Tag: Occupy Movement

Antisocial Movements

If there’s one thing we are going to need in the modern era, it is a term to describe these new, asinine forms of protest currently being used to further political and ideological goals. This type is different from terrorism in that the acts aren’t violent and sometimes not even unlawful. For lack of a better imagination term, I will dub such acts as “churlism.”

These tactics are designed to draw attention to a cause simply by being the biggest prick imaginable and getting a sufficient number of other pricks to go along with it to piss people off on a grand enough scale to accomplish your goals. Case in point: blocking bridges and freeway overpasses with human prick barricades. I think it was the Occupy Movement that really pioneered this one. Do you really want to strike a blow for your cause, deal out economic hardship on individual Americans, tie up police resources, and make everyone hate your cause as they become more aware of it? Keep them from getting to and from work.

Churlists like the Westboro Baptist Church mastered this years ago with their funeral protests and Anonymous loves to show how cyber-churlism can punish bad actors beyond simple Internet insults. In fact, churlists can often best terrorists, as Anonymous has recently proven against the KKK (an organization that has itself become more churlish with each passing decade). Hell, Obama has even practiced a rare form of state-sponsored churlism for years now by mocking invited guests at public events (Donald Trump, Paul Ryan, the entire Supreme Court, etc), laughing at commuters when his motorcades cause traffic gridlock, or golfing just to show how little he cares about his critics’ views on his lack of action on foreign or domestic policy. And all of those crass people get away with it and even do succeed at getting their message across. So we know it works.

My own viewpoint is that incredibly crass acts like blockading traffic and taking over public parks are inconvenient, but they are far preferable to destruction of property, assault, and other nasty acts that asshats with no purpose for breathing other than their pet causes do when they don’t think they’re being listened to.

Now, I’m not saying that I want to be vexed in my daily life. Far from it. Also, recognize that churlism is different from civil disobedience, which is generally pretty focused on specific people and circumstances. Churlism is utterly random and basically has a way of pissing off people who even hear that it’s being done. Even people who agree with with the Ferguson protestors hate the thought of being caught in a traffic jam while police kick street people and privileged young white hipsters off of a freeway ramp. On the other hand, they like the thought of other people being inconvenienced, because fuck you, whitey.

What I am saying is that I find protest techniques such as these to be potentially highly effective, more so than anything we’ve seen before. In a society as passive-aggressive and disconnected as ours, it simply has to work. Also, I think a good distinction is needed to protect civil liberties by properly differentiating asshole protest activities from extreme or dangerous ones.

Some of my proposed churlist tactics:

1. Fart-Ins. Exactly what you think it means.
2. Sidewalk Jamming. Police can clear you off of a street, but what can they do if you’re just walking on the sidewalk reeeeeeeeeeeallllllllly fucking slowly?
3. Urinal Funnel. I have to explain this one. Some guy at my workplace figured out how to remove the urinal pad and roll it up into a cone. He’d then set it back in the drain so that when the automatic flush engaged, the water would spray back toward the person who had just pissed in it. The guy is a genius, but he lacks the vision to fulfill the destiny of a great cause.

What do you think of such protest tactics? Fair or over the line?

Occupy: One Year Later

It was one year ago today that the Occupy Movement was born when it camped out in Zuccotti Park. The movement got a lot of attention. The Left boasted about how it was more popular than the Tea Party (for about ten seconds). Elizabeth Warren tried to claim credit for it. But the movement seems largely dead, their dreams dissolved into mindless violence and stupid stunts.

Contrast that against the Tea Party. The Tea Party remains an active political force, has affected elections, has affected the debate, has affected policy. For all the crank candidates they gave us (Christine O’Donnell, Sharon Angle, etc.), the result of their activism was a Republican House and the first hints of budget control in over a decade. Without the Tea Party, it’s unlikely Paul Ryan would have been the VP choice. It’s even changed the Democrats to having to at least pretend to care about debt.

So why was Occupy a failure while the Tea Party wasn’t? There’s a lot of analysis out there. Doug Mataconis gets close, I think, in pointing out how incoherent they were and how they failed to crystallize around a specific agenda (other than the unworkable student loan forgiveness). They never did seem to cotton on to the idea that big government was the problem; that the Tea Party was the ally, not the enemy, of people who oppose entrenched power.

But I think it boils down to something simpler. As I said at the time, Occupy really was just the Protest of the Month. Some professional agitators and students looking to get laid marched in the streets because … well, because they like to march:

But the larger part of this is that you can get young people to turn out for jus about any protest. College students and graduates without jobs (of whom there are a lot right now) love to go to protests and march. They like to think it’s for a good cause, but they usually have no fucking clue what it’s about. Penn and Teller did a great schtick at an Earth Day Rally where they interviewed a slew of people who knew nothing about environmental issues. This included at least one of the organizers. In 1992, my campus common was flooded with students protesting the Rodney King verdict. And most of them were doing what college students to — hanging out, hitting on each other, playing frisbee. I talked to people who didn’t even know what the protest was about; they just knew it was on, man.

And as I predicted, their enthusiasm would fizzle when it came to actually doing something:

I suspect that when these guys run into the hard reality that not even Democrats will push their agenda, they’ll fade away. They’ll talk of a third party and how the Democrats aren’t really liberal. And they’ll vote for Obama anyway. I mean, if Barack Obama, with huge majorities in Congress, can’t get a public option done, what chances does a “living wage for the unemployed” have?

I’m not happy about this, actually, despite the smug tone of the post. I think OWS was concerned about very legitimate issues: the entrenchment of power, violations of civil liberties, corporate welfare, crony capitalism. I had hoped it would maybe get some of the ostensibly liberal to realize the danger of a centralized powerful government. But it didn’t. And in the end, that’s a loss for America.

The DHS Shoe On the Other Foot

Wikileaks latest has indicated that DHS was keeping tabs on the Occupy Movement as a potential danger. Naturally, of course, the Left has freaked about “oppression”, a freak-out which includes this laughable quote:

On Current TV last night, host Cenk Uygur blasted the agency for focusing exclusively on Occupy Wall Street. “The Tea Party… that happens to be pro-corporate America is not anywhere to be found here [but] when Occupy Wall Street is not pro-corporate America, all of a sudden, they need to be investigated by the Department of Homeland Security.”

As the author points out, this is all kinds of stupid. First of all, their “keeping tabs” on Occupy mostly involved trolling Twitter and other public media. The only remotely ominous thing is their concern that the protests could turn violent and threaten infrastructure (which kinda happened). Second, the DHS did keep track of the Tea Party and had a controversial report on the potential for Right Wing violence. Third, comparing the Tea Party to Occupy is a little ridiculous. Whatever else you might say about the Tea Party, they gathered, had their marches and went home, usually leaving the public spaces clean and tidy. They didn’t camp out, they didn’t have problems with women being raped, they didn’t demand free food and trash stores that wouldn’t comply and they didn’t have links to the people who created chaos in Seattle and other places. And finally, describing the Tea Party as “pro-corporate America” is a bit silly given the hatred the Tea Party has for bailouts and subsidies.

Frankly, keeping tabs on the Occupy movement and making sure there was no threat to public safety is the DHS’s job. If we find out it went deeper than that, then we can be concerned. But I find it ironic that the people who either ignored or applauded the DHS’s report on potential right wing violence now have a case of the vapors when it comes to the DHS looking out for potential left wing violence.

Civil liberties are civil liberties, guys. It doesn’t matter who they’re exercised by. We all have a stake in them.