Occupy Wall Street

10 Craziest Things Said About Occupy Wall Street

From theories about the Muslim Brotherhood, to protesters as closet conservatives, it was truly difficult to narrow this list down to only 10.

Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes. -- Proverbs 26.5

What an embarrassment of riches we found in compiling this list. So far, Occupy Wall Street has outlasted, outmaneuvered and generally flummoxed critics at every turn. The peaceful, patient protesters march on, while those who support the status quo turn apoplectic. The following selections are by no means comprehensive, but here, in no particular order, are 10 of the craziest things we've heard so far about the movement that has taken an abusive system by its lapels and said: "Enough already!" 

1. What, Me Worry?

The out-of-touch medal must go to Wall Street financiers whose tenuous grasp of reality leads them to conclude that the protests have nothing to do with them. You might think that the name of said protest would serve as subtle hint. But apparently obtuseness is as plentiful as arrogance on Wall Street. The smartest guys in the room have taken a smoke break.

In a recent New York Times report, one Wall Street champion sums up his view: "'I don't think we see ourselves as the target,' said Steve Bartlett, president of the Financial Services Roundtable, which represents the nation's biggest banks and insurers in Washington. 'I think they're protesting about the economy. What's lost is that the financial services sector has to be well capitalized and well financed for the economy to recover.'" 

What's lost, Mr. Bartlett, is your mind if you think that the protests have nothing to do with you and your rapacious clients.

2. The Anti-Semitic Meme

David Brooks earns a slot here for promoting this nasty little meme, having launched it on the op ed page of the New York Times, no less.

After dismissing the protests as "inconsequential," he observes that "this uprising was sparked by the magazine Adbusters, previously best known for the 2004 essay, 'Why Won't Anyone Say They Are Jewish?' -- an investigative report that identified some of the most influential Jews in America and their nefarious grip on policy."

Hmm. The movement seems to be "consequential" enough to panic Brooks into scaring up a seven-year-old magazine article in support of his smear campaign. Accusations of anti-Semitism are a tired ploy of conservatives who have severe allergic reactions to popular movements. Perhaps if Brooks actually attended any of the gatherings and marches, he might ask the Jewish OWS protesters how they feel about his charge. They are plentiful in the 99 percent.

3. The Billionaire's Lament

It took the high-rolling mayor of New York, whose fortune has levitated from sale of his "Bloomberg boxes" to Wall Street, to accuse the protesters of picking the wrong target. Guess you gotta defend your constituency! In a mind-bender of an interview with radio host John Gambling, Mayor Bloomberg complains of unfeeling attacks on the impoverished souls toiling in the financial district. "The protesters are protesting against people who make $40,000 and $50,000 year and are struggling to make ends meet."

Really? It should be pretty obvious that the protesters are not pointing the finger at Wall Street receptionists. The median salary of a stockbroker is $80,000 per year, and of course it only goes up from there.

Memo to Mayor: Gargantuan Wall Street salaries helped tank the economy. And even as regulators have tried to rein in bonuses, banksters simply jack up base pay rates. At Goldman Sachs, the base salary for managing directors has jumped to $500,000 from $300,000 since the crisis. If that's "struggling," we'd like to sign up for it.

4. The Communist Conspiracy Kooks

Deserving of a whole list all his own, the certifiable Glenn Beck serves up the latest in a long history of right-wing attacks on anything that ordinary people do to improve their lot. In the world according to Beck, the protesters are card-carrying Communists who wish to destroy the global economy.

But that is not all. They are planning the "violent overthrow of the United States government" and are bent on killing Democrats, Speaker Pelosi, and basically "everybody." Warming to his theme, Beck offers a sinister prediction: "Capitalists, if you think that you can play footsies with these people, you're wrong. They will come for you and drag you into the streets and kill you...they're Marxist radicals...these guys are worse than Robespierre from the French Revolution...they'll kill everybody."

Never mind that the protesters are nonviolent and express no allegiance to any political group. If you like your lunacy served undiluted, it's hard to beat Beck.

5. The Muslim Brotherhood Cometh

Wherever you find wingnuts, chances are you'll stumble on somebody obsessed with the Muslim Brotherhood, the Cairo-based Islamist group that looms larger in the psyche of American paranoids than it does in that of Egyptians. But to a certain stripe of conservative, the Brothers are poised to take over the planet. Starting with sunny Orlando.

The Tea Party Tribune alerts readers to what "may be a move by a Muslim activist to take over control of 'Occupy Orlando,' in the 'spirit of the Arab Spring.'" This suspicion gives rise to grave -- if somewhat incoherent -- concerns: "Is it really possible for a 'strange' group of Muslim Brothers to take their anti-American, anti-Jewish hatred into our country and be welcomed, even into meetings with President Obama...ah...yes, it's happening right under your nose, folks! And it may be happening in Orlando, Florida."

The "intel" proving this nuttery consists of a video featuring Tom Trento, the leader of anti-Muslim group United West, following around American-Muslim attorney Shayan Elahi at an Occupy Orlando gathering. (The Florida Independent reports that GOP Senate hopeful Adam Hasner calls Trento a "good friend." Yuck.) Helping readers to "connect the dots," Trento links the man's presence to references to the Arab Spring on the Occupy Orlando website. Bingo! The whole movement must be a nefarious plot for the Muslim Brotherhood to take over America. "Something to think about," says Trento.

