OWS Demands and Grievances: Protesting The Status Quo
The “Occupy” movement is the well-overdue expression of public dissatisfaction with the status quo, by the relatively loosely organized, but equally disaffected and disenfranchised masses all over the world. The middle class and the poor, the young and the old, mostly “the left” but also some on “the right”, families and individuals, celebrities and unknowns from all walks of life – they’re all in it together. And many of them proudly don the “Anonymous” masks. And then there are the countless millions of others all over the world, sitting on the sidelines, observing, reading internet posts, watching the news – and ever-less-reluctantly getting ready to join. They call themselves “The 99%.”
So what do they all want?
Among their numbers are people who demand “change” without being specific and others who very specifically would like to see Wall Street take a dive. And there are others still who demand wealth redistribution and Utopian socialism, while most simply demand government accountability. Which would be nice, wouldn’t it? Most are fair and very reasonable no matter which side of the political divide they stand on. Others, thankfully only a minority, are either somewhat deranged or perhaps they have been planted by someone to try to give the movement a bad name.
But one thing is clear: everyone, all the way from the left to the right is there protesting the status quo, lack of vision and dishonesty of their political leaders, unfairness of income distribution, the disastrous economy and the daily erosion of democratic freedoms.
Just weeks after it started, the movement has spread worldwide and it continues to grow (Christmas break notwithstanding) thanks in large part to the Internet. And it will continue to grow until the government solves the problem. Or so we should hope. But not with force or more empty promises. Nothing short of a real solution will do at this point (even if I doubt that it will happen any time soon). The people view the government as morally bankrupt, manipulative, corrupt and cowardly and say that they have let it go on long enough and won’t stand for it any longer. Who among us would disagree with this sentiment?
The fact that the movement doesn’t seem to have a leader and that there are no “unified demands” puzzles many. Or perhaps there are too many leaders, some pulling strongly, mostly to the left?
So what should the governments do? Stomp it out or ignore it? That is the question. So how about a bit of both: in the US the president pretended to “get behind” the protesters usurping the right to “represent” them (which isn’t too surprising, actually, when you consider his ever-more questionable past – as we continue to uncover it bit by bit) and yet he also allowed the police to pick fights and brutalize the peaceful protesters for any infraction, real or imaginary. And all the while the media did all they could to sweep the movement under a rug – or to smear it. It’s the least they could do for their corporate-governmental overlords.
And yet the movement’s “bottom-up” agenda resonates with everyone around the world. But not in the same way.
Right-wingers see this movement as a threat, because they focus only on the isolated anti-capitalist voices which, granted, are definitely present within the movement’s ranks (including such famous leftists as Michael Moore or Noemi Klein – both of whom are portrayed as “rabidly anti-capitalist” even if their message is probably more “anti corporatist” or “anti-corruption” than anything else – even if they themselves don’t quite realize it). They latch on to the chants by the clear minority of outright die-hard socialists who call for communist-style wealth redistribution, they resort to name-calling and belittling those people not even acknowledging that this discontent comes from the right place regardless of what ideology they might subscribe to.
Meanwhile, US democrats cautiously flirt with embracing the movement because it does sound somewhat “democratic” or even “socialistic” in tone, but they don’t much like the calls for accountability either, for fear that some among them would be deeply implicated as well. Hmm, it’s a bit of a hot potato then.
Neither side likes the idea of doing away with capitalism altogether. After all, socialism in its various guises has been tried with rather disastrous effects. Anyone remember the USSR or the Soviet block? It’s not so much the political system but the way it is implemented and the way the governments are held accountable – or not – that makes any political system a success of failure.
Mainstream Media Seen As Traitors
But the worst betrayal happens in the mainstream media. At first unwilling and clearly too scared to cover or even acknowledge the movement at all, then finally covering it reluctantly and unevenly – but always making sure to have on-air pundits who provide the spin and help us disbelieve our own lying eyes.
MSM can’t live without spin. It’s deeply ironic that just about the only mainstream media outlet which provides a fair and reasonably balanced coverage of the movement is RT. They’re to the West what Radio Free Europe or The Voice Of America used to be to the Communist East in the good ole days of the Iron Curtain. I never thought I’d see the day! And they’re not afraid to show both sides of the story, unlike their US or UK counterparts including even the BBC. They used to be perceived as the beacon of objectivity around the world. Well, not any more.
