Coren on the “Occupy” Protesters

Sun TV’s Michael Coren lambastes the “Occupy” protesters for being “spoiled children of privilege” that are needy, self-indulgent whiners and so on…

I have to admit to experiencing a considerable amount of cognitive dissonance being largely in agreement with his withering assessment of the protesters involved in the Canadian version of this movement.

29 Replies to “Coren on the “Occupy” Protesters”

  1. You surprise me Red. History, as you surely know, is peppered with people who worked tirelessly for reform but who were not necessarily those who felt the most painful sting of the prevailing injustice. The rise of global capitalism and the increasing mobility of capital enterprise turns more and more people into virtual slaves to self-concerted national competition in which workers, the unemployed, and the underemployed become increasingly the victims. Meanwhile the media, which was once something of a bulwark against systematic abuse of a capital elite, now overwhelmingly represents that elite. Capitalism and what we might call capitalist democracy is not working and in most Western nations the top 20 percent have more wealth than the other 80 percent. This inequality, even in a prosperous society, means a fundamental disfunction which will lead to countless problems and eventual social breakdown. History teaches us this quite clearly. Anyone, regardless of their own social-economic position, who stands up to talk about these issues, and begin a discourse on the need for economic equality and the reduction of corporate power, is hardly irrelevant. Remember the Progressive Movement in the US at the turn of the century was an amalgam of social groups who knew that capitalism, after years of serious depressions, was in desperate reform. The movement led to real anti-trust laws and saved capitalism in the West from total breakdown. People who disregard the Occupy movement are hopelessly unaware of history.

  2. kirbycairo

    You’ve described very well how the protestors would like to be seen. Indeed, heroic self-description seems to be part of the package. Unfortunately, despite widespread initial sympathy, great numbers of the public are starting to see them as irritating spoiled types with little understanding of anything, nothing concrete to say and a penchant for very bad political theatre. It astounds me that the Tea Party, with all their silly hats, fringe looneys and misspelled signs, could organize huge peaceful rallies and take over the U.S. Congress in little more than eighteen months, while after just one-two months the OWS crowd is starting to infight over things like drumming, alienate locals and engage in running battles with municipal authorities over despoiling public parks and numerous by-law violations. Yet progressive media and pundits continue to insist we ignore all that and consider them shock troops for an exciting transformative era. Meh.

  3. Ah, but the point is that so called “shock troops” for transformation are very seldom understood as that during the era in which they exist. Those who stormed the Bastille were a rag-tag group of uneducated, indigent, malnourished, angry individuals. On the other hand, many of the Chartism movement were well-educated, lower middle-class individuals who understood capitalist development and the parliamentary system very well. Reformers sometimes have clear demands, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes reform groups are coherent and united, sometimes they struggle with great deals of infighting.

    Either way, there are many people within the Occupy movement who are very articulate and understand what needs to happen. And if human society is to survive, many of these things have to happen. The Occupy movement is one moment in a long process of a genuine opposition movement coalescing around some very fundamental problems in the prevailing system. Having learned the fundamental mistakes of the Communist movement which regressed into the very thing that it opposed, these “irritating spoiled types” are struggling to find a new kind of politics which will address the problems but will not fall into the mistakes of orthodox politics.

    They will, of course, be disregarded and ignored by many, but then the aristocracy in France called the revolutionaries “terrorists” and “filthy rabble-rousers” until they were constructing guillotines in public squares. We so often ignore the messages of burgeoning social movement until it is too late and the pot boils over.

  4. But what in the world makes you so sure they are, in your words, a burgeoning social movement, especially beside, say, the Tea Party? The crowd at the Bastille didn’t do it themselves–there was a whole intellectual movement that came out of the Enlightenment that had been challenging the ancien régime for decades in many ways. Same with 19th century socialism. Just how many people do you think would agree with you that “capitalism isn’t working”? People are angry the finance industry cheated and defrauded, but that doesn’t mean there is any widespread wish for a revolutionary overthrow.

  5. Peter, the Tea Party is astroturf and not grassroots.

    The Tea Party was invented by Dick Army and the like, funded by the Kochs and the like and bullhorned to death by Fox News and right wing talk radio.

    Apple meet orange

  6. Can’t say I disagree, RT. (Agree with Coren!? Ack! My head may explode.)

    The U.S. protests I could always understand, since the middle class down there really got hammered by the crash, foreclosures, unemployment etc. But the Canadian protests always struck me as kind of weird. We already have a lot of the things the US protesters want, so I didn’t get their beef.

