Join 3,363 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


The achilles heel of the Occupy movement: Special Snowflake-ness?
December 3, 2013 9:43 PM   Subscribe

RAWStory.com reports on a study published by Psychology Today that claims the reason the OWS movement has not gained more traction within the Democratic Party (as compared to the rapid growth of the Tea Party on the other side) is that liberally-minded people see themselves more as a unique collection of beliefs that happen to be joining with other individuals, where conservatives see themselves more as part of a homogenous group of people with similar beliefs.
posted by softlord (70 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Surely at least part of the reason for this phenomenon is that OWS is not backed by tens of millions of astrorturfing money like the Tea Party.
posted by La Cieca at 9:47 PM on December 3, 2013 [57 favorites]


Basically. The Tea Party is a bought and paid for front for millionaire assholes, directed at occupying government seats where they can and destroying the government whee they can't, whereas Occupy is a loose collection of meandering folk with good intentions but no real idea what their goals are.
posted by Artw at 9:50 PM on December 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


where conservatives see themselves more as part of a homogenous group of people with similar beliefs

As a mostly-liberal person with a few conservative-leaning beliefs this frustrates me to no end as it seems *completely* impossible to get support for the things I care about without dragging along *every other traditionally conservative value*. It is maddening.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:51 PM on December 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


You mean it may be for the same reason that hip hop sucks in '96?
posted by demiurge at 9:51 PM on December 3, 2013 [15 favorites]


Just don't let them hear you call them homogenous. They don't like that kind of degenerate talk.
posted by heyho at 9:53 PM on December 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


This article is consistent with my experience as someone who's been surrounded by liberals for pretty much all my life. I'm baffled at the way many liberals (or leftists)* can seem to be under the impression that they're radically challenging the dominant paradigm when they're essentially repeating what the vast majority of the people around them, including those in power, are saying and doing. I also think conservatives do have a tendency to think their wacky, extremist ideas are somehow in harmony with public opinion.

* I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin.
posted by John Cohen at 9:54 PM on December 3, 2013 [9 favorites]


It could also be that the Democratic Party is just as bought and paid for by big business, banks, & wealth that it has little to do with the ideals of the Occupy movement.

They are not & never were the same. Occupy does not equal liberal.
posted by djseafood at 10:05 PM on December 3, 2013 [12 favorites]


It could also be that, you know, the Democrats actually see the risk, from an electability perspective, of letting the extreme wing of your party shape your message. Granted that would be giving the Democrats an awful lot of credit.
posted by dry white toast at 10:07 PM on December 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


So this is a study published by some shrinks that completely ignores the obvious fact that some activist graphic designers from Canada have less ability to directly influence the American legislature than a cabal of billionaire Americans?

I guess I don't get it.

Oh and based on my totally unscientific survey of my own friends and relatives, there are just as many fringe liberals as fringe conservatives who love the warm blanket of "churchy comfort" and groupthink more than independent rebellion. So I call BS on this whole idea.
posted by trackofalljades at 10:08 PM on December 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


They are not & never were the same. Occupy does not equal liberal.

To be fair, "OWS" has been overloaded at this point just as effectively as the phrase "Tea Party" has been. The thoughts and hopes of the small groups of people who initially identified with either label are now completely irrelevant. It's nice that some people will remember otherwise, but the MSM has decided what each phrase means to the general public, and those definitions are now pretty much irrevocable.

I'm not saying that isn't a shame, but it isn't likely to change either...and will very likely be what goes into history textbooks that kids being born now will study someday.
posted by trackofalljades at 10:11 PM on December 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I would further suggest that another possible reasons liberals aren't so good at putting up a monolithic front is that a core liberal belief is tolerance. Tolerant people aren't very good at enforcing ideological purity. They see things in shades of grey and tend to regard differing opinions as only "differing" as opposed to "wrong" or "evil."

The Tea Party is, emotionally and intellectually speaking, at war; they are as single-minded and dedicated as people on the home front were during World War II because they are united against a common enemy. It is much more difficult (in general) for liberals to perceive other people as "enemies" -- that is, so evil and dangerous that they must be held back by any means necessary.

A hopeful sign is that, historically, hate-based societies tend to burn really fast: they do a lot of damage over the short term but they don't last. Another difference is that (again, speaking in general terms), liberals tend to have a fairly highly developed sense of justice in terms of fairness, a feeling for what is morally right. As such, they push back, inconsistently and slowly, but they do push back against injustice, and over the (sometimes very) long term, the trend is toward a more liberal, more egalitarian society. Sadly, Koch money working from the other side makes the process longer and more difficult. But it's only delaying progress, not preventing it.
posted by La Cieca at 10:12 PM on December 3, 2013 [36 favorites]


It seems like the current edition of the Republican Party demonstrates how conservatives are being torn apart by the Tea Party movement, so pointing to that movement as some kind of exemplar of cohesiveness is questionable at best.
posted by LionIndex at 10:13 PM on December 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


For me, as a liberal (I consider Obama to be a republican), I did not feel a kinship to OWS because my local group was really kind of obnoxious in their tactics. Camping out on the courthouse lawn 24/7 and waving signs at passing cars is not something I am going to do. and arguing endlessly about process is not something I am going to do.

I don't think OWS ever developed a focused practical platform for people like myself to back.
Change your Bank day, or whatever it was called was something I could see made so much sense, and I did that. Voting makes sense. I do that.

Nothing else was really suggested except that it was all bad and needed to be dismantled. That is not going to really happen by waving signs in front of a courthouse.
posted by cairnoflore at 10:13 PM on December 3, 2013 [21 favorites]


I would further suggest that another possible reasons liberals aren't so good at putting up a monolithic front is that a core liberal belief is tolerance. Tolerant people aren't very good at enforcing ideological purity. They see things in shades of grey and tend to regard differing opinions as only "differing" as opposed to "wrong" or "evil."

