- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 4, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The Occupy Wall Street protest is reminiscent of the scene in the 1953 film “The Wild One” where a young woman asks a motorcycle gang leader played by Marlon Brando, “Hey Johnny, what are you rebelling against?” Brando deadpans, “Whaddya got?”

The New York demonstration is in its third week, and similar protests have sprung up in other cities. Other than some temporary traffic blockages, the movement hasn’t achieved anything tangible. It is a method without a message; rather, the method is the message. The protest is an exercise in creative anarchy, a statement against ill-defined and probably misunderstood power, a directionless movement claiming to represent 99 percent of America. It seeks to raise awareness, but where you go after that is up to you. It has no organization, uncertain goals, unlisted membership and lots of cardboard signs.

There is something for almost every type of radical in the occupy movement. It welcomes hard-currency advocates, opponents of water fluoridation, anti-war groups, anti-capitalists, anarcho-capitalists, anarcho-socialists, anti-Bilderbergers, opponents of the bank bailout, and chemtrail activists, among others. Their signs scream, “People over profit!” “Get out and shout!” “Eat the rich!” “End the Fed!” and “Dissent is patriotic!”

There is no official list of movement demands or objectives, since there is no official movement to begin with. An occupier named Lloyd J. Hart posted a list of 13 proposed demands on the unofficial movement website. It’s unclear to whom the demands are addressed. Some of them - like open borders, free college education and “immediate across the board debt forgiveness for all … on the entire planet” - are too radical to attract much political support. Others, like “one trillion dollars in infrastructure spending now” and a universal single-payer health-care system, could be talking points in the Obama 2012 campaign.

The movement purportedly is modeled on the Arab Spring, in which occupying public squares led, somehow, to the spontaneous combustion of authoritarian regimes. This won’t happen in America for a variety of reasons, but the protests have been tolerated out of respect for the constitutional right of peaceable assembly and because the demonstrations have been harmless. The peaceful approach of the occupiers is a welcome alternative to the angry and destructive anarchist protests that have accompanied international financial meetings in recent years. It’s also why it’s dragging on. If the occupiers took over buildings or threw Molotov cocktails, they would be cleared out in a hurry.

Over time, the occupy movement has taken on the feeling of Groundhog Day. The protesters make signs, they march, they speak. They rest, they talk, they have lunch. In the afternoon, they do it again. Wash, rinse, repeat. It’s the kind of pointless street theater that would have made a serious revolutionary like Lenin shake his head. It’s no wonder he gave the Russian anarchists a one-way ticket to Siberia. Today’s occupiers seem to think if they just keep doing what they are doing, something big will happen. They just don’t know what, or why, or when, or how.