The Occupy Wall Street movement has captured the collective imagination and inspired a groundswell of radical activity. This inspiration is so great that even the corporate media was regularly covering Occupy back in the fall. But that media coverage changed once the encampments were dismantled. The media coverage has either subsided or, in more recent times, has falsely branded occupiers as “agitators” and even “terrorists” (see Bill O’Reilly’s Talking Points from May 21 and May 22, for instance). But this is not the approach taken by everyone. On April 17 of this year, the Heritage Foundation organized a public panel discussion entitled “Occupy Wall Street: A Post-Mortem?” Unlike the dismissive and demonizing tactics of Fox News, this influential conservative think tank is seriously grappling with the Occupy phenomenon. Until now, there has been no response to the Heritage Foundation from Occupy or from the left. Philadelphia-based writer Matt Dineen recently interviewed Occupy Philadelphia member and “Rhetoric for Radicals” author Jason Del Gandio. In the following dialogue, the two explore the significance of the Heritage Foundation’s study and what Occupy can learn from it to ensure its own vitality and evolving relevance as the summer approaches.
Matt Dineen: The Heritage Foundation is clearly taking the Occupy movement seriously and not simply dismissing it like much of the right wing has done. In framing the question around the current state of Occupy, they do not argue that this is a post-mortem – but their project is committed to ideologically defeating this unpredictable movement. How can we begin to make sense of the Heritage Foundation’s strategy here? What is it that they are trying to accomplish?
Jason Del Gandio: My guess is that the Heritage Foundation sees Occupy as a legitimate – or at least a potential – threat to American capitalism. The speakers make frequent reference to capitalism, free markets and free enterprise, and often mention traditional buzzwords like individual liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The Heritage Foundation is trying to understand the populist appeal of Occupy, and by doing so, trying to use that appeal to “win back” some of the Occupiers. Or, at the very least, to impede Occupy’s progress and win the hearts and minds of those who are still on the fence. One speaker, Ben Domenech, uses the word “persuadables.” This refers to Occupiers who, he believes, are still sympathetic to capitalism and the American dream – that if you work hard, you can live a happy, comfortable, successful life. Another speaker, Anne Sorock, is a marketing researcher and former corporate brand manager. She explicitly states that she wants to understand the feelings and psychological motivations of the Occupiers. Based on her research, she has created two categories of Occupiers – the professionals and the communitarians. The first, according to Sorock, is composed of long-time, dedicated activists and organizers; they are not persuadable. The second group is less dedicated and experienced, less concerned with political issues, and driven more by existential desires: they seek community, purpose and meaning in life, which Occupy provides. The Heritage Foundation is guessing that these folks are still persuadable. Such psychological profiling grants the Heritage Foundation – and other conservatives – the ability to rebrand capitalism and the American dream. After all, who doesn’t want to believe that the system works with you and not against you, and that hard work pays off? These are extremely powerful myths that help maintain the status quo. But things like economic inequality, escalating poverty, bank bailouts, home foreclosures, Citizens United, a clear lack of political accountability, disappointment in Obama and a general malaise associated to the corporate/consumer lifestyle challenge the American mythology. Occupy then comes onto the scene and acts as a conduit for these and other issues. Occupy is a galvanizing point that cuts through the American myth.
In some ways, we cannot blame the Heritage Foundation for taking up this rebranding. There is currently a crisis of faith in the American system. The Heritage Foundation is trying to remedy that crisis. But the question becomes, how do “we” as Occupiers, or more generally, as people who identify as left-of-center, respond? What can we do to continually expose the falsehoods and pitfalls of this conservative rebranding? How can we fend off this rebranding and expand the call of Occupy?
