Occupy Wall Street, another futile peasants’ protest

Summary:  We learn little about the Occupy Wall Street protests from the news media, which cover it like an alien invasion (see Glenn Greenwald’s articles at Salonhere and here for examples).   No matter, as it’s a commonplace and easily understood phenomenon.   The masses (ie, peasants, peons, whatever) grow restive in oligarchic society.  Protests are holidays in which they have fun and vent their frustration.  Like all mobs, they can spread or even metastasize — so the security services watch them, applying violent suppression as needed.

Operationally, attacking Wall Street looks logical.  The big banks are — and have always been — unpopular in America (back to the Founding, as seen in the failure of the First Bank and Second Bank of the United States).  The bank bailouts were the original motive force for the Tea Party Protests.  That provides a cautionary note, as the TP movement was was quickly re-absorbed back into the Republican Party, even changing from a anti-bank to a pro-bank movement (Republicans in Congress are de facto tools of the banks, fighting the most obvious and necessary reforms).

More broadly, it is a protest movement.  Fighting demons appeals to Americans, but it tends to lead to a dead end.  Protesting about bad guys provides only a negative goal, useful only when part of a larger vision — and program.  Do the protestors have anything like that?  Not according to their key websites:  OccupyWallStreet, the NYC General Assembly, We are the 99 Percent, and the Adbusters call to Occupy Wall Street.

These are a combination of whining and street festivals, more akin to the Berkeley Free Speech movement than the devastatingly effective marches of the civil rights movement.  If these protests catch fire, they might resemble the massive race riots (1965-1972, now erased from memories of White Americans) — futile and destructive mobs which effectively ended the civil rights movement as a powerful and broad force in America.  It’s not enough to be against “enemies”, there must an effective analysis of causes and reforms.

The cause of our problems

It’s the Man in the Mirror.

I’m Gonna Make A Change
For Once In My Life
It’s Gonna Feel Real Good
Gonna Make A Difference
Gonna Make It Right…

I’m Starting With The Man In The Mirror
I’m Asking Him To Change His Ways
And No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself, And Then Make A Change

As has been shown so many times on the FM website, our problems result not from political demons.  Our problem lies within, in our passivity, our willingness to be led.  So long as we are sheep, there will be shepherds and wolves.  That’s the great circle of life.

The government’s recent assassinations of US citizens reveals these qualities in ourselves.  We believe what we’re told, no matter that publicly available data contradicts this picture — no matter how often the government lies to us in the War on Terror — no matter how grossly these actions violate the Constitution and the long-held norms of US history.

Why are they futile

However scary to our rules, such protests are a standard and trivial feature of oligarchic societies.  Well-run oligarchies have massive internal security forces, so these protests do little but vent the peons frustration.  Our rulers are competent and aggressive, and their agents easily capable of handling anything from street festivals to riots.  As seen in this information, which oddly generates no signs of news coverage on Google News:  on the website of J P Morgan Chase:

JPMorgan Chase recently donated an unprecedented $4.6 million to the New York City Police Foundation. The gift was the largest in the history of the foundation and will enable the New York City Police Department to strengthen security in the Big Apple. The money will pay for 1,000 new patrol car laptops, as well as security monitoring software in the NYPD’s main data center.

New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly sent CEO and Chairman Jamie Dimon a note expressing “profound gratitude” for the company’s donation.

“These officers put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe,” Dimon said. “We’re incredibly proud to help them build this program and let them know how much we value their hard work.”

Buying loyalty of the police is a standard and essential step for plutocratic rulers, as we saw in late 19th century America.  It’s often necessary to use force to suppress local uprisings of various kinds — before they spread!

The way forward

Please read

  1. The first step on the road to America’s reform
  2. Sources of inspiration for America’s renewal, 23 April 2009 – The Law of Equivalent Exchange

For more information

About Politics in America

  1. America’s elites reluctantly impose a client-patron system, 5 November 2008
  2. How to stage effective protests in the 21st century, 21 April 2009
  3. More people participating in politics: is this good for America?, 20 June 2010
  4. Our leaders have made a discovery of the sort that changes the destiny of nations, 1 September 2010
  5. Polarization and hot rhetoric conceal two similar political parties. Will we ever notice?, 29 October 2010
  6. We have the leaders we deserve. Visit McDonald’s to learn why., 30 October 2010

Will Americans revolt?

  1. Are we citizens? Or peasants?, 21 May 2009
  2. A Washington Insider looks at America, but does not understand what he sees, 7 September 2011 — Will the American people revolt?
  3. Hear the cattle bellowing in the chutes.  Will they revolt?, 8 September 2011

About the American spirit:

  1. Americans, now a subservient people (listen to the Founders sigh in disappointment), 20 July 2008
  2. de Tocqueville warns us not to become weak and servile, 21 July 2008
  3. The American spirit speaks: “Baa, Baa, Baa”, 5 August 2008
  4. We’re Americans, hear us yell: “baa, baa, baa”, 6 August 2008
  5. This crisis will prove that Americans are not sheep (unless we are), 8 January 2008
  6. About security theater, a daily demonstration that Americans are sheep, 25 January 2009
  7. Matt Taibbi helps us see ourselves, and the leaders we elect to run America, 29 May 2010
  8. Why the Turkey is not our national bird, and a reminder that America belongs to us, 26 November 2010

About the Tea Party Movement:

  1. Are the new “tea party” protests a grass roots rebellion or agitprop?, 1 March 2009
  2. Our ruling elites scamper and play while our world burns, 11 March 2009
  3. The weak link in America’s political regime, 16 September 2009
  4. More examples of Americans waking up – should we rejoice?, 10 October 2009
  5. Does the Tea Party movement remind you of the movie “Meet John Doe”?, 27 January 2010
  6. Listen to the crowds cheering Sarah Palin, hear the hammerblows of another nail in the Constitution’s coffin, 8 February 2010
  7. The Tea Party movement develops a platform. It’s the Underpants Gnomes Business Plan!, 8 March 2010
  8. About the Tea Party Movement: who they are and what they believe, 19 March 2010
  9. The Tea Party Movement disproves my recommendation for the path to reforming America, 20 April 2010
  10. At last we see a Tea Party political platform, 13 May 2010
  11. Kinsley – “My Country, Tis of Me – There’s nothing patriotic about the Tea Party Patriots”, 15 May 2010
  12. Why has wild man Mark Williams become a top leader of the Tea Party movement?, 13 June 2010
  13. More people participating in politics: is this good for America?, 20 June 2010
  14. Obama scores again against the Constitution. The Tea Party is right about the battle, but AWOL., 28 September 2010
  15. Today’s tea party propaganda: the wonderfulness of slavery, 8 July 2011

65 thoughts on “Occupy Wall Street, another futile peasants’ protest

  1. I think a lot of this analysis is overblown. Not just FM, but all news outlets. I don’t even think these people are venting. I think these people are acting, playing. They see other people doing this kind of thing around the world, and it seems cool to them, so the act it out. I doubt most of these people are peons either. What peons read Adbusters?

    1. You might be correct! I might be too generous in crediting them with serious intent. These things are almost impossible to assess in real time, especially remotely.

      “What peons read Adbusters?”

      Modern peons. Cubicle-dwelling salarymen, chained by their debts, their lifestyles, their family obligations — and most of all, their passivity and lack of agency. Dilbert is the chronicler of our times.

  2. Good article. But the things you are looking for a right there. You want people not to be willing to be led by the establishment, OWS is not willing to be led by the establishment. The other things you yearn for are also there. The American society is now entering a time of flux, flexibility, creativity. It really doesn’t matter what the establishment does. If they oppress, then they will simply galvanize and encourage. See this article {at Plutocracy files}

    I suspect you are too deeply involved in your own view to see the wider picture of what is happening. The people are moving, and politicians are not leaders, they are belongers and followers. Where the people go, the votes are and the politicians can go to.

    But that’s not without the money resisting, like for example NYC Cops selling out to JP Morgan Chase. But no matter. And opinion is always behind the times anyway. That links was widely circulated via Twitter several days ago.

    Whether you believe it or see it or not, it doesn’t matter. This is an idea whose time has come. It doesn’t need your support. They would like it, but they don’t need it any more than Libyans or Egyptians needed your support.

    I apologize to you if you perceive me as being rude to you. Im trying to clarify things clarifying things and put them in perspective. My intention is good. I very much enjoy reading your collective writings. I am subscribed and I will remain subscribed. I value your opinion.

    Take care,
    Mark Wilson. Facebook. Twitter

    1. I would be more likely to seriously consider your assertions if

      1. You gave any supporting evidence for them, OR
      2. If I had not heard almost identical assertions in reply to my posts about the Tea Party

      The article you cite at Plutocarcy Files looks more like evidence of my theory. There’s nothing in it that suggests a serious political effort. It’s a fun gathering, venting some emotions. Not even serious street theater.

      On the other hand, as I said above, we can only guess at the future course of social phenomena. I never expected Ipods to become popular.

      “being rude to you”
      No, I don’t consider your comment to be rude. It’s no more than a frank exchange of views, appropriate for a subject of such importance. Looking through the 17 thousand comments here and you’ll see really rude comments. If directed at me I reply but otherwise ignore them. If directed at other comments, then action is taken.

  3. FM, I can’t help but disagree with you here. I can definitely see the possibility that these protests will amount to nothing. However, there’s also the chance that this open source movement will continue and grow to such an extent that more Americans will wake up to the underlying problems facing our society. I really don’t think many Americans seriously consider the vast disparities in wealth/income in our nation, and this could change that to some degree. An actual agenda could follow later on. You talk about citizens “waking up” as part of the solution to society’s ills. Well, now we’ve got many trying to wake others up via protesting. I don’t see that as futile.

    1. Hope is not a plan. Anything is possible. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk odds.

      My inner-bookie says that this is almost identical in nature to the Tea Party. No matter if it grows like a weed or not, it’s unlikely to produce change. The TP was cooped, as was Obama’s children’s coalition for change. So will this.

      It’s not that the Democratic Republican Party, the conservatives and liberals, are identical in policy prescriptions, moral worth, or whatever your favorite metric. It’s just that these phenomena are expressions of the American people’s current condition. Both parties are working with the same clay, the relatively undifferentiated US white middle class (defined socially, not in wealth or income).

      More broadly, this IMO clearly shows faux anger, vented through these harmless protests. With minimal cost, risk or effort by the participants Which is what allows these movements to grow among the lazy, commitment-phobic, apathetic American People.

      At some point real anger might appear. The sort of rage and determination we see in real movements. Like the abolitionists, the suffragettes, the prohibitionists, the populists, the union organizers, the civil rights movement, and the anti-draft movement (it was not anti-war). Note that all of these were focused on specific reforms, not just anger at bad guys or painful economic or social trends. All had sophisticated theoretical or analytical foundations.

      When we see something like that, even in embryonic form, then we can hope for change.

    1. Exactly; I agree! Income and wealth concentrations are approaching those highs (given the poor data, we cannot say much more). Concentrations of political power, ditto.

      A possible next stage: use of force to supress public protest. In the 19th century the KKK surprised Black Americans. Privately owned gunmen (often posing as range detectives and vigilantess) supressed homesteaders and small ranchers. Mercs (eg, the Pinkertons), the police, and the army surpressed organized labor.

      We are seeing what might be the first stages of this in the massive police programs to supress demonstrations at the conventions during the 2008 elections, and the massive increase in government surveillance (local, state, federal) — with the targets poorly identified to the public (but probably including any form of political protest movement, just as it did in the 1960s).

  4. Whenever there is long-term deterioration of social and economic situation, with no apparent way to correct it via either protests or usual political means, a frequent coping mechanism is for people to vote with their feet.

    This is coming to the fore in those European countries which have been the hardest hit by the crisis (Ireland, Portugal, and especially Latvia).

    Any idea of whether this might become a factor in the USA? From what I gather, there are already some 150000 US citizens legally residing in Mexico, and from 300000 to 800000 more who settled there “informally”.

    1. My guess (nothing more) is that the numbers of US expats in Mexico is more likely to drop during the next few years than increase, as Mexico becomes less stable.

      For some impressionist reports from an US expat in Mexico, see Fred Reed. His recent article is here.

      More broadly, the transition from the post-WWII era affects the world. There are few safe havens from these changes. The crowded Asian — and more broadly, third world nations — which seem the likely beneficiaries of the emerging new world are, in general, unlikely retirement spots for middle and upper middle class Americans.

      Also — moving to strong currency emerging nations does not work well for someone with a fixed income in a weak currency (eg, the US dollar). A weakening dollar helps the US (despite our fetish about a strong dollar), but hurts its expats.

    2. The situation of pensioned people looking for retirement in low-cost countries is one thing, but there is also the case of young people who leave in search of better opportunities. Interestingly, emigration of young people, often well-educated professionals, is now rising in many European countries. French people from African background are emigrating to Canada (better opportunities thanks to less racism), Portuguese to Angola (oil boom), Greeks to Australia (a traditional destination for them, mineral boom), Irish to USA, Latvians everywhere they can (Latvia is going through a seemingly unstoppable demographic contraction — people in child-bearing age are leaving).

      I was just curious about whether there is anything resembling these trends in the USA. I have read about resident Indians, Chinese, Koreans engineers from Silicon Valley going back to their countries, but what about the locals?

  5. This is a salient comment from Douglas Rushkoff, a CNN correspondent — “Think Occupy Wall Street is a phase? You don’t get it“, Douglas Rushkoff, blog of CNN, 5 October 2011:

    To be fair, the reason why some mainstream news journalists and many of the audiences they serve see the Occupy Wall Street protests as incoherent is because the press and the public are themselves. It is difficult to comprehend a 21st century movement from the perspective of the 20th century politics, media, and economics in which we are still steeped.

    1. In my experience (including dreary years listing to tech bubble executives drone about the nonsense of revenue), when someone believes that “you just don’t get it” is a meaningful content — it is time to either get another drink or excuse myself to check out the blonde in the corner.

      Rushkoff might be a brilliant “media theorist”, but IMO the political analysis in his article is drivel. Type post-modern drek, confusing content with style and fancy abstractions with meaning.

  6. My father is a historian, whose specialty is the history of the French revolution(s) – so I absorbed a lot of stuff on that topic as a young pup, rather inadvertently. I grew up reading Saul Alinksi’s “Rules for Radicals” – unlike, apparently, whoever ‘organized’ the OWS effort.

    One of the reasons protests like OWS are important is because they happen at all, and how they end. Generally, the first few protests are fairly peaceful unless they are met with violence, and the best response of the forces in power is to defuse them by allowing them to get bored. The quintessential example of this was some protests at NSA back in the 90s, in which a few dozen people hopped up and down outside the barbed wire. NSA sent a spokesperson with a couple minions, some tables, chairs, kool-ade (it was a hot day) and ice, and made the protestors comfortable while the spokesperson “engaged” with the people – not with an intent of changing anyone’s mind but of simply letting them talk themselves out and boring them to tears. It worked. One of the points that Alinsky makes is that the organizer of a movement is screwed if they have no agenda, or if they have an agenda that is easy to meet. Indeed, when you go out to organize the masses, the thing you want to ask for is an unachievable goal, because your opponent can pull your fangs by the simple expedient of promising you whatever it is you asked for, and then reneging on it after everyone has gone home and gotten comfortable on the couch, again.

    The OWS protest will go on longer than it should have, thanks to officer Bologna and his ill-advised pepper spray, who gave them a perfect example of what they are standing against. If I were his superior, I would have him out there, right now, with a table and a gigantic quantity of donuts and coffee with NYPD napkins and paper cups serving the protestors. If I were on the other side, I’d rummage around some Wall St companies and get them to send human resources people with job postings and turn the occupation into a jobs fair. Alinsky makes the point, over and over that whoever can maintain the most stark distinction between “us” and “them” will be able to maintain a coherent force, whereas the other side can always be pressured by encouraging them to “become part of ‘us'” Protests like this are not revolutions, yet, they should be more like an amoeba than a praying mantis: surround, absorb, digest later.

    The 60s were a time when there still were professional radicals, offering a counter-current ideology that was plausible enough to attract adherents. Marxism sounds really good, because it’s mostly idealistic bafflegab, especially through loud speakers at a rally, where nobody has a chance to question whether it’s really a viable alternative. And, that’s what OWS (and the Tea Party) lack – a viable alternative. In the 60s there still were professional radicals who could fire up a crowd with ideological cant. The OWS crowd and the Tea Party have ideology but it’s all anti-this, anti-that – you only get a revolution, in those situations, if the state responds with excessive force and there is a serious long-standing popular grudge. One of the things most people never learn is that there was not just “one” French revolution – there were a series, which culminated in the big one. For a country to reach a level of discontent that severe, the plutocracy has to be horribly dysfunctional (viz: the Romanoffs, The Bourbons) and the political unbalance must be massive. Or, the state has to lead with its chin by getting violent and the “real revolution” turning-point is virtually always the moment when the standing military decides it’s not going to take orders. (That’s why the Chinese imported a mechanized corps from the north to break up Tienamen Square – it’d be hard to get local residents to open fire on streets that they know)

    The short form of all of this is that we don’t look like we’ve got anything remotely like a level of discontent that would spark a real revolution. In the 60s, with apartheid and people being drafted to die pointlessly in Vietnam, it was potentially there – which is why the rulers loosened the leash a bit.

    1. Thank you this historical background!

      One note to add to this:  when looking at the history of protests we need to consider not just the peaks (eg, the French revolution, and the other big ones I mentioned earlier), but the background noise.  The episodic but frequent bursts of protests that come and go, leaving little behind.

      That was the point of comparing the Tea Party and Occuply Wall Street to peasant protests.  Looking back in British history we see a background level of protests by peasants during the 14-16 centuries.  Venting of social pressure, with few effects — part of the evolution from the Middle Ages to the modern world (see Wikipedia’s nice summary)

      With the massive over-capacity in the American news media (eventually to be bankrupted away, replaced by a smaller paid body of journalists), these things received excessive interest by new media desperate to generate content (much like conventions with hundreds of reporters but few stories to cover).  This makes assessing the actual significance of events difficult, as the volume of coverage (and even the content of coverage) tells us little.

  7. I agree. Protest is to democracy what spectator sports is to exercise.

    At least the protestors I’ve seen don’t seem to be deliberately marketing themselves as marginal – that’s a breakthrough by left-leaning standards. But as usual it’s turned into an anti-police protest. Are police part of the other 99%? Yes, but they’re on the other side of the Hutu-Tutsi divide that people keep confusing with actual politics

    That’s why elites don’t fear protest, but rival tribes of commoners do: in nations sucessfully divided along ethnic lines, unrest aimed at the higher rungs of the social ladder tends to hit lower down. In war, it’s the soft targets that get hit. And the hard targets know it. They have “strategic depth” – that is, a mass of commoner meat-shields between them and potential threats.

    Are there any historical examples of democracies reaching the same state as ours, and then recovering? Or at least reletively sane non-democracies sliding towards total tyranny, and recovering? Or at least the slide being halted? Maybe it’s worth looking at various dark ages, to figure out which ones where the shortest, and why.

    1. Thank you for this comment, where you make a number of interesting points. But I don’t understand your last paragraph. By what metrics is the state of America so dire, esp to compare us (or where we’re going) with Dark Ages?

  8. The last three question are only there in case there’s no hopeful answer to the previous one.

    The direness is because it seems our problems are all self-reinforcing vicious circles, and because I tend to think in the long term. If “dark age” is too loaded a term, we could consider the various slums civilizations go through. Ancient Egypt and China have long histories with slumps and recoveries to look at. Probably not much to learn other than “hope you get lucky and a competant king pops up” or “we might learn our lesson after unimaginable amounts of horror, pain and destruction”.

    That’s why I’m hoping there’s a positive answer to the first question.

    1. Australia is the lucky country (from Donald Horne’s 1964 book), but America has something better. We’re resilient. We bounce back from our mistakes, correct our course, and push off into the future. The key to that is cultural vigor and cohesion. Those two elements were missing from many formerly rich nations, like Argentina (“rich as an Argentinian” they used to say).

      I believe we still have these qualities. As you said, we’re in a slump. Everybody has slumps. The American people need to look in the mirror and decide to change. Let’s hope it happens soon.

  9. Here is a nice website to get a better idea of the OWS protests from an “inside” perspective: Police mistreatment of transgender man during #OccupyWallStreet arrests posted at Racialicious.

    Reading the articles there, in my opinion, offers more support for FM’s prediction that the protests won’t amount to anything.

    Two things that stand out to me:

    1. The disconnect between the protesters and mainstream America. They dress differently, they talk differently and they have political beliefs far different than the majority of Americans. Contrast this to the Civil Rights movement where the protesters did everything they could to make themselves seem like the rest of America.

