Why occupy is dangerous

Posted on December 5, 2011


Journalist, author, and activist, Naomi Wolf, recently penned an article for the Guardian where she argued the “shocking truth” behind the brutal crackdown against peaceful protest by the occupy movement is because the movement demands that we “draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.” The italics are hers.

The article has spurred a media shouting match of sorts between herself and journalist Joshua Holland over whether the US federal government is involved in coordinating a crackdown on the peaceful protests. To me, that is immaterial because even if the federal government is not currently coordinating a response to the peaceful protests, it will be if they continue to grow.

The meat of Wolf’s argument, to me, is her question: “Why this massive mobilisation against these not-yet-fully-articulated, unarmed, inchoate people?”

I disagree that it is the three demands she references in her original article. I think that what causes sleepless nights for the power elite, and what truly separates the occupy movement from the tea party movement, is the fact occupy has refused to define itself through a specific message or through a leadership hierarchy.

Critics rightly point out that if occupy fails to define itself then its opponents will, but that is mostly true in a disconnected world of the recent past where all public debate is mediated. That is not necessarily true in a world where public debate and discussion can occur between individuals and groups without mediation; a global public square.

What occupy does is it says “let us be the public square”. The occupations are symbolic. They symbolize individuals coming together to discuss the big picture issues that impact their lives and over which they want to assume some degree of democratic control. By offering the virtual square without the baggage of a message that is ideologically or politically weighted, they are offering a space that brings together the left, the right and the increasingly disaffected political middle battered by a shrinking economy, rising prices, and with lost or endangered homes.

Consider that disparate groups of students, environmentalists, labour, the poor, the disenfranchised, the marginalized, all of the people that came together to elect President Obama, are now without a political home.

Consider that the principled right, the Ron Paul Republicans, the libertarians, will only ever be welcome among the Republican Party on election day when their votes are counted.

Consider that the vast middle of America, facing an evermore fearful economic future, are increasingly alienated from a political and economic system that is failing them.

When all of these people, traditionally separated by party and ideology or apathy, come together, they represent a threat to the status quo. When they begin to develop alternative methods of decision making and governance, they represent a threat to the institutions that govern the state.

Government does not only claim a monopoly on violence, it also claims a monopoly on the democratic process. A parallel democratic process, even if small, represents an alternative model of government and that would be revolutionary.

And that is why occupy encampments that establish kitchens, clinics, libraries, and that make decisions by consensus must be violently demolished. They can’t be allowed to succeed and especially not when they breakdown the artificial divisions of party and ideology bringing together people, with common and competing interests, as equal individuals.

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