The Great Un-Making

It has been quite the interesting week in news. There were numerous, breathless headlines about a supposed DNA link between a chain taken from a subway station where there had been a protest (the announcement for which included mention of participants who had also been involved with Occupy Wall Street, hence making the protest automatically an OWS protest) and a murder that took place in 2004. Unfortunately for all of those outlets cheering this discovery, and salivating over the impending ability to start calling anyone involved with Occupy a murderer, as well as a rapist, it turns out that there was no DNA link. The reason that the same DNA showed up on the chain and the piece of evidence in the 2004 murder is that the medical examiners office contaminated the evidence. The DNA belonged to someone who actually worked in the medical examiners office. Not only is there no link to Occupy Wall Street, as "anonymous police sources" were so quick to leak, but now, should there be any case brought against a suspect in the murder of Sarah Fox, the prosecution is going to have one hell of a time proving that any DNA evidence isn't corrupted. Don't worry though, the NYPD has a clairvoyant on the case. Seriously.

Anyone who keeps even a casual eye on the news knows that although OWS was a big story last year, it certainly wasn't the only one. The Jerry Sandusky pedophilia case also broke last year. Early in the time following the allegations against Sandusky being made public, college football icon Joe Paterno was unceremoniously suspended for what, at the time, seemed to be his lack of any persistent attempts to see Sandusky brought to justice. The loss of their beloved coach apparently provoked the student body of the esteemed university to riot.

Following Sandusky's conviction, on 45 criminal charges related to the sexual assault of ten boys, a report commissioned by Penn State was released detailing exactly what errors were committed and where. The Freeh Report removes any doubt that there was a culture of cover up and corruption at Penn State, specifically in relation to the football program and it puts Joe Paterno in a new light. The kind of light, that were he still alive, usually involves some degree of interrogation, followed by criminal charges. A whole new spotlight for JoePa, indeed. Alumni and the administration shouldn't worry too much though, donations during the Sandusky scandal have been at an all time high.

All of this is now coming to it's conclusion, at least in the public sense. For the victims of Sandusky's abuse and the Penn State/Paterno ethical and moral catastrophe that protected Sandusky, this may not be over. It may not be over for them for a long time. Hopefully, at some point, they will be freed from a constant negative impact on their lives related to this entire mess. The actual incidences of abuse are horrific enough, but unfortunately for many survivors, it doesn't end there, and they are imprisoned by that experience for years, sometimes decades. Sometimes, for the rest of their lives, they are never really able to develop an emotionally and physically intimate relationship with another human being. They are, in many ways, prisoners to that experience, for a long time after.

Now though, in the public sense, it's all coming to a close. Penn State is probably extremely relieved to have it end, even if it does end with damage to the universities reputation. It will all fade away, into the background of the next news cycle. At some point in the next few years, it will all be looked at as "a hard time for the university." It will be "something we worked hard to overcome and did everything we had to to restore faith and confidence in the university and it's reputation."

Interestingly, even as the Freeh Report details a university which was more concerned about the continuation of and success of it's football program than it was about children being systematically victimized by a pedophile, there hasn't been any action against the school itself. They're now worried about what opportunities for civil suits by the victims will result from the report, with good reason, but the school's administration hasn't been the recipient of any form of sanction. In an incredibly absurd twist, the students, whom one might expect would be quite disturbed to find out their school had been harboring a dangerous pedophile, if for no other reason that how it reflects on the possible attitude of the school administration for their students safety, haven't responded at all.

A man implicated in the protection of a pedophile inspires a night of unabashed rioting and property destruction. An entire group of people protecting a pedophile in order to protect a perceived level of status (and all that comes with it) inspires mute recognition and continued obedience.

Contrast that with the reaction to Occupy Wall Street, in total. The writing was on the wall when 700 were arrested during a march across the Brooklyn Bridge. Charges against all of them were dropped, due to the police giving conflicting orders to the protesters, and without sufficient amplification for the protesters to even become fully conflicted about their directions. There were dozens of Occupy protests before any property was damaged. Police brutality in response to OWS was nearly immediate, and it was brutal. Taking only the now famous Anthony Bologna, the Scott Olsen incident, and the UC Davis pepper spray incident (a judge has just ruled the students have the right to sue the school for this bizarre outburst), it's fair to say that OWS and it's various supporting off shoots garnered a response that was wholly different than rioting, destructive students on a prestigious college campus. Police brutality, reports and images of it were the norm while OWS was at it's height. Here in Richmond, it wasn't very different. Occupy Richmond's largest action followed their eviction from Kanawha Plaza, drawing roughly three hundred people. The police response for that protest included two planes, a helicopter, K-9 units and more than a hundred police. Here's some video of the line of State Police cars headed to meet them. That doesn't include the Richmond City police or the units brought in from neighboring precincts. There were no reported acts of property destruction attributed to Occupy Richmond. Roughly 180 police were deployed to meet under 300 protesters who hadn't demonstrated any willingness or desire to destroy property or to violently clash with police.

