Since I last blogged about #OccupyWallStreet, the organic movement has picked up even more momentum. It now appears that New York City’s “established left” is set to join this “mini-movement,” injecting it with more energy and enthusiasm heading into next week. Chris Bowers at DailyKos has a nice run down of how this gathering “has been growing rapidly,” while the Daily Intel quoted a political consultant saying, " it's become too big to ignore."
I think the image that made everyone sit up and take note yesterday afternoon was the following image of hundreds pilots from United airlines showing up at the protest in their uniforms:
That image somewhat shattered the narrative about this protest being some kind of gathering of hippie dippies with nothing better to do. As noted by Digby clearly “something’s happening out there.” The story became even more surreal thanks to a video that appeared to show “images of Wall Streeters drinking champagne from their balconies and kind laughing at these protesters.
So what to make of all this. Matt Stoller spent few days with the protesters last week. He described it as a “church of dissent” at Naked Capitalism. Here are the two grafs that kind of hit me:
What these people are doing is building, for lack of a better word, a church of dissent. It’s not a march, though marches are spinning off of the campground. It’s not even a protest, really. It is a group of people, gathered together, to create a public space seeking meaning in their culture. They are asserting, together, to each other and to themselves, “we matter."
Meaning is a fundamental human need. The act of politicization, of building any movement, is based on individual, and then group self-confidence. As Daniel Ellsberg said, “courage is contagious”. I’m reminded of how Howard Dean campaign worker and current law professor Zephyr Teachout characterized the early antiwar blogosphere and then-radical campaign of Dean, as church-like in their community-building elements. That’s what #OccupyWallStreet reminded me of. Even the general assemblies, where people would speak, and others would respond, had a rhythmic quality to them, similar to churches or synagogues I’ve attended.
I worked closely with Zephyr up in Burlington in the Howard Dean campaign. Those grafs are poignant because I have been thinking last few days about the massive protests that broke out all over the U.S. in February of 2003 against the Iraq war, while reflecting on #OccupyWallStreet. The big picture similarities in the political context around these two “protests” are striking. Let me elaborate on this point with some more thoughts threading the basic themes around this particular movement after the jump.
I remember how the professional political class in DC generally overlooked that “movement” against the Iraq war by dismissing it as essentially just another peace march by hippies from the coastal cities. Similar dynamic seems to be playing out again. Stoller noted how some angry “establishment liberals are frustrated that this protest has no top-down messaging strategy.”
I vividly remember how those protests – attended by thousands of activists in major cities around the U.S. and the world – barely got any attention in the American traditional media. Once again the major traditional media are mostly in a black out mode. Whenever they are covering it, they are either giving it lip service or eying with not so hidden condescension.
I don’t have a lot of hope that the American traditional media will “get” what is really happening down there in Lower Manhattan. These protesters don’t have a 24/7 political operation, disguised as “cable news network” pumping up a corporate funded “protest” movement. I am not confident about other traditional news outlets finding their way out of the terrible spin labeling these protests as “undemocratic movement.” I am not sure if they will able to understand the common thread about how this particular movement in NYC and similar ones around the globe is rooted in “money corrupted governance.”
Despite all of this, I will end this post with a positive note of possibility. Yet if folks think about the messaging concern is moot as the stories that are coming out of Liberty Plaza can be effortlessly threaded around the basic themes of getting Wall Street cash out of politics, creating jobs, and providing affordable education. It shouldn’t be that difficult for national progressive groups to go all in behind this “church of dissent” and give it more muscle in coming weeks, that could benefit an over arching progressive agenda coalesced around those themes.
I wrote in my last post how this movement in New York City has given progressive groups a massive opportunity. It looks like the energy is only building in New York and it is spreading around the country. The question remains whether the established players in the national progressive community, including elected officials from the Democratic Party will dive in and go all in. This is their chance. Hopefully they don’t blow it like they did back in 2003.
Don’t forget there are solidarity demonstrations this weekend...possibly one near you. Make sure to check out Facebook for more details.
EDITOR'S NOTE: C&L is getting together donations for pizzas for the occupiers across the nation: