Occupy Distraction

Some quick thoughts on continuing Occupy Wall Street developments.

A few recent dispersals of protestors, especially the much viewed UC Davis pepper spraying over the weekend, have called attention to unhappy trends in policing over the past decade. James Fallows, Alexis Madrigal, and Ta-Nahisi Coates, all at the Atlantic, had good thoughts about it all. Madrigal traces the increased militarization of police to the Seattle 1999 WTO black bloc violence and to post 9/11 developments. Nowhere has this been greater than in NYC, but at UC Davis, too, campus police looked like video game storm troopers and carried rifles in confronting students clearly engaged in a classic non-violent civil disobedience sit-down.

This is a meaningful subject of concern. It deserves attention as a worrisome trend. One can also find connection, if inexact, to the motivating OWS reaction to the country’s massive economic inequalities and evolving plutocracy. The first – the originating – purpose of policing is to protect property and the interests of property owners. The maintenance of “law and order” is the social ground for a thriving economy, and the property owners and the wealthy will always value it most of all. A working class socialized to see its best interests in the existing order, and to identify with the values and totems of that order – regardless of the validity of that identification – will always prize the laws and the forces that maintain it. Disorder in the streets and threats to national security historically drive the great middle to support vigorous, even stringent policing. So evolving policing methods in the country do function in ideological compatibility with growing plutocracy.

All this, I think, is true.

It is also  pointless distraction.

As I have been writing all along, the occupying behavior that is provoking this police overreaction, is increasingly alienating a base in the middle from which a movement toward economic reform might draw. See Voice of Reason in the comments to the right. Wendy Kaminer, also in the Atlantic, neatly identifies the intellectual contradiction of the Occupy idea. Ultimately, to play righteously aggrieved at one’s removal from space one does not have a right to permanently occupy, and which occupation deprives others of their equal right to use the space, is to provoke not simply disagreement but disdain.

Youngsters dreaming of broad, revolutionary transformation can so dream, oldsters pining for the Sixties can pine away, but all the headlines in the world about police brutality will not stop the GOP from gaining the presidency next year and possibly the senate too. Disorder in the streets and clashes with police may help ensure those outcomes.

As the GOP guns for Medicare and every alphabet agency that was the product of enlightened American social and cultural policy over the past fifty years, as Newt Gingrich continues the open GOP effort to end Social Security, the only minimal foundation for beginning the long effort to reverse current trends – they were thirty years in the making – is the reelection of Barack Obama and a Democratic majority in the house.

Let all those who want wax ethical about police tactics – let the GOP gain victory next November, and we’ll really see some spraying and clubbing. The black bloc anarchists would love that. Everybody else will suffer for it.



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1 thought on “Occupy Distraction

  1. And this is worth watching: Olbermann on Occupy and Bloomburg’s tactics. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yoG9PmdGaT8&feature=player_embedded#!
    The point here is, whatever the right to occupy, the best policing tactic would be to ignore them. They will go away, if only because the media keep losing interest. But cops aren’t good at ignoring something that they see as a problem.
    So the cops bring out the pepper spray, billy clubs, jack boots, etc.
    And then the media get interested again.
    So, as is so often the case, we will likely have the fascists to thank for their own downfall.

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