Even the supposedly independent major internet-based media clearly censor the news. I haven’t yet seen “Occupy Wall Street” on Alexa WhatsHot, but I do see that they have “Halloween costumes”, “Android 4.0” and “Lindsay Lohan”! Who the hell is Lindsay Lohan anyway! Google News top stories only barely mentioned the Greek protests, but not a word about protests in over 50 major US cities and something in the order of a hundred more around the world – from all over Europe to Africa to Australia to Asia. And no word about the 1500+ cities where OWS meetings are now being held daily. This movement continues to grow – sometimes slower, sometimes faster. But grow it does.
Is it a surprise then that whistleblowers are fast becoming the new folk heroes? Young people are hearing the name of Daniel Ellsberg for the first time and idolize Julian Assange or people like Bradley Manning for their courage in exposing the government lies. The fact that they have met with swift government retribution, the kind that only panicked bureaucrats are capable of, is another ironic example of US policy backfiring: their grossly unfair and hysterical attack on and attempt to punish and smear Assange has now created thousands of would-be-Assanges. And they will keep multiplying!
As the New Year 2012 has begun, The Occupy Movement has been lying relatively low. With relief, the media quickly brushed them to a side, sometimes calling them far left extremists, just to be nice and objective. Pundits dismiss them, calling them irrelevant, hoping that if they say it enough maybe it will come true. Even alternative news channels often aren’t so sure.
It seems to me that this ambiguous reception is largely driven by the inconsistent message, or a message which all-too-often appears to be hijacked by some special interests. Just like with the Arab Spring, the 99% of the participants have no axe to grind other than to make a positive CHANGE, regardless of whether you call them socialists of capitalists. And it’s those political hybrids who embrace good ideas from both the left and the right that I’d like to have a look at within this article.
Are There Really No Demands?
So what do those protesters want? And aren’t we all protesters here as well? Whether we’re active on the streets or writing editorials or just talking to our friends, precious few among us are happy with the status quo. So, what is our collective beef? What are the different agendas we represent and what is it that unites us? It’s not just about the bad economy, is it?
I’d like to share with you an informal study I did of over 1300 blog and forum posts, including Facebook groups and Twitter. I’ve also included what I felt were the most important issues as reported by the corporate media. The majority of issues below are taken from US and UK sites, but many of those sentiments are echoed internationally with only minor modifications. I will endeavour to only mention those demands which were repeated at least 10 times in the modest sampling I studied, as I felt it would be statistically significant. I’m sure there are hundreds more, perhaps even more important ones which I didn’t get to or have missed. Still, take your pick – and guess which demands/grievances are the most common? And feel free to add your own!
Here’s the partial list of “grievances” (ostensibly not yet “demands”), from vague to specific, often mutually contradictory. I have attempted to categorize them.
But First, One of the Quasi-Official Statements Issued by the Movement
- Injustice is being done to the 99% who are wronged by the
corporate forces of the world
- Democratic government derives its power from the people, but
those principles have been betrayed
- Corporations don’t seek consent to extract wealth from the people
- Democracy is impossible when the process is determined by economic power
- Profit is valued higher than people
- Self-interest triumphs over justice and oppression over equality
- Illegal foreclosures are allowed to happen
- They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity and continue to
- give executives exorbitant bonuses
- Perpetuate inequality and discrimination in workplaces
- Poison the food supply through negligence and then cover it up with
- Undermine the farming system through monopolization
- Profit from cruel treatment of animals
- Strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer
- working conditions
- Students held hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on
- education, which is their right
- They outsource labor and use that outsourcing as leverage to cut
- workers’ health care and pay
- They influenced the courts to give companies the same rights as people,
- but with none of the responsibility or culpability
- Spend millions of dollars on legal teams to get them out of contracts in
- regards to health insurance
- They sell our privacy as a commodity
- They use the military and police to prevent freedom of the press
- They deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives,
- in pursuit of profit
- They determine economic policy and they continue to produce catastrophic
- They donate large sums of money to politicians who are responsible for
- regulating them
- They block alternate forms of energy and keep us dependent on oil
- They block generic forms of medicine that can save people’s lives or
- provide relief, in order to protect investments
- They have purposefully covered up oil spills
- They commit fraud through faulty book keeping in pursuit of profit
- They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their
- control of the media
- The accept private contracts to murder prisoners even when there are
- serious doubts about their guilt
- They perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad
- They participated in torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas
- and at home
- They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive
- government contracts
- Injustice is being done to the 99% who are wronged by the
The above accusations are echoed in the posts I have pored through. Most appear to be on the “Left”, but there are many among them who really don’t know the difference and could easily be classified as “uninformed Right”.
