Matt Stoller: #OccupyWallStreet Is a Church of Dissent, Not a Protest

By Matt Stoller, the former Senior Policy Advisor to Rep. Alan Grayson and a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. You can reach him at stoller (at) or follow him on Twitter at @matthewstoller.

Last weekend, I spent a few days with the protesters downtown near Wall Street, and it was an eye-opening experience. The people there want something, but it’s not a list of demands, and it is entirely overlooked by the media and most commentators on the protest.

If all you read are news stories and twitter feeds about #OccupyWallStreet, the most trenchant imagery that will stick in your mind is that of police brutality, and the politics of Wall Street greed. The debate seems to be organized around whether the protest will be “successful” or not, how the protesters are stupid or a new American Tahrir Square, or rhetoric designed in a media sphere that maximizes attention. Glenn Greenwald suitably demolishes the sneering commentariat. But I think there’s something to add about what exactly this protest is, what it is doing, and most of all, what the people there “want”. They don’t have a formal list of demands.

And it’s obvious that this isn’t just about Wall Street, nor is it really a battle of any sort. There are political signs there attacking Fox News, expressing anger about Troy Davis, supporting the Iranian revolution, urging the Federal Reserve be reined in, and demanding rich people pay their taxes. There are personal signs about debt, war, and medical problems. And people are dressed in costume, carrying lightsabers, and some guys are driving around a truck with a “Top Secret Wikileaks” sign on the side. I asked if they were affiliated with the site, and one of them responded with “That’s what the Secret Service asked”. Most of all, people there are having fun.

What these people are doing is building, for lack of a better word, a church of dissent. It’s not a march, though marches are spinning off of the campground. It’s not even a protest, really. It is a group of people, gathered together, to create a public space seeking meaning in their culture. They are asserting, together, to each other and to themselves, “we matter”.

Meaning is a fundamental human need. The act of politicization, of building any movement, is based on individual, and then group self-confidence. As Daniel Ellsberg said, “courage is contagious”. I’m reminded of how Howard Dean campaign worker and current law professor Zephyr Teachout characterized the early antiwar blogosphere and then-radical campaign of Dean, as church-like in their community-building elements. That’s what #OccupyWallStreet reminded me of. Even the general assemblies, where people would speak, and others would respond, had a rhythmic quality to them, similar to churches or synagogues I’ve attended.

You can tell this is a somewhat different animal than other politicized gatherings. No one knows what to expect. There are no explicit demands. It’s not very large. And yet, celebrities are heading to Zuccotti Park. Wall Street traders are sneering and angry. The people there are getting press, but aren’t dominated by it. People are there just to be there, because it feels meaningful. The camp is clean and well-organized, and it feels relevant and topical rather than a therapy space for frustrated radicals. Just a block away is the New York Fed, a large, scary, and imposing building with heavy iron doors, video cameras, and a police presence that scream “go away”.

There are a lot of police, but unlike the portrayal in the press the relationship between the protesters and the police is fairly good. The arrests and macing you saw happened because protesters decided to march to Union Square without a permit, and many joined the march on the way. Police began arresting people to keep control of the streets, and that’s when the macings happened. I’m not downplaying what happened, but context is important for understanding why the camping in the park isn’t really problematic while the marching has seen conflict. Police and firefighters routinely come through the park to make sure there are no open flames and no tents, often to applause. There are hints of a more menacing presence; I was told by several organizers that men dressed in business suits accompanied with what looked like police have on several occasions ordered them to vacate the park, handing protesters official-looking orders that on closer inspection were not actually from any governmental authority. Lawyers at the protest made it clear these were to be ignored.

The organizers themselves seem quite experienced. Adbusters didn’t have much to do with the protest organizing, in fact much of the energy came from people that did anti-budget cut campaigns against Mayor Bloomberg in New York City, as well as the May 12th protest march. The organizers have set up committees to handle most tasks, like media and sanitation. There’s a hotspot, and lots of computing and video equipment to record and broadcast. There are living space areas, and the camp site has had to contend with rain without the benefit of tents (which are illegal).

The protesters make decisions in twice a day consensus-based “general assemblies”, where anyone is allowed to speak. No amplification is allowed, so the crowd has figured out a model to make sure everyone is heard. The speaker says half a sentence, and the crowd repeats it so it can be heard. This continues until the speaker is done. There are hand signals that allow others to express agreement and disagreement. I didn’t spend enough time to really get into the nuts and bolts of the organization, but it doesn’t seem very formal. There’s a deep fear of official spokespeople beginning to monopolize and misinterpret the non-hierarchical model of community protest. Of course, there’s not really that much to do; people are there to be there.

The protesters are what you’d expect, a kind of hippie dippie group of students, anti-globalization activists, and antiwar movement actors. There are backrub circles, innumerable pizzas (“the food of revolutions”), but these people do not think of themselves as fringe in any sense. They believe themselves to represent all Americans who are frustrated by politics and finance. Whether or not this is true, what is happening is that there is a belief that their actions matter, that they themselves are moral beings who have dignity and power simply by the very act of self-expression. This is rare in radical activism, most of it is so infused with cynicism that self-marginalization, deadly irony, and mau mau’ing by professional liberals works to persuade protesters to believe themselves a sort of libertarian nihilists. Not so here. There are people wearing tape over their mouths, grandmothers for peace, signs about new death penalty icon Troy Davis, and signs with coherent messages about debt, the Fed, and various wars. Many of the organizers were inspired by Wisconsin and Egypt, by attacks on teachers, by corruption on Wall Street, by money in politics, and are just happy to be out in the streets after a long period of absence of formal protest.

The level of knowledge among protesters on how Wall Street works is fairly high in terms of abstract conceptualizations, but they don’t actually have a lot of immediate connection to policy-making and financial practice. Furthermore, the space is fraught with the problem of consensus-based anti-leadership organizing. There are no spokespeople, and you can’t get on their media list (they don’t have one). The anti-leadership non-hierarchical consensus method is designed to avoid the way that leaders can be smeared and/or co-opted. It does not really scale, and this is a serious challenge going forward. But ultimately, the energy of just having a bunch of people in one place for a long period of time is very different, and much more interesting, than just a march. The protesters are creating a public space for the discussion of economic justice, just by showing up. Some told me they are planning teach-ins. At one point, one of the organizers suggested protesters do a mass drinking of Hope kool-aid, and mimic a die-off. I asked if they had anything planned for Sept. 29, when the Germany parliament will pass their bailout, and I was told that while they had nothing planned as of yet, someone from Citigroup had come by the night before and told them the German bailout was happening.

Many of the angry establishment liberals are frustrated that this protest has no top-down messaging strategy (this tweet from Dave Roberts of Grist in which he calls the protests “horrific” and “designed to discredit leftie protest” is representative). But these people, who represent the rump of support for Obama, are not part of the conversation here. The conversation is global. And you can sort of tell that this protest really bothers the community on Wall Street, stirring up deep existential questions for the people that work there, many of whom know there is a spectacle going on in the streets below.

I don’t think anyone knows where and how this ends, or if it does. I’ve been part of movements full of meaning just like this, movements that utterly failed based on structural weaknesses and the power of the status quo. They seemed full of life, zest, and ended up as yet another set of bloodless bureaucratic failed institutions. These protests may yet be another false start. I’m told, though, by those who were in successful civic uprisings around the world that they all had many, many false starts. But perhaps success and failure isn’t the right way to think about what’s going on in downtown New York, any more than thinking about a church as successful or failed based on its political objectives is the right way to think about how those in the pews satisfy their thirst for spiritual vigor. What these people have found in themselves, and created for each other, is meaning.

And now, here are a few more pictures.

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  1. Exotic Dragonfruit

    When Stoller talks about these protestors as “hippie dippie”, I’m not sure it’s much different from the “liberal nihilism” he decries. I assume he’s not referring to the Teamsters or the airline pilots who are out on Wall Street today?

    Seriously, too much of this piece reads like a lesser-but-substantial level of “I’m wayyyyyy too cool for this.”

    1. watercarrier4diogenes

      Same impression I got, E.D., which is depressing, as I’d thought highly of Stoller until now.

      This line, “The arrests and macing you saw happened because protesters decided to march to Union Square without a permit…” sparked my doubt as to his motivation. He’s obviously not seen the macing tape, or wants those who haven’t seen it to remain unmoved by it.

      1. Sean Palmer

        30 seconds of tape is not representative of what has been happening over the past week. That incident wasn’t normal. The marches have been getting more resistance, that doesn’t mean senseless violence. The NYPD are actually pretty good at this.

    2. tomk

      I didn’t take it that way. He seems to be trying to portray it both accurately and in a positive way for an audience that may feel that way (to cool for this).

      1. Matt Stoller

        It’s not an insult, I was actually just conveying what the various attendants were telling me. That it’s considered an insult is a frame I do not accept.

        1. Susan the other

          The Grannies for peace, jobs and healthcare are excellent role models. Just kinda sitting there like the Fates.

    3. Yves Smith Post author

      Did you read the same piece I did? This comment sounds troubling like sort of Democratic hack response that Glenn Greenwald called out yesterday:

      Any entity that declares itself an adversary of prevailing institutional power is going to be viewed with hostility by establishment-serving institutions and their loyalists. That’s just the nature of protests that take place outside approved channels, an inevitable by-product of disruptive dissent: those who are most vested in safeguarding and legitimizing establishment prerogatives (which, by definition, includes establishment media outlets) are going to be hostile to those challenges. As the virtually universal disdain in these same circles for WikiLeaks (and, before that, for the Iraq War protests) demonstrated: the more effectively adversarial it is, the more establishment hostility it’s going to provoke.

      Nor is it surprising that much of the most vocal criticisms of the Wall Street protests has come from some self-identified progressives, who one might think would be instinctively sympathetic to the substantive message of the protesters. In an excellent analysis entitled “Why Establishment Media & the Power Elite Loathe Occupy Wall Street,” Kevin Gosztola chronicles how many of the most scornful criticisms have come from Democratic partisans who — like the politicians to whom they devote their fealty — feign populist opposition to Wall Street for political gain.

      Characterizing something as a church is the ANTITHESIS of saying it has anything to do with nihilism. And the criticisms of the participants (on sites like Gawker) have simultaneously been fixated with their attire, yet weirdly have also accused them of being “trust fund babies”. It looks like a desperate effort to sling labels at the protestors in the hope some of them will become memes (as if these events are even big enough to warrant this level of response, the effort to criticize these protests is having the perverse effect of raising their stature).

