Thursday, October 13, 2011


Yesterdays Evening Standard tells us that there will be a copy-cat occupation of the City of London, starting this Saturday, to highlight the social and economic injustice of people who work getting more money than those who do not (sometimes). Actually, that is not quite the way they put it but, to be honest, anyone who thinks those occupations are "huge" is not telling the truth. 4,000, the hack tells us breathlessly, have already signed up for the City occupation. Yeah? How many turned up for the Proms every night?

Judging by the various videos and accounts, even the friendly ones, most American cities saw no more than a few hundred. In San Francisco, I am told, there were about 150.

Anyway, people who can plan to spend weeks (assuming the weather stays dry and mild) under tent, living off take-away food obviously do not have to worry about work, study, home, family, children or pets. That puts them into the minority of about half a per cent.

However, this reminded me that I have said nothing about the various occupiers over the Pond. There is, of course, no real need for me to pronounce on every subject and goodness knows there has been a lot of coverage - a good deal more than there was of the Tea Parties until they became a real threat to politicians. The Occupiers at the moment appear to be no threat to anyone except themselves.

I can't imagine it will be any different here. Let us not forget what happened when some of the new protesters tried to re-enact the Jarrow Hunger March.
More than 300 people – and some estimates say 500 – left Jarrow on Saturday, intending to retrace a shortened version of the route in five weeks. However, most of the crowd melted away when the march reached the outskirts of Jarrow half an hour later. Organisers, the trade unions and the Socialist Party (Labour's former Militant Tendency), had intended to keep at least 50 marchers on the road in between the high-profile rallies arranged in the bigger towns and cities. Many of those at the outset already have jobs and were only there as trade union members to make up the numbers.

But as the procession left Ripon for Harrogate to complete the sixth day of marching on Thursday. the "Crusade" had dwindled to just 16 people in 60 miles with 220 miles still to go.
What if we compare the two movements, the Tea Party and the OWS (Occupy Wall Street and its offshoots)? My immediate impression was that there were two main differences - one internal, one external. As far as the Tea Parties were concerned, the aims were quite simple: less taxation, smaller government and an adherence to the Constitution. In practice that meant questioning the politicians on their activity when they went against those simple principles.

The Occupiers appeared to be incapable of enunciating what their aims are beyond a vague desire for change and fairness. With the TPs, it was their enemies who kept harping (mostly wrongly) about who was taking part in the meetings and rallies; with the OWS, it was their supporters who replied to every question with an enumeration of all the grievances that brought so many different people out, instead of enumerating their suggestions. And you can see why, when you read through this very friendly collection of answers with some related photographs.

Some of the ideas and demands have been taken seriously but mostly by their opponents and, as expected, lambasted. I particularly like the combination of extreme protectionism and completely open borders. Do these people think?

The other difference was the attitude of the MSM. While, as I said above, the TP was ignored and only the bloggers paid attention, the OWS was written up and often extolled from the very beginning while the blogosphere took a more sceptical view. In fact, what has been exercising the blogosphere is a very different story and one that the MSM is reluctant to deal with and that is the "Fast and Furious", which has now reached the stage of the Attorney-General (whose memory is strangely faulty) being subpoenaed.

Another curious aspect of the OWS is that it seems to be supported by the politicians against whom these people are protesting, at least some of the time when they manage to work out what is going on. Some Democrats feel that this might give them a much-needed electoral boost; others are not so sure. As James Taranto puts it:
What's their slogan going to be, "Smash the system--re-elect the president"?
Not easy. Here is another agonizing appraisal in the liberal (of the American variety) New Republic.

Meanwhile, the Tea Partiers laugh and scoff. They point to the fact that the Left has been trying to emulate the successful grass-roots movement for some time and has, finally, managed to do something like it though their aims are clearly different.

Some Tea Partiers have decided to invade the rather sparse DC Occupation. The result is absolutely hilarious as this video shows. Sadly, the Occupiers of whatever age, do not come out too well in that, or this collection of somewhat biased photographs.

One could go on and on. It is worth pointing out that a number of people on the right are sympathetic to some of the complaints and demands, incoherent though they are. There is no question about it: something is changing drastically in American politics and the grass-roots are stirring. (Yes, I know that is a mixed metaphor but it is late and I am tired.)

My friend Iain Murray, of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, was one of those who had hoped that OWS and its off-shoots could be co-opted into the fight against crony capitalism, the enemy of true enterprise. Not so, he thinks now. If the TPs are the descendants of the English Revolutions, the OWS hark back to the French Revolution. Without knowing much about it, they agree, as this video from Occupy LA, in which violence against the bourgeoisie is called for, shows. On the other hand, my co-blogger on Chicagoboyz, Lexington Green, a veteran Tea Partier who sees the connections between the two movements, went to talk to Occupy Chicago and came away with some sadness at the ignorance shown by many participants. His view is that these people are not violent and may well be influenced towards some real thinking. I don't know about Chicago - there the protesters might be different. I do not think that the proposed Occupy the City of London will be susceptible to any sensible arguments.

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