Ex Libris: About those 5,554 books in the #OWS library

By lambert strether of Corrente.

UPDATE Greg Mitchell (via):

11:20 Shocking, or not so shocking, Bloomberg lies: You’ll recall yesterday his office refuted reports that 5000 books from People’s Library at Zuccotti trashed.  They said taken uptown to garage and even posted photo of some books.  Today librarians went up to claim and….surprise?  Find only small number of books, and most of them destroyed.  Also found promised laptops–also wrecked.  See report and many photos here.

Yes, there were 5,554; here’s the catalog. The eclectic, donated collection, originally cared for by Brooklyn librarian Betsy Fagin, was housed in a tent donated by singer/writer Patti Smith. I say “there were 5,554″ because this morning New York Mayor-for-Life Michael Bloomberg had the library bulldozed, as part of his bungled invasion of Zuccotti Park, already rebounding to Bloomberg’s discomfiture and (hence) the public good. What’s Bloomberg’s problem with books, anyhow? Does he think trashing a library is going to help him buy his way to a third-party presidential run? Is “destroying things never felt so good” really the platform America’s Mayor of the 1% wants to run on? Wait, don’t answer that.

Now, let’s be fair. It is true that Bloomberg didn’t actually set the people’s books on fire.** Book Burning All Bloomberg did was bulldoze the library, put the books into garbage trucks, and haul them away to a Department of Sanitation facility at 650 West 57th Street in Manhattan — not to be confused with any of these facilities — claiming that they could be picked up today (Wednesday), presumably on presentation of the proper (photo) ID [Of whom?], thumbprint, iris scan, DNA sample, or whatever else the powers that be want from us these days. Some flack then tweeted a putative photo of said books “safe and sound” Alleged OWS books. OccupyLibrary:

We’re glad to see some books are OK. Now, where are the rest of the books and our shelter and our boxes?

Pas si bete. And what if the sanitation workers “threw” the kitchen food into the same “massive pile” as the books? How many of the 5,554 books can people still read? We already have reports of broken glass being mixed in with other goods the police said could be claimed.

Whatever. Because a library is more than its holdings. As soon as Zuccotti Square was re-occupied, Occupiers began immediately began to self-organize the library again. Here’s the library at 7:00AM today. And here’s the address where you can send donated books.

And that’s the story: Occupier self-organization. Self-organization is how the Tahrir Square organizers beat Murbarak’s baltigaya, and self-organization is how the Occupiers will beat the 1%. Because look what Bloomberg bulldozed: Not only a library, but:

None of what Bloomberg bulldozed was or is about violence. All of those institutions are about solidarity, people helping people. (For the homeless or the hungry, these institutions are helping people who can’t get help anywhere else.) Perhaps that’s really what Bloomberg didn’t like?

What the story is not: Occupier cleanliness and health, although that narrative was reinforced, no doubt entirely by coincidence, by having sanitation workers destroy a library, a media center, a kitchen, and a medical tent. Exactly as in Madison, WI, the Occupiers set up systems to keep the park clean; heck, the first time Bloomberg tried to use the clean[s]ing pretext, #OccupyWallStreet rented power washers and cleaning supplies with their donations and cleaned the park themselves. And who said “clean” trumps the First Amendment? Bloomberg’s girlfriend, who serves on Zuccotti Park’s Board?

And since it would be irresponsible not to speculate, for those who follow the zeitgeist, it was clear that two separate sets of talking points had been developed to make cities Occupationfrei: First, ZOMG, “violence.” Three or four days ago, there was a sudden spate of coverage where the headlines associated the Occupations with violence, death, and suicide, and where the stories themselves showed no causal relationship at all; one might imagine that editors, who write the headlines, were on a conference call, just like the governors. Second, ZOMG, “clean,” along with images of filth, dirt, disease (and, of course, sex. And hair). This is the shop-worn “dirty hippies” trope, and can probably be attributed to the well-known laziness and class bias of elite reporters at Pravda and Izvestia, rather than anything organized from the top down. (If or when either set of talking points permeates a society, especially when reinforced by the mass media, matters tend to end badly.)

Whatever his decision making process, Bloomberg went with the “clean” set of talking points (full statement, Pravda), probably because the New York Occupiers have been resolutely non-violent, putting the Occupiers in the pleasant position of being able to point out that Bloomberg, like the rest of the 1%, respects the First Amendment and our system of Constitutional government exactly as much as his police force respects the rule of law, which is to say, not at all. [But then, you knew that. [But not “all walks of life” know it.]]

Bloomberg has also positioned the Occupiers to ask this question: Are communications, shelter, food, medical care, and books being bulldozed only in Zuccotti Park? Or is the 1% bulldozing them everywhere? [But then, you know the answer. [But not “all walks of life” know the answer.]]