I don't really know about this. I see a lot of liberals that are just waiting for you to slip and reveal the Terrible Oppressor you've been hiding all along and then you're stained forever. Alec Baldwin recently got the "Aha, you haven't been a liberal at all, you're Old Man Jenkins, the secret Republican from down the road!" treatment for saying some terrible things in a moment of anger and I think if you're at the point where Alec Baldwin should be run out of town for not being liberal, you're pretty far gone. I'm not saying he's perfect or defending what he said, but pretending he's basically been Rush Limbaugh all along is a biiiiiit of a stretch.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 10:23 PM on December 3, 2013 [24 favorites]


It was not the special snowflakes.

It was the stupid anarchists.

Fundamentally, Occupy failed because a very cultish, very arrogant, very academic community of political radicals thought that they could start a revolution.

Then they realized that most Americans, even though they were really pissed about predatory lending and banking, did not actually agree in any way with anarchist and anti-capitalist idiocy about ending all government and private property.

The radicals started it, invited the liberals, treated the liberals like shit, and then the liberals went home.

What we were left with, at least in Downtown Oakland, was just 1-200 people who show up at City Council meetings, shout a lot, and get ignored, because nobody actually agrees with them about much of anything.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 10:26 PM on December 3, 2013 [20 favorites]


Fundamentally, Occupy failed because a very cultish, very arrogant, very academic community of political radicals thought that they could start a revolution.

This labeling of a subgroup, e.g. "stupid anarchists", is basically what the study is talking about.
posted by polymodus at 10:31 PM on December 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


This labeling of a subgroup as "stupid" is basically what the study is talking about.

I met most of them. Plenty book smart. Not very street smart.

I've been involved in urban politics for years. Urban politics is about street smarts and emotional intelligence. Book smarts are only useful for winning political debates on points of fact. You don't win people over that way. So they didn't win people over, and they lost.

In Oakland, Occupy probably pushed the local political equation a little bit to the right. Oakland's center left was offended by all the disruptive smashy stuff, and they started wanting more law and order.

And I stand by what I said: academic radicalism, as manifested all over tumblr, and briefly in my downtown, is stupid.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 10:38 PM on December 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


Fundamentally, Occupy failed because a very cultish, very arrogant, very academic community of political radicals thought that they could start a revolution.

Seriously, it's like, your political philosophy can't even oppress a drum circle out of a small village (oppressing drum circles is a primary function of civil society), you expect me to put it in charge of things?
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 10:39 PM on December 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


Can we also take a moment to acknowledge that Psychology Today is not exactly a high quality science publication? It's usually just a collection of poorly reinterpreted results of recent studies, with a focus on trying to present simplistic explanations to problems that make Americans insecure.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 11:01 PM on December 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Speaking from my long experience with my local Occupy group, it is obvious Occupy wasn't intended to deliver a complex and unified political message. It was intended to create a space with a different set of rules for political dialogue. If you want to change the inequity of power, you start by creating a General Assembly that has no rulers, no hierarchy, and as rules for open discussion. Then you are actually creating a miniature society that uses new rules for a new kind of open political discussion. That is REAL change, not just talking about real change. In order to cause real change, you set an example of how to implement that change, just by changing the way you discuss political issues.

Here are the meeting rules we created after several months of refinements. I did all the content including text and illustrations, and it was modified and approved at a meeting using these exact procedures. This document is a product of the process it describes.

There are tricks here that were unique to OIC and we're not aware of them being used anywhere else. For example, we have a "stack" of the order people asked to be recognized to speak, you can't ask to be on the stack until everyone on the stack after you had their chance to speak. You have to "clear the stack" before you go on the stack again. This prevents people from dominating meetings by repeatedly taking the floor. I personally put a block on this proposal (the only block ever given in our entire history) because I thought it would have unintended side effects. I withdew the block and the procedure was implemented It did have exactly the unfortunate consequences i predicted, but that is another long story.

Ultimately there was only one unified message from Occupy: We Are The 99%. The other guys are the 1%, they have all the power. This is how inequity is institutionalized. It has to change. We wrote a Statement of Principles that was influential on other Occupy camps, and even had sections incorporated into our State Democratic Platform, due to OIC members working as delegates. Of course those guys were ridiculed by the Anarchists who said it was futile to seek solutions to political problem within the system.

But some of us believe Occupy can work within the system. At times (especially on local issues) we did pretty well. And even in the national arena, there are a few firebrands like me who can give a great political speech based on Occupy principles. Hell, I gave a speech to the local Democratic Caucus, right after a live videoconference with Obama. I mean, Obama talking to someone in the audience beside me. The democratic caucus, with the most devoted Obama supporters in the party. And I got up after Obama spoke, and raised my sign, "VOTE UNCOMMITTED." I said Obama is too close to Wall Street. Banks got bailed out, we got sold out. Send him a message by withholding your vote to renominate him as a presidential candidate. That vote will be recorded at the caucus, giving a measure of minority dissent, and a plea for attention to inequity of power and wealth.

After the speech, people who were contemptuous of Occupy at first, applauded and wildly supported my speech. And speeches by Occupiers were being given at every caucus site. After the caucus, the Democratic Party announced the statewide results: 100.00% votes for Obama, the same at every precinct. I knew that wasn't true. It took me months to wrestle the true figures out of them, Uncommitted: 1.5%. No wonder they suppressed that figure completely. We figured we'd have a great symbolic message sent at 0.5%. We did triple what we expected.

