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A Modest Call to Action
September 20, 2011 5:17 PM   Subscribe

Occupy Wall Street is an event comprised of anti-corporate non-violent protests that are being promoted by a range of groups including the AdbustersMedia Foundation and a New York City group called General Assembly. Months ago a plea was put out to diverse political and activist groups urging them to descend on Wall Street on September 17th and take part in long-term occupation of the area in the spirit of the Arab Spring rebellions.

On the first day of the demonstrations protesters arrived to find sections of Wall Street near the New York Stock Exchange and Federal Hall blocked and shut down by the city in anticipation of their convergence on the area. Turnout numbers so far have been less than ideal, but there's some evidence that media companies like Yahoo have been systematically blocking communications related to promoting and organizing the event.

Most mainstream media coverage has been light, although Democracy Now covered the event yesterday ( bonus: interview with metafilter's own David Graeber at around 22:15)

According to The New York Times, six people were arrested yesterday, some of whom were charged with questionable offenses:
"Another man was arrested, and the police initially said he was charged with jumping a police barrier and resisting arrest. But a reporter and a photographer for The Times who witnessed and documented the episode between the man in the orange hat and the police did not see him attempting to jump a barrier. Late in the afternoon, the police said the man was charged with committing disorderly conduct by impeding pedestrian traffic, not with jumping a barrier."

Today at least least five people have been arrested, and protesters are claming the NYPD used excessive force in the latest arrests.

Participation numbers have been dwindling, but anonymous is now promoting the occupation as well re-broadcasting the live feed coverage from Live Stream. However, that streaming coverage is spotty and some activists believe internet access is being shut down at the protest site.
posted by stagewhisper (251 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
Pretty nuts that it's SOP to block communications networks, including email.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:21 PM on September 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


they lost me at Why? Contemporary society is commodified society, where the economic transaction has become the dominant way of relating to the culture and artifacts of human civilization, over and above all other means of understanding, with any exceptions being considered merely a temporary holdout as the market swiftly works on ways to monetize those few things which stubbornly remain untouched...
posted by H. Roark at 5:22 PM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


They "occupied" Wall Street on September 17.

That was a SUNDAY.

Of course nobody was there. And people were surprised about this? Morons. You could announce the first annual Nude Supermodels and Free Cash Parade on a Sunday on Wall Street and no one would be there.

You want to make some noise? Do it at 7 a.m. on a Wednesday morning at the end of a financial quarter on the day Ben Bernanke is scheduled to make a speech.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:24 PM on September 20, 2011 [40 favorites]


That was a SUNDAY.

SATURDAY! SATURDAY! I meant to write Saturday.

Fuck. I suck at this.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:24 PM on September 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Some of the funnier stuff from @OccupyWallStNYC:

They posted proof that they are glorified attention whores to their Livestream.

They created a hashtag #needsoftheoccupiers for things they want people to give them. I guess #firstworldproblems was already in use.

"Having an emergency meeting to discuss taking the tents down in compliance with the police." We're using consensus to determine how to proceed!

"The GA is to break off into smaller working groups: media, comfort, food, medical, security, arts/music, and tactical." The Comfort Committee has proposed to add "fluffy pillows" to the #needsoftheoccupiers hashtag!
posted by shii at 5:28 PM on September 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


350,000 unemployeed people in New York City. You'd think they'd be able to organize a bigger protest.
posted by humanfont at 5:33 PM on September 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


That was a SUNDAY.

SATURDAY! SATURDAY! I meant to write Saturday.

Fuck. I suck at this.


And now I've got "Friday" stuck in my head.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 5:34 PM on September 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


I might think this protest is stupid, but I'm extremely troubled that Yahoo! moved to block the emails organizing it. Was law enforcement involved? What do they have to do to get Yahoo! to choke communications? Ask nicely?
posted by grobstein at 5:36 PM on September 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Hold on a minute they are using consensus to decide? Don't they know that was banned during the Second Unitarian Council. Do they have enourmous puppets too? Send in the fire hoses!
posted by humanfont at 5:38 PM on September 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


I normally would be sympathetic to a protest like this, but really, what is the protest asking for? What do they expect to accomplish? The protests that took place during the Arab Spring at least seemed to have some goal in mind, but what is the goal that Occupy Wall Street is aiming for?
posted by baniak at 5:40 PM on September 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Burning The Man?
posted by hal9k at 5:44 PM on September 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


And now I've got "Friday" stuck in my head.

Must be Monday, then.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:45 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, the estimate of 50,000 protesters was pretty much bullshit, yeah?
posted by briank at 5:46 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hey grobstein, I think Yahoo! blocked the emails because of something related which was posted to uribl yesterday. Likely just some automated anti-spam system run amok.

Sure looks bad though.
posted by doteatop at 5:48 PM on September 20, 2011


Yahoo claims that the blocked domain was the result of an aggressive spam filter, which is plausible.

There were claims Twitter was blocking hashtags of the protest, until it was explained how the revolution will be drowned out by Gaga/Bieber.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:51 PM on September 20, 2011


which is plausible

Deniability achieved!
posted by EatTheWeak at 5:55 PM on September 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


This is so poorly organized and has such terrible optics it pretty much has to be either Improv Everywhere or a false flag. Those are the only two possibilities that will allow me to sleep a night so I'm going to run with them.
posted by Skorgu at 5:56 PM on September 20, 2011


A Report from the Occupation of Wall Street
posted by homunculus at 6:01 PM on September 20, 2011


Man, there are some speed readers in this thread.

"They "occupied" Wall Street on September 17.

That was a SUNDAY.

Of course nobody was there. And people were surprised about this? Morons."


Yeah, well, I'm not sure where you got the idea that the protesters were surprised to find nobody working on Wall Street on the weekend, maybe you could add a /cite/ for that? I'm under the impression the kick-off was slated for the weekend because there'd be more people willing to come out to the first day of the occupation if they didn't need to skip work (for anyone who still has a day job) in order to do so. Lots of large protests and marches are organized on the weekends for this very reason. Whether it would have been more effective in terms of getting greater numbers of participants and/or more media coverage to have started the occupation on a Monday is certainly up for debate.
posted by stagewhisper at 6:02 PM on September 20, 2011 [16 favorites]


On the one hand, it does look like a kind of aimless protest by folks with much less to complain about than the Tunisians or Syrians. What's more, our safety net makes it difficult to feel the effects of inflation at the grocery store for a food-related crisis.

On the other hand, there are a lot of people who are out of work, confused by the rhetoric of politics and the intractability of the economy, and powerless to do anything meaningful. Those people are either going to join the Tea Party or do something like this.

In general, the fact that there's no meaningful thing for the average person to do in the midst of what increasingly appears to be a very bad situation is an indictment of American democracy. You can't engage in meaningful direct action, you can't channel your energies into electoral politics, and you can't ignore the problem because it just keeps getting worse.

That said, the Arab Spring doesn't really look like a good model to follow. What's the endgame? Depose Obama and let the military take over, like in Egypt?

So you settle for the politician's fallacy: "Something must be done. This is something. Therefore, we must do this!"
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:10 PM on September 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


Starting the protest on a weekend because of some members' work schedules makes about as much sense as the drunk looking for his keys under the lamp, because it's brighter there.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:10 PM on September 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


I was reading MLK's Playboy interview and one of the things it made apparent to me was how much the modern protest movement is a kind of cargo cult replicating the motions without the meaning of civil action, in its deficit of secular organization and political wisdom but also spiritual preparation and discipline.

Still, although obviously some of the blame for its failure lies with the leadership and participants, I think also that society has a kind of homeostatic impulse that like an immune system develops lasting countermeasures to destabilization. I don't think the civil rights movement could necessarily be replicated even with ideal conditions. Novel strategies are needed, not thoughtless fetishized reenactments.

grobstein: It's pretty clear is was automatic spam filtering, not the most ineffectual attempt at censorship ever devised.
posted by Ictus at 6:12 PM on September 20, 2011 [39 favorites]



Starting the protest on a weekend because of some members' work schedules makes about as much sense as the drunk looking for his keys under the lamp, because it's brighter there.


Well, if your goal is to copy the tactics used in Tel Aviv, Madrid, or other locations, and you want to camp out for a long term sit down strike, it makes sense to start when it will be the easiest to grab a beachead and settle down in it.

Which for Wall Street, means Saturday.

From what I can see these scruffy kids are utterly clueless, but after stealing billions upon billions from us for the bailout, Wall Streeters deserve to have to put up with these kids. I'm definitely on their side here. I mean who's more pretentious? These protesters? Or the rentiers on Wall Street who still continue to pretend they earned their station in life??
posted by ocschwar at 6:15 PM on September 20, 2011 [23 favorites]


what is the goal that Occupy Wall Street is aiming for?

As Kalle Lasn, the editor-in-chief of Adbusters, wrote in the Guardian:
Deeper changes are needed, such as a "Robin Hood" tax on financial transactions; reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act in the US; implementing a ban on high-frequency "flash" trading. The "too big to fail" banks must be broken up, downsized and made to serve the people, the economy and society again. The financial fraudsters responsible for the 2008 meltdown must be brought to justice. Then there is the long-term mother of all solutions: a total rethinking of western consumerism that throws into question how we measure progress.
posted by overglow at 6:16 PM on September 20, 2011 [11 favorites]


Hasn't the whole "workers control the means of production" thing been tried before?

It didn't turn out so well in the past.
posted by Argyle at 6:18 PM on September 20, 2011


Wow, that mass pasting of a twitter feed was a bunch of pointless gibberish. Is this the new version of the Treaty of Westphalia? Can it be banned, please?
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:21 PM on September 20, 2011


Hasn't the whole "workers control the means of production" thing been tried before?

It didn't turn out so well in the past.


Where and when are you talking about?
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 6:21 PM on September 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


Hasn't the whole "workers control the means of production" thing been tried before?


The reason we have a financial sector is that it's believed to be better at it for securing the common good.

Right now the sector's performance is pretty damn lacking, and until that changes, let the financiers put up with the hipsters. A mild punishment to be sure.
posted by ocschwar at 6:22 PM on September 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


[people can go read Twitter, please do not do that here, thanks]
posted by jessamyn at 6:26 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow, that mass pasting of a twitter feed was a bunch of pointless gibberish. Is this the new version of the Treaty of Westphalia? Can it be banned, please?

Sorry about that. Daph/Aunte Pixelante's tweets freed had some great lines like "HEY GUYS BUY THIS GUY FAWKES MASK AT AMAZON DOT COM USE IT IN YOUR NEXT 'PROTEST" and "I HATE YOU DAD I'M NEVER GONNA BE LIKE YOU HEY THANKS FOR PAYING FOR THIS SEMESTER OF COLLEGE THOUGH" and "YES PLEASE SET UP MORE YOGA MATS SO YOU CAN APPROPRIATE EVEN MORE CULTURES"

I also like "HOW DARE YOU NOT BE ABLE TO FUCKING YELL FOR TWENTY MINUTES STRAIGHT DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHAT YOU'RE FIGHTING FOR" and "STOP ROLEPLAYING CLASS STRUGGLE YOU FUCKING ENTITLED NERDS" and "THE BIGGEST RISK YOU TAKE IS BEING WRONG ON THE INTERNET OR MAYBE HANGING OUT ON WALLSTREET ON A WEEKEND"
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:31 PM on September 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hasn't the whole "workers control the means of production" thing been tried before?

It didn't turn out so well in the past.

Where and when are you talking about?


Well, it started with Karl Marx, who gave ideas to Lenin and Mao Tse-tung, who gave ideas to Kim Il-sung, Fidel Castro, Ho Chi Minh, and the Khymer Rouge.

Things went very poorly for those people under the revolution that brought them "workers controlling the means of production".
posted by Argyle at 6:37 PM on September 20, 2011


Starting the protest on a Saturday so working people could attend? Well, the working/heat-stroking people at the Amazon Allentown factory couldn't take the day off...
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:38 PM on September 20, 2011


I didn't see any of the objectives that Kalle Lasn mentions in the Guardian article mentioned in the protest. It would be great if the protest achieved those objectives, but I don't see how this protest accomplishes any of that. The only thing I see this protest doing is making the people who participate in it look silly. As Ictus said, this is just a cargo cult replicating the motions of past successful movements.

I saw a similar problem with the Tar Sands Action earlier this month, it explicitly called itself a civil disobedience, modeled in some ways on the Civil Rights movement. But, climate change activism/environmentalism/anti-corporate protest isn't the civil rights movement.

I don't know how you get the message out into the world, but protests are less and less effective, except as possibly a method of "rallying the troops". It doesn't affect change. These movements need to find new tactics that alienate fewer people.
posted by baniak at 6:38 PM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


"HEY GUYS BUY THIS GUY FAWKES MASK AT AMAZON DOT COM USE IT IN YOUR NEXT 'PROTEST"

Masked Protesters Aid Time Warner’s Bottom Line
posted by homunculus at 6:40 PM on September 20, 2011



I don't know how you get the message out into the world, but protests are less and less effective, except as possibly a method of "rallying the troops". It doesn't affect change. These movements need to find new tactics that alienate fewer people.


When the boss won't talk,
Don't take a walk. Sit down. Sit down.

The point of this tactic is to show that you are not going away.
posted by ocschwar at 6:41 PM on September 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Equating this silly shit with the Arab Spring stuff is just obnoxious, and sort of insulting (not blaming the OP for that, just pointing out that the participants and organizers of this are asking for a lot from the observer by equating the two).

