Being Right: Pointless Protests?

Brian Reid

If you haven’t heard of the protests on Wall Street by now, then you haven’t been paying very much attention.

Having started on September 17 and still going on now, the Wall Street protests have sparked similar protests in cities across the United States.

Initially sparked by a Canadian anti-consumerism media group called Adbusters, the protest has long since proceeded leaderless and unorganized.

It would not be a dumb question then to ask “who exactly are these protesters?” and “what exactly are they protest­ing?” The answers to these ques­tions seem to be “anybody” and “everything,” respectively.

Among the apparent demands of this leaderless protest is an end to Wall Street’s influence in politics, an end to corporate welfare, the continuation of Social Security, the elimination of the Federal Reserve, the end to all wars – the list goes on.

Largely gathered from social net­works, the composition of the protest is also varied, with multiple ages, races and religions represented.

In a move that should be surprising to no one, Washington Democrats have been quick to try and bend the protests to their own purposes.

Nancy Pelosi identifies with the pro­testers, claiming they match her own dissatisfaction with Congress.

This only makes sense if one is aware that Pelosi has occupied leadership posi­tions in Congress since 2002 – it is easy to see why one might be dissatisfied with Congress when uncompromising zealots like Pelosi are in charge.

Obama has stated that he thinks the protests reflect the frustrations of Americans over the financial crisis.

A strange statement indeed, considering the President has been an ever-constant supporter of the bailouts, corporate welfare on an unsurpassed level.

Even stranger, many of these Wall Street protesters are camped outside the same cor­porate entities who will undoubtedly provide much of Obama’s campaign fund in 2012.

However, the protest seems untenable even without the influence of far-left Demo­crats. The crowd is essentially unorganized and sloppy, ringing with petulant cries of, “Down with capitalism!”

Anger surges towards vague concepts like “the American system” and towards institu­tions like banks, corporations and the government in general. Raising taxes on the rich is, as always, a popular opinion, continuing the popular ignorance of the fact that the top five percent in income pay over half of the nation’s taxes already.

There seems to be no general consensus among protesters besides the fact that people are upset with the economy, and while complaints are numerous, actionable agenda is not.

How anyone is supposed to fix much of anything while thousands of people are squat­ting in private parks (making, by many accounts, a horrific mess) and chanting for the end of the entire military-industrial complex is apparently beyond the protesters.

This is not to say that I am totally unsympathetic towards the protesters – I as­sume they would not be protesting instead of being at their jobs or seeking them out if things were going well in the first place. But the protest ultimately seems disorganized and unconstructive.

Surely there are better ways to affect real change than the form of a petulant rabble? As Ginia Bellefante of New York Times cautiously states, “The group’s lack of cohesion and its apparent wish to pantomime progressivism rather than practice it knowledgeably is unsettling in the face of the challenges so many of its generation face.”

Contact Brian Reid at [email protected].