MD: These are important questions. Until this point, there has not been any public response to the Heritage Foundation’s analysis. Our goal here should be to help deconstruct their arguments in a way that can illuminate effective strategies for Occupy to continue to evolve and flourish, to help ensure that a post-mortem is not on the horizon. It seems impossible to honestly engage in this conversation without mentioning the Tea Party. There has been a contentious debate across the political spectrum since Occupy Wall Street began about how the populist conservative movement, obsessed with eliminating government spending, compares with this non-hierarchical and directly democratic uprising that began last fall. Is it instructive, at this point, to analyze the ways in which Occupy and the Tea Party are different, and also ways they might be similar, or are there more useful insights to be extracted here within the context of the Heritage Foundation’s attempt to rebrand American capitalism?
JDG: There are really two issues here: the Tea Party and the Heritage Foundation. But, in some ways, these issues overlap.
I am willing to give the Tea Party plenty of credit at this point for evolving into an influential movement – it got people elected into office that represent Tea Party interests. However, contrary to popular belief, the Tea Party did not begin as a true grassroots movement. First, it was financially backed by the billionaire Koch brothers. And second, it pretty much had Fox News publicizing its rallies and causes for free. Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity both broadcast live from Tea Party rallies, and Fox provided regular and favorable coverage of Tea Party actions. No other social movement in the history of the United States has had such a privileged beginning point. It is also important to understand that the Tea Party co-opted leftist strategies. While Glenn Beck would regularly rail against Saul Alinksy, he and other conservatives would actually use Alinksy’s tactics. In this video, Beck and David Horowitz openly discuss “inverting the myth” – that is, the right should start using the tactics of the left, such as die-ins and marches. Not only is it a quintessential example of Orwellian doublespeak, but it’s almost disorienting. They seek to portray the right as the underdog, as the little guy, as the marginalized and the oppressed. And such talk is not just in the Tea Party, but pervades Fox News. There is no doubt that the Tea Party movement includes regular people who feel betrayed by the system, people who live honest lives by humble means, but Beck, Horowitz, Hannity and the Koch brothers are not underdogs or oppressed. Much of the Tea Party is composed of white, middle-aged, working-class people. On the one hand, this population feels a genuine outrage about their lack of control over their lives – declining wages, traditional jobs shipped overseas, a lack of loyalty in the workforce, a general sense of insecurity, etcetera, but on the other hand, this outrage is also a subliminal response to their own loss of cultural power. While the “white male status quo” still reigns supreme, it is far less supreme than it was 40 years ago. America still struggles with numerous issues of race, class, gender and sexual orientation, but America has also made great strides. The fact that we have a black president and that we can at least talk about the possibility of same-sex marriage marks a huge (though insufficient) cultural shift. The slow erosion of the “white male status quo” is provoking deep anxiety, and the Tea Party taps into and channels that anxiety.
Occupy overlaps with the first part of this analysis – the sense of economic insecurity – but Occupy’s response to that issue is very different. The Tea Party, and conservatives and Republicans in general, want to slash safety nets and social welfare programs and want even less regulation of corporations. In other words, the solution to economic insecurity is to create the conditions for more insecurity. Occupy is by no means unified in its response to this issue, but it is safe to assume that the average Occupier would propose radically different solutions.
Occupy also has a very different orientation to diversity and cultural change. Unlike the Tea Party, Occupy welcomes and celebrates diversity, cultural change and erosion of the status quo. This is not to say that Occupy is inherently a bastion of diversity and equality. Unfortunately, there are far too many Occupy stories of racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia occurring at various general assemblies and localities throughout the country. However, Occupy is a space in which these issues can be brought to the surface and discussed head on. In brief, the Tea Party seeks to maintain traditional cultural power, while Occupy seeks to create alternative relations undergirded by mutual respect and radical democratic practice.
