Pat Cutty, Staff Writer
To the Occupy movement:
I respect your cause. I finally see people getting angry at the right people- the bankers, investors and philandering gamblers on Wall Street and the government that fails to reign them in. Keep it up. I do, however, have a few pointers, in the form of this lovely do’s-and-dont’s list.
DO keep occupying. The longer this lasts, the more people will take notice. Civil disobedience is a powerful tool for affecting change. Just ask Dr. King Jr. and Gandhi.
DON’T keep letting the crazies around you speak for your movement. Chances are, it is they who will get the lion’s share of media coverage (particularly where News Corps. is concerned) and they who ultimately discredit the cause. This is the mistake PETA makes in pulling its notorious media stunts and spewing its ultra-radical blather (such as the notorious “Your Mommy Kills Animals” ) it shoots itself and its credibility in the foot. There are plenty of reasonable people in PETA, but it is the radical elements that determine how it is judged in the court of public opinion. The same applies to Occupy. If you let the crazy tinfoil-hat types, script kiddies, and other distractions/interests hijack the spotlight, then these people will be the de facto representatives of Occupy.
DON’T set lofty, unrealistic goals. Socialism, elimination of capitalism and disbanding the Federal Reserve may be fine and dandy ideas but they are completely unrealistic. Pushing for things like this harms your credibility and your cause.
DO push instead for something realistic and achievable. Reform the Fed, perhaps. Push better regulation and enforcement that punishes the people who play proverbial dice with our retirement funds. Adopt the Buffett rule. The list goes on. Besides, getting this stuff done is a stepping stone for the more radical changes some of you may want.
DO pick and focus your message and DO sideshow the distractions. Freeing Bradley Manning and environmentalism are both legitimate and respectable causes, but weren’t you busy protesting a rigged system? If you have too many other things going on at once, you’re going to confuse people and your main message will be lost in the fray. On top of that, you’ll open your rallies to a wider audience and attract more participants. There are a lot of people who feel they are getting shafted by the current economic situation, but they may be turned off by some of the other Occupy agenda items they may not agree with or care about. Again, I’m not saying that these are not legitimate causes, but you need to pick and choose the most important ones.
DO have leaders or spokespeople with public faces (preferably educated and well-spoken). The presence of leadership helps further a lot of the suggestions I am making here. They take the focus off the crazies at your rallies, give the general public someone to look to for information, help keep the rank and file on target, and as an added bonus, they make for an excellent sympathy boost if they get arrested or beaten by overzealous fuzz. History’s best-known and most successful civil disobedience campaigns had clear leadership.
DON’T presume everyone is out to get you, and don’t fire off accusations without proof. You may think Twitter is actively stopping your hashtag from trending, but spewing an accusation like that without proof is shooting your movement in the foot, no matter if it’s true or not. You’re not the Tea Party.
DON’T be violent or incite violence. Nonviolence is what gives civil disobedience its legitimacy. It only takes one to give the cops a plausibly deniable excuse to use your brain matter for baton polish. It is from nonviolent resistance that civil disobedience gets its power.
DO continue getting clobbered and arrested by the police (while strictly following my above suggestion regarding nonviolence). I’m not saying all cops are brutes or even capable of it, but they do exist and even if the cops are decent people, the people who give them orders often are not. We now stumble upon one of the more interesting aspects of civil disobedience. When a mass arrest happens, people notice. When two innocent protesters get maced for no reason (and it gets caught on video), people notice. When an Iraq veteran gets his head cracked open by a tear gas canister, people notice. Police brutality is one of the biggest boons to any campaign of civil disobedience, because it garners sympathy for the protesters and their cause. Furthermore, when officials refuse to denounce these acts of unjustified violence, they reveal their true nature. Every protester that is injured or arrested unjustifiably will be replaced by five more.
And finally, DON’T lose hope. Keep on keeping on.