Occupy Brain Pans

Allow me to translate: "Duh!"

The latest, dumbest and most telling of the endless Occupy group protests occurs today, as 111 Occupy Wall Street spin-offs across the country engage in “Occupy the Courts,” a protest to mark two years since the 2010 landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which held that the government cannot ban organizational spending on political campaigns. Move to Amend, the group that is sponsoring the protests, says that the goal is to build support for a constitutional amendment that would abolish corporate constitutional rights, such as the right to free speech, and declaring that political campaign spending is not a form of speech protected by the First Amendment.

If I were optimistic and naive, I would assume that this nonsense would finally shame the imprudent members of the media, Democratic Party and Obama administration who cynically hitched their wagons to the Occupy Wall Street anvil, hoping that eventually the groups would do or say something that justified all the attention and expense lavished on them. Instead, the Occupy movement has featured rapes, robberies, beatings, riots, obscenity, anti-Semites, homeless hangers-on, demonstrators defecating on cars, a woman placing her baby on railroad tracks, another child being abandoned to shiver in a tent, a pseudo-bomb being thrown at the White House, a demonstrator shooting a rifle at the White House, violated permits, squalor, disease and rats….all while the news media showed its stripes by maintaining with a straight face that this display was no different or worse than the comparatively dignified, focused and streamlined Tea Party demonstrations. Nonetheless, the facilitators of this embarrassment in the annals of civil protest seem determined to keep the faith until it blows up into a genuine tragedy or slinks away. If Occupy the Courts won’t convince the pols and journalists that they made an epic mistake, nothing will. But at least it settles the matter. These people have no idea, none, what they are doing.

The courts, you see, decide cases based on the law and on the Constitution. They are not democratic institutions, nor should they be. They deal, not in feelings or vague expressions of what seems right, but in established law. They do not respond to elections, or rallies, and any judge who can be intimidated by sign-carrying, slogan-chanting, square-squatting police car-poopers should retire or be impeached. The very idea that it makes sense, or is in any way logical or productive to demonstrate in front of courts shows that this “movement” that wants to reform everything about America lacks a junior high schooler’s comprehension of the system it purports to hate. If you want to change the law, you aim protests at legislators, not courts. Duh.

One should also never protest a court decision that you haven’t read, along with the key cases cited in it. I would guess—correct me if you think this is unfair—that less than 1% of the Occupy the Courts demonstrators have read the opinion in Citizen’s United, and less than that have listened to the oral argument in the case. As a result, frankly, I don’t give a damn what they think about the opinion. In their clueless  indignation and fervor they are like, indeed exactly like, the ignorant mob that sent out petitions decrying the Casey Anthony verdict. Such ignorance of our legal system is dangerous, and the willfully ignorant—you know, the case is complicated, but it’s not that hard to read—deserve no respect.

This is particularly true when the ignorance is magnified by self-righteous protests, and when the goal of the protests is hilariously hypocritical. Occupy Wall Street and its ilk (I don’t know why ilk always seem uncomplimentary, but in this case, I’m glad) depends upon the First Amendment rights of free speech and political participation, and the result their foolish amendment seeks is to restrict both free speech and political participation. The act of shutting down opinions one doesn’t like is totalitarian in spirit, not democratic. Occupy Wall Street exists because the Supreme Court has moved closer to William O. Douglas’s ideal of a First Amendment-guranteed absolute right of free speech in recent decades, not farther away, and the culture is more tolerant of disruptive, contrary, provocative speech than ever.

Of course, most of the Occupiers don’t know who William O. Douglas was, either.

For the Occupy Wall Street mutations, protesting against a principle they don’t understand, embodied by an court decision they haven’t read, in front of an institution that is immune to protests to accomplish a goal that would undermine democracy itself is par for the course, I guess. At some point, however, I would think intelligent, fair, reasonable people would figure out that supporting an intellectually lazy, ignorant, hypocritical and inarticulate movement reflects rather badly on the values and intellect of the supporters.


Update: After this was posted, the Washington Post published a superb overview of the foolishness of the Occupy the Courts protests’ focus by Constitutional law scholar Kent Greenfield. You can and should read his piece here, and the Occupiers should be forced to read it before they make worse fools of themselves. An excerpt (emphasis mine):

“…Unfortunately, the most prevalent critique of the decision — Corporations are not people! — is simplistic and dangerous. Many anti-corporate activists are coalescing their efforts around a proposed constitutional amendment saying that constitutional protections are intended only for “natural persons.” The amendment has been introduced in both chambers of Congress, and nearly 50 municipalities, including New York and Los Angeles, have endorsed it. Opponents of corporate power have announced plans to stage protests, or “Occupy the Courts,” including the Supreme Court, on Friday. These efforts squander the energy of thousands of Americans on a potential remedy founded on a fundamental misunderstanding of constitutional law. Citizens United did not hold corporations to be persons, and the court has never said corporations deserve all the constitutional rights of humans. The Fifth Amendment’s right to be free from self-incrimination, for example, does not extend to corporations. In fact, saying corporations are not persons is as irrelevant to constitutional analysis as saying that Tom Brady does not putt well in handicapping the NFL playoffs”

Like I said. Dumb.


4 thoughts on “Occupy Brain Pans

  1. If such an amendment had been in effect in 1971, New York Times Co. v. United States , 403 U.S. 713 (1971), would have been decided differently- an irony lost on the New York times editorial board.

    that less than 1% of the Occupy the Courts demonstrators have read the opinion in Citizen’s United, and less than that have listened to the oral argument in the case.

    Whenever anything remotely related to Citizens United is discussed on Volokh.Com , the usual suspects mischaracterize the decision.

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