      I’m not saying this effort will succeed, but per Stoller, it seems to represent an impulse and style of protest which is decidedly at odds with the stereotypes about protesting and might be appealing to a bigger cohort if they understood that. You don’t seem willing to engage that observation.

      1. Exotic Dragonfruit

        I’m left wondering if you read the same comment that I wrote. How could you possibly think I agree with the people Greenwald’s criticizing? No one else has made this error in their responses to me.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Stoller’s post is very sympathetic to the protesters, but also seeks to depict them accurately. And in case you missed it, the protestors HAVE been criticized for not dressing a nice middle class manner (not sure what that means, since nice middle class people wear jeans and t-shirts). You missed a ton of nuance and got triggered by the phrase “hippie-dippie” which is a label I don’t think the protestors would disagree with or per craazyman below, would see as disapproval.

          1. Exotic Dragonfruit

            I am still not clear why pointing out this unpleasant phrasing makes me like the Democratic hacks Greenwald calls out. The accusation is off-base.

            What’s more, I’m not certain that any of us should be speaking for what the demonstrators want to read and what phrases they want to hear.

            My objection is that I’m not eager to forward around a piece that describes the demonstrators as “a kind of hippie dippie group of students, anti-globalization activists, and antiwar movement actors”, nor one that describes them as “a church” for that matter. I think these terms emphasize the wrong aspects of what they are doing, rhetorically.

            I take it for granted that you, I, and Stoller all have greatly similar views on the demonstrations. The issue is one of rhetoric, and this piece comes across to me as admiring but a little haughty.

          2. Yves Smith Post author


            Your remark is astonishing. Don’t you know the role that black churches played in the civil rights movement? Or white churches in the underground railroad? The Catholic Church was once the most powerful state in the world and even now wields a fair bit of influence. Gandhi was deeply religious and his notion of nonviolent protest has theological undertones, that is almost certainly no accident. The Mormons prosleytize aggressively and have become increasingly powerful in the US. I don’t see churches as weak, I see them as very powerful when they decide to achieve specific aims.

            And look at what our Richard Kline said about progressivism, it’s essentially a moral position. A “church” has the potential to make it a more active force.


          3. JTFaraday

            Well, I may be somewhat overdetermined in my view of this due to being largely introduced to this protest by the arrest tapes.

            But realistically, I think that the cops police through the framework of their experience and if they think they’re dealing, en masse, with nothing but the same drunks they trail home in Bushwick every weekend, then they think they have no cause to exercise restraint.

          4. JTFaraday

            Things seem to have lulled on that front for now, but if this protest gets bigger, it will probably start pushing His Royal Highness, The Mayor’s buttons all over again.

          5. Richard Kline

            I’ll second on my own account what Yves says here, that church-based social activism has a _very_ powerful tradition, particularly in American culture. Moreover movements of dissent have a ‘religious dissenter’ value structure to them whether or not they are overtly religious or connected with an official ‘faith.’ I found Matt Stoller’s observation of this ‘presence-in’ as a church of good faith to be amongst his most astute remarks in the piece.

            And this moral, or value-based, activist position mobilizes latent power in the way that demand-based demonstrations often cannot, or only do so over the long-term. Stoller: “And you can sort of tell that this protest really bothers the community on Wall Street, stirring up deep existential questions for the people that work there, many of whom know there is a spectacle going on in the streets below.” Exactly, and I’m quite interested to hear Matt make this observation from on the spot, for this is exactly what I just said. Being confronted by folks who deny the validity of your actions _is_ something that throws one on the backfoot into a moral, even existential dilemma. It would be fascinating, if so, if those who work on ‘the Street’ are aware and troubled by this action even if the larger society is far less so. That is a _HUGE_ success, to plant that seed of doubt, that “I am not an ennabler of master criminals (am I?).” That is a portion, if not the entirety, of the Irish tradition of starving oneself to death at the doorstep of a powerful wrongdoer, and the power of religio-political fasting in India too. I’m not saying that this action is, presently, perhaps that powerful, but that it accesses the same kind of responses, _particularly_ after the needless assaults on the protestors.

            If you make demands, you can be bought off, or sucked into the deal. If your only demand is that the 1% stop being that and join the 99%, there’s nothing to make a deal about; indeed, the effort to make a deal shows that one hasn’t left the 1%. I could say more, but what matters is what those there do.

      2. jo6pac

        This also bothers me, is he just mad because their not in control of the message. How Sad.If you aren’t getting whats going on then you should stay away. I’m sure as unions and others join this the message will be come clear. All of Main Street is tired of getting F*&% Over by wall street. Pretty simple

        Dave Roberts of Grist in which he calls the protests “horrific” and “designed to discredit leftie protest” is representative

        1. york

          So far lefty protests have consisted of, “You don’t want a public option? Are you sure? Ok, then I’ll give up the public option. I’m so sorry to have inconvenienced you by suggesting it!”

          I say “discredit away!”

      3. Hopeful

        The description seem familiar to me. I just came back from Israel and saw the dynamics over there. It started the same way, relatively small group, hippies as he calls them, who were talking about changing the world, and it took a life of its own. At the beginning people argued that the lack of coherent message will kill the momentum, but the idea was to creat a current that is inclusive, that everyone can find an idea there that he can relate to and join. Years of division in the Israeli society caused by politics and politicians has it’s toll on society, without gathering all groups together and uniting the efforts they wouldn’t have succeeded in bringing such huge crowds to the organized public demonstratios. What made the difference was to show the mass’s disutisfection of the current economic and social situation.

    4. craazyman

      what’s wrong with “hippie dippie”?

      nevertheless, the macing was utterly inexcusable and unjustifiable in any context. I mean really. a few hippy dippie tatoo chicks who jaywalk on their way to the park? I mean really. Mace?

      why not mace a pack of joggers on the way to the park crossing on a yellow light?

      For God’s sake what a stupid and morally corrupt action. who trains these folks? who can justify this? who can tolerate this? who can excuse this?

      Generally speaking, the NYPD has a decent reputation, overall. But it’s Not so hot in the hood. I have a buddy who lived there and he stayed indoors at night to avoid “the sweep”. Didn’t want to risk the snarl, the pat down, the heavy hand, the power trip and the hair trigger. He’s a rasta and a very sober and straight guy from the Islands. Braids his hair in natty dreads and always comes by and shakes yerhand every am while the white dudes come in like fogbound islands in their own streams. I can feel for him.

      Now we see a little spark of the madness on a coed white girl and everybody jumps like a fish in a frying pan. Ecce homo. “forgive them father for they know not what they do.” But they should, that’s the problem. Mace? On a few young girls trying to resurrect Gnosis? I mean really.

      1. Exotic Dragonfruit

        Last I checked, calling someone dippy wasn’t a term of endearment, unless we’re talking Dipset, and in that case, more power to him?

        Generally, the term means “crazy” or “goofy” and doesn’t play well with terms I’d like to see associated with this demonstration like “sane” or “right” or “long overdue”.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          See my comment above.

          I am left wondering whether you are the sort that knows the role of repetition in cementing images (as in the efforts to debunk the idea that there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden wound up reinforcing the idea merely by discussing them in close proximity). You’ve cherry picked one phrase that could be depicted as derogatory (craazyman, Stoller, and I quesiton that) and keep hammering away with that in comments. Is that because you hope that meme will stick with those who also see it as negative?

          1. Exotic Dragonfruit

            I can’t make head nor tail of this, really, but I’ll take my best shot – you’re accusing me of being a plant out to discredit the demonstrators . . . because I said they’re NOT “dippy”, pace Stoller.

            How would that make sense? Stoller is the one using the phrase and I’m the one saying that I don’t think we need to be using it or anything like it. That’s the entire substance of my remarks. It doesn’t take paragraphs of parsing and passive-aggressive accusation to explain what I said.

          2. Yves Smith Post author


            I am most certainly not passive aggressive. I’ve addressed you head on.

            Did you bother reading Stoller in comments? He got that expression from more than one person participating in the protests! If that is how they describe themselves, what is your beef? Similarly, what is wrong with accurately describing the backgrounds of the organizers? You seem to object to his effort to make an accurate portrayal.

            You are displaying the same sensibilities as the people Greenwald depicted, even if you say you don’t agree with their position. That’s why their efforts to criticize the protestors have some impact, they resonate with people like you.

          3. Exotic Dragonfruit

            I had not caught Stoller’s comment above, although I’d still question the rhetorical usefulness of the phrase as used in the article (assuming it’s a direct quote, it would have been useful to show this). I don’t agree with your attempt to extend the attribution as a label of pride owned by the entire demonstration. I think we’d probably be able to find at least one demonstrator (and likely quite a few) who’d bristle if I used that phrase to their face to describe what was happening, even with knowing irony.

            But as I said above, that wouldn’t help me at all – it’s irrelevant to the substance of my comments about the rhetoric of the piece. Further, I’m surprised by the paranoia on display here, where I can’t criticize rhetoric without super secret double endorsing it by saying it out loud. These conversations have to happen.

          4. Exotic Dragonfruit

            As to the claim that the statements by the people Greenwald’s criticizing “resonate” with “people like me”, that’s simply not true; they don’t, as I’ve made abundantly clear. That’s completely out of left field and I’m still scratching my head over what “sensibilities” I could possibly share with them.

            I certainly think we should defang “hippie” as a slur. I don’t think it’s worth our time to redeem “dippy”, or make that work necessary by using it in the first place to characterize the demonstrations. And yes, rhetorically, we’re going to have a hard time selling “the church of dissent” as something people should respect.

    5. YankeeFrank

      Yeah, I didn’t read it that way AT ALL. Matt’s piece is actually very informative and interesting, and in no way denigrates what’s going on. In fact, it points out the key differences between this movement and its predecessors. Frankly, much protest in America had become a venue for “radical” boomers and their followers to make a spectacle and spit on someone (usually the “pigs” a/k/a the police); or tired top-down affairs that lead nowhere. This shit doesn’t fly with this generation. We are not into conflict for its own sake and have no illusions about how change happens.

      The reason there is no list of demands is that what people want is a complete upheaval and change in the way things are done. Its not one thing that’s wrong, or twenty. Its an entire way of interaction with each other and the planet itself that we want to change. Its the fact that the vast majority of us have become discardable and ignorable by a system the seems to solely exist to enrich a small cabal of “elites”, imprison or debt-enslave the rest of us, and to kill a lot of foreign people who never did shit to us.

