Occupy Wall Street: Unethical Demonstration, Unethical Supporters

If this is the level of your comprehension, I really don’t care what you think.

“Ethics Bob” Stone recently posted about the ethics of mass demonstrations like “Occupy Wall Street,” noting that long-term, open-ended demonstrations begin crossing ethical lines once they accomplish the goal of sending a message and hang around anyway, creating fertile ground for violence, and, though Bob doesn’t mention this, inconveniencing the public, wasting scarce municipal funds, and tempting pundits to make fools out of themselves.

Even with this, Bob is giving the Occupiers more credit than they deserve. A group that imposes its presence on the public, law enforcement, and local governments is entitled to express a minority and even a crackpot viewpoint. There is an ethical obligation, however, not to abuse the right of assembly and the precious time of everyone else by creating a big disturbance that means nothing, conveying a message that is irresponsible because it is based on ignorance.

New York Magazine quizzed the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators, and discovered that:

  • 84% don’t know what the Dodd-Frank Act is
  • 62% don’t know who is the head of the Federal Reserve
  • 72% don’t know what the S.E.C. is
  • 89% don’t know the top marginal tax rate for “the 1%”

Most stunning of all, given the group’s rhetoric, a full 94% think U.S. military spending exceeds its expenditures for health care and pensions.

What does this tell us? It tells us that nobody should listen to these arrogant fools, or care about their opinions. They have the nerve to demand major policy changes, declare who is at fault for the economy, scream about misplaced priorities, and they haven’t taken the time to research the most basic facts relevant to their supposed “cause.”  This is indefensible. The underlying assumption behind our democracy was civic literacy, and these demonstrators spit on it. This isn’t a movement, any more than a herd of cows grazing in New York City with incomprehensible signs on their backs while they moo all day. It is a waste of time. Nor does Occupy Wall Street deserve respect. I’ll respect those who hold different views from mine, if they can argue them articulately and make the effort to construct a coherent argument based on facts.  Not this. Never this.

What is the proper attitude toward an actor who demands center stage and then can’t recall any lines, because he never bothered to learn them? Contempt. What is the fair treatment for a public speaker who takes the microphone and bleats nonsense? The hook. The Occupy Wall Street “movement” is the reductio ad absurdum of a culture that encourages uninformed opinion and delusions of competence. Who are these people to “send a message,” when they can’t be bothered to understand the complex issues they are sending messages about? 

Not that such a group doesn’t have its uses. Its very vagueness, rooted in laziness and ignorance, makes it a magnet for the cynical and opportunistic. Tea Party-haters have found it convenient to use Occupy Wall Street as a new way to denigrate that group by comparison, though the Tea Party’s agenda was and is well-defined and based, for the most part, on reality. Reflexive America-haters, including the American Nazi Party, the Communist Party, China, and Hugo Chavez enthusiastically have endorsed Occupy Wall Street without setting off any alarms among supposedly responsible columnists like Eugene Robinson and E.J. Dionne. Incurably juvenile celebrity lefties like Susan Sarandon, Harry Belafonte and Kanye West jumped on the bandwagon; the un-hinged left at Move-On, The Daily Kos, and MSNBC ranters joined the throng. Astoundingly, or maybe not, the leadership of the Democratic Party—Nancy Pelosi,  Bill Clinton, the President-–decided to ally themselves with a group that is admired by Nazis and Communists. Why? Because they hate Wall Street? Well, no…actually President Obama’s campaign has received more money from Wall Street than any other elected leader. Because they agree with its message? What message? Because it’s “populist”? Would the Democratic leadership endorse the zombies of “The Walking Dead” if they thought it meant locking up a big voting block?

Maybe so.

