Cracking Down On OWS: Too Little, Too Late?

Anyone finding their way to this blog probably expected the semi-coordinated crackdown on the most visible OWS outposts yesterday, Zuccotti Park, drama-infused Oakland bastion and Portland. Among others.

The ‘Authorities’ in each instance carefully mimic each other. They proclaim support for ‘free speech’ but then offering a lurid litany of health, crime and sanitation speculations — all to cast themselves on the side of hygiene and order to the heretofore OWS sympathizing but still passive American suburban onlookers.

From Oakland to NYC it’s a gamble: that the majority of Americans prefer to focus on upcoming Black Friday sales and ‘order’ over their own nebulously understood self-interest. We haven’t done the focus group work. Outside heavy media/Twitter consumers, we’re skeptical how many average ‘Amerikhuns’ understand the meme ‘We are the 99%’ or why that phrase advances their interests.

OWS in some ways emerged in September as happy serendipity. What’s been accomplished between organizing meetings in August to November defies design.

OWS’ various general assemblies, mini-protest marches and world wide presence are perfect fodder to Twitterati, twitching, tweeting and forwarding each detail. This activity conveys dynanism, progress, excitement — and vicarious participation. It eventually spilled over into the reluctant trad media. We’ve long maintained that OWS as a specific socio-politcial phenomenon, however, needs more. OWS has still to create bonds beyond intensive social media consumers. How much connectivity does it have? We may soon find out.

As it stands now, OWS overall and a flagship NYC presence (where ever re-located) need more time as a tangible manifestation. Perhaps non-coincidentially, local forces of small ‘r’ reaction aren’t anxious to grant time. The Oakland mayor said on the BBC the mayors were in coordination. Of course, the ground truth at each encampment and its relationship with corresponding authorities vary and determine outcomes.

OWS, Zuccotti Park, Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Oakland

It’s encouraging that the OWS sites disrupted by force are prepared to return and stay, challenging actions in courts, etc. OWS across the country appears to understand the imperative to avoid vandalism and violence – sure barriers to connecting with their larger audience. They would be wise to seek access to recognizable professionals sympathetic to their purpose to refute the ‘health, sanitation and public safety’ canards, too.

Regardless of this week’s events we doubt OWS’ destiny is to embody post-Obama politics capable of directly challenging and defeating oligarchy. OWS’ greatest service is to open the door to possibility. To give tangible form for the media-consuming onlookers to recycle from their offices and anchor chairs that Americans would not necessarily resign themselves to the false politics of the two ‘party’ system.

But then again, OWS has surprised before . . .


One of the many clever meme from the UC Davis abuse. Via

UC Davis, Pepper Spray, Meme, Abuse, Assault on Peaceful Protestors


  1. says

    @Comment Great stuff – always fun to see someone whack that pinata. It is remarkable how some skated the ’00s unscathed relatively, although those that care to see can observe the torn veil. Trouble is, many don’t care to try.

    Definitely neat twitter war.

  2. DrLeoStrauss says

    Newt doesn’t wear well. That’s about the simplest way to put it. If the debate was only 20 minutes he would have come out the acclaimed performer with his riposte to Romney. But once the 21st minute starts in . . .

  3. says

    No kidding! It is truly a bizarre race the Republicans are having. I am not a great enthusiast of our electoral system, but I eagerly await Newt’s inevitable implosion.

  4. Comment says

    Footage of Summers eating would prob rival Wolfowitz comblicking for sheer effing nastiness

  5. Dr Leo Strauss says

    To channel the thinking (emotions) of those Philadelphians, it’d likely be focused on them silently comparing automobiles showing up at various holiday functions. One can only imagine some couples’ acrimony in private that they still drive a 5 year old [insert status badge] when X has a new [insert newer status badge].

    We’d wager that OWS never passed the lips or thoughts (emotions); developments in Egypt dismissed as a vague, messy blur. Europe? Too complicated to think about. Easier to sit around and complain about Penn State, etc.

  6. Comment says

    Re: Agency amazing if they used cell phones – even supposedly untraceable ones can be traced with help from spies and other countries giving clandestine help/
    Especiallly so hard upon that Italy fiasco.

  7. Comment says

    Norquist on 60 min – now questions about Savimbi’s alleged cannibalism (ht David Brooks) so far.

    • Dr Leo Strauss says

      Tragic about Norquist, he’s been openly planning eliminationist End Times for decades and ‘informed’ liberals smirked or applauded Clinton and the DLC’s triangulation.

      Can anyone name a single ‘liberal’ political operative with 15% of Grover’s heft? How about any 5 with 15% ?

  8. jwb says

    I would agree with your assessment of FB and Twittermachine, except I already discounted for commitment. The UC Davis story has leaked onto my professional, usually completely non-political account. This has not happened previously with OWS. And on FB it has been picked up by both the usually politically silent and those who have so far only expressed awareness of OWS by posting parody. But certainly it remains at the level of anecdote.

