Does the Right own the Occupy narrative?
posted at 10:25 am on November 15, 2011 by Ed Morrissey
How would the national news media have reacted had Rick Santelli publicly warned that the Tea Party had run off the rails so badly that it was helping the Left? Verum Serum asks this question after the Guardian reports that the man who inspired the Occupy Wall Street movement warned that the volume of negative stories and violence coming from Occupy camps has given the Right the ascendant narrative of a political movement out of control. You’ll have to scroll down a bit, though, because the Guardian buried this lede far into the piece:
Kalle Lasn, the editor-in-chief of Adbusters, said it was considering declaring victory in an attempt to regain the initiative after a series of negative headlines about the encampment.
“We are talking about it with all our people,” said Lasn. “The other side is owning the narrative right now. People are talking about drugs and criminals at OWS.
“Why not, as a grand gesture, declare victory? I love the idea that some diehards will dig in through the snow. This is what happens in movements and revolutions, they have this crazy wild state a the beginning where nobody knows that going on.”
Even among those sympathetic to the Occupy movement, there is some skepticism as to whether it is sustainable in its current form.
Chris Howell, a professor of politics at Oberlin College, said the movement had been successful in shifting political discourse from the budget deficit to inequality of power and wealth. But he said that to move beyond that it needed to institutionalise itself.
Yeah, it’s odd how unsustainable rape-free zones can be in the public mind, as just one example of OWS self-policing. As my friend Steven Crowder said this weekend, most of us considered America to be a rape-free zone, and the establishment of such a perimeter very much sounds like a statement of “it’s your fault” to women who don’t huddle together in a few tents to keep themselves from being sexually assaulted. And that’s just one demonstration of how the Occupy movement and its lawlessness has managed to insinuate itself into the public consciousness, apart from the murders and the mayhem, especially in Oakland.
The organizers didn’t think they’d last through the winter anyway, and wondered how to transition for a few months without losing momentum:
In a tacit admission that the protests will be difficult to sustain over the winter, organisers are now focusing their efforts on planning a “spring offensive” with fresh targets, they told the Guardian in a series of interviews this week.
Details of the campaign will be unveiled later this month, according to the activists who say they will spend the winter consolidating their position, broadening their support base and refining communication between Occupy grounds nationwide, using online tools being developed by their IT team.
Keeping the protests alive at all through the cold months is becoming a challenge for a movement flushed with the dramatic success of its first eight weeks.
Ezra Klein thinks that Mayor Michael Bloomberg did the Occupy movement a favor this morning:
The occupation of Zucotti Park was always going to have a tough time enduring for much longer. As the initial excitement wore off and the cold crept in, only the diehards — and those with no place else to go — were likely to remain in the park. The numbers in Zucotti Park would thin, and so too would the media coverage. And in the event someone died of hypothermia, or there was some other disaster, that coverage could turn. What once looked like a powerful protest could come to be seen as a dangerous frivolity.
Bloomberg spared them that fate. Zucotti Park wasn’t cleared by weather, or the insufficient commitment of protesters. It was cleared by pepper spray and tear gas. It was cleared by police and authority. It was cleared by a mayor who comes from Wall Street and a request made by one of America’s largest commercial real estate developers. It was cleared, in other words, in a way that will temporarily reinvigorate the protesters and give Occupy Wall Street the best possible chance to become whatever it will become next.
He may well be right. Had the Occupiers just started petering out with the cold weather, the movement would have appeared to lose steam, and people would have otherwise returned to their lives. With the police kicking them out, it gives the movement a whiff of mild martyrdom and a grievance that will fuel movement enthusiasm, at least for a little while.
However, waiting until spring to move into the next phase won’t keep that momentum going. The Tea Party had no problem holding rallies in winter, mainly because the Tea Party didn’t turn into a squatter movement. If the Occupiers have an actual and legitimate agenda, why can’t they demonstrate within the law to make their point? Even Ezra doubts that the Occupier movement can amount to much without occupation, since they don’t have any consensus on what solutions they want pursued, or even on what problems they want addressed.
The challenge for the Occupy movement is that they need to grow up — and the movement is almost entirely comprised of cases of arrested development. Even if Bloomberg did them a favor today, it’s not too likely to make a difference in the long run.