Sunday, October 9, 2011

Occupy Wall Street: No time for conspiracist nonsense

I'm headed down to City Hall in Philadelphia later today for a firsthand look at the Occupy Philadelphia movement. So I decided to check out the local website, and was greeted with this headline.

"Twelve families rule the world," eh? Google that phrase and you'll see that it's closely tied into conspiracy-minded nonsense that's a close cousin to anti-Semitic tropes that generally surface whenever protests against "bankers" get started. (Depending on how you search the phrase, the Wikipedia entry for the Rothschild family sometimes comes up fourth in the results. 'Nuff said.) And as much as I might be sympathetic to some of the movement's grievances, I'm not really interested in signing on for anti-Semitism or conspiracist nonsense. (To be fair, the Occupy Philly page also includes an essay from Chris Hedges, who warns against designating "Jews, Muslims" as enemies.)

Understand: Conspiracy theories—whether the "12 families" bit, or birtherism, or 9/11 trutherism—are almost always have no relation to the truth whatsoever. They're built on grievance and speculation, but not fact. Again: I'm not interested in signing onto a political movement with roots in angry fantasy.

Nor are most Americans, I suspect. Conspiracy-minded nonsense—in addition to being nonsense—is also a political loser. Birtherism doesn't help the Republican Party with independent voters, and crap about the Illuminati won't help the Occupy Wall Street movement build a critical mass of support either.

Conspiracism. Bad on the reality. Bad on the politics. I hope that when I go to City Hall today, I find something more grounded and less crazy than what the website offers. You can offer a critique of the status quo—and should, as far as I'm concerned—without resorting to fever dreams.

Update: The headline has been changed.


OtherJoel said...

I really like the big ideas behind OWS, but I fear it will fail on two fronts:
- it gets hung up on specific policy prescriptions that are ideologically-driven vs. pragmatic.
- This kind of fringe conspiracy crap.
The MSM keeps criticizing them because they don't have a "specific goal." But I think that's the beauty of it. The movement, in its best days, is about mindset, not issues. If they keep the message broad and simple, e.g. "we know we're getting hosed by the 1% and we're sick of it." If this gets big enough, then maybe Washington will pay attention and re-prioritize policy in general, returning to the idea that a healthy middle class is key to a healthy, sustainable economy. That was pretty much the guiding principle from the 1940s to the 1970s, so we know it's possible.

MonkeyBrad said...

Excellent article, Joel. One that I imagine will be quoted often for a long time to come.

As for hoping not to find the crazy, I hope you don't find anything as creepy as this incarnation of the Occupy Movement.

Monkey RobbL said...

Our family just watched "So I Married An Axe Murderer" again, so I couldn't help but laugh out loud when I read this post!