Waiting for the Miracle

Oliver would like those kids today to be good so Daddy won’t hit them:

If you dress up like a dope-smoking hobo, expect to be treated like one and not be taken seriously. Get a haircut. Wear a nice shirt. Carry a sign with a message that makes some kind of sense to an average American.

It might work.

Dan continuesthe discussion over at Corrente, citing an observation from Allison Kilkenny on the media coverage:

For every batshit crazy quote Bellafante presents, I can match it with a calm, articulate response from another attendee. I guarantee that. However, that’s not the point. I’m not a believer in the “perfect objectivity” goal for journalists because it’s impossible to ever obtain. Human beings inherently possess prejudices and biases that blind them to aspects of reality. Bellafante is less likely to see the Matthews. I’m less likely to see the black bloc.

Yet we risk much when we traipse into this false equivalency territory. The two approaches I’ve described above aren’t given level platforms in our society. Bellafante reaches a far, far larger readership, and the ones who dismiss protesters always do because their corporate overlords love depicting protesters as flower-waving, stoned-out-of-their-gourds hippies. If you thinkthose are the only people on your side, why get off the couch at all?

Well, that’s the point, really: To find a reason not to get off the couch. If they’re all just hippies in hoodies, there’s no reason for you to think about what they’re saying. If they’re all just filthy teenagers, you can go back to your dinner and not worry about that nagging feeling in your gut that says get on a goddamn bus and go join them. If you can find a reason why this protest, these protesters, are unsuitable, then there’s really nothing you need to get worked up about.

Better bide your time, keep your powder dry, and wait for a protest when everybody’s wearing a color that doesn’t clash with your hair. Better wait for the perfect cause, with the perfect leader, for the perfect reasons. That’s sure to come along any minute now.

Every second spent worrying about the clothing and behavior of the protesters is a second spent not talking about why they’re out there in the first place. We saw this during the Wisconsin protests, too: the constant fear that one single shitsmack would spit at a cop and then it would all be over. We debated if protesters had “jumped the shark.” Monitoring the behavior of people who were standing up to power so easily took precedence over monitoring the behavior of people in power, as if their actions had equivalent consequences. It’s easier to kick down than to punch up, and with our new journalism that equates amoral disinterest with objectivity and passion with bias, the powerless find their mohawks as much of an affront to America as mortgage fraud.

My view on this is pretty simple: The meanest thing a protester could possibly do would be nicer than the nicest thing Dick Cheney has ever done, so until that son of a bitch is in chains in a basement somewhere, you’ll pardon me if I can’t get too excited about somebody yelling anarchic slogans.

Because here’s the thing: It is never okay to treat anybody likethis:

Among the video clips on theOccupy Wall Street website is one that shows a police officer macing a group of young women penned in by orange netting.

Another video has circulated of a police officer throwing a protester to the ground, though it is not clear why. The video shows the man standing in what seems to be a non-threatening manner before the incident.

No matter what he’s wearing, or what she’s saying.

x-posted to Firedoglake.


14 thoughts on “Waiting for the Miracle

  1. Thanks for the link, A.
    I’ve been thinking a lot about your “walking on eggshells” fears during the Wisconsin protests (“the constant fear that one single shitsmack would spit at a cop and then it would all be over”). For some reason I didn’t worry about that – it felt like a different vibe. But Idefinitely thought about that Saturday. I was like: oh shit, cops versus kids. Next, the dispersion, media shows up and goes all in with “protesters clash,” game over.
    But nope. They stuck around and refused to go negative on NYPD – seethis. Also, O’Donnell had a kid on tonight who was pepper sprayed and he said of the police “they’re part of the 99% too.” I swear to God I wanted to kiss him on the lips.
    So the response has been nearly perfect. I can’t tell you how heartened I am by the last 24 hours.

  2. FDR said: “The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something. The millions who are in want will not stand by silently forever while the things to satisfy their needs are within easy reach. We need enthusiasm, imagination and the ability to face facts, even unpleasant ones, bravely. We need to correct, by drastic means if necessary, the faults in our economic system from which we now suffer. We need the courage of the young. Yours is not the task of making your way in the world, but the task of remaking the world which you will find before you. May every one of us be granted the courage, the faith and the vision to give the best that is in us to that remaking!”
    The occupiers are trying something. And if that doesn’t work, try another. Yay!!! (And let’s try not to say “protesters.” Protest isn’t permanent, and it doesn’t take any ground. It’s also a fail, as the Iraq protests prove. Occupation takes ground. It lasts.
    Also, at Tahrir Square and in Madison, WI, fraternization (non-violent method of protest and persuasion #33) was important. We should be on the lookout for it. One of the dangers of the cops vs. kids narrative is that it eliminates that possibility.
    I think the real story is self-organization by the occupiers. I was so heartened that they got a generator in there to run their media center. That’s awesome.

  3. And you know, if baseball fans want to be taken seriously they should wear suits and ties like they didin the old days.
    And how exactly are we supposed to take seriously any so-called leader who doesn’t walk around in a suit of plate mail armor and wearing a sword? If it was good enough for Charlemagne it should be goddamn good enough for the pantywaists running things now.
    The comments at his post are bursting to the seams with win, in case you hadn’t noticed.