When the fullness of this picture is considered, it isn't hyperbole to say that the movement as a whole demonstrated a rather serious level of discipline. A boiling pot of frustrated citizenry was being further frustrated through systematic, brutal oppression of what most Western nations consider a human right. Property destruction didn't occur until Occupy Oakland organized a march to shut down the port. Of the thousands in attendance, reports suggest some few dozen participated in window breaking. Then, in January, following the Scott Olsen incident, following what had then been more than a month of focused brutality suffered on their part, Occupy Oakland engaged in organized self defense by using home made shields to prevent themselves from being shot with rubber bullets, tear gas pellets and tear gas canisters. All of those measures had already become normal in the effort to subdue OWS protests. The pursuit that followed resulted in over 400 arrests. That was January. OWS began it's encampment in Liberty Square in September. Hundreds of marches had been staged, nationwide, with a total participation numbering in the tens of thousands. New York and Oakland alone had staged protests that reached numbers of more than two thousand.

At this point, following Occupy Oakland's attempts to organize some form of defense from projectiles, and the clash that came after, the world of liberal punditry went positively apoplectic. The most well known, is of course Chris Hedges piece, extolling the virtues of non-violence and calling on Occupiers not to use the tools of the state. More troubling than that though, was his rather blind description of the anarchist devotees in the movement and his correlating them with "black bloc"which is neither a movement or an ideology, but a tactic. Hedges certainly wasn't alone, and in retrospect, certainly wasn't the most hyperbolic. Because of his previous vocal and whole hearted support of the movement though, the backlash against his essay was immediate and severe. It was received more like a betrayal than a critique. After all, criticism had begun on day one and had been poorly informed and formulated from day one. This was the point that the liberal punditry found it's American Jesus, and returned to the power establishment with it's tail between it's legs.
On the whole, the nation responded to a brutal suppression of citizens rights with a sigh. Not even an exasperated sigh, but a sigh of resignation. There were some very vocal and public supporters and detractors of the same ilk. Some average Americans responded with cautious optimism, others with cynical glibness, and still others with outright rage. The majority though, responded with what can best be described as slightly annoyed exasperation. OWS was inconvenient.

Considering the difference between the actions of the OWS movement, the months long repression it faced from police and the fact that it's participants were involved in political speech, the petitioning of their government for redress of grievances, versus the Penn State riots to support a man that has now been proven to have been involved in covering up a pedophilia scandal, and the fact that they resorted to unrepentant and random property destruction immediately, one would think the response from police would be similar. Unfortunately for all of us, it wasn't. The Penn State riot went on for a number of hours before police began to challenge the crowds movements. Property destruction had been done long before. In the case of the Penn State riots, the crowds had overturned a news van, effectively attacking the journalistic establishment. In the case of OWS, police had been systematically targeting journalists of every stripe, amateur, citizen and professional, from the beginning. It was all replayed, yet again, this past week, as the remaining strands of the thread that was Occupy Wall Street gathered in Liberty Square to celebrate the coming birthday of Woody Guthrie. They were summarily harassed and arrested by police, even as there had been no unlawful conduct. There were no permanent or semi-permanent structure erected, no one laying down, no food stations set up, nothing that broke the new rules and law set into place after they'd taken up occupation of the park in September. No unlawful acts were committed, and yet, they were still summarily "evicted." In L.A., sidewalk chalk was magically transformed into a violently dangerous weapon of revolution.

Now, as OWS has essentially waned and has lost national attention, the LIBOR scandal is breaking. Exactly the kind of financial malfeasance Occupy Wall Street was attempting to see addressed and corrected is again going to threaten the global economy. That's not even taking the disaster the Euro zone currently faces into consideration (the result of continuing the exact kinds of failed economic policy that brought about the economic crash in 2008 are again threatening it's stability). The global economy hasn't even begun to show signs of anything resembling a real recovery, and it stands on the precipice of another collapse.

