A big wankfestivus with nothing for the rest of us

Walter Russell Mead:

The Vain And Empty Rituals Of Protest On The Streets

The news that 175 people were arrested over the weekend in a Chicago OWS protest started me thinking about the ritualized nature of left demonstrations. The drums, the chants, the defiance, the arrests — and, sometimes, the glass smashing and the fire setting: it all unfolds according to a predictable pattern that in its modern form is essentially unchanged since the Vietnam War.

And it also made me wonder: what is the point?


In a mass democracy where everyone has a vote, and normal peaceful demonstrations carry no professional cost or personal stigma, if 100,000 people gather in Central Park for a protest rally it means that about 8,000,000 New Yorkers chose not to attend. It is not really news and it doesn’t mean much about where the city is headed.


In America, probably fortunately, protest is so widespread and cost free that no particular protest means anything much. 500,000 people can march through Washington DC to protest Roe vs. Wade; no laws change, no judges change their minds, no politicians (not running for the GOP nomination) change their stands. Ditto “million man” and “million mom” marches.

Perhaps, like the Tea Party, the OWS folks will go on to become a potent force in politics — though to do they will have to develop a clarity and purpose of outlook that is still lacking. If so, the OWS protests will be remembered as the launching pad of a political movement, but the action will have to leave the streets to produce change. Signing nominating petitions, raising money, launching websites, turning out caucus and primary voters, attending local government meetings: that is what makes change, not living in squalor or even making love in the park, not getting arrested in acts of civil (or uncivil) disobedience.

Maybe I’m just stupid and old, but whatever the movement you are in and whether it comes from the left or the right, I truly don’t see the point of getting arrested at a protest rally these days. The civil rights marchers engaged in civil disobedience had a clear strategy and when they got arrested or were beaten up by the police, it had an impact on public opinion. Not fringe public opinion or upper middle class left wing college student public opinion, but middle middle and lower middle class people who had never thought much about the ugliness of segregation but now suddenly saw it in action — and it made them feel sick to their stomachs. The courage and quiet dignity of the civil rights protestors, and the hatred and brutality they brought out in their opponents, brought a moral reformation to the United States.

Their tactics were directly related to their goal, and they demonstrated the truth of their cause by the way their dignified nonviolence clashed with ignorance, violence and hate.

Nate Silver of The New York Times estimated that 70,000 people turned out last Saturday in OWS protests across the country. Over 80,000 football fans turn out for every Notre Dame home game.

It’s October. Next year is a presidential election year. The White House, 1/3 of the Senate and the House of Representatives are up for grabs, along with numerous state and local offices.

OWS hasn’t produced a single candidate, policy proposal, issue or demand.

Other than the groovy experience of protesting, what’s the point?

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54 Responses to A big wankfestivus with nothing for the rest of us

  1. myiq2xu says:

    Occupy Wall Street is now a tourist attraction


    “I wanna go see the smelly hippies!”

    • myiq2xu says:

      Actually, when I was a kid we used to do that.

      When we would go to San Francisco we used to drive through Haight-Ashbury so we could see the hippies.

      • Mary says:

        Bell bottoms, peace signs, and flowers in your hair.

        Have to be a certain age to remember all of that (me too). 🙂

        Good article! What IS the point, really?

    • catarina says:

      No, it comes down to is, it’s not the government’s role — or anybody else’s role — to make that decision. Secondly, if you look at the statistical incidents, you’re not talking about that big a number. So what I’m saying is, it ultimately gets down to a choice that that family or that mother has to make. Not me as president. Not some politician. Not a bureaucrat. It gets down to that family. And whatever they decide, they decide. I shouldn’t try to tell them what decision to make for such a sensitive decision.

    • WMCB says:

      He also said this about homosexuals, after noting that his beliefs teach it is sin:

      Cain held his ground, adding that neither Morgan nor anyone else has been able to offer him sound scientific evidence to convince him that a person is born homosexual rather than choosing to become gay at some point in one’s life. That said, he believes gay Americans have a right to make that choice, and “you don’t see me bashing them for it.” Furthermore, “I respect their right to make that choice,” even though “I don’t have to agree with it.”

