I Am Radically Repeating What I Was Told
Friday Ephemera

Elsewhere (50)

Heather Mac Donald mingles with the protestors in Zuccotti Park, New York:

Henry, a delicate, doe-eyed anthropology and interdisciplinary-studies major from the University of Alabama, came up to New York a week ago with the blessings of his professors, who are undoubtedly celebrating the long-hoped-for revival of 1960s student activism. The chance that his courses are so demanding that his open-ended leave of absence will jeopardise his grades is zero. “It’s obvious that the good guys are fighting the bad guys,” he said. “It’s a question of good v. evil. Bad guys serve themselves, seeking individual gain; they’ve forgotten what it means to be a good guy. You can be rich, but you shouldn’t try to get richer, because you make people poor by getting richer.”

Remember, Henry is a student, one of tomorrow’s intellectuals.

Lexington Green visits a similar gathering in Chicago:

One young man got up and said the group needed to occupy “a field or warehouse” and create their “own space.” This was discussed seriously. I left after two hours, with the meeting still ongoing. […] 

I was struck by how this movement is replicating note for note the Left movements of the 1960s, but recreating it all over again from scratch. Rambling, poorly organised meetings, a requirement of unanimity to do anything, a repudiation of politics as usual, a vague call for some kind of deep social transformation, a desire for immersion in mass activity, a call for communal living. It is as if the last 50 years never happened and the past has no lessons at all.

And not entirely unrelated, Evan Maloney explains the story behind his film Indoctrinate U:

Academia today is focussed only on diversity of appearance… In an odd way, conservatives get a better education than anyone left of centre because their views are getting challenged. If I were a left of centre student, I could spend four years in a college and not once have any of my most basic assumptions challenged. 

As usual, feel free to add your own.



The Lexington and Mahoney quotes match my own impression: this isn't so much a political movement as a form of historical reenactment. That's why the OWS protesters are so vague about what they want -- because what they want is to be camping out at a mass 1968-style protest. There's little difference between them and Civil War reenactors, except that the Civil War guys understand that it's not real and the outcome of their mock battles won't have any effect. The 1968 reenactors down on Wall Street have the quaint belief that what they're doing is real.

Scott Green

Would someone care to explain to this muppet that economics is not a zero sum game (but then I'm not expensively educated, so what would I know?) /despair/


“It’s a question of good v. evil. Bad guys serve themselves, seeking individual gain; they’ve forgotten what it means to be a good guy. You can be rich, but you shouldn’t try to get richer, because you make people poor by getting richer.”

Working for the benefit of your own family is bad. That makes people poor.
But taking other people's money by force is good. That doesn't make anyone poorer.

Henry should ask for a refund on his education.


Correction. We should ask for a refund on Henry's education.



“…this isn’t so much a political movement as a form of historical re-enactment.”

Heh. Well, role-play does seem to be a major factor for a great many participants, which may help explain the general incoherence. And there does seem to be a contingent of, as it were, vocational protestors – i.e., people being agitated in public because that’s what they like to do in order to feel important. Among them, so called radicals who rail against “the powerful” but never assign that role to themselves even when they’re deliberately disrupting the work and travel plans of thousands of people, or enjoying the thrill of collective intimidation, or vandalising other people’s property. (See, for instance, this.)

As I’ve said before, there are some protestors for whom the ostensible cause is almost beside the point, except as a license to behave in a certain way, theatrically and in public. (When “anti-capitalists” go out of their way to smash shop windows and terrorise staff, do they imagine society will be transformed as a result? Or is it more likely that they enjoy the thrill of vandalism, albeit vandalism in ideological drag?) And people who embrace one ostentatiously “radical” cause may shift to another, then another, even one at odds with their previous fixation. In many cases, it’s chiefly about the role-play and crowd dynamic. More Radical Than Thou is a favoured game of malignant narcissists. Which is why it’s possible to encounter people who loudly announce their contempt for “bourgeois” social hierarchies while manoeuvring continually to elevate their status within their own in-group.