There are many diverse voices, proving that the protesters aren’t to be defined along the old left-right paradigm but perhaps rather something like libertarians versus authoritarians, or simply seekers of justice. For some reason, the media now insists that OWS is exclusively a Left phenomenon, however. But here’s what the opinions I’ve polled show (and note the many “Right” positions alongside the “Left” ones):
- On Banks And Global Corporations
- Hold individual bankers and major banks accountable for their illegal or quasi-legal financial machinations
- Return to Prudent Banking Act
- Limit or eliminate political lobbying by corporations
- On Central Banking
- Force acquisition of the Fed by the US Government; nationalize all Central Banks
- Abolish the Fed altogether
- Audit the Fed and hold its principals accountable for fraud
- On Cronyism
- Eliminate crony capitalism – corporatism
- Eliminate the “revolving door” practice where former government officials can take up corporate jobs with undue influence (or the other way around)
- Stop immoral politics
- Prosecute the guilty politicians and bankers
- Stop all corporate bailouts, give money back to the people
- Let bankrupt banks and corporations fail, if insolvent
- Hold companies responsible for the damage they do (e.g. polluters, especially oil spills, etc)
- On Debt
- Write off the fiat debt of all nations
- Forgive and write off student loans
- Give homeowners their homes back, negotiate fair repayment plans
- On Economy and Fiscal Policy
- Regulate capitalism
- Return to sound money
- Eliminate joblessness, rebuild industry
- Get the government to issue money; money to be based on commodities like gold
- Allow competing currencies
- Stop austerity measures
- Austerity (greatly reduced government spending) is needed
- Stop sending our jobs overseas
- Stop inflating the currency; stop fiat money
- On Wall Street
- Tax all Wall St financial transactions
- Outlaw high frequency trading
- Clamp down on insider trading
- On Taxation
- Eliminate or drastically reduce taxation
- Introduce fair taxation, including a substantially larger tax on the rich
- Repeal the 16th amendment (IRS)
- On US Health Care & Technology
- Introduce real health care reform
- Ban health-profiteering
- Don’t block alternative cures
- Stop bio-engineered products
- Stop blocking real alternative energy
- On Democracy, Justice and the Rule of Law
- Introduce direct voter participation
- Introduce citizen oversight of government
- Create a new independent party
- Introduce a fair voting system
- Respect the constitution and human rights
- The economy and governments to serve the people, not the other way around
- Reinstate union collective bargaining rights
- Clamp down on political correctness because it is a tool of the elites to stifle honest dialogue
- Repeal capital punishment
- Restore democracy and fairness
- Ensure the independence of the judiciary
- End inequality, gender discrimination and racial discrimination
- Insist that US comply with international human rights law
- Ensure that rights of victims to take precedence in courts
- Repeal legislation enabling government to introduce martial law
- Reintroduce the rule of law and ban the police state
- Remove “personhood” status from corporations
- Investigate and clamp down hard on corruption in government
- Fully re-investigate 9/11 and hold the real culprits fully accountable
- Prosecute Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Co
- Stop blatant government propaganda
- Stop corporate greed
- On Government Over-regulation
- Forbid lobbyists from writing legislation
- Forbid frivolous, nitpicky laws being introduced daily to limit our
freedoms an inch at a time
- Guarantee transparency of government, reward whistleblowers
- On Nanny State & Bureaucracy
- Eliminate or limit the nanny state
- Eliminate wasteful government agencies and punish the bureaucrats
- Introduce a minimum wage for government officials
- Reform education, get the government out of it
- On Corporate Media
- End corporate media censorship
- Reintroduce the freedom of the press, squandered by the corporate allegiance of the MSM
- Hold mainstream media accountable for perverting the truth
- Insist on the political independence of mainstream press and media