    This article in particular stands out: SO REAL IT HURTS: Notes on Occupy Wall Street. Take note of the”anti-patriarchy” meeting, ending capitalism as a goal of the protests and the part where they go around asking people what gender pronoun they prefer. Imagine someone asking you if you prefer to be called “he” or “she”! Not a good sign for the movement.

    2. The fringe groups looking to attach themselves in order to gain any bit of publicity. This article here OCCUPY WALL STREET: The Game of Colonialism and further nationalism to be decolonized from the “Left” talks about how America is already an “occupied” land. Whatever the merits of the case put forth it seems like the protests should focus their attention on a single issue in order to maximize the chances of success. Perhaps a major disadvantage of a leaderless movement is the inability to prioritize or control the protests.
    .
    .
    FM reply: Great material! Thanks for posting!

  10. Frankly this thing has exceeded my expectations, which were pretty low. FM, you’re taking the wrong approach. I agree that this is like the Revolt of the Revolt of the Ciompi in medieval Florence. By then you go on to say, “Fie on Occupy Wall St., it’s like the Ciompi.”

    That’s wrong. What instead you should say, “Because it’s like the Ciompi, this is what we can learn.” we should say is that we should analyze the Ciompi revolt to figure out why it failed, learn lessons from that analysis, and devise better strategies.
    .
    .
    FM note, from the Britannica:

    Revolt of the Ciompi (1378), insurrection of the lower classes of Florence that briefly brought to power one of the most democratic governments in Florentine history. The ciompi (“wool carders”) were the most radical of the groups that revolted, and they were defeated by the more conservative elements in Florentine society.

    A struggle between factions within the major ruling guilds triggered the uprising. Members of the lower classes, called upon to take part in the revolt in late June, continued to agitate on their own during the month of July. They presented a series of petitions to the Signoria (executive council of Florence) demanding a more equitable fiscal policy and the right to establish guilds for those groups not already organized. Then, on July 22, the lower classes forcibly took over the government, placing one of their members, the wool carder Michele di Lando, in the important executive office of gonfaloniere of justice. The new government, controlled by the minor guilds, was novel in that for the first time it represented all the classes of society, including the ciompi, who were raised to the status of a guild.

    But the ciompi were soon disillusioned. Their economic condition worsened, and the new government failed to implement all their demands. Conflicting interests of the minor guilds and the ciompi became evident. On August 31 a large group of the ciompi that had gathered in the Piazza della Signoria was easily routed by the combined forces of the major and minor guilds. In reaction to this revolutionary episode, the ciompi guild was abolished, and within four years the dominance of the major guilds was restored.

    1. While your historical analogy is erudite, it seems to have almost no resemblance to our current political movements. The revolt of the Ciompi was a collective action among organized groups, with clear and realistic political goals, taking bold actions at great personal risk. Today’s movements — the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street — have none of these characteristics.

  11. Who says that large-scale democracy is normal, and heterogeneous power structures are the aberration? To me it looks cyclical: equality and inclusive decision-making work pretty well until at some point the size and diversity of the political/economic “system” outstrips the capacity of the cohering/coordinating mechanisms. Then democracy breaks down because its simply impractical. Given time and stability, the cohering/coordinating mechanisms can develop and strengthen, allowing for increased equality and participation… but this tends to lead to prosperity, which leads to growth, and society again busts the dam.

    Even inside the bowels of large, heterogeneous political systems (empires), local democracy sometimes thrives. Perhaps that is what we should be hoping for. I’m not going to knock the hope for a unified, revitalized “American nation”, but I don’t really see why this SHOULD be the outcome.

    As to the immediate topic of this post, I would tend to agree with Fabius’ diagnosis. Lots of good comments, too.

  12. With all due respects, if the revolt of the Ciompi does not make a good analogy, then use some other historical episode instead. (BTW: the Chinese had some damn effective peasant revolts – which resulted in the overthrow of dynasties.)

    My point is that we should not thumb our noses at this movement but rather seek to channel it in the most constructive manner possible.

    BTW: by causing you to make this posting, they have managed to get a rise out of you, now haven’t they?

    1. (1) “then use some other historical episode instead.”

      The post makes a historical analogy; that is its point: the peasants’ revolts of the late Medieval era. Almost everybody here appears unable to understand the core element of this simple analogy: rulers do not care, and need not care, what peasants think — because peasants are incapable of effective collective action.

      (2) “some damn effective peasant revolts”

      Citations? I know little of Chinese history, but my guess is that effective revolts were a tiny tiny fraction of all peasant revolts.

      (3) “we should not thumb our noses at this movement”

      It’s called analysis, fundamentally different than the applause at the end of a show.

      (4) ” but rather seek to channel it in the most constructive manner possible.”

      Wow, you are powerful. Good luck with that. I cannot get my kids to do what I want (as for my wife, that would be dreaming).

      (5) “they have managed to get a rise out of you, now haven’t they?”

      I have always responded to most comments. I turned them off when freaked out by the wave of comments expressing love for torture and murder (they provided too much information about my fellow Americans). Now I am, I believe, more detached about our current state — and hence the comments are back on.

  13. Fascinating to read these comments here and FM’s original Posting also.

    “real revolution”
    Saul Alinsky readings. Civil Rights movement. Anti War Protests versus Anti Draft Movement. Co-opting of the TEA PARTY.

    “Protest is to democracy what spectator sports is to exercise.”
    Most of these greatly underestimate the general sense of bewilderment, disgust and fear in many parts of the society that the OWS merely reflects right now, here today.

    It is shortsighted to expect too much from these OWS events. Yet it is also way too cynical to dismiss them so easily.

    “Leaderless”?
    Perhaps today.

    It is great fun to speculate about historical events that you yourself were not involved in and clearly I have not read here anything from anyone who was involved in the Civil Rights and Anti War Movement(s). Some of you are “older” but not that old. And therefore you may have missed the very significant changes that you take as normal today that have arisen since those days.

    There are times when the Events are much greater than the parts and this is certainly a potential now. Things can turn on a dime but the turning takes some time. Volatility is everywhere And the precariousness of the Financial System is much greater than many realize. And you are simply wrong if you think that the elites do not fear these gatherings.

    Change is never final but change is all about us now.

    1. While I appreciate your writing skills, the product of your imagination is not evidence. You make up bold assertions until the cows come home, but they are just fun bold words.

      (1) “It is great fun to speculate about historical events that you yourself were not involved in”

      One thing that distinguishes ourselves from the other animals is our ability to pass on knowledge and experience across generations using words. This became more effective with the invention of “writing.” It’s called “history” . See Wikipedia to learn more about this useful tool.

      (2) “therefore you may have missed the very significant changes that you take as normal today that have arisen since those days.”

      This has been discussed in earlier comments. The characteristics that made previous popular movements effective are not now evident. The fact that there have been effective popular movements does not mean that every gather is a potential French Revolution.

