Friday, November 18, 2011

Shooting the OWS Messenger

Today's dialog is about how the conversation about income inequality started by the Occupy Wall Street protest movement has morphed into a conversation about the shortcomings of the protesters themselves. As is often the case, my dialog is prompted by the writings of my favorite crunchy conservative, Rod Dreher, on his blog at The American Conservative.

After the jump, my dialog with Rod Dreher.

The dialog below might read a little disjointed because it consists of excerpts (lightly edited for clarity) from a larger blog post and comment thread.

  • Me: I read this tweet by Rod Dreher: "#DailyShow on class warfare among #OWS. Priceless. Can't imagine why these people never caught on with US mainstream"

    Coincidentally, that tweet was immediately followed by this tweet by someone else: "POLL: 67% of Americans believe 'the government should do more to reduce the gap between the rich and poor' "

    Maybe "these people" never caught on, but the mainstream does appear to sympathize with their cause. Even Rod seems to, in the rare instances he's not shooting the messenger.

  • Rod Dreher: Mark, seriously? How often do you read this blog? I've been saying for ages now that I agree with the general views of OWS with regard to the imbalance in our society, and the dangerous free rein the financial sector has. Do you not read my posts here, like the one I put up this morning damning the banks and Congress for allowing them to get away with so much?

  • Me: I've been reading it for the two months since the OWS has been active. I don't have a systematic count, but it's my impression that in that time, the number of your words focusing on the issue of income inequality are much less than the number of your words criticizing the protesters. Seriously.

  • Rod Dreher: If you only check in occasionally at this blog, I could see your ignorance of my position. But I even wrote a book in 2006, part of which was criticizing my own conservative side for being blind to the deleterious moral consequences of allowing business and financial interests to accumulate too much power.

  • Me: Good for you. And look how little your own conservative side listened to you and made income inequality an issue in the 2008 and 2010 elections. In the last two months, OWS has done more to highlight this issue than your book and posts have done in five years. But, now, you focus much of your attention on the shortcomings of the protesters instead of taking the spotlight OWS has turned on and using it to rally your conservative side from inside the tent to do something about the issue.

  • Rod Dreher: MarkS, on my blog I tend to focus more on culture and religion, and come at issues from that point of view. I link to foreign policy, political, and economic analyses that I find interesting or compelling. On my previous blog, I wrote a fair amount about the culture of privilege among the bankers that led them to do as they've done. I write about OWS as someone who wishes we had an effective populist movement to rein in and reform Wall Street, but who finds OWS's nature and tactics to be risible. What, I'm supposed to not criticize them because their hearts are in the right place? I feel the same way about the Tea Party, but they haven't been in the news much since this new blog started.

  • Me: Rod Dreher: "I write about OWS as someone who wishes we had an effective populist movement to rein in and reform Wall Street, but who finds OWS's nature and tactics to be risible."

    Ditto. So what? Don't get distracted. OWS is only the messenger. In the past, I've tried to impress on you my impression that you fail to see how similar you are to those you criticize. Here is an example. I comment on your blog as someone who wishes we had an effective populist movement to rein in and reform Wall Street, but who finds your whining about the shortcomings of the OWS to be risible. You can huff and puff and ask, "Seriously?" but you aren't changing my impression. Seriously.

  • Rod Dreher: [Erik said,] "I think the real shame of OWS is the fact that even on an issue where the public is largely sympathetic, the movement has so utterly failed to gain and sustain public sympathy."

    Shhh! Erik, you aren't supposed to say that. America has failed OWS. So have bloggers. It is wrong to ever make fun of them or to point out that they are their own worst enemies.

And so it deteriorates. Like "Erik" I am disappointed that the OWS movement has failed to build on initial public sympathy and has instead squandered it. I am also disappointed that mildly influential pundits like Rod Dreher also squandered a golden opportunity to advance a cause that they claim to have been supporting for five years. Instead, they shoot the OWS messenger.

I'm a big fan of The Daily Show. Jon Stewart knows how to craft and deliver satire. Rod Dreher doesn't. (And neither do I, not that it matters.) Stewart comes across as brilliant. Dreher comes across as repetitive and whiny. Maybe that's why Jon Stewart is the most trusted source for news in America and why Rod Dreher has a blog at The American Conservative. (And why I have a blog no one reads.) Meanwhile, the income gap just continues to grow.

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