- Punish the crony and treacherous corporate media
- On US Politics & Foreign Policy
- Restructure campaign finance legislation
- End political corruption
- Stop supporting Israel
- Stop meddling in the Middle East
- Stop US from subsidizing other nations
- Stop US & West from supporting dictators
- On “ism’s”
- End capitalism
- Redistribute the wealth
- End fascism (merger of corporations and state)
- End socialist (nanny state) policies
- On War
- Stop government scare tactics and fake war on terror
- End American imperialism
- End all wars and withdraw American troops from bases
- Bring all our troops home
- End US and international militarism
- Have the “chicken hawks” send their own sons and daughters to war
- On False Crises
- End the war on drugs and decriminalize possession
- Stop lying about man-made climate change
- On Globalization
- Stop the New World Order and Globalization
- Disentangle the United Nations from national politics
- Maintain some economic but not political integration of European Union states
- End poverty around the world
- On Freedom & The Police State
- Repeal the Patriot Act; anyone who would sacrifice freedom for security deserves neither
- Restore personal freedoms
- The 99% can not be dictated to by the 1%
- Stop government-sponsored assassinations
- Stop trying to regulate everything in our lives
- Outlaw police brutality
- Stop Big Brother from watching you
- Stop TSA abuses
This is just a sampling of sometimes mutually-contradictory grievances and demands which I’ve noted down while reading the various boards and forums. A sampling which often, quite unintentionally perhaps, sounds an awful lot like Ron Paul’s campaign platform! This alone should tell you a little about who has true integrity and is in touch with the real people!
The vast majority of protesters simply want fairness and accountability from their elected leaders.
Did You Guess Which Demands Are The Most Common?
While this is not an authoritative account of OWS demands by any means and it is only based on a tiny personal sampling (having merely counted over 1300 posts and articles), here are the top 10 demands which emerged from my research, each repeated literally hundreds of times in the posts I’ve read:
End political corruption and hold the culprits accountable
Clamp down on crony capitalism, stop austerity measures and let banks and corrupt politicians pay
Stop all US wars and bring our troops home
End government injustice and over-regulation, enough is enough
Restore personal freedoms and repeal the Patriot Act immediately
Punish and reform the crony media, hold individual anchors/”shills” responsible
Write off debt and introduce public control the central banks
Return to sound money and rebuild the value of our currency
Greatly limit the Nanny State and forbid petty legislation
Investigate 9/11 and hold everyone responsible fully accountable (note that some protesters maintain that this issue is “too contentious” to focus on right now, while others insist that it is exactly the #1 issue and the deeply rooted cause of the current crisis)
For many protesters all of the above issues blend into one: end government corruption by the profiteering weasels masquerading as upstanding citizens, business or political leaders.
So – not so much a “Left” platform, it would appear, but more “Libertarian!” And yet – the leftist messages from OWS are all you hear in the MSM.
Heroes and Villains
Among the names most often mentioned in the posts I’ve studied, I saw many emerging folk heroes.
Julian Assange/Wikileaks is among the most often cited as is Ron Paul who appears to be a hero even for the many of the lefties whose posts I’ve read who seem oblivious to the fact that he doesn’t quite share their platform! They all seem to admire him! It’s because they fully appreciate his obvious honesty – a commodity sorely lacking in our government. People loathe career politicians and liars and these two individuals appear to stand out as modern-day symbols of honesty for many in the OWS crowd, and they thus translate very well across party lines and even ideologies, much like Gandhi whose mantra of non-violent defiance continues to ring as strong as ever. But you wouldn’t hear this view on the mainstream news.