This leads back to the Heritage Foundation’s rebranding of capitalism and, more generally, of traditionally conservative values. The Heritage Foundation wants to convince people that a socioeconomic system fraught with poverty, homelessness, layoffs, lost pensions, home foreclosures and grotesque inequality is the very same system that makes America great. It’s similar to Glenn Beck convincing everyone that privileged people are actually marginalized and that oppressed people are actually the oppressors. It doesn’t make any sense, but that is the power of human communication. Language, stories, narratives, signs, symbols, images and discourse inherently influence how we see, understand and even experience the world. That is the basic goal of all branding – to create a condensed narrative that evokes a particular experience of a product, company, person, etcetera. Wal-Mart, renowned for labor abuses home and abroad, is seen as a cultural icon of traditional family values. Mass-produced Starbucks and Apple commodities are somehow seen as alternative and even quasi-countercultural. And Barack Obama was deemed the next Dr. King even before he was sworn into office. That is the power of branding, and that is what the Heritage Foundation is seeking: a narrative that will restore faith in the American capitalist system.
MD: Bringing this back around to the Heritage Foundation’s attempt to understand Occupy Wall Street and this larger movement, it is worth noting that the Heritage Foundation also mentions Alinsky. But unlike Beck’s inversion of Alinsky’s ideas, Sorok turns to the actual text of “Rules for Radicals” to help her understand the appeal of Occupy and the movement’s potential power. In her remarks, Sorok quotes the end of Alinsky’s book: “The human cry of the second revolution is meaning, a purpose for life, a cause to live for and if need be, to die for.” This leads to her concluding remarks: “So as we look at the title of this event, ‘The Occupy Movement: A Post-Mortem?’, I think what you understand is that as much as Saul Alinsky counseled the people reading his book to not seek principle or policies, but to rely only on the exchange of power, this movement is about power.” How can we make sense of this analysis and, perhaps, turn this discussion around towards strategies for Occupy’s evolving success as a social justice movement challenging the status quo of American capitalism?
JDG: In some sense, I think Sorok is correct – Occupy is about power, but there are different kinds of power. As longtime activist and feminist Starhawk has stated, there is power over people, power with other people and power from within yourself. Occupy is obviously about the second and third types of power, and it is adamantly against the first type. There is also the book by political theorist John Holloway entitled “Change the World Without Taking Power.” Inspired by the Zapatistas, Holloway is asking, how do we change the world without re-inscribing the very power structures that we are fighting against? Similar questions have been posed by numerous traditions – anarchism, autonomism, second-wave feminism, etcetera, and French philosopher Michel Foucault once said that where there is power, there is freedom. Foucault’s point is that resistance is primary and oppression is secondary. You can only oppress people who are, by nature and to some degree, free to resist that oppression; power can only operate among subjects who are free to resist, alter, and/or change the power relations. Remove that freedom and you dissolve the very possibility of power. Freedom therefore precedes – or at least coexists with – power. This theoretical lineage helps us understand the power of Occupy. Generally speaking, Occupy seeks a world in which power is distributed equally among everyone, a world in which each person is empowered to make individual and collective choices. This kind of world is a direct critique of and challenge to the current world of top-down power structures. If this is true, then we must devise our own rhetorical strategies for communicating this alternative world to others. Occupy is already doing this, most notably through “body rhetoric”: general assemblies, working groups, the people’s mic, collective decisionmaking, sharing space and responsibilities, etcetera. The movement is the message. If you want to understand Occupy, you simply have to take a moment to think about what Occupy is actually doing.
However, this type of embodied rhetoric is most effective within the context of public occupation. Occupy must rethink its rhetorical/communicative trajectory if and/or when public occupation is no longer the focal point. Outside observers cannot understand what they cannot see. But again, this is already occurring. Plenty of Occupiers are discussing, analyzing, speaking and writing about what they are doing. These communicative labors can be made more effective by simply understanding that there are numerous audiences looking to Occupy for particular answers. Some audiences want to know what Occupy is all about. Other audiences want Occupy to explain itself. Others, like the Heritage Foundation, want to understand Occupy in order to co-opt its populist appeal. And still others want to be inspired and motivated to participate in this phenomenon called Occupy. But I agree with political scientist Bernard Harcourt when he states that we need to develop new languages – we need new conceptual frameworks that enable both occupiers and observers to understand what we are doing. New languages enable self-reflection and conversation. And realize the power of language – those who control the language control the understanding. This is what the Heritage Foundation is trying to do.
