Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Why did Occupy dry up?

(Originally published August 19, 2012)

A friend recently asked me why Occupy actions seemed to be less frequent and less well attended recently compared to zenith of the movement in late 2011.  These were the reasons I thought were important:
1) The state/corporate system trying to destroy you is just a huge
resource drain.  The cops trashed basically every camp, sometimes
multiple times in a city.  The district attorney brought cases against
protesters for various things, issued stay-away orders for key
leaders, etc.  Child protective services has tried to take away
children of parents who have been at Occupy rallies.  Occupy's media
reach was hampered by the sacking of its facilities.  State agent
provocateurs (always difficult to prove) and infiltrators (easier to
prove) abound.  Ubiquitous propaganda and police presence told the
public not to get involved.  A lot of people just got sick of being
tear gassed and, more generally, facing off with the security
apparatus every night.
2)  Ideological divisions within Occupy.  The key one, I think, was
liberals not wanting to be part of a movement in which every
participant didn't behave exactly as they imagined that Gandhi did
(and most have a very flawed understanding of Gandhi's philosophy
btw... see Norman Finkelstein's new book on the subject).
To wit, some black-clad, masked protester broke a window at a bank at
one protest, and no liberal was ever seen again at an Occupy event,
roughly speaking.
3) I would emphasize this less, but we've passed the worst immediate
depths of the financial crisis, so a movement that is primarily about
economic justice will attenuate if there's a perception (however
flawed) that, economically, the situation is improving.
4) I would emphasize this less and in some regions of the US more than
others, but the pull of electoral politics always has a
de-radicalizing effect.  This isn't Occupy per se, but in Wisconsin
there was a large popular movement against cutting union benefits that
got funneled into an electoral struggle.  The Democratic candidate
they were backing wasn't even that great, and, of course, they
ultimately lost the Scott Walker recall (after being outspent 7 to 1).

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