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Danny Schechter
Danny Schechter
News Dissector Danny Schechter edits Mediachannel1.org. He is the author of The Crime of Our Time.
Is it time to occupy the world?
If the Occupy movement hopes to achieve anything, they must organise and create a proactive strategy.
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2011 08:32
So far, the demands of the Occupy movement have included calls for general strikes and for people to move their money from banks to credit unions [GALLO/GETTY]

Americans are known for grandiose notions as in the song We Are The World. Its producer Quincy Jones is on his way to Dubai to help create an updated version for the Arab world, but even as the 'we are all one' rhetoric escalates, real world problems continue to get in the way.

The hopes for world unity are confronted daily by the forces of global fragmentation and polarisation, what insiders call "contagion".

On the virtual world of the Internet, there are more and more calls for general strikes as if they can be organised with one email. Manifestos soar to new rhetorical heights with demands for a worldwide occupation like this one:

"We declare that we have no division among us, the people united. We are united as humanity and nature, one whole planet. We are ONE and we are here for ALL, including the one per cent!

We declare that we need to take over the world agenda, to shape our future together, in a bottom-up, horizontal and egalitarian way! Let's make real democracy a reality and put an end to the 'ancient regime' of the elite."

Ok, sounds inspiring if a tad naive, but getting from where we are to where some of today's more visionary netisens want to take us will be formidable.

Just 20-plus Occupy Wall Streeters are off on a long march to Washington from New York City to give the Congressional Super Committee a piece of their mind.

These tactics get attention, but where's the strategy?

Occupy encampments are up against local police power nationwide as officials arrest more activists and try to shut the movement down.

New York's Mayor Bloomberg, who last week exaggerated the threat the encampment off Wall Street poses, is now minimising its influence. In just a few weeks it's gone, in his estimation, from a big deal to no deal.

More austerity

The marches are continuing as is the media coverage, even as the cold weather threatens and, for some, the novelty wears off.

In-depth coverage of the global movement

Depressing as it may be, there is talk again of a global depression, and a "lost decade", in the words of Christine Lagarde, who heads the IMF. (The former head of that august body, Mr Strauss-Kahn is still nursing his self-inflicted wounds, a poster boy for the immorality and corruption on all levels in high places.)

Europe seems to be blowing up. As the economic crisis gets worse, a social and political crisis is sure to follow. Look for more volatility on all fronts.

First, Greece, then Italy and now Spain are, as we say, in "deep doo doo".

France was forced to announce more austerity measures (Including cancelling its latest round of military spending) with many economists warning that austerity is precisely the wrong way to go because it actually raises unemployment.

Many of Europe's politicians seemed joined at the hip with bankers, and locked into a simplistic and elitest approach to economic renewal that doesn't let many facts get in the way of draconian cutbacks.

Cutting expenditures and the social safety net will raise the people against them, Austerity today, social rebellion tomorrow!

The irrational is once again trumping the rational with our problems increasingly seeming more psychiatric in origin than political. Panics always foster delusions and self-defeating scenarios.

The public is losing faith as the reputations of once great financial firms sharply decline along with faith in politicians. A left-leaning leader is going in Greece; a rightist fixture of the "Bunga Bunga" Italy has been forced out.

Whose head will be chopped next by the bond holders? The Eurozone seems to be zoning out.

And, here in America, only 8 - 9 per cent say they have confidence in Congress, and it's not clear why the pols even enjoy that record low in support. The president's popularity is way down but so is public support for Republicans. Only the mass media keeps the democratic illusion alive, between commercials, of course.

A pro-active, not reactive, OWS?

Banks are begging customers not to take