Last year, May Day was a cause for celebration for members of the group Occupy Wall Street. Even though they had been evicted from their home in Zuccotti Park several months prior, the movement that was created there had spread nationwide. Liberals hoped that OWS would become their version of the Tea Party. They were willing to look over the squalid conditions at OWS camps in New York and nationwide, the rampant vandalism, and most troubling, the rapes and sexual assaults that took place there while fellow liberals were simultaneously fear mongering over Republicans’ imagined “war on women.” On the second May Day since its formation, the movement, which portrayed itself as the voice of support for the bottom 99 percent of Americans, has fractured over some members’ desire to translate that vague declaration of support into disaster assistance for those affected by Hurricane Sandy.
The aftermath of Sandy left unprecedented destruction in the New York area, and to its credit, the Occupy movement stepped in to provide much-needed coordination and relief with the formation of Occupy Sandy. In November I spoke to a local rabbi who had been coordinating relief for elderly residents trapped inside a high-rise apartment complex that wouldn’t end up meeting someone in a FEMA jacket for a full ten days after the storm. The response from government officials was shockingly meager and private organizations like Occupy Sandy were left trying to provide food, water and medical attention to those hardest hit by the storm.
Salman Rushdie had quite the megaphone this weekend: the New York Times Sunday Review op-ed section and its 1,200-word space from which to preach. And Rushdie used that space to make quite the pronouncement: the world–the West included–was sliding back into dangerous territory, in which patience for the wisdom of dissidents was running low, and our willingness to let those men and women dissent running low along with it.
It must be said that Rushdie, as the famous target of the Islamic world’s fatwa for his book The Satanic Verses, knows firsthand about the danger to artists and intellectuals who cross those willing to do violence. And it can also be said that politicians who found Rushdie to be an insufferable troublemaker didn’t give him all the support he might have deserved. But Rushdie’s column in the Times shows that while he survived the fatwa on his head thus far, his judgment did not.
Rushdie seems incapable of distinguishing between true dissidents and useful idiots or puffed-up rabble-rousers. Everyone who crosses the government is speaking truth to power, to Rushdie. And his column is useful not for its intellectual value but because this mindset has so infected the world of the arts and academia that its roster is unable or unwilling to realize that the problem is not how we treat genuine dissidents but that the global left has diluted the meaning and the cause by calling clownish poseurs by that name.
Occupy Wall Street has finally achieved success in their mission to redistribute wealth from the haves (the taxpayers of the City of New York) to the have-nots (lawyers in the City of New York). Perhaps this exact redistribution wasn’t quite what the group set out to achieve, but thanks to a lawsuit recently settled between the city and Occupy’s lawyers, that’s what the group has accomplished.
CBS News reports on the settlement that landed Occupy’s lawyers with almost four times as much cash as the group itself:
Contain your surprise at this latest study into Occupy Wall Street’s participants: They are overwhelmingly white, educated, and are more likely to be employed, make over $100,000 a year and be male than the average New Yorker. That composite image you had in your mind of spoiled, rich white guys camping out in Zuccotti Park for the fun of it was confirmed by the movement’s own participants’ self-reported statistics.
The study, commissioned by the City University of New York, interviewed 727 participants about the movement and its structure. The study explained that “despite their relative affluence and their overrepresentation in the professions, many of our respondents had substantial debt or had experienced recent job loss.” Hold the phone. Folks that spent weeks, if not months, sleeping outside while protesting something they were never actually able to identify can’t handle financial or job responsibilities well? Truly shocking.
Although the Occupy Wall Street protest movement often shunned both organization and the formation of a coherent set of principles and demands, its antipathy to Wall Street–hence the name of the movement–was central to its cause and its grievances, real or imagined. Punishing Wall Street was a given to the protesters, because in their minds the city’s kings of finance were greedy oligarchs hoarding their wealth. But occasionally the OWS protesters accidentally stumbled upon some cold hard facts that undercut their complaints, such as when New York City Councilman Daniel Halloran approached the crowd and told them:
I think there needs to be Wall Street reform, but we also have to remember that one-third of the city’s revenue comes from Wall Street right now, OK? One-third of the city’s revenue stream already comes from Wall Street.
To those outside of Lower Manhattan, it appears Occupy Wall Street has faded into obscurity. Unfortunately for some residents of New York City, the movement is still maintaining a presence on public property. After finally being ejected from Zuccotti Park after months of vandalism, violence and disruption, OWS hobos — I mean protesters — have taken up residence on the sidewalks outside Trinity Church, a parish church of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. The Episcopalians, not exactly known for being Christianity’s stalwarts of conservatism, aren’t happy about it.
