Thursday, October 27, 2011

Are Right Wing Pundits Being Deliberately Obtuse?

The Occupy protests have been going on for over a month now. The longer I hear radio talk show hosts proclaim the lack of a "cohesive message," and the more articles I read by Republican pundits, the more I'm beginning to believe they actually do get it, but they're seeking to undermine the movement by any means necessary.

Marty Linsky, former chief secretary and counselor to Republican Governor Bill Weld of Massachusetts, wrote an article published today on CNN titled, "Occupy Wall Street is going nowhere without leadership."

Is this just wishful thinking on his part? Because not a thing he writes is either accurate or even approaches the point of the Occupy movement.

    It is relatively easy to get disempowered, angry, frustrated people together to rail against a wide range of enemies and scapegoats.

Scapegoats, Mr. Linsky? Really? This exposes his bias right off the bat. I'd like to explain something to Mr. Linsky; a person or entity that actually commits an act is not being scapegoated. Really. You can look it up.

He continues:

    Like it or not, the values and processes that have created the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon are inadequate and ill-suited to taking the next steps and creating real impact.

The values of Occupy are inadequate? I would love for him to explain how equality of opportunity is an inadequate value. The processes are ill-suited to taking the next steps? How would he know? He doesn't get the "processes." Though how he couldn't is beyond my comprehension. How much intellect does it take to grasp that the "process" is exactly what he can see with his own eyes — protests!

Occupy is intended to call attention to the vast size of the 99 percent who have been trampled on like bugs under the Ferragamos of the wealthiest men in this nation who have literally bought Congress so that they can reap enormous rewards beyond the imagination of the average individual.

We aren't as dumb as the right wing punditry thinks we are. You see, we learned something of critical import during the debt ceiling debacle. Making phone calls alone is not nearly enough to have an impact on our representatives. They need to see us. They need to feel us. They need to know without a shadow of a doubt that we are "mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore."

They are starting to get the message. Today, seven candidates for Congress in the upcoming 2012 elections delivered a petition with 36,000 signatures to Speaker of the House John Boehner, pledging to stand with the 99 percent.

Turns out Grover Norquist isn't the only one who can get politicians to sign pledges.

    First, everyone's grievance is equal to everyone else's grievance. Anti-capitalism, lack of health care for the uninsured, tuition hikes at public universities, and many other complaints share the stage. The message is muddied. Clarifying the message and focusing on specific targets are necessary next steps. They will inevitably leave some of the grievances on the cutting room floor, and leave those who care most about those abandoned grievances disappointed and alienated both from the rest of the group and from their own constituents who are not camping out at Zuccotti Park, but who expected them to ensure that their particular issues stayed front and center.

Way to miss the point entirely. Occupy is not anti-capitalist, even if you can pick a handful of people out of a crowd who will have that complaint.

    We grudge no man a fortune which represents his own power and sagacity, when exercised with entire regard to the welfare of his fellows. ... No man should receive a dollar unless that dollar has been fairly earned. Every dollar received should represent a dollar's worth of service rendered - not gambling in stocks, but service rendered. The really big fortune, the swollen fortune, by the mere fact of its size acquires qualities which differentiate it in kind as well as in degree from what is possessed by men of relatively small means. ~ Theodore Roosevelt, The New Nationalism

Occupy is also not about "specific grievances," it's about the big picture; the broken state of our financial system. It's broken in a way that favors the monied interests who can line the pockets of candidates, get them elected, then wine and dine them into writing legislation that favors their financial interests. And those interests are diametrically opposed to the interests of the 99 percent. Fix the financial system and the dominoes start falling into place. We get that. Why don't the right-wing pundits?

    Second, the nonhierarchical consensus-driven process will soon reach the end of its utility, at least in its purest form. If OWS is to lead change rather than just call for change, some individuals will have to step up and take on authority roles. The presence of authority is essential in order to move this work forward. Someone, or some ones, will have to provide some of the functions of authority -- direction, protection and order -- so that the movement can begin to make hard choices, create priorities, allocate human and financial resources, and keep the anarchistic outliers from undermining the potential outcomes.

Where does Mr. Linsky get the idea that Occupy wants to "lead" change and isn't simply calling for it? We have a Representative Democracy in the United States. The first order of business is to call for change from those we elected to represent us. That's what we're doing. If they listen and effect the change required to fix our broken system, we don't need to "take on authority roles."

    When people have different agendas, the downside of operating by consensus is that the only way to get everybody to agree is to agree on something that is so ethereal and abstract it becomes meaningless. That works in an election where you are mobilizing people to vote (see Obama 2008 and "Change We Can Believe in"), but not to generate change from the outside in.

So exactly how does Mr. Linsky think a Representative Democracy works, anyway? You'd think he'd know, since he's been teaching at Harvard for over 25 years. We, the people, have no choice but to attempt to effect change from the outside, in. Our legislators are the ones who effect change from the inside, out.

And the characterization of Occupy's goals as ethereal and abstract is further evidence that he's either being deliberately obtuse or he flat out refuses to hear what's being said.

So what is being said?
  • Get money out of politics.
    • Enact legislation that repeals the outrageous ruling in Citizens United that gives corporations equal status to persons for the purpose of donating to political campaigns.
    • Begin the process of amending the Constitution to unequivocally state that corporations are non-living entities and are not entitled to any of the benefits of personhood.
  • Repeal Gramm-Leach-Bliley and reinstate the firewall between commercial and investment bank activities that existed with Glass-Steagall.
  • A grave fraud was perpetrated on the American people. Bring to justice, those on Wall Street whose egregious acts led to our economic collapse.
  • Either be our representatives and not those of the monied special interests, or we'll find people to elect who will represent us, the 99 percent, over the big banks and corporations who have so far demonstrated that they will not share the fruits of our labor with us equitably or give us an environment in which we can thrive financially.

It really is that simple. Why the right-wing punditry is having such a difficult time with this is an utter mystery to me. Not to mention, I don't understand why they aren't with us on this. These do not strike me, nor any of the protesters I have seen, as particularly outrageous requests, let alone partisan ones.

Contrary to Mr. Linsky's and others' wishes, Occupy isn't "going nowhere." We're staying right where we are. Get used to us. We've found our voice.

Now watch this brilliant interview with former Labor Secretary Robert Reich*, as he explains why there is no longer an "American Dream."

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." ~ Anne Frank

*Robert Reich is currently Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. He was formerly a professor at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government and professor of social and economic policy at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management of Brandeis University. He has also been a contributing editor of The New Republic, The American Prospect (also chairman and founding editor), Harvard Business Review, The Atlantic, New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.


  1. Brilliant! Yes! Yes! and again Yes! This is what we need. We are on to the Wall Street types. They have manipulated our government for too long and now we are on to them. If enough of us call them out with precise arguments like this we will win.

    "First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win"--Mahatma Gandhi.

  2. Thank you ahuntre and Tom Hunter. I sincerely appreciate your comments and support.

    Keep fighting the good fight!


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