Our message hit the mark. At the State of the Union, Obama specifically addressed issues of inequality. He mentioned the "2%" vs the "98%," of course he couldn't just adopt our symbolism directly. But we all knew what he really meant.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:03 PM on December 3, 2013 [36 favorites]


That article might have applied in, say, 2010. Republicans sure haven't looked united since then, and they sure complain among themselves about it, while Democrats have shown some commendable discipline-- getting out the vote in 2012, keeping their cool during the Tea Party shutdown.

I read somewhere (I don't know if it was an actual study) that both parties greatly overestimate the cohesion and power of the other side.
posted by zompist at 11:06 PM on December 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Our message hit the mark. At the State of the Union, Obama specifically addressed issues of inequality.

A liberal politician talked about inequality? That would've happened without all the camping.

He used a rhetorical device that the campers used a lot after they heard Kalle Lasn use it? OK, I guess you won that one.

There certainly is more talk of inequality among the American center and left. That can at least be somewhat attributed to the Occupiers. I see that as a win.

The other win is that urban lefties all across America learned that academic radicals aren't worth paying any attention to.

Basically, in Oakland, Occupy set up in front of a building full of dysfunctional government, and set up their very own dysfunctional government on the lawn. Not an accomplishment.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 11:15 PM on December 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


Geez Psychology Today, "Liberals drive like this - BEEP BOOP BOOP BOOP; Right-wingers drive like this -BEE BEE BEE BOOP" - surely we can do better?
posted by smoke at 12:33 AM on December 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


Yeah, there's a reason Psychology Today is usually seen next to Soap Opera Digest.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 12:55 AM on December 4, 2013


A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery. It cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an act of insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another. - Mao Zedong

OWS fizzled after being kicked out of city parks. These guys were chased into the mountains and walked for 8,000 miles before eventually winning. See the difference?
posted by TrialByMedia at 1:02 AM on December 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


Speaking from my long experience with my local Occupy group, it is obvious Occupy wasn't intended to deliver a complex and unified political message. It was intended to create a space with a different set of rules for political dialogue. If you want to change the inequity of power, you start by creating a General Assembly that has no rulers, no hierarchy, and as rules for open discussion. Then you are actually creating a miniature society that uses new rules for a new kind of open political discussion. That is REAL change, not just talking about real change. In order to cause real change, you set an example of how to implement that change, just by changing the way you discuss political issues.

No revolution, ever, has started this way.
posted by empath at 1:06 AM on December 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


These guys were chased into the mountains and walked for 8,000 miles before eventually winning.

You call assembling iPhones, chasing after LV, and building Disneyland winning?
posted by FJT at 1:42 AM on December 4, 2013


You call assembling iPhones, chasing after LV, and building Disneyland winning?

I paid sales tax on a box of black tea last week. You call the Continental Army a winner?
posted by TrialByMedia at 1:47 AM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


A lot of people in this thread are exceptionally proving to be the exceptional people proving the rule.
posted by vicx at 1:47 AM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


You call the Continental Army a winner?

Eh, the British formally surrendered. The ROC never did.
posted by FJT at 2:11 AM on December 4, 2013


"Liberals’ underestimation of similarity likely undermines their ability to capitalize on the consensus that actually exists within their ranks and hinders successful group mobilization,” Stern told Raw Story.

The researchers said a weaker desire to feel unique actually works to conservatives’ advantage in politics."


The "underestimation of similarity" sounds like a repudiation of diversity and uniqueness and individuality. A "weaker desire to feel unique" smacks of socialism.

A fascinating analysis of the kettle calling the pot black.
posted by three blind mice at 2:22 AM on December 4, 2013


they didn't run for office and they didn't occupy anything worth occupying
posted by pyramid termite at 2:24 AM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I mostly agree with what I've read of OWS's positions but they haven't actually run for any offices that I could vote for.
posted by octothorpe at 3:46 AM on December 4, 2013


The ironic thing about that phrase is that we actually are all special snowflakes, and then some. You could spend a lifetime studying the differences between any two given people.

But on the main subject: honestly, the latent strength and solidity of leftist ideals (liberal and radical) often surprises me in the way it keeps living, keeps manifesting, keeps inspiring people, often to far greater acts of effort and sacrifice than I've ever put up myself, even though it so often seems like these ideals and ideas been smothered and snuffed by the weight of easy cruelty, callousness and small-mindedness from the other side (and sometimes the same, or plain indifference and indolence on our own side).

It's still so easy for any solidarity and effectiveness to be blown apart and dispersed by any obstacles or difficulties, when so few people have a common understanding and knowledge of the history of 'leftism', its strengths and weaknesses, the successes and failures that have to be learned from, not endlessly repeated. What I'm saying is, people gotta read more and take the lessons of history to heart if they want to be effective - just turning up isn't enough, just 'making an effort' isn't enough. Change takes preparation.
posted by Drexen at 3:55 AM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


You know, I've seen plenty of group-thinking from people who describe themselves as being Left. In fact, the only political groups that go in for formal ideological criticism of their members are left-wing ones. Conversely, the Tea-partiers actually have a diverse range of beliefs, crazy as they may be, and their ostensible unity is probably an illusion caused by their tactic of obstruction: it's not hard to get people to agree to block things; it's much harder to get them to agree to build something new.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:24 AM on December 4, 2013


The ironic thing about that phrase is that we actually are all special snowflakes, and then some.

"You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everyone else, and we are all a part of the same compost pile."
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 4:25 AM on December 4, 2013


Conversely, the Tea-partiers actually have a diverse range of beliefs, crazy as they may be, and their ostensible unity is probably an illusion caused by their tactic of obstruction: it's not hard to get people to agree to block things; it's much harder to get them to agree to build something new.

This is so wrong that I don't even know where to start.
posted by empath at 4:30 AM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


There are tricks here that were unique to OIC and we're not aware of them being used anywhere else. For example, we have a "stack" of the order people asked to be recognized to speak, you can't ask to be on the stack until everyone on the stack after you had their chance to speak. You have to "clear the stack" before you go on the stack again.