Slightly off-topic, but it's amusing to see how many of these protestors are wearing 'V for Vendetta' masks. Amusing, but not particularly surprising. The film is so utterly muddle-headed and callow in its ideas about democracy, totalitarianism, capitalism, etc, that it could well serve as a manifesto for our brave rebels.

Also amusing to see that St Pauls seems to be changing its mind about it all, now that the gift shop takings are down.


And then there are people who pride themselves in making “uncomfortable” someone whose politics they don’t like by invading his property, harassing his staff and customers, and shouting, “ This restaurant will not be peaceful.” Note the protestors threaten to keep on disrupting the man’s business until “injustice” (as they conceive it) has been righted. Given the stupidity of the tactic, which is hardly likely to win many supporters among the restaurant’s patrons, I’d say the lead protestor likes the sound of his own voice a little too much.

Again, politics as an excuse for narcissism. (Or, if we take him seriously, for extortion.)

J.M. Heinrichs

"… a mass 1968-style protest", which was intellectually/educationally/academically/???? superior in what fashion?
I'd suggest 'they' have set a traditionally low standard, and may eventually achieve it.



they’ve forgotten what it means to be a good guy

Some people have.


Jake Haye

I find myself fascinated by the psychology of these cartoon 'lefties'. It's as if something fundamental about human nature is on display, perhaps an explanation for how biologically modern humans could have spent tens of thousands of years with essentially zero economic progress.

Can anyone here (e.g. David!) recommend a scholarly analysis of the topic (not by John Ray) from an evolutionary psychology perspective? Is it known what causes some people to behave this way, and others not? Mere stupidity doesn't seem sufficient.

Mr Eugenides

Hilarious report from New York:


It began, as it so often does, with a drum circle. The ten-hour groove marathons weren’t sitting well with the neighborhood’s community board, the ironically situated High School of Economics and Finance that sits on the corner of Zuccotti Park, or many of the sleep-deprived protesters.

“[The high school] couldn’t teach,” explained Josh Nelson, a 27-year-old occupier from Nebraska. “And we’ve had issues with the drummers too. They drum incessantly all day, and really loud.” Facilitators spearheaded a General Assembly proposal to limit the drumming to two hours a day. “The drumming is a major issue which has the potential to get us kicked out," said Lauren Digion, a leader on the sanitation working group.

But the drums were fun. They brought in publicity and money. Many non-facilitators were infuriated by the decision and claimed that it had been forced through the General Assembly.

“They’re imposing a structure on the natural flow of music," said Seth Harper, an 18-year-old from Georgia. “The GA decided to do it ... they suppressed people’s opinions. I wanted to do introduce a different proposal, but a big black organizer chick with an Afro said I couldn’t.”

To Shane Engelerdt, a 19-year-old from Jersey City and self-described former “head drummer,” this amounted to a Jacobinic betrayal. “They are becoming the government we’re trying to protest," he said. "They didn’t even give the drummers a say ... Drumming is the heartbeat of this movement. Look around: This is dead, you need a pulse to keep something alive.”

The drummers claim that the finance working group even levied a percussion tax of sorts, taking up to half of the $150-300 a day that the drum circle was receiving in tips. “Now they have over $500,000 from all sorts of places,” said Engelerdt. “We’re like, what’s going on here? They’re like the banks we’re protesting."


@witwood but it's amusing to see how many of these protestors are wearing 'V for Vendetta' masks

I do so hope that these are fair-trade masks, made from recycled biodegradable materials assembled, distributed, and marketed via bicycles made from wood which was not cut from trees and hopefully not delivered by horse-drawn carriage...oh, screw it. Every solution presents a new problem. Thank God the end of the world is neigh or nigh...whatever.


Mr Eugenides,

Brings a tear to the eye. And in much the same spirit...

This man was in my tent, sniffing my girlfriend’s feet.

Hey, what’s the big deal? You can’t, like, own feet, man.


