Charlie Pierce writes about the Occupy Wall Street backlash that’s brewing as a result of the nationwide protests beginning to actively inconvenience – not the banks – but the individual people who run the banks and who bear direct responsibility for our current mess. Pierce writes:
It was only a matter of time before the human emotions of guilt and shame began to demonstrate their power. And guilt and shame do not necessarily manifest themselves in contrition and a resolve to amend oneself. Sometimes, they manifest themselves in anger and violence, and sometimes, the people who are overcome by the power of guilt and shame have police forces at their disposal. They lash out, or they subcontract the job. That seems to be part of what’s happening now.
The future belongs to the country beyond Zuccotti Park and the docks in Oakland. If the country decides it would rather have order than justice, then what’s coming next could be very dark and very terrible. If the country decides that, yes, this whole thing has been a nuisance, but a minor nuisance compared to an ongoing recession, near double-digit unemployment, a wave of foreclosures, and the continued corruption of the democratic institutions by the money powers, then somebody outside the park is going to have to stand up and lead the next phase.
I think this is mostly correct. I have argued before that it is the terror that they may finally be called to account that has the banksters now traveling with bodyguards and L’il Mikey Bloomberg overreacting. In a way this is a good thing, because it drives sympathy for OWS and keeps media attention on a movement that will suffocate unless the nation is reminded over and over again that nothing forces us to meekly accept what has been done to us in the name of the 1%.
Where I think Pierce goes astray is when he suggests that it is the opinion of “the country beyond Zuccotti Park” that will determine what form the inevitable backlash takes. This is incorrect, and it is incorrect very much for the reason OWS is necessary in the first place: The people who decide such things don’t care about the opinions of anyone other than the 1%.
L’il Mikey Bloomberg isn’t judiciously weighing how to respond to an increasingly inconvenient protest movement based on how he thinks it will go over with “the nation” – at least, not “the nation” as you, I and Charlie Pierce conceive it to be. L’il Mikey is part of the 1%, answers to the 1%, and is concerned only about the 1% -- that is his “nation.” Anyone having any doubts about this should click over and read Matt Taibbi’s takedown of Mike Bloomberg’s Marie Antoinette Moment, in which he excoriates L’il Mikey for peddling once again the oft-debunked, zombie lie that it was Congress and Fannie and Freddie that cause the housing crisis. L’il Mikey is going to react in precisely the manner the 1% – out of their own guilt, shame, arrogance and terror – tell him to react. Badly.
For what it’s worth, I think that would be a political miscalculation on his part. OWS’s success at drawing attention to itself has always proceeded from its mistreatment by authority figures, whether that manifests as pepper spraying peaceful protesters, firing tear gas canisters at the head of a war veteran, or tossing flash-bang grenades at people attempting to help that veteran after his skull was fractured. Opening up on these protesters with truncheons and rubber bullets will – I think – only strengthen the nation’s general support for the cause.
But if we’re weighing the likelihood of only two possible scenarios – further police brutality or a diffident ignoring of the protest – I’d say the odds favor the former.