Also, whoever owns that twitter feed--daphny or somesuch?--is a horribly annoying and self-righteous person.
posted by broadway bill at 6:44 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


When America's actual underclass decides to protest their living conditions, it usually takes the form of angry black and brown bodies lighting police cars on fire. And man oh man, do nerdy white liberals get ever so nervous when that shit really goes down.
posted by Avenger at 6:46 PM on September 20, 2011 [12 favorites]


Sadly the masses were hopelessly split. 2 protesters demanded more government, 2 dreamed of no government and the other one was just there to meet chicks. Somehow international capitalism survived. Meanwhile real protesters against real evil continue to get shot in Syria and Yemen, but I'm sure these heroes think that's America's fault too.
posted by joannemullen at 6:49 PM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


NYPD Defends Arresting Wall Street Protesters For Wearing Masks

Paul Browne, the NYPD deputy commissioner for public information, says [the 1845 anti-mask law] is there for a reason.

And I love this guy:

“That has become a worldwide phenomenon when you have people that are declaring war on Wall Street and anarchy that they often cover their faces, not only in this country [but] in other countries. So, we always have to be on top of that because obviously these things have a way of spinning out of control,” said Eugene O’Donnell, a professor of political science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “It’s a tool, a device that allows police, in situations like the other day, to try to prevent serious breaches of the peace.”

So, donating money is protected First Amendment speech but wearing a mask in public isn't. Got it.
posted by mediareport at 6:56 PM on September 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


Nothing will happen until it's National Guardsmen doing this. Then, it gets real. And I don't want to be here for it.
posted by digitalprimate at 6:59 PM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Things went very poorly for those people under the revolution that brought them "workers controlling the means of production".

OK, so it's never actually happened. Good to confirm that.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 7:00 PM on September 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


Oh, those Guy Fawkes masks. Could you at least pick a symbol that wasn't taken from a horribly corny Hollywood exploitation film? I don't care what your cause is, that mask wouldn't get you taken seriously even if you were actually planning on blowing up the House of Lords with barrels of gunpowder.
posted by Hoopo at 7:10 PM on September 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Deeper changes are needed, such as
-a "Robin Hood" tax on financial transactions;
- reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act in the US;
- implementing a ban on high-frequency "flash" trading.
- The "too big to fail" banks must be broken up, downsized and made to serve the people, the economy and society again.
-The financial fraudsters responsible for the 2008 meltdown must be brought to justice.
-...A total rethinking of western consumerism that throws into question how we measure progress.


One of these things is not like the others.
posted by storybored at 7:12 PM on September 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


-...A total rethinking of western consumerism that throws into question how we measure progress.

That's my problem. I'm not a fan of the banks or some of the more evil companies, but I like consumerism! It gives me cool stuff, and I've benefited (I'm sure these protesters have benefited more). Stop declaring war on 'consumerism' or 'capitalism' or 'globalization' and focus on taking on the big banks and corporate criminals. That will ensure populist support.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:16 PM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


the real comparison ought to be with the tent sit in in Tel Aviv. There many young professionals and middle class people are protesting about the huge disparity between the very rich and the middle class. Unable to pay rent for decent housing and food and inadequate salaries, the people are not tossing rocks but demanding an equal share in the country the love. There is no military, as in the Arab Spring countries, controlling things and no message for a change in govt.

It is, then, capitalism and its shortcomings. And it is apparent in both democracies.
posted by Postroad at 7:17 PM on September 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


On the one hand, it does look like a kind of aimless protest by folks with much less to complain about than the Tunisians or Syrians. What's more, our safety net makes it difficult to feel the effects of inflation at the grocery store for a food-related crisis.

What "safety net"? You mean the whole year (give or take a few weeks depending on the state we live in) of unemployment benefits people can draw on? Unless they're in Florida and test positive for drug use? Or unless their employer says they fired them with cause? There's not really much of a safety net anymore. Clinton helped fix that with his welfare reforms. I don't know why people keep saying there is.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:18 PM on September 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


HATES BANKS...

...MOCKS PROTESTORS FROM COMFORT OF OWN HOME.
posted by entropone at 7:18 PM on September 20, 2011 [27 favorites]


This is a real non-event
posted by knoyers at 7:18 PM on September 20, 2011


Don't forget, fictitious capital fans, you can download Doug Henwood's Wall Street, a tour-de-force which he's been giving away free (or for a well-earned donation).
posted by Abiezer at 7:19 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


But, climate change activism/environmentalism/anti-corporate protest isn't the civil rights movement.

No, actually, environmental/corporate regulation activism is very much tied to civil rights, as you might understand if your neighborhood was downwind of a toxic processing plant and the rich white neighborhood wasn't, or if your tribe's lands were clear-cut or strip-mined for uranium. Or if your water rights were commodified or polluted by a large corporation that had bought off your senator.

Exploitation and oppression intersect in many ways.
posted by emjaybee at 7:21 PM on September 20, 2011 [26 favorites]


At least these people got off their asses.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:23 PM on September 20, 2011 [28 favorites]


Yeah, I'll stop by on my way to the office tomorrow, gotta remember to stick my Guy Fawkes mask in my briefcase before bed, I know I'll forget in the morning.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:29 PM on September 20, 2011


Hey so it's really easy to sit down behind your computer and criticize the methods and actions of those taking part in Occupy Wall Street.

It's a lot harder to actually do something, especially if you generally agree that Something ought to be done.

I applaud them for trying, and I encourage anybody who thinks it can be done better to join them and, via their presumably open and nonhierarchical decision making structure, improve what they're doing.

It'll be a lot cooler than complaining on the internet.
posted by entropone at 7:32 PM on September 20, 2011 [31 favorites]


I occupy wall street by working there. Feels bad man.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:35 PM on September 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


Yes, entropone! I want to favorite your comment millions of times.

Instead, I will say this: okay, sure, there are some legitimate critiques to be made of this style of protesting. And Goddess knows the movements against corporate domination need new ideas, new tactics, new visions, new participants.

But you know what's even less effective than cargo cult replications of the Sixties? Cynical comments on the Internet.

So, please, consider going out there and doing something. Anything. Do something that inspires you about something that makes you angry. I don't care if that involves putting on a black bandanna or writing a letter to your Congressperson/the editor of your local newspaper or getting together with your friends and neighbors to work together to meet your own and each other's needs. I mean, some of those things inspire me more than others, but we're going to need a lot of people doing a lot of different things to change anything.
posted by overglow at 7:42 PM on September 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


So, please, consider going out there and doing something. Anything. Do something that inspires you about something that makes you angry.
posted by falameufilho at 7:45 PM on September 20, 2011


I'd like to counter falameufilho's link directly above (cause, like, lone nutbags really DO speak for broad, progressive movements, AMIRITE?) with this little photoessay on the demo that someone posted.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:53 PM on September 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


They have to google it because yahoo is blocking their communications.
posted by Hoopo at 7:57 PM on September 20, 2011


I really cannot believe that the NYPD actually brushed off a 150 year old law to bust the "occupiers". That's just ridiculous.
posted by dejah420 at 7:57 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Flapjax: The point, lost on you, was that contrary to overglow, entropone and others are saying on the thread, getting off your ass and going to the street to make your voice heard is not an Universal Good Thing. There's an inner checklist of things a reasonable human being needs to go through before skipping work to bang a drum on a street corner.

Thanks for the photoessay, though - loved the guy holding a sign "BAIL OUT STUDENT DEBT". Made for a hearty laugh.
posted by falameufilho at 8:00 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Awl report that homunculus linked to reads weirdly like an account of a Tea Party rally--equally earnest, clueless and scattered, except with way more peanut butter.
posted by superquail at 8:01 PM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


broadway bill that gave me pause too in that it seemed more than a little hyperbolic, but I included it in the post not because I agreed with the comparison, but because it honestly does seem that, as their site says, the impetus for this action arose from and admiration for those revolutions.

I applaud them for trying, and I encourage anybody who thinks it can be done better to join them and, via their presumably open and nonhierarchical decision making structure, improve what they're doing. This is my take as well. I'm sick in bed with a flu, but will be heading out to join them Thursday night with a group that's coming from a talk by Ivan Marovic from Otpor! . I think his theory that the two major roadblocks that keep people keep from participating in acts of civil resistance are fear and apathy may need to be broadened to include the fear that the protest may be lame or like totally filled with dorks and trust fund hippies.
posted by stagewhisper at 8:03 PM on September 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


They should try to get closer to Wall Street though, they are like 5 blocks away.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:06 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I know so many people like this. They protested the Iraq War, they protested 'coal seam gas mining', they protest this and that. It doesn't make a difference, since their life is essentially good. But they get a nice self-righteous glow out of it so yay?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:06 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's an inner checklist of things a reasonable human being needs to go through before skipping work to bang a drum on a street corner.

Hey! For some of us, work IS banging a drum on a street corner!

Although we generally prefer the term "playing" a drum.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:09 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I know so many people like this. They protested the Iraq War, they protested 'coal seam gas mining', they protest this and that. It doesn't make a difference, since their life is essentially good. But they get a nice self-righteous glow out of it so yay?

I know a lot of people who've had that said about them and it's the furthest thing from the truth.
posted by entropone at 8:10 PM on September 20, 2011 [11 favorites]


They should try to get closer to Wall Street though, they are like 5 blocks away.

Maybe read some of the links (or just the text?) in the original post and you'll see that they've been barred from the start from getting closer. If the numbers surge and it becomes less peaceful then I guess there's a possibility it could move closer but right now that doesn't seem to be an option.
posted by stagewhisper at 8:11 PM on September 20, 2011


I know so many people like this. They made fun of the protesters of the Iraq War, they made fun of the protests over 'coal seam gas mining', they ridicule this protest and that. It doesn't make a difference, since their life is essentially good. But they get a nice self-righteous glow out of it so yay?

I know, right?
posted by stagewhisper at 8:13 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Alright, I'll bring it closer to home. The one issue I care enough about to protest is the Internet filter. But the only street activists protesting it here were 4chan Guy Fawkes types, which only gave free speech opponents more ammunition to paint us as perverts.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:13 PM on September 20, 2011


It doesn't make a difference, since their life is essentially good. But they get a nice self-righteous glow out of it so yay?

Uh, no. Not yay. If you're really that down on the very act of protesting, if you're really that mistrustful and disdainful of people's intentions and motivations, if you're really that ready to dismiss all political protest actions and protest movements with a wave of your cynical hand, there definitely ain't no yay, brother. And you're definitely part of the problem.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:14 PM on September 20, 2011 [11 favorites]


The one issue I care enough about to protest is the Internet filter.

Well, isn't that just peachy, then, that everything else, you know, is just A-OK! What a contented fellow you must be!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:15 PM on September 20, 2011 [10 favorites]



Uh, no. Not yay. If you're really that down on the very act of protesting, if you're really that mistrustful and disdainful of people's intentions and motivations, if you're really that ready to dismiss all political protest actions and protest movements with a wave of your cynical hand, there definitely ain't no yay, brother. And you're definitely part of the problem.


I spent 3 years in a New England liberal arts college. I live in an inner city Sydney suburb. I know this crowd. This isn't the Arab Spring. It isn't organized union activism. It isn't a civil rights protest or something like Slutwalk or a gay pride parade. It's a fun weekend activity for a group of trust-fund hippies and hipsters.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:16 PM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


As Kalle Lasn, the editor-in-chief of Adbusters, wrote in the Guardian:

Oh, fuck Adbusters
posted by KokuRyu at 8:16 PM on September 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Can you give us a bit more to go on there, KokuRyu?
posted by mediareport at 8:26 PM on September 20, 2011


Damn dude, I read the text. These days on Wall Street You got car bomb barriers and bomb dogs on every corner. People have to go through metal detectors to go to job interviews.That shit is barricaded even on good days. My point is there are parks closer to Wall Street than Zucotti Park. If it was me I would go over to Stone Street, disrupt some "business lunches". I am trying to offer the perspective that they are so far away nobody will even see them. They are closer to ground zero for god's sake.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:27 PM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


You know who did a really good job of confronting people on Wall Street? The Wonder Showzen Beat Kidz.
posted by Hoopo at 8:34 PM on September 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Can you give us a bit more to go on there, KokuRyu?

It's negative, hypocritical, and misogynistic, for a start.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:35 PM on September 20, 2011


Figured out what this needs: More Longshoremen.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:42 PM on September 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Adbusters is misogynistic? I haven't seen the magazine since my university days, when did that happen?
posted by Hoopo at 8:44 PM on September 20, 2011


“Raise our allowance!”

“Extend summer vacation!”

22 children from Nerima’s Kami-Shakuji Children’s Center in Tokyo took to the streets in a “Children’s Pride” demonstration after writing their own demands on placards.

The Children’s Center is linked to an artist’s studio that helps the children with these activities. The aim, say the artists, is to raise awareness of their feelings in society.

As they approached a yakitori stand on the corner, one child abruptly changed his chant to, “I want to eat yakitori!”, “I want to eat yakitori!”, as adults on the street observed the spectacle warmly.
posted by shii at 8:45 PM on September 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Okay, Gotcha Ad hominem.
posted by stagewhisper at 8:46 PM on September 20, 2011


I WANT TO EAT YAKITORI
posted by Hoopo at 8:47 PM on September 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Reading that Ivan Marović of Otpor! Is in New York gave me some hope. I totally respect Otpor! Those people brought down Milošević.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 8:53 PM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Fair point, falameufilho (although what you were trying to say wasn't clear to me until you made it more explicit with your second comment). In trying to make a broad appeal, I probably did leave out an important caveat. I'm curious, what would you say is on that inner checklist?
posted by overglow at 8:58 PM on September 20, 2011


mediareport: "Can you give us a bit more to go on there, KokuRyu?"