It should be noted, too, that Occupy is impacting American society, and perhaps the world. The Arab Spring, the Quebec student strike, upheavals in Greece, Occupy and many others are, in my opinion, all part of a new era of radical social change. The Heritage Foundation would not be holding investigative panels if this were not true. But this is not enough, of course. Occupy isn’t trying to provoke conservative backlash; that will happen, but that’s not the point. The purpose is to fundamentally change the nature of the American (and world) system – and that change is not something to fear, as the Heritage Foundation or the Tea Party might say, but something to welcome and embrace. It’s a moment of joy, hope and excitement. A new era of social change is upon us.
Funcom’s low fantasy MMO The Secret World is entering its third beta as of today, which could be the last ahead of the July 3 launch.
This weekend you can test out the Dragon and Illuminati “starter experiences”, as well as explore The Savage Coast and two dungeons known as The Polaris and Hell Rising. It’s said you should get “dozens and dozens” of gameplay hours in from the new content, and of course much more from the full game.
You can get started 9AM PDT; the beta ends 11:59PM PDT Sunday.
If you don’t have beta access, you must either pre-order the game or enter one of a variety of giveaways, including one from NVIDIA.
Last I checked in, The Secret World was at 1 million players; as of now it’s 1.3 million. Not too bad for a closed beta. According to a recent survey, most players are digging the game and will continue playing it into the near future at the least.
Washington (CNN) — Justice Anthony Kennedy has put on hold a lower court’s ruling invalidating Arizona’s voter identification law.
Kennedy, in a one-page order Thursday, told parties on both sides of the issue to file legal briefs by Wednesday. The high court would then presumably decide whether the requirements would remain in place temporarily.
The state law was passed in 2004 and has been lingering in the federal courts ever since. At issue is whether the restrictive law conflicts with congressional voting guidelines, designed to make it easier to register and vote for federal candidates.
Proposition 200 would require voters to present proof of citizenship before being allowed to register and then cast a ballot. Opponents say that would disenfranchise some voters, including many Hispanic-American citizens who may lack ready access to the documents.
Arizona officials have asked the justices to allow the requirement to remain place until after the November elections.
The high court is considering a separate Arizona appeal over SB 1070, the state’s immigration crackdown law. A decision in that case is due by month’s end.
The voter identification case is Arizona v. Gonzalez (11A1189).
Editor’s note: Bobby Jindal, a Republican, is governor of Louisiana.
(CNN) — In 2008, President Obama campaigned on a message of “Hope and Change.” Thursday, speaking in Ohio, the president announced his re-election campaign message of “Divide and Blame.”
The president had to give another economic speech, nearly an hour long, because he has not given us economic results. America does not need excuses; we need leadership.
The president’s speech was a speech of excuses, basically blaming President Bush and tax cuts for all that ails the American economy. The president announced his intention to run against George Bush, but he is a little late — he missed that election by eight years. By the way, even that is not a campaign he can win; I recommend that he should try to run against Nixon instead.
President Obama cannot ask Americans if they are better off than they were four years ago, and so is trying to blame others for his record. Over half a million fewer Americans have jobs today than when he took office.
After his advisers projected that his $800 billion stimulus bill would keep unemployment below 8%, it has remained above that benchmark for a record 40 months and counting. Median family net worth has hit a two-decade low, median household income has declined, more than 30% of borrowers are underwater on their mortgage, 23 million Americans remain unemployed or underemployed, and half of college graduates this year come out of school unemployed or underemployed.
Being president is a hard job. One of the hardest parts is that you can’t just make excuses. Harry Truman understood this. It’s just not allowed from the president of the United States. Excuses make the president look small and weak. It is frankly a little embarrassing.
