Tea Party – Occupy Whatever

It has been terribly amusing for me to observe the genesis and development of the Occupy-Insert-Location-Here movement over the last couple of weeks, especially as it has been trumpeted as the liberal answer to the Tea Party. First on Open Salon a good few of the resident bloggers were sniffling over how this Terribly Important Movement was being callously ignored by the main-stream establishment media. As of last week, thought, conventional media can’t seem to keep their eyeballs or their cameras off them – especially the Occupy Wall Street faction. Cynicism leads me to suspect that this is because it is convenient to establishment organs such as the New York Times, who all but gave faux-movements like the Coffee Party essential life-support, but that’s just me.

 So, is this the Tea Party of the left? Based on my experiences during the early weeks and months of the San Antonio Tea Party throughout 2009, I would say not – but with some caveats. There are a few similar aspects, notably detestation of business crony capitalism as it is currently practiced, suspicion of the works and ways of the Federal Reserve, and a similar deep distrust of establishment politicians. There was and is also a strongly libertarian streak, to judge by the presence of Ron Paul fans, or  Ronulans, as we used to call them during the 2008 election season, when they were as noisy and ubiquitous as a sort of internet grackle.

 The most notable likeness is the protesting thing: the earliest organizers organized via Facebook and held at least one protest on Alamo Plaza – the main motivation being the Obama-generated fiscal deficit, and the then-proposed economic stimulus. Interest snowballed at a local and grassroots level all during March, 2009, following upon Rick Santelli’s Tea Party rant. What with one thing and another, we held very public large public protest rally on April 15th in Alamo Plaza. There were some after-event quibbles about whether there had been 15,000 people or over 20,000 – but it was a lot, and all but a handful had ever been to a protest before. And – it was fun! Really, it was like the world’s largest block party, which may be the elemental reason to hold a protest in the first place. They’re fun. They grab eyeballs, especially if there is a huge turn-out. People came from across the United States, they brought their kids, their dogs – and they came to have a good time.

 I suspect that’s what motivates a lot of volunteer participation in the Occupy Whatever protests; newbies discovering this for the first time, old protest hands relieving their glory days  . . .  or spoiled young trustifarians making a grab at relevance. Our protest rally was also a lot of work to organize beforehand, down to getting permits from the City, arranging for porta-potties and security, working out the program of speakers, holding a press conference, sound system – all that stuff. We’d made a splash, media-wise, and gotten a heck of a lot of people together in the service of a common interest  . . . But it was just a single day. The government machinery doesn’t stop on a dime and turn around, just because of a protest, no matter how large or well-publicized. The SA Tea Party, and others that I knew about continued on – not so much with protests, but a sustained effort to recruit voters, to become involved politically at the local level and to support candidates running for office who espoused the principles of fiscal responsibility, Constitutionality and free (really free, not the crony-capitalist kind which only pretends) markets. It took months of effort, and I believe will take months and years more, past the election season of 2012.

 As far as I can see and to date, in observing the Occupy Whatever from a careful distance, it appears that the rally/gathering/extended squalid camp-out has become an end in itself. Sure, there appears to be some kind of organizing principle, even if it is merely the finest all-plastic and a yard wide Astroturf. Some of the participants seem to be working up a list of demands after the fact, but I can’t see any evidence of follow-through to the protests. Not much organizational outreach, no continuing education, no outreach to those who might be sympathetic; I suspect that many of the protest participants are old career protest hands, ready to turn out at any time to protest whatever the cause du jour might be. Occupy Whatever is successful in getting media coverage, but I’m not really seeing that as a long-term public relations advantage. The images which have been revealed to us over the last week: a protester defecating on a police car, a truly squalid, garbage-strewn campsite in a neighborhood park, a lot of creepy/incoherent/clueless protesters, mobbing the National Air and Space Museum  . . .  these are not images calculated to draw political adherents and effective sympathy from the larger community of Americans who might otherwise been inclined to involve themselves politically.

11 thoughts on “Tea Party – Occupy Whatever”

  1. “…has become an end in itself.” Much like what happened in Madison. It reminds me of the weird little huts that people built on the quads at U of C back in the 1980s to protest South Africa.