      I personally don’t get real bent out of shape with people who think abortion is sin, or homosexuality is sin, or adultery is sin, or lying is sin, or drinking is sin, or eating meat on Friday is sin. They’ve a right to their belief, and to express it if they want. So long as they aren’t making laws to criminalize all those things, and aren’t advocating treating those who believe (or act) differently badly, then I don’t care.

      • WMCB says:

        This bit sounds very sensible to me:

        Morgan then said that Cain cannot hide behind the “mask of the pizza guy,” and that, as a person who may potentially become president, his views on issues like abortion become “a directive to the nation.” Cain’s response?

        “No, they don’t. I can have an opinion on an issue without it being a directive on the nation. The government shouldn’t be trying to tell people everything to do, especially when it comes to a social decision that they need to make.

        This kind of thing reminds me of my catholic aunt. She firmly believes that divorce for any reason other than adultery is wrong. When I left my husband, she never lectured or berated me, was very supportive, and loved the heck out of me. BUT, if I had insisted on backing her against a wall and demanding an answer, she’d have maintained that yes, she believed it was sin.

        Does that make her a horrible bad person? Not in my book. She’s a wonderful loving person with whom I disagree. She didn’t berate me for my “sin”, and I’m not going to berate her for a belief she holds by backing her against a wall and demanding she justify or recant it.

        It’s about how we treat each other, and don’t try to control one another.

  2. WMCB says:


    There are several videos from Oakland. Scroll down and watch the last one, with the masked guy threatening and cursing the reporter, and saying this is bloody revolution.

    Any sympathy I had for this crap is totally gone at this point. I don’t care if there ARE some people at the protests who are sincere, they have to see what is happening, and they are letting it happen.

  3. WMCB says:

    Professor Jacobsen points out Sheldon Whitehouse’s over-the-top, blistering condemnation of the Teaparty as the next potential lynchers and rioters, full of destructive and vindictive and dangerous passions vs. his mild words about the much more violent and revolutionary OWS.


    No one at the teaparty rallies was advocating the actual, serious overthrow of the US govt and the constitution. There are quite a few at OWS advocating just that. No one went masked at teaparties, but there are lots of masks and hidden identities at OWS. I’ve seen many of them on camera refuse to give their names to reporters. Why hide what you are doing, if it is something you are so sure will find wide public support?

    But the media and Dem politicians paint one as scary, and the other as just some concerned citizens.

  4. DeniseVB says:

    Are you smarter than a Wall Street Occupier ? (take the quiz) 😀


  5. yttik says:

    A lot of these protests are being endorsed by the politicians in power and now by several wealthy “wall Street” people. I distrusted this movement when the politicians supported it, but now I really question WTH when wall street starts endorsing it. But it’s not as crazy as it seems, the Occupiers are wanting more regulations, more government intervention. If you are a wealthy corporation who has just benefited from bail outs, from corporate welfare, then of course you’d be cheering for more government, too. There’s a reason they gave Obama more wall street money than any other president in history. He’s paid them back many times over. Whether these occupiers are aware of it or not, they are protesting in support of the politicians and the crony capitalism that got us into this mess in the first place.

  6. crawdad says:


    elliesmom, on October 20, 2011 at 8:50 am said:

    See, you’re co-opting the Obama supporters’ vocabulary. Those of us who disagree with you don’t “hate” you. We just don’t believe that OWS is what you think it is. Many of us feel sad that you’ve been sucked in. Some of us understand why people who are vulnerable can be convinced that something is worth jumping into when at less trying times they would be running away as fast as they could. And some of us are enjoying the shitzengiggles. But we don’t “hate” you or the OWS movement. As long as it stays peaceful.

    RD, on October 20, 2011 at 10:27 am said:

    Oh, my, my, my, Elliesmom you are so on the wrong side of this issue it isn’t even funny.
    It’s over for you and the Tea Partiers and the Glenn Beckers and ditto heads. Enjoy the adolescent humor while you can. This is something you do not want to observe from the sidelines.

    Ozymandius is falling.

    Elliesmom is a regular here.

