According to its website, Occupy Wall Street (OWS) is a people-powered movement
organized in "response to the Great Recession caused by our financial and political leaders." It vibrates with activity as people organize against corporate greed. Working groups pulsate "planning actions, coordinating with community groups, engaging with the press, supporting each other, and strengthening solidarity within the movement." They will work tirelessly until inequality, injustice, poverty, and war are eradicated, all the while "refusing to be silenced," presumably by powerful movements clamoring for inequality, injustice, poverty, and war.
The early days of the OWS movement experienced rapid growth, it's popularity boosted by media coverage and support from celebrities and Democrat politicians. In recent weeks, it has been joined by labor unions, community organizers, human rights groups, and the Communist, Socialist, and Fascist parties. There is a 99% faction, antithetical to the richest 1% of the population. Implying a form of automatic enrollment for everyone big business and big government has been sticking it to, the hope is that the "99%" name will increase membership to, well, 99%. There is also a small, but vocal, Anti-Semite faction, no doubt formed due to their belief that Jews own all of the banks. And since OWS demands "indictments and prosecutions of all crimes committed by banks, brokerage firms and insurance companies," a very large legal faction is expected to develop soon.
Much of the anger is understandably directed at our democratic-capitalistic system. But a poll conducted for the movement by CUNY sociologist Héctor R. Cordero-Guzmán Ph.D found that 70.3% of OWS'ers are politically independent and 64.2% are under the age of 34. That is, most probably don't vote. The poll also found that 92.1% had some college, a college degree, or a graduate degree; 13.1% are unemployed; 71.5% earn less than $50,000/yr. That is, most OWS'ers are highly educated and have jobs, but almost 86% (13.1 + 71.5) pay 0% in income taxes - in contrast to, for example, Tea Party members who are old and uneducated, but pay 30%.
In addition to Wall Street and 1%'ers, OWS'ers hate big corporations, especially ones that make huge profits, ship jobs overseas and plunder the planet. During a working group debate, one protestor tweeted "X on sucks" to his followers using his new, $560 iPhone 4S. I assume he was talking about Exxon, a giant American oil company with a profit margin of 9.66%. Apple, which recently surpassed Exxon as the world's largest company, extracts a profit margin of 35% on iPhones, manufactured in Taiwan by Samsung. Evidently, big corporations that screw consumers can get an OWS protestation exemption if they make cool products.
Similar logic applies to people. Rich corporate CEO's are demonized because of their sinfully high salaries. For example, the top 10 CEOs averaged $43 million in 2010. The top 10 celebrities averaged $100 million. But instead of castigating rich celebrities, OWS'ers pay them tribute - with exorbitantly priced tickets to attend their bourgeois movies, concerts, and sporting events.
Despite numerous anti-capitalism signs (e.g., "End Capitalism" and "Smash the Pillars of the Pig Empire") and an equally large number of signs advocating Socialism and Communism, the OWS movement insists that it doesn't want to destroy capitalism. It just wants to make a few changes. Specifically, it wants American businesses to hire more people, increase salaries and benefits; provide free health care and education; reduce the prices of their products and services; eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emission. The profits (if any, after all the wealth-sharing) should be returned to society. So the new system would be a hybrid in which capitalists could own businesses but control neither their property nor their profits. Let's call it Marxalism.
Nationwide demonstrations by rebellious youth may annoy and disrupt American business. But they are unlikely to cause an immediate, voluntary switch to Marxalism. Nor will they result in a swift enactment of anti-greed laws. The real leaders understand the futility of such languid tactics. They are professional radicals, hiding in the bowels of the movement - deep thinkers for whom class warfare is a fulltime job. They are the friendly statists from organizations such as the Working Families Party, New York Communities for Change (formerly, ACORN), Strong Economy for All and United NY. Their anti-capitalism outrage calls for revolution. And they want it before ADHD and cold weather drive demonstrators back to their jobs and classrooms.
To ignite a revolution, the movement needs rebellious leaders with the ability to rouse and incite the masses. Who should be the provocative face of the revolution? Given the number of protestors wearing chic t-shirts imprinted with the image of Chairman Mao and Che Guevara (not to mention Marx, Lenin, and Stalin), it would be tempting to use modern-day versions of these idols. However, Che-like leaders would be demoralizing in that the original Che denounced the “spirit of rebellion” as “reprehensible” and those who “choose their own path” as "delinquents." Chairman Mao has become a cult hero, perhaps more trendy than Che. California even has "Mao's Kitchen" restaurants. But it would be difficult for Mao-like leaders to explain the miserable failures of the original Mao - e.g., his "Great Leap Forward" to create a just, egalitarian society that ended up killing 45 million innocent Chinese men, women and children. As with Che's idol, Stalin, justice and equality were evidently unimportant goals for Mao.
Hitler-like leaders are doubtlessly popular with the OWS anti-Semite faction. And compared to Mao and Stalin, Hitler was a nice guy, murdering only 20 million (Mao and Stalin murdered 76 and 42 million, respectively). But Hitler t-shirts are harder to find and there are no "Hitler's Kitchen" restaurants in California (yet).
There are even problems with front men such as Michael Moore. On the plus side, he is highly visible and popular, has no history of supporting mass murder and has never been seen in a Che t-shirt (although he has endeared himself to Fidel Castro). A recent convert to the OWS Movement, Mike hates capitalism, which he regularly and vehemently denounces. He often alludes to violence in the streets if Wall Street doesn't pay back what it has stolen: our pensions, our money, and the futures of our children. He predicts that if jobs are not provided right away, there will be riots in the streets. Says Mike, "The smart rich know they can only build the gates so high." But the smart money at OWS knows that Michael Moore raging against corporate fat-cats is disturbingly incongruous. And the image on a t-shirt of a rotund and smiling, 57 year old man, with bangs sticking out from under a goofy ball cap, is disturbingly ridiculous.
In terms of its stated goals, two months of demonstrations have achieved nothing. As the OWS movement has grown and spread, so too has its proclivity for violence and revolution. Writing in the New York Post, of a recent visit to Zuccotti Park, Charles Gasparino "... found a unifying and increasingly coherent ideology emerging among the protesters, which at its core has less to do with the evils of the banking business and more about the evils of capitalism -- and the need for a socialist revolution." Unfortunately, the latest recruits to the cause - for the most part, criminals, drug users, panhandlers, and the homeless - have produced little more than a stench pervading the carnival-like encampments. Indeed, the increasing violence and decreasing sanitation of the movement has begun to wear out its welcome in many cities. And with the onslaught of winter, many protestors plan to retreat, vowing to return with the fair weather of spring. Self-respecting socialists cannot be expected to carry their clever anti-capitalist signs while shivering and holding their noses at their own fetor. Besides, it is an image more ridiculous than that of a Michael Moore T-shirt.
In the bowels of the OWS movement lie zealous agitators who see themselves as its true leaders. Privately, they call each other comrade; they regard the mainstream media, vocal celebrities, and shrill professors of socioeconomic equality as useful idiots. When it comes to money and power, they are as greedy and exploitative as any of their oppressors. By offering false hope and fomenting hatred and unrest, they seek to extort capital and usurp power for themselves. With thousands of eager demonstrators at their disposal, they believe their moment is now (or next spring).
But there is an obstruction, a chronic irritation--the lack of charismatic demagogues to articulate the collectivist ideology. Some would say the movement has been stricken with irritable bowel syndrome. Alas, for this strain, no medicine seems to be available.