      We want accountability and honesty, integrity in all dealings. Politicians cannot accept what everyone knows are bribes with impunity. Wall Street and money must become subservient to the society as a whole, not the other way around. There are many things more important than money, and our society must begin to reflect that truth.

      Human rights must be respected for all of us, and all those who we do “business” with. We can no longer buy slave-labor produced goods from the third world. We can no longer decimate our own society for the enrichment of the few.

      If you look at public opinion polls in the USA, the people know what is wrong, and they know how to fix it. The internet gives us the ability, for the first time, to have real direct democracy on a mass scale.

      We know why “they” don’t want us to have that, but we don’t care what “they” want and don’t want.

      Our leadership has failed and has lost its legitimacy. The banks have failed and must lose their right to create money. There must be consequences for illegal and bad behavior on the part of the rich and powerful. Two-tiered society is not acceptable in a democracy.

      These are all things everyone knows. As Glenn Greenwald said, do they really not know the reason for the protests?

      1. sheepdog

        Is this a correct simplification of your comment and what Occupy Wallstreet is doing?

        Model what you want to become your reality?

        1. YankeeFrank

          I would say yes. I am not associated with the protests, yet, but I believe there is a huge change in the zeitgeist brewing and all I wrote and more will be part of it.

      2. MontanaMaven

        Our leadership has failed and has lost its legitimacy. The banks have failed and must lose their right to create money. There must be consequences for illegal and bad behavior on the part of the rich and powerful. Two-tiered society is not acceptable in a democracy.

        Nicely put.

      3. John Zelnicker

        YankeeFrank — Well put. Some of us old radicals from the sixties and seventies are very supportive of what they are doing. Particularly the avoidance of leadership issues and the inclusiveness.

    6. Jonas the Bold

      Sounds a lot like the Tea Party before TPTB got their claws in it.

      I expect we’ll see this turned into an “Us and Them” group-fest by the MSM.

  2. kingbadger

    The arrests and macing you saw happened because protesters decided to march to Union Square without a permit, and many joined the march on the way. Police began arresting people to keep control of the streets,

    Implying that an impromptu march to Union Square represents a loss of control? As if anarchy would have broken loose just because of a march that happened without authorisation? A pre-emptive strike against marchers? So I suppose the ones who got attacked without provocation were asking for it, since they so obviously represented a threat to the authorities in terms of control of the streets. We have to understand “the context,” naturally. Serves them right for doing a march without authorisation. If these unauthorised marches get too big and “out of control” for the police to “manage” with beatings and macings, what is the best option to keep these undesirables in check? Tanks and attack helicopters?

    1. tomk

      King Badger, why don’t you argue with what he actually said, not what you imagine he implied? I just don’t see how his statements imply any of what you claim they do. Based on what I know of his writing, I doubt your allegations are correct. I don’t think he was blaming the marchers, and while I can see how the passage you quoted could be interpreted that way, why don’t you give him the benefit of the doubt and save your ire for the bad guys.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      You don’t live in New York City.

      Anyone who has lived here ANY length of time knows you need a permit to march. Even a little march, like 25 people.

      If you understood how NYC worked, you’d expect a police reaction for their decision to march. The protestors (who included people with backgrounds in political activism) have to have known that. Your criticism is WAAAY off base.

      Even one stupid truck double parked on an avenue screws up traffic big time. I’m NOT saying the severity of the police action was warranted, but the police were guaranteed to respond. You have busses that people depend on to get around that also would be disrupted by an unplanned march. They get rerouted for parades and bigger marches. Did you at all consider what life in a big dense city is like?

      1. Daniel Pennell

        I think I would like to go down and spend a day with these folks in the park

        Maybe provide a little financial support.

        Then on my way out of the city find an opportunity to step on the back of a heal of some suit on Wall Street for fun.

      2. Jon-Rainer

        Oh, please. You know the permits would be denied. If 250,000 protesters at the 2004 RNC convention couldn’t get a permit, what chance does this group have?

        Zero. Yet you imply getting a permit was a plausible alternative to marching without one and condescendingly scold others as naive while lecturing us on the ill-behavior of the protesters who did not seek a permit which would have surely been denied?

        On the contrary, the reason the protesters spontaneously marched to begin with is because all other institutionally legal means are exhausted. To suggest otherwise is disingenuous or naive.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I’m sympathetic to the protestors, but you do not know whether they attempted to get a permit. And your 250,000 figure is not germane here. This was a weekend and a small group, hence vastly less disruptive than 250,000 people during an event that already had a ton of extra people in town and had the city providing a lot of extra security around the convention.

          And I’m not clear on what the intent was of going to Washington Square was, except that it might be a fun to change venues. Your assertion of a “spontaneous decision” contradicts your claim re exhausting legal means.

          And your hectoring me is WAY out of line. I was making the point that it was predictable that the protestors would get police resistance if they tried marching without a permit. And whether or not you like the logic, there is logic behind the police/city’s position re keeping the streets moving (it would be nice if NYC took the same measures as London and Chicago to force most deliveries to take place between 7 PM and 7 AM, but that’s another topic). Lower income people who ride busses to Queens or Staten Island to get in and out of Manhattan can’t afford to walk a few blocks beyond the parade route and hop in a cab when a parade blocks their bus trip home. The people who they will inconvenience are at the bottom of the food chain, when their targets are at the top.

          And you are wrong re parade permits, the police have given parade permits to groups they had tried to block before when pressure was applied:

          And this was intended to be a large scale parade, again of the sort that is more disruptive and hence the police and officials like the least.

          1. Economics Considered


            Thanks much for taking your time to weigh in on the comments. There is a substantial possibility that this is an event that has more deep down meaning to the country than meets a first glance eye – and I think worthy of your time.

            It’s sad to me personally to see folks get sidetracked by what is, to me, some very trivial details of what Matt was trying to convey as a whole . And by the way, Matt, it seems like you felt it was not an easy task to convey a meaningful sense of what is taking place – thank you for taking your time and energy to be proxy for us and giving us insights to what is taking place. It is much appreciated and, for me, you did a remarkable job of a difficult task.

            If I may quietly add something. There is a such a lot that is truly broken and majorly ill about so many aspects of the paradigms of our government (administrative, legislative, and judicial all – although there are some heroic advocates in the AG/judicial arena), and the corporate environment, and distressingly and severely in the individual. To me, with a major assist now from Matt – these people seem to represent the soul of the people awakening. That seems to be an enormously critical first step for this country – and there seems to be no need for this first awakening for it to have any more form than to express the awareness of so many of the ills. That seems quite powerful – one can only hope that the awakening will spread.

            Thanks again Matt and Yves. You are appreciated.

      3. eclair

        I agree, Yves. It is frightening to think how easily the flow of life in a big city can be interrupted. The whole intertwining of life in NYC rests on a taken-for-granted (until it doesn’t work) foundation of workers who perform their jobs as invisible people.

        The subway workers and bus drivers, the sewer and the toilet cleaners, the garbage men and tunnel maintenance people. The foreign ladies who clean the offices at 2 AM, the dish washers and the taxi-drivers. And, yeah, the cops. And the firefighters. And the EMT’s.

        The people that have been screwed over for the past three decades, their wages not increasing, their benefits reduced or non-existent. And, now, they are being demonized by the Right. They’re being pushed lower and lower on the social scale, into a Morlock-like existence.

        They can come out at night and pick off the plump white Wall Street execs one at a time: they can rise up in a series of massive upheavals that bring the City to a grinding halt.

        Or, we can do it in a civilized way and begin a mind-shift that recognizes the workers’ immense contribution to the welfare of our society and compensates them justly.

        Maybe OccupyWallStreet is a beginning of that shift.

  3. Jim

    What Matt may be trying to get at is what one might call the soul of any social/political movement–something internal to its dynamic.

    When self-activity moves from something that one person does to something done through the collective activity of a group and when the resulting achievement extends beyond the reach of anything a single individual might manage, the personal relations of people within the group tend to sometimes undergo a dramatic change.

    What may be happening to the participants in this small public space is a type of social bonding–something that merges knowledge with emotion–a conjunction forged by lived experience.

    Perhaps a new sense of self is being born–a self filled with meaning–which may become the foundation of a new politcal confidence.

    When individuals who have suddenly acquired an enhanced sense of self gaze on others who have been part of the joint effort and who have acquired the same enhanced sense of self a new kind of connection occurs. The feeling is distinctively one of personal achievement but it is also organically a product of collective action.

    Speaking most optimistically, out of such a brew huge democratic possibilities can sometimes emerge.

    For example, on Oct. 14, 1980 approximately 200 activists at the Lenin Shipyard in the Baltic city of Gdansk put down their tools and began an occupation strike at that facility. During the next day 400 other individuals joined them and by the end of the first weekend 8,000 shipyard workers had created their own public space.

    By Aug. 17 the space contained 50,000 workers in 20 enterprises in Gdansk, on Aug. 18 by some 200,000 workers in 156 factories in the tri-cities area and by Aug. 31 500,000 to 700,000 from many parts of Poland.

    The space had a name Solidarnosc, which within two more weeks had some three million inexperienced members, within two moths 7 million and by Christmas almost 10 million.

    People who participated in that self-activity talked of “being born” and “coming alive.”

    1. aletheia33

      thanks for these details jim.

      once again i recommend rebecca solnit’s PARADISE BUILT IN HELL with its many stories of how people, when they step out to participate in helping everyone fight together what’s crushing them (from natural disaster to crippling corruption, etc.), so often find themselves “waking up”, enlivened, brought to life as you say. we’ve seen this in the arab spring, too–people thrilled by the feeling they’ve claimed a self-liberation that no one can now take from them.

      i suspect this is something that happens quite spontaneously in people’s psyches. you have to have a movement built and organized ready to support it. but when people decide to take that action of joining the movement, i’m guessing they do so not yet knowing how great it’s going to feel to have made that decision (perhaps after a long period of holding back from making that leap into the unknown), how much energy they’ll feel flowing through them, how much love (let’s use that word) they’ll be carrying out into the world now, their hearts practically exploding with it. not to romanticize it too much. but i doubt there are many highs to equal it.