No, fuck Adbusters is about right.
posted by falameufilho at 9:04 PM on September 20, 2011


The one issue I care enough about to protest is the Internet filter.

So, the difference between your daft and ignorable concerns and these peoples' allegedly daft and ignorable concerns is that they've actually gone out and done something? And you're down on them about that?

Yay for you.
posted by pompomtom at 9:11 PM on September 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


they lost me ...
posted by H. Roark
And we should be surprised why?

Okay, anyway this thing seems poorly planned and promoted.
In general, the fact that there's no meaningful thing for the average person to do in the midst of what increasingly appears to be a very bad situation is an indictment of American democracy. You can't engage in meaningful direct action, you can't channel your energies into electoral politics, and you can't ignore the problem because it just keeps getting worse.
Right exactly. The democratic and republican parties are completely beholden to wallstreet. If you want to do anything about it, well tough luck. In November you get to pick between two wallstreet approved parties, and on the democratic side in 2012 you don't even get to pick a presidential nominee. The game seems rigged, and Wallstreet is the central point of contention.

One of the interesting things that people probably don't know is that there was going to be a major protest of the bailouts and so on promoted by liberal 'netroots' groups when it happened. But soon after that all the energy in that movement got sucked up by the 'tea party'. Even weirder was the fact that it was sparked by a wallstreet derivatives trader, right on the trading floor (okay, technically he was in Chicago) -- so the right wing wallstreet sycophants and cronies actually harnessed the anger at themselves and turned it into a weapon against Democrats. It was actually kind of interesting to see because it shows how effective they are at manipulating public opinion.

In a sense they've beaten the democratic system. Unlike somewhere like China where totalitarian regimes have to limit speech to stay in power, in the U.S. they just own the loudest voices. The elected government has a lot of statutory power, but because of the way campaign finance works anyone who wants to run has to suck up to them in order to even have a chance to win. Democrats and Republicans argue about minor reforms that won't affect Wallstreet's bottom line

Now obviously a couple of hippies in a park in NYC aren't going to accomplish anything. But look at something like the mass movement that Obama mobilized in 2008. If he had called for mass protests right after the election, he could have gotten them.

Or look at the Rally to Restore Sanity. That was a corporate sponsored rally, and hundreds of thousands of people showed up. But what was the message? Something so bland and inoffensive (not to mention vague) it would never scare away corporate advertisers. If people like Stewart and Colbert were protest the way they did that rally, it would probably have a lot more people. But why would they?
Hasn't the whole "workers control the means of production" thing been tried before?
Wallstreet doesn't produce anything.
posted by delmoi at 9:13 PM on September 20, 2011 [18 favorites]


Why do people think doing anything is better than doing nothing? That's like, never true. For anything. Protests aren't graded on effort or good intentions, and their inevitable failure isn't consequence free. Public protest has become a ridiculous joke because of protesters irresponsibly squandering its inherited social capital on stupid self-indulgence. Sniping on the internet is unquestionably better than making the cause look weak and silly and pathetic over and over and over.

Also, fuck Adbusters. Cultural Jam is literally the dumbest book.
posted by Ictus at 9:15 PM on September 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


overglow writes: In trying to make a broad appeal, I probably did leave out an important caveat.

I can't think of what that would have been, based on falameufilho's link, other than, maybe: "don't do this if you are a blatant anti-Semite nutbag who is likely to hold up some sort of "IT'S ALL CAUSA TEH JEWS" sign. But I think it's reasonably safe to say that, when addressing your fellow Mefiers, you probably needn't bother with such a caveat.

See, falameufilho, that's why your point wasn't, as you maintained, lost on me. With your link, you were directing us to exactly such a looney-bin type, in order to say that a call to action may not be such a good idea. Cause that guy might show up. Or that we might be that guy.

But, really, what kind of argument is that? If we're always afraid that some loose screw might show up at our demonstration, well, heck, no demonstration will ever get organized! And hey, following your logic would mean that we should probably stop representative government, since, after all, we have an increasing number of wackos running for and holding political office.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:24 PM on September 20, 2011 [12 favorites]


Interesting, tangentially related: Chamber of Commerce sues NLRB to block new rule requiring union posters in workplace

Their entire approach to political control hinges on manipulating our access to information and the media, delmoi, just like you said.

In this case, how much tax money will end up flushed down the drain on this frivolous lawsuit from the Chamber of Commerce designed just to keep workers from seeing posters that might inform them of what their rights under US law already are. Actively suppressing people's knowledge of their own rights--why isn't that illegal?
posted by saulgoodman at 9:25 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


So do the people saying "Fuck Adbusters" actually disagree with anything that Lasn calls for in the linked opinion piece? Or is it just a reflex?
posted by overglow at 9:34 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


emjaybee, I absolutely agree that environmental activism/corporate regulation activism is a civil rights issue, but this isn't the civil rights movement. The issues are way more complicated/impersonal. In the civil rights movement, you had actual people who were victims of legalized oppression/brutality, protesting at places where their rights were abridged, against the very people who were taking away their rights. That takes a lot of courage to perform that protest, but it also communicates a story in very stark, simple terms that anyone can understand, both intellectually and morally.

Regarding issues of environmental/corporate misconduct, we ALL face the consequences, but poor and minority communities disproportionately so. Unfortunately, these issues are much harder to illustrate effectively. To take environmentalism as an example, you have innumerable victims of pollution, but the effects of pollution often take years to appear (excluding cases like Bhopal), and when they appear, you don't have a police officer siccing a dog on you/emptying a firehose on you to offer up as a visual metaphor. You have a twisted chain of causality that leads back to a faceless organization dumping a chemical somewhere. It is a tragedy, but it doesn't register with people in the same way the civil rights movement does. And (wealthy white) people dressing up in Guy Fawkes masks doesn't help. It just confuses/angers the people watching at home.

So, yes, it is a civil rights issue... it is THE civil rights issue of our generation, and this is why we need to get it right when looking for ways to communicate what is going on to people watching at home. I think protests are awesome, but they don't accomplish what we NEED them to accomplish, and maybe we need to divert a few resources that we put into protesting into finding what does accomplish something. (That also applies to me diverting resources spent ranting on the internet towards finding ways to help)
posted by baniak at 9:37 PM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sniping on the internet is unquestionably better than making the cause look weak and silly and pathetic over and over and over.

...yeah, because being afraid of looking weak or silly (or shrill) has served the progressive viewpoint so well over the last 10 years.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:49 PM on September 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Overglow: those two options afe not mutually exclusive.
posted by falameufilho at 9:52 PM on September 20, 2011


So do the people saying "Fuck Adbusters" actually disagree with anything that Lasn calls for in the linked opinion piece? Or is it just a reflex?

Just a reflex. It's just a hectoring, hateful mag, and they can all go to hell.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:57 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Successful protests accomplish media attention- attention for causes that's hard to get otherwise. I know that I've only become aware of certain human rights issues, environmental issues, etc. due to media coverage of protests related to those topics. To say they don't accomplish anything at all other than making protesters look silly isn't really true.

Yes, a sizable part of the population will read about a protest or watch video clips and have their predetermined stereotypes about "whiny privileged white people" (have you *been* to any NYC protests? There's usually a fairly diverse crowd) reinforced, but others might become more aware of the alternative voices and views surrounding various social or political issues.
posted by stagewhisper at 10:00 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


posted by vicx at 10:29 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


our safety net

lol, good one
posted by adamdschneider at 10:31 PM on September 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Well, it started with Karl Marx, who gave ideas to Lenin and Mao Tse-tung, who gave ideas to Kim Il-sung, Fidel Castro, Ho Chi Minh, and the Khymer Rouge.

Things went very poorly for those people under the revolution that brought them "workers controlling the means of production".
"

Gosh, Argyle, that's a really, really simplistic rendering of that phrase and of these protests, and one I'm a bit disappointed to see coming from you.

You're wrong in starting it with Marx; you're wrong about the chain of causality you posit; you're wrong in essentially tarring a whole bunch of disparate movements with one ad hominem brush.

It's as silly as implying that assembly lines are dangerous because Ford was a Nazi.
posted by klangklangston at 10:46 PM on September 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


"But the only street activists protesting it here were 4chan Guy Fawkes types, which only gave free speech opponents more ammunition to paint us as perverts."

This is the sort of baffling statement that is so lacking in self awareness I can't believe you could simultaneously think it and type it.

Better to reinforce the pervert thing by staying home, right?
posted by klangklangston at 10:49 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


of course these people didn't really do anything. of course the cops showed up, from what i understand, which is kind of difficult to account for within that perspective but okay, they didn't do anything, fine

however, i am finding it difficult to not be irritated with the self-righteousness of fucking ascii-art-farts all-caps-talking "auntie pixellante" and this
And man oh man, do nerdy white liberals get ever so nervous when that shit really goes down.
which might have some kind of goodish intent behind it buuuut really does seem kind of creepy and racist in a way i'm having trouble putting my finger on, and that this dude quoting "pixellante" thinks "[consumerism] gives me cool stuff"? and this shit about marx and the khmer fucking rouge

basically i will admit they (protestors) are probably pretty dumb, but you know at least they aren't fucking gross

the backlash against this is just so weird and resentful. it bugs me in a special way that is hard to exactly describe.

then there is this weird beef with adbusters?? what is up with that? what the fuck is going on here and why is it making my skin crawl
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 10:53 PM on September 20, 2011 [6 favorites]



"But the only street activists protesting it here were 4chan Guy Fawkes types, which only gave free speech opponents more ammunition to paint us as perverts."

This is the sort of baffling statement that is so lacking in self awareness I can't believe you could simultaneously think it and type it.

Better to reinforce the pervert thing by staying home, right?


There were 3 Channers in the city. One... whatever I am wasn't going to make much difference.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:54 PM on September 20, 2011


"[consumerism] gives me cool stuff"?

would your life really be better without consumerism and globalization? America could stand to be more socialist - I'm loving the benefits a socialist style country gives me - but declaring war on 'consumerism' is about as handy as declaring a war on terror.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:55 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I want to chime in in support of this action. 400 people in this country have as much wealth as the bottom 50%. Think about that for a minute. I know some of the criticisms here have been that the demands are imprecise or that the mechanisms for achieving their goals are unclear, but I think, usually, those kinds of complaints are made by people who aren't doing much to change things themselves.

I really encourage people to watch this youtube video by Stephen Lerner, one of the architects of the Justice for Janitors movement that helped transform conditions for subcontracted janitors in cities across the United States. In it, he calls for mass actions, like this one, designed to "create a crisis for the super rich." You may say, this action isn't big enough, they aren't messaging it right, or we can make fun of consensus decision making, but these people are in the streets, organizing and thinking about how to create a social movement. if you want it done differently, do it.
posted by stewieandthedude at 10:57 PM on September 20, 2011 [19 favorites]


The first time I saw this being promoted, it seemed like they were an official Adbusters campaign... so I immediately thought "um... no.". And the pompous and grossly inaccurate self-comparisons with the Arab Spring just grate.
posted by Bwithh at 10:58 PM on September 20, 2011


I thought they were reenacting that Rage Against the Machine video
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:10 PM on September 20, 2011


it's just a weird kind of thing to say and it's even weirder in context LiB (ps without "globalization"? pls clarify)

also, this "pixellante" person makes fucking flash video games for adult swim, for god's sake. who the fuck cares what they have to say about anything esp. who is "entitled", jesus fucking christ. "entitled" is becoming the same kind of wordfart as "first world problems".

everybody is entirely too enamored with the "arab spring" mystique, these dudes appropriating it may just be a symptom of that

i mean honestly, who deserves more scorn, a dumb kid in a fawkes mask who wants to do something/anything, or some chubby spiteful goon in a sparse condo full of ressentiment and pique at the kid
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 11:12 PM on September 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


it's just a weird kind of thing to say and it's even weirder in context LiB (ps without "globalization"? pls clarify)

I just remember anti-globalization protestors at my college. My life would SUCK without globalization.

also, this "pixellante" person makes fucking flash video games for adult swim, for god's sake. who the fuck cares what they have to say about anything esp. who is "entitled", jesus fucking christ. "entitled" is becoming the same kind of wordfart as "first world problems".

No, she's an activist, videogame theorist and blogger who independently designed games until she got good enough to be picked up by Adult Swim.

Can anyone tell me, in plain terms, what this action was protesting?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:20 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


would your life really be better without consumerism and globalization?

It's not an either/or proposition.
Personally I am sick of being referred to as a consumer and a taxpayer. Like the only real relation I can have to the society I inhabit is based on how much access to capital I have. So, there is nothing wrong about having a conversation about consumption in our society, it doesn't automatically mean collective farms in the Ukraine circa 1937.

And it seems very obvious that they are protesting Wall Streets near complete takeover of the US's political and economic structures.

This explains it much better.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 11:30 PM on September 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


Can anyone tell me, in plain terms, what this action was protesting?

Interestingly, that's exactly the semi-disingenuous question that right-wingers & talkback radio hosts ask whenever there's any similar kind of protest, like against the G7 or IMF or World Trade Talks or whatever.

Part of the entire point of these kinds of protests is that they are not hierarchical, there is no leader, there is no spokesman, and people can converge together with different aims & motivations.

The result can make for an easy target: "what are they protesting for or against? Why are their statements internally inconsistent? Gah, this is too difficult to think through, I'm just going to deride & then ignore it"

By way of disclaimer, I'm sympathetic to the Adbusters cause. It's about the only magazine I know of that's like a blast of fresh air, coming from a completely different place to anything else you might find on a newstand. Having said that, it's endlessly repetitive, so I no longer subscribe.