At the same time, it seems each day brings new revelations about the scope of the con being perpetrated on the American people. From drones being deployed overhead to NSA whistle blowers exposing widespread eavesdropping on all citizens communications,  to the corrupt nature of the electoral system, the many different issues that characterized the Occupy Wall Street movement as it continued don't seem to either be going away or coming to any sensible resolution. There is plenty to be read and heard about the horse race of a presidential election that is beginning to hit full stride, though only the smallest fraction of a percent of those millions of word are actually about anything substantial.

With all of that being said, and ecological calamity becoming more and more certain, there's still time for self congratulatory, self convinced, arm chair quarter backs to lob insults and diatribes at what is left of Occupy Wall Street and it's participants.

There have been more than enough words written about the hyper partisanship on display in American politics. Lamentations about the lack of bipartisanship have been written by what passes for both left and right. Weepy calls have been made to "put the country first," by just about everyone, including myself. There have been many different pieces written from every possible angle about the failures of the left, the failures of the right, the failures of the system, the failures of the establishment, the failure of just about everything, including Occupy Wall Street. Many of those ideas and accusations have a backbone of truth, many of them don't.

It doesn't matter either way.

The real truth is all of the old politics are dead. All of them. There are still millions of people wandering around with the zombified corpses of dead politics gorging themselves on their spirits and their minds, including, but certainly not limited to Alex Cockburn's most recent piece of self aggrandizing horse shit. Counterpunch can be a valuable outlet sometimes, but the reality is that it's as dead as any of the rest of it. It's dead, and it's old world "revolutionary" outlook are dead as well.

Some of the old politics died because their inherently impossible. Some of them died because they take no account of actual human beings and the strange, paradoxical decisions they make. But all in all, the over riding reason that the old politics died is that they failed. Utterly. Completely. They just failed. Humanity is marginally better off today than it was one hundred or two hundred years ago, but the reality is that it has failed to solve even the most basic and fundamental problems. It treats and become obsessed with symptoms. The old politics that are currently blaring from televisions and radios worldwide, that are being expounded upon in various forms across the internet are all about addressing symptoms.

The majority of people espousing "revolutionary politics" have the lucky and safe position to have never been in a position of serious responsibility. They've never had to wield actual power. They assure they never will have to wield any actual power through their stupendous hubris and patronizingly elitist approach to anyone and anything that isn't sufficiently "revolutionary." People like Alex Cockburn get to experience the safety of the sidelines and the comfort of having chosen to be outcast. They can sit back, safe in the knowledge that they are both sufficiently revolutionary enough to never again have to actually wrestle with the ideas of anyone who isn't already of like mind, and that there is no way in hell they will ever have to actually put their grand ideas to use because they're just to comfortable with their lack of anything resembling some level of decent human compassion for another human being to ever trust them with that power. While younger people were out there attempting to do the hard work of beginning to develop an entirely new politics, the kind of politics that doesn't dismiss the humanity of the human that has to deal with the results of those politics, Alex Cockburn was sitting at a keyboard, smugly commenting on his own surety of their failure. The NYPD has a clairvoyant too. Maybe the two of them can get together and work it out for the rest of us. He is relying on, using and being useful to the exact same system and establishment he claims to have such a disagreement with, and casting insults at others for the same. Without the establishment that he rails against to rail against, he'll be lost and useless. Without being able to recognize the suffering and the sacrifice of human beings today, whether they are sufficiently excellent or not, one is only human in biology, not in mind or spirit. Spitting on the brokenness of a few thousand young people's hope is a deeply inhuman act.

To answer the question that he asks in his piece, "Biggest Financial Scandal in Britains History, Yet Not a Single Occupy Sign; What Happened?" What happened was that Alex Cockburn is essentially no different than the millions of Americans who sat around in front of their televisions and sighed with slight annoyance that these young people were being irritating and gumming up the works. There is a very simple answer for all of the Monday morning, arm chair quarterbacking that's been going on, "If you really know so much better, where the fuck were you when we needed you?"

Men like this can sit back, from the safety of their smugness and see events like those that took place when OWS was fully engaged, see the police response to those events, and see the Penn State fiasco and the lack of police response to it and ask questions like this for one reason: they're as blind as any died in the wool Republican or blue dog Democrat. They've just dug out their eyes with a different instrument.

What happened? Some of those Occupiers have gone on to other endeavors, they're still fighting and still trying. Some are trying to figure out exactly what to do now. Some have gone back to the lives they had before, knowing they at least attempted to do something, however flawed it may have been, they sacrificed something, and sometimes that has to be enough. Others are sitting back, with smug grins, laughing at the absurdity of all of it, safe in the knowledge that the dedication to dead politics is going to be the end of all of us.


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