    1. aletheia33

      thanks matt stoller for spending some substantive time at the occupation site and reporting your impressions. i’m finding it very difficult to get a clear sense of the activity down there, and any attempt at serious, accurate reporting from on the ground there is useful.

      from watching the live stream from the occupation, i’ve found the ambience quite curious, unprecedented in a way i can’t quite put my finger on. all i can say about it so far is that to me, these young people are a different species who seem to be a different way of doing political action and exercising the “right to dissent” than i’ve ever quite witnessed before.

      i grew up in the sixties and can remember things like “happenings,” be-ins, etc. that were part of the vietnam antiwar mode of protest. the mood, the way of being, these kids have on wall street, while showing some of the same desire to use “play”, seems to approach it somehow differently, and again it’s hard to say just how. maybe it’s a certain lack of arrogance, a quieter kind of outcry, more of a (steely) appeal than a tantrum–but with a strong determination backing it up. i really have no idea, and maybe i’m just projecting, but it is a new phenomenon, in my view.

      i feel i’d need to be much better acquainted with members of this generation than i am to have a real sense of what is keeping these kids in that park by the n.y. fed. the longer they stay, of course, the more eloquent and influential their action might become. there is a kind of lightness to their determination, sometimes an almost unassuming or self-deprecatory air, that somehow makes their behavior feel freer.

      i think they are deliberately creating something new, unheard-of, and they may well not know yet themselves what form it will have. they are remarkably patient with process. they are frighteningly naive perhaps, but i bet they’re also going to prove quite resilient. i do not think they should be underestimated. it takes guts to sleep out in that location and hang out there indefinitely. and who knows what reprisals these individuals may endure, now or in their future endeavors, from an increasingly repressive state?

      wish i could be there with them right now. just the breathe that air, in real time and place, might lift my spirits above the travesty that we call our society right now.

      MLK was a spiritual leader. it’s not out of place to bring up the life of the soul and the need for meaning in relation to these kids’ (and grannies’–thanks for putting that picture in) activities. a movement that aims to open to its members a deeper way to live, in the midst of a culture of trivia, can’t help but feed whatever stream of constructive response might turn the tide, long term, in a different direction once the bankruptcy of the current status quo takes place–as sooner or later it inevitably will.

      1. Joe Rebholz

        And I thank you aletheia33. You wake me up to thoughts and feelings I didn’t know I had. (And others who comment here have too.) I wish I could be in NYC too. This could be the beginning of something really big. Whether we count this meeting in the park as the beginning or not, does not matter. The truth is the revolution has begun. Maybe in the future we will say the revolution began with the Naked Capitalism and Glen Greenwald blogs. It doesn’t matter. A revolution is an evolutionary process that maybe has no discernable beginning. But an early sign a revolution has begun is when we see more and more people realizing we need one. And we are seeing that now. NC and GG have been relentless in discussing, explaining, exposing the failings of our present systems so that most or many of their reraders and commentors now realize that our systems are serioiusly corrupt and are degenerating, becomming worse, not better, and must be greatly changed. YankeeFrank summarized it very well above. These memes are going to spread now to more and more people. Some of these memes are self spreading, they themselves accelerate the process of people adopting them. It’s really simple: As our systems continue to degenerate and more and more people have no jobs, or lose their houses, or don’t have enough to eat, become homeless, become poor, are imprisoned for trivial stuff like drug use (or name your favorite unjust people harrassing laws), more and more people will see that the system needs drastic revision or complete replacement.

        1. MontanaMaven

          What I did today in small town Montana:
          1. Showed my husband the Wonkette footage of Wall Streeters on balconies drinking champagne and laughing at the protesters below. This is so he can tell his conservative friends when he goes in for a beer.
          2. Tell my manicurist about it.
          3. Send the Wonkette video around.
          4. Look on Kayak to see if I can get a ticket to NYC soon. (I used to live there).
          5. Read NC and GG and correntewire (has MsExPat down with the occupiers) for info and useful memes.

          I’m excited about this. It feels very new and at the same time tried and true like “teach-ins”. Teach ins were how I found out about where Vietnam was, why we were there, the CIAs rise to power, and what the heck imperialism was.

    2. Sandy Tracy

      Occupywallstreet also gives me home as it seems to give hope to many that post in the chatroom on I am Twineball if you go there. Many of us are trying to figure this all out. It is very complex, misconstrued, and vitally important to our future to understand and act as a group.

    1. aletheia33

      thanks for this heads up, i liked his website piece on the occupation:

      he really catches some of the essence of why they are there, physically on wall street. the culture of the encampment is a confrontation of the culture of the finance industry, in part.

      it’s heartening to hear the reports here tonight on the reactions of some of the industry’s workers to the confrontation. as rev billy says, it’s about real face to face, in real place in real time, encounter. and it extends to people going home and talking to their families about what they’re seeing. and there’s a good bit of tourist traffic in that area as well–people from all over the world.

      it’s hard to ignore a puppy that shows up at your front door and won’t go away (that just popped into my mind from who knows where, i’ll leave it in for what it’s worth).

      and what if they look a lot like your own kids and their friends.

    1. Cheyenne

      Bingo. I walk by the protesters in front of the Chicago Fed 3 times a day, morning, lunch, and heading home. Their signs are always interesting, there’s a contagious energy about them, and they are polite. Most are young, but by no means all.

      This morning a city police officer was ranking the signs as 2 protesters listened to him.

      “That one’s fucking great,” he said.

      I looked. “Banks should walk the plank.” I smiled.

      “Have a good day at work, handsome,” one protester said to me. I wish I could say she was cute, but it was a dude. I started laughing. When was the last time you cackled heading to work? It’d been awhile for me.

      At lunch I walked by again. The drums could be heard for a couple of blocks. A CTA bus driver honked several times and waved, as the protesters cheered. They’re on both sides of LaSalle Street now. CBOE traders watch on, curiously quiet for an opinionated breed.

      The times…

      1. JustAnObserver

        Maybe this, seen sprayed on a wall in Paris ’68, describes at least part of what’s going on in OWC:

        “Jeu suis Marxiste – tendence Groucho”

        Which, if our troll understood it, would probably frighten him far more than the old geezer buried in Highgate.

  4. Glen

    Occupy Wall St is a natural reaction to the bailing out of the banks that crashed the world economy. The American public was massively against doing this (something like 95% against the passing of TARP, that’s not a majority, that’s EVERYBODY) and almost instinctively knew that 1) fraud and corruption was being covered up and 2) the American public was going to pay for it rather than those that caused it.

    We had the “fake rage” of the Tea Party (which was created and controlled by Wall St), but there is no shortage of real rage and real problems out there. These folks represent the portion of the iceberg that is visible, but as we all know, the iceberg is mostly below water and NOT visible. These people, as kooky as they may appear, probably are representative of how the majority of the public views the bailout.

    The real question is NOT if Occupy Wall St will be successful, it’s which political party will figure out first that appealing to that massive portion of the American public that is disgusted with the bailout because that party is going to win the next election cycle in a landslide at every level of government.

    1. Pitchfork

      Not that it matters all that much, but get your history straight. The Tea Party was not “created…by Wall Street.” The Tea Party was a genuine, authentic and spontaneous reaction to the bank bailouts, to massive deficit spending (i.e. the “stimulus”), and to the further bailout programs which were being proposed in early 2009 (2T in PPIP, a massive “bad bank,” e.g.). Rick Santelli’s rant, like it or not, was the spark.

      Now, did the Tea Party get totally and completely co-opted by the GOP? Bet your sweet tushy it did. But the initial impulse and the underlying grievances were, and are, real.

      Ironically, one of the reasons it was so easily co-opted, in my view, is that most liberals and progressives were still in the tank for Obama in early 2009, and so the Tea Party was seen by them as simply anti-Obama (or even racist). If you go back to some of those first marches and protests, however, there were tons of signs and quotes from people expressing outrage at BOTH parties (“Republicans suck, too” was one of my favorites). But you don’t see that now. Had the Tea Party sprung up today, they would be down there in Zuccotti park as we speak.

      But they’re not. And they likely won’t be. It may happen yet, but we narrowly missed an opportunity to bring people together over the bank bailouts — in spite of the left-right paradigm. Between Obama euphoria and the feverish efforts of the GOP to co-opt the Tea Party, we missed that chance.

      1. Glen

        You are correct, it’s conception was not unlike what we’re watching now, but it was pretty quickly co-opted and taken over by Dick Army and the Koch brothers. Some of those who originally call for action such as Karl Denninger have a rather low opinion of how it all turned out:

        Told ‘Ya So: Tea Party = DOUCHE NOZZLES:

        Tea Party Funding Koch Brothers Emerge From Anonymity:

        The billionaire Koch brothers: Tea Party puppetmasters?:

        USAToday:Audio reveals billionaire Koch brothers’ secret political seminar:

        I didn’t really think I was stating anything which wasn’t extremely well know – apologies for being too brief.

        As for co-opting, it’s possible that Occupy Wall St could suffer a similar fate.

  5. chris

    None of the parties will ever think this is attractive. they are too addicted to the money. They are watching people suffer greatly without doing a thing while the bankers collect multi millions in bonuses and salaries. This is occurring while suicide rates and child abuse cases are increasing across the country and even in foreign countries such as Greece. People have been wronged and are suffering from the abuses of the government and the banks. There is evidence that people are actually killing themselves in part due to financial hardship, as well as abusing their children….the least people should be able to do is protest………
    Yes people are dying and children are being abused at higher rates while jamie dimon says regulation is un american. what a crock. I am disgusted with all of our government officials and with wall street. We need the people to wake up those in power to the reality that people have been devastating by the screwing of the banks and wall street.
    you can see more on the facts to support this argument here

    1. Glen

      “None of the parties will ever think this is attractive.”

      I’m hoping you’re right that both the Democratic and Republican parties would not touch this. Because the American public is disgusted with BOTH political parties. So once again, all I keep seeing is that these people and this effort are the majority.

      Don’t underestimate the power of what Occupy Wall St represents, a new political party that can tap into even a fraction of that 95% of the American public that was opposed to TARP is going to swing elections in a big way.

    1. Norm Keegel

      Apart from sending money to help people there, you could start a support action in your own neighborhood. There are lots of them. As far as I know Occupy Seattle was started by one person on Facebook. Just pick a place and time.

  6. XRayD

    There are only two things that will solve Wall Street’s and America’s problems,


    From this decay comes a new beginning.

    1. Exotic Dragonfruit

      So is this quietism or fatalism? Because neither suggests a course of action, and no matter what, everyone is always pursuing a course of action.