  9. DrLeoStrauss says

    @jwb Would be refreshing if the crackdown really did galvanize the passive onlookers. Twitter feeds and FB comments are almost by definition already committed, at least in terms of high media consumption/time sinks.

    Spent some time with a sample of the Philadelphia suburb affluent Jon-Stewarrt-watching, NYT-iPad-subscribing demo. OWS events are vague and far off. More worried about whether merchandise was on early sale at Lands End at the Mall.

  10. jwb says

    The incredibly clumsy crackdown by UC-Davis Chancellor on Friday has flooded both my timeline on the Twittermachine and my newsfeed on FB. I’ve been seeing outraged tweets, retweets, and FB posts from people who had up to this point remained fairly subdued and even ambivalent about the Occupy protests. From where I’m standing, it seems to have been a seismic cultural event.

  11. jwb says

    @Dr Leo Strauss I’m particularly suspicious of shifts in poll numbers when there is little of substance driving the shift. I have not noted even a subtle shift in attitude on the Twittermachine or the blogs (some against, some for, much ambivalence, but in the latter two categories a great reserve of patience). If anything, I’ve heard more encouraging talk about OWS in face-to-face encounters. The latter is, of course, completely anecdotal, so I do not put a lot of stock in it, though people do seem more willing to speak up in support than they were a month ago; my sampling of the Twittermachine and blogs is only impressionistic, but it is taken from a fairly wide swath of opinion, so I think it’s reasonably accurate and I don’t think I would have missed any signficant swing of opinion. My biggest concern right now is fatigue on the front lines as conditions get generally more difficult—both from the weather and from the constant harassment of the police state.

  12. Dr Leo Strauss says

    Polls and blogger reporting on polls on OWS deserve some skepticism, ala this TPM report.

    Many — but not all — reporters don’t know how really to read polls beyond the top line obvious numbers. A well done poll with careful weighting will yield its most valuable insights through the cross tabs, again depending on how professionally designed to begin with. That data would be most interesting.

  13. Dr Leo Strauss says

    One can only imagine the towers of political strength and courage on that call. Too bad none of them are even larval Irish Catholic icons, otherwise Tweety’s next book would turn that con call into “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and Marilyn Monroe.”

  14. Dr Leo Strauss says

    @Brendan Thanks for the detailed eyewitness report, Brendan. Terrific stuff. How encouraging to that within the cynical circle of steel you found resurgent hope.

    Also, great point that historically oligarchy always defeats itself. Couldn’t agree more. These are, of course, minor skirmishes. When (if) the issues come to a crisis, today will seem pretty much a jamboree all around.

  15. Brendan says

    I went down to Zuccotti at 7:30pm today for the General Assembly.

    Hundreds of officers in riot gear manned the barricades put in place to seal the park off– but for one small area to enter and exit. Unlike previous nights, I felt viscerally threatened, as if I was one wrong step away from the back of a paddy-wagon, or the end of a nightstick. As I waded through the thick of DHS-allocated weaponry, I was stopped by a fellow comrade–“Hey, you can get a free meal 2 blocks down Broadway, friend.” I told him I had already eaten, as I had been in class all day. He told me that it was ok, he had been in jail all day. And they had taken his laptop and iPhone to boot. I told him I admired his courage– a cop demanded we move along.

    As a I entered the tightly controlled open air prison, I couldn’t help but think of Gaza, and the misery and despair it embodied.

    But, once immersed among the 1,500 or so gathered, a feeling of warmth, community, love, and yes hope washed through me. The human mic does have its practical faults, but with each passing chant, I felt increasingly alive and empowered and the brute force I had encountered moments before, seemed quaint in comparison.

    The topic of conversation was obviously “What do we do know?” We splintered into groups to discuss and expectedly, an answer was hard to come by. I will not bore you with further details.

    In response to your post:

    I agree that OWS may not directly be able to embody the post-Obama politics capable of defeating the oligarchy, as of now. But, I would argue that we may be putting too much emphasis on OWS as actor for institutional change. I would argue, instead, that we should not overlook the oligarchy’s proclivity for self-destruction. It is THEY who will be the actors who will produce the conditions necessary for what we and OWS seek. What OWS has done is create a powerful cultural tradition of protest that can be called upon when conditions become more suitable for institutional change.

    The Fed recently said they believe there is a greater than 50% chance of recession in the first half of 2012. Europe is imploding. Who knows what will happen next. But this time we will be ready.

  16. Comment says

    It just shows how our Gov operates in Bad Faith – Bloomberg gives fake reasons citing supposed contemporary events,when the whole thing was planned with other Mayors. Or the fake concern for fire safety etc.

  17. DrLeoStrauss says

    As JWB notes, the collusion of local authorities via telecon calls and other means in the timing and execution of the crackdowns present a mixture of opportunity for OWS and a sense of lower, Burgher-esque instinctive reaction.

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