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David Thompson
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March 30, 2012

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watcher

“Coming up with an action plan for a new world order takes time,” says Laurie.

What was wrong with the last one? I thought all you did was vote in or initiate a popular revolt and install a communist regime, from which all society's ills are healed at a stroke. Or is Penny telling me the distinguished lefty idealists of the last sixty years were wrong?

A Canadian Abroad

Thanks for introducing me to idiot hat guy. My afternoon is complete.

David

“Thanks for introducing me to idiot hat guy. My afternoon is complete.”

Glad you enjoyed. His collision with reality is a special moment and quite instructive. Likewise, this.

Pete

David, love the blog, and love mocking stupid 'progressives'. However, I wonder how selective these videos are in who they talk to and what they put into the final edit? I think someone once said to Philip K Dick that 90% of scifi is crap, to which he replied "90% of everything is crap" (paraphrased, he may have used another word than 'crap'). The point being that I'm sure 90% of any crowd of people will be idiots and/or not great at adequately expressing their point of view or how/why they arrived at it. I believe one should always argue against the strongest case put by one's opponents rather than pick the idiots who can't argue very well at all - something for which I criticise the likes of Dawkins, who attacks very ill conceived, literalist biblical iterpretations rather than much more robust versions of Christianity or theism.

I get the feeling there is a lot of stupid in the Occupy camps, and they seem to eschew the leadership that might do something practical about what they perceive as the problem. And while I don't buy into a marxist/socialist/anticapitalist worldview (anymore), I do think they're right in perceiving an unfairness and injustice in how things are right now, they just don't have the right answers as to how to fix it. But their central feeling that the wealthy are taking advantage - while a generalisation - is broadly correct.

David

Pete,

I make no claim that the views quoted are anything like unanimous, but they are, it seems, quite commonplace among the Occupiers. As are a general lack of moral coherence and reciprocal sentiment. And the dogmatic disorganisation (or pretence thereof) seems part of the problem. What credible mechanism is there for development or focus, or for addressing criticism, or indeed reality? If the incidents I’ve shown and linked to over the last few months are cherry-picked, there’s evidently no shortage of cherries. Having read reams of exposition and interviews, many verbatim – including such supposed luminaries as Lasn and Graeber - and having viewed hours of video, much of it unedited, it seems fair to say the views quoted and acknowledged in a dozen or so posts are a large part of the broader phenomenon. They very much give it its flavour.

One belief that seems to have gained traction is that the solution to cronyism is more cronyism, albeit with different beneficiaries and an even more bloated and coercive state. “Social justice” will somehow save us all, especially from ourselves, even though “social justice,” as conceived by their predecessors, led directly to this. Which of course helped create the very problem the protestors now complain about. Then there’s the belief that a “progressive” government would be wiser than the market – wiser than thee and me and everyone we know - and should therefore be granted unprecedented power to allocate wealth and commercial opportunity – a model that would not only be immensely susceptible to corruption, but the very definition of it. So conceived, “social justice” sounds remarkably similar to the policies being condemned, only writ larger and made more grotesque. And insofar as a clear shared intent can be discerned amid the posturing and scuffles, the Occupiers seem keen to benefit themselves by having the state confiscate even more of other people’s earnings. Some might call that greed.

There’s plenty to be said about cronyism and I doubt anyone here is a fan; but I really don’t think that Occupy are the people to articulate that case or improve on the status quo. Broadly speaking, they seem much more concerned by the self-inflicted drama and role-play of it all. (See, for instance, Laurie Penny, who seems to have become one of the movement’s chief hagiographers and an outright fantasist.) Whatever ideas may be blended into the general ideological sludge, the Occupy movement’s distinctive features and preferred methods have not been edifying or a cause for optimism.

Pete

Thanks for the reply, David. I agree with what you say, I just wanted to sound a note of scepticism and caution because I know how easy it is to fall into confirmation bias with the internet, since you can find almost infinite examples of practically anything. That said, I've never seen a video of an articulate Occupier, but then I've never gone looking for one!

Another challenge I want to make (and I only do so because you're a gracious and intelligent blogger whose opinion I respect) is that it's easy to knock others' efforts and point out the flaws, but much harder to present practical working alternatives. The Occupiers obviously fall into this trap themselves, but I wonder what alternatives you would present to the current political order? Which I suppose requires finding where, if at all, you are in sympathy with the Occupiers and their identification of what the problem is. My own feeling is that many in the UK are criticising the ConDem government, often rightly so, but they aren't doing anything to fix it beyond griping about it. Continually reminding one another how nasty the tories are (as my facebook friends do), or how stupid the Occupiers are, is focusing on what one doesn't want, and I think it is healthier to focus on what one does want.

David

Pete,

“…I think it is healthier to focus on what one does want.”