      (3) “you are simply wrong if you think that the elites do not fear these gatherings”

      Evidence?

  14. FM may be too dismissive of the OWS movement when he writes: “These are a combination of whining and street festivals, more akin to the Berkeley Free Speech movement than the devastatingly effective marches of the civil rights movement.”

    Mark Wilson may be right when he replies to FM with “I suspect you are too deeply involved in your own view to see the wider picture of what is happening.”

    I do know from my position as a college professor who has been talking with a large number of students who range in age from their early 20s into their 60s, there is a consensus view from the left and the right: the banks, Wall Street and the major corporations have ruined both the economy as a whole and the earning power of the average person.

    In fact, this realization has provoked a great deal of anger, part of which came out in the Teat Party, part of which is coalescing as OWS, part of which voted to put Obama in office.

    Obama, who has repeatedly dropped the ball, has shown he is a third stringer. He may end up a non-factor.

    The Tea Party, even though motivated by historic myth, will remain a force as long as the economy languishes.

    OWS may solidify into a larger movement, as their is genuine anger and economic hardship on the left. That it appears to be a youth movement with a sort of “latte liberalism,” its motivation is based on what historians will look back on some day as the economic reality of our time.

  15. Reply to Prof Cirigliano —

    (1) “college professor who has been talking with a large number of students who range in age from their early 20s into their 60s, there is a consensus view from the left and the right: ”

    I very much doubt that a college professor has a view on the broad currents of US society (except through gathering data and analysis). I’d rather hear the views from a convention of bartenders.

    (2) “the banks, Wall Street and the major corporations have ruined both the economy as a whole and the earning power of the average person.”

    That has been a widespread view going back to the Founding, as seen in the battles over the First and Second Banks of the US. Then there were the great Trusts, railroads, and bankers who dominated the latet 19th century America — and were hated for it. And so forth. It’s background noise in US society.

    (3) “the banks, Wall Street and the major corporations have ruined both the economy as a whole and the earning power of the average person.”

    Absurd. Their original goals have been long forgotten (opposition to banks, restoring the Constitution); they’ve become nothing but shock troops for the plutocrats running the Republican Party. An unpopular extreme group serving to impose internal discipline, and position the GOP leaders as reasonable centrists (ie, the Overton window).

    The point — as I have said repeatedly (a message most commenters appear unable to hear) is that peasants have specific characteristics that make effective collective action difficult (nearly impossible). So peasants revolts are usually inconsequential despite their views, needs, and anger.

    We were not peasants, and hence were able to shape US society and history. We appear to have become peasants — sheep — and will be governed by shepards and preyed upon by wolves. Until we decide to change.

    All the pretty words dressing up your fantasies will not change these grim facts.

  16. Elites fear these arisings: Evidence? perhaps over reaction is sufficient. Minneapolis, St. Paul Police Agree to Pay $100k to Settle Lawsuit After Arrests of Amy Goodman, Producers of Democracy Now! at 2008 RNC, Brad Friedman at his blog, 5 October 2011

    Here is an attempt to make sense of the seeming inexplicable OWS. “The Anti-Politics of #OccupyWallStreet“, By Matt Stoller, (former Senior Policy Advisor to Rep. Alan Grayson and a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute), Naked Capitalism, 5 October 2011.

    I understand (and sympathize) with the view of the ineffective nature of this Thing; it is part of contemporary cynicism and an emotional dislocation within apparent communities (or a general lack of community / connectedness in USA society) whereby we discount the acts of others whom we have much in common with.

    And as FM offers there are some “grim facts” in our world of citizens today that do seem overwhelming. However these Things do have consequences that we simply cannot know nor anticipate. I suggest it is simply way too early to despair of or discount this Thing.

    And I will say it again….we are perched precariously upon a very volatile Financial System. THAT my friends is a real tipper!

    1. Citing payments made by police for oppressive acts is but gallows humor. Like pointing to the hand-slaps the SEC levies at Wall Street (and the FDA at drug companies) as evidence our regulatory system works. In fact they show the opposite. These tiny sums are just the cost of doing business. They do these things a hundred times, and once they get caught and pay a small fine. It would be significant if these penalties changed behavior, but they evidentially do not.

      “However these Things do have consequences that we simply cannot know nor anticipate”
      That is true of everything. It’s neither optimistic or pessimistic.

      “we are perched precariously upon a very volatile Financial System. THAT my friends is a real tipper!”

      Bad news: depressions tend to concentrate wealth and power. Much as they did in late 19th century American, greatly shrinking the small farmer and small merchant classes. As did the Great Depression in most nations. No surprise, as the rich benefit from the bankruptcy of the middle class.

  17. So I read the article on the way forward too. both very interesting. I’m from South Africa and have been taking interest in world reform for a while now.

    Firstly I don’t think you can quantify the effect or driving force behind the protests. if you look at Egypt that was enough. it could be the same in the US even the world. my suggestion is considering all the social media, increased public connectedness or whatever, is it not possible to open the eyes of the ‘stick’ of the government.

    I know it sounds a bit crazy. but if you take marijuana laws as an example. many officers don’t agree with the law but still have to make the arrests. if gradually it could be made such that they simply offer no resistance to a non armed march of their peers, what would be left to protect the people on control? public butchering of people by their fellow countrymen?

    they need to start opening the eyes of the people between the puppet masters and the puppets. peace. one love.

    1. Thank you for your comment, especially valuable as perspective from another nation.

      (1) As yet I think the comparison of the protests in the US and Egypt shows their differences to be more significant than their similarities: magnitude (eg, size of population), goals (vague vs specific), and seriousness (not at all vs. large).

      (2) “if you take marijuana laws as an example. many officers don’t agree with the law but still have to make the arrests”

      I don’t believe that analogy works. Under US law most people are criminals, by design. There are so many laws, everybody violates some — if only traffic laws. That gives the government the ability to target anyone at will (esp given the widespread practice of planting evidence).

      The drug laws provide a powerful example, as they are mostly used to repress the lower classes. The police could easily bust large numbers of white upper class people for using coke; but prefer to selectively bust Blacks using crack.

      (3) “if gradually it could be made such that they simply offer no resistance to a non armed march of their peers,”

      It could happen. But historically it has NOT happened, and any such forecast must explain why this long-standing history will change. Police in America have served to repress Blacks, unions, and anti-war protestors — often using high levels of force. Much of this occurs because the police DO NOT see these people as “peers” but instead as outsiders.

      The incresing trend to a militarized police force — body armor, powerful weapons, military-grade tear gas, armored cars, copters — probably decreases their perceived fellow-feeling with protestors and increases the ease with which violence can be used. As we’ve already seen in the Wall Street protests. For more about this see: “Local police forces are now little armies. Why?“, John Hanrahan, Neiman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard, 6 October 2011.

    2. “opening the eyes of the people between the puppet masters and the puppets”

      I also reject that way of characterizing the situation. It’s nice poetry, but nothing more. Self-government is rare. Not just in the past, but even today (though less so than before). We can debate the reasons, but the bottom line is that

      (a) the burden of revolution is too high — people cannot or will not risk it.
      (b) even in democracies (broadly defined as with some form of substantial popular participation in governing) the burden often becomes to great, and is dropped.