Obama, Romney offer dueling Ohio speeches
Presidential campaign ‘slugfest’ in Ohio
The president himself promised, after being elected, that if he didn’t get the economy fixed in three years, then his presidency was “going to be a one-term proposition.” President Clinton, speaking in 2010 at the same spot where the president spoke Thursday, said “Give us two more years. If it doesn’t work, vote us out.” Good advice. That was then. Now, the president is basically saying that he is a victim of circumstances, and we are all victims.
Thursday’s speech was also a speech of class warfare. The other campaign President Obama announced is a class warfare campaign of division. He plans to divide America along class lines, gender lines, party lines, age lines and any other lines he can find. He will run a campaign of rich against poor, men against women, Democrats against Republicans, young against old and liberals against conservatives.
But America is fundamentally a young country at heart, and we know our best days are always ahead. We are an aspirational people who want our children to inherit more opportunity than we inherited from our parents. We know that our circumstances of birth, race, gender and zip code do not determine our outcomes as adults. We know we are promised equality of opportunity, not equality of outcomes.
We are not an envious people who vilify success. We believe in an America where any child can succeed and pursue the American dream through hard work and a great education. We are not looking for a president who wants to make us more like Europe, manage the slow decline of a great nation, and redistribute the wealth.
The president is completely correct when he says this election is a crucial choice between two paths. We must choose between the government path and the private sector Path. We must choose between the European path and the American path.
The president promised to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term, and instead has amassed trillion dollar deficits every year he has been in office. At 24% of GDP, federal government spending now exceeds post-World War II norms, as the federal government grows in size and involvement in our daily lives. President Obama has gotten the federal government involved in bailouts, crony capitalism and running car companies, banks and health care; one can only imagine what would happen in a second term.
Yet, amazingly, President Obama on Thursday doubled down on his failed policy of borrowing money from China to grow government spending, instead of growing the private sector.
His entire philosophy can be encapsulated in one little line toward the end of his speech. He suggested we should put money into infrastructure and “do some nation building here at home.” While this may be a cute turn of phrase, and certainly polls well, it is all you need to know about the outlook of this president. He believes that this nation was built by the government, and that more government spending is the key to our future. This is a speech that should have been delivered in France.
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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Bobby Jindal.
Tune to “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer” at 4 p.m. ET on CNN for Blitzer’s interview with Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.
Washington (CNN) — In an election-year policy change, the Obama administration said Friday it will stop deporting young illegal immigrants who entered the United States as children if they meet certain requirements.
The shift on the politically volatile issue of immigration policy prompted immediate praise from Latino leaders who have criticized Congress and the White House for inaction, while Republicans reacted with outrage that the move amounts to amnesty — a negative buzz word among conservatives.
Those who might benefit from the change expressed joy and relief.
Pedro Ramirez, a student who has campaigned for such a move, said he was “definitely speechless,” then added: “It’s great news.”
Joe Arpaio asks ‘why now’ to immigration
In a Rose Garden address Friday afternoon, President Obama said the changes would make immigration policy “more fair, more efficient and more just.”
“It makes no sense to expel talented young people who are for all intents and purposes, Americans,” Obama said.
“The notion that in some ways we would treat them as expendable makes no sense. If there is a young person here who has grown up here and wants to contribute to this society, wants to maybe start a business that will create jobs for other folks who are looking for work, that’s the right thing to do,” he said.
Under the new policy, people younger than 30 who came to the United States before the age of 16, pose no criminal or security threat, and were successful students or served in the military can get a two-year deferral from deportation, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said.
It also will allow those meeting the requirements to apply for work permits, Napolitano said, adding that participants must be in the United States now and be able to prove they have been living in the country continuously for at least five years.
The change is part of a department effort to target resources at illegal immigrants who pose a greater threat, such as criminals and those trying to enter the country now, Napolitano said.
