OWS: Easy Prey
Once again conservatives are fumbling a sure opportunity to deal the opposition a crippling blow.
The Occupy Wall Street movement is an easy target -- a fat, slow dirigible topped up with hydrogen and just waiting for the spark that will set it ablaze. They are the third wave of the modern transcendental slob movements, behind the hippies and the grunge kids. They are driven by the basest of motives, greed and hatred: "Pay my bills" and "Eat the rich."
They are as dumb as bag of rocks, unable to articulate any strategy or goal. They are violent and cowardly at the same time, in the manner possible only to mobs. They are supported by both the Nazis and the communists -- quite a trick, even in this day and age. The whiff of outside direction and funding is too strong to ignore, with a mild but distinctive tang of paprika. As Mark Steyn pointed out, the idea originated in Canada. (Nazis, commies, and Canadians. Now that's what I call a hat trick.) To top it off, they are raving anti-Semites.
When has such an easy target been presented by the left? There is not a single redeeming quality about this crowd. They are fish in a barrel, ducks in a row, easy prey. So what's the response from the right? That was not a rhetorical question. What is the response?
There have been comments, coverage, jibes, and what have you, but mostly with the tone you'd expect in response to any everyday left-wing barbarity. It's all light, flippant, and uncoordinated. People don't seem to grasp the opportunity they're being presented. The GOP could be on Mars for all we've heard. With the exception of the Herminator, the presidential candidates have carefully looked the other way -- they're all Jon Huntsman on this particular topic. Eric Cantor has gone so far as to sympathize. (For which they've thanked him by threatening him with a riot.) The Northeast conservative press has expressed high amusement touched with mild disagreement. Here's a left-wing movement with the largest "kick me" sign seen so far in this century. But instead of kicking, the conservative establishment has in large part given it their standard "topic of the day" treatment.
At this point, any attack on the 99ers automatically hits the Democrats. Obama has offered encouragement (while at the same time leaving himself a bolthole if it goes bad -- typical behavior for Mr. Decisive). Pelosi has openly praised them. Barney Frank has called for funding. The Democrats have avidly strapping themselves to the 99ers -- if one goes over the edge, the other will, too. But nobody seems willing to give them that one sharp push.
What is the problem here? Why do conservatives act this way? Some AT readers will recall that I've brought this up before. I've scratched my head over it for years, and I'm still no closer to an answer. If a liberal is, as Robert Frost put it (he got it from William Ernest Hocking), somebody who won't take his own side in an argument, a conservative is somebody who won't swing his own billy club in a street brawl.
This is one of those things where it's likely that a number of explanations is required. Conservatism is the doctrine of civilized standards. It is strongly opposed to demagoguery and mob rule of any sort. Its roots lie in the WASP ascendancy, with its deference to authority and self-control, and with American Jewish culture, with its deep respect for law. Its morality is Christian, with its attitude toward adversaries derived from the command to "turn the other cheek." And as in many groups where civility and poise are major components, it draws people who are not as rough or hard-edged as they might be. We'll call it "delicacy" rather than "cowardice."
These are all (except perhaps the last) virtues, and should be accorded the respect due to virtues. We want a society in which self-control, respect for legitimate authority, and a striving for divine mercy are the rule. But there exist situations in which a more basic and robust form of virtue is called for. Namely, the Roman virtues: sternness, adherence to principle, willingness to punish where necessary. We are commanded to turn the other cheek, not to twirl around like tops.
Abdication of authority was the hallmark of the '60s. A lot of confusion exists about that period. Most responses begin and end with a condemnation of the "hippies." In fact, the hippies were relatively harmless, merely the latest iteration of the medieval free spirits that any affluent society spins off as a matter of course. The hippies merely wanted to hang out, turn on, groove, rummage through dumpsters, and (as Frank Zappa so splendidly put it) "sit and play their bongos in the dirt." It was the New Left types, trained in the elite universities, who were a serious threat, recruiting among the aimless hippies (not to mention aimless suburban youths) for cannon fodder for their "days of rage" -- repeated attempts to cripple the country through riots and demos. The liberal elite of the time essentially gave in, stepped aside, and allowed the rads to come aboard and take over. That in turn led to the long decline of the '70s and near-collapse under Jimmy Carter.
What we're seeing today is an attempt to duplicate that process -- attract kids to the various OWS encampments and recruit them for further radical activity. The rads in this case are not furrow-bowed New Leftists with copies of Mao's Red Book in their army jackets, but members of the international anarchist movement, a much more sinister collection. Whether they intend a takeover of the liberal-left establishment on the '60s model is anybody's guess.
If they do, they'll find themselves facing modern conservatism, which scarcely existed five decades ago and is today the most powerful political force in this country. But all the power in the world is useless if it does not engage. The PATCO strikers defied every rule in the book and jeopardized public safety on a national scale. In response, Ronald Reagan stuffed them all in a can and put them out on the curb. The U.K. miners set up actual goon squads to roam the countryside and slug it out with local authorities. Margaret Thatcher sent in the police to confront them nose to nose until they at last broke and ran. A few years later she did the same to the Argentine military junta. Elite whining and moaning rose sky-high at the time, but nobody condemns either of them for their actions today. It became part of their legend as conservative leaders. It needs to become part of the conservative character in our day.
Open support from Nazis and communists, funding from Soros International, overall direction from Vancouver, of all places, and we're treating this as if it's a Weird News item. This story needs to be hammered like an anvil. Obama and crew must be welded and riveted to the 99ers' most extreme elements. The media, the pols, and the celebrity supporters must be repeatedly and relentlessly confronted with their advocacy of anti-Semitism. We're being offered a chance to ruin O's reelection effort, publicly humiliate the Democratic Party, and chastise the international left, all in one blow. If we pass it up, we may well regret it. Let us go amongst them.
J.R. Dunn is consulting editor of American Thinker.