  4. Every second spent worrying about the clothing and behavior of the protesters is a second spent not talking about why they’re out there in the first place.
    It all goes back to standing. Didn’t David Simon discuss this very thing at Rising Tide?
    Don’t forget that one of the points of a protest is to create a spectacle and call attention to an issue. It is therefore very difficult to separate clothing and behavior of protesters from the issue that brought them to the streets.
    One of the most brilliant decisions the Tea Party made (in a broken clock kind of way) was to wrap themselves in the American flag, the trappings of liberty, and dressing up in costumes recalling the culturally transmitted heroism of the founders. They did that because it helped their standing and made their “movement” seem larger than it is.
    Kids with tattoos and multi-colored hair dyes clamoring against wealth and privilege on Wall Street fits right into the nearly universally dismissed “lazy, spoiled children” cultural narrative. While a lot of folks may want to overlook that, an even larger number of people won’t be able to.

  5. CP in G, even admitting that, would it not be more productive, then, to put on a suit and hat and go join those folks? To bring ten friends thus attired, so as to contribute that desperately needed normal element to the protest?
    Which would, I’m sure, stop the press from finding the one jackass who always shows up with a fucking pan flute and taking his picture.

  6. This is not a “protest.” It’s an occupation. And it’s designed for the long haul; has to be.
    I do understand that if the people Bull Connor’s dogs attacked hadn’t been dressed in suits and ties, the images in Life would not have been nearly so effective.
    However, the occupiers are TRYING SOMETHING. If it doesn’t work, they’ll try something else. Right now, the various occupations need to grow and flow and connect and learn. If a little tie die is the price for that, then have at it, say I.
    “The things that satisfy only come real slow.”

  7. A – I, for one, think it would be moreproductive to dress casually and regularly attend meetings of the local school board, city council, political party, and neighborhood associations. Bring ten people regularly to one of those places, and you can start affecting policy right now. You don’t even have to wear a suit and tie to do it.
    But that’s because I just don’t think protesting works very well when it comes to large national problems. Creating a spectacle is very important to raising awareness, but I think the issue that they’re trying to raise awareness of already has a tremendous buy-in from a large number of Americans. The consensus breaks down when people start figuring out what to do about it, and that isn’t something that is likely to be decided in the streets.
    Hell, even in the first vestiges of the Tea Party, it was at root a populist protest against the bailouts ofthe banks andWall Street.
    Protests or marches have their most power when addressing compelling local issues. I think of New Orleans with the Crime March or the Oil Spill Rallies. I think of Wisconsin’s state capitol this past year. I think of Jena, Louisisana.
    Even harkening back to the Bull Connor days that Lambert brings up: in Montgomery, Birmingham, Selma, Greensboro, Albany…all of those events were focused on everyday local issues, and gained national attention due to the harsh nature of response against people who just wanted to sit at a lunch counter.
    When it came to the Civil Rights Movement, America watched what it meant to be black in the South, and saw that whites were so defensive about their schools and lunch counters that they’d sick dogs on teenagers and old ladies, and bomb churches full of children.
    But as far as the “Occupy Wall Street” campaign is concerned, I think of the huge “Battle in Seattle” or the Iraq War protests that combined to change not one thing about the issues that brought them to the streets. If those kids in New York want to make this something different, they’ve got their work cut out for them.

  8. Like I’ve said elsewhere, to quote a song by Those Darn Accordions, “Them Hippies Was Right.” It was those dope-smokers that first said Vietnam was wrong, and the environment is something we should be concerned about (among other things). And time showed them to be RIGHT…
    Yep, seems that it’s often the “dirty bums” who make actual use of their freedom of speech, and wake the rest of us of to things we’ve closed our eyes to–probably because they have less to lose than those of us who are concerned with being “respectable” (quite often known as being a “Good German”…)
    So they may be “a small bunch of disorganized,dirty, dope-smoking hippies.” But they’re on to something, and I like to think they’re the first wave of something that needs to happen–if we want to wrench this country out of the hands of the plutocrats…

  9. “If you dress up like a dope-smoking hobo”
    Don’t worry, Mr. Willis, I’m getting off your lawn.

  10. She doesn’t have a goal of “perfect objectivity” because it is impossible to reach?
    Uh, since when do we only have goals that we can easily obtain? If that is the case, rather than a goal of loosing a pound a week, my goal is now to gain weight.

  11. And what’s wrong with pot-smoking, pray tell? Other than that the rentiers who sell far worse substances as Big Pharma and the liquor industry don’t want the competition? What’s wrong with a lot of small businesses bringing in cash that stays local? What’s wrong with ameliorating pain?
    Back when hopey changey seemed more like a marketing slogan and less like a mind-bogglingly evil bait and switch, Valerie Jarret did a big poll, put it in a three ring binder, and handed it to President F*** Y**. Demand #2 was Medicare for All. Demand #1 was legalizing marijuana. So our President tossed it in the dumper, insulted pot smokers on TV, just like he insulted the “little single payer advocates,” and that was the last we heard of that.
    Fact is, the pot smokers have it completely right on policy. ALL the wars need to end, and that includes the war on drugs. So I get a little tired of Obama fans like Willis doing the ol’ finger-wagging routine on behalf of bad policybecause they don’t like the way “these people” look.

  12. This advice goes back at least to Alinsky admonishing kids that to work in “the world as it is” you had to dress according to the norms of the people you were trying to organize. That’s how you move toward “the world as it should be.” And it still seems like good advice.

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