This week Trinity Church announced that it would be canceling its annual Halloween celebration because the encampment makes the area around the church increasingly unsafe. In a statement issued on Sunday, Trinity’s Rev. James Cooper stated “Last year, more than 1,200 people took part. However, we are deeply concerned about the escalating illegal and abusive activity the camp presents.” Fox News went on to report,
As the Economist’s political outlook has changed on issues throughout the years, the one constant has been the restraining of the written identities of its anonymous contributors in place of a unified “voice of God,” as it’s often referred to. And the real challenge to maintaining this weighty air of authority has never been the complicated issues that seem to cry out for the responsible reflection of the Economist’s on-the-one-hand-but-on-the-other consideration. It is, rather, the attempts to wedge clear-cut and fairly ridiculous ideas into this deliberative style.
Can you make just about anything sound plausible if you employ the tone of the unimpeachable? The Economist tested that question in this week’s edition, and the answer is a resounding No. The magazine has a brief write-up of the reunion of the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York, which it admits has seemingly run out of steam. But then the Economist closes with this paragraph:
The disconnect between the polls that show Mitt Romney and Barack Obama in a dead heat and the media conventional wisdom desperately pronouncing Obama the easy victor is being turned on its head in the Massachusetts Senate race. There, it is Republican Scott Brown that seems to be running the better campaign, yet the polls are starting to show a consistent lead by his challenger, Elizabeth Warren.
Though Brown’s approval rating is no longer the stratospheric 73 percent it was only last year according to a Democratic committee poll, he is still above water at 55 percent among registered voters and 57 percent among likely voters. A new poll shows Massachusetts voters think Brown is running the more positive campaign, 35 percent to 21 for Warren. And Brown’s strong ties to the state are not lost on voters, nor is Warren’s lack of same; only 13 percent of voters think she has a strong connection to the state. Brown’s approval rating among independents is 67 percent and 30 percent among Democrats. So what’s causing Brown’s poll slide?
Arthur Brisbane, outgoing ombudsman at the New York Times, caused a bit of a stir this weekend with his final column. As Jonathan noted, much of Brisbane’s criticism of the paper is standard fare. But one aspect of it stood out to me. Brisbane wrote:
Across the paper’s many departments, though, so many share a kind of political and cultural progressivism — for lack of a better term — that this worldview virtually bleeds through the fabric of The Times.
As a result, developments like the Occupy movement and gay marriage seem almost to erupt in The Times, overloved and undermanaged, more like causes than news subjects.
The paper’s bias on cultural issues always been more profound than its bias on other issues. This may be partly due to the fact that the paper’s editors hold consistent and clear positions on social issues, and so its dedication to those “causes” represents an animating principle of the paper’s coverage: they are part of the organization’s worldview. On other issues, the paper will usually advocate for an issue based on which party is in power. The Times will argue forcefully in favor of the filibuster when the Democrats need it, but against it once the Democrats have virtually unfettered power in the Congress and White House. The Times will argue in favor of fiscal responsibility when a Republican president presides over a federal deficit, but argue against restraining spending when a Democratic White House needs ammunition for class warfare.
Jay Nordlinger occasionally writes at National Review Online about conservatives’ desire for cultural “safe zones”–places to experience the arts without liberal politics intruding on what is meant to be an escape from our ubiquitous political skirmishes. Nordlinger publishes his own experiences and those of readers who attend a concert, the theater, a museum, etc. only for it to be turned into a venue for liberal preaching to an assumed choir.
Rock music, of course, is almost by nature activist, and concerts are far from being “safe zones.” Last night, a concert in downtown Manhattan seemed to be heading in that direction, but then took a peculiar turn. After a rock band opened for the headliner, a “special guest” was announced. This guest would introduce the headliner–a Canadian alt-rock band–but first he wanted to deliver some of his spoken-word beat poetry. The crowd, a young New York audience around the corner from Union Square Park’s Occupy Wall Street adjunct, was amenable, and cheered the poet. The poet was energetic, and the crowd continued to applaud at the beginning of the set. But then something strange happened.
I wanted to follow up on my previous post that alluded to the effort by ABC’s Brian Ross to slander the Tea Party movement in the aftermath of the Aurora, Colorado, massacre.
In all of this, I’m reminded of the effort by liberals to place the blame for President Kennedy’s assassination on the atmosphere of “right-wing hate” that supposedly characterized the city of Dallas. We later learned, of course, that Lee Harvey Oswald was sympathetic not to conservatism but to communism and Castro. That didn’t fit very well into the liberal template, but the left did what it could.