* * *

I just don’t know what the 1% are so afraid of. Well, actually, I do: People self-organizing to share all we know of the world freely without rentiers and robber barons skimming and gatekeeping. If I were “Mike,” I’d be scared of that, too. Yeah, I’d bulldoze it. In a heartbeat, “champion of the First Amendment” though I might be, just as soon as my goons could organize it. But I’m not “Mike,” praise the God(ess)(e)(s) Of Your Choice, If Any.

NOTE * Trial balloon from Pravda, coded as finger-waggging at the Occupations.

NOTE ** Pause for obligatory yet not written joke on how Bloomberg “cooks” books by denying the existence of accounting control fraud.

NOTE Now, if the Free Network Foundation’s technology goes beta and propagates, our digital libraries would be safe as well.

UPDATE Best jokes:

1. “The police have occupied Zuccotti Park. But what are their demands?”

2. “If only they enforced bank regulations like they do park rules, we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

UPDATE Readers, I accidentally published a partial version of this and then unpublished it, because I’m not familiar enough yet with WordPress. If I did that and lost your comments, I apologize.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Warren Fan

    Anyone know anyone in the Warren campaign? A former Wall St. lawyer (left the biz in 2006 before soul was completely sold) would like to help her beat Scott Brown and is willing to dedicate a big part of 2012 helping her do just that. Willing to work for peanuts but at least peanuts.

    The campaign formally announced Mindy Myers as campaign director last week (though I’m sure Myers was on the case for months leading up the press release). This means the staff will be filled out in no time so curious if there is still time to get involved at a high level.

  2. Middle Seaman

    Bloomberg demonstrated the arrogance of dictators. “I am the law.” This was a nation wide action with a clear message: forget it, we are here to stay, we have the military power and the money.

    Book destruction states that history doesn’t exist. Since books are written by the 99%, their destruction means that the 1% will dictate culture, history and art. The 1% are now in charge of the Ministry of Culture and, of course, the banks and the government (all three branches).

    Next military action will burn books and use live ammunition. Also sprach Bloomberg the Übermensch.

  3. ZeroInMyOnes

    The second joke is hardly a joke…

    Our politicians are choosing not to assign ample FBI agents to investigate our specious financial industry, yet they are sending law enforcement against OWS.

    Kinda proves one of OWS’s points….

  4. Richard Kline

    Sending front-end loaders to indiscriminatly engorge medical supplies (several thousand dollars worth), books, generators, and all the rest into dumpsters is an explict message from Mayor 1% and the rest of authority: “This is garbage.” This is how Bloomberg ‘messages’ on the Occupation; he’s hated them, and he really, really wants the world to know just what he thinks of peons on _his_ streets thinking and acting for themselves.

    —So we get a real good look at what the 1% thinks of the other 99% of us and of our lives. Garbage. Which is why Bloomberg and the rest sleep well at night because, I mean, why would they care about garbage? Losing the books, supplies, et. al. is a first order loss in the sense that what the citizens assembled to care for themselves and act for society has been destroyed with deliberate symbolic glee by the authorities acting on command of the 1%. But in a larger sense, those books and supplies and kitchens and generators were they as an explict challenge to the moral authority of governance and power who refuse to correct the crimes of great wealth while imagining ‘noise’ and ‘unclean pavement’ as societal threats worthy of mobilizing hundreds of heavily armed police. So those supplies have served their function: they have demonstrated very plainly just what the authorities think of the 99% of us in this country—garbage—and what the priorities of the authorities really are—sick in the head. Before we show the 1% our demands, it’s best for the public to have a really good look at what the 1% do and just what they think of us. We have not yet begun to fight because it was important for the 1% to move first and show their gangrenous hand; now, they have.

    To me, that image of four books up and the People’s Library functioning within hours is the truer image. The roots of liberty and autonomy run deep. Singe the bud and it regrows; tread on the stem and it trebles. A copy can be trashed, but an idea is carried in the minds of men and women and it grows anew and on. What was used up: that’s not garbage, it’s mulch.

    First hand report on the assault on the libray from Stephen who has been closely involved with it and with the OWS Poetry Anthology from the outset:


    1. Up the Ante

      The ‘buds’ are accusing everyone of gaming the system, and by offering no other solution to the corruption that is about them than breaking up demonstrations give themselves away. They themselves, the ‘buds’, intend to continue gaming the system.
      For them, it’s all ‘garbage’ and they are, cough cough, ‘the finest’.

      They’re caught in a ridiculous act of pretending they have no further obligation than serving corrupted money.

      They’ve become absurd vehicles of judgement on every topic under the sun, but due to their ‘position’ can never express THEMSELVES, ostensibly.
      Gaming the system with stupidity.

