#OccupyBeverlyHills: Black Bloc and the Devolution of a Revolution
Now that the Occupy movement has been coat-tailed and co-opted by big labor and big government forces that should by definition be their targets of dissent, the shuffled miscellany of loose-cannoned conniptions that's become the movement is conspicuous even to ultra-left-wing social critics.
The protests of last week from Oakland to Portland to the Super Bowl to CPAC were testament to this, but perhaps a rally planned today in Beverly Hills will signal a healthy shift.
During the Ohio fight over Issue 2, which would have curbed collective bargaining "rights" of public sector industries including Ohio police forces, Occupy Columbus protesters took to the streets in defense of cops. Meanwhile in Oakland, Portland, and Washington, D.C., Occupiers last week took to the streets to chant "Fuck the police!" "All cops are bastards!" "No pigs!" and to throw bricks in cops' faces.
The #OccupyOakland rally dubbed their march the "Fuck the Police Rally," noting to its attendees: "If you identify as peaceful and are likely to interfere with the actions of your fellow protestors in any way…you may not want to attend this march. It is a militant action. It attracts anti-capitalists, anti-fascists and other comrades of a revolutionary bent. It is not a march intended for people who are not fully comfortable with diversity of tactics." So apparently Occupy protesters have cops' backs, that is until they're reminded that cops are hired by the public specifically to stop people just like them.
Occupy was predicated on the platform of opposing bailouts, big business and crony capitalism. Yet their decision to put CPAC on house arrest shows their allegiance to Obama -- the largest presidential recipient of Wall Street money in U.S. history, whose very "anti-corporate" regulations he "punishes" corporations with are actually lobbied by and designed to enrich corporations, and whose campaign manager last week begged Wall Street for money under the promise that the president "won't demonize Wall Street." This despite the president's assurance to Occupy that "we are on their side." If only Occupy were on its own side.
Most definitively, Occupy decries the rich robbing from the middle class. That hasn't alienated them from the chief organizing entity of #OccupyCPAC, the AFL-CIO, (that paid protesters to show up) whose top brass includes President Richard Trumke, who collects $283,340 directly from the paychecks of middle class union workers, Executive Vice President Arlene Holt-Baker, ($254,138), Assistant to the President Paul Lemmon ($199,811), etc. etc. (Yet all they bother to pay Occupiers is $60 for the day.)
It was the AFL-CIO that prompted #OccupyTheSuperBowl last week to champion the very system whereby such actual class war is perpetuated. After Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels signed the Right to Work law, #Occupiers inundated the streets of Indianapolis in protest. Channeling Orwell, MSNBC's Ed Schultz joined their chorus by accusing the law of "telling them what they can do with their paychecks." By…giving them the power to do what they want with their paychecks?
Occupy appears to be only against the rich taking from the middle class when it is applicable to some obtuse, economic zero-sum-game abstraction of capitalism, rather than literally the rich taking from the middle class, as do their chief organizers from the paychecks of workers making down to less than 10 times their bosses' six figure incomes as fees for their paternalistic Stockholm syndrome-inducing promises of "protection."
Such patronizing class condescension was best personified last week by New Jersey Education Association Executive Director Vincent Giordinano, who collects his $550,000 directly off the backs of middle class teachers. When asked about poor families who without school choice can't pull their children out of failing public schools, shrugged, "Well life's not always fair and I'm sorry about that." But Giordiano is the type of man Occupy supports.
Were Occupy truly motivated by its aforementioned core principles, and weren't taking its cues, money and moral support from the very textbook embodiments of what they decry, they would join another movement with a rap sheet devoid of documented rape cover-ups, terrorized storefronts, child molestation, elderly and disabled abuse, virulent racism and violent intimidation tactics (yet a consistent record of being unsubstiatedly accused of the above), that has peacefully protested the corporate-federal oligarchy for over three years. (But then of course, the Tea Party's butt-of-Bill-Maher-jokes rap sheet far exceeds that of Occupy, so that's understandably out of the question.)
Even ultra-left social critic Christopher Hedges has acknowledged Occupy has been derailed--not only in my estimation by corporate oligarchs like President Obama and fine-dining bourgeois Big Labor elites like the AFL-CIO variety--but in Hedges' estimation, by a self-defeating embracement of the "Black Bloc" strategy:
"Marching as a uniformed mass, all dressed in black to become part of an anonymous bloc, faces covered, temporarily overcomes alienation, feelings of inadequacy, powerlessness and loneliness. It imparts to those in the mob a sense of comradeship. It permits an inchoate rage to be unleashed on any target.The Black Bloc movement bears the rigidity and dogmatism of all absolutism sects...They hear only their own voices. They heed only their own thoughts. They believe only their own clichés. And this makes them not only deeply intolerant but stupid."
On Wednesday this week, #Occupy90210 will be using the occasion of President Obama's $35,000-plate fundraising event at TV producer Bradly Bell's home "to highlight the corrupting role that Big Money plays in politics," noting:
"Obama recently announced that he will accept SuperPAC money, which enables wealthy people and corporations to donate unlimited amounts of money to political campaigns. What does this decision say about our leader? To whom will Obama be accountable? The millions of Americans who are poor, hungry and homeless in this country or the 1% of the population that can afford to spend $35,800 on dinner with the President?"
Wednesday's event could sound a wake-up call to the rest of the movement, compelling them to shake off the Black Bloc tendencies, freeze their target, grab the steering wheel of a reckless, serpentinely off-roading vehicle and swerve it onto a road of actual conviction, away from the nefarious influences that have co-opted it.
Like the Tea Party, #Occupy began as an organic fraternity magnetized by common emotional disillusionments. But unlike the Tea Party, when the moment came for maturity, perspective of principle, and a focused trajectory, it missed the moment and instead reverted to the knee-jerk, post-pubescent emotionalisms that sustain some illusory self-perception of survivable relevance. I Occupy will recapture this moment in tomorrow's event, rather than remain the Jim Stark of modern political dissent.