In a stunningly ignorant editorial, The StarPhoenix swallows the tripe that the Occupy movement of the past month is somehow more legitimate than the Tea Party movement has been since 2009.
Their message is neither focused nor clear and their tactics may be somewhat unorthodox, but it has become clear that the Occupy Wall Street protest and its various offshoots have caught the attention of the world’s leaders.
Their tactics are asinine, but as Jim Treacher put it, their message is very clear: “We’re losers, and it’s your fault.”
But if it is to have lasting impact, the movement will have to achieve the one quality it claims to have but has no evidence to support: It must become truly democratic.
The movement leaders don’t have a clue what democracy is. For example, they strive for “consensus”, which is not equivalent to the democratic formula of 50%+1. Consensus is having everyone agree with each other on every important issue – an impossibility – while democracy is having enough people agree on an issue to give it legitimacy.
They are also learning that their contrived form of decision-making doesn’t work. I doubt, however, that they will ever realize that democratic institutions exist precisely because they both provide a forum for a say on an issue and a method to achieve the desired outcome.
It’s one thing to claim that one speaks for 99 per cent of the population, but it’s quite another to actually demonstrate the power that would come with that kind of backing.
Saddam Hussein used to have 99% support of his population, and he enjoyed demonstrating this power. Likewise, Kim Jong Il.
It’s not irrelevant that these demonstrators are camping out, including in Saskatoon’s Friendship Park, in an effort to get their mixed message across at a time when voter turnout and political participation rates are at a modern day nadir. That is too bad, because some of what these demonstrators want to convey has clearly resonated even with the most powerful among world leaders.
Why is it relevant that they are camping out?
In Canada, no less a personage than Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney said this weekend that he not only understands the demonstrators’ frustration but believes the movement is an “entirely constructive” expression of frustration about income inequality.
If the Occupiers were truly frustrated by income inequality, they would give the vast majority of their own income to the billions of poor around the globe instead of demanding more from others.
Media around the world have helped give voice to the demonstrators, and it’s clear that politicians have been listening. Even European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told French paper, Le Parisien, that rogue bankers must face legal consequences.
Translation: “Media around the world are projecting their own ideological desires in lieu of coherent demands by the demonstrators, and it’s clear that politicians are trying to capitalize on the situation.”
Considering the weekend saw hundreds of demonstrations in more than 80 countries, it’s evident that politicians realize something is afoot that can’t be ignored easily. But converting this energy into action will be much harder than occupying downtown parks and public spaces.
Consider, for example, that a month after the New York version of the Occupy Wall Street movement was born, it had less than $300,000 in the bank. Compare that with the millions the Tea Party demonstrators had last year – most of it coming from a small group of wealthy elite – to effectively change the course of the midterm elections in the United States.
Considering the Tea Party began in 2009, I would hope they would have been able to raise more money in 18 months than the Occupy movement has in only one.
When the Tea Party began in 2009, it was a classic grassroots organization initially viewed with contempt and derision as a mob of yokels; a year later, they were a wealthy political juggernaut controlled by the corporate elite. Which is it?
The truth is, initially they had no resources – not even “less than $300,000” (wherever that money came from) – but the belief that government had grown too large to manage effectively. They became a political force not because of the amount money they were able to raise, but because they were able to organize themselves quickly, develop effective strategies, and put the money they raised to good use.
That money bought the Tea Party enough votes to extract pledges from conservative Republicans that they would not raise taxes even for the super rich, even if it means the collapse of the American economy.
The editorial fails to explain exactly how money “buys votes”. Did the Tea Party pay people to show up to the voting station? Did they corrupt electoral officials? I’m stunned at the ignorance of this ascertation.
Even more stunning is how the editorial assumes that extracting even more taxes from “the super rich” – in effect, taking money out of the American economy – would “collapse” that very economy.
The Tea Partiers, some of whom showed up at Democratic Party events armed and ready to protect their Second Amendment right to bear arms, sprang particularly from President Barack Obama’s health-care initiative. The Occupy Wall Street protesters claim, among other things, to being frustrated at Mr. Obama’s willingness to take on debt in order to bail out bankers to prevent economic collapse.
The president, while expressing sympathy for the movement, has put in place the most extensive fund raising infrastructure – and spending millions on social media and information technology, and hiring thousands of organizers all across the U.S. – to make up for his extremely low popularity. But in democracies such as Canada and the U.S., money doesn’t guarantee power.
First off, the president did more than “express sympathy” for the movement; he started it. His rhetoric since 2010 has been about the “millionaires and billionaires” and “jet planes” and the like. Obama’s own former “Green Jobs Czar” – and 9/11 Truther – Van Jones is part of the Occupy leadership. This Occupy movement is precisely his administration’s attempt to “make up for extremely low poularity.”
Notice also how “money doesn’t guarantee power”, but two paragraphs above, “money bought the Tea Party enough votes to extract pledge from conservative Republicans”?
Should the demonstrators begin working within the political system, joining parties, participating in policy debates, running for office and – perhaps most critically – voting in elections, this ragtag movement could evolve into a force for change.
Again, the editorial contradicts itself. It writes off the Tea Party as being controlled by “the wealthy elite”. Yet it then suggests that the Occupy movement follow the same path to political power taken by the very Tea Party so despised by the author.
You have to wonder whether the author of this piece even reads over what he’s writing. Or, if he has, whether he actually believes his own bullshit.
UPDATE: Some Occupiers are taking the concept of redistributing wealth to its logical conclusion.