Magic: The Gathering ruins yet another political movement.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:41 AM on December 4, 2013 [9 favorites]


"I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat." -- Will Rogers

It has been ever so.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 5:24 AM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


"You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everyone else, and we are all a part of the same compost pile.

Isn't that quote said by a personification of mental illness as part of his plan to indoctrinate vulnerable men into a terrorist cult?
posted by kewb at 6:08 AM on December 4, 2013 [15 favorites]


a core liberal belief is tolerance. Tolerant people aren't very good at enforcing ideological purity. They see things in shades of grey and tend to regard differing opinions as only "differing" as opposed to "wrong" or "evil."

Tell it to the Judaean People's Front! On this commentary alone, "billionaire assholes"(evil), "whacky", "crazy"(wrong) are a few of the adjectives used to describe tea-party adherents and their ideas. "Racist"(evil and wrong) turns up a lot elsewhere, which is one way to avoid engaging in discussion. Tolerant, indeed.

Yet if (big if) you think about it, a lot of the Teaparty core beliefs should warm the hearts of the average Mefite: "Special interests must be eliminated", "Political offices must be available to average citizens". It could be Delmoi talking. They call for small government, which should appeal to the E.F. Schumaker types. Immigration? Business types and vote-hungry politicians like it (reason enough to be suspicious), but as we are in the middle of a high unemployment depression and are no where near to assimilating the current bulge economically (never mind socially), I think you can make a non-racist argument for putting the brakes on for a while. So we can digest the holiday meal. In which light, the Official English thing strikes me as a plea for inclusion - enabling people to live in an English speakng country for years, decades, without knowing the dominant language is doing no one any favors, least of all the non-English speaker (though it does give a lot of power to government and government handmaidens). In general, Tea Party concerns are largely economic (keep jobs at home), and stress the notion that a country as indebted as the US has to stop spending so much and so stupidly.* (I do have a problem with the strong military thing. Bring the boys home now is pretty much my take on it. But then, I am not a member of the party.)

Mind you, I find Rachel Maddow and Janeane Garofalo just as annoying as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, so perhaps I'm not a good judge of these matters. But it does seem that the fed up left and the fed up Tea Party could find more common cause, or at least honest discussion, than either side has so far been willing to admit. Which failure suits the status quo, at least for now. (Hence in part my distaste for Rachel Maddow, Rush Limbaugh, and anyone else who makes a living out of outrage and division.)

*(There have been long convoluted and no doubt honest held comments on the blue to the effect that somehow America, uniquely in all of world history, has solved the problem of government debt, but I don't buy it. "We owe it to ourselves" is the slogan, which, like most slogans, conceals more than it reveals. The longer arguments I have difficulty following. All I can say is that if we really have solved that conundrum, then none of us should have to pay taxes at all. Of course, I am not an economist. Not that economists have covered themselves in glory of late.)
posted by IndigoJones at 6:15 AM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Actually I do know where to start. The tea party enforces incredibly narrow ideological purity on several axes: anti-immigration, anti-tax, anti-regulation, anti-federal government debt, and 'states rights' as long as by 'states rights' you mean the right to keep black people from voting.

If you're on board with that agenda, they don't much care much about foreign policy, and are at least slightly open minded on drug policy. But I would not consider them to have a diverse range of beliefs.

The real reason that the far left/occupy and mainstream liberals don't work together,btw, is that they fundamentally don't have the same goals. The GOP and Tea Party have conflicts as well, but they have a lot more room to cooperate, and the 'mainstream' GOP is basically in a shambles, so the tea party is free to drive the agenda.
posted by empath at 6:16 AM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I see a lot of liberals that are just waiting for you to slip and reveal the Terrible Oppressor you've been hiding all along and then you're stained forever. Alec Baldwin recently got the "Aha, you haven't been a liberal at all, you're Old Man Jenkins, the secret Republican from down the road!" treatment for saying some terrible things in a moment of anger and I think if you're at the point where Alec Baldwin should be run out of town for not being liberal, you're pretty far gone.

alec baldwin didn't just say it in a moment of anger - he's said it (and other anti-gay slurs) in many moments of anger (and sometimes while completely calm). he is a homophobe with an anger problem. i don't care how many gay friends he has or how much money he's donated. i don't care what fancy parties he goes to. i don't care what other liberal leanings he has. i'm not calling into question his voter history or ideological bent. i'm not saying he's suddenly conservative. liberals (and people who consider themselves allies) can be homophobes and alec baldwin is one of them.

also, lets not forget that when he was mad at his ex-wife and calling his 11 year old daughter a pig he pretty much went full MRA/fathers' rights douchebag.

he didn't get old man jenkins'd - quite the opposite, no matter how much he shows his ass he just keeps getting opportunities to show it again.
posted by nadawi at 6:47 AM on December 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


On this commentary alone, "billionaire assholes"(evil), "whacky", "crazy"(wrong) are a few of the adjectives used to describe tea-party adherents and their ideas. "Racist"(evil and wrong) turns up a lot elsewhere, which is one way to avoid engaging in discussion. Tolerant, indeed.

Americans for Prosperity was started by the Koch brothers, who are indeed billionaire assholes. FreedomWorks was started by Dick Armey, former US House Majority Leader paid millions of dollars a year before and after he started the organization. Tea Party Express was started by Republican consulting firm Russo, Marsh, and Associates. As for their beliefs? They actually do tend to be racist, homophobic anti-choice evangelicals that hate those they consider liberals (emphasis mine):
Early on, Tea Partiers were often described as nonpartisan political neophytes. Actually, the Tea Party’s supporters today were highly partisan Republicans long before the Tea Party was born, and were more likely than others to have contacted government officials. In fact, past Republican affiliation is the single strongest predictor of Tea Party support today.