Among the lesser heroes but still making frequent appearances in posts are people like RT’s Max Keiser (left libertarian), Tom Woods (right libertarian), Glenn Greenwald (left libertarian), Keith Olberman (left libertarian?), Judge Napolitano (right libertarian) and Gerald Celente (right libertarian). Even occasional quotes from G. Edward Griffin (right libertarian) also make it to the posts. On the UK side, I’ve also seen many references to UKIP and Nigel Farage (whose views often echo the right libertarian ones), the outspoken critic of the European Union. Often these “heroes” come from widely opposite ends of the political spectrum and yet they’re often being praised side by side by many in my research sample, in spite of the fact that their ideologies are sometimes widely different. Hence many “socialists” embrace someone like Ron Paul, a devout “capitalist”, because they value sincerity over ideology. These individuals’ perceived down to earth honesty is what matters most to the protesters who are looking for eloquent voices to express their cause in powerful words.
Among the names most reviled and scorned you’ll hear of people like Ben Bernanke, and still after all this time George W Bush and Tony Blair, while the most vilified corporations unsurprisingly include JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs – and Monsanto. Cheney and Rumsfeld also make very frequent re-appearances on people’s hate-lists. Fox News’ Hannity, Beck and O’Riley as well as some of the world’s leading money men such as Lloyd Blankfein and occasional others are also mentioned frequently.
As for Obama references in the posts I’ve been reading, a significant number of opinions seem to be largely dismissive viewing him merely as on the surface a nice guy but really a left-leaning pawn who sold out to the corporations. Clearly those opinions come from the Right-leaning members of the movement. He also has many apologists (almost exclusively on the Left of the Movement) who see him as “forced” by the bankers to comply. Much more anger seems to be directed at Hillary Clinton, actually, who is frequently seen as part of the most corrupt establishment ever to reside in the White House. Still, only a minority seems to be spewing genuine hate here. But even that hate is nowhere near the venom generally directed at Bush or Cheney who continue to be widely seen as traitors and war criminals and even as possible instigators or at least facilitators of 9/11, among their many other frequently cited misdeeds.
What’s Their Creed?
Many – if not most – protesters on the groung appear to be largely apolitical, neither republican nor democrat, neither right nor left – possibly mostly centrist or libertarian than anything else. This, in spite of MSM’s transparent bias to paint them all as mostly “socialists.”
But you don’t have to be a socialist to demand social justice. Libertarians certainly have done more than most on that front. There’s a feeling that much more unites than separates them, and this something is an overwhelming contempt for the ruling classes which, even in the depth of this crisis, continue to demonstrate a complete lack of courage or even sincere empathy – and hide behind the increasingly brutal police. The MSM’s and the Government’s politically correct doublespeak only adds to the public’s disdain. They’ve heard it all before and have had enough of it.
This is particularly and increasingly applicable to the US where so many politicians including the presidential candidates, with the sole and frequently cited exception of Ron Paul, come across as over-rehearsed automatons or corporate shills, which becomes even more apparent when set against the background of the fawning corporate media which treat them with apparent respect if not outright awe, much to the chagrin of the protesters who see this as nothing more than a circus act and are thus even more determined to bring about positive change. Non-violently, for as long as possible.
The movement is sometimes painted in the media as a “class war”, and if there were only two classes, the 99% and the 1%, us and them, then it certainly is.
So What Is The “Occupy” Movement About?
In simplest terms it’s about fairness and accountability and responsibility of governments to the people. In spite of the many leftist overtones, it’s a really a rebellion against bureaucratic collectivism and the betrayal of the individual it will always and by definition represent. It’s the masses lashing out against blatant and downright insolent corporatism, which is, in effect nothing short of fascism – by Mussolini’s own definition. And it’s also about political honesty. This is why the days of slick political manipulators and pundits who pander to corporate interests are numbered. The movement is ostensibly aimed at “Wall Street” because it, rightly, sees it as a symbol of globalist financial institutions corrupting the governments. But it might as well be directed at the self-righteous and pompous government officials who don’t have the moral fortitude to just say no.
Please feel free to add to the above list in your comments.
Here some interesting Occupy Links:
- Occupy Wall Street
- Occupy World
- Occupy Britain
- Official Occupy Demands
- And, naturally, don’t forget to visit any of the hundreds of Facebook Occupy groups, starting with this one.