  7. the new york kid.

    max keiser said about a month ago, in a suggestive tone, that the protesters would fail to make any specific demands and that they should.

    he naively suggested they demand the removal of ben bernanke.

    this is retarded because even if they succeeded, which they wouldn’t, it wouldn’t change a damn thing. but keiser very intelligently saw in advance the rambling non-focussed nature of this ‘protest’, and he was onto something. no one takes a person or ‘movement’ seriously unless it’s directed. remember the million man march on dc? what’s that? you don’t?
    oh yea, a million men cannot achieve anything without direction.

    crowds are to be harnessed by leaders.
    this crowd has no leader.

    i for one have an obvious no brainer suggestion for them to demand something simple. and it would shock them into self-reflection. instead of demanding something of your enemies…the government/bank/corporate/cia yadayada empire….demand something of your supposed allies , the people. demand they comply with a plan of action.

    here’s a very simply plan—demand all individuals and small businesses BOYCOTT j.p morgan, bank of america, and citigroup.

    very simple, demand a straightforward behavior from your allies against your enemies. easy cheasy!!!! problem is you need a leader to convince this massive crowd to do it. i would love to see someone step up to this simple task. thank you, but i won’t be volunteering.

    1. decora

      and Deutsche Bank, and Royal Bank of Scotland, and Union Bank of Switzerland, and Credit Suisse First Boston, and Morgan Stanley, and BNP Paribas, and … about a dozen others…

      its hard to put any of this stuff on a plackard.

      “ban over the counter credit default swaps!”

      doesnt really have a ring to it.

  8. Sauron

    I have no idea what will become of this, but if the system crashes again–and it will, all the incentives are there for increased risk-taking–and there is a movement with “boots on the ground”, it just might explode.

  9. doom

    Thanks for a nice explanation. But don’t be so sure it doesn’t scale. This is a coalescence of the antiwar and social justice movements, which are much more fully articulated in other countries. The unifying doctrine has been kicked around in 100+ conferences in 50-odd cities, and it’s been set out more or less independently in the Jakarta Peace Consensus, the Luarca Declaration, and the Santiago Declaration (which has explicit UN recognition as a draft resolution.) They’ve got a synthesis of core human rights and humanitarian law, authorized in terms of peace. Within this doctrinal framework (to use your church analogy) the pattern is, a thousand civil-society flowers bloom and their participation gets filtered through umbrella NGOs and into the human rights bodies. There, sympathetic smaller states make tactical alliances with international NGOs to curb the worst excesses of the dominant powers. The pressure will address kleptocracy and militarism together, as complementary forms of US violence. They know what they’re doing.

    1. doom

      What people are calling hippy-dippy is what one activist terms ‘unnecessary oddness,’ but it makes more sense in context,

      Most of the people there have absorbed a lot of this, from teach-ins or just osmosis – not in full glorious verbatim, but still.

      All this ties Occupy Wall Street in with the October 2011 events in DC.

  10. Kitty Antonik Wakfer

    One sign in a photo above reads: Corporations write our laws, FEED us, clothe us allow us to work, allow us to live!!! WHY DO WE ALLOW THEM to EXIST? END CORPORATE PERSONHOOD and F**K The {can’t read what… ]

    But corporations couldn’t exist without government! All the privileges that any group receives from government is made possible by government. AND government can’t give out money without having taken it from people who are producing it and/or have saved it. But even more basic is the fact that none of the regulations/edicts/mandates/directives/laws/rulings/etc from legislators, executives (President included), judges, and bureaucrats are more than simply words without the enforcers to threaten and actually initiate physical force as they put those words into effect. The enforcers are key!

    “Law” is whatever the government says it is – whether elected or appointed.

    BUT without the enforcers, all of the governments laws/regulations/mandate/edicts/directives/etc are just words, verbal and/or written. None of those legislators and bureaucrats get out into the field (towns, cities and countryside) and enforcer their own words. They have enforcers – individuals willing to threaten and actually initiate physical force – to do the dirty work.

    So while protests get peoples’ attention outside and inside of government, they logically belong also (if not entirely) in Washington DC and at federal (and state + local) government offices everywhere. Even more important, protests themselves especially in regard to government, are not enough: “Tax/Regulation Protests are Not Enough: Relationship of Self-Responsibility and Social Order” –

    Don’t be tolerant of your neighbors, friends, family, associates and strangers who are enforcers. Be part of the solution! Be discriminating, in the finest sense of the word. Associate only with those who produce value and withdraw association from those who prevent value from being exchanged, destroy value that exists and prevent more value from even coming into being.

  11. Hugh

    Most of the institutions on the left, the unions, elite blogs, and liberal orgs, are part of the veal pen, really nothing more than mouthpieces of a very kleptocratic and corporatist Democratic party. The aim was to co-opt, control, and suppress dissent. Put simply the hierarchies on the left were no longer representing the left but they still controlled many of its resources. In response to this, dissent on the left went small, diffuse, and non-hierarchical. In the blogosphere, most of the memes that are killing Obama, the Democrats, and the other kleptocrats came out of this opposition. We did not create the discontent but we gave it expression and focus, and most importantly we perservered in it.

    I see Occupy Wall Street as the street version of this. Its lack of hierarchy is a strength. Hierarchy is not synonymous with organization. Building a movement is not the same as forming a party.

    I do not mean to imply that the blogosphere is the sole model for the OWS organization. You can see a lot of influence from grassroots organizing, peaceful anarchism, and the Arab Spring movements.

    I think Matt Stoller sees some of this. But I really don’t know where he comes down on it. His own background both in Washington and in the blogosphere was in the hierarchical side of it.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      You’ve got Stoller’s DC background wrong. He’s never been part of the establishment side. The closest was being the staffer to a freshman representative who pointedly broke the rules. That’s the antithesis of being a good member of a hierarchy. And he understands how to effect change and push at the vulnerable/sensitive parts of the machinery a lot better than the overwhelming majority of people on the left (this is not just my view; some very seasoned operatives share that opinion).

      1. Hugh

        Actually I am very aware of Stoller’s history. He was part of a hierarchical elitist approach to the blogosphere in its early days. It was for this reason that he could transition so easily into the role of a Congressional staffer. Grayson was far less of a rule breaker than his rep indicates. Remind me again of how he voted on a make or break issue like Obamacare.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          You suggested that Stoller was/is tied into the Democratic party orthodoxy, which if you know his background as well as you say you do, is not correct. You’ve shifted ground a bit by now characterizing him as “elitist”. Your earlier comment would fit the rubric of “establishment” better. And he became Grayson’s staffer at a pretty advanced age. Congressional staffers are pretty much all in their mid-20s, so his taking that role at that juncture was not a “careerist” move (ditto his role, in that the most common next step on the normal staffer career path is into a nice cushy private sector job).

          I find “hierarchical elitist approach to the blogosphere” to be an oxymoron. I curate a website and only have writers I like on it (and virtually all have advanced degrees and/or attended “elitist” schools, even worse!). And even then, I’ll make editorial suggestions on what they submit. Does that make me a “hierarchical elitist” too? A blog is not a chat room. The only way for a blog to succeed is either to be a sort of information screening service focused on a niche with minimal commentary (Mark Thoma, Alea, Paul Kedrosky, although Kedrosky does have a stronger sensibility than the others) or have a pretty strong point of view. The latter in turn requires a cohesiveness among a fairly small number of people running the blog.

          Re Grayson and Obamacare, this is one vote. I have no idea what Grayson’s rationale for voting for it was. Before he ran that crazy ad against his opponent, he got all sorts of kudos from the little there is of the progressives. And he was notably blunt and outspoken, to a degree that low grade horrified other members of his party. The DCCC gave effectively no support to his reelection campaign. If that isn’t proof he was seen as bucking his party, I don’t know what is. There is an interesting comment in the Suskind book on how Daschle and Obama met, and Daschle was proof that no Senator with any experience could run for President. His opponents went through his record and found votes that could be pulled out and criticized.

          1. Hugh

            Some of this is before my time in the blogosphere but I learned about it later. Go ask some of the people who were around at the beginning about how Stoller acted at bopnews, his support for General Clark, his running of townhouse listserv and its connections to the Democratic party. If you know this history, it isn’t a stretch to see Stoller becoming a staffer for Grayson.

            And healthcare was not just another vote. It was the defining vote of the Obama Presidency. It demonstrated once and for all that there was no such thing as a progressive in Congress. Grayson, Grijalva, Kucinich, Sanders, all the supposedly most progressive of the progressive kowtowed to Obama and caved voting for his corporatist sellout. As Obama has so amply and so often shown talk is cheap and speeches mean nothing. Nor do cosmetic votes. Healthcare was a real vote and we saw exactly how they acted on it.

            This is an elite blog but because its primary focus is on economics there is more flexibility on the political side.

          2. Yves Smith Post author

            “Connections to the Democratic party” does not mean loyalty to the Democratic party. Schneiderman, lest we forget, is also a Democrat but is not loyal to the party (he’s in office over the state party’s dead body). Matt has been pretty consistent over time in standing for a set of values and positions, which as the Democratic party has fallen more and more under the sway of the Rubinite/Hamilton Project/Third Way types, has put Matt more and more in the opposition.

            I have pretty good knowledge of Townhouse and it hasn’t been aligned with the Democratic party for some time (and that has not won him friends, needless to say). I differ with you as to the significance of his working with Clark (and Lamont). Stoller was against the Iraq war (the war and net neutrality were his big issues early on) and Clark had been a vocal critic. This had less to do with the party and more to do with Iraq.

            And the fact that all the hard core progressives went along with Obama on healthcare makes Grayson’s support less damning than you make it out to be. You are also assuming that Matt approved of everything Grayson did. There were a few times they crossed swords. As I said, I don’t know what Grayson’s rationalization for Obamacare was, but it most certainly didn’t win him any support from the party when reelection time came.

          3. Hugh

            It is difficult to recap years of blogosphere history in just a few sentences. But even early on there were fault lines between Democrats who supported some progressive positions and progressives who supported some Democrats because of that positional support. The blogosphere has always been a work in progress as are we who participate in it. What I thought I knew coming in and what I have learned since are very different.

            In political terms the alliance between progressives and Democrats began coming apart after the Democrats gained control of Congress in 2006 and did nothing with their majorities despite, by that time. Bush being one of the most unpopular Presidents in American history. 2008 looked like a coming back together of Democrats and progressives but, for progressives, it was more a rejection of Bush and Bushism than an affirmation of Obama. Even by then, for some of us, support for a non-progressive like Obama was a bridge too far. The 2009-2010 healthcare debate was the final straw not just between progressives and Obama but between progressives and Democrats generally, including the so-called progressive Democrats. This wasn’t just a result of disillusionment with the Democrats, although that was part of it. It was also that “progressive” Democrats were actively attacking progressives for their failure to support the sham of the public option and by extension the sellout of Obamacare and for their persistence in backing an actual progressive program like Medicare for All, that is single payer universal care. What was interesting was that at the end of the healthcare debate, these “progressive” Democrats knew they had been had but they were angrier with progressives who had been right on both the politics and the policy than they were with Obama and the Democrats who had stabbed them in the back. And by the way, it was precisely those “hardcore progressives” as you call them in the Congress who were chiefly behind that backstabbing.

