Glenn Beck The National Review:
Protests and Power
Should liberals support Occupy Wall Street?
How should liberals feel about Occupy Wall Street? If you follow politics and you think of yourself as a liberal, then you have undoubtedly been grappling with that question in recent weeks. At first blush, it would be difficult not to cheer the protesters who have descended on lower Manhattan—and are massing in other cities across the United States—because they have chosen a deserving target. Wall Street should be protested. Its resistance to needed regulations that would stabilize the U.S. economy is shameful. And, insofar as it has long opposed appropriate levels of government spending and taxation, it has helped to create a society that does a deeply flawed job of providing for its most vulnerable, educating its young, and guaranteeing economic opportunity for all.
But, to draw on the old cliché, the enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend. Just because liberals are frustrated with Wall Street does not mean that we should automatically find common cause with a group of people who are protesting Wall Street. Indeed, one of the first obligations of liberalism is skepticism—of governments, of arguments, and of movements. And so it is important to look at what Occupy Wall Street actually believes and then to ask two, related questions: Is their rhetoric liberal, or at least a close cousin of liberalism? And is this movement helpful to the achievement of liberal aims?
This task is made especially difficult by the fact that there is no single leader who is speaking for the crowds, no book of demands that has been put forward by the movement. Like all such gatherings, it undoubtedly includes a broad range of views. But the volume of interviews, speeches, and online declarations associated with the protests does make it possible to arrive at some broad generalizations about what Occupy Wall Street stands for. And these, in turn, suggest a few reasons for liberals to be nervous about the movement.
And it is just not the protesters’ apparent allergy to capitalism and suspicion of normal democratic politics that should raise concerns. It is also their temperament. The protests have made a big deal of the fact that they arrive at their decisions through a deliberative process. But all their talk of “general assemblies” and “communiqués” and “consensus” has an air of group-think about it that is, or should be, troubling to liberals. “We speak as one,” Occupy Wall Street stated in its first communiqué, from September 19. “All of our decisions, from our choices to march on Wall Street to our decision to camp at One Liberty Plaza were decided through a consensus process by the group, for the group.” The air of group-think is only heightened by a technique called the “human microphone” that has become something of a signature for the protesters. When someone speaks, he or she pauses every few words and the crowd repeats what the person has just said in unison. The idea was apparently logistical—to project speeches across a wide area—but the effect when captured on video is genuinely creepy.
These are not just substantive complaints. They also beg the strategic question of whether the protesters will help or hurt the cause of liberalism. After all, even if the protesters are not liberals themselves, isn’t it possible that they could play a constructive role in forcing Americans to pay attention to important issues such as inequality and crony capitalism? Perhaps. But we are hard-pressed to believe that most Americans will look at these protests, with their extreme anti-capitalist rhetoric, and conclude that the fate of the Dodd-Frank legislation—currently the best liberal hope for improving democratically regulated capitalism—is more crucial than they had previously thought.
In the face of the current challenge from Tea Party conservatism, it is more important than ever that liberals make a compelling case for our vision of America. But we will not make this case stronger by allying with a movement that is out of sync with our values. And so, on the question of how liberals should feel about Occupy Wall Street, count us as deeply skeptical.
Now, I wasn’t an eyewitness to the events that followed, and the story which eventually reached me at fourth- or fifth-hand may be very wrong in many details. But the gist comes to this: Colin and some fellow not-terribly-active “activists” in Santa Monica held a series of actual meetings devoted to getting a Southern California party off the ground.
Of course, there could be no one leader. Of course, the group had to reach consensus on everything. These were lefties, after all. Their precious widdle egos would be injured if everyone did not agree on every point. That meant a lot of arguing, which Colin quite enjoyed. The guy really should have been a lawyer.
But there was no arguing with the invasion of hard-core Stalinists who decided to take over the meeting.
Instead of telling the loopy fans of Uncle Joe “Go away; we want nothing to do with you,” the proto-Greens first tried to include them in that all-important consensus. Didn’t work. Finally, the non-Stalinist proto-Greens went off to form an alternative Green party, which they called the Green Alternative.
The initial meeting of the Alternative was a scene right out of Life of Brian: “This calls for IMMEDIATE discussion.”
Discuss they did. Brave and fearless discussion went on throughout the night, throughout the next day, throughout the next night. Lots of coffee, lots of arguing. This was mandatory because the important thing was to flatter everyone’s egos by establishing that all-important consensus.
Also, it was important to avoid leadership at all costs. Leaders had cooties. So they had to reach consensus at a leaderless meeting, which was not easy.
After all of that hyper-caffeinated argumentation, the proto-Greens finally came up with one (1) platform point which, they all agreed, must have a prominent place in their Green Manifesto, a document destined to turn the course of human history. Their declaration came to these six words:
“We must destroy capitalism through poetry.”
When that sentence finally reached my ears, it triggered a belly laugh that lasted about a week. Although I never strayed far from my basic New Deal-ish beliefs, the sheer Porky-Pig-in-Wackyland surreality of those six words almost turned me into a Reaganite. Right then and there.
Soon thereafter, Colin skulked away from political involvement (following my earlier example). Some folks came along who started a real, or real-ish, Green party in Los Angeles. I presume that their heads had a somewhat shallower anal encasement.
The point of my story should be obvious.
The young people involved with today’s OWS protests have to understand that, beyond a point, consensus does not work. History proves this. Alas, too many lefties keep attempting the search for consensus because, in their theoretical model, the trick should work. In this, they are like libertarians and communists, who keep insisting that their political ideas have never been disproved by real-world events because their systems have never been tried, not really really tried.
In fact, they really really have been tried, and they really really failed.
Consensus, like communism, does not work. Y’know what works? Democracy. Take a vote. If you’re on the losing side, just suck it up and wait until the next vote: Maybe you’ll convince your opponents to see reason. Or maybe you were wrong all along. Fuck your precious widdle ego.
Some people can’t seem to grasp the reasoning behind my objections to OWS. I get the feeling they don’t want to get it.
Four years ago a bunch of people fell for a magical messiah. Despite evidence that he wasn’t what he said he was and logical reasoning that said no one could be what he claimed to be, lots of people who should have know better joined his cult of personality.
Now we some of those same people along with some people who never fell for the fake messiah falling for a cult of movement. Once again it isn’t what they think it is. Nor could it be.
Four years ago we were told that all we had to do was elect Obama and he would use his magical unity power to bring us all together and we would change politics forever and all get unicorns and fluffy bunnies. Now we’re supposed to join a movement that is supposed to bring 99% of us together yadda, yadda, yadda.
To bring significant, lasting change you need sustained pressure from a large group of people with unity of purpose. That requires leaders (plural) and goals.
Waving signs and playing jazz hands in a park isn’t going to accomplish anything unless you can translate it into electoral victories. If you want to put together a real movement you have to get over your fear of those ooky people that don’t agree with you.
You have to quit dismissing them as ignorant brainwashed fools and treat them with the same respect you expect for yourself and for your ideas. You need to actually talk to them, not just sneer at their “talking points,” “memes” and “tropes.”
Or you can keep doing what hasn’t worked in the past. Let me know how that works out for you.