What’s more, contrary to some accounts, the Tea Party is not a creature of the Great Recession. Many Americans have suffered in the last four years, but they are no more likely than anyone else to support the Tea Party. And while the public image of the Tea Party focuses on a desire to shrink government, concern over big government is hardly the only or even the most important predictor of Tea Party support among voters.

So what do Tea Partiers have in common? They are overwhelmingly white, but even compared to other white Republicans, they had a low regard for immigrants and blacks long before Barack Obama was president, and they still do.

More important, they were disproportionately social conservatives in 2006 — opposing abortion, for example — and still are today. Next to being a Republican, the strongest predictor of being a Tea Party supporter today was a desire, back in 2006, to see religion play a prominent role in politics. And Tea Partiers continue to hold these views: they seek “deeply religious” elected officials, approve of religious leaders’ engaging in politics and want religion brought into political debates. The Tea Party’s generals may say their overriding concern is a smaller government, but not their rank and file, who are more concerned about putting God in government.
Yet if (big if) you think about it, a lot of the Teaparty core beliefs should warm the hearts of the average Mefite

"What we put on our website" =/= "What we believe"

"Special interests must be eliminated", "Political offices must be available to average citizens". It could be Delmoi talking.

And yet, as I pointed out above, the major forces behind the Tea Party are millionaires and billionaires with ties to or formerly part of the highest political officies available, and have advocated in the past to make corporate special interests' buy-in to the political process vastly more powerful than the personal.

They call for small government, which should appeal to the E.F. Schumaker types.

Except when it comes to wombs, sexytimes, war, churches, border fences, and corporations.

Immigration? Business types and vote-hungry politicians like it (reason enough to be suspicious)

You know who else likes it? The millions of people who want to be American. For the Tea Party, that's reason enough to be suspicious.

but as we are in the middle of a high unemployment depression and are no where near to assimilating the current bulge economically (never mind socially), I think you can make a non-racist argument for putting the brakes on for a while

Unemployment isn't the result of too many people, it's directly tied to a lot of the policies the Tea Party pushes for. And we can't assimilate people socially? WTF, man? We've been doing it for almost 250 years. The bunch of assholes who are afraid of people with different skin color and funny languages are the problem here.

In which light, the Official English thing strikes me as a plea for inclusion - enabling people to live in an English speakng country for years, decades, without knowing the dominant language is doing no one any favors, least of all the non-English speaker (though it does give a lot of power to government and government handmaidens).

Were that I could believe that was actually true in the Tea Party. However, immigration opponents have stated that it's more about preserving cultural identity than making things work smoother:
The success of U.S. English taught Tanton a crucial lesson. If the immigration restriction movement was to succeed, it would have to be rooted in an emotional appeal to those who felt that their country, their language, their very identity was under assault. “Feelings,” Tanton says in a tone reminiscent of Spock sharing some hard-won insight on human behavior, “trump facts.”
In general, Tea Party concerns are largely economic (keep jobs at home)

American unions have been fighting for keeping jobs at home since before the Koch brothers were even born. If the Tea Party was so het up about keeping jobs in America, perhaps they wouldn't whip their state and local parties against foreign companies bringing business here.

and stress the notion that a country as indebted as the US has to stop spending so much and so stupidly.* (I do have a problem with the strong military thing. Bring the boys home now is pretty much my take on it. But then, I am not a member of the party.)

As proven above, the Tea Party's concerns on their web page may be largely economic, but their actions tell us they are not.

All I can say is that if we really have solved that conundrum, then none of us should have to pay taxes at all. Of course, I am not an economist. Not that economists have covered themselves in glory of late.

Actually, economists have done an admirable job of pointing out the issues. It was economists who pointed out the problems with the Bush tax cuts, which are now responsible for a higher percentage of the debt than the financial crash, both post-9/11 wars, the bailouts, and the stimulus--combined. They correctly predicted the housing crash, and the financial crash, and the horrible results of austerity economic. So perhaps you should be listening to them.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:51 AM on December 4, 2013 [21 favorites]


Yet if (big if) you think about it, a lot of the Teaparty core beliefs should warm the hearts of the average Mefite:

1. Illegal aliens are here illegally. Duh. And? The policy should be...what, exactly?
5. Gun ownership is sacred. Are you fucking kidding me? Sacred?
10. Reducing personal income taxes is a must. Gimme a fucking break.
11. Reducing business income taxes is mandatory. See #10
14. English as our core language is required. That can't possibly be a dog-whistle for something, can it?
15. Traditional family values are encouraged. Which values are those, exactly? My family traditions are pretty different from a lot of peoples', it seems. How does this "encouragement" fit in with
13. Intrusive government must be stopped.
posted by rtha at 6:51 AM on December 4, 2013 [9 favorites]


I think the idea that were being overly harsh towards the Tea Party or the GOP itself by calling then racist is a nonstarter at this point.
posted by Artw at 7:06 AM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


there's this thing the dominant group does when they feel they're losing that grasp they've had for so long - where they try to convince everyone that being called hateful is worse than being hateful. being called racist is worse than doing racist things. being called a rapist is a bigger injury than being raped. they like phrases like "political correctness gone maaaaaaaaddd!!!!!1!11!!" and generally make a point about how christians/republicans/white men are the real oppressed minority etc. i'd just roll my eyes at it if it didn't seem to work.
posted by nadawi at 7:14 AM on December 4, 2013 [9 favorites]


I really wanted to like Occupy but ultimately I just didn't get it. There will be no leaders, yet there are some rules about interacting and people who facilitate and enforce those rules.

How is this different than "leadership"? What is the meaningful difference? This is like saying you're opposed to fighting so when you punch people you will now call them "peace nudges" and therefore it's a new radically different thing. I just don't see a major difference.