      To see people as “puppets” strips them of their agency. They become full human beings in your eyes only when the govern themselves, which restricts this to a very few. They become, to use social science jargon, the other — different than you. Which is neither factually or operationally useful, IMO.

    3. The media portrayal of peaceful protest in Egypt was false, while the crowd gathered in Tahrir square in Cairo was peaceful, there were clashes in all other major cities in Egypt that were very violent. Have you looked at the death toll of egypt protests?

    4. To be more specific, the US news media tended to mute discussion of the casualties in the Egyptian protests. Other news media, such as the Qaatar-based al Jazerra, did better (these days that’s a commonplace).

      The numbers are, as usual, disputed. Egypt’s government gives absurdly low numbers. Human Rights Watch last report on the subject was 8 February 2011, estimating “at least 302 killed” since 28 January 2011.

      That is high or low, depending on your standards.

      1. The late President of Syria, Hafez al-Assad, would have called that a good beginning.
      2. America’s 19th century robber barrons might have called that an over-reaction (but a good lesson, teaching workers their place).
      3. The US government calls that something to ignore when done by an ally — and a holocaust performed by madmen when done by enemy nations (which is why nobody listens to the US government).
    5. The relevant question is how these numbers are regarded in Egypt, but its leaders and by its people. I have no information on that, or even reliable sources for such information.

      I doubt that SecState Clinton knows any more than this than I (although she certainly has a wealth of unreliable DoS and CIA reporting on the subject).

  18. Why occupy wall street doesnt support Obama — his nothing to see here stance on bank looting“, Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism, 7 October 2011:

    “And if they escalate, that action has the potential to be the sort of galvanizing event that they fear most. The nightmare of the elites that may well be visited upon them is one day doors all over the US will open and hordes of the heretofore discenfranchised 99% to walk to their town squares and show by the mere force of turning up united against known enemies that they can and will prevail.”

    Get off the couch on Saturday!

    1. What’s so astonishing about this hokum is that it’s the same pitch used to build the Tea Party Movement, since co-opted to become GOP shock troops — supporting low taxes for the rich, preventing increased regulation of banks, and shredding what little remains of the Constitution. I could tweak my articles about the TP and re-post them as about OWS (the comments are identical, as well). As Marx said, we’re repeating as comedy (at least the TP pretended to be a serious political movement).

      These political failures are the almost inevitable result of supporting a diffuse movement without visible leaders or specific programs — such things are is easily co-opted.

      Looking back, the OWS parties structurally resemble the Obama Campaign in 2008. Putting ones faith in a dream, not looking under the lid to see the machinery — and probably the same people. As a reality check, what was Yves Smith saying in 2008 about Candidate Changey?

      All this shows is that Americans will do anything — so long as it is fun and easy — to avoid assuming responsibility, thinking, and the hard work of running America’s political machinery.

      In fact these “movements” serve our leaders well. Mobilizing support, venting anger (even sheep get annoyed), and above all — staying divided. That’s why the high drama of the Occupy Wall Street (dressing as unicorns) and Tea Party (extreme rhetoric, dressing as the Founders) plays such a large role, serving to self-identify each tribe (like shirts and skins in a children’s game) — and arousing contempt in the other tribe. Calling each other names also helps. God help our ruling elites should both sides in the middle class identify common problems and aims.

      Party On, fellow sheep!

  19. Maybe you’re right about the futility of #ows Fabius. Still, I find myself really enjoying the way the protests have caused some of our media and political mouthpieces to lose their cool. If our media and political culture can’t understand the statement, “Tax the rich, end the wars”, that is hardly the fault of some protesters. But the way it unsettles idiots is quite refreshing.

    [1] “CNBC Talking Heads: Wall Street Protesters are ‘Freaks’, ‘Anti-American’, ‘Bizzarre’“, Pat Garofalo, Think Progress, 7 October 2011.

    [2] “Michael Bloomberg: Occupy Wall Street is trying to destroy jobs“, The Guardian, 8 October 2011.

    1. (1) “I find myself really enjoying the way the protests …”

      Yes, that’s an indication it’s entertainment — not serious politics. I doubt anyone watching the 1770 anti-British protests in Boston or the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches found them “enjoyable”.

      (2) “But the way it unsettles idiots is quite refreshing.”

      The opiate of the masses in 21st century America is feeling of superiority when faced with wealth and power. The rich and powerful probably see us as “idiots”, and with far better reason.

      If we continue such hazy thinking, eventually we’ll have generations to experience that peculiar kind of clarity provided by a tyranny.

    2. Fabius:

      The opiate of the masses in 21st century America is feeling of superiority when faced with wealth and power. The rich and powerful probably see us as “idiots”, and with far better reason.

      It is certainly true that the actual 1% has excellent reasons to view me and mine (and perhaps you too as you suggest) as being idiots. But I’m not really looking at them, or calling them idiots. I doubt they are too worried.

      I’m more looking at the professional mouthpieces of the 1%. Their flacks, flunkies and toadies, if you will. I think this kind of thing disturbs toadies. Which isn’t any sort of revolutionary political programme, but I think it does have a real value that is not to be denied.

    3. “Their flacks, flunkies”

      My point still stands. Despite your mockery, our ruling elites hire the finest experts in political engineering and public relations (aka propaganda). We’ve seen their skill in the past few years.

      (1) Obama — President Changey, the Left’s messiah — in office governing as Bush III. Despite which much of the Left still loves him, as he does the same things they condemned Bush Jr as Hitler.

      (2) The Tea Party — A popular movement (no, it was not astroturf) fired by bank bailouts and shredding the Constitution — converted into shock troops that elected Republican that are self-admitted tools of the banks. That takes skill (plus money).

      “In Washington, the view is that the banks are to be regulated, and my view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks.”
      — Spencer Bachus (R-AL, Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, quoted in The Birmingham News, 9 December 2010

    4. Of course, if the cops really seriously crack down on #ows, or any of its many sympathy protests [1], and just arrest everyone and bust all their heads, then that will be different. The toadies will be the ones laughing then, as they will be sure that their owners really do have everything under control.

      [1] “Occupy Together” website about all the “Occupy x” events springing up.

    5. Absurd. You watch too much TV (which is another characteristic of Americans that make them ill-suited to rebel).

      I know many of the kind of people you describe — the flunkies of the rich and powerful — and they do not (ie, in general) laugh at violence. They are the mild-mannered servants of the elites. Ivy League schools, speaking in measured tones, cultured.

      The police and the blue-collar denizens of the right will enjoy the spectacle of force. As they get off reading about drones, our hit teams, our use of torture (this is visible in the comments of the FM website, and more so in right-wing websites), and TV episodes where NCIS agents deliberately kill the bad guys (arrests are so 20th C). America has no shortage of potential recruits for the secret police. But these are lower-down in the servants hierarchy, below the flacks and flunkies.