But what are they endorsing? Democratic pollster Doug Shoen did some polling of the Occupiers, and found that in addition to being ignorant,

“…the movement doesn’t represent unemployed America and is not ideologically diverse. Rather, it comprises an unrepresentative segment of the electorate that believes in radical redistribution of wealth, civil disobedience and, in some instances, violence. Half (52%) have participated in a political movement before, virtually all (98%) say they would support civil disobedience to achieve their goals, and nearly one-third (31%) would support violence to advance their agenda.  The vast majority of demonstrators are actually employed, and the proportion of protesters unemployed (15%) is within single digits of the national unemployment rate (9.1%)”

Schoen’s conclusion:

“Thus Occupy Wall Street is a group of engaged progressives who are disillusioned with the capitalist system and have a distinct activist orientation. Among the general public, by contrast, 41% of Americans self-identify as conservative, 36% as moderate, and only 21% as liberal. That’s why the Obama-Pelosi embrace of the movement could prove catastrophic for their party.”

Well, yes…that, and the likelihood that the longer the occupation persists, the more we will see demonstrators sending their incoherent message by exposing their private parts in public, defecating on police cars, shouting anti-Semitic slogans, being taped advocating the murder of bankers, and clashing with police.  If all else fails, even a movement with less-than-clear objectives can warrant attention by the values and conduct of its participants. This movement has been marked by the frequency with which its participants steal from each other.

At a time when the nation needs solutions, serious debate, constructive analysis, and non-partisan and non-ideological cooperation, a major party has embraced a movement with a message that is negativity and nothing else, rooted in ignorance and emotion.

And there, Bob, is another danger inherent in an unethical demonstration. It presents a temptation for cynical politicians to behave unethically by supporting it.

UPDATE: Bob Stone supplied a link to Schoen’s actual survey and data. I have to agree with Bob that Schoen’s conclusions are more emphatic than his published conclusions would seem to justify. On the other hand, the data does support the main point of my post, which is that the OWS demonstrators don’t know what they want, or how to achieve it.  For example, only 7% of those polled primarily blamed Wall Street for the nation’s problems, while 8% blamed President Obama. Why are they targeting Wall Street, then? The main objective of the protests, the survey showed, by an overwhelming margin, was to influence the Democratic Party like the Tea Party has influenced the GOP. But what does that mean? To influence a party, there has to be a coherent message, and there isn’t one.

Thanks, Bob…very helpful.

23 thoughts on “Occupy Wall Street: Unethical Demonstration, Unethical Supporters

  1. Jack, it looks like Doug Schoen’s article seriously misrepresented his polling results. For example, with regard to “believes in radical redistribution of wealth,” four percent agreed. Four percent!

    I remember the Tea party beginnings differently than you. I recall seeing a lot of gun-toting people, signs advocating violence, and beyond-rude silencing of a (Republican) senator. Their agenda took a while to crystallize.

    • “Sixty-five percent say that government has a moral responsibility to guarantee all citizens access to affordable health care, a college education, and a secure retirement—no matter the cost. By a large margin (77%-22%), they support raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans.” How else would you interpret that, other than a majority advocating radical redistribution of wealth? The figure you cite is like the people who say they want affirmative action but oppose racial quotas. Just more proof that the demonstrators don’t know what they want or believe.

      The Tea Party got permits for its demonstrations, and you can’t carry guns on the Mall. More to the point of your article, they made their point, got abused by CNN, and left.

      If there were signs advocating violence, they were outliers or outright infiltrators. I haven’t been able to chat with the OWS gang, but I was caught in the middle of a Tea Party march, and it was almost entirely American flags, signs about less taxes and smaller government, and the deficit—and they were right about that. And I didn’t see a single person who I would ever worry about crapping on my car.

        • What? Why does it have to mention cost? Are you suggesting that the demonstrators are SO clueless that they don’t think universal health care and college tuition costs anything? Wow.

          Spend more, tax the rich more. That’s income redistribution…what else could it be? Seems clear to me. This is quibbling. All efforts to make OWS seem less than facile and silly end up seeming desperate to me. Yes, I understand why a left-of-center Tea Party equivalent would be comforting. This ain’t it.

