Occupy the Tea Party 112111
News, analysis and opinion by the Fringe
Authorities in several major American cities and particularly the original home of Occupy, Zuccotti Park, have used worsening winter weather and waning public interest to launch assaults intended to discourage Occupy Occupations. Even so, Occupy has returned over and over to some parks.
A fairly famous photo recently appeared of a cop casually walking along spraying pepper spray into the eyes of protesters seated and kneeling on the ground. To the uninitiated on scene and for supporters everywhere this is an act of unbelievable cruelty, and some observers have been certain that this photo is comparable to the Eddie Adams photo of the casual point blank murder with a handgun of a suspect by the chief of police of Saigon.
Having a good time: a cop on the beat using a large economy sized can of pepper spray in this Macabitas photo
To the initiated, it was nothing. A decade or so ago the Eureka California cops used a cotton swab to dab pepper spray straight in to the eyes of teenagers and twenty-somethings trying to occupy a local political office. The kids, mostly girls, were anchored to stumps brought in for the occasion. Until you’ve seen a line of cops in armor with batons swinging drive a crowd of middle class people down an embankment or into a wall you can really believe the cops work for the public. They don’t though, they work for a paycheck. They follow orders, and not from the majority, the people in front of them, but the minority who are never on scene.
Besides, those who imagine the photo would cause a surge of public outrage overlook the fact that there are lots and lots of people who don’t believe free speech should really be free, and are happy when the cops pepper spray kids. To these people, Occupy are criminals.
There is no better indication of that than the Tea Party Patriots reaction to Occupy.
There is an article, here by Micheal Prell, a Tea Party bureaucrat which also seems to have appeared as an email and as an editorial to some newspapers.
The piece is not actually an exposition but a propaganda piece, and so it draws on differences without contexting the difference or doing any analysis. To context the difference between the two, TP members are older, even old. They aren’t doing as well as they were, or they wouldn’t take to the streets, but they are still well off. TP members are, largely, content with the establishment, they simply want to pay fewer taxes. The TP wants fiscal responsibility, free markets and small government. Not as pro-social as Occupy’s demands, but no less unlikely.
The piece says that Occupy protestors are criminals, and as evidence notes that 2500 hundred have been arrested, theft is a problem in the camps, people poop and pee everywhere, and there have reportedly been four rapes. Contrast that with Tea Party “protests” in which there are permits, printed signs, and no arrests, and people who poop and pee in their Winnebagos instead of on the street, and the elderly gentlemen of the Tea Party, perhaps not surprisingly, didn’t rape any of the ladies present. The writer felt this demonstrated something important: Tea Party Members are good Americans, and Occupy is specifically anti-American.
That isn’t exactly what it shows. It shows what we already know: the Tea Party Patriots pretty much want things to go back to where they were in the 1950s, when many of them were young. “Free market” democracy is another phrase for “neo-capitalism.” The TP Patriots aren’t any more patriotic than Occupy, and I’ll suggest less patriotic. The reason theft wasn’t a problem for TP rallies (not actually “protests”) was that they didn’t let homeless people hang out. Most of the problems at Occupy protests have been caused by homeless people and cops.
Prell could have restated it this way: “Occupy had the courage and determination to actually protest, whereas the Tea Party typically gets along just fine with the cops because they don’t actually represent change. The Tea Party wants things to be more like they used to be than they ever were.” But, he didn’t.
The TP Patriots have elected several candidates, several of whom have grabbed millions from hard right contributors. It’s estimated that the Tea Party will spend big in 2012, topping the “tens of millions” some claim they spent in 2010, all on pro-business candidates. If anything, it is a common TP desire to join the 1%.
Prell is correct in part of his analysis: Occupy would give us bigger government if many of their provisions were enacted. TP Patriots disagreed with Obama giving away government money; I’ve never read their reactions to Republicans doing the same thing. Occupy, on the other hand, want more money going to workers, and they want more government jobs. Likewise, in health care, TP Patriots don’t support a national health care system, and in its current configuration maybe that’s good. Occupy protestors want free health for everyone, not just those who have money.
Occupy has gotten stronger over the last couple of months, with veteran’s groups joining and labor groups jumping on board. The Oakland Occupy intends to shut the port down December 12th to protest the violent response to Occupy protestors. They didn’t like the pepper spray photo.
In the long run, will Occupy make any more difference? It’s doubtful. The power structure is huge and very old, deeply woven into society, government and particularly law. It doesn’t seem likely that the rabble can turn the tide; in the long run Occupy might not bring any more change by opposing the current system than the TP does by supporting it.
Emma Goldman is famous for paraphrasing Henry David Thoreau, saying that if voting could change anything it would be made illegal. Occupy seems to get that. But, what will bring change in the U.S., and does Occupy have it?