  20. FM keeps stressing the grim facts against any mass movement arising to shake loose the sad paradigm of contemp USA poiltical and social memes. With good reason, I think. However, be not so certain that the seeds of such a shaking is not being planted by such arsings as the TP (sad demise) and this OWS (Portrayed as a circus). there is fertile ground under the thin facade of American daily doings.

    What is marvelously ironic (which seems to be THE humor available to us these days) is that those like FM and you who read and post here, those who deplore the formlessness of this, you might be surprised that your voices, ideas, understandings are exactly what is needed at any of these events or happenings in your area.

    Your realistic cynicism and well-hidden sense of hopelessness, justified by your safe and sane ideas is symptomatic of exactly what you see and describe a Mirror. I applaud anyone who is attempting to fiunction as a Citizen and these people deserve a respect in that regards.

    I spent almost 4 hours at a OWS Saturday Event in a major Metro area. The weather was horrendous, 38 degrees with steady rain, snow line just about 20 miles away. There was a Rally on the Capital steps and then a march to the Fed Reserve Branch. The turnout was surprising to me, maybe 1000-1500 active participants. And from the Poilce persepective (per my discussions with Division commanders and Patrolmen) they were amazed also—having called in Men “off duty” to staff the 100’s of Patrolmen, Bike riding Cops, horseback Police, State Patrol Officers etc., etc.

    Now I spent my time engaging as diverse set of people as I could; questions as pointed as I could manage per each indiviual. Not surprising most have a strong sense of what is wrong for them and a weaker sense of how it happened. They are ripe and hungry for a dialog that gives form to the things they are very concerned and angry about. The majority were young and bright—their hopelessness is palatable. ‘What was of note was the large number of middle aged people .

    You can make a difference at these things. What is hopeful for the long term (and pitifully indicative of today) is the complete lack of politically active adults in attendance. America is so safe these days and so lazy. This is Democracy in action—it may not suit your tastes or intellectual biasis but tipping points arise and co-optation takes time and time may be short.

    Grim facts are everywhere but a few more days and weeks and years of the rumblings of this precarious Financial System can turn these so-called Circuses into real vehicles of difference.

  21. It truly is one of the great joys of life to feel a sense of superiority to another. Your joys are clearly unbounded. Your visions and ideas and sense of futility makes you different from others in what way?

    Since it is not “your fault” it must be the fools you are suffocatingly surrounded by. A dark night.

    1. I have stated my concerns in highly specific terms, and IMO objective terms. You don’t like them so reply with insults. I’ve seen that a thousand times in comments on the FM website. Whatever, dude.

  22. Whatever dude? Insult…hardly. The USA is the Insult, sir….not your readers.

    Come on FM — your objective solutions are consistently offset without any hopefulness. Your penchant is to turn all ever inward; to force one into despair in the hopes of igniting a rage:

    “The first step is not knowledge. Not logic. But rage, contempt at what we have become. From that other things can flow, good or bad depending on our character.

    “Anger is easy. Anger at the right person, at the right time, for the right reason, is difficult.”
    — Aristotle, in the Nicomachean Ethics, book IV, chapter 5 (lightly paraphrased)” (Source)

    How does this differ from : The Best Among Us – Chris Hedges on the struggle to Occupy Wall Street. Or Fire to the Prisons. Or the gent from the 60’s now passed from us:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ro_4bS7Wtok&feature=player_embedded

    Rage (from the real insults) is coming for sure.

  23. Another perspective on Occupy Wall Street, from Chateau Heartiste, 8 October 2011:

    A lot of these hipster OccupyWallStreet nitwits posting photos of their debt-laden lamentations online (sometimes accompanied by ridiculously pretentious props like manual ribbon typewriters) are targeting the wrong bad guys. The Wall Street bailouts and securitized mortgage repackagings were bad, to be sure, and I wouldn’t mind a day-of-the-rope for a lot of these cognocryptic leeches, but if you look at the OWS complaints you’ll see that a common thread is the neck-deep debt they’ve incurred from student loans.

    Yo, braheems, word of advice: you should be directing your righteous rage against the professors, faculty and admin of your chosen school of hard ownage. You went there, they gave you a shitty, useless libtarts degree and saddled you with mounds of debt. You compounded that debt because the college experience just wouldn’t be intellectual enough if you didn’t splurge on status whoring necessities like $5 lattes and Macbook pros. Now the world is changing with smart and industrious billion-plus Chinese coming on board to gut the value of your social media relations dreamjobs that you and the rest of the country wants and you’re pissed about it. Truth is, the university system is the droid you’re looking for.

    But no, you’ll obey your leftie professors’ marching orders and fall back on tired old protest cliches, railing against the finance fat cats when the more pertinent oppressors (in your cases) are the monopolists who run academia and the federal government which subsidizes their bust-the-inflation curve tuition hike increases with giveaway loan programs. Coupled with the credentialist zeitgeist pushing idiots into college and open borders human capital depreciation that devalues vocational work and college degrees alike, the academia fleecing steamrolls through your future. And you lash out impotently. …

    1. (1) I have written a few thousand detailed articles attempting to better understand our situation and alternative paths forward. If you think that’s easy, give it a try. People doing that is an initial condition for effect change, from reform through revolution.

      NOTHING good happens until people accurately understand the problems and possible solutions. However emotionally satisfying, shoot first — think later puts us on the fast track to disaster. We can always make things worse.

      (2) I have written articles sketching out what to do. See the FM Reference Page America – How can we reform it — section 10, “Some Solutions, ways to reform America.” I have another in draft, going up this week or next.

    2. “Stop clutching your pearls”

      Can anyone explain why that is not a stupid comment?

      This post gives an analysis of a popular movement in terms of its likely effectiveness, part of a series about reform in America. Does Vanu imply that analysis is useless — we should instead act without thinking? Or this comment implying that America is not in serious trouble today?

      Neither seems defensible, IMO.

  24. INTERVIEW ABOUT #OCCUPYWALLSTREET WITH SOMEONE WHO WORKS ON WALL STREET” via STREET BONERS and TV CARNAGE by Arv on 10/20/11 — Excerpt:

    I recently discovered that one of my middle school classmates now works on Wall Street and was harassed by Occupy Wall Street protestors while heading home. Considering that she’s Hispanic, grew up in our poor immigrant neighborhood, attended its shit-hole schools and is currently working two jobs, it seems extremely retarded for protestors claiming to represent the 99% to be targeting people like her — especially while the demonstrators embrace Kanye West, Michael Moore and Susan Sarandon, you know, people who actually belong to the 1%.

    Over a series of emails, she and I discussed her job, her run-in with the protestors and the Occupy Wall Street demonstration in general.

    STREET CARNAGE: You said you work on Wall Street. What exactly do you do? What does your company do?

    WALL STREET FRIEND: I work at a brokerage firm. I am the executive assistant to the Compliance Officer / Branch Manager. …

    STREET CARNAGE: Do you think Wall Street is the main culprit in America’s current financial fiasco?