Beyond that historical parallel, the attempted smear by Ross underscores the extraordinary double standard between the media’s coverage of the Tea Party versus that of the Occupy Wall Street movement. The main residual effect of Tea Party rallies is that the grounds on which the rallies were held were usually cleaner after the Tea Party held their event than before they assembled.
Fars News Agency is the go-to place for foreign media outlets to find out what’s going on in Iran or at least what the government in Tehran wants us to think is going on there. But lest anyone think the journalists at Fars are untainted by the demented anti-Semitism that is the hallmark of much of the discourse we hear from that government, a contest run by the news service should remind us how deep the virus of hate runs in Iranian society. Fars has just held an “International Wall Street Downfall Cartoon Festival” in which illustrators were invited to draw something that would demonstrate sympathy with the Occupy Wall Street movement. The winner was one Mohammad Tabrizi, who earned 5,000 euros for drawing a depiction of a monumental-style building labeled “New York Wall Street,” which was a replica of the Western Wall in Jerusalem before which figures dressed as Orthodox Jews worshiped.
The cartoon is, as the Anti-Defamation League noted, “offensive on many levels.” But the main point here must be to point out that this drawing is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Iranian anti-Semitism. Far from being an outlier, the cartoon is just the latest in a series of incidents and statements that show how Jew-hatred has become an integral factor in Iranian discourse. While this is damning by itself, it puts the struggle to stop the Islamist regime from obtaining nuclear weapons in a frightening context. It ought to give pause to those who claim Iran’s leaders are too responsible to even think of using such weapons against the Jewish state they have also pledged to eliminate.
Bruce Springsteen is a fantastic musician. But he should stick to music rather than interviews in which he offers social commentary. Take Springsteen’s Rolling Stone interview with Jon Stewart, in which Springsteen complains about the level of greed at the top of the financial industry, lavishes praise on the Occupy Wall Street movement, and laments income inequality in America. “You cannot have a social contract with the enormous income disparity — you’re going to slice the country down the middle. It’s not going to hold.”
Perhaps the first thing to point out is that Springsteen’s estimated to be worth $200 million, meaning The Boss is doing more than his fair share to contribute to income inequality in America. (He probably ranks in the top 100th of the top one percent.)
As for the substantive issues surrounding income inequality, I agree with Springsteen that wide disparities in income and living standards can pose a danger to our social well-being. But the issue is far more complicated than he acknowledges. A National Affairs essay I co-authored points out that (a) income taxes in America are the most progressive among the rich nations in the world; (b) inequality is driven in part by the growing work-force participation rate of women; (c) federal old-age entitlement programs have become less progressive (which argues for means-testing Social Security and Medicare, a policy that is fiercely rejected by liberals); and (d) one of the quickest ways to increased income equality is a severe recession (since severe recessions destroy capital, which hurts top income earners more than average workers).
Initially residents of the deeply blue cities of New York and Washington, DC were sympathetic to the message of Occupy Wall Street. Having dozens of unwashed campers with a history of rape and assault occupying their public parks for months on end, however, quickly evaporated any goodwill the city’s residents may have had towards the group. This week the patience the residents of New York City and Washington, DC was worn to the breaking point by members of the movement in two unrelated incidents that show just how little regard the campers have towards their fellow man.
In Washington the normally sympathetic DCist reports,
Last night, in the span of about two hours, Occupy D.C. managed to get on the nerves of two groups that tend to be progressive: LGBT activists who organized a 700-person march in support of hate-crime victims, and City Paper readers in attendance at a debate of at-large D.C. Council candidates sponsored by the alt-weekly.
The march last night was meant to be a mostly quiet affair, with some participants taping over their mouths as a way of expressing the silence they feel when a member of their community is attacked. The marchers who didn’t seal their mouths spoke quietly, save a few quick speeches by the organizers and some District officials.
But the 50 or so members of Occupy D.C. who joined up couldn’t stick to the script. They mic-checked, chanted and lingered in busy intersections as police officers escorting the march reopened the streets after rolling closures. Some said they were part of a “radical queer bloc” that was enjoined by members of Occupy D.C., but with the “mic checks” and chants that wouldn’t be out of place at an Occupy rally, the distinction was unclear.
This is far from the first time that Occupy D.C. has been loud and disruptive in a public meeting, nor is it the first time they have blocked traffic. It is the first time they’ve taken aim at their fellow liberals, and given the tone of the DCist’s coverage, liberals don’t like the taste of their own medicine.
