Whoever said that nothing is certain except death and taxes made a glaring oversight. It’s also certain that whenever anyone proposes genuine change, they’re going to be branded communist, socialist, and/or Marxist (not to mention liberal, of course). If Karl Marx never accomplished anything else with his life, he at least bequeathed American reactionaries a handy epithet or two to hurl.
These epithets were hurled at labor organizers in the Thirties, some of whom were threatened, attacked and even killed for daring to demand better working conditions. They were hurled in the Sixties at hippies who rejected mindless materialism and peaceniks who protested the Viet Nam involvement. They were hurled in the Fifties at anyone who did anything to show that they were alive. And now, naturally, they’re being hurled at the protesters of Occupy Wall Street.
You won’t have to worry, though, about such labels being applied to the Tea Party – in fact, they’re quite often the ones doing the applying. The Tea Party’s main objective isn’t genuine change; it’s undoing the changes wrought, or that they believe to have been wrought, by the Obama administration. Their much-ballyhooed “anger” is largely an irrational reaction to a mythical tax increase and a mythical version of a healthcare bill they haven’t read and don’t understand. (My favorite recent example of how the punditocracy brainwashes the masses is that 25% of Republicans expressed fear the 2012 election will be stolen for Obama by ACORN – which disbanded more than a year ago!)
Occupy Wall Street, however, at least has a beef rooted in reality: the old trickle-down economic model is not working, has never worked, and is not working even more now. The last quarter of 2010 was the most profitable for large businesses since the government began keeping records on them more than 60 years ago. Recession? What recession? The richest one percent of Americans have QUINTUPLED their wealth in the past few years. You really believe it’s because they’re smarter or work harder than the rest of us? Good! I have a rainbow I’ve been wanting to sell.
Yet a tenth of American workers remain unemployed and the number of people applying for food stamps sets a new record every month. Corporations are basking in cash and often paying no taxes on it, their CEOs are getting obscenely huge bonuses – and at the same time they’re making massive cuts to their workforce and outsourcing jobs to places where labor is much cheaper. Oil companies post record profits, but fuel prices are stuck at well over three bucks a gallon. Washington, we have a problem. But meanwhile, rather than vote on a jobs bill backed by the current president, Congress votes on recognizing “In God We Trust” as the national motto. (There is a suspicion, not without cause, that all of this is part of a scheme to thwart Obama’s re-election, using American workers and consumers as political pawns.)
It’s probably clear to most people that there is no simple solution to these problems. It’s clear enough to the demonstrators, and so they aren’t proposing simple solutions. (It is not true, however, that they’ve proposed no remedial measures at all.) This makes them all the more subject to vilification by a media elite accustomed to thinking in black and white. (For an amusing and yet nauseating tabulation of the media’s spin on OWS, including the common mantra that the participants “don’t know what they want”, see here.) There’s an interesting principle at work here, and so your Professor of Propaganda is going to give it a name.
P.O.P.’S LAW OF INVERSE BENEFIT: The greater the number of people who stand to benefit from a particular movement, the more intense the smear campaign against it will be.
The Tea Party is a movement perpetrated mostly by a relatively small number of right-wing extremists. From the beginning the media trumpeted it as a grassroots revolution, greatly exaggerating its numbers and not only giving extensive coverage to its rallies, but advance notice of its planned events, encouraging the public to attend. The attendees said that Obama is illegitimate, that he is a Muslim and a terrorist, that he has hiked their taxes, that he wants to institute death panels and destroy the nation and outlaw fishing. And oh yeah, that global warming is a hoax. And with a perfectly straight face, the media gave them an unlimited spotlight and microphone.
Occupy Wall Street has said that greed and corruption are strangling the American dream. And after ignoring them as long as possible, the media met them with ridicule and contempt. Which included, of course, the commie/socialist/Marxist syndrome – and just to hedge bets, the contradictory label of Nazi was thrown in as well. (Meanwhile, the Tea Party crowd has complained about the media’s “double standard”. You think I’m joshing?)
Are there any communists/socialists/Marxists involved in OWS? Beyond a doubt. And I’d wager that none are the anti-American monsters the right-wingers have them pegged for. Unlike the Tea Party, Occupy Wall street has an extremely broad base of support; it would be miraculous if there weren’t any communists/socialists/Marxists involved. But to claim that they represent the heart of the movement is a meme that only Fox and its diehard fans would buy into. If you look long and hard at a Tea Party rally, you’ll spot an occasional dark face in the crowd; but would anyone alive characterize the Tea Party as an African-American activist group?
Because of its broad appeal, Occupy Wall Street attracts all kinds of people-except, apparently, right-wing extremists, who seem pretty unified in demonizing it. The ones who attend the demonstrations seem to do so incognito, with the intent of inciting violence, provoking arrests and in general trying to bring down the PR quotient of the actual movement. Even James O’Keefe, the notorious creator of deceptively doctored videos, was spotted at a rally. So his next little masterpiece should be premiering any day now.
Such a diverse group as the Occupy movement, alas, is inevitably going to have its share of unsavory characters along for the ride. When a protester in New York was sexually assaulted (bear in mind that these people are camping out in public parks), OWS organizers responded swiftly, putting in place measures to prevent such attacks in the future. The punditocracy also responded swiftly, seemingly touting the incident as proof that OWS is just one big rape camp. Meanwhile, a handful of Jew-bashers in the crowd prompted a major media narrative that OWS is anti-Semitic. The hilarious thing is that many who make such a claim also vehemently protest the (also unfair, perhaps) characterization of the Tea Party as racist, even though the instances of Tea Party racism are FAR more extensive, and apparently the sentiment even extends to its leadership.
Whether or not you ultimately decide to support Occupy Wall Street (or the Tea Party), I’d like to humbly suggest that perhaps ANY movement deserves more careful consideration than Commie Tourette’s. It betrays the sorry lack of imagination that is such a major plague in the public forum. No, I take that back. It isn’t that imagination is utterly lacking. Take a look at some of the justifications people cite for using these labels and you’ll see that imagination is running amok. (Hey, if Michael Moore promotes it, it’s gotta be bright red, right? And by the way, since he makes a lot of money, that means he’s a hypocrite, because we all know that the message of OWS is that the rich are all evil bastards, right?) The problem is that it’s being used to attack rather than offer constructive input.
So if you are among those who habitually respond with the communist/socialist/Marxist chant, I’d like to issue a challenge. Try to be more creative in your insults. The old ones are causing people’s eyes to glaze over. In concocting more original epithets, you might inspire more people to pay attention to your message, if any, and that might spark a productive dialogue, which might lead to some creative solutions to the problems we all face regardless of ideological differences. Or if nothing else, you might become really skilled at venomous insults and launch a career like Rush Limbaugh’s, trashing “lubberals” and military veterans for a hefty paycheck that will land you in the top one percent.
So please, get imaginative with those smears. You just might start a revolution.