    2. aletheia33

      richard kline, thank you. (and thank you lambert strether for this great piece!) it’s important to keep reminding us that we WILL prevail. the heartbreaking account you link to here of the destruction of the library and the reading of the poems is a must read. nothing from OWS has so moved me to this point. the homeless person who wrote this is a remarkable soul, like so many others at zuccotti park.

      since last night, the revelation by minneapolis reporter rick ellis of the DHS, FBI, federal police direction of the multicity crackdown has been profoundly disturbing to contemplate. it’s one thing to have “known” this would be happening. it is another to watch it unfold, bringing it home how far the repression has become entrenched and how difficult it will be to fight its grip.

      i am sure that one big reason we’ve seen this crackdown so soon after the establishment of the Occupations is that since the first days of OWS the designers of this impressively coordinated effort have been barely containing themselves itching to deploy their spanking new system of repression.

      an OWSer tweeted last night that the events of the last 24 hours mean that the repeal of the patriot act must become “the” immediate issue.

      here is the link to the first report confirming the role of DHS/FBI:
      “‘occupy’ crackdowns coordinated with federal law enforcement officials”:


      1. Up the Ante

        It has been obvious from pictures that the ‘buds’ had been instructed to patronize the protestors, as in a patronizing attitude.
        As if the protestors were unaware of the essential nature of the corruption!

        One aspect of the ‘bud’ attitude — the largest influx was during whose term(s)? Reagan. the bait

        And those orgs in your link? result of the switch

        Only one aspect, certainly not one to disqualify the protestors or generate patronizing attitudes.
        As I said above, they are committed to the corruption for self-enrichment. THEIR corruption, not ‘yours’.

        That is to a large extent the nature of the ‘bud’ mind.

        It must be handled. They offer nothing but vehicles of absurd judgement.

      2. alex

        Thanks for the link. Federal involvement is scary and utterly unjustified.

        First we have alleged sanitary code violations dealt with by phalanxes of police in riot gear storming through in the middle of the night and forcibly excluding reporters. Is that the normal procedure for dealing with alleged sanitary code violations? If so, what’s the approach for dealing with the actual crime that the police should be spending their time handling, nuclear weapons?

        Now we have the federal government getting secretly involved in local issues of alleged violations of sanitary codes. Is the presence or absence of porta-potties in Zucotti park now considered an issue of national security?

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      Thanks, Richard Kline. One too many tabs open, and I missed that one. From Boyer’s post:

      . It’s appalling to think that a city with over 40,000 homeless, would allow for a park full of great resources, such as tents, tarps, sleeping bags, clothing, food, electronics, etc. to be thrown into the garbage. And I must reiterate, the police explained upon entering the park that all materials in the park would be available to be picked up later at a police location and the park was being evacuated because it was unsanitary and unsafe for humans to inhabit.

      Lies all the way down. And as if the 1% were making anything safe for humans to inhabit. Assuming they regard us as human, of course.

  5. keepon

    Remembering Fahrenheit 451…a book-

    People don’t like to feel inferior. Special-interest groups destroy things that offend them.

    The fireman’s duty was to start the fires, burn the books, destroy knowledge, promote ignorance to equalize the population and promote sameness.

    After the bombing of the city: mankind is as a Phoenix that burns itself up and then rises out of its ashes over and over again. Man’s advantage over the animal is free will to recognize when he has made a mistake, so that eventually he will learn not to make that mistake anymore. Remembering.

    At the very end of the novel, Granger says they must build a mirror factory to take a long look at themselves.” Mirrors symbolize self-understanding, seeing oneself clearly.

    The Bloombergs & Quans and their “Firemen” reach in ‘full-blown’ battle array to extinguish “what democracy looks like”- the “tree of life-” the Phoenix rising, ground upwards out of Zuccotti Park. They would destroy the noble experiment, a true ‘ think tank’, the Phoenix rising?


    The Whole World is Watching!

    1. Foppe

      No offense, but Fahrenheit 451 is a really lame book, which has almost nothing going for it except that its title is fairly well-known. Its contents are as forgettable as Rand’s literary output is.

          1. EH

            It was actually your thin reasoning that led us to believe you’re just casting pot shots from the peanut gallery. If you have something to say, say it.

  6. andrew hartman

    the whole world is not watching: the whole world is laughing. bloomberg did
    OWS a favor by giving them an honorable way out of a no exit position. and
    of course, what did OWS do in the face of this terrible fascist repression from the reich of the 1%? they went to court, and amazingly found a judge sympathetic
    to their cause. that alone is better than than the morons with drums.

    1. Sean Parker

      Andrew, we’re throwing a party this evening at the Ritz-Carlton, Central Park, to celebrate the Mayor’s crackdown on OWS, and you’re invited.

      Mayor Bloomberg will be there as well as Russian model Sasha Volkova, Jimmy Choo shoe boss Tamara Mellon, British socialite Plum Sykes will be there with Rothschild’s parents, Lord and Lady Rothschild, members of Italy’s Agnelli clan are expected, as well as politicians including Peter Mandelson, the former UK business secretary, who counts Rothschild as “a close friend”.