I don't think anybody ever claimed it is anti-consumer or anti-market. It's more about trying to reduce the excesses of OVER-consumption, or poor labour conditions, or concentrations of wealth or power, big pharma & Monsanto, the ubiquity of advertising, or of neoliberal economic paradigms that ignore social or environmental costs. They're in favour of the "triple bottom line", I guess, and addressing social injustices.

Attacking Wall Street, in that sense, would be attacking one of the symbols & powerhouses of the worship of abstract "wealth" that is simultaneously seen as a cause & a symptom of so many social & environmental issues around the world today.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:39 PM on September 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


anotherpanacea writes: On the one hand, it does look like a kind of aimless protest by folks with much less to complain about than the Tunisians or Syrians. What's more, our safety net makes it difficult to feel the effects of inflation at the grocery store for a food-related crisis.

Certainly some people in the US have less to complain about than the Tunisians and Syrians. But so what? Are you implying that therefore they shouldn't raise their voices? That's ridiculous bullshit.

Some people obviously have some pretty serious problems, for example:
1. Troy Davis, who apparently is going to be executed for a crime he did not commit. He's just one of many.
2. The tens of thousands of Americans raped, in prison every year which is now considered a joke. Hah hah rape, how hilarious!
3. The people living in homeless camps popping up all over the nation.
4. Americans (many in the middle class) being deprived of their homes by banks acting without proper authority, by leadership that was almost certainly acting fraudulently, and by financial institutions that have probably dodged billions in taxes
6. 30 years of stagnant wages for middle class America.
7. Poverty is at record levels, and African American and Latino poverty rates that are double that of Whites.
8. The concentration of wealth.
9. Food stamp usage at an all time high while conservatives complain about the program being no good. They want to cut the program. I'm sure Obama will defend the program by telling us how sacrifices are necessary, and how hard it is, and then he'll slash it in the name of stopping the deficit. Yeah for starvation, that'll teach those lazy fucks!
10. All those promises about the earning power of higher education turn out to be lies, as it looks like young people are saddled with increasing amounts of debt that they can't pay. That'll teach them to be responsible, and fuck them, it's their fault for going to school and getting useless degrees, smoking pot, being on Facebook, when they should have been engineers. But wait! Those engineering jobs are being outsourced! Well it's time for those stupid kids to take some initiative, start reading Tom Friedman and start studying Hindi so they can move to India and grab the opportunities offered by our new multiregional global economy! Well then, if they work really hard, college students can get venture funding like those smart guys at Stanford and become millionaires! That's right, it's a brutal fight to be the winner and if you don't make it, fuck you!

Yeah let's just compare ourselves to Third World basket case dictatorships and use THOSE as the standard. Let's not protest now, we might look stupid!

Talk about "first world problems," worrying about looking stupid is definitely one of them. Fuck that shit.
posted by wuwei at 11:42 PM on September 20, 2011 [56 favorites]


Attacking Wall Street, in that sense, would be attacking one of the symbols & powerhouses of the worship of abstract "wealth" that is simultaneously seen as a cause & a symptom of so many social & environmental issues around the world today.

Right. So they stand for nothing, and everything. They stand for so many things that people who would be sympathetic to some parts of their manifesto might not be sympathetic to others.

They left needs a sharp, clear messege. Standing up for Labor rights or against the vampire squid banks is good, and would get people on their side. But these things attract everybody, and they go from 'stop hurting the little guy' to 'and band GM food, legalize pot [which I'm for, but you see my point] and free Mumia'.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:42 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


They stand for so many things that people who would be sympathetic to some parts of their manifesto might not be sympathetic to others.

And this is different from mainstream political parties, and from our entire electoral process how, exactly?
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:45 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


They stand for so many things that people who would be sympathetic to some parts of their manifesto might not be sympathetic to others.

And this is different from mainstream political parties, and from our entire electoral process how, exactly?


they're trying to capture mainstream attention and get something done, though.

To take something effective that I don't agree with, look at the Ban Live Export campaign. they wanted to ban live export of animals. they pushed that message publicly and through political channels, and they got live export banned.

Hell the animal rights movement, for all that I dislike them, are great at this. what do PETA stand for? what do Sea Shepard? you KNOW. what does the Labor Movement stand for? the unions? the Greens? again, you can tell me that quickly.

the USA needs a good, populist group pushing for more workers rights and more compassion to the poor. this isn't it.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:47 PM on September 20, 2011


Right. So they stand for nothing, and everything. They stand for so many things that people who would be sympathetic to some parts of their manifesto might not be sympathetic to others.

They left needs a sharp, clear messege.
No no, what the left needs is more complaining about itself
posted by delmoi at 11:55 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


They left needs a sharp, clear messege.

but earlier:

I know so many people like this. They protested the Iraq War, they protested 'coal seam gas mining', they protest this and that. It doesn't make a difference, since their life is essentially good.

You seem to be collapsing under the weight of your own contradictions. What exactly are you arguing for, or against?
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:02 AM on September 21, 2011


Whadda you got?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 12:03 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


kittens. in little sailor moon costumes.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:05 AM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Whadda you got?

Clearest, most honest and telling comment I've heard from LIB yet.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:05 AM on September 21, 2011 [10 favorites]


oh, i forgot. you hate animals.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:06 AM on September 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


But if this was an animal rights protest, we wouldn't be arguing about the form of the protest as much (unless it was another PETA controversy generator). Remember the stevedore protest? We argued over what they were protesting. This 'occupying Wall Street' thing wasn't even that.

Besides, Anonymous is more effective when it is a shadowy Internet vengeance machine.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 12:16 AM on September 21, 2011


I notice that @OccupyWallStNYC now has a wallpaper with the question, "WHAT IS OUR ONE DEMAND?"

Are they mocking us? Is this all some kind of elaborate troll?

Also: "Member of legal team's wife's birthday. He spent it here defending us. Can somebody send a cake here tomorrow? #needsoftheoccupiers"
posted by shii at 12:27 AM on September 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


What are you rebelling against?
posted by Ad hominem at 12:27 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


u mad bro? Dude, it's 4chan.

Now they are chillen in the park getting free cakes. I say resist the occupation.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:39 AM on September 21, 2011


I'm just kidding, I don't think all the protesters are /b/ perverts.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:43 AM on September 21, 2011


Class Warfare: Wall St. Protesters Fire First Shots

Aha! I think I understand. These protesters are just pawns in Obama's socialist Class Warfare campaign against America's Job Creators.

This will not stand. Someone should tell Breitbart it's time to grab his guns and head down to Wall Street. While he's keeping the protesters busy, Sheriff Arpaio will be searching for the final proof that Obama isn't a real citizen, thus ensuring either Bachmann or Perry will be elected in 2012. Then these protestors can be shipped off to the new prison in Bagram while Wall Street can go back to making money for themselves with fewer regulations to get in the way.
posted by homunculus at 1:20 AM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yahoo apologizes on Twitter for blocking emails:
We apologize 4 blocking 'occupywallst.org' It was not intentional & caught by our spam filters. It is resolved, but may be a residual delay
posted by TheophileEscargot at 1:35 AM on September 21, 2011


If you're running a protest like this, what's the best way to make sure your communications aren't blocked?
posted by pracowity at 2:07 AM on September 21, 2011


Carrier pigeon.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:05 AM on September 21, 2011


What about the danger of trained hawks?
posted by pracowity at 3:07 AM on September 21, 2011


The pigeons are just a ruse. While the hawks are attacking, the protesters can use the diversion to sneak out messages on their iPhones.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:11 AM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ah.
posted by pracowity at 3:21 AM on September 21, 2011


i am protesting this protest by having a beer/cheeseburger and raiding w/ my WoW guild
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 4:36 AM on September 21, 2011


Methinks a few of you protest the protesters too much.

The police will only be able to enforce the Wall Street barricades so long as there are few enough protesters for them to control. (Of course, I've actually got a job that I'd like to keep, so I'm not there with them.) It would be cool to see millions of people, homeless and otherwise, from anywhere within mass-transit reach of NYC descend on wall street. NJ Transit, Metro North, LIRR, or by bus. Walk if you have to. Enter the city. Take back the economy.
posted by Eideteker at 5:16 AM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


ha ha people who try to do things are stupid
posted by Legomancer at 5:43 AM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


It would be cool to see millions of people, homeless and otherwise, from anywhere within mass-transit reach of NYC descend on wall street. NJ Transit, Metro North, LIRR, or by bus.

Because people like protesting the biggest source of funds and direct and indirect employment in the local economy? What I'm trying to say is that the average NYer is a lot less angry with Wall Street than I think you think they should be. Probably because its so economically powerful in this part of the world.

(also hint - no one who really matters works downtown anymore. Take over Grand Central or Barricade Park Ave. at 47th St or something)
posted by JPD at 5:46 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Because people like protesting the biggest source of funds and direct and indirect employment in the local economy?

Look, mama! Look! You see it? You see that money? It's trickling down, mama, just like Reagan said it would! Hallelujah!

Yeah, I know, mama, the bank done repossessed the house... but the way that money's trickling down outta those rich people's hands, mama? We'll be outta this here shelter in no time!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:58 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is nothing about what I said that endorses fiscal policies that promote "trickle-down" policies. It was simply a statement that any sort of reasonably enacted changes in regulation must make the banks less profitable. The two areas of the country that will suffer the most from permanently lower profitability are New York City and Charlotte NC. There will be a transfer of wealth from those two places to other areas of the country. For the country as a whole this is almost certainly a good thing, but to expect hordes of NYers to come out in droves in favor of rules that will make their life worse is just the worst sort of naivete. Like it or not, NY is a company town. This is like asking Detroiters to protest for the removal of auto import barriers, maximum size limits, and mandatory higher fuel efficiency.

Its no coincidence that both the trough and peak of living conditions in NYC were concurrent with relative compensation peaks and troughs for the financial services industry.

Again - not an argument against re-regulating the financial sector, just a discussion of why you won't see a million NYers in the street.
posted by JPD at 6:32 AM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I know, mama, the bank done repossessed the house...

again - NY has (amazingly to me) one of the lowest foreclosure rates in the country amongst the larger states.
posted by JPD at 6:34 AM on September 21, 2011


JPD: More than 1 in 4 kids in New York City live in poverty, 38,000 people live in NY's homeless shelter system. Given just those poverty statistics, I'm sure there are plenty of others in NY (though I doubt you bump into them much) whose lives are not going to be discernibly worse by rules affecting hedge fund traders who earn in a single hour as much as it would take the median American family 47 years to earn.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:15 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


...In fact, the poor and middle class in NYC would probably benefit as the enormous local price inflation created by those massive hedge fund trader salaries would reverse and people who don't work on Wall Steet (the poor, the middle class) could actually afford their rent, clothes and food. All that wealth has driven living expenses in NYC up to levels not found anywhere else in the nation.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:27 AM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Klang, you know I'm not an unreasonable guy. I went and read the linkage. Go read again, the five calls to action on A Modest Call. Remember, this is the core group behind the protest, not some wacky offshoot.

Those five call to actions are exceedingly similar to communist calls to action in the past. My point is that communism has failed in terrible fashion, repeatedly, at the cost of millions of lives in the past and continues to do so today.

I'm not opposed to direct action. Direct action can work well when there is a clear defined goal and easy to understand rationale to discuss with others.

The group behind this protest has neither. The Rationale is "I'm angry and feel abused! Fix everything!" and the goal is hand-waving like "to live, to be, to go, to love, to do what you will without the impositions of others".

Look, there is plenty to improve in America.

- Constitutional amendment to limit political contributions to individuals only, no group or corporate donations.
- Elimination of the Electoral College and Winner Take All election process with direct vote instead.
- Allow adults to marry each other.
-Tax code changes to reward long term investment and disincent short term speculation.
-Losing plaintiff pays legal fees reform
-Making corporate officers personal liable for corporate criminal actions
-Removal of the Designated Hitter Rule

I could probably go on, but my point is clear.

The current platform does not resonant with me, and probably with any left-centrists, let alone anyone more conservative. If fact, it frustrates me that once again, extreme ideologues are grabbing the stage to promulgate unworkable and unreasonable solutions.

If it was the Tea Party staging the protest and calling for the dismantlement of the current political structure while getting pizza delivered, it would be mocked endlessly on MeFi. It's the same horse of a different color.

I don't like extremists of any flavor. From their own writing, the protest leaders appear to be communist/anarchist thinkers. IMHO, this is unsupportable.

They have every right to protest, but just because they are protesting things I don't like doesn't mean I should support their ideas.
posted by Argyle at 7:29 AM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is why we can't have nice things revolution.
posted by symbioid at 7:31 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not arguing against the rules. But you aren't going to get a million middle class people out in the street to protest the financial services industry in NYC. You think 38k homeless people are going to be taken seriously? Ignore the fact by definition they've been marginalized, just consider the fact that 38k people couldn't even win a city council election.

Again - people don't understand the math. Its the same reason why we don't have single payer healthcare - if the majority benefit from the current system then you won't see change through electoral politics. Hell look at the civil rights movement - nearly all the good that came from that came from the judicial branch that didn't have to care about politics.

people who don't work on Wall Steet (the poor, the middle class) I think you understate how much of the middle class works in the financial services industry. The ratio of back office to front office folks is something like 10:1 or 8:1. The financial services industry is something like 25% of GDP in the NY MSA just in direct terms. The busiest train station of the LIRR is actually located in a very middle income area of Suffolk County.

