Wednesday, November 02, 2011

When one is embedded, occupying only seems mushy

Tennessean columnist Gail Kerr is getting kudos for writing an editorial criticizing Governor Bill Haslam for cracking down on Occupy Nashville last week. But it was not like she was exactly supportive of Occupy Nashville:

With no clear goals, agenda or leader, Occupy Nashville was a murky movement with a mushy message that probably would have fizzled.

Occupy Oakland on General Strike today
moving to shut down the Port of Oakland
This comment is so disingenuous. If Occupy Nashville had called for a general strike, closed down banks, and drew thousands to march on a major trade center like Occupy Oakland did, they would be a hard target for Gail Kerr, who once treated Bob Corker as a superhero for taking on unions. Nashville's chapter of Occupy Wall Street could take a firmer, clear stance and open itself to Kerr charges of being blinded by union loyalism.

But Kerr is also misleading. Occupy Nashville has been transparent about their goals and agenda. First they intend to occupy public space to the end of supporting Occupy Wall Street in New York City. Wall Street is the center of American power, so it makes sense. They also intend to hold General Assemblies to involve anyone not plugged into the 1%'s power grid in an alternative political process. They are exercising open-ended democracy for people without money or power.

Occupy Wall Street has, as of this writing, issued no bullet-pointed list of demands. It has set forth no litmus test for would-be members. And that seems to be part of the point: tolerating contradictions, keeping the conversation open-ended and welcoming all comers.

In the process, they are developing other goals. They have been clear that their protests intend to express organic opposition to banks; nationally, Occupy has won victories that no newspaper columnist has, like changing the media discussion from the deficit to joblessness and motivating banks to drop debit card fees.

Finally, if the movement has no clear leaders they also do not have figureheads who, like some corporate newspaper columnists, can fall prey to temptations of political influence and wealth on various issues unoccupied by ordinary people.

It is a shame that it took Bill Haslam's stumblebum crackdown on freedom of assembly for Gail Kerr to attend to the OWS movement, but this protest extends beyond easy constitutional problems that beg editorial grandstanding. It is a movement focused on authentic democracy and an economic revolution that probably makes embedded journos like Kerr nervous when they're not writing PR for the rich and famous.

1 comment:

  1. I’ve been struck by the way the media have portrayed the OWS movement. They ignored it for as long as they could. Then they portrayed them as naïve children, who don’t know want they want. How many times have we heard that OWS has no clear goals or agenda? I suspect that many reporters are really complaining that OWS has no media flacks who can provide broadcast ready talking points, or who can write the stories for them. The current media line seems to be that some in the OWS movement are dangerous, violent extremists who want to destroy the entire capitalist system.

    It reminds me of the famous quote from Gandhi: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”