        • Just saw Schoen on TV…saying that the demonstrators wanted health care, college and pensions for all, regardless of cost, paid for by taxing the rich, and no one else. That couldn’t be clearer, could it?

            • Do you have access to the actual questions and data? Because all I can go on is the column, which says:

              “Sixty-five percent say that government has a moral responsibility to guarantee all citizens access to affordable health care, a college education, and a secure retirement—no matter the cost. By a large margin (77 percent-22 percent), they support raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, but 58 percent oppose raising taxes for everybody, with only 36 percent in favor. And by a close margin, protesters are divided on whether the bank bailouts were necessary (49 percent) or unnecessary (51 percent).”

              How does this not square with his statements and conclusions? And what’s his bias? Is there anything—besides the violence, maybe—that is surprising?

  2. All of this is very interesting, but face it: these are a bunch of selfish nihilists who want life handed to them on a silver platter — by someone else, anyone else. I think a good foundation grant should take about half of them to post-Soviet countries and see exactly what communism did to those nations, and who have not yet recovered after almost 25 years. (I’ve been to Russia, for example, and while they’re working their way back, you still can’t even drink water out of the tap!) And I would also challenge just one of these demonstrators to name a communist country that didn’t have its leaders living large, having country dachas, limousines, and imported food and clothes while the rest of the population toiled and lived in poverty. The communist dream of Lenin is just that — a dream. And recent history proves it.

    These people need to (1) get educated on the history and purpose of their own nation; (2) use that education to find at least one cogent point to make; and (3) review tapes of what happens in these idealized Communist countries — where all wealth is supposedly shared and all live in peaceful equality — when the “people” demonstrate for something different. Tianemen Square might be a start. These jerks don’t know what they have, and don’t know what they might have if their nonsensical demands actually came to pass. They are m-o-r-o-n-s.

  3. I’ll be honest. I don’t think I knew any of those things in the poll.

    On the other hand, I’m not an economist and I’m not protesting how to change something.

  4. I guess to be fair I would have to ask:Did the American Continental Army know what they were fighting for ? There were men younger than 18. Did the Tea Party know exactly what they wanted to accomplish? Has the Tea party accomplished what they wanted? Is making someone a one term president a goal? Is 200 people in one location enough for a poll when there are many other demonstrations around the U.S.? After watching the debates last night, I am wondering what the candidates on the right want to do? I hear some of the ideas actually raise taxes as well. Some have corporate contributors that want a kick back once the election is over. I don’t know. Just seems like no one has any concrete answers and all they want to do is see the other side fail. Is there a reasonable goal?

  5. “arrogant fools”
    “Incurably juvenile celebrity lefties”
    “supposedly responsible columnists”
    “the un-hinged left”

    Jack, your use of invectives negates your argument.
    http://grammar.about.com/od/il/g/invectiveterm.htm

    I suggest you begin shilling for Fox News.

    Note – there’s a report that Bank of America in my hometown of Las Cruces has begun posting security outside their banks in order to prevent people from closing their accounts. I intend to visit the main branch today after school and speak with security. I will not spit on them, nor will I take a crap on their premises. Heck, I won’t even wear my Mr. Piggy Mask from last Saturday’s protest.http://fattymoon.posterous.com/occupy-las-cruces-protests-shenanigans-at-wel

    Ladies and gentlemen, look around you… http://www.occupytogether.org/

    • Pretty weak, Jeff. I’m not sure that even the hypocritical No-labels crowd would regard any of those words as uncivil, and I think everyone of them is fair and accurate, I’ll concede that “un-hinged” may be hyperbolic. The description of most celebrity activists as juvenile is especially apt, as these are overwhelmingly emotion-dominated artists whose connection to practical realities of normal life is about that of the average high school student. Note that Susan Sarandon, typical of the breed, recently called the Pope a Nazi. Sarandon’s not stupid…she’s just ignorant, and like most teens (and most OWS demonstrators) doesn’t have the sense to temper her certitude with actual expertise.