            The point is that Stoller was on the Democratic side of the divide in all this. But even so, this went beyond politics and policy to a certain attitude about the web and blogging. Progressives have been for more transparency and a bottoms up approach. The Democratic approach has been more hierarchical, “command the troops” and opaque (like townhouse listserv).

            So yes, it is nice to see Stoller moving away from the Democrats, adopting progressive positions, and coming to realizations now that progressives came to 2-3 years ago, but it’s not like I have forgotten that history or don’t see remnants of it in what Stoller is saying and doing today. Also it is not like Stoller has sought to re-engage with progressives. For that, there needs to be a conversation, not just some posting.

  12. rd

    Macing a bunch of girls on a sidewalk was a big mistake.

    Up until that moment, it was a bunch of kooky hippy dippy people living in a park.

    Then some folks NYPD (seemed to be just a handful) upped the ante in reaction when they went for an unpermitted walk.

    The protests in the South really took flight in impact when Bull Connor showed up with fire hoses and dogs or allowed the KKK to beat up unarmed, non-resisting people.

    Similarly, one of the final blows in the Vietnam War era was when Middle America realized that the government was shooting their kids at Kent State.

    In the end, the popularity of the Vietnam War declined dramatically every time there was an order of magnitude increase in battle deaths. The equivalent in this era is likely to be collapsing 401ks, falling house prices, and rising unemployment. Combine that trio with macing protestors could really start to resonate in Middle Amercia in ways that the Wall Street folks can’t even conceive of.

  13. bbedway

    “What these people are doing is building, for lack of a better word, a church of dissent.”

    This take makes sense to me. Sometimes when a thing ought to be true–a college degree shouldn’t require massive debt, medical bills should not lead to financial ruin, citizens deserve protection from predatory financial practices–then it has a certain kind of truth, and people gathering in whatever venues to affirm those truths is the first step to making them real.

    As Ghandi said, “I am told that religion and politics are different spheres of life. But I would say, without a moment’s hesitation and yet in all modesty that those who claim this do not know what religion is.”

  14. Herman Sniffles

    “Last I checked, calling someone dippy wasn’t a term of endearment”

    I think that’s incorrect. I think of “hippie dippie” as describing a person who is sort of enthusiastically goofy and forthright in expressing their opinions. There was a weather man in Alaska for years who had a pony tail and wore Hawaiian shirts and kind of jumped around and got excited when he was talking weather (which can be exciting in Alaska) and everybody – including the right wing resource abusers – loved him and called him “the hippie dippie weather man.” I wonder where the term “dippie” comes from. It could be from dipsomaniac, or perhaps it originally described a person who looks into questions in a not-so-serious manner, just “dipping” into the subject. And if that’s the case, then perhaps it was aptly used here. Some of the people described don’t seem to be focused in on actual machinations of the evil empire they are protesting. But that’s ok too. There’s a couple of onions in every stew, and they usually go into the pot first. I liked the article. I thought it gave a well rounded view of what’s actually going on at the base of that profoundly evil black castle. It was colorful, informative, and thoughtful. My guess is that the movement will grow, and perhaps quickly. If I wasn’t so old and lazy I’d be there. In other words, I see “hippie dippie” in this context AS a term of endearment.

    1. rotter

      “The Hippy Dippy Weather Man” was a George Carlin charater going all the way back to like, 1966 i believe. It came well before Carlin grew his hair long so that should date it. Too much discussion over Hippy Dippy, but i can agree with some of the irratation over “The Macing Happened because..” Lets not lose track of the fact that the macing happened because a sociopathic NYPD cop with a history of abuse and offical misuse of police authority, had a can of mace in his hand. Its that simple.Lets not forget it.

  15. JTFaraday

    Church of Dissent? Kind of like this?

    (I know, I know. But I just passionately love this thing).

    I’ve looking a bit at the comments in the NY Times and those have been overwhelmingly in favor of the protesters (or dissenters, if Stoller prefers) and critical of the Times spin doctoring– and of the police.

    If they can hold out, it is possible that more people may decide to join in and that may make it harder to stereotype and diminish public protest. Right now, a lot of people are pissed.

    (And then again, maybe life is not a T-Mobile commercial).

    “You can tell this is a somewhat different animal than other politicized gatherings. No one knows what to expect.”

    This is an interesting point. I have been reading Hannah Arendt’s Human Condition, in which she talks about how free speech and action were the essence of the Greek polis. In her view, this ability to speak and act and to start something new are critical elements of the human condition, and thus the essence of politics. But, the hazard of free speech and action is that it is unpredictable and unstable, and its end undetermined.

    In her reading of Plato’s Republic, Plato fundamentally turned the free speech and action of the Greek polis on its ear, prescribing a pre-determined political order toward which all action should be directed, effectively trading away the open-ended essence of the political for the securities of rule.

    So, it is interesting that what observers of this sudden eruption of the polis downtown seem to share in common is some species of frustration with its undirected and open-ended nature. Maybe we’re all just too accustomed to being ruled.

  16. Herman Sniffles

    “And you can sort of tell that this protest really bothers the community on Wall Street, stirring up deep existential questions for the people that work there, many of whom know there is a spectacle going on in the streets below.”

    That right there is the Zappa-esque crux of the bisquit IMO.

  17. required

    i sent them money for food the moment i learned about it early this month. i figured it was the least i could do especially when i sleep secure in a soft bed at night without fear of being gassed or shackled.


    Thank you Matt, and Yves for posting this. I am fascinated by #OccupyWallStreet and support them. I’m one who has been organizing protests around foreclosure fraud & the corruption of law enforcement, & three branches of government (including Florida’s judiciary).

    As I am unable to get to NYC to experience and participate in #OccupyWallStreet, I very much appreciate Matt’s detailed depiction.

    1. aletheia33

      okay, speaking of hippy-dippy (just to annoy everyone who hoped it had gone away):

      you can actually *love* this term (how hippy-dippy is that?) if you go to this page on wordnik (uh-oh, sounds like beatnik), which provides no definition but quite a few usage examples to help determine exactly how derogatory it is (if it is):

      let’s not forget meanings change fast, and this very discussion, as well as wall street pajamas, could become a determinant of a new meaning before we know it.

      1. bystander

        Correct. It’s a technique of disputation, almost a routine. Pluck out an ambiguous phrase, attribute a discreditable meaning to it, then use the discreditable meaning to smear the entire position. So instead of a discussion of #occupywallstreet we have a discussion of the semantics of ‘hippy-dippy’. FFS. That is the point of the “paranoid style”, and why it leads nowhere.

        But I suppose the words have leverage. Everyone’s fighting over the right to declare the meaning of #occupywallstreet, (rather than just getting on down and occupying Wall Street, for instance). Early days: for the moment the blogospheric would-be generals outnumber the hippy-dippy infantry down on the street.

  19. devsterd1

    I think Matt’s church analogy is absolutely appropriate on a lot of different levels. This is (hopefully) the beginning of a “movement”, not an “organization”. Anarchy in the Spanish sense, not the Balkan sense. The lack of demands……what the hell could you really ask for? It’s not a hostage situation. Everything’s going wrong at this point. If you make a list you’ve limited your demands. No list demands everything. It’s gettin’ pretty damned abstract and that’s an awful appropriate weapon to use against a hierarchy.

  20. nickj

    “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.”
    — Mahatma Gandhi

    Congratulations to the Wall St. Occupiers, they’ve achieved ridicule and are moving on to the fight…

  21. Fiver

    I have tremendous respect for these people, but I am driven to be depressingly practical from a survival of the species perspective as in: What might possibly be effective in actually throwing off Wall Street’s yoke, because that is a necessary condition for avoiding utter calamity for the US and the globe.

    And it just seems to me that the simple assertion “I exist and disapprove” in the face of an opposition that has just smashed whole countries to dust, wrecked the global economy, mangled millions of Americans’ lives, and are deeply into another huge ratcheting of the screws (first break, then “save”) – is not something that will change THESE peoples’ behavior unless millions at minimum subscribe to some deliberate form of action, not sentiment, that this opposition cares about. Even a coordinated string of mass layings down wherever you are for an hour in order to disrupt an entire country would pretty soon have their real attention given enough popular support. All sorts of tactics that are deliberately, peacably disruptive are conceivable – given enough support. But how do you get the buy-in from your own potential supporters, or be taken seriously by your opponent, for some act with tangible effects if nobody specifies why it’s being done, nor what reaction from opponents might satisfy the seemingly secondary grievances, to me the practical ones: calls to stop the wars of Empire, restore the rule of law with scores of major prosecutions, shake those two-legged money trees and starting trickling down that wealth, completely re-write WTO rules and trade rules generally with the effect of re-localizing global supply chains, truly dismantling this Wall Street canniablism, and on.

      1. Fiver

        I did. And all the other prior comments. My point is that “we by our presence” is insufficient, very nearly weightless. There must be some sort of “or we will..such and such” attached or the elite could care less. You could put 10 million people on a ranch in Texas or beaches all along the seaboard, or every stadium in the country, and have them all assert their “intent to be free” while presenting no coherent, practical alternative or coordinated action of some sort and change not 1 thing from the perspective of who is running things. Put them in 10 million places chosen to disrupt and now you’re saying something our criminal elites cannot simply ignore.

        The powers that be are utterly ruthless. As noted, they do not break into a sweat at simply butchering millions globally in grotesquely imbalanced wars of example (the example of what happens if you resist Empire)or the equally repugnant one-at-a-time wholly illegal turkey-shoot drone-fests fully unleashed by Obama entirely outside international norms and law.

        You cannot achieve “radical change” without somehow either acquiring power, or denying it to a dictatorial opposition, which is what is in place. That means some sort of strategy, or plan of concrete action, no matter how offensive to the purists. Remember: the other side will happily crush us as soon as look at us at the first hint we present a real threat. That’s what we need to think through – how to fight THAT.

  22. Maria reads

    Are there any legitimate organized efforts for others to support the protesters? (I’m way too far away.) Something like the pizza deliveries that were sent to the Wisconsinites? If so, please provide a link?

