The Question OWS Hears Most: "What's Your Agenda?"
By Danny Schechter, Author of The Crime of Our Time
One of the most frequently repeated, recycled and dismissive questions about Occupy Wall Street is its supposed lack of an "agenda."
The "what do you people want" question has featured in media interviews almost to the exclusion of all others.
It's as if the movement won't be taken seriously by some, unless and until, it enunciates list of "demands" and defines itself in a way that can allow others, especially a cynical media, to label and pigeonhole it.
Many are just frothing at the mouth for some political positions they can expose as shallow or absurd. Teams of pundits are being primed to go on the attack once they have some bullet points to refute. (Many police departments don't need bullet points to go on the attack. They have been having a field day arresting occupiers in many cities, while collecting overtime and readying their own bullets as needed.)
Some on Wall Street already denounce these adversaries as "unsophisticated" for their formulation of the 99% versus the 1%. You'd expect the 1 % to reject this way of seeing the world.
On the right, there is no factual inaccuracy or bizarre incident they won't invoke to dismiss a movement they lack the mental tools to understand.
The Drudge Report was delighted to expose an incident involving public masturbation in one city. A group of gun nuts blasted away a group of people who in their majority are deeply disappointed with President Obama's non-leadership on economic issues.
They write: "Don't be mistaken. The Wall Street protestors aren't peaceful hippies congregating about greed or social inequality. They are uniting to destroy America and everything we stand for. Their model is the "Arab Spring" which discharged their Governments in favor of anti-Israel agitators and Muslim fundamentalists. "They are NOT about freedom, but about World domination and total control. And Obama is supporting them..........fully."
Others like Reverend Jesse Jackson want more engagement with legislative issues and even the backing of candidates. Democratic Candidates, even progressive ones like Elizabeth Warren, seem ambivalent about backing the occupations. Most are taking their cue from President Obama who only say he understands their "frustrations.")
Some on the left, including friends of mine, seem to suffer from undisguised vanguardism and want the Movement to raise the red flag right away, despite all the anarchists, libertarians and Democrats among them. Here's Bill Bowles writing from London:
"Although many on the established Left are claiming OWS as their own, latching on to the anti-capitalist theme that figures prominently, at least in some locations, it's clear that the focus of the OWS 'movement' varies greatly from place to place. Thus where it all started, in downtown Manhattan, the focus is very much on capitalist criminals rather than criminal capitalism. But little or no mention of the dreaded word- socialism, ironically for fear of alienating even those who occupy, never mind what the rabid corporate/state media does with that which shall remain nameless."
These are old and, in many instances, predictable debates but what they miss is what's new and so vital about this decentralized, mostly leaderless movement that has captured the worlds imagination.
Judging by the media attention it has received and polls that show large numbers of supportive Americans. it is touching a global nerve and changing the national, even international conversation. It seems to be doing a lot that's right!