And the absolute opposition to violence doesn't strike my fancy either. There is a portion of the population who is completely content with the horrific suffering and abuse of other humans and asking them to stop nicely will not make any dent. If you want to fight a war where there are no casualties I respect that, I still think you need an organized movement, a strategy, and leadership. Leaders are people with organizational skills and interpersonal skills who can look at the agenda and create a coherent plan of action including action steps and measurable goals and find the right people with the right skills to agree to do jobs with a common goal, that will therefore achieve a much larger goal than individuals working independently. A lot of people need guidance and clear goals before they can figure out what to do to help achieve a purpose. I'm totally cool with dissecting this process or looking for alternative means to achieve a functional society without leaders, I just don't hear solutions that make coherant sense to me coming form occupy.

I think we need to start networks of farming communities and growing our own food and living supplies, creating our own power sources and understanding the technology to create such tools ourselves, generating wealth that we can redistribute as we see fit, that will generate the power to say no to the corruption of corporations. But in order to live among people safely you need a clear set of agreed on social behaviors that reduce harm and increase human welfare, and responses to people who harm others other than just asking them nicely to stop. A lot of the hippie communes festered really sociopathic people and drug addiction and careless behavior toward others because there was a no rules ethical system that was supposed to promote love and human welfare and it didn't work at all. According to many of my close friends who grew up on communes there was plenty of domestic violence and serious mental illness that was made worse by excess use of psychedelics and drugs. It was not all peace and love and the unwillingness to account for behavior and harms generated by careless behavior did not work out very well. Free love sounded good but it was also very disrespectful to people who got pregnant and needed committed labor and resources to help with child rearing and there was a lack of child focused family values because people were too busy free for all pleasure seeking and "spiritual" seeking to bother making committed relationships and doing the basic work of creating wealth and human welfare and stable family life for children to grow up in.

I do not want to duplicate these types of structures without looking at what didn't work when they've been tried before because I think that is harmful to human beings.

I really would like to see Occupy develop into something I could support, or an offshoot movement that I could get into.
posted by xarnop at 7:25 AM on December 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


I would further suggest that another possible reasons liberals aren't so good at putting up a monolithic front is that a core liberal belief is tolerance. Tolerant people aren't very good at enforcing ideological purity. They see things in shades of grey and tend to regard differing opinions as only "differing" as opposed to "wrong" or "evil."

This is a delightful explanation and I agree entirely. The last time the left had a cohesive enemy mindset it was framed in terms of class warfare and a variety of viewpoints that still have deep merit, but won't galvanize people like they used to.
posted by dgran at 7:53 AM on December 4, 2013


As Bertrand Russell said: "The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt".

Count on Psychology Today to draw a false equivalency between the Tea Party and OWS and then write it off as "liberals are too wrapped up in themselves". Not to mention that OWS and 'liberals' are two very different things.
posted by anemone of the state at 7:59 AM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Psychology Today did not publish the story; they reported about it. The actual study was published in the journal Psychological Science, a high-tier and peer-reviewed journal. (That, yes, occasionally has a tendency to publish articles with conclusions that have flair and drama, if not very strict rigor.)

I skimmed the study. The authors used Mechanical Turk to provide online surveys to two groups of about three hundred people. The first set of 41 questions asked things like "I like poetry" and "America should strive to strengthen its military," people indicated whether they agreed or not. To measure in-group consensus, people read the same questions and ranked the percentage of people who share their beliefs would agree with the item. Finally, people also rated perceived social desirability of endorsing each item, and the personal importance of the topics of each item.

Anyway, after some fancy math (and I'm not totally convinced they aren't breaking some serious statistical rules but I'm going to trust the expertise of the reviewers), the authors conclude this:
Liberals underestimated their similarity to political in-group members, whereas moderates and conservatives overestimated their similarity to political in-group members.
And after a mediation analysis:
These results provide support for the conclusion that liberals, compared with moderates and conservatives, underestimated their similarity to political in-group members partially as a result of their greater desire for uniqueness.
For once, science reporting isn't actually reaching further than what the scientists actually said...
posted by nicodine at 8:01 AM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


For me, as a liberal (I consider Obama to be a republican)...

You can consider him to be a unicorn too but that doesn't make him one.
posted by Aizkolari at 8:11 AM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


three blind mice: "A "weaker desire to feel unique" smacks of socialism"

Socialism yes, but also fascism, or theocracy, or any other ideology that tends to value the group over the individual.
posted by aerotive at 8:18 AM on December 4, 2013


You can consider him to be a unicorn too but that doesn't make him one.

It may not change the D next to his name, but yes, politically speaking, Obama falls on roughly the same area of the spectrum as Ronald Reagan. Of course, as the Gipper himself may have said were he in Obama's shoes: "I didn't leave the Republican Party. The party left me."
posted by zombieflanders at 8:23 AM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


> Geez Psychology Today, "Liberals drive like this - BEEP BOOP BOOP BOOP; Right-wingers drive like this -BEE BEE BEE BOOP" - surely we can do better?

Psychology Today has been clickbait since before there were clicks.
posted by jfuller at 8:37 AM on December 4, 2013


Just an observation:
I saw commentators stand on the fringes of OWS repeating the narrative "Occupy is inarticulate and fractured, there are people here but what is there message?" Not asking the protesters what their message was nor reporting that message.
I was not a member of occupy but visited the park twice in 2011. The message of occupy was fairly simple and could be boiled down into "end the wars, tax the rich". The more complex conversation was about overturning citizen's united, to end systemic corruption of our government by the wealthiest minority in our country, as well as changing a banking system which rewards predatory practices, privatizing wealth made on public loss.
But none of this was reported nor entered the mainstream discourse.
This held in contrast with 2010 and the rise of the entirely astroturfed tea party, which was not only embraced by the media, but had its members on camera delivering their talking points. With their round of electoral victories the Bush tax cuts were upheld and public money was and continues to be axed.