  23. RueTheDay

    I have major mixed feelings here.

    On the one hand, I’m pleased to see people getting angry about what happened during the financial crisis and its aftermath, because everyone should be angry.

    On the other hand, reading some of the signs and the interviews with some of the protesters, and it becomes pretty apparent that most of these people really don’t understand what they’re angry about. They focus on the symptoms rather than the causes.

    Some may call this view elitist, but I disagree. The Tea Party is a perfect example of how a group of people who are angry but don’t understand why can be manipulated by the same forces that have caused their discontent.

    1. Joe Rebholz

      It is better not to think with anger. The purpose of anger is to prepare the body for a physical fight — to hit somone, harm someone, kill someone. If you don’t like some situation or condition, it is better to not get angry but rather think calmly about what you might do constructively, nonviolently to change the situation. If you become angry, your focus is on harm or destruction and distracts you from thinking constructively. It may be difficult for some people, but we can learn to not become angry.

  24. Linus Huber

    Whatever the analysis presented here or there, I do not really care. I salute those guys who stand up for some basic values that have been lost.

    The violation of the spirit of the rule of law over the past few years by allowing a few to loot at the expense of the many, justifies just any action and each one of these actions I applaud heartily.

  25. Peripheral Visionary

    I’m not impressed, and I rather suspect my reaction is typical of Americans.

    “They believe themselves to represent all Americans who are frustrated by politics and finance. Whether or not this is true . . . “

    Well, I can answer that statement: it’s not true. Most Americans who are “frustrated by politics and finance” have jobs they have to go to in order to pay the bills, and can’t afford to sit around in drum circles, eating pizza and giving each other backrubs.

    Who can afford to do so? Students living off support from their wealthy parents, the idle rich living off trust funds, and retirees living off generous savings and/or pensions. That isn’t a representative group of Americans, not by a long shot.

    And the particularly rich irony is the number of protesters who are able to engage in endless protests because they are being provided for by wealth being managed by the very bankers they so fervently hate – dependency breeds resentment, as the old saying goes.

    The core problem with the left since the late 1960’s – when it came to be dominated by the discontented children of affluence – has been its growing disconnect with the working class. There have been moments when it seemed that that was about to change – like the pro-immigration marches of a few years ago (held on Saturdays and Sundays, naturally, because, you know, people having to work and all that). This protest, however, isn’t significant progress on that front. If the left wants to reconnect with the working class, it’s going to need a different approach than a revival of the 60’s-era “love-in” that assumes that everyone has nothing better to do than spend their parents’ money.

    1. Joe Rebholz

      “Who can afford to do so?” You forgot to mention the unemployed, especially people who have graduated from high schools or colleges and who can find no job. These people are ready to become revolutionaries.

      And BTW it would be nice if all the rich heirs would join.

    2. JTFaraday

      I guess you haven’t read the news lately or turned on the teevee, or it would obvious who “has the time” to do this.

      And it would be nice if more of them showed up–anywhere, for that matter.

    3. LucyLulu

      My understanding is that many protesters are either unemployed or students. And while the retired would certainly have the ability to attend the protests during the week, being unhindered by a job, that doesn’t imply they are wealthy. Some have also been reported to be nurses or one of the numerous other professions who don’t work Monday through Friday schedules. As far as I know, most workers still paid time off with their jobs, though ya know, those benefits take a big bite out of the bottom line, eh? So, is there a basis for your conclusion that the protesters are better off than average financially (or have parents who choose to give their kids some of their savings, before it gets drained by the financial/corporate vampires), or was this merely an assumption on your part?

      However, any wealthy retirees and rich heirs are welcome to come march, I don’t believe they will be discriminated against. I bet even Jamie Dimon and John Paulson would be welcomed if they wanted to come join in the protest against Wall Street. But oops, bet they can’t get the time off from their jobs either.

  26. Tyzao

    Personally, I find the whole development of “occupy” Wall Street, San Francisco, Florida, Chicago, Atlanta etc…. very interesting, especially the manner in which social media is being incorporated — lets see how many come out to march on Saturday

    1. JTFaraday

      I also think it’s interesting that they’re trying to aggregate those occupations in one place, so there is some sort of readily accessible record of public protest:

      Could have something similar for foreclosure protests and etc as well.

      I also think it’s interesting that, for example, we hear that Detroit has been practically bulldozed, and yet we almost never actually *see* it.

  27. Economic Maverick

    I too remember those very early days of the (at that time) radical Dean campaign in March/April 2003. Establishment Democrats and “professional” Liberals directed serious snarl at him and the movement. Although the campaign went down in flames, the movement was ahead of it’s time. Both their tactics (early uses of community building, social media and web 2.0 before either term existed) and policy positions of discontent at the War and the national security state would later become quite mainstream, at least within center-left circles.

    It’ll be interesting to see if the Occupy Wall Street Protest has a similar impact and ends of being seen later as well ahead of its time. I think the impact could multiply if it significantly spreads to other locations, and if it starts attracting other groups of supporters. If I remember correctly, In Eygpt, the final straw for Mubarek came when the public employees unions finally took a position supporting the folks in Tahrir Square. Wouldn’t it be juicy if the police force itself took a position of support?

    I also wonder if there are trans-ideological possibilities, perhaps linking up with the “End the Fed” folks? If I had to pick one epicenter where we see the confluence of private power with privileged state sanction, it’s with the primary dealers. With the Fed now politically absolutely toxic within the populist right grassroots, could there be a melding of anti-establishment movements, directed at the Wall Street/Fed/ Primary Dealer complex? Or how about: Wall Street-Treasury-IMF-Fed-Primary Dealer complex?

  28. JasonRines

    I liked the church analogy. The two last stages of societal pain to progress is bondage, followed by great spiritual courage and liberation. Matt, you seemed very neutral in your writing and I admire you for this. The 1st Amendment means including a viewpoint on all sides. Since there aren’t firm beliefs yet on best methods of restructure, the piece should be a bit bland.

    I did the market intelligence for Dean for America, the church-like movement for Dean and the Internet is as you described. The activism was great for raising funds but boots to follow through on the campaign didn’t materialize. The people should use this form of activism to raise the funds for an independent media platform followed by a third party. Even if the third party isn’t elected this cycle it would be for 2016 and with massive groundswell momentum from the population.

    1. run75441


      You have a sound rendition of what is wrog with healthcare insurance which reflects the cost of healthcare and the “services for fees model” it protects. Everything you have stated about healthcare is true, was desired as the ultimate, and was subsequently blocked by a small group of blue dogs in league. With the turn about in Congress, I am not sure how one could build upon the ACA to achieve the goals you promote. This may be the best we can achieve for now.

      In any case until the cost model is changed, healthcare costs will continue to rise as will insurance which is a reflection of it.

  29. jacksmith


    ( )

    ( Gov. Peter Shumlin: Real Healthcare reform — )

    ( Health Care Budget Deficit Calculator — )

    ( Briefing: Dean Baker on Boosting the Economy by Saving Healthcare )


    As you all know. Had congress passed a single-payer or government-run robust Public Option CHOICE! available to everyone on day one, our economy and jobs would have taken off like a rocket. And still will. Single-payer would be best. But a government-run robust Public Option CHOICE! that can lead to a single-payer system is the least you can accept. It’s not about competing with for-profit healthcare and for-profit health insurance. It’s about replacing it with Universal Healthcare Assurance. Everyone knows this now.

    The message from the midterm elections was clear. The American people want real healthcare reform. They want that individual mandate requiring them to buy private health insurance abolished. And they want a government-run robust public option CHOICE! available to everyone on day one. And they want it now.

    They want Drug re-importation, and abolishment, or strong restrictions on patents for biologic and prescription drugs. And government controlled and negotiated drug and medical cost. They want back control of their healthcare system from the Medical Industrial Complex. And they want it NOW!


    For-profit health insurance is extremely unethical, and morally repugnant. It’s as morally repugnant as slavery was. And few if any decent Americans are going to allow them-self to be compelled to support such an unethical and immoral crime against humanity.

    This is a matter of National and Global security. There can be NO MORE EXCUSES.

    Further, we want that corrupt, undemocratic filibuster abolished. Whats the point of an election if one corrupt member of congress can block the will of the people, and any legislation the majority wants. And do it in secret. Give me a break people.

    Also, unemployment healthcare benefits are critically needed. But they should be provided through the Medicare program at cost, less the 65% government premium subsidy provided now to private for profit health insurance.

    Congress should stop wasting hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money on private for profit health insurance subsidies. Subsidies that cost the taxpayer 10x as much or more than Medicare does. Private for profit health insurance plans cost more. But provide dangerous and poorer quality patient care.



    This is what the American people are shouting at you. Both parties have just enough power now to do what the American people want. GET! IT! DONE! NOW!

    If congress does not abolish the individual mandate. And establish a government-run public option CHOICE! before the end of 2011. EVERY! member of congress up for reelection in 2012 will face strong progressive pro public option, and anti-individual mandate replacement candidates.

    Strong progressive pro “PUBLIC OPTION” CHOICE! and anti-individual mandate volunteer candidates should begin now. And start the process of replacing any and all members of congress that obstruct, or fail to add a government-run robust PUBLIC OPTION CHOICE! before the end of 2011.

    We need two or three very strong progressive volunteer candidates for every member of congress that will be up for reelection in 2012. You should be fully prepared to politically EVISCERATE EVERY INCUMBENT that fails or obstructs “THE PUBLIC OPTION”. And you should be willing to step aside and support the strongest pro “PUBLIC OPTION” candidate if the need arises.

    ASSUME CONGRESS WILL FAIL and SELLOUT again. So start preparing now to CUT THEIR POLITICAL THROATS. You can always step aside if they succeed. But only if they succeed. We didn’t have much time to prepare before these past midterm elections. So the American people had to use a political shotgun approach. But by 2012 you will have a scalpel.

    Congress could have passed a robust government-run public option during it’s lame duck session. They knew what the American people wanted. They already had several bills on record. And the house had already passed a public option. Departing members could have left with a truly great accomplishment. And the rest of you could have solidified your job before the 2012 elections.

    President Obama, you promised the American people a strong public option available to everyone. And the American people overwhelmingly supported you for it. Maybe it just wasn’t possible before. But it is now.

    Knock heads. Threaten people. Or do whatever you have to. We will support you. But get us that robust public option CHOICE! available to everyone on day one before the end of 2011. Or We The People Of The United States will make the past midterm election look like a cake walk in 2012. And it will include you.