    What little sympathy i may have been able to muster for the Canadian protests vanished abruptly last week when I read some of the “occupiers” on Twitter, discussing how they define “the rich” — and it turned out that their definition would include ME. And I am most assuredly not “rich” (although I am working on it 😉 )

    In Canada the whole thing seems like a bad case of resentment for anyone who *has stuff*. I could be wrong, but that’s how it looks from here…

  7. A) What makes me sure that they are the precursor to an important movement is that they are generally a progressive group who are attempting to reform the system in a way that guarantees a more even distribution of wealth and history suggests that societies which let the distribution of wealth get worse and worse are headed for revolution or extinction. The so-called “Tea Party” movement actually represents an effort to solidify the poor distribution of wealth, make it worse, and increase the power of those who would increase the power of corporations. Of course, this is a very basic explanation which would require thousands of words to properly defend.

    B) I am saying that capitalism as it stands isn’t working not that no form of capitalism can or should work. I think the proof of this is self-evident but the increasing differences between rich and poor is all the proof you really need.

    C) Whether the people at large “believe” that capitalism is working or not working at the moment is not really a relevant point. First of all, the majority of people could not even define what capitalism is at the moment, in the same way that the majority of the French in 1789 would not have been able to define feudalism. And even if the could define it I am certain that the majority would not have said that they wanted to eliminate it. It seems like a fairly clear fact that the majority of people at any given time are too afraid of the unknown to argue for any real change in the socio-economic system.

    D) Capitalism has changed a great deal since the time of, say, Marx or even FDR. I think that a majority of people have an instinctive sense that something is wrong. And I think a strong argument can be made that the necessary reforms in finance capital to avert a total breakdown of the system would leave a new and different form of capitalism in place but that system would be as significant a change as that brought on by the creation of the welfare state.

    Enjoy the rest of your day.

  8. Monger, I know that is the party line, but it’s crap. Just another in a long list of sorry leftist efforts to explain false consciousness.

  9. So, what have you done for your country lately Red?

    When I drop by on occasion to read your thoughts, I usually find you engulfed in US politics and analysis of the Tea Party movement. Why the sudden interest in the wanky Canadian horde threatening the status quo?

  10. Good post, Red.

    But I think there is a point to the protest (look at conservative me arguing in favor of the OWS types) but which the protectors are missing.

    The problem is not about distribution of wealth, but rather distribution of power.

    The “in” vs. the rest of us.

    And the Occupiers will most certainly fail, just as the 60’s children failed – because they refuse to do the heavy lifting required to remove the control of money and special interests.

    And it’s not just that they will fail, but when they do, they will actually make matters worse because as the parks get cleaned up after they leave, getting swept up with all their garbage, will also be the dreams of what might have been – making it actually easier for the greed-heads to solidify their hold on power.


    When Woodstock was over, the lasting message of that generation was left by 60’s children like Karl Rove and George W. Bush.

  11. And the Occupiers will most certainly fail, just as the 60′s children failed – because they refuse to do the heavy lifting required to remove the control of money and special interests.

    Not easy to do, when riot police are shooting tear gas, and rubber bullets at you. Also hard to do while sitting in prison.

    Compare the treatment of peacefully protesting OWS in the US, vs. how illegally armed Tea Partiers, threatening violence against politicians, are treated.

  12. I’m not sure the problems with US policy stop at the border. Yes, our banks, investment regulations, etc have been eroded to a lesser degree, but the US’s 1% are our masters, too.

  13. “When Woodstock was over, the lasting message of that generation was left by 60′s children like Karl Rove and George W. Bush.”
    What a fucking idiot you are Rob…
    You could have easily added Clinton.

    But that is pretty much the problem with those on the right – always ready to distort history and facts to try and mesh with their biases…

    As for Michael Coren, he’s a fucking religious loon who has distorted reality. What’s the point of even trying to dissect what he’s spewing when he starts with teh stupid and goes from there…

  14. “the dreams of what might have been”

    ever the crass cynic, eh, rob? while, you can afford to play cavalier chauvinist (woodstock, rob?! really? you’d have to squint your eyes something fierce to see the two even remotely analogous. here’s a better analogy for you: hoovertown), some of us prefer to take a long view at progress. power is wrested in incriments, and the will must be fostered. provoked responses have a track record of rallying will.

    indifference has always struck me as a facade for impotence.


  15. I think you’re selling these kids short, Red. Their future is not the one you enjoyed in your youth. Their era, even in Canada, is one marked by inequality of wealth, income and opportunity not seen by the generations that preceded them.

    Go to Spiegel Online and read their assessment of the transformation of America from a supposed democracy to outright oligarchy. It’s eye opening and it’s very, very real.

    You have to add to this the impacts of climate change today’s youth will endure over the next sixty or seventy years and the powerful social, political and economic costs that will flow from it. That, alone, ensures this movement, in one form or another, at varying times and places, will endure.

    It’s notable that quite a large number of sympathetic Egyptians turned out in Tahrir Square today to march on the US Embassy in support of Occupy Oakland.

