I should begin by saying that the “Occupy Wall Street” (hereafter “OWS”) movement does not seem that useful to me. Although I agree with some of their aims, I have never understood how having large masses of people getting to together to yell things and hold signs ever accomplishes anything. The people in charge simply carry on doing what they’ve been doing. It seems to me that thought and logic are required before action is taken.
So I don’t feel that OWS is really likely to get much done, based as it was on general dissatisfaction with the present state of affairs. The Tea Party was much the same thing, and it did not make things appreciably better.
In the movie Network, Peter Finch gives a speech beginning “I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression.” and famously concluding “I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!” This appears to be the approach OWS has taken, and it seems to me to have resulted in nothing but confusion.
I really don’t think their approach is going to help anything. They would be much better served to go through traditional political channels, in my opinion. I grant that this is an extremely slow process. George Will said upon the election of Ronald Reagan that “it took 16 years to count the votes from 1964, and Goldwater won.” By the same token, it took 36 years to count the votes from 1896, and William Jennings Bryan won. Like I said, slow.
Having said all this, it is by no means clear to me why they were removed from their encampment, especially at night. Why, even before this happened, Matt Taibbi wrote that:
“One OWS protester steps in the wrong place, and she immediately has police roping her off like wayward cattle. But in the skyscrapers above the protests, anything goes. This is a profound statement about who law enforcement works for in this country.”
(This reminds me almost eerily of what George Orwell wrote in his essay England Your England: “The policeman who arrests the ‘red’ does not understand the theories the ‘red’ is preaching; if he did his own position as bodyguard of the moneyed class might seem less pleasant to him.”)
Taibbi’s assessment is a bit harsh, in my opinion, but it is nonetheless a very odd decision on the part of the authorities in New York.
In short, it all seems to me like a bit of a mess. However, it is probable, as Krugman said, that the movement will gain sympathy as a result of their removal from the park. I hope that this sympathy will translate into more effort at providing their movement with intellectual backing and careful argument, rather than simply more aimless crowds.