Again, note the mindset:

First, presumptuously “occupy” someone else’s property, disrupting their business, and causing expense and considerable inconvenience to a large number of random people. Then, even when your pantomime is accommodated by the owners of the property, don’t reciprocate. And when you’re eventually asked to leave peacefully, don’t comply. Instead, debate the issue at tedious length, thus maintaining those feelings of geo-political importance. All while continuing to impose your juvenile psychodrama on lots of other people, including those who foolishly gave you their conditional support.

These fatuous pretenders not only feel entitled to refuse their unwilling host, but to “defend” their intrusion against the people on whom they intrude.

See? Social justice.

Elrond Hubbard

Here in Milwaukee the OWS crowd has been small but stupid. One of the demonstrators burst into a downtown bank and shouted "This is a hostile takeover!". The tellers, fearing the worst, hit the alarm buttons. The police promptly arrived and arrested the demonstrator who is claiming that his First Amendment right of free speech was violated and (being an African-American) he was the victim of police and/or bank racism.



Captures the general dynamic quite well, I’d say: “Whatever I do, I am righteous. Whatever I do, I am the victim.”

These generic anti-capitalist protestors are not unlike blog trolls. They aren’t there to achieve anything except randomly irritate and disrupt. They construe aggravation as validation (or “the occupation is its own message”) and they outstay their welcome because it’s all about them.

In the case of the “occupation” outside St Paul’s Cathedral, ignoring bourgeois reciprocity is a badge of virtue, even heroism, with protestors promising to continue inflicting costs and aggravation on others until “the system” is changed. Making the demand vague and impractical allows for an indefinite stay, and indefinite pissing about. After all, they’ve “created a space for dialogue” – or rather, monologue – and hey, that’s what matters. Note too how the obstruction and indifference to others is framed as “freedom of expression,” thereby retaining those vital delusions of heroism.

The BBC is predictably indulgent of these protestors - unlike, say, the Tea Party, which attracted immediate scorn, or the much larger EU referendum protest, which was all but ignored - while the Guardian coos over an “occupation… full of characters, inventiveness, humour, enterprise and the kind of co-operation that money can’t buy… Good luck to them.” Because these titans of tomorrow must be spared any hint of realistic criticism.

sackcloth and ashes

'One of the demonstrators burst into a downtown bank and shouted "This is a hostile takeover!". The tellers, fearing the worst, hit the alarm buttons. The police promptly arrived and arrested the demonstrator who is claiming that his First Amendment right of free speech was violated and (being an African-American) he was the victim of police and/or bank racism'.

If only stupidity could be weaponised ...

Elrond Hubbard

Update: The Milwaukee bank shouter has been identified as one Austin Thompson of Georgia. He moved to Wisconsin last March and promptly registered to vote, giving his address as a local hotel (he's also registered to vote in Georgia). Turns out he's a SEIU employee and activist who's been organizing demonstrations in Milwaukee and Madison.

Horace Dunn

"Because these titans of tomorrow must be spared any hint of realistic criticism"

Well, indeed. And of course, because they're lovable rogues. They thumb their noses cheerily at authority and are careless of the status quo. They show us the way with their sparky non-conformism.

Except, of course, they don't. They're drably conformist, their views being entirely consonant with the opinions of the mainstream media, a large proportion of our elected politicians and, by heaven, the Church of England. They're upset because the current economic crisis makes it quite impossible to continue with the redistributionist policies that have been in place for decades. In that sense, they are reactionaries. Surely it can only be a tendency towards condescension that prohibits people from telling them so.



“In that sense, they are reactionaries.”

The longer the farce goes on, the clearer the dynamic becomes. For instance, you have to wonder how the rioters, drummers and tent dwellers regard the local residents and employers, whose claim to being abused is rather more credible, and who’ve had to put up with weeks of round-the-clock noise, obstruction, intimidation, the smell of urine, faecal litter, vandalism, etc.