    Sure there’ll be grandstanders and “me toos” peppering the ranks, particularly here at home, but they won’t bring down this movement because it’s driven by very powerful and persistent forces that ensure its continuation.

  16. “I hope that felt good, CWTF. Proof once again that the left would rather whine than win.”
    Perter, if you had a two-by-clue you may understand that I am fair removed from what you call a “lefty”. But continue on with your simple-minded conclusions.

    I agree 100% with MOS. Well said sir.

  17. Coren seems to be just about seeking approval from whomever he is needing it from on a given day. Which means he’s basically about beating up on others especially if they have the gall to stand outside to protest against a stacked deck and loaded dice all the while elevating himself for being concerned about those whom he deems truly deserving of compassion.

  18. CWTF:

    Heh. OK, so you’re not my grandfather’s lefty. That’s ok, I don’t think I’m your image of a righty either. I don’t share Coren’s dismissive patronizing, but I simply can’t understand why most of the left is having such a hard time getting a grip on the realities of 2011 and why they just keep hauling out dated abstract proto-marxist rhetoric from the 30’s or 50’s. It may feel good, like Earth Day, but it’s not going to be any more effective. This kind of clear-headed analysis would serve everyone better and lay the basis for a much more resonating challenge to the hard right than ethereal musings about oligarchy and “broken” capitalism..

  19. So Peter, will I see you demanding for private companies to give up on “corporate welfare”? Or is your capitalism more about gaming the system?

  20. Peter, I’d like to add a few points in reply to this:

    “I simply can’t understand why most of the left is having such a hard time getting a grip on the realities of 2011 and why they just keep hauling out dated abstract proto-marxist rhetoric from the 30′s or 50′s.

    They’re protesting because they won’t accept oligarchy in lieu of democracy.,1518,793896,00.html

    They’re protesting governments that have succumbed to the corruption of corporatism. Read Taibbi’s explanation.

    They’re protesting to reject inequality in all its forms – wealth, income, opportunity, social justice. That may sound proto-marxist to you but the International Monetary Fund researchers wrestled with that very issue recently and, to their surprise, found inequality undermines healthy economies, renders them more susceptible to recession and makes it much harder for them to recover. Equality, by contrast and for all its other benefits, results in more robust, stronger economies.

    “…taking a historical perspective, the increase in U.S. income inequality in recent decades is strikingly similar to the increase that occurred in the 1920s. In both cases there was a boom in the financial sector, poor people borrowed a lot, and a huge financial crisis ensued (see “Leveraging Inequality,” F&D, December 2010 and “Inequality = Indebted” in this issue of F&D). The recent global economic crisis, with its roots in U.S. financial markets, may have resulted, in part at least, from the increase in inequality.”

    That’s not Marxism, Peter. It’s sanity but we’ve lost sight of that. We’ve handed these kids the shit end of a very big stick and from Cairo to Athens to London to Wall Street and Oakland.

  21. Geez, I wish I had more time to respond in detail to some of these comments as there are some really good ones, but unfortunately I have to head back to work. Go figure.

    Let me just say this before heading out… I sympathize with many of the core grievances of the OCW protesters as they do allude to seriously dysfunctional aspects in way our economy has devolved over the past 30 years or so, but I think now (especially with the cold weather coming on), the time would be right to withdraw from the public parks and squares for the winter… Go develop some more creative means of protest and formulate something a little more coherent online. Then come back in the spring with renewed vigor and purpose.

  22. stounds me that the Tea Party, with all their silly hats, fringe looneys and misspelled signs, could organize huge peaceful rallies

    If you call peaceful rallies screaming and baying a congresspeople, I suppose one could characterize their behaviour like that. Also, it is awfully naive to compare OWS against the Tea Partiers as if though they are mirror images and should be judged against that metric. The Tea Party, being well-funded by wealthy donors, engaged in an entryist style of political engagement as their ultimate goal. The Republican party has very little, if not at all, experience with entryism, which explains why the schizophrenia in their political cycle. Besides, despite the overcalculation, the 2010 elections did not have a considerable percentage of “Tea Party” nominated candidates win their seats. If one is going to claim that the influence of OWS is overstated, then a sobering examination of the Tea Party’s reach should be done. That is, if you are assuming that the influence of OWS is supposed to translate into a political movement.

    It may shock people, but there can exist a manifestation of exerting a pressure that does not have to involve creating a hierarchical organization and political mobilization. It is a manifestation of populist anger to be sure, but there are so many different constituencies that it should be taken on far less political terms that it is. It is a form of populist, in some cases moral, pressure. The moment a titular “head” of OWS occurs, any moral weight will be lost immediately. What some view as a flaw that the OWS is too disorganized I view as feature for that very reason.

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