Independent’s Eye by Joe Gandelman
NEW YORK CITY. — In these days of globalization it certainly fits our times: Occupy Wall Street has now gone global.
Welcome to New York, a city with more stoops than a talk show host convention. “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere,” say the lyrics of “New York, New York,” and Occupy Wall Street has made it here. Local newspapers are crammed with long stories about it. But it goes beyond New York: Operation Wall Street incarnations are popping up in a slew of American and European cities.
Demonstrators in Zuccotti Park’s tent city protest a world where the rich get richer and escape consequences of financial malpractice, the middle class loses ground, unemployment thrives, old social contracts fade, and inequalities and government incompetence and impotence reign supreme. They hurl rhetorical Colorado cantaloupes at banks and the political parties in bed with corporations. One thing New York has is “foot traffic,” so as the often-muddled populist message gets media coverage, protester numbers swell.
A Time Magazine poll found that only 27 percent have a good impression of the conservative Tea Party movement, while 54 percent look favorably upon Occupy Wall Street. A Quinnipiac University poll found 74 percent of New Yorkers, including 52 percent of Republicans, feel protesters should be able to stay where they are if they don’t break laws. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, under fire in some quarters for not doing more to try and remove protesters, argues the Constitution doesn’t protect a tent city, only free speech, and those exercising a ” right to be silent’ could be drowned out.
It’s clear that Occupy Wall Street will be around for a while. But so will pitfalls facing politicians and governments grappling with long protests and maintaining order, while trying to tackle and defuse issues propelling the protests.
And then there are pitfalls facing the movement itself. John Avlon writes in The Daily Beast: “The vast majority of the protesters in Zuccotti Park are peaceful, but there is a professional protester element that wants the visuals of oppression to help build public sympathy for their movement. Like all extremes, they will ultimately be their own worst enemy, alienating more people than they attract.’
Also: the original, independent Tea Party movement was gobbled up and co-opted by the Republican Party. Democrats are now drooling over Occupy Wall Street as Obama launches a John Edwards-like “Two-Americas” campaign.
Most conservative reaction to Occupy Wall Street has been a study in partisan hypocrisy. When conservatives correctly characterized Tea Party protests and noisy town hall meeting crowds as democracy, some Democrats called it a “mob,” and they went ballistic. Now conservatives demonize Occupy Wall Street protesters. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor labeled demonstrators a “mob” — not exactly how he characterized Tea Party demonstrators. Cantor and other GOPers now seemingly temper their rhetoric — perhaps after reading polls.
Conservative rhetoric about demonstrators being smelly, spoiled-by-Daddy lazy, leftist-loonies is akin to the 1960s when Vietnam War demonstrators were branded as a bunch of filthy hippies. That era’s classic joke came via comedian Bob Hope: “Two hippies got married in a bathtub. It was a double ring ceremony.”
On one thing many on the left, right and in the pundit world agree: Occupy Wall Street is not a mirror image of the Tea Party. When PR consultant and journalist Simon Owens read about an Occupy Wall Street “hackathon,” his research found Tea Partier’s didn’t do that and “coders getting involved to build tools around the protests suggests a level of sophistication and maturation…that many are still failing to recognize.”
So the winds of some kind of change blow in New York. When it gets chilly, Occupy Wall Street protesters can put their hands in their pockets. The two political parties have it easier: they can put their hands in the banks,’ lobbyists’ and corporations’ pockets.
Which is what Occupy Wall Street is all about.
Copyright 2011 Joe Gandelman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He has appeared on cable news show political panels and is Editor-in-Chief of The Moderate Voice, an Internet hub for independents, centrists and moderates. CNN’s John Avlon named him as one of the top 25 Centrists Columnists and Commentators. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and can be booked to speak at your event at www.mavenproductions.com.A Globalized Occupy Wall Street Will Be Around For a While,