    • yttik says:

      “you go back to your sorry little lives, you losers.”

      Feel the love, man.

    • Mary says:

      Didja read The Red Queen’s post today? She draws a comparison of OWS and Moses delivering the “wage slaves” from bondage. No shit.

      And if you don’t believe it, you must be from Beckistan.

      Jaysus. She’s craaaazy.

    • Elliesmom has guts to go over to TC. I’ll stay on the sidelines, because I don’t like people who wear masks on days other than Halloween. They are up to no good. It reminds me too much of the anarchists here on the West Coast.

      • elliesmom says:

        When you’ve spent the better part of your life staring down 13 year-olds, it doesn’t take guts to go over to TC. I’ve enjoyed reading TC for a long time though I have seldom commented there until very recently. . That she thinks I’m a right-wing Beckistani is funny. But her attitude of” if you’re not with us, you’re against us” is not new. That has been her mantra for awhile. What is priceless is how she thinks that we cannot watch Fox news occasionally without being sucked into the ultraconservative movement, but one visit to OWS and she’s been hived. I don’t hold much hope for her to disengage herself unless a recruiter calls her with a job offer. I hope she’ll step back a bit if the protest turns violent. Unfortunately, if the cold weather doesn’t hit soon, I think it might. “Kent State moment” and all that. But for now she has become part of the shitzengiggles. I expect her to begin tie dyeing in her basement any day now.

        • 1539days says:

          Her constant revulsion at the site of Fox News (you know, after that day she live-blogged Glenn Beck) at service stations or doctor’s offices is priceless. Where I work, Fox News is on the cafeteria TV a lot. Sometimes it’s CNN. Sometimes it’s MSNBC, but I don’t want to punch the cashier when it is.

    • WMCB says:

      When I see responses like “You are an evil dittohead/teapartier/Beckistani” to a perfectly sane objection by a perfectly sane liberal like elliesmom, then I know that RD is full of shit.

      Notice that it is no longer acceptable even to stand back and have doubts (but not oppose), which has pretty much been elliesmom’s position.

      No, now even those “on the sidelines” are the enemy, baby. Join the revolution or we’re coming for you! It’s a completely emotion-driven, mob mentality. Sorta like HopenChange was.

    • votermom says:


      myiq said earlier that RD has fallen for the ows kind of like someone falling in love.
      It’s true. It’s like seeing your friend fall for the wrong guy. Try to open their eyes to the loser’s true ways and you just get attacked for your efforts. You just have to step aside and let the person go ahead break their heart. Again.
      It’s not just RD either. Buncha people who should know better by now are declaiming the glory of wuv, twu wuv.. They are certainly old enough to know better. I don’t know what their excuse is.

    • votermom says:

      I clicked the link and saw that elliesmom was actually responding to ralph, and RD broke in.
      Then ralph says (bolding mine):

      I don’t believe that OWS will end up helping Obama either. But, even if it did, some things are more important than any one politician.

      Even if it helps Obama?
      The next logical step is “hold your nose and vote for Obama because _____”.
      To hell with that.

      Anyone who talks themselves into re-electing Obama, I will hold personally responsible for the country’s collapse. I don’t care what they call me. You vote for FORE MORE, and I am done with you.

    • Riverdaughter says:

      I don’t watch cable TV news or listen to talk radio. I go directly to the source and check it out for myself without a filter. For the past month, the tea party operatives and villagers and beckistanians have been huffing and puffing about what the occupation stands for and why doesn’t it make demands. And what they and elliesmom have in common is that they do not understand that this is not another MoveOn.org. This is much, much bigger than that.
      What I don’t get is why you guys here are not going directly to an occupation to see for yourself what is true or false. What is it you’re afraid of? That you’ll look foolish for just going there and asking questions? How much sense does that make?
      If you want something to happen that will alter the course of history, you might be missing out on that big thing that happens in your lifetime. The more people there are in it, the more powerful it is. That’s not a plug for joining and conforming. That’s just a statement of fact. Nothing gets done without a lot of bodies who will stand behind it.
      But you will never know what it is they are asking of you until you go personally and see just how many freaks and hippies there really are and how many people are just like you.
      Yeah, you guys are painfully stubborn when there’s no reason to be. You can’t be taken seriously until you go for yourselves.