    At the deepest level, Tea Partiers want to get some pretty specific results, so they can go back to enjoying their ordinary life. The movement, no matter how engrossing, is a means to an end.

    For many lefty serial protesters, the protest is an end. It is a scattered tribe that comes together to protest. This tribe gives them feelings of solidarity and relevance and mission, and a shared language and history. It is the center of their lives, not a peripheral and temporary part. Moving into some squalid, temporary slum is a desirable feature for them. They have a geographic location for their tribal enterprise, at least temporarily. Without regard to the content of the protest, I find all of that repellant and would not want anything to do with it. But a lot of people like it.

  2. “But a lot of people like it.” There are protests practically every day up here now for something. All you need is a plastic bucket, a stupid chant and a spoon and you are in business.

    I have never in my life wished for violently cold weather before, just to drive them all away. But I do now.

  3. Dan From Madison Said “There are protests practically every day up here now for something. All you need is a plastic bucket, a stupid chant and a spoon and you are in business.”

    When I was in grad school, we used to call the annual sit-ins, marches and building take overs our annual rites of Spring. One memorable event was documented in the school paper and the story went on for 8 pages and for all of that, nowhere did it say WHAT the protest was about.

  4. I think that’s the trouble with Occupy Whatever; that they are into protesting for the heck and the fun of protesting. That’s the vibe that I am getting, through the intertubules. They – or whoever has wound up this little shindig and set it loose – is either deliberatly or carelessly omitting to pay attention to the principle that one has a protest/rally for two purposes, if you are doing it with a serious purpose. The protest/rally ought to be only the first step on the way to achieving the goal: Attract attention from the general public, serve notice to the object of the rally that they are on your s**t list, and to hearten and encourage the like-minded. People and causes who are only into it for the fun of it … they will stop right there. As Dan said, it’s the protest, not the cause itself.

    Now, the long-game of why this little exercise is being unleased now, and lauded and encouraged by so many in the current Administration, just when it seems that the protesters are going all-out to be as nasty and offensive as possible? Are they hoping to provoke some kind of reaction, if they push hard enough, be offensive enough? What happens when the local citizens have had enough, and the local police do their duty. Are the people encouraging these protests hoping to provoke a crackdown like that upon the Bonus Army? Wheels within wheels…
    Yeah, I hate to depend upon Wikipedia, but this is a useful starting point for tickling memories.

  5. Sgt.:

    Are they hoping to provoke some kind of reaction, if they push hard enough, be offensive enough?

    Forgive me for yet another Wikipedia link, but that short answer is Yes. Yes they are. Or at least some of them.

    “The enemy properly goaded and guided in his reaction will be your major strength.”

    What dismays me is how often the police in these situations respond according to Alinksy’s script. A made-for-TV protest ought to get a made-for-TV response from law enforcement that doesn’t cast the PD as the bad guys.

  6. Another take on similarities and differences here.

    Starts off a little slow, but the punchline made me laugh harder than I have in a long time.

  7. I think you described the differences well Sgt – with the Tea Party the meetings are not an end to themselves whereas the occupiers…what do they intend to accomplish?

    One thing I have noticed as an aside – look at the grounds of a typical Tea Party meet after 10,000 and it is remarkably clean – as for these people….

    I think in the general political scheme of things these occupiers are helping the Tea Party position…..

  8. Both the Tea parties and the Occupiers are diverse and unstructured, but a strong theme in the Tea Parties is that government should shrink and leave them alone. Of course, many of them haven’t (yet?) understood that it’s Medicare and Social Security that will sink the government, so you get the occasional goof saying “Keep government’s hands off my Medicare.” But, on the whole their sentiments are in the right direction.

    The Occupiers seem to want to consume more while producing less, that’s teh common theme; and, since we are already consuming about 10% more than we produce, this is s dead end or worse.

  9. Marty,

    Were I a European, I would favor a European single payer health care system,period. I read it will be a money-saver if done properly here, too, but as an American, I only favor one-and the continuance of Medicare and SS, in preference to, and as long as folks like you want to keep the economy-draining Empire’s bases occupying Europe, Korea,Japan, etc.and military interventions ongoing infinitum (or rather unto Collapse.)

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