Again - not arguing at all against reforming the system, just telling you why it isn't that popular in the New York area.
posted by JPD at 7:32 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Its the same reason why we don't have single payer healthcare - if the majority benefit from the current system then you won't see change through electoral politics.

The majority of people would benefit under a single payer system - more efficient care, greatly lessened chance of bankruptcy due to medical issues, etc. It isn't that the majority benefits more from the current patchwork, it's that people are inherently afraid of big changes.

Hell look at the civil rights movement - nearly all the good that came from that came from the judicial branch that didn't have to care about politics.

That's an odd way of looking at it. The various Civil Rights Acts, the 24th Amendment, the formation of the EEOC and other such organizations, LBJ deputizing federal officers in order to actually enforce desegregation...these are all non-judicial means in which the US government promoted civil rights. While judicial decisions were important, it doesn't make any sense to say that they comprised nearly all the good of the civil rights movement.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:46 AM on September 21, 2011


the goal is hand-waving like "to live, to be, to go, to love, to do what you will without the impositions of others".

Look, there is plenty to improve in America.

- Constitutional amendment to limit political contributions to individuals only, no group or corporate donations.


Silly as their rhetoric might be, they are doing something, and if it IS effective, it'll end up being channeled in ways similar to those you suggest, and if it is not, I don't see any downsides that don't already exist; they're not going to make anything worse. They're not going to inadvertently trivialize or create a backlash against caring about massive unemployment or any of the other serious issues wuwei listed. Worst case they create a nice email and twitter databae that they'll hopefully share with others organizing on these issues.
posted by salvia at 7:47 AM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Argyle, I think the disconnect is that you are attributing the rights abuses of Stalin and Pol Pot to Marx's theories; their atrocities are in fact unrelated to Communist theory as such.

Criticize Communist or Marxist theory if you like, by all means -- I just think people would prefer you did so without blaming it for things it ultimately didn't do.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:50 AM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes, you're probably right, JPD, but they might be better--not worse--off if they actually did do that.

The cost of living in NYC would decrease considerably if there weren't such an unnatural concentration of wealth in the hands of a few. The fact that some people can afford to pay so much more for goods and services throws the market out of whack and grossly inflates the cost of living over what it would be if there weren't such a dramatic concentration of wealth at the top and such a massive gap between the top and the bottom.

Already, the income gap is significant, and those inflated wages that a few enjoy unnaturally raises local living expenses to levels that are much higher than they would be if not for the price distorting effects of those few disproportionately massive incomes.

I'm not saying this protest is necessarily the right vehicle, and my red-baiting sensor is already tingling a little, but I disagree that the poor and middle class in NYC wouldn't see significant mid to long term benefits if Wall Street salaries saw a major correction.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:54 AM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I mean, not that Wall Street is the only factor driving up local prices in NYC, but it's one of the factors. So presumably, there'd be some local deflation in the absence of those relatively few, but disproportionately large Wall Street incomes.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:59 AM on September 21, 2011


EmpressCallipygos, OK, here goes.

Communist and Marxist theory is fundamentally unworkable and incompatible with human behavior.

- Their leadership methods do not work and have inevitably lead to dictatorships.
- People cannot be motivated in the long term by altruism alone.
- Ownership of property should not be decided by government decree.
- Giving according to your ability and being given according to your needs, is a disincentive to hard work and innovation.
- Ignores the basic human drive to provide for themselves and their family first and others second.

Are you really going to try to defend communism as a workable theory in the 21st century?
posted by Argyle at 8:01 AM on September 21, 2011


The problem with going after "Wall Street" as such is: There is a very big subset of "non-bankers" employed by the banks here in New York. (I have had a theory that most of the secretarial staff in many banks consists of actors working as office temps for their day jobs.)

Mind you, I do also think some kind of regulation on the economy is called for, and that the salary disparity between me and the guy whose office i"m sitting outside is unfair. But I would still like some source of income, and right now this is it. Closing this company would not quite be the way to go.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:03 AM on September 21, 2011


Are you really going to try to defend communism as a workable theory in the 21st century?

No, I'm just asking you to criticize it for what it actually is, rather than for what it isn't.

I agree it's not workable, because Marx failed to take the human propensity for selfishness into account.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:04 AM on September 21, 2011


In general, the fact that there's no meaningful thing for the average person to do

The average person could vote in primaries, where there is often a good deal of meaningful choice. They'd rather not. Making primary day a holiday might help, but the median voter really does not want a difficult policy discussion.

New proposal: lifetime disposable income for members of congress is scaled to median household income. Just get the incentives right...
posted by a robot made out of meat at 8:05 AM on September 21, 2011


I thought we were discussing requiring hedge fund traders to pay their fair share in taxes and maybe if possible not enjoy absurdly outsize salaries--is someone talking about shutting down Wall Street forever here?
posted by saulgoodman at 8:06 AM on September 21, 2011


saul: I got that very impression that this was what that was about, yes. Not necessarily from in here, I"ll admit.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:07 AM on September 21, 2011


New proposal: lifetime disposable income for members of congress is scaled to median household income. Just get the incentives right...

Brilliant!
posted by salvia at 8:10 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I agree it's not workable, because Marx failed to take the human propensity for selfishness into account.

I don't actually know a whole lot about Marxist theory (I haven't read Das Kapital or any other source materials, and I've only really read a handful of secondary sources like short essays on Marxism, but isn't the whole basis of Marxist thought the idea that capitalists (which is just whoever has the most economic power in a society) will always be ruthlessly selfish and that this feature of human nature will inevitably lead capitalist economies and societies to collapes/revolution given enough time? I didn't think Marx had a whole lot to say about how things should be, did he? I thought that came later, with Lenin and others?

It's obviously true that any consumption-driven economy run consistently on the principle of shorting its workforce more and more over time to foster growth and maximize profit will eventually lead to unsustainable wealth imbalances and the destruction of its own consumer base. That's just a self defeating way to run an economy, whether it's a Marxist idea or not. And eventually, even globalization won't remedy the problem, because there will be nowhere cheaper left to outsource the labor. Then the only option will be tightening the screws on what's left of the workforce to squeeze out more "growth."
posted by saulgoodman at 8:15 AM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


The majority of people would benefit under a single payer system - more efficient care, greatly lessened chance of bankruptcy due to medical issues, etc. It isn't that the majority benefits more from the current patchwork, it's that people are inherently afraid of big changes.



this isn't the place for this, but I'm under the impression that median health outcomes for the 53% of Americans with private healthcare is superior to median health outcomes for people of similar income levels in single-payer systems. The US stats are worse in aggregate because the health outcomes for the un-insured/ineligible for government funded healthcare are just so so abysmal. This isn't an argument against single-payer at all, but I think the argument for single-payer for people like me is more a moral issue than anything. I'm for a single-payer system, but from a purely selfish perspective I shouldn't be.
posted by JPD at 8:17 AM on September 21, 2011


Brilliant

Yeah, I'm kidding. I started thinking about the spanish practice during the regency: when a town can't pay its taxes go arrest the mayor. The obvious solution was to not pay and elect the town drunk mayor. That would add a delightful twist to elections.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 8:19 AM on September 21, 2011


I'll admit that I'm speaking from a rank amateur's perspective as well, saul - I may very well be attributing things to Marx that Lenin actually came up with. My take is more that "Communism sounds great on paper, but people can just be selfish shits so it wouldn't be able to work quite that way in real life."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:21 AM on September 21, 2011


Are you really going to try to defend communism as a workable theory in the 21st century?

If you scrutinized the foundations and theories behind capitalism similarly, I suspect you'd come to similar conclusions about the impracticality and unsustainability of free or self-regulating markets and corporate legal ownership of means of production.
posted by aught at 8:27 AM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


this isn't the place for this, but I'm under the impression that median health outcomes for the 53% of Americans with private healthcare is superior to median health outcomes for people of similar income levels in single-payer systems.

Even if we say for sake of argument that median health outcomes may be happily comparable - I'd be happy to see a cite for that, if that's an argument - there is still the problem of American health care bankruptcies, as well as how our system is still extremely inefficient financially.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:27 AM on September 21, 2011


A somewhat related piece on Slate about the American Left's historical tendency to self-sabotage...
posted by saulgoodman at 8:30 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


is still the problem of American health care bankruptcies
the bankruptcies are irrelevant to the conversation. The privately insured don't go bankrupt unless they lose their insurance. And then they become part of the large minority that would vote for single payer (or at least should vote for it)

The financial inefficiency doesn't matter at a micro level either, because people are inelastic when it comes to healthcare spending. As long as they believe what they are paying gets them superior care they don't mind.
posted by JPD at 8:42 AM on September 21, 2011


The privately insured don't go bankrupt unless they lose their insurance.

A study published in the American Journal of Medicine found that 62.1% of bankruptcies were medical in nature, and of those, 75% were insured, and of those insured, 60.3% had private insurance. [PDF]
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:51 AM on September 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


Pfft, facts. You can use those to prove anything.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:52 AM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


The financial inefficiency doesn't matter at a micro level either, because people are inelastic when it comes to healthcare spending. As long as they believe what they are paying gets them superior care they don't mind.

Emphasis mine.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:53 AM on September 21, 2011


Everyone benefits from getting health care to everyone else, though. The fewer sick people you come in contact to, the less likely you are to get sick. The cost of not providing preventative care to large sub-populations of society is pretty enormous once you consider lost productivity and the eventual cost of treatment once the issue becomes un-ignorable. Etc. The entire population benefits from universal health care, regardless of whether it directly improves the quality of your individual health care.

Opposing single payer on selfish grounds would only make sense if you consider yourself to be isolated from the society we all live in, that nothing that happens to other people affects you. Which is nonsense.
posted by Arturus at 8:54 AM on September 21, 2011


Everyone benefits from getting health care to everyone else, though.

of course. not arguing that.
posted by JPD at 8:55 AM on September 21, 2011


"The busiest train station of the LIRR is actually located in a very middle income area of Suffolk County."

Wikipedia says it's Penn Station, in Manhattan. Do you have a citation? (I'm actually curious, as a stats nerd. I know where the subway station stats are, but can't find LIRR stats.)
posted by Eideteker at 8:56 AM on September 21, 2011


The police will only be able to enforce the Wall Street barricades so long as there are few enough protesters for them to control.
Then the mass incarceration starts. Remember the NYC republican convention?
New proposal: lifetime disposable income for members of congress is scaled to median household income. Just get the incentives right...
People keep proposing stuff like this. It's really dumb. It will accomplish only three things: Discourage smart people from running for congress when they could be making much better money elsewhere, encourage people who are already rich and don't need extra money to run (although with your variation that wouldn't be a problem) and worst of all, it would make people in congress much, much easier to bribe.

What I would do is increase congressional and senate salary by quite a bit (to make them harder to bribe) and then switch to a 100% public financing system where every citizen has an equal say in who gets funding. There would need to be a mechanism for new ideas to come into play as well.
this isn't the place for this, but I'm under the impression that median health outcomes for the 53% of Americans with private healthcare is superior to median health outcomes for people of similar income levels in single-payer systems.
Why are you under that impression? Also so what? Why take arbitrary silences of the population and look only at those results?
The privately insured don't go bankrupt unless they lose their insurance.
It's called copays bro. Also coverage limits, etc. Medical insurance in the U.S does not pay for everything.
posted by delmoi at 9:03 AM on September 21, 2011


Actually, you know what might make this actually effective if you could get the bodies on the streets? If the point of the whole protest/occupation of Wall Street were to demand that congress immediately repeal the (originally billed as temporary) extra super bonus tax breaks that Bush gave to only the upper income earners, and begin taxing hedge fund income and other forms of capital gains as just plain income like another, then use the extra revenue to pay for Obama's jobs proposal and other job creation efforts.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:04 AM on September 21, 2011


A study published in the American Journal of Medicine found that 62.1% of bankruptcies were medical in nature, and of those, 75% were insured, and of those insured, 60.3% had private insurance. [PDF]


Did you read that piece - it doesn't actually say what you think it says. Actually the biggest risk factor for a medical bankruptcy is being poor, having a history of dropped medical coverage, and loss of income due to contracting a chronic disease. It doesn't disaggregate out people who filed because private insurance didn't cover their bills versus people who lost their private insurance vs lost income.

Those people w. private insurance would have gone bankrupt under single payer as well.


Wikipedia says it's Penn Station, in Manhattan. Do you have a citation? (I'm actually curious, as a stats nerd. I know where the subway station stats are, but can't find LIRR stats.)

Its Ronkonkoma Second is Hicksville - also a middle class town.

As you can see Penn, Flatbush and Jamaica are terminal stations.
posted by JPD at 9:12 AM on September 21, 2011


It's called copays bro. Also coverage limits, etc. Medical insurance in the U.S does not pay for everything.

For most of us it hardly pays for anything, not that people who make a lot of money are exposed to that reality.

And for my part, my employer-provided health insurance premiums are actually threatening to bankrupt me right now, forget any medical emergency: my annual premiums for family coverage is an amount equal to 40% of my net annual income. After taxes and premiums, my take home is only barely more than half of what I pay annually in insurance premiums alone.

And I can't even give up the coverage now because my wife is pregnant, and with our first son, the tab came out to something like $15,000.00, which we could never afford without insurance.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:12 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Most mainstream media coverage has been light, although Democracy Now covered the event yesterday ( bonus: interview with metafilter's own David Graeber at around 22:15)

The interview with Graeber continued after that segment, btw.

David Graeber: The Debt of the American Poor Should Be Forgiven
posted by homunculus at 9:15 AM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


From the point of view of someone who has only recently begun to study Marxism at all, I still think it is fair to say that Argyll's comments are mostly wildly, utterly wrong - he isn't even really arguing with Marxism or Marx at all, more some completely bizarre strawman version of him.