      • 1539days says:

        I could say the same thing about you going to a Tea Party

      • myiq2xu says:

        Welcome to The Crawdad Hole. This is a place where people of diverse opinions can come together.

      • DeniseVB says:

        I’ve participated in national marches and rallies for all kinds of topics because I understood and supported their messages.

        I have an open mind, so I realize that each side has their nuts and whackjobs, but so far, OWS seems to be 99% of the problem and 1% special sauce 😦

      • WMCB says:

        Some have been, RD, and weren’t impressed. Also, despite your denials, you do get your news from sources other than direct observation, otherwise you could not have an opinion on anything at all going on in DC, or Oregon, or Libya or anywhere in the world that you have not personally visited. So let’s dispense with the superior fantasy of “I decide things for myself, unlike you people “, okay? We all decide for ourselves, RD. Hate to break it to you, but you are not somehow special and unique in that regard.

        It’s pretty laughable that you accuse people of being brainwashed or deceived who tend to take it all in from all sides, but still look at ALL news from ALL sources with a jaundiced eye. Yet those like yourself who pick only their ideological twins as their sole sources of news are “objective”. That’s just funny. And blindly tribal and parochial as hell.

        You can’t be taken seriously until you go for yourselves.

        Then I guess you should STFU about teaparties then, hmm?

        • Mary says:

          Oh snap!

          Here’s the difference: I actually watched Beck’s rally on C-Span, and then I watched Sharpton’s rally too.

          Informed by my OWN EYES, I “decided on my own.”

          If ya never watch, read, or listen to people who are very different from you, you’re poorly informed, and live in a very narrow, small reality.

          Hard to help other people understand that, sometimes.

          THIS board gets it. Thanks, everybody!

      • catarina says:

        The more people there are in it, the more powerful it is.

        What is IT?

        Alter the course of history, how exactly?

        This movement has yet to define itself, although the Dems and Obama have embraced it.

        • elliesmom says:

          The movement isn’t defining itself because then there would be issues to push back against. They would have to acknowledge that they are getting support from groups that would turnoff most Americans. There’s no leader because they don’t want to put someone up who could be discredited. When SDS, the Weathermen, and the Black Panthers began taking credit for the unrest in the 60’s, public opinion was solidified against the protesters. My parents were supportive of me and my brothers protesting to our hearts’ content until they found out who Angela Davis was. A vague discontent that spreads across the country will help them build a coalition of the disaffected that can be manipulated.

      • elliesmom says:

        While I haven’t been to Wall Street, I have visited OccupyBoston. There was nothing there that compelled me to join. I also visited a Tea Party rally because that was the only way to see for myself what it was all about. I didn’t join that group either. I hope you come to your senses soon. But maybe the compulsion to be assimilated into a group is hereditary. I come from a long line of skeptics.

  7. WMCB says:

    even if it did, some things are more important than any one politician.

    What things are more important? Please tell me what OWS is going to accomplish in any concrete way that would be worth 4 more years of Obama? Maybe you are right, but how do I know? You haven’t told me anything. If you are touting that the trade-off would be worth it, then please tell me what I am being asked to trade.

    “Some things > 4 more years” is not a statement that makes any sense at all. WHAT things?

  8. kk says:

    I kind of feel sorry for RD.. fist she sort of lost her blog when she went nuts and kicked everybody off, then she lost her job. I think during the last few weeks of that she was wildly wishing they would change her their mind and keep her….now its over, it looks to me that sje is desperate need to ‘belong’ anywhere. thats why she is feigning such ardour for the OWS mob. trying to find a brand new captive audience. all i can say is give it time…. too bad about Ralph though..thats just sad

    • DeniseVB says:

      Nah, don’t feel sorry for blog owners, it’s their sandbox, their rules. I admire those blogs that admit their dickheads and only dickheads who can agree with them are welcomed. I’ll still read them, but move along.

      Then there’s the fishing hole, where just being most excellent to each other is the rule 🙂 I like it here.

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