Based on what we’ve seen, I doubt such bourgeois trifles are high on the agenda. Reciprocity, like realism, doesn’t seem to be a defining feature of the “occupy” phenomenon, or of the psychology it attracts. (Presumably “social justice” doesn’t extend to people who fail to enthuse sufficiently.) To say nothing of the outright delusion found among its participants. Such that the sociopath hackers Anonymous are threatening Fox for airing unflattering coverage: “Since they will not stop belittling the occupiers, we will simply shut them down.”

Or, “See the world how we see it or we will hurt you.”

[ Added: ]

On a saner note, here’s Peter Schiff – a member of the “1%” – trying to bring some realism to the Wall Street protest. It’s worth watching in full, not least because it’s hard to avoid the impression that he’s sharing information that’s new to many of them. Even - or rather, especially - the students.



Can't be bothered to write anything snarky here just read the link.



the BBC is predictably indulgent of these protestors - unlike, say, the Tea Party, which attracted immediate scorn

"The Richmond Tea Party is demanding a refund of about $10,000 from the city, claiming it unfairly charged them for rallies while allowing the Occupy protesters to use the same space for several weeks for free… Richmond Tea Party spokeswoman Colleen Owens says it's not fair that her group had to pay fees for permits, portable toilets, police presence and emergency personnel. The group also had to purchase a $1 million insurance policy."


More 'social justice'…?

Horace Dunn


Thanks for the Peter Schiff link. It’s fascinating. I found it quite encouraging, too. Yes, sure, there are the expected braggardly half-wits and sanctimonious poseurs, but he also encountered a number of people who were willing to engage sensibly. The question that occurs to me though is why, if there really are so many people involved who are not anti-capitalist (and some of them at least characterise themselves as libertarian), have the extremist elements been able to control the narrative?

I realise, of course, that the show of hands towards the end, when probably more than half the people seen identify themselves as being non-anti-capitalists, is probably not representative of the camp as a whole. We are, of course, seeing at that point only the group of people who were interested in engaging with the argument that Schiff had taken to them. Nonetheless, it is regrettable that the sounds emanating from this and similar gatherings are mostly the sounds of spoilt children and grumpy teenagers.

I’m pleased to have been alerted to the existence of Peter Schiff, though.



Well, a good faith discussion might be fun to watch and perhaps be of benefit to all concerned. But, as we’ve seen (and heard and read), good faith is in short supply. Much of the “occupy” phenomenon is disingenuous street theatre. A self-admiring festival of received ideas and tribal psychology. For all the blather about “dialogue” and “creating space for dialogue,” what we’ve seen, again and again, is monologue. Radical role-play, collective intimidation and Alinsky-style pantomime are much more powerful drivers – and much more exciting - than rational debate, which is at best a minority interest and difficult to initiate, let alone sustain, in an “occupy” scenario. Imagine, say, Bill Whittle debating with Laurie Penny in the middle of a protest, with lots of Laurie’s peers looking on, itching to be noticed. How do you think that would play out?


Not blogosphere but touching on BBC 'impartiality' again:

Peter Oborne is getting on the BBC's case about it's consistently biased coverage of...well everything, but specifically in this case the Euro. The Beeb is frequently (and rightly I think) accused of being Europhile. According to Oborne

"The BBC is doctrinally pro-European. During the 1975 referendum campaign, it was the propaganda wing of the pro-Brussels machine, and this attitude has not changed since. The ranking members of the BBC Trust, Lord Patten of Barnes and his deputy Diane Coyle, have never made any secret of their contempt for Eurosceptics..."

"This ossified institutional attitude has become an urgent problem. Thanks to this week’s uprising on the Tory benches, and the financial catastrophe now facing the 17 eurozone countries, it now looks very likely indeed that a further euro-referendum can be expected in due course. Given the abysmal record of BBC partisanship, and the unashamed pro-European bias of the corporation’s board, there is no hope that the debate when it comes will be treated in an even-handed way."

Oborne has spoken elsewhere of those who would have had us join the Euro some time ago, and of how this would have found us in the same position as Greece are now. I haven't found a serious refutation of his thesis, but here he is debating on Newsnight a month ago (rather stridently)

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