Yep. And the fact that Trento is bonkers.

6. Secret Funding

Aggravated by the well-established fact that right-wing billionaire David Koch has backed the Tea Party, conservatives are predictably trying to claim that liberal billionaire George Soros is secretly financing Occupy Wall Street.

It's no surprise that Rush Limbaugh would jump on this wagon. But Reuters lent credibility to this baloney with a widely criticized report. The evidence? Reuters reporters Mark Egan and Michelle Nichols claimed that some people sort of said something about Soros: "There has been much speculation over who is financing the disparate protest, which has spread to cities across America and lasted nearly four weeks. One name that keeps coming up is investor George Soros, who in September debuted in the top 10 list of wealthiest Americans. Conservative critics contend the movement is a Trojan horse for a secret Soros agenda."

(Note: this excerpt is reprinted from Alex Pareene's Salon report as the original story seems to have been scrubbed). Plus, they claimed, Soros gave some money to the magazine Adbusters a while back (Pareene debunks this) and "some of the protesters share some ideological ground" with the billionaire. So there!

The news wire reversed the story when more thorough journalists called bullshit. Then it tried tobury the whole shameful episode. But here's betting on Dawn of the Dead returns of the lie throughout the right-wing media machine.

7. Cosmic Convergence

On to the "Dirty Hippies/Druggies" caricature. We might easily paint Wall Street as playground for cokeheads and hookers, but we will refrain.

Perhaps the suggestion that the protests are Woodstock Redux suggests a lack of imagination more than insanity. But pundit Lowman S. Henry, writing for the PennLive.com news organ of Central Pennsylvania, drives this meme all the way to Crazyville: "The Occupy Wall Street protest is the latest incarnation of the Haight-Ashbury gang transported from San Francisco to New York. Loosely gathering under a mutual disdain for the nation's financial community, the group appears to be a hybrid between Woodstock and a college political science class. The lawlessness and arrests have it tilting more toward the former."

There's more. According to Henry, the protesters have been paid to call for a change in "cosmic consciousness" by union organizers. Moreover the public has been horribly deceived by the media into believing that Occupy Wall Street is a "spontaneous outpouring of Plebian anger aimed at the rich in America." The idea!

Henry sure looks like an expert on psychedelics. What we'd like to know is, what is he smoking?

8. All the President's Protesters

Spend five minutes at Zuccotti Park, and you will notice that many of the protesters are openly critical of Obama -- as they are of a whole swath of politicians. Nevertheless, people like presidential hopeful Herman Cain, aka "The Herminator," are painting the movement as a tool of the Obama reelection campaign. He plainly admits that his evidence for this is exactly zilch. But does that stop the Herminator? Of course not!

In a Wall Street Journal interview, Cain asserts: "I don't have facts to back this up, but I happen to believe that these demonstrations are planned and orchestrated to distract from the failed policies of the Obama administration. Don't blame Wall Street, don't blame the big banks, if you don't have a job and you're not rich, blame yourself...." 

Sounds like 99 percent crap to us.

9. This is What Ignorance Looks Like

The rejection of business-as-usual politicking among Occupy Wall Street protesters has quite a few knickers in a twist. Observing the recent Occupy the London Stock Exchange rally, Slate's Anne Applebaum blanks out on her country's own history and accuses the protesters of undermining democracy: "In New York, marchers chanted, 'This is what democracy looks like,' but, actually, this isn't what democracy looks like. This is what freedom of speech looks like. Democracy looks a lot more boring. Democracy requires institutions, elections, political parties, rules, laws, a judiciary, and many unglamorous, time-consuming activities, none of which are nearly as much fun as camping out in front of St. Paul's cathedral or chanting slogans on the Rue St. Martin in Paris." 

Mm-kay. Last time we checked, American democracy kicked off when protesters demonstrated in the streets against an unjust system. They distributed pamphlets. Gathered at rallies. You know, roused the rabble.

Applebaum might wish to peruse the Declaration of Independence, which OWS's Declaration of the Occupation of New York City echoes in many ways, such as its focus on abuses of power. The author of the original document, Thomas Jefferson, thought that a rebellion every 20 years or so was just the thing for a democracy: "I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical....It is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government."-- Thomas Jefferson to James Madison (Jan. 30, 1787).

And just when did using the bathroom at McDonald's become glamorous?

10. Conservatives Like Us

The Occupy Wall Street protests have become sort of a Rorschach test in which people tend to see their own grievances and philosophies. That's one of the strengths. But staffers at the American Enterprise Institute? Whoa! But it's true. The conservative think tank sent a couple of fresh-faced, polar-fleeced staffers to find out just what the heck was going on down in Zuccotti Park. Surprised at how "articulate" and "concerned" the protesters seem to be, the staffers chat up protester Edward T. Hall, who seems to advocate state's right in matters like health care. Conclusion? The entire movement is "a bunch of people that are conservatives, they just don't know it." 

Finding evidence of their free-market fundamentalism everywhere in the camp -- from its "order" to its water filtration system -- the staffers praise the can-do spirit and "entrepreneurship." They ride away -- is that a taxi or a limo? -- resting easy that the movement will soon embrace the wisdom of Ayn Rand.

Their feeling of solidarity is not altogether silly. Until they rise up the think-tank career ladder, they, too, are in the 99 percent. 

Lynn Parramore is an AlterNet contributing editor.
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