Well, healthier or not, my impression is that people are often most animated when voting against something. I suspect that’s how it works much of the time. And maybe that’s not an entirely bad thing.

I don’t have any Great Secret Vision for how the world ‘ought’ to be or how other people ‘ought’ to live. I’d just rather that the state and its interlopers kept out of my business (and pocket) as much as is possible. It’s not exactly a sexy position, I grant you, or likely to inspire chants and rousing shanties. But nor is it a recipe for narcissism and sadism, which socialism is. I see little reason to trust people who advocate grandiose social blueprints.

Henry

Hi Pete,

"it's easy to knock others' efforts and point out the flaws, but much harder to present practical working alternatives. The Occupiers obviously fall into this trap themselves, but I wonder what alternatives you would present to the current political order?"

No doubt you'll get a different answer from everyone who ever answers this question. One thing I've thought for a while is that political systems tend to evolve, and slowly - it can lead to unpredictable results if you attempt to impose a system on a country that isn't ready for it.

(It happened in African states - given artificial political structures when finally freed from imperial rule - and I would argue that the current dream of a politically united Europe is a similar theoretical shot in the dark and likely to fail)

There are also a lot more problems to contend with than simply the supposedly widening equality gap. Some worry about the environment, some about British industry, or the Falklands, or racism, or world peace, or...And the good idea of focusing on a positive goal (rather than the grumbling) will reveal a similar spectrum of wished-for outcomes

It's very arguable that nepotism, inequality, violence, other problems are more due to wider social forces (loss of religion, patriotism, respect for law are examples - also changing 'global' understanding, general pessimism/optimism, and so many more) than any alternative political structure could remedy. Influencing these forces is about as easy as fighting the sea.

Add the governments restricted by short term political survival and you might decide to forget this democracy rubbish :) I side with Churchill on this - it's the worst system of government, apart from all the others.

Mr. X

In re: the general calibre of Occupy people: no doubt there are and have been intelligent, articulate Occupiers with clear goals in mind and a well-thought-out plan of how to achieve them; but the chances of the movement as a whole ever being anything more than an incoherent, unrealistic retreat from reality were always minimal, because their lack of any sort of hierarchy and self-image as a "post-ideological" movement (whatever that means) made it difficult to adopt any definite goals or coherent strategy. I'd also expect the number of intelligent, articulate Occupiers to have decreased over time, as they realised that the Occupy movement's structure was always going to prevent it from achieving anything and that sticking with it was just wasting their time.

svh

"I get up every morning thinking today I’m going to make a difference. Today I’m going to end capitalism. Today I’m going to make a revolution. I go to bed every night disappointed but…I’m back again tomorrow."

http://hotair.com/archives/2012/03/31/some-guy-from-obamas-old-neighborhood-every-morning-i-get-up-and-think-today-im-going-to-end-capitalism/

Pete

Hi guys. Thanks for humouring me with responses. Good points all.

David, I sympathise with your view that you simply want to be left alone by the state to enjoy the money that you have. I used to be an angry young man (as the Beatles lyrics put it) and was the type of person who would have populated the Occupy camps. With the benefit of age and responsibilities, I now see consumerism as a big help in, for example, keeping my children fed and in nappies. My own analysis of capitalism, these days, is that it is natural state of things ... someone who discovers a way to turn £1 into £2 will repeat the process so they can enjoy life and provide for their families. I know that trendy lefties who hate rich capitalists still want money to pay for stuff they need! 

 Where Marxists, Socialists, Communists and myriad other anticapitalists go wrong is in trying to impose systems that go against the natural inclinations of human beings, and they inevitably end up repeating the same cycles of self interest in the higher echelons whilst denying it to subordinates who are forced to live by artificial structures of fairness/equality. But I think I am preaching to the choir here! 

The conclusion I have come to is that one can spend one's life railing against injustice and unfairness, but it doesn't get anything done. I used to think having the right political arguments would change the world - and still think that has its place. I now believe that if I'm wealthy enough, I will be able to put my ideals into practice without relying on democratic dialogue, consensus etc. If I want to feed the hungry, for example, I need the money and resources to get on with it, rather than waste my time democratically convincing others. I'd much rather pay someone to do what I wantand get it done. 

I have probably got way off the point, but thanks for responding and reading ...

David

Mr. X,

“I’d also expect the number of intelligent, articulate Occupiers to have decreased over time, as they realised that the Occupy movement’s structure was always going to prevent it from achieving anything...”

I think that’s probably true. Initially, very briefly, it even seemed possible that Occupy might find common ground with the Tea Party, whose objections to cronyism are a little more coherent. But as months have rolled by, Occupy has been revealed as disingenuous, hollow and politically absurd. Its lack of structure and focus has made it an open-ended grievance theatre. It’s just a tactic, a way to intimidate and coerce. It’s now essentially a vehicle for narcissists who want to play at thuggery.

