Sunday, December 18, 2011

Occupy Wall Street: Has the Movement Found a Cause?

   I am curious about how articles such as this recent CNN piece come about.  Does a CNN editor think, "Hmmm... Occupy Wall Street protestors are starting to occupy foreclosed homes... I wonder what a couple of law professors think about that?"  Or do a couple of law professors who recently published a book sense an opportunity when Occupy Wall Street protestors start to occupy foreclosed homes and call CNN and offer to do a disinterested-third-party analysis of this latest development?
   In any case, the piece is more advocacy than analysis. The authors place Occupy as the latest in a series of social protests employing occupation:  "A straight line runs from the 1930s sit-down strikes in Flint, Michigan, to the 1960 lunch-counter sit-ins to the occupation of Alcatraz by Native American activists in 1969 to Occupy Wall Street."  On closer examination, however, the claim is dubious.  The 1930s strikes took place in the location (factories) where conditions were being protested, as did the lunch-counter sit-ins, and were carried out by those being affected by the property owners actions. The Alcatraz occupation is arguably a better match for the current Occupy movement, but in the most unflattering way.  That occupation degenerated into a fiasco (drugs, crime, property destruction) that was echoed in local Occupy movements throughout this past Fall.   (This might explain why the authors extensively recount the details of the first two examples and virtually ignore the third.)
   So how does occupying foreclosed homes fit the pattern of these forerunners?  Whose homes?  Families are not being returned to their own foreclosed homes.  Do they even know in which bank's properties they are trespassing?  The authors declare that "the bankers' claims to foreclosed properties are morally suspect", but at least the banks shelled out the money to originally buy the homes.  The squatters have no stake, either moral or financial.  How long, once the attention dies down and the crowds move on, will these poor people be allowed to remain?
   No doubt there are some true believers who believe their actions will bring down Goliath and everyone will have a bought-and-paid-for (by someone else) home.  But from the port shutdowns (which are related to banks how?) to the prominent message of support from legendary leftist icon and cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal on the OWS website, the Occupy movement appears to simply be the latest incarnation of the left's attack on America.  If I can borrow the authors' phrase, the real "heroic acts of imagination" are their own tortured attempts to paint Occupy Wall Street as on the road to joining the gallery of "the most effective occupation movements of the past century."

Note:  The final paragraph of the article refers to "political objections" when clearly "political objectives" was intended.  How long will it take for someone at CNN or the authors themselves to recognize this and correct it?

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