      Other guests will be W’s Paris bureau chief, Donna Karan, Aerin Lauder, Ines de la Fressange and Christian Louboutin, Annette Bening, and let’s not forget Ines de la Fressange or Jacques Grange. Also it’s whispered that Natasha’s coming as well, along with lots of tan people back from the Ariel Sands Beach Club in Bermuda.

      You don’t want to miss this one, so come on out to the Ritz-Carlton around 7 or 8 ish, drink a Woo-Woo along with the beautiful people; we’re going to be a blast as we celebrate our victory over those disgusting, horrid 99 percenters.

    2. Christophe

      Andrew, when your attempt to trivialize your enemies has to resort to using their talking point as a referent, they have obviously already had a profound impact on your thinking as well as the greater cultural debate that creates your thoughts. Despite your effort to warp and distort their creativity into a weapon with which to ridicule them, you only increase their power each time you echo their brilliance.

      The whole world most certainly is watching. You included. Thank you for your support.

  7. Norman

    Yves, where is the verification code? Is this some sort of censorship on the part of your server to prevent the sharing of the post[s]?

    1. Tim

      If you took the time to read the 1st hand account articles posted about OWS over the last couple of months you could answer your own question.

      My question for you is why do you think they are idiots? Have you taken the time to examine their point of view, or did you make up your mind about them in seconds based on limited information provide to you by those of a similar persuation as yourself and or mainstream media articles owned by the 1%?

  8. ftm

    Cranky grandpa Mike knows who butters his bread. The 99% don’t buy Bloomberg terminals (4k a month). He won’t let the rabble impinge on his income if he thinks he can snuff it out with a nighttime raid.

    OWS needs to pay a visit to Bloomberg’s townhouse and Bloomberg corporate headquarters.

  9. Little Mike in Spandau

    Did they think to mark the medical tent with a red cross? That would make its destruction a crime under Rome Statute Article 8.2.e.ii (or in the case of stunted warlord Michael Bloomberg, under corresponding universal-jurisdiction international law, which applies even though the US ran away from the International Criminal Court to preserve elite impunity.) Now that it’s clear the US judiciary has thrown in its lot with a criminal executive, the best option is to stick with law that US judges can’t pervert. It would be gratifying to complicate that genocidal Zionazi midget’s foreign holidays with court proceedings.

  10. DPirate

    Whoopdedoo. A couple rich people sent knick-knacks instead of showing up and the stuff got trashed. It’s what they should have done with them in the first place. New York does have a public library, you know.

  11. EmilianoZ

    Lambert: “I just don’t know what the 1% are so afraid of. Well, actually, I do: People self-organizing to share all we know of the world freely without rentiers and robber barons skimming and gatekeeping.”

    I think this is very true. The other day I was visiting my local OccupyDC. I noticed they had a dentist tent (“occupy your cavities” was their slogan, LOL!)For a moment I thought about quitting paying my premiums.

  12. rotter

    I just finished watching “The Rape of Europa”, and in that context this makes sense. The semi literate Fascist goon who’s employed to do this kind of work has always had a special hatred for books. Unless they Have gold leafing.We can be sure that any other gold objects money, jewlry and shiny things in general wound up in the ol “evidence locker”.

  13. Hugh

    This is class war. The 1% are never quietly, and more to the point, non-violently going to yield up the trillions they have stolen, or the power that allowed them to amass them. Bloomberg simply made use of two facts. The 1% control the instruments of state violence, in this case the police. And the 1% control most of the countries resources. So destroying the physical resources of the Occupy movement at Zucotti park wouldn’t amount even to pocket change to Bloomberg but represents a significant loss to the Occupy movement.

    Bloomberg did his best to undermine OWS by fomenting police violence against the Occupiers. He tried to create unhygienic conditions, such as the refusal to allow port-a-potties in the park. And eventually he fell back on straight physical force to destroy the site. None of this, not one thing, was about the rule of law. It was from the beginning about the suppression and elimination of dissent. The truth is that our leaders have more in common with Mubarak, Assad, and Gadhafi than they have with us. Something to keep in mind as events play out.

  14. steak

    And lets not forget, amongst those books was a copy of Econned I donated to the cause two weeks ago. Hopefully some folks got to read it before it was taken with the rest of the books.

  15. Procopius

    All well and good, and I feel a sense of elation, but I felt a sense of elation when I voted for Obama, too. I think this is going to turn out more like 1848, or maybe 1905. 1848 started a slow, painful, inching progress that took 50 years to make a smidgen of progress. 1905 brought out the cossacks and the Black Hundreds, and for a few years they prevailed, but led to 1917. Well, we’ve seen the cossacks, and the Koch brothers have already set up the organization for the Black Hundreds.

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