I think one of the failings of occupy in 2011-12 was that it had no pragmatic strategy to get elected official who shared their beliefs into office to act on them. And this is a problem. That said, it is a difficult situation to elect officials to overturn laws and practices which reward elected officials with big private money. And without campaign finance reform, the price tag on running for elected office makes hopefuls reliant on that big private money.

To reduce the conversation about the state of our nation to an essentialized identity problem, either that liberals are incapable of effecting political change because of their psychology, or that the new generation of kids are too busy to get jobs because of their selfies and damn portable gizmos, not only ignores policy, history recent or otherwise, and leads to no meaningful conversation about politics.
posted by Enigmark at 8:57 AM on December 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


For me, as a liberal (I consider Obama to be a republican)...

He is not. He is a Democrat in 2013. Yes, in, I dunno, 1980 he might have fit in better with the Republican party, but that's just not the reality. Once you start digging at historical versions of parties that don't exist any more, it gets very silly very fast - many modern Republicans use the same states-rights rhetoric of previous incarnations of the Democratic party, with the same racial animus, and many positions of modern Democratic politicians line up better with reformist Republicans circa the early 1900s, and...

You can be unhappy with the state of the two major parties, and believe that one is center-right and the other is far-right, and I won't argue with you. You can say "Obama is conservative by historical standards" and I won't necessarily disagree. But "Democrat" and "Republican" are labels for parties, not coherent consistent political-ethical stances, and those change a lot over time whether you like it or not.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:10 AM on December 4, 2013 [9 favorites]


> a core liberal belief is tolerance. Tolerant people aren't very good at enforcing ideological purity. They see things
> in shades of grey and tend to regard differing opinions as only "differing" as opposed to "wrong" or "evil."

Hollow laughter. I'll just refer you to any mefi outragefilter thread about rethuglicans, or the Tea Party itself, or anything in the racism-sexism-homophobia cluster, or rapeculture, or climatecatastrophe, or any or all of the other hot-button topics.
posted by jfuller at 9:36 AM on December 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'll just refer you to any mefi outragefilter thread

Which will generally consist of a dozen or fewer people yelling back and forth, "I'm right and you're wrong!" That you can find a few isolated examples of intolerant people who spout quasi-liberal cant means only that , for some people, emotional attachment to being right trumps both values and the content of the discussion.

Or are you suggesting that people who spend the better part of the day arguing on the internet representative of the population as a whole?
posted by La Cieca at 9:43 AM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I read the article and followed the links, hit some paywalls but continued clicking and ended up reading a 2008 paper called The Secret Lives of Liberals and Conservatives: Personality Profiles, Interaction Styles, and the Things They Leave Behind ... for some substance. It is article review, and 3 studies (personality tests, non verbal / body language cues, and room cues) to try replicate previous findings / theories.

Their investigation of peoples housekeeping and workdesk / space to try and delineate between conservative / liberal I found intriguing, however the results didn't reveal significant differences ... so cohabitation and working with and breeding between the two species should be fine.
posted by phoque at 9:51 AM on December 4, 2013


tl;dr

In a nutshell - to the uninformed onlooker, the Tea Party is your crusty uncle spouting pioneer homilies, Occupy is some faceless bearded protester tenting in a sea of mud that used to be a park and fighting with cops.

AND - the Tea Party grew and operates within the GOP; Occupy is by comparison not part of either party.

Apples and oranges, in other words.
posted by Artful Codger at 11:00 AM on December 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


...it is obvious Occupy wasn't intended to deliver a complex and unified political message. It was intended to create a space with a different set of rules for political dialogue. If you want to change the inequity of power, you start by creating a General Assembly that has no rulers, no hierarchy, and as rules for open discussion. Then you are actually creating a miniature society that uses new rules for a new kind of open political discussion. That is REAL change, not just talking about real change. In order to cause real change, you set an example of how to implement that change, just by changing the way you discuss political issues.

That sounds like picking a fight with the biggest kid in school when you're a novel lab-grown synthetic organism that hasn't even gotten metabolism figured out.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 11:53 AM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Speaking as someone who was about as involved in OWS as one could possibly be (and much more than I ever intended to be), I find a lot of truth in that article's characterization of us. Of course, these issues are not unique to OWS - they've been a problem for the left for oh about 100 years now. But they're true as far as that goes.

I take TWO exceptions with this article though:

1st issue is with the definition of and frame of reference for success. Our immediate gratification society has made us historically illiterate. Social movements take time. Rosa Parks didn't get out of that seat in 1955. The Freedom Rides weren't until 1961. The Civil Rights Act wasn't until 1964. OWS existed in that park for less than TWO MONTHS. It's only been two years since it began.

My 2nd issue is in drawing the conclusion that the irritating hypocrisy of left radicals ("SOLIDARITY ONLY WITH THOSE WHO ARE EXACTLY LIKE ME!") is what primarily caused occupy to not do whatever it is these people thought OWS was supposed to do (revolution? take over the means of production? become president? what? they never say...) and not the fact that OWS was taking on the most powerful group in the history of civilization (finance) and was met with the full resistance of the united states government.

It's also important to remember that OWS was a protest movement and not a traditional political movement as we understand them today. We were very clear about that from the get-go. People who are upset that it didn't do something it was never supposed to do should go and organize people to do that. Or don't. Just don't talk trash about people who bothered to put themselves on the front lines.
posted by willie11 at 3:01 PM on December 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Also, one political affiliation is demonstrably more committed to lizard-brain impulses, such as tribalism, than the other. Group loyalty is practically a core value.
posted by NiceKitty at 3:13 PM on December 4, 2013


I recall from those days OWS being criticized for not having star figurehead leaders, and not having a coherent list of demands. One commenter replied to this: "If we had a list of demands for Wall Street, then all we would have gotten in return was a list of excuses why the demands would be rejected."