It “is not immunity, it is not amnesty,” she told reporters, adding the shift is “well within the framework of existing laws” and “is simply the right thing to do.”
The move addresses a major concern of the Hispanic community and mimics some of the provisions of a Democratic proposal called the DREAM Act that has failed to win enough Republican support to gain congressional approval.
Obama has been criticized by Hispanic-American leaders for an overall increase in deportations of illegal aliens in recent years. Last year, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement removed 396,906 illegal immigrants, the largest number in the agency’s history.
Friday’s policy change is expected to potentially affect 800,000 people, an administration official told CNN on background.
Napolitano emphasized the move does not provide a pathway to citizenship or permanent residency, and she called for Congress to pass the DREAM Act, which would put into law similar steps for children of illegal immigrants to continue living and working in the country.
Republicans who have blocked Democratic efforts on immigration reform immediately condemned the move.
In a Twitter post, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said the decision “avoids dealing with Congress and the American people instead of fixing a broken immigration system once and for all.”
“This is a classic Barack Obama move of choosing politics over leadership,” Graham’s tweet said.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, called the change a “decision to grant amnesty to potentially millions of illegal immigrants.”
“Many illegal immigrants will falsely claim they came here as children and the federal government has no way to check whether their claims are true,” Smith said in a statement. “And once these illegal immigrants are granted deferred action, they can then apply for a work permit, which the administration routinely grants 90% of the time.”
However, Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, who sponsored the DREAM Act, welcomed the announcement that he said “will give these young immigrants their chance to come out of the shadows and be part of the only country they’ve ever called home.”
“These young people did not make the decision to come to this country, and it is not the American way to punish children for their parents’ actions,” Durbin said in a written statement.
Ramirez, the student activist, said the chance to live and work in the United States “gives us a chance to show the American people that we’re not here to use your tax dollars, we’re not here to take your jobs, we’re here to contribute.”
Hispanics make up the fastest growing immigrant population in the country, and the Latino vote is considered a crucial bloc for the November presidential election.
A spokeswoman for a major Latino group, the National Council of La Raza, hailed the administration’s move.
“In light of the congressional inaction on immigration reform, this is the right step for the administration to take at this time,” said NCLR spokeswoman Laura Vazquez.
Immigration lawyers also called the change a major step in the right direction. However, one immigration expert warned that the new policy does not guarantee the result sought by participants.
“I worry that the announcement will be implemented more stingily than the administration would like,” said Stephen Yale-Loehr, who teaches immigration law at Cornell Law School.
For Jose Luis Zelaya, who came to the United States illegally from Honduras at age 14 to find his mother, also an illegal immigrant, the new policy means that “maybe I will be able to work without being afraid that someone may deport me.”
“There is no fear anymore,” he said.
CNN’s Ted Barrett and Jessica Yellin contributed to this report.
I didn’t choose to be in this situation from my earthly perspective. I love it though. I haven’t really spoken much about my experience/s, with the
outside world at least. I see it important now though to start to explain where I have come from and what has happened to me.
I have started writing a blog though I am struggling to write my third major post. It seems to me that so many people are dwelling on the past,
something that, you are all finding out, has been altered to some extent. I thought it best I deviate rather than continue to bang on about my story
and how things are and were; perhaps I ought to produce something that maybe nobody knows about…Yet!
So anyway, my name is Aaron here on Earth. I am an 11th dimensional being and my “higher self” is king of a place in the 11th dimension called
I seem to know…stuff…without having read anything! i can take people to see things and make people see things (long story, maybe a post there).
I am the third cousin of Obi Wan Kenobi…sorry! I meant Sir Alec Guinness…the best Obi Wan
I have been head hunted by the Freemasons, offered to receive Tao from a Tao master, followed by unknown strangers and all sorts!
I would love to say I am normal but I am not! I have stopped trying and so here I am!
Please read my blog as I need all the help I can get! I should have done this a long time ago but better late than never huh?
Peace and love to you all
[personal information removed]