Thursday, March 14, 2013

Does Occupy Wall Street Hope To Accomplish Anything?

Dissent In Democracy

One of the problems many commentators had and continue to have with the movement known as Occupy Wall Street is that it has no definable or achievable purpose or goal. Perhaps it does, but not one that many will find agreeable or even politically expedient. George Jochnowitz writes: “Here is my theory. OWS is trying to prove to the world that there is no freedom of speech and no right to protest in the United States. Early in the movement’s history, marchers entered the automobile lanes of the Brooklyn Bridge, a gesture bound to provoke arrests. It was claimed that the police had lured protesters into the automobile lanes, but this recently was proved to be false.”


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by George Jochnowitz

What is the purpose of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement?  The protesters have no stated goals. They make no demands, which means their demands cannot be met. If their demands can’t be met, they seem to be planning to go on with their protest indefinitely. What are they protesting? They talk about the gap between the 1% and the 99%, which sounds Marxist, but which doesn’t include any suggestions for easing the problems of the lower 99%--problems that remain undefined, in any case. The term “Wall Street” usually means the stock market. Does OWS oppose the existence of the stock market? If so, they oppose pensions and retirement plans.

Did any capitalists suffer because of OWS? Yes. The Milk Street Café went out of business because of the barricades set up by the police to control protesters in Zuccotti Park

Technically speaking, the owner of a restaurant is a capitalist. However, there was no possible way that the Milk Street Café could have been the business of somebody in the top 1%. And of course, the 90-plus employees of the restaurant lost their jobs.

There was one case where the OWS movement did something good for the sake of poor and unfortunate people. After Hurricane Sandy, members of the movement established Occupy Sandy, which certainly did what it could to help people who had lost electric power, and sometimes even their homes, due to the hurricane. As the New York Times tells us, “Occupy Wall Street is capable of summoning an army with the posting of a tweet, and many of the volunteers last week were self-identifying veterans of the movement, although many more were not.”

The last few words of the sentence, “although many more were not,” are quite significant. The organizational abilities came from OWS, but the manpower came from spontaneous volunteers.

At least some of the OWS manpower at that time was being used for a protest against Goldman Sachs.

The OWS members were camped around the corner from 15 Central Park West, the residence of CEO Lloyd Blankfein. It is interesting that while some people were devoting their energy to helping hurricane victims, others were trying to be annoying to a CEO and his neighbors in a typical OWS manner: no demands, no goals. The name Blankfein sounds Jewish, as does the name of his company, Goldman Sachs. Has OWS ever demonstrated against Merrill Lynch? I visited the site on November 18, 2012, and saw a sign saying “When drones fly, children die. Solidarity with Gaza.” One would certainly expect a leftist movement to be anti-Israel, even though this issue has nothing to do with helping poor people in the United States. Be that as it may, Blankfein has openly supported gay marriage, an issue one would think the OWS movement might support as well.

And if that weren’t enough, the New York Times reported, “Some chief executives like Mr. Blankfein, who have been outspoken in recent weeks about the need for tax increases, are viewed as liberals in the business community.”

But the OWS movement simply doesn’t care about issues.

So what is going on? Here is my theory. OWS is trying to prove to the world that there is no freedom of speech and no right to protest in the United States. Early in the movement’s history, marchers entered the automobile lanes of the Brooklyn Bridge, a gesture bound to provoke arrests. It was claimed that the police had lured protesters into the automobile lanes, but this recently was proved to be false.

OWS began its activity by blocking the entrance to the New York Stock Exchange, another temptation to the police to arrest them. More recently, it protested on the 13th floor of the Police Headquarters building in Manhattan, carrying plastic foam objects designed to look like police barriers.

And of course, occupying Zuccotti Park for months was engineered to provoke an eviction by the police. Eventually, the eviction took place. The protesters convinced themselves and their supporters: America is not a free country. But they proved the opposite: America is a remarkably free country that has allowed these pests to continue protesting for over a year—with no end in sight.

On the other hand, think of what happened in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.

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George Jochnowitz was born in New York City, in 1937.  He became aware of different regional pronunciations when he was six, and he could consciously switch accents as a child. He got his Ph.D. in linguistics from Columbia University and taught linguistics at the College of Staten Island, CUNY.  His area of specialization was Jewish languages, in particular, Judeo-Italian dialects.  As part of a faculty-exchange agreement with Hebei University in Baoding, China, he was in China during the Tiananmen Massacre. He can be reached at george@jochnowitz.net.

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Copyright ©2013. George Jochnowitz. All Rights Reserved. This post can be found on George Jochnowitz. It is republished here with the permission of the author.