It’s always difficult to untangle when J Street officials actually believe in the anti-Israel policies and anti-Semitic rhetoric that they push and defend, and when they’re just following the commands of donors. The group’s president Jeremy Ben-Ami raised eyebrows by voluntarily injecting himself on the side of anti-Jewish language during the “Israel-Firster” debate, and then later it turned out that J Street had a potential financial incentive to take that stance. On the other hand the group and its partisans seem genuinely enthused about rolling out the red carpet for Peter Beinart and his exhortation to economically suffocate Israelis who don’t live where he tells them. As for J Street’s call on Obama to pressure Israel in the aftermath of the Flotilla even though the Israelis were in the right on self-defense, that simply had an incoherence borne of conflicted priorities.
So it’s impossible to know which dynamic — donor pressure or personal passion — was at work when J Street officials defended Occupy Wall Street from criticism of its disgraceful and extensively documented anti-Semitism. In favor of the donor theory, there’s the fact that J Street funder George Soros backed Occupy. On the side of the labor of love theory, there turn out to be deep sociological, institutional, and personal ties between pro-Occupy radicals and J Street officials – so much so that those radicals are now officially “partnering” with J Street on this weekend’s conference. Read More
Many Jewish liberals have been in denial about the anti-Israel and often anti-Semitic tone of much of the Occupy Wall Street movement since its inception. As our colleague Jonathan Neumann wrote in the January issue of COMMENTARY, the leftist hatred for Israel is thoroughly integrated into the Occupy worldview even though some mainstream sympathizers with the movement would prefer to ignore it. But their tolerance for the way this virus has attached itself to a movement that is supposedly about “social justice” will soon be put to the test again.
The so-called U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation is organizing an Occupy AIPAC event set to coincide with the annual national conference in Washington, D.C. of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in March. The group, an anti-Zionist organization dedicated to promoting boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) on Israel is hoping to piggyback on the popularity of the Occupy movement to try to sabotage or at least overshadow the AIPAC event. Though the odds are, it will fail, as most such anti-Israel efforts generally do, the manner with which this BDS group has commandeered the Occupy brand name ought to alert liberals to the direction the movement is headed with respect to Israel and the Jews.
The Heritage Foundation’s Lachlan Markey draws attention to an interesting stat from a recent Gallup poll that measured the economic concerns of Americans:
Gallup reports that only 2 percent of Americans list the “divide between rich and poor” as the most important economic issue facing the country. Those findings come from an open-ended survey, meaning respondents were not confined to a pre-selected group of responses. Unemployment and the national debt top the list, but all told, a full 17 economic issues rank higher in the American political consciousness than income inequality.
Justin Elliott has the scoop on a new Occupy Wall Street documentary currently being produced by Citizens United. The filming is reportedly wrapping up this week, which means this could be released fairly soon. Just in time for the Conservative Political Action Conference in early February, maybe?
The new film is to be called “Mic Check: The Untold Story of the Occupy Movement.” A participant at Occupy Wall Street recently received an interview request from a Citizens United producer that included this description of the film:
“…In Mic Check: The Untold Story of the Occupy Movement, we’ll look at the roots of the Occupy movement and hear from its undeclared ‘leaders.’ We’ll go inside the still existing encampments in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., into the frequently contentious street rallies and hear from participants about their protest, their goals and their vision for the future.”
On Saturday night following the Republican presidential debate on ABC, a panel discussion broadcast on the network included the startling claim by Democratic talking head Donna Brazile that Mitt Romney’s dominance of the GOP field was “good news” for the Democrats because the frontrunner is “the weakest candidate.” Even ABC host and former Clinton administration official George Stephanopolous openly scoffed at her assertion, but some on the right are echoing her taunt.
Yesterday, Rush Limbaugh agreed with Brazile and went so far as to allege, perhaps humorously, that Stephanopolous’s retort was an attempt to get his fellow Democrat to keep quiet about their party’s secret desire for Romney to be the GOP nominee. Limbaugh has, of course, been quite vocal about Romney’s alleged weakness. He believes the GOP’s nomination of a man identified with Wall Street will help fire up the “occupy” base of the Democratic Party while also causing the conservative grass roots to sit out the general election, allowing Obama to cruise to victory. But while Limbaugh’s views are entitled to the respect due to the pre-eminent voice of the conservative insurgency, I very much doubt the president is delighted with the prospect of a big victory for Romney in New Hampshire tonight.