But the funny thing is, six months ago I would probably have agreed with most of the things he says. So I strongly urge everyone on Metafilter who is interested in politics or economics to read the work of left-wing and communist thinkers and engage with it in it's original form. Marx is far from perfect, but:
- he certainly didn't think that people were simply altruistic
- Lenin, Stalin and Mao all heavily changed and adapted his theories because, as far as he was concerned, revolutionary change to communism was not possible in the societies they lived in
- Currently, people have 'property only by government decree': what do you think stops all your property from becoming mine just because I say it is? And anyway, the kind of 'property' Marxists are concerned with is productive property, ie things like land, shares or even slaves - not just chattels or commodities. And those things are underpinned in every society by law, backed up by the threat of violence from the state.
- human beings, as David Graeber points out, behave in communist ways all the time. A purely communist society may not be workable, but almost everyone has uncountable examples from their own life of "from each according to his ability to each according to his need" eg if someone asks for a cigarette or says 'can you help unscrew this jar' or whatever - only someone really weird would respond 'what will you pay me?'

Marx isn't perfect, but the right wing and libertarian responses to him are so crazy, so uninformed and yet so much a piece of 'common knowledge', that you absolutely have to read his work or the work of other Marxists to get any real sense of what they were actually on about.
posted by lucien_reeve at 9:19 AM on September 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


Ignores the basic human drive to provide for themselves and their family first and others second.

Whenever people talk about what human nature essentially and inevitably is, I get pretty skeptical. How do we know what is "essential" and what is culturally specific? It seems to me that human nature is pretty malleable.

And, okay, so let's assume that it's true that humans are intrinsically selfish. So we should create a system that reinforces and exaggerates selfishness to such monstrous proportions that crowds of people cheer the idea of letting an uninsured person die?

Corporate capitalism and old-school communism are not the only two possibilities, not hardly. There's lots of space in between those two, and beyond, and I'm sure lots of ways of organizing societies that we haven't even imagined yet.
posted by overglow at 9:19 AM on September 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


To be clear - I'm for reforming finance regulation and for single payer healthcare. My only point is that calling people dumb or lazy for not supporting those things isn't only not helpful there is actually a reasonable argument that the might be rejecting those ideas out of self-interest. Now I'd argue there are a lot of logical flaws behind the calculus that gets them there in that it ignores the benefits they derive from a stong, just society, but they aren't acting in a way that is actively against their own interests.
posted by JPD at 9:37 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


but they aren't acting in a way that is actively against their own interests

I would still argue that it is against their own long-term interests, just not their short term interests.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:39 AM on September 21, 2011


I would still argue that it is against their own long-term interests, just not their short term interests.


sure in the context of a fairer, more just society is better for them long-term. Problem is people aren't very good at making decisions that are negative up front for a longer-term payoff.
posted by JPD at 9:41 AM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Communist and Marxist theory is fundamentally unworkable and incompatible with human behavior. "

Depends on the form and the population. Further, it's worth noting that Marx, while supportive of revolutionary Communism — something that had been in the political consciousness far prior to Marx — was actually making predictions about the fundamental problems of capitalism. But his greatest boon was a materialist conception of history and the model of class struggle, which was enlarged upon by the Structuralists and Post-Structuralists to include feminism and identity politics, etc. But Marx and Communism aren't really fundamentally unworkable — they've been successful again and again in smaller settings.

- Their leadership methods do not work and have inevitably lead to dictatorships.

I think you may be confused by the phrase "dictatorship of the proletariat" versus the Vanguard Leninist interpretation. The "dictatorship" that Marx refers to is one where an entire class controls the political apparatus; it's often confused with the Roman "dictatorship" in which a small group dictates political policy.

- People cannot be motivated in the long term by altruism alone.

Mother Theresa was making bank? I understand that's not really a fair encapsulation; I assume you meant that "all people" or even "most people," but one of the fundamental beliefs is that by using the political and economic force of communism is that it makes most people better off. Altruism isn't the only motivation; enlightened self-interest counts too.

- Ownership of property should not be decided by government decree.

This is more a broad assertion of your opinion than a coherent statement or premise. Ways that it's wrong: Deeds are already government decrees of ownership; governments have broad powers to appropriate property already; owning property is an exercise of rights-against-others guaranteed by a coercive state (as opposed to rights-in-themselves like free speech); communism broadens ownership; not all communism necessarily removes private property.

I have no problem saying that communist allocation of property can be inefficient, and that humans (all primates, really, and I assume other animals though I don't know) have an impulse to own things. But neither is really an indictment of communist theory nor of workers seizing means of production.

- Giving according to your ability and being given according to your needs, is a disincentive to hard work and innovation.

The Amish don't work hard? I'll give you the innovation point, though I think that the Amish can be pretty inventive when they set their minds to adding new technology without violating their 16th Century precepts. But you're essentially complaining about the free rider problem, which exists in capitalism and democracies too (though to a lesser extent). That's countered by two problems — Is it right to let people starve? We're doing it now in America, where there will always be some with no real ability and special needs. Is it right to say that, e.g. people with mental illnesses should scavenge from trash cans and live in filth because they can't hold jobs? I don't think so. The second problem is that in capitalism, you'll always have rent seekers, who are paid not on their abilities but on the vagaries of a system that allows them to control necessary apparatuses to the detriment of the public.

Further, I know you work hard with your family; I assume they meet your needs. There are plenty of relationships in which keeping a tally of what you give versus what you get is only a recipe for Randroid resentment.


- Ignores the basic human drive to provide for themselves and their family first and others second.

Not really. Communism is orthogonal to families. It does ignore the general human drive to be better than their neighbors (well, doesn't ignore, really, but for this simplified version we can leave it out), but I think you're ignoring the enlightened self-interest again.

Are you really going to try to defend communism as a workable theory in the 21st century?"

Am I going to defend all of communism? No, because it's way too broad to have a meaningful conversation without slipping into simplistic sloganeering. But I do think that your criticisms are pretty wildly overbroad, show a lack of education about the varieties of communism, and sound more like Orange County than Pasadena.

A couple brief things you should note:

Don't conflate Marx with State Communism as expressed; Marx, while advocating toward communism, believed that it had to happen in a post-industrialized economy where the inequality had grown so great that meaningful society collapsed while still leaving the means of production. He was really specifically thinking of England, and Germany as a second. How invested he was in international communism is debatable; he certainly wouldn't have supported Lenin or Trotsky or Mao or Pol Pot (which, if we're including Pol Pot as a communist, you pretty much have to include Hitler as a capitalist; like I mentioned, it's sloppy ad hominem thinking). England is still pretty much the best bet for a communist revolution — the country is small and cohesive enough, and labor protests have a much more respected history there — though the inequality of the US is troubling, but even Russia is still too much of a developing nation.

But confusing Marxist theory with communism as a whole is kind of ignorant of the long history of communism both as a term and as a movement; it's easy to find communist precedent at least as far back as the 1600s with the Diggers, Levelers and True Diggers, and that's just off the top of my head. Further, the variety within communism is as large as it is within capitalism, from religious communities and voluntary communes to the EZLN in Chiapas, to the Spanish Revolution (Orwell's book, Homage to Catalonia talks about the divide between state communists, anarchists and trade unions, and is also excellent and funny).

Marx is undoubtably totalitarian in a way that we should be skeptical of, and many of the state communist projects that we've seen have also been totalitarian, but that doesn't mean either that communism needs to be totalitarian (lots of communist projects exist in capitalist space, e.g. Wikipedia) or that communism itself is unworkable.

(I'll note as a side point that I'm not a communist, and that I've tried to give as much nutshell as possible. If anyone wants to correct me, feel free to.)
posted by klangklangston at 9:53 AM on September 21, 2011 [12 favorites]


Did you read that piece - it doesn't actually say what you think it says. Actually the biggest risk factor for a medical bankruptcy is being poor, having a history of dropped medical coverage, and loss of income due to contracting a chronic disease. It doesn't disaggregate out people who filed because private insurance didn't cover their bills versus people who lost their private insurance vs lost income.

Has your argument has changed from "the privately insured don't go bankrupt" to something different, such as "many medical bankruptcies result from at least one period of lost coverage?"

You said that the privately insured don't go bankrupt unless they lose their coverage. That is obviously not true. While many people do go bankrupt because they have lost coverage, others still go bankrupt even without having lost private insurance coverage. Issues such as being poor and having lost income due to being sick in the first place are irrelevant to your statement that the privately insured don't go bankrupt - those are separate issues, even if it is also true that having less money is generally less helpful than having more money.

Most importantly, pointing out that those who lose coverage can also go bankrupt is also irrelevant to the fact that people with private insurance, even with uninterrupted coverage, can, and do, go bankrupt. Not all insurance plans are created equal, and not all insurance companies cover all conditions and all treatments in responsible ways, and you don't have to be a ditch-digger to wind up stuck with one of those plans.

It's also worth pointing out that in 2007, preexisting conditions were much more powerful, but that is still to the side of your original argument that the privately insured don't go bankrupt.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:05 AM on September 21, 2011


That's a great comment, klang, though I would beg to differ on Marx being a totalitarian. The autonomist writer Hal Draper is good on this:
In a general way, Marx’s socialism (communism) as a political programme may be most quickly defined, from the Marxist standpoint, as the complete democratization of society, not merely of political forms. But the democratic movement of the 19th century began by putting the struggle for advanced political forms in the forefront; and so did Marx, in a different programmatic context. For Marx, the fight for democratic forms of government – democratization in the state – was a leading edge of the socialist effort; not its be-all and end-all but an integral part of it all...

... The characteristic answer to the problem emerging from Marx’s theory was already heralded in his notebook critique of Hegel’s philosophy of right, where he sought to show that “true democracy” requires a new social content – socialism; and it will be rounded off with his analysis of the Paris commune, which showed that a state with a new social content entailed truly democratic forms. Marx's theory moves in the direction of defining consistent democracy in socialist terms, and consistent socialism in democratic terms.
(Elsewhere, he also looks what Marx meant by dictatorship of the proletariat)
posted by Abiezer at 10:15 AM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Aught,

I agree that a nation based solely on capitalism would fail, much as a pure Libertarian nation would fail.

I do believe that a democracy with capitalism as it's economic system is a long term stable foundation for a nation.

I'm a Keynesian and believe that the government does have a significant role in guiding the economy to avoid pitfalls of heading toward overly capitalistic or overly socialistic trouble. (did I just make up socialistic?)

Personally, I feel the greatest problem in the US is the role that political donations play in our political process. It is basically legal bribery that gives the advantage to the wealthy in getting politicians to act on their behalf at the expense of those that do not fund them. I feel this is _the_ fundamental cause of income disparity and our current economic slump.

However, I do believe that the Supreme Court was right to declare political donations as free speech. Thus, I believe the an Amendment is needed to specifically limit the role of donations in our political process. I believe that this change would lead to fundamental reverses in the policies and platforms of both major parties.

Unfortunately, not many people share my view and are more interested in blaming others.
posted by Argyle at 10:23 AM on September 21, 2011


Wow, Klang, you give a spirited defense of Communism. I'm sure it would do well in academia.

But are you really arguing that communism is a viable model for a modern nation state?

Sure, small communities might be able pull it off. There are a limited number of communes formed in the 60s, but the vast majority have failed.

I could go point for point about things like the Amish, who are not communistic and DO work hard to get things that they want that they do not need. They do not need air-power tools or powered threshers, but they go out of their way to earn money to by them to be more productive and utilize innovation.

You are very much discussing the ideas behind communism in an idealistic, wouldn't it be nice, kind of way. I'm discussing it in a practical, would it work, kind of way.

I remain firm in saying that any nation formed on the basis of communist collectivism is born to fail and should not be advocated as a solution to America's problem.

Obviously, this can only be resolved by us getting together, drinking lots of beers, and solving America's problems once and for all. The only question is when? ;)
posted by Argyle at 10:40 AM on September 21, 2011


wuwei: Are you implying that therefore they shouldn't raise their voices? That's ridiculous bullshit.

Err... no. That's why I started with "on the one hand" and then switched to "on the other hand." That's how ambidexterity works. The other hand was about powerlessness, not looking stupid.

That said, precisely because we're not a third-world dictatorship, however, I don't think that the tactics that work in the third-world will work here.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:04 AM on September 21, 2011


People keep proposing stuff like this. It's really dumb. It will accomplish only three things: Discourage smart people from running for congress when they could be making much better money elsewhere, encourage people who are already rich and don't need extra money to run (although with your variation that wouldn't be a problem) and worst of all, it would make people in congress much, much easier to bribe.

I didn't say lower their salary / retirement / tax to median, I said scale. You can keep the expected value the same but let it vary over time to track whatever. I don't see any particular rationale that these things are a problem of the salary level. Congress is full of rich peope, and the rich will always want the power regardless of salary. Congress is rife with bozos and institutional bribery, but thats more because of how electoral politics work than the job pay. You could 10x the pay and nothing would change. Smart honest people aren't staying out of office because the job is unattractive.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 11:27 AM on September 21, 2011


I remain firm in saying that any nation formed on the basis of communist collectivism is born to fail and should not be advocated as a solution to America's problem.

I feel the same way about for-profit corporate collectivism. We need to empower people on the ground in our neighborhoods to become independent owners of the US economy, not fill it with more morally and socially deaf, dumb and blind, money-grubbing robots made out of people and legal code.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:29 AM on September 21, 2011


If people want to start reading Marx, Theories of Surplus Value is a good place to start. I've read chunks of it over the years and it has been helpful in understanding the underlying logic of outsourcing and wage depression.

