Dear Occupy Wall Street, You’re Just Wasting Your Time Now

Posted by on October 7, 2011 at 2:23 pm

Protests can be very interesting. In countries where they’re restricted or forbidden, they can be powerful enough to lift governments right off their feet. Where they’re systematically permitted and protected, they tend to be far more benign and symbolic. The greatest protest in American history is undoubtedly the Boston Tea Party in which colonists dumped three ships’ worth of tea into the harbor in direct response to external price controls. (If only Occupy Wall Street had thought of it first, eh?) This action was a huge building block for revolutionary rhetoric before the British were ousted in a protracted, bloody war. Occupy Wall Street pretends to be that important – with the vague goal of overhauling (or removing) our capitalistic system – but it’s ultimately a social media-enabled flashmob that’s gone on too far long to be effective.

Do I have something against protests? They’re really not my thing. Maybe something I hold dear has just never been challenged enough to forgo my productivity to demonstrate publicly. A recent one that really got me excited was the Project Chanology-driven protests of Scientology in 2008. When the church tried to control the leaked footage of a baffling internal video starring Tom Cruise – scored against a rolling Mission: Impossible riff – the internet went crazy and began propagating the video further. As a result, we saw the rise of 4chan’s militant Anonymous, which organized not only demonstrations – single day affairs in which protesters arrived en masse in Guy Fawkes masks and blasted Rick Astley’s memetic “Never Gonna Give You Up” – but also a cornucopia of information about the organization. I only had a vague opinion about the Church of Scientology at that time, but through Project Chanology I, and indeed many others, had their eyes opened to the church’s operations. Anonymous went on to organize or empower more protests (including Occupy Wall Street), ultimately losing some face in the malicious Anonymous-derived LulzSec internet attacks earlier this year.

Unlike the Project Chanology protests, which were spontaneous and sharp while exposing the world to Scientology’s oft-malicious actions over the years, the Occupy Wall Street actions seem oddly out of place. Now three long years after banks have tarnished the lives of many homeowners, been bailed out, and parachuted back to their exquisite homes on golden threads with plenty of time to read a bedtime story to their kids, the protest seems more like a catch-all for anyone with an opinion and a Twitter or Facebook account. People are abandoning their jobs, their education, their search for work, or *gasp* legitimate methods to create change through political or economical involvement to sit as part of a now-languid three week long demonstration. (Ironically, the call for more market regulation is a huge reason why we got into this mess in the first place, but that’s another article entirely.) Despite the contemporary parallels to the Arab Spring, in which a variety of Mediterranean regimes collapsed because their dictatorial inflexibility forced them to snap, we enjoy a flexible power structure in the Western world. Companies go up and down based on the market. Political control in Washington is up for grabs every two years in widely-attended elections. You may think it’s romantic to sleep under the bright lights of a Manhattan skyline and charge your phone while having a breakfast burrito at the local McDonald’s, but what are you really accomplishing? Let’s not even mention the taxpayer dollars being spent to corral you when you get feisty.

Occupy Wall Street, and all your sister protests, if you want change, then actually do something.

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  • Nedberry

    the fact that the project chanology thing has been the only thing to get you pretty riled up is fairly lame, no? there’s that whole iraq thing right? hundreds of thousands of innocents killed for what? oh yeah, i won’t even mention the taxpayer dollars being spent on that one (ongoing btw).

    other than that, great article.


    • Anonymous

      Yes, but no one marched on Washington for (ongoing) three weeks and sat in front of the Capitol building to demonstrate, they threw the GOP out of Congress and eventually out of the White House. That’s my point: if you want to change something, change it. At this point, Occupy Wall Street is the political equivalent of planking.

  • I don’t mind protest really, it makes people think they have some power, if they don’t believe that they tend to turn to more drastic stupid measure(like prohibition).  However when they do something stupid like block traffic, or block entrance to buildings, and the police are called in help, they stand there like morons not moving or resisting leading to clashes with police and pepperspray, then MSNBC gets a hold of the footage and starts demonizing the police. Then I have a major problem.

    I have some problem with the banks, but I also come from the banking capital of the world(home to Bank of America) and other very large financial institutions.  I have seen some of the good things that the banks have done to this city and they constitute a very large section of the local economy,  so I have to condemn them and support them at the same time.

  • JustCallMeMary

    To join in on a peaceful protest is often a vague concept for most arm chair critics. Most people simply do not avail themselves of opportunities to exercise this most fundamental right. That so many thousands have stopped their usual activities and gotten off their butts to go out there and take a stand is something important and necessary in the evolution of our society.

    The impact of Project Chanology protests of Scientology is another feat of  large measure. Both series of protests make it possible for the single small voice to be a part of a very large loud “We’re not going to take it anymore and you should look into why we are doing this!” Yes, putting better polititians in office and effecting change is necessary but it’s much easier to accomplish if the issues are out in front and kept in the news by the sheer growing numbers of the discontent excercising this basic right to protest.

    You ask that people do something, as if nothing is being done. Tell that to exscientologists, to the people of Lybia and Syria, and they will tell you that something is being done and that protesting injustices has much to do with it.