Glenn Greenwald on Critiques of Occupy Wall Street: Does Anyone Actually Not Get the Message?

Glenn Greenwald has an excellent, incisive column on the "well-intentioned" critique of the Occupy Wall Street protests. There's much to unpack here and I recommend reading the column in full, as it goes right to the heart of why even those of us on the left sometimes hesitate when faced with mass social movements, which by definition are messy.

Here's what he says on the critique that there's a lack of messaging at the protests: 

Does anyone really not know what the basic message is of this protest: that Wall Street is oozing corruption and criminality and its unrestrained political power -- in the form of crony capitalism and ownership of political institutions -- is destroying financial security for everyone else? ... 

He also notes that pinpoint-level clarity eludes most protest movmeents. Anyone who's been at a major protest and seen everyone from Palestinian solidarity activists to MArxists to local vegan activists leafleting knows this basic fact. The idea is that while some "institutional" protests

Most importantly, very few protest movements enjoy perfect clarity about tactics or command widespread support when they begin; they're designed to spark conversation, raise awareness, attract others to the cause, and build those structural planks as they grow and develop.

 He goes on to explain why those who are sympathetic to the protests but inclined to nitpick should be lending a hand instead of wringing them.

Personally, I think there's substantial value even in those protests that lack "exit goals" and "messaging strategies" and the rest of the platitudes from Power Point presentations by mid-level functionaries at corporate conferences. Some injustices simply need anger and dissent expressed for its own sake, to make clear that there are citizens who are aware of it and do not accept it. ...
But for those who believe that protests are only worthwhile if they translate into quantifiable impact: the lack of organizational sophistication or messaging efficacy on the part of the Wall Street protest is a reason to support it and get involved in it, not turn one's nose up at it and join in the media demonization. That's what one actually sympathetic to its messaging (rather than pretending to be in order more effectively to discredit it) would do.

Movement-building is messy, but marvelous. Read Greenwald's full piece here.

AlterNet / By Sarah Seltzer

Posted at September 28, 2011, 6:21am

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