My primary gripe with Marx is, pace Karl Popper, that Marxism isn't a scientific theory, since it isn't falsifiable. The Marxist teleology of "inevitable" revolution is a belief system masquerading as scientific fact. From this comes the totalitarian impulse of the Marxist-Leninist parties, the idea that they know the True Destination of History, and therefore what they anything they do in its service is excusable.
posted by wuwei at 11:38 AM on September 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Amy Goodwin in today's Guardian on Why 'Occupy Wall Street' makes sense .
posted by stagewhisper at 11:46 AM on September 21, 2011


Rich come lately...

JDP has some good points around how the financial industry fuels the economy.. I'd wager the back office to front office staffing is higher than 10 to 1, but that's fine. In addition, I remember a study done back in 2008 that said that one financial sevrices job also supports 4 non-financial services jobs within the area (food services, custodial, taxis, etc etc) (and yes, I'm going to be completely lazy and not go look it up and find the actual reference).

The main issue I have with this whole thing is the creation of villians to focus the anger of the masses. It's a tried and true formula, and plays well with the lazy and people who are more fundamentalist in their thinking (by that I mean people who refuse to see more than their narrow focus, consider a larger view and a more complex picture).

Ever since the downturn, it's always been 'Wall street' versus 'Main street.' And then we easily villinize the CEO's running large companies as back-room conspirators after any way to steal your money.

Never mind that, if you understand the mechanisms involved in mortgages, reselling and repackaging, you can see the source of the problem were your neighborhood real estate agents and your local mortgage broker who submitted false information, and sold horrible loans to uneducated (not stupid or ignorant, just uneducated about mortgages) people.

That sector is completely unregulated. Then the large companies everyone seems happy to blame, are only using the information they are being given. Should they have verified it? Sure. Could they? No. Because they are reliant upon the people provide bad information to verify. And you're talking about trying to consume an ocean of unstructured information. But these companies were subjected to regulation - and they basically fulfilled that regulatory mandate, but had to use information provided to them from an unregulated source. Fantastic.

Regulation, in many cases, makes it worse for the average person. It is typically proscriptive, inflexible, typically outdated and enacted as a knee-jerk reaction to some unforseen circumstance that resulted from prior proscriptive legislation enacted in the same way.

It forces more costs upon the firms, for no or little actual value. Or the actual problem it is meant to address could be resolved better at lower cost if it wasn't crafted by people who have no idea how financial markets and the back office of the industry works.

This cost and constriction on the ability of firms to function in a profitable way - both for itself and for consumers, results in higher costs to consumers, and cost cutting in the exact areas that are needed to make things more efficient and prevent problems that everyone complains about (i.e. lax recordkeeping, poor oversight, etc) from happening.

The problem is, no one wants to hear any of this kind of drivel. they want easily consumable answers to easily defined problems, and the masses don't want to get a headache or miss American Idol trying to comprehend the facts. And they want cookie-cutter solutions, like 'socialism' or 'Marx' or 'Lenin' that will magically make it all better.
posted by rich at 1:21 PM on September 21, 2011


My primary gripe with Marx is, pace Karl Popper, that Marxism isn't a scientific theory, since it isn't falsifiable. The Marxist teleology of "inevitable" revolution is a belief system masquerading as scientific fact.

There's no "teleology of inevitable revolution" in Marx's writing - he expected rather that the inherent contradictions of capitalism will bring it to crises which represent opportunities for revolution, but knew we have to make that ourselves if it's what we want.
I think the only time he mentioned inevitability of revolution was a phrase was in the polemic Manifesto ("What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.") There have of course been a fair few later Marxists who have made grander claims.
posted by Abiezer at 1:22 PM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


anotherpanacea: thanks for clarifying your position. I still disagree with your now clarified point, because for many people, America IS a less developed country.

rich: no you're wrong that it was the fault of the low level brokers. If you read my previous link about control fraud then you would understand that the housing crisis was driven by senior management profit taking.

Abiezer: Thanks for your contribution, I have marked it as a favorite for later perusal and will respond when time permits me to engage fully with the material.
posted by wuwei at 1:28 PM on September 21, 2011


rich: remember what a curve buster is, from the old-school grading curve systems they had in some college courses? these hedge fund guys and other big money traders with their massively disproportionate incomes are like pricing curve busters, artificially inflating local prices and prices in the economy more generally beyond what's sustainable for lower income folks. That's not vilifying anyone; it's just economics. Also, insofar as the profit maximizing pressures from Wall Street encourage managers to force their work forces to get by on less and less year over year, Wall Street actively subverts the consumer base our economy needs in order not to collapse.

It's not a personal thing against Wall Street, for me at least (although I do sometimes get frustrated with some individuals who are reflexively pro-Wall Street). It's the absurdly short-term thinking way everyone does business now due to Wall Street and the investment banks demands for quarterly profits and perpetually increasing share prices. It's not so much a moral problem as a mathematical one from where I sit: the two systems--Main Street and Wall Street--are pulling in opposite directions, with labor stuck in the middle.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:33 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, and "labor" also includes most consumers. That's why squeezing labor for extra profit is the same thing as undermining your consumer base in the bigger scheme of things.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:35 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have marked it as a favorite for later perusal and will respond when time permits me to engage fully with the material.
I'd best take the time to finally read Popper's The Open Society and its Enemies, which to my shame I never have, though have read a bit of debate about the themes he raises.
posted by Abiezer at 1:36 PM on September 21, 2011


saulgoodman -

Agreed, but Wall Street is playing by the rules forced upon them. Much in the same way regulation like No Child Left Behind forces teachers not to teach, but to teach students how to pass a test, or how they have to answer to school boards populated by parents out for quick fixes that don't know anything about education, administration, or educational practices.

People don't suffer poor short term profits for the promise of long term sustainability - whether it be Wall street or energy, the environment, etc, etc etc.. which is partially an issue with capitalism, but really a problem caused by how regulation is formed and applied. (how do you incentivise markets to seek long term profits over short term results?)

And curve-busting exists in every industry, no? I could say much the same thing about Hollywood stars that find a nice quaint town in Wisconsin, start buying property, driving up local values and property taxes that end up making it too expensive for the down-home folk that lived there to afford their own homes anymore.

Villifying the people who do it versus looking at the mechanisms in play that result in a poor result (in this case, property taxes and revaluations to support local funding), is similarly short-sighted. Those Hollywood stars I'm sure didn't set out purposely to abnkrupt and force out the local citizens from their homes.
posted by rich at 2:09 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


My primary gripe with Marx is, pace Karl Popper, that Marxism isn't a scientific theory, since it isn't falsifiable. The Marxist teleology of "inevitable" revolution is a belief system masquerading as scientific fact. From this comes the totalitarian impulse of the Marxist-Leninist parties, the idea that they know the True Destination of History, and therefore what they anything they do in its service is excusable.

I broadly agree, but I have misgivings about using Karl Popper in support of this idea. Popper's notion of "openness" was borrowed from Hayek and deployed to justify free market policies. The inevitable conclusion is that society should be organized to allow individuals to make their own choices in a market economy, so Popper is essentially saying that any collective moral action is potentially totalitarian.
posted by AlsoMike at 2:37 PM on September 21, 2011


Agreed, but Wall Street is playing by the rules forced upon them. Much in the same way regulation like No Child Left Behind forces teachers not to teach, but to teach students how to pass a test, or how they have to answer to school boards populated by parents out for quick fixes that don't know anything about education, administration, or educational practices.

The rules aren't to blame for companies' tendency to maximize short term profits--profit maximization is just a simple economic fact. Its what business exist to do. The government's rules aren't what make Wall Street greedy and short-sighted. I'd point out (as many times as I have to) that it's only been in the years since we radically deregulated many of our industries, and in particular, the financial sector under Reagan and his predecessors that we've been seeing the income gap grow to historical highs year after year.

And this isn't just about curve busting.

All that surplus wealth concentrated in just a few hands creates massive asset bubbles, as investors look for somewhere to park their money to make more money so they don't lose out to cost of living and currency deflation, which requires various forms of rent-seeking.

They created all those crap investment instruments because there was so much demand for them from investors. Following the logic of the marketplace, they had to.

Why were there people with so much extra money on their hands they were desperate to invest it in whatever they could find that seemed to offer guaranteed returns, without asking a lot of questions about the details? Because there was all that surplus money in just a few hands, and those few were desperate to put it to use in whatever way possible before it lost more value. And that's how the expanding income gap caused by the Reagan/Bush II tax breaks and deregulation directly created the real estate bubble that brought about the financial crisis.

And if we don't bring income back into line, there will only be more of the same--more economic uncertainty indefinitely into the future, until everything collapses with the exhaustion of the consumer base.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:20 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is anyone here arguing that the current concentrations of wealth is fine? Seems to me most people are disagreeing about how to remedy this problem.
posted by Shit Parade at 7:37 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


What's to disagree about? Seems to me we caused the inequality by changing the tax rates on the top earners over the last 30 years. We can fix it, gradually, by changing the rates back and investing the extra revenue in job creation and other programs to spur demand. As long as the tax increases only affect people with lots of suplus capital on their hands (more money than they need to live), it shouldn't negatively impact the majority of us. As much as some of the richest guys out there don't like to admit, the economy doesn't give a damn if its Uncle Sam's dollar or theirs: a buck spent is a buck spent, and money spent on public programs benefits the broadest range of consumers and very quickly enters the economy.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:03 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Occupy Wall Street at Flickr blog. Some good pics.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:31 PM on September 21, 2011


That David Graeber interview is fantastic; it's full of useful stuff:

I think that the easiest way to put what’s going on in perspective is to think of the situation in the '50s under Eisenhower, who was of course a Republican president, when tax rates on the wealthiest were actually 90 percent. I don't remember the economy freezing up and falling apart in the 1950s. In fact, it was booming. In the '60s, the same thing. We're not talking about some radical proposal. We’re talking about inching back, you know, a tenth of the way back to where we were when America was at its wealthiest. So I think that rhetoric [of "class warfare"] is just completely false.
posted by mediareport at 8:44 PM on September 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


All that surplus wealth concentrated in just a few hands creates massive asset bubbles, as investors look for somewhere to park their money to make more money

Are you suggesting that it's all (or largely, or significantly) about multi-billionaire types with all this surplus cash to invest?

Because surely a lot of the speculation is from institutional investors like pension funds and the like. When the GFC hit, I remember a number of local Sydney suburban councils (the lowest rung of government) had their cash reserves wiped out because they parked the odd million or two in investments based on junk derivatives - presumably some officewallah thought "hey, we can get 1% higher interest if we stash our money in this thing rather than in the bank, and I'll get a xmas bonus for thinking of it!"

There must be zillions of similar examples; people making big-dollar investment choices based only on abstract percentage-return data, with no conception of what the actual business is, that's supposedly generating the income to provide the return. Nothing much new in that - surely plenty of stock market investors have zero real understanding of what the companies they invest in actually do, what their strategies are or what markets they operate in. It's enough just to be able to make a guess based on a graph trending upwards or downwards.

Only, when it comes to bizarro derivatives, the link to real-world actual profit-making & productive business enterprises is removed to further degrees of abstraction & separation, and people are too busy chasing the tail of ever-increasing returns to stop & analyse exactly what the hell it is they're buying into.

People having too much spare money to invest is surely a factor, but isn't it the whole abstraction of the market, the stock exchange & its related smoke-and-mirrors wheeling & dealing the larger problem? After all, it should be possible to invest surplus cash wisely in businesses that actually do stuff, if only it were possible to know who they are & not be diverted by flashy hollow baubles promising more, more, more!
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:02 PM on September 21, 2011


The high marginal tax rate in the 1950s was not the actual tax rate: there were enough deductions that the effective tax rate for the top 1% was actually 34%, not 91%. Sadly, this is still higher than what the very rich effectively pay today!
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:16 PM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Goddamit lately. "Reagan and his predecessors successors"
posted by saulgoodman at 9:34 PM on September 21, 2011


It's not just about the billionaires (the institutional investors are a big factor, too), but don't underestimate how much those guys are moving around through hedge funds. As much as 50% of daily stock market trading activity is attributable to hedge fund, according to this FBI fact sheet.

Hedge fund trading tends to be for the benefit of private, extremely wealthy investors.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:44 PM on September 21, 2011


Actually, no, it does look like the hedge funds were huge players in the CDO and derivatives markets when the crash came, so it might actually have been just that 400 or so at the very top that made the crucial difference.

Legally, hedge funds are most often set up as private investment partnerships that are open to a limited number of investors and require a very large initial minimum investment. Investments in hedge funds are illiquid as they often require investors keep their money in the fund for at least one year.

There are institutional investors in the hedge funds as well, but my understanding is private individual investors tended to dominate until post-crash.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:02 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Depends on the hedge fund. And depends on what you're going to term a hedge fund. Most fincial institutions run one or more hedge funds. You might consider a D.E. Shaw or Bridgewater a hedge fund, although they run multiple funds, and allow investing by a wide variety of clients, depedning on the client and fund.

While smaller, targeted hedge funds are usually more exclusively private.

Hedge funds do tend to be for the wealthy, but it's more focused on a strategy. So its nature is not meant for a wide-scale application.

As for the derivatives market... a lot of it was insurance-based. 'Credit Default Swaps' - think about the name. It's insurance against a default. Interest rate swaps trade one owner a guaranteed interest rate in exchange for a variable rate plus a premium.