    We still have a healthcare crisis in America. With hundreds of thousands dieing needlessly every year in America. And a for profit medical industrial complex that threatens the security and health of the entire world. They have already attacked the world with H1N1 killing thousands, and injuring millions. And more attacks are planned for profit, and to feed their greed.

    Spread the word people.

    Progressives, prepare the American peoples scalpels. It’s time to remove some politically diseased tissues.

    God Bless You my fellow human beings. I’m proud to be one of you. You did good.

    See you on the battle field.


    jacksmith – WorkingClass :-)

    1. chris

      More government incompetence/spending on the Left’s or the Right’s tired agenda will not resolve anything.

      Thanks for wanting more government cheese with yiur whine.

  30. CR

    Consider what the kleptocracy has served up the last 20 years to front their machinations; Clinton the Pathetic Wannabe, Bush the Joke, Obama the Cheat. What’s to respect. And we 99%ers have only been allowed to content to abuse with our votes.

    That the 99%ers make their own spectacle to hammer the point they they no longer consent makes perfect sense. Conventional elites and planners are nervous because their tools of manipulation may fail them. Are the dissenters more absurd than the poseurs they mock? I think not.

    The wall-streeters and their minions should be worried. They know they are sitting on a time-bomb. The more dissenters fill the streets, the more unlikely they will be bailed out next time. How powerful will they be without money and the economy destroyed? The anticipation is delicious.

  31. mad as hell.

    The spark has been lit. What started as an idea in August is now beginning to snowball. Each week is getting bigger and more dramatic than the previous week. Week one where there was little press coverage to now were it is being carried by the msm. Week two a mentally challenged cop with a pepper canister has managed to ratchet up the exposure by his sociopath action. Now unions from airlines to transportation to teamsters are going to become involved in week three.

    Make no mistake that the corporate, political and financial establishment will stop at nothing to defuse this situation by whatever means it can come up with. Who will succeed?


  32. Mike Folsom

    As Greenwald says and Yves reiterates:
    Any entity that declares itself an adversary of prevailing institutional power is going to be viewed with hostility by establishment-serving institutions and their loyalists. That’s just the nature of protests that take place outside approved channels, an inevitable by-product of disruptive dissent: those who are most vested in safeguarding and legitimizing establishment prerogatives (which, by definition, includes establishment media outlets) are going to be hostile to those challenges. As the virtually universal disdain in these same circles for WikiLeaks (and, before that, for the Iraq War protests) demonstrated: the more effectively adversarial it is, the more establishment hostility it’s going to provoke.

    I’m hoping that this is just the very early phases of an attempt to attack the corrupt Corporate Power Structure that owns and runs both the Republican and Democratic Party. If we are lucky this will develop and spread across the United States. This like the movements in Arab Countries, India and parts of Europe could be the seeds of new political awareness of people that its not Government that is the problem rather its the Corporate Owned and Operated Democrats and Republicans that are the issue. Only when power begins to move back from the oligarchs to the people will things start to improve.

    1. Joe Rebholz

      “If we are lucky this will develop and spread across the United States.” And it will spread faster if we join it or help it by spreading the idea or otherwise help it in any way.

  33. chris

    Hopefully, the OccupyWallStreet crowd has (or gets the chance to) read something written by Matt Taibbi and David Stockman over the past year. If not, they will become fodder for the whiners pandering for more government cheese.

    It is all well and good to have a clue that both parties bending the knee to Wall Street and the banks has resulted in America being screwed. But, if there is no recognition that the welfare state is no more sustainable than the warfare state (whether it is corporate welfare or the propping up of individuals who are far too dependent upon government largesse) then this movement will devolve into more bureaucracy trying to buy off the populace with bread and circuses.

  34. Susan the other

    Daily KOS said that Anonymous was going to release the personal information on a Wall Street banker every day until OWS demands are met. An interesting statement in view of the fact that the demands are a little too primordial to be met right now. I guess Jamie Dimon’s info was released today or yesterday and it is all perfectly legal to do so. Also interesting is Mayor Bloomberg’s statement that he doesn’t understand why the protest is attacking the banks when “they are just trying to make ends meet.” For everyone?

  35. citizendave

    Matt, thank you for your reporting and insights. I find most interesting the organization and the assemblies. I hope that the techniques and the process can be articulated to make it easier for others to emulate. How does one build a movement or a revolution? One cannot. It must arise organically from the minds of many disparate individuals. A charismatic leader can make a lot of progress in a short time, but if that leader goes away — co-opted, or worse — the movement generally dissipates. By insisting on an apparently leaderless approach, they assure that many individuals must think about and understand how to sustain the process. Perhaps it is oxymoronic to say anarchists acting in concert.

    There is an insightful piece at by Nathan Schneider, “Occupy Wall Street: FAQ” (registration wall). Describing the assemblies he writes “…Working toward consensus is really hard, frustrating and slow. But the occupiers are taking their time. When they finally get to consensus on some issue, often after days and days of trying, the feeling is quite incredible. A mighty cheer fills the plaza. It’s hard to describe the experience of being among hundreds of passionate, rebellious, creative people who are all in agreement about something…” This fills me with much happiness. I don’t care if they never announce a single demand or make plain in any way why they are there. Many of us know why they are there. I want an alt-USA. I want an economy that serves the people, not the other way around. I want a government for the people, not for Wall Street.

    I like your frame about building a church of dissent. It implies a cohesion, while leaving room to evolve and grow.
    I hope they will continue to do their slow consensus-building, and will teach others how to do it. I hope it becomes easy and obvious, so that millions of us may overcome our bias toward hierarchy, inculcated throughout our lives. We’ll figure out what to do and how to do it. We can build alt-America.

  36. anon

    What’s most interesting about the #occupywallstreet folks is that they recognize something fundamental about the U.S. that most of the politically sophisticated miss. Policy debates over a libertarian model, or single payer healthcare, or a robust social safety net in our current political environment is just mental masturbation.

    Until the incestuous link between the government and the large corporate sector is broken, we aren’t going to see Ron Paul’s preferred policies prevail and we aren’t going to see mine. Policy disagreements, at the level that they are generally argued, are entirely second-order considerations in the current political environment.

    The ONLY policy question is how do we undermine the merger between governmental and corporate power that is not only destroying the U.S. in many objective ways (unemployment, mass foreclosures, etc.), it’s making it impossible to have any realistic and meaningful policy debates about the path forward. I think the vast majority of people on both the left and right (dare I say 99%) agree that the system is broken, and crony capitalism is both the cause of and result of it. The kids out on the street in New York may not know the answer, neither do I, but at least they’re mad about the situation, asking the right questions, and backing it up with some real action.

    Good for them.

    1. Mike Folsom

      Great comment –

      My only though now is how can the rest of us living outside of the power centers help? Besides sending comments/letters to the naysayers there doesn’t seem much that’s obvious that we can do. What we need is some creative thinking to help this protest spread.

      1. decora

        there are no more power centers. as many have pointed out, ‘wall street’ doesnt have very many wall street banks on it. the world capital of hedge funds is connecticut, but it could be anywhere. all of the commodities futures exchanges have gone electronic, so its basically dudes in their underwear trading on a screen. the ‘over the counter’ “dark market” is the same. goldman sachs has offices uptown, but also offices all over the world. alot of the banks in the 2008 crash are not HQed in america, Deutsche Bank being a nice example since their CDO guy Gregg Lippman is so famous

    2. decora

      i dunno man, i think we will just end up like russia. the system we had collapses over a series of years, with a series of crises. the federal government begins to break up, and one day you wake up and there is no more America. just a bunch of states, federated, and run by quasi-gangsters, but still full of people living their life.

  37. Jill

    I wonder how many people reading this remember “Clean for Gene” — the movement that in 1968 recognized that they had to look like Middle American kids in order to get people to listen. They cut their hair and went out and worked for Eugene McCarthy. McCarthy didn’t win the nomination, but the “Clean for Gene”-ers DID succeed in pulling the debate about the Vietnam War to the left in a way the Yippies, led by Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin didn’t.

    There is a great deal that the Occupy Wall Street movement has with the disaffected Tea Partiers in terms of being sick of the unholy marriage between government and banks/corporations. But the unfortunate reality is that as long as OWS looks to the rest of the country (who aren’t there but only see what they see on TV) like a bunch of kids trying to live what Woodstock was like, it’s hard to imagine it gaining any traction. It’s too diffuse, its message too all-encompassing. Pick a couple of immediate demands and work for those. The rest will come.

  38. 4jkb4ia

    Matt, this is a really good post, and that it appeared on Rosh Hashanah isn’t insignificant, especially since I didn’t spare two thoughts for whatever this is the entire time.

  39. BK Kenny

    It appears that Yes you might have a grievance with wall street..but Lets start by holding the Law Makers in DC accountable.. They are allowing this “pay for vote” to go on…and on…and on. Example:::Dick Durbin who chastises the Banks but is a.o.k. taking millions from Home Depot and Loews to get the cap on swipe fees put in..and he says it’s for you the consumer…bull!!!it’s for Him and His pocket book.

    So go protest in the right place..

    And tell the union THUGS to go home.or better yet …go to Greece…

  40. Observer

    I think that many many people are unhappy and disgruntled by the status quo! We are dying out here, jobwise, monewise,and we see not relief in the future! We worked hard, played by the rules and now our cushions are gone our health insurance continues to cost more and we have not work ergo no future therefore limited belief in the system!

  41. Observer

    I think that many many people are unhappy and disgruntled by the status quo! We are dying out here, jobwise, moneywise,and we see no relief in the future! We worked hard, played by the rules and now our cushions are gone our health insurance continues to cost more and we have no work ergo no future therefore limited belief in the system!

  42. Insyde Man

    There is no reality, except for the reality you define (according to your beliefs). There is no reality, except for whatever you define your reality to be. There is no “basic” reality that is any “more real” than any other reality. There is no “basic reality” against which you can gauge and judge how “real” your belief is. The reality actually is that there is no “inherent reality”. There are only the realities generated by any belief (all of which are equally-valid, equally-real) There is no one definition of reality that is any more real or valid than any other definition. There is no “basic” reality that is any “more real” than any other reality. There are only the realities generated by any belief. All beliefs are equally-valid, equally-real.

  43. William ReMine

    The ultimate irony is that those of us who are joining the occupation understand instinctively what this is about and why the protest is in its current form … without needing to have anyone explain it to us. If you don’t “get it,” don’t worry. You will in time. Yes, it is a church of dissent, but it is much more.

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