      • Not to mention the fact that these Hollywood liberals have so much money that major policy, pro-socialist changes would not affect their lifestyles at all. It’s so easy to be liberal when you’re rich as Croesus…

    • What arrogance to assume readers won’t know what “invective” means. And the use of such language cannot, in and of itself, negate an entire argument.

      As for the typical reference to Fox News, you might want to clarify whether you are attacking the actual news broadcasts, or the opinion shows. There is quite a difference between the two. And take a look at all the other news stations out there. If you cannot see the childish methods being employed by all sides of the media, you are being intentionally blind.

    • Soros is a political ideologue whose view of the United States and life in general is eccentric, given undue influence because he’s abillionaire. Your theory is that we should yield to the judgment of Soros? Hilarious. You think billionaires are evil, unless they are funding you.

      • Well, I’ve got tell you that he’s not funding “us” since I’m not supporting the Occupy Wall Street Movement. I found your article really smart but it’s so biased it looks like you forgot a few major issues the OWS protesters are fighting against.
        You’d tell that the average OWS protester is an idiot, I’d agree. “Shut down the banks” or “Burn the FED” is definitely not a way for them to recommend te future fiscal policy in the US. It’s just a way to express their anger, say that something is going wrong. And something IS wrong. I’m French and when my people did their revolution in 1789, a mere band of peasant attacked the royal palace because the price of wheat went through the roof. During the last few decades in the US, the inequalities skyrocketed. Those hippies might be dumb and may not have a broad civic literacy, when they say that they are the 99%, they simply point out the fact that the the income of the 1% richest Americans rose faster than the one of the median American. Those protest spread to Spain, the UK, Greece but not Sweden or Denmark not because these countries are richer but because their Gini coefficient which measures the inequalities is lower.

        Banks today are one small part of the US problems but what makes absolutely no sense right now is the country’s foreign policy. The industry is declining, the Keynesian stimulus plans which may have worked during the last century works no more because of globalisation. You give one extra dollar to a consumer, his money doesn’t foster the US economy but the Chinese. By keeping the yuan very low, China is exporting so much products to the US that they’re asphyxiating the US economy. Without the US, China’s production machine can work, the current administration has a huge bargain power it should use to put pressure on China so they reevaluate their currency so they will export less. That’s problem number ONE but that’s not something the protesters or Herman Cain can understand.

        The Wall Street Occupiers may be a bunch of stupid hippies, I work for a bank but I still think their protest makes a lot of sense.

        • Well, now I’m completely confused. Your assessment of one of the key roots of the problem is right on the money, no pun intended, yet none of this is hinted at in OWS rants. Your protest would make sense—I could get behind that one. So how can you say “their protest makes a lot of sense?” What sense does it make? Sense suggests meaning. I detect no meaning. Anger is not ‘sense’.

          Wealth disparity in and of itself is bad in extremes, but not bad per se. I have never understood the argument. US incomes for the bottom 20% rose 40% in real term while the top 1% rose over 200%—but it still rose. Would that 40% rise be considered acceptable if the 1% rose only 40% or less? Isn’t that just pure jealousy? If the 1% rose only 40%, I’m betting that the 1% would have risen less, like, say 20%. Would that be better—is it better to make less as long as someone else isn’t making a lot more?

          I think greedy corporate compensation policies are part of the problem—so is the fact that there’s not much use for unskilled labor any more. Life is tougher—making money is tougher. Those with credentials, skills and smarts can make more than ever, but a large group of not so skilled, not so smart, sot so credentialed can’t compete—and that is NOT the fault of the 1%. Frankly, I’m surprised the figures showed their income going up that much.

          It’s a complex problem, but the simple-minded solution that we should just take the earnings away and give them to people who couldn’t earn it no matter what they did is neither fair, practical, or logical. That is not to say that there isn’t a serious structural problem that has to be addressed. But its not easier to solve problems with people screaming in your ear. It’s harder. Is it bias to say that if someone can’t contribute something more constructive than “life sucks” they should just shut up?

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