Occupy Wall Street commemorated the first anniversary of its birth in the manner one would expect: There were a couple of pointless rallies, the usual slurs directed at anybody with more than a few dollars in his or her wallet, and in the end, about 150 demonstrators achieved the dream of every comfortable radical—they were carted off by police.
Another victory for people! Take that, Wall Street!
If only the Occupiers could tell us what, precisely, they wish to change (other than their clothes).
There’s no question that some of the young people milling around Wall Street have legitimate grievances. Job creation remains stagnant; lots of bright young people—and no small number of middle-aged workers—are out of work or underemployed. The national unemployment rate seems stuck at just over 8 percent. That’s bad enough, but things actually are worse here in New York, where the rate is 10 percent.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that some people are taking their anger to the streets. The problem is that the Occupy movement is steered by folks who are using legitimate grievances as an excuse to demonize the successful, provoke the police and otherwise display their contempt for free enterprise and American capitalism.
That much is obvious in the rhetoric of the Occupy leaders. They don’t have a plan. They don’t have an alternative. They don’t have points to negotiate. They certainly don’t have the ability to turn discontent into political action. (For all the publicity they’ve received, have the Occupiers had any influence over this year’s presidential campaign?)
What Occupy’s leaders lack in specific plans, they make up for in demagogic speeches and publicity stunts. True, they have won the hearts and minds of English and history professors around the country, which ought to be proof positive that they have nothing practical to offer. But for the millions of Americans who are out of work, for the millions who live at the margins, the Occupiers must seem to be absolutely frivolous. What solutions do they propose? What programs do they support? What job-creation strategy do they wish to implement?
The short answer: They have no plans, no strategies, no programs. Oh, they do enjoy thumbing their noses at authority. As they gathered downtown on Monday, some Occupiers demanded that police officers identify themselves by name—“in case you decide to attack me,” as one Occupier put it.
What a charming group. You’d think that given their keen sense of class consciousness they might see police officers—or anybody who works for a living—as comrades of sorts. But that would require them to reconsider their own prejudices and attitudes. And that would be almost unbearable.
So they march and shout and disrupt and hope that they will at least provoke a police officer into arresting them. They can tweet news of their arrest in real time, and know that they are considered heroes in some of the best faculty lounges in the land.
The rest of us will pay them little attention, since they really have nothing to say.