The real function of OWS was to bring the essential problem of income inequality to wider public attention and into popular discourse, and in this respect I think OWS was a real success.

(The OWS movement ran into some unexpected stresses when it became conflated with the problem of homelessness, and that's another related issue).
posted by ovvl at 4:17 PM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


"If we had a list of demands for Wall Street, then all we would have gotten in return was a list of excuses why the demands would be rejected."

OWS cleverly avoided this trap, and none of its demands were rejected.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:41 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch : A liberal politician talked about inequality? That would've happened without all the camping.

Correct. But Obama is not a liberal. He's a centrist and moderate. If it weren't for the extreme rightward shift of the Overton Window, he'd be a moderate conservative.

cosmic.osmo: That sounds like picking a fight with the biggest kid in school when you're a novel lab-grown synthetic organism that hasn't even gotten metabolism figured out.

The metaphor you are groping for is David and Goliath.

willie11: My 2nd issue is in drawing the conclusion that the irritating hypocrisy of left radicals ("SOLIDARITY ONLY WITH THOSE WHO ARE EXACTLY LIKE ME!") is what primarily caused occupy to not do whatever it is these people thought OWS was supposed to do (revolution? take over the means of production? become president? what? they never say...) and not the fact that OWS was taking on the most powerful group in the history of civilization (finance) and was met with the full resistance of the united states government.

Yes. I cannot fully express my irritation with Institutional Leftists who came and tried to co-opt OWS, in the belief that we represented a new pool of leftists just like them, ready to be lead into action. The Institutional Leftists just did not get OWS. They thought it was, as you said, a vehicle to do what they've been doing all along. I told them over and over, if your tired old tactics had worked, we wouldn't have needed OWS in the first place. You failed, and now we're going to try something different.

In particular, the Catholic Worker activists were horrible. They boasted of how many times they had been arrested, and which celebrities they shared a jail cell with. They came in with fully drafted action plans to stage sit-ins with mass arrests at the Caucuses. Their plan was to call the media and police in advance of the sit-in, to maximize photo opps of arrests. When they took this plan to a statewide General Assembly, the first question was, what is the plan to bail people out of jail after the arrests? What will they do to defend the arrestees in court? They had no plan, you're on your own. A vote was called almost immediately, plan firmly rejected. The CW people said they were going to do it anyway, and call themselves OWS "representatives." And so they did. And while they were formulating all these plans to be the first OWS protest of presidential candidates in the election, they got beat to the punch by a bunch of high school kids who mic checked Obama.

Then the labor unionists were a pain in the ass. They pushed our OWS camp into its most direct confrontations with police and City officials. One guy, I couldn't figure him out. He was a loner, but always had "secret GA" meetings to set up ridiculous confrontations, like a "mic check" of Walmart on Black Friday. I finally figured him out: he was the FBI mole and agent provocateur. But the worst of all was the Spanish emigre leftist. He kept insisting our actions were alienating "true leftists" like his socialist buddies, and then he'd go around speaking to people privately, trying to sabotage GA-approved actions. I told him, you had your chance to speak at the GA. You were outvoted. You can take it to the next GA if you want, but you'll lose again. So don't go around trying to subvert the GA's decisions.

ovvl: The real function of OWS was to bring the essential problem of income inequality to wider public attention and into popular discourse, and in this respect I think OWS was a real success.

Correct. That was the primary goal. Before OWS, there was no public discourse about income inequity. Clarion calls from prominent pundits like Krugman and Reich were ignored. There was absolutely no way to get people to listen.

Solution: change the way the discourse took place. Make a space for it to be heard, in the middle of the Public Square in the middle of town. Replace Politics with a Capital P with politics with a small p. Politics is pundits on CNN's Crossfire shouting talking points at each other and not listening the other guy. Little p politics is me or any other citizen going to a public space with the intention listening to people, anybody, everybody. It is amazing the effect this had on people. Once you listened to people respectfully, their attitudes changed from confrontational Politics to political discourse with both sides listening to what the other said. I thought about it and wondered how we all managed to do this. It was the General Assemblies. You had to sit there and shut up while every opinion was expressed, until everyone was satisfied that all voices had been heard. This was extremely difficult at first. It takes some practice to listen attentively to all ideas , even ones you might oppose, and try to find some common ground. This is how your ideas get mindshare. I can't count all the times I got into dialogues just casually in the Square, and then after a while, people would almost whisper to me how fearful they were of publicly expressing their support for OWS, or even voicing liberal opinions, they could lose their jobs.

I found there were only two groups of people who would rant and never listen to anyone. They were Ron Paul followers, or bible-thumpers. Both groups were blinded by fanaticism and certain in their righteousness. I decided it was OK to ignore them. The Public Square is a place for people to express the viewpoints that are going unheard. Mainstream religions and Congressmen are some of the voices that pushed those opinions out of the public discourse. For hundreds, even thousands of years, they have had their pulpits and podiums to pronounce their opinions. This is our Square, we want to listen to each other without you shouting us down and making people afraid to express their opinions, like you always do.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:06 PM on December 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


It could be Delmoi talking.

I miss delmoi.
posted by homunculus at 4:00 PM on December 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I do too, if for no other reason for the towering shitstorm he would unleash when somebody tells him(?) that he's being lumped in with the Tea Party.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:31 PM on December 5, 2013


Six Good Things Occupy Wall Street Made Possible (That You Probably Already Take for Granted)
posted by homunculus at 3:17 PM on December 19, 2013


« Older While Saint Nicholas may bring gifts to good boys ...  |  TBN head Paul Crouch died Satu... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments