Column on OWS’s Lack of Focus

Occupy Wall Street’s Lack of Focus

Tibor R. Machan

Rolling Stone magazine ran a piece recently arguing that what OWS is doing doesn’t amount to attacks on money or banking but is aimed at corruption. While this is a spin that may work for some folks, it doesn’t sound credible for me.

When someone, some organization or an institution is charged with corruption, this is a serious matter. It is comparable to accusing some people of malpractice in medicine, education, engineering or the like. And such a charge requires specific proof in order to make it credible. Otherwise is it irresponsible.

All the while OWS has been afoot, however, no specific accusations have been laid out by the participants or leaders or supporters. It is all vague and unfocused. It is much more like scapegoating those on Wall Street, given that the group doesn’t bother to be specific and fails, moreover, to go after the main culprits, for example those in Washington who urged the banks to make borrowing easy. In 1992 Bill Clinton’s administration did, in fact, implore banks to do just that, through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, for example. So why are these not the targets of OWS?

Of course there is another little thing that’s odious about OWS. This is the use of the term “occupy.” That term is used to refer to what huge, imperialist countries do with some of their neighbors, namely, send in troops to occupy them, to run roughshod over them, and to raid and pilfer them good and hard. Is this what OWS is proposing to do with the firms that are located on Wall Street or associated with them? Are they going to invade these just as Hitler did some of Germany’s neighbors and Stalin did with the Soviet Union’s? I do not believe this is any kind of an attractive image or even analogy. It easily makes OWS out to be aggressors.

There is no doubt that OWS folks can list numerous general failings that have occurred on Wall Street, plenty of misdeeds that have been perpetrated thereabouts, usually with the support of Washington’s politicians and bureaucrats. Yet there doesn’t appear to be much recognition of this within the ranks of the OWS folks. When they are interviewed they tend to lash out imprecisely, even blindly, and mostly at those in American society who are doing reasonably well, economically. The strategy seems to be to garner the sadly widespread prejudice around the country directed at those in the business community. In other words, OWS appears to be but a current version of the age old mentality and practice of business bashing. This is what fueled much of what the Third Reich was all about, including the deadly anti-Semitism evidenced during that era. While OWS doesn’t show direct hostility to Jews, it does appear to pick on those within the business community, giving the clearly guilty politicians a pass at the same time.

Of course there are other problems with many who join OWS, not the least of which is the mentality most of them share about how they are entitled to free goods and services from others in American society. Protesting tuition at higher educational institutions is but a more glaring symptom of this, the belief that others must be forced to pay for the education of young protesters. Why exactly? (Here one failing of the media covering OWS becomes quite evident since hardly any journalists pose the challenging question to protesters about why other people’s resources ought to be confiscated so as to support them?) And if the purpose of some protesters is to complain about unemployment and general economic malaise, wouldn’t it be imperative that they actually figure out who is mostly responsible for these, what policies have produced them? And shouldn’t members of the media press the issue with them when they are being interviewed?

Or is OWS simply a noisy lament with nothing better than ignorance backing it, a kind of shaking one’s fist at the sky when one’s picnic has been rained out? Which isn’t a very useful thing and certainly points at no one who may be guilty of anything at all.

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