    FRiEND: I think there are many factors to consider in the current financial situation. Wall Street has been doing what it did way before our generation, our parents’ generation and their parents’ generation. Moreover, Wall Street itself is suffering and has been for months. The market’s last peak was almost six months ago or so.

    I suggest scepticism about these articles (we’ll see more of them) attacking the OWS protestors. The primary skill of our leaders is propaganda.

    As for this example, it seems unlikely to be true. Look at the secretary’s languarge. Even people with vast experience speaking and giving interviews — like Professors — seldom speak like this:

    “I think there are many factors to consider in the current financial situation.”

    I am an extreme pedant. I would say such a thing, however stilted and boring. But most people don’t write like that, let alone speak spontaneously like that.

  25. EXCLUSIVE: ACORN Playing Behind Scenes Role in ‘Occupy’ Movement“, Fox News, 26 October 2011 — Opening:

    The former New York office for ACORN, the disbanded community activist group, is playing a key role in the self-proclaimed “leaderless” Occupy Wall Street movement, organizing “guerrilla” protest events and hiring door-to-door canvassers to collect money under the banner of various causes while spending it on protest-related activities, sources tell FoxNews.com.

    The former director of New York ACORN, Jon Kest, and his top aides are now busy working at protest events for New York Communities for Change (NYCC). That organization was created in late 2009 when some ACORN offices disbanded and reorganized under new names after undercover video exposes prompted Congress to cut off federal funds.

    NYCC’s connection to ACORN isn’t a tenuous one: It works from the former ACORN offices in Brooklyn, uses old ACORN office stationery, employs much of the old ACORN staff and, according to several sources, engages in some of the old organization’s controversial techniques to raise money, interest and awareness for the protests.

    Sources said NYCC has hired about 100 former ACORN-affiliated staff members from other cities – paying some of them $100 a day – to attend and support Occupy Wall Street. Dozens of New York homeless people recruited from shelters are also being paid to support the protests, at the rate of $10 an hour, the sources said.

    At least some of those hired are being used as door-to-door canvassers to collect money that’s used to support the protests.

    Sources said cash donations collected by NYCC on behalf of some unions and various causes are being pooled and spent on Occupy Wall Street. The money is used to buy supplies, pay staff and cover travel expenses for the ex-ACORN members brought to New York for the protests.

    In one such case, sources said, NYCC staff members collected cash donations for what they were told was a United Federation of Teachers fundraising drive, but the money was diverted to the protests.

    Sources who participated in the teachers union campaign said NYCC supervisors gave them the addresses of union members and told them to go knock on their doors and ask for contributions—and did not mention that the money would go toward Occupy Wall Street expenses. One source said the campaign raked in about $5,000.

    Current staff members at NYCC told FoxNews.com the union fundraising drive was called off abruptly last week, and they were told NYCC should not have been raising money for the union at all.

    Sources said staff members also collected door-to-door for NYCC’s PCB campaign — which aims to test schools for deadly toxins —but then pooled that money together with cash raised for the teachers union and other campaigns to fund Occupy Wall Street.

    “We go to Freeport, Central Islip, Park Slope, everywhere, and we say we’re collecting money for PCBs testing in schools. But the money isn’t going to the campaign,” one source said.

    “It’s going to Occupy Wall Street, and we’re not using that money to get schools tested for deadly chemicals or to make their kids safer. It’s just going to the protests, and that’s just so terrible.”

    A spokesman for the United Federation of Teachers told FoxNews.com, “The UFT is not involved in any NYCC fundraising on the PCB issue.”

    Multiple sources said NYCC is also using cash donations through canvassing efforts in New York’s Harlem and Washington Heights neighborhoods for union-backed campaigns to fund the Wall Street protests.

    “All the money collected from canvasses is pooled together back at the office, and everything we’ve been working on for the last year is going to the protests, against big banks and to pay people’s salaries—and those people on salary are, of course, being paid to go to the protests every day,” one NYCC staff member told FoxNews.com.

    Those who contribute don’t know the money is going to fund the protests, the source said.

    “They give contributions because we say if they do we can fix things – whatever specific problem they’re having in their area, housing, schools, whatever … then we spend the contributions paying staff to be at the protests all day, every day. That’s where these contributions – the community’s money – is going,” the source said.

    “They’re doing the same stuff now that got ACORN in trouble to begin with. And yes, we’re still ACORN, there is a still a national ACORN.”

    Another source, who said she was hired from a homeless shelter, said she was first sent to the protests before being deployed to Central Islip, Long Island, to canvass for a campaign against home foreclosures.

    “I went to the protests every day for two weeks and made $10 an hour. They made me carry NYCC signs and big orange banners that say NYCC in white letters. About 50 others were hired around my time to go to the protests. We went to protests in and around Zuccotti Park, then to the big Times Square protest,” she said.

    “But now they have me canvassing on Long Island for money, so I get the money and then the money is being used for Occupy Wall Street—to pay for all of it, for supplies, food, transportation, salaries, for everything … all that money is going to pay for the protests downtown and that’s just messed up. It’s just wrong.”

    Neither Kest, NYCC executive director, nor his communications director returned repeated email and telephone requests for comment, nor did his communications director. A Fox News producer who visited the Brooklyn office on Tuesday was told, “The best people to speak to who are involved with Occupy Wall Street aren’t available.”

    But the organization responded to this story late Wednesday, alerting a FoxNews.com reporter by Twitter message to a statement posted on its website that called the story a “smear campaign.”

    “Fox News is trying to discredit Occupy Wall Street. New York Communities for Change is a new organization that fights for low- and moderate-income families,” the agency said in the online statement, credited to board member Linnette Ebanks. “We don’t pay protesters and any monies raised by NYCC’s canvass are used in support of our ongoing issue campaigns. Period.” …

  26. ACORN Officials Scramble, Firing Workers and Shredding Documents, After Exposed as Players Behind Occupy Wall Street Protests“, Fox News, 3 November 2011 — Opening:

    Officials with the revamped ACORN office in New York — operating as New York Communities for Change — have fired staff, shredded reams of documents and told workers to blame disgruntled ex-employees for leaking information in an effort to explain away a FoxNews.com report last week on the group’s involvement in Occupy Wall Street protests, according to sources.

    NYCC also is installing surveillance cameras and recording devices at its Brooklyn offices, removing or packing away supplies bearing the name ACORN and handing out photos of Fox News staff with a stern warning not to talk to the media, the sources said.

    “They’re doing serious damage control right now,” said an NYCC source.

    NYCC Executive Director Jon Kest has been calling a series of emergency meetings to discuss last week’s report—and taking extreme measures to identify the sources in their office and to prevent further damage, a source within NYCC told FoxNews.com.

    Two staffers were fired after NYCC officials suspected them as the source of the leaks, a source told FoxNews.com. “One was fired the day the story came out, the other was fired on Friday. (NYCC senior staff) told everyone that they were fired because they talked to you,” a source said.

    NYCC spokesman Scott Levenson denied that anyone was fired for talking to the press. …

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