Even the Liberal New Republic!

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 12 2011 11:59 AM

Even the Liberal New Republic!

Security personels guard the entrance of oil tycoon David Koch's house as Occupy Wall Street protestors stage a 'Millionaires March' in Manhattan's Upper East Side, one the city's wealthiest residential neighbourhoods, in New York, October 11, 2011. Protesters from the Occupy Wall Street movement took their 'Millionaires March' in front of the homes of some of New York City's wealthiest residents in Manhattan's Upper East Side, including News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch, JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and oil tycoon David Koch amongst others. AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel Dunand (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images

The house organ of pro-Israel, anti-Howard Dean liberalism weighs in on Occupy Wall Street. This piece of the editorial is hippie-punching in its purest form:

[I]t is just not the protesters’ apparent allergy to capitalism and suspicion of normal democratic politics that should raise concerns. It is also their temperament. The protests have made a big deal of the fact that they arrive at their decisions through a deliberative process. But all their talk of “general assemblies” and “communiqués” and “consensus” has an air of group-think about it that is, or should be, troubling to liberals. “We speak as one,” Occupy Wall Street stated in its first communiqué, from September 19. “All of our decisions, from our choices to march on Wall Street to our decision to camp at One Liberty Plaza were decided through a consensus process by the group, for the group.” The air of group-think is only heightened by a technique called the “human microphone” that has become something of a signature for the protesters. When someone speaks, he or she pauses every few words and the crowd repeats what the person has just said in unison. The idea was apparently logistical—to project speeches across a wide area—but the effect when captured on video is genuinely creepy.

Not quite sure I get this -- the organizational structure of the protests lends itself to endless talking, not "groupthink." The human microphpne technique, which the editors could have googled or something, is not new to Occupy Wall Street. After his (truly stupid) exclusion from an Atlanta Occupy meeting, Rep. John Lewis said the decision-making process reminded him of the old SNCC sausage-maker. Movements are messy! You don't have to fully embrace Occupy (I don't) to acknowledge that they're testing some stuff out. This editorial isn't really a surprise, either, because the first you-are-there TNR piece on the protest was a snooty look at dumb hippies. Breaking news: Left-wing agitators behave in a risible and possibly ineffective manner!

This is lazy analysis that leaves out the context of the protests. They are not new -- Newt Gingrich is actually right when he says that some of these people will show up for any protest -- but they are the left's first response to two years of Tea Party activism. Protesters I've spoken to have been shocked and annoyed at the capture of anti-bank populism by the right. Maybe they shouldn't be (they should read up on Bircherism), but clearly the rise of social network-driven grassroots activism, with demands shaped by conservative and libertarian interest groups, was something that needed a response. The inability of progressives to get anything significant past Congress's multiple veto points suggested that they needed to do... something. Just as the growth of the Tea Party meant some temporary conservative alliances with kooks (think of Joseph Farah and his birther scam industry), a populist anti-bank movement from the left is going to mean enduring some fresh idiocy. Not ideal. The alternative is... ?

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 



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