they think they will retain freedom without it.  It is clear that the OWS crowd do not understand these principles.