The sun is shining (though not too brightly),
The spirit is right from East to West.
The people are feeling mighty sprightly,
What a lovely day for a protest!
The world has recently been shaken by raucous protests against various classic boogeymen. What started as a demonstration to Occupy Wall Street gained significant traction and scope. Some are against corporate greed. Others against banks. Still others against all progress achieved by civilization over the last several thousand years. But whatever the reason, they’re out there, and they’re protesting. And, from the very start, it’s all been a little ridiculous.
Now let me make it clear that I love a good protest. Society, and the world in general, is filled with injustices. Freedom of speech is a precious thing, and it never used to be this easy to protest without getting shot. However, I believe that the right to protest should not be wasted on an incoherent message, drum circles, and the destruction of property.
As far as protests and movements go, the Tea Party was pulled off pretty well. Now, for purposes of full disclosure, I did help organize and and execute some of the first Tea Party rallies in Arizona, so the fact that I’m biased shouldn’t come off as a surprise. But is that really a bad thing? Wouldn’t it make sense to “sell out” by advertising for a superior product? The Tea Party has a coherent message and purpose: Lower taxes, cut spending, deregulate, and in general lessen the size of government. And you might run into a few people who don’t like Mexicans and Arabs, or who use poor taste in criticizing the President, but they’re the clear minority, and not part of the overarching message and drive of the movement. Agree with the message or not, the Tea Party is a fine protest, and any cause would do well to use their setup to push their message.
Now go talk to one of this newest generation of protestors. What’s the message? “We hate banks! No, corporations! No, the government that bailed out corporations and banks! Yes, but we still like Obama, the bailout king. No, we hate it all and want to go back to a tribal hunter-gatherer society!” What about a clear set of proposals? I’d really like to see a list of demands the whole movement of “the indignant” can agree on. Or at least half of them. Or anything more concrete than “screw the corporations.”
Next we run into some problems of consistency. The closest we can come to any type of message is a general disapproval of the current global economic condition. Who’s the bad guy here? Surely not the government, that previously said that massive bailouts were the only way to save the economy, and were clearly wrong. It has to be the richest 1%, excluding, of course, fabulously wealthy people like Michael Moore. It has to be the nebulous “corporations,” the very same corporations forced to lay off their employees en masse because of the situation. Maybe I’m a little crazy, but I tend to think that if you say that only the government is able to help out the economy, then when it acts and fails, maybe blaming someone else for the failure is counterintuitive. Maybe you shouldn’t say throwing petroleum on the fire is the only way to put it out, and then blame the oxygen in the room for the ensuing blaze.
Finally we have the fun stuff: violence, disorder an destruction. Rome is ablaze, people are arrested (and cops are hospitalized) in New York, and London burning is still in recent memory. Now call me crazy, but I think it’s fair to expect violence to be met with violence. If you think the time and place has come where violence and destruction are both necessary and justified, it’s on… get ready for retaliation. But don’t burn shops and turn over cop cars, and then react with surprise and indignation when you get beaten by the police. Is it war or is it peace? Choose, and stand by that decision. All this makes me nostalgic for the mayhem caused by the Tea Party. Oh wait… there wasn’t any.
And now the coup de grace: subhuman behavior. I can’t try to sugarcoat it. I can’t even try to make jokes or witty commentary. The facts speak for themselves. The Occupy Wall Street protestors have needed to be fed, causing a humanitarian concern. They defecate, sometimes in public, sometimes on police vehicles. And yes, they have promiscuous intimate relations in public. This is where my Tea Party nostalgia hits a fever pitch. They came, made their message known, and then left, returning to their families and jobs. They didn’t camp out with nothing to eat, and then start dumping and humping all over the place.
Public image is very important. In the case of a protest, it’s actually close to 100% of what you’re trying to accomplish. If you are perceived as the League of Angry Middle-Class White People, then congratulations, you accomplished about what the Tea Party did. Occupy Wall Street had the potential to be a majority voice for change and reason in the midst of this economic madness. Instead, they ended up being closer to the United Hobo Defecation Front. Great job, guys.