The problem really isn't in these instruments - it's the panic that happened, the sudden massive devaluation of companies that resulted in unmananageable margin requirements, on top of a highly manual, paper-based process that prevented any quick or even medium-term analysis of actual exposure and to whom.
posted by rich at 6:24 AM on September 22, 2011


The problem is that too much surplus wealth in a few hands and large income inequality gaps--not income inequality in itself, but the grossly disproportional distribution of income inequality--will inevitably wreck an economy. Once only a few individuals have the power to move entire markets just among themselves, all the self-regulating mechanisms of theoretical free market capitalism go out the window, and the economic behaviors of only a few can destroy the health of an entire economy. The collective wisdom of the market means nothing if only 400 individuals control more wealth than the bottom 50% combined. Their mistakes become everyone's problem when income inequality gets this bad.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:10 AM on September 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


I spent a while there on Friday and ended up going back into my studio in Jersey City to collect a lot of foam that could be used for sleeping and sitting on that I'd stockpiled for art projects, and some tarps and other things and then driving them back in to a drop-off point.

If I didn't have contract deadlines to it this weekend I'd probably still be there. My husband and I ended up hanging out on the plaza for a long time that evening, the vibe was peaceful and fun but also very, very organized in an organic way that only appears to be casual and unfocussed. It's civil disobedience that feels approachable, and maybe that's this action's strength, although there were arrests, kettling, and tear gassing earlier today during a march near Union Square that started at Liberty Plaza.

Katjusa Roquette I took a short video clip of Ivan Marović of Otpor! addressing the crowd at Liberty Plaza Friday evening after his earlier presentation at The Yes Lab, but unfortunately my memory card filled up and I was unable to get his full speech. He talked about the importance of staging protests and actions using symbolic places and mining symbolic imagery to do so. Hopefully there's a full version posted somewhere.
posted by stagewhisper at 3:05 PM on September 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh look they're macing bystanders.
posted by griphus at 4:21 PM on September 24, 2011


In this video I'm really curious to know what the woman with the green backback had done to be jumped on and dragged out of the temporary pen like that at approx 03:20.

Here's an edited video of the march from Union Square, and later riot yesterday.
posted by dabitch at 12:53 PM on September 25, 2011


A poster on SomethingAwful explains why white-shirted NYPD officers were macing penned-in women.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:40 PM on September 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


David Graeber: Occupy Wall Street rediscovers the radical imagination
posted by homunculus at 10:10 PM on September 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh look they're macing bystanders yt .

The Police Department’s chief spokesman, Paul J. Browne, said the police had used the pepper spray “appropriately.”
posted by homunculus at 10:19 PM on September 25, 2011


This is nothing like the amazing "Tahrir Square" revolution -- this is more akin to the Syrian debacle.

The people on the front line in NYC are the most beaten down - as like the people of Homs, Syria, they are of a tribe that is neither mainstreamed nor represented in the halls of political/economic power. In both Syria and NYC these protesters are mocked in the state-approved media: "freaks, manipulated puppets, anarchists, mobs, violent maniacs ..." The terms are repeated and repeated ... and flow through everyday conversations and social media.

Egypt's uprising was planned and organized for years; Syria and NYC erupted. You could see the non violent leaders in the Egyptian videos -- chaos and anger is on the faces in Syria and NYC.

There will be no army putting down guns to help the NYC protesters as happened in Tahrir. In fact, the NYC protesters may well face the guns -- as the Syrians do daily. The police actions seen in the videos are representative of the kind of force that can and will be used. It will not get better.

The media will not be drowned out by 'social networks' and alternative media. They are well prepared for this (they are even echoed in this thread; the media have done their work well). The Egyptians had systems to work around the shutdown of the internet; the Syrians still have the official state TV blaring out the government message and keeping the middle class shut indoors. The people in NYC will likely pack up and go home if their cell phones get cut off.

And, then ... there is that majority ... the imaginary 'middle class' (imaginary, because in their own minds they believe they are not poor; they do not relate to these people who claim poverty) These people are key and they are missing. They think they do not have a stake in the NYC battle -- they believe their lives will be fine with just a little tweaking or a change of political leaders.

The Syrian 'middle class' are similar, but at least for a better reason. They were very late in putting their lives on the line ... and some still resist. The Syrian government has been prepared for uprising; two decades ago they demonstrated what they will do to anyone who steps out of line. The risk is very high. Waiting patiently for a chance of an 'internal shift' is easier for the Syrian majority to imagine. It is now getting harder to justify that patience.

The US government/powers are also well prepared for an uprising; they have distributed enough crumbs (and ample threats) to keep the majority docile. They have curtailed rights and increased public acceptance of authority. Still, unlike Egypt, the US does not have a weak dictator, nor grossly intolerable conditions for the "middle class". The people of the US may simply not be able to organize ... even if there was a glimmer of discontent.

As in Syria, the majority in the US watches the revolution from their living rooms and hope that this uprising just doesn't affect them too much -- or, more likely, they ignore the whole thing and just turn their electronic toys up louder.
posted by Surfurrus at 10:20 PM on September 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


The macer of the penned-in women has been identified. Please peacefully and legally write the city to indicate your displeasure, should you feel any.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:46 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Support the Wall Street protestors with some pizza!
posted by homunculus at 12:47 PM on September 26, 2011


'Pepper-spray' officer named in Bush protest claim: Anthony Bologna, NYPD officer named in pepper-spray incident, is accused of civil rights violations at the time of the 2004 Republican national convention protests
posted by homunculus at 7:42 PM on September 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


omg his name is Tony Baloney.
posted by entropone at 11:08 AM on September 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


MSNBC covered the pepper spray incident:
The Last Word, with Lawrence O'Donnell.
posted by wuwei at 1:00 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


falameufilho: "Thanks for the photoessay, though - loved the guy holding a sign "BAIL OUT STUDENT DEBT". Made for a hearty laugh."

Why is that? I am paying my student loans and deal with it as I can. However, going to school, and incurring debt to do so, was a financial decision that until recently was relatively prudent. There's also fairly strong pressure to do so...many jobs require degrees even when they rarely require the level of thinking those degrees pretend to impart. So long as education gets more expensive, jobs more scarce, and workers more "productive" (i.e. doing more and more work with fewer people and less money) student debt is going to be par for the course for everyone unfortunate enough not to be born with wealthy parents or relatives.

Compare that to Wall Street, which for the past 10 years has shown to be really only succesful at a) concentrating, consolidating, and even multiplying risk, b) paying for that risk with taxpayers' money (and the money of countless middle class investors in the form of 401k and IRAs) and finally c) extracting whatever is left and putting it into the pockets of a small group of people.

Also, come on businessmen. We get that you make a lot of money, but why must you be assholes on top of it? It's like wearing a suit means you don't have to treat anyone else with respect. What is up with that?
posted by Deathalicious at 9:43 PM on September 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


Is the Near-Trillion-Dollar Student Loan Bubble About to Pop? Student loans have been going up since the recession began--and now defaults are up too. Something has to be done, but what?
posted by homunculus at 10:14 PM on September 27, 2011


An excellent Glenn Greenwald essay in Salon:
What's behind the scorn for the Wall Street protests?
posted by stagewhisper at 7:08 AM on September 28, 2011


Police accused of detaining WNET employee for taking pictures of famous pepper-spray girls.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:29 AM on September 28, 2011


Something Greenwald quoted in his essay:

"I’m beginning to wonder whether the right to assemble is effectively dead in the US. No one who is a wage slave (which is the overwhelming majority of the population) can afford to have an arrest record, even a misdemeanor, in this age of short job tenures and rising use of background checks."

Oh my god, THIS. And that doesn't even address the fact that most wage slaves also can't afford, y'know, not having that wage. I'd love to be down on Wall Street, but for me, if I do that....that's a day's pay lost, and that means I'm a hundred bucks short on rent. And I'm being paid comparatively WELL.

It's a hell of a Catch-22.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:13 AM on September 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


So, yes, the people willing to engage in protests like these at the start may lack (or reject the need for) media strategies, organizational hierarchies, and messaging theories.  But they're among the very few people trying to channel widespread anger into activism rather than resignation, and thus deserve support and encouragement -- and help -- from anyone claiming to be sympathetic to their underlying message. 

From Greenwald and so right.
posted by salvia at 12:09 AM on September 29, 2011


Well, it's starting to appear that this political action is at the tipping point where it's becoming harder and harder for so-called legitimate grassroots organizations, labor groups, and progressive community groups to sit this one out without looking hypocritical or less than fully committed to their causes.

From an article in Crain's New York:
“It's become too big to ignore,” said one political consultant. ....The United Federation of Teachers, 32BJ SEIU, 1199 SEIU, Workers United and Transport Workers Union Local 100 are all expected to participate. The Working Families Party is helping to organize the protest and MoveOn.org is expected to mobilize its extensive online regional networks to drum up support for the effort.
posted by stagewhisper at 12:10 PM on September 29, 2011


Great - now the mainstream orgs are taking part and one more attempt at a massive from below movement will now be co-opted by "official" channels.
posted by symbioid at 1:19 PM on September 29, 2011


"I was into this protest before it was cool"?

By definition, any "massive" movement will require both the avant/vanguard and a lot of ordinary folks. Even the Egyptians needed the support of the military and of the bourgeoisie to make anything meaningful happen. The bottom 99% this movement claims to represent includes a lot of folks with conventional views and traditional organizational affiliations.

You can't claim to represent people and then complain when they show up to pitch in. Hell, the bottom 99% even includes the vast majority of Republicans!
posted by anotherpanacea at 1:37 PM on September 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


I realize what I'm saying. I am not into vanguardism, not by any means, and I don't think the Madison protests would have worked without support of the Unions. I guess I'm just a bit disenchanted at these official channels.

I *want* a mass movement. I'd love to see it, but when the people sponsoring this kind of thing ends up channeling all that energy back into officialdom and for voting for Barack and such, I guess I'm skeptical.

That's all.

I'm just... a cynic. I'm glad we're getting traction, don't get me wrong. I just don't have a lot of hope :(
posted by symbioid at 1:40 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I think that's reasonable. But that tension you're feeling is the tension built into any social movement: how to be effective without losing the message, when effectiveness means sharing the message with people other than the founders of the movement. "End Capitalism" was never going to be a mass movement in this country, but that doesn't mean we can't fight for policies that support the unemployed, equitably progressive taxation, and dignity for all.

Hell, we've got a great opportunity right now to try to transform unemployment insurance into basic income guarantee. But you can't do stuff like that without the traditional power centers, including the political parties!
posted by anotherpanacea at 1:52 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just saw this on reddit...

Huffpo is reporting that the NYC Transit workers are voting to occupy, too :D
posted by symbioid at 2:16 PM on September 29, 2011


For those of you who would like to get involved but are outside of NYC:
Occupy Together.

There appear to be dozens of events scheduled in cities across the USA.
posted by wuwei at 2:17 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


(and now I see that was one of the unions listed in the comment I was replying too! Woops!)
posted by symbioid at 2:17 PM on September 29, 2011


Huffpo is reporting that the NYC Transit workers are voting to occupy, too :D

The most apt response I can think of to that news is: "shit just got REAL."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:52 PM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I applaud these kids for sticking it out in the face of blistering snark and police brutality. Their quixotic quest appears to be turning into something far more significant.
posted by humanfont at 7:16 PM on September 29, 2011


Their quixotic quest appears to be turning into something far more significant.

Indeed. And good on 'em for not listening to the kind of defeatist, cynical commentary on their actions that certain people expressed straightaway in this thread, for example.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:09 PM on September 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


HEY NOW! ;)
posted by symbioid at 8:28 PM on September 29, 2011


defeatist, cynical commentary

Optimism of the Will, Pessimism of the Intellect.
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:25 AM on September 30, 2011


Juan Cole: Visiting Liberty Square (Occupy Wall Street)
posted by homunculus at 12:11 PM on September 30, 2011


This is a list of complaints.

You still aren't telling people what you are marching for. Negative movements never win. What do you stand for? What do you want? Saying "we're pissed off" isn't enough.
posted by JPD at 12:45 PM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


It would appear that a group is now planning similar protest in DC
posted by humanfont at 12:57 PM on September 30, 2011


Could someone please explain what happened on the Brooklyn Bridge today? Protestors tried to march across the bridge, but were mostly arrested en masse?
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:54 PM on October 1, 2011


Could someone please explain what happened on the Brooklyn Bridge today? Protestors tried to march across the bridge, but were mostly arrested en masse?

Some video here and here.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:46 PM on October 1, 2011


Here's more, where they appear to have arrested a 12-year-old.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:13 PM on October 1, 2011


NY Daily News: Occupy Wall Street movement receiving mail and supplies from supporters across the U.S.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:02 AM on October 2, 2011


basically what happened is that the crowd decided to lead a march across the brooklyn bridge. Originally it was intended to cross the pedestrian walkway in the middle. At some point a few protestors decided to cross over into the brooklyn bound lanes by crossing a permanent barricade.

This is where the main point of conflict lies. The protestors narrative is that the police behaved in a manner that encouraged them to continue on the traffic lanes, getting out in front of the crowd and stopping traffic. Obviously this encouraged a lot of people who otherwise wouldn't have to leap over the barricade into the traffic lane.

Once the traffic lane column made it about 1/3 of the way across the bridge the police pulled out the netting/fencing across the lanes, kettling the crowd, eventually arresting the 700 people or so in the traffic lanes. The did not make arrests amongst the people who used the ped walkway.
posted by JPD at 10:32 AM on October 2, 2011


video the police released to the times.
posted by JPD at 10:55 AM on October 2, 2011


There's a new thread about this, btw.
posted by homunculus at 12:12 PM on October 2, 2011


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