Still, Occupy has inadvertently served a purpose. Given the number of students and lecturers involved (with students radically repeating what their lecturers tell them), Occupy has revealed the shortcomings of academia. At least those disreputable parts now dominated by the left. I mean, we have students – supposedly our brightest progeny – who demand “social justice” but can’t define it and seemingly feel no need to. Students who obstruct traffic for hours and when asked why say “demands are disempowering” – and then expect to be taken seriously. Students who think of themselves as radical and daring, or even as ‘anarchists’, and yet demand an even bigger, even more intrusive state. And students who think socialism and covetousness are - somehow, inexplicably - the opposite of greed.

For me, a handful of images sum up the whole Occupy farce. In one of them, a student grins as she holds up a sign that reads “It is time for a Cultural Revolution.” It isn’t clear whether the young woman is aware of her message’s totalitarian and genocidal connotations. Either way, you can’t help feeling that her grasp of the world is somewhat lacking in a quite important way.

sackcloth and ashes

David, I thought you might want to have a look at this post about the Alfie Meadows case:

http://www.annaraccoon.com/politics/left-heft-by-own-petard/

Looks like we've got another Jody McIntyre on our hands.

David

Sackcloth,

Thanks. Saw.

Incidentally, Professor Peter Hallward, who you mention over at Anna’s, is also mentioned here. As you can see, his opinions don’t seem in any way related to reality or logic. And if Professor Hallward imagines that riot gear makes a police officer impervious to all harm and therefore makes any attempt to injure or kill them “trivial,” I suggest he be given some first-hand practical experience. Say, by standing our leftist academic against a wall and having 200 or so people try to bring him down with rocks, bottles of urine and lengths of steel piping.

We’ll see how well his theory fares.

sackcloth and ashes

@ David

I found Prof Hallward's comments to be most obnoxious, firstly because he's trying to explain away the fact that Meadows and his crowd were not the peaceful demonstrators they claimed to be, and secondly (as you point out) that somehow the fact that the cops were being pelted with missiles by a screaming mob doesn't really matter, because they had helmets and body armour.

The most charitable explanation I can give for point 2 is that he somehow believes that protective gear gives you some sort of force-field like quality that saves you from either being brained or having your limbs crushed by rocks, breeze-blocks, fire-extinguishers and any other pieces of 'barney rubble' launched against you. In any case, as you say, I'd like to see him on the receiving end of such an onslaught to see if he changes his mind.

What also struck me was his comments were offered to 'Russia Today', the English language service of the Russian state broadcaster, RIA Novosti. I wonder if Prof Hallward has any comments to make about how Russia's Militia and OMON handle demonstrators?

David

Sackcloth,

“The most charitable explanation I can give…”

I see no reason to be charitable. Like the laughable Nina Power, he’s a leftwing ideologue, a propagandist. His convenient unrealism isn’t by accident, it’s a choice.

David

AC1,

But… but… “occupation-based practice… vulnerable communities… urban counterculture.”

And speaking of fatuous excuses, the Guardian’s Madeleine Bunting described Occupy as “a nursery for the mind.” (Somehow I don’t think she’d thought that phrase through.) Maddy was terribly impressed by the Occupiers’ “self-possession,” their wilful lack of focus and – oh yes - their piano tent. The failure of develop any clearly defined objectives was, she said, “a refusal to conform to any of the conventions of our political and media culture.” So their incompetence and flummery was, for her, a radical thing – very edgy, very daring. At the time of her writing, it was already clear from other encampments where this “refusal to conform” was heading – i.e., violence, squalor and growing public antipathy – but Bunting chose not to mention these details. The dream must live on, unsullied by mere reality. Again, her credulity was a choice.

But then this is the woman who gave a rhetorical blowjob to Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

AC1

Well I have always thought the leftist mind is neotenised. Some down to the toddler level.
Zero Stoicism.
Others should always help them.
Other peoples property is "acquired".
Attention seeking behaviour.
Other people are there to be used as objects.
Quite blatant lying.
Tantrums.
The whole occupy thing seems like the sort of "side by side" play.

Henry

"a refusal to conform to any of the conventions of our political and media culture"

Sounds like something said by the kind of person who believes that science and logic give "just one of many narratives for understanding the world". To them, chucking this argot back and forth means they've understood things better than the ordinary joe*

..when it doesn't

....and they haven't

* likewise the lovely quote about "multi-tiered hierarchies of privilege" (from a nearby comment thread)

David

AC1,

“Zero Stoicism.”

The emotional incontinence is arguably the most telling feature, as it speaks not just of politics but of character.

And blimey, doesn’t that sound like an old-fashioned concept?

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