The New York Times reported on events in the city this weekend:
Throughout the afternoon hundreds of demonstrators gathered in parks and plazas in Lower Manhattan. They milled, held teach-ins, engaged in discussion and debate and in some instances embarked on marches through the streets and sidewalks, brandishing signs with messages like “Democracy Not Corporatization” or “Revoke Corporate Personhood.”
Organizers said the rally was meant to be diverse, and not all of the participants were on the left. Followers of the right-wing figure Lyndon LaRouche formed a choir near Bowling Green and sang “The Star Spangled Banner” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Nearby, anarchists holding a red and black flag carried knapsacks, sleeping bags and tents. (Emphasis mine)
That’s the same LaRouche bunch responsible for the very first Obama-as-Hitler signage and the same anarchists who break things at G-20 meetings. So far, the crowd in New York “engaged in discussion and debate” is a zoo, not a movement.
I get the anger driving the protest — boy howdy! — but I don’t see any specific appeal to folks on Main Street yet, and I don’t see Main Street Americans responding. Anonymous, which has pushed this campaign to “occupy Wall Street,” has no clear set of goals, preferring to think the crowd will magically produce a set of demands by consensus. The “theory of change” seems to be (1) protest (2) ????? (3) change!
Perhaps in time, this will be seen as a seminal event. If sustained protests grow bigger, if their appeal grows larger than the readership of Adbusters, if a real agenda coalesces, then the “occupation” of Wall Street may be historic. If a Main Street movement does arise, the linkage may be set in the public mind without regard to these early dissonances. But I have a bad feeling that won’t happen.
Change takes organization. What’s happening on Wall Street right now is utterly disorganized. It is an assortment of radical groups proclaiming themselves the vanguard of something greater. I should love that to be true, but I don’t see it. So far, there’s no hinterland reaction from mom and pop and junior. Hacktivists aren’t exactly the proletariat, after all, as a Guy Fawkes mask doesn’t make you Joe Six-Pack.
Moreover, I see Anonymous being its own worst enemy:
If mainstream media wasn’t on the scene, that might be the result of zero media outreach by the non-organizing organizers. Putting up a web page is not the same thing, and achieves nowhere near the same effect, as an email blast to journalists. A series of cogent press releases is even better. But in order to maximize that attention, a protest should have a simple set of clearly-articulated demands around which it can rally. There is no such set of demands in this case.
No blogger has advocated longer for an uprising that would allow the activists to appeal to the middle. This is not that, and without some changes it cannot be.
ADDING: The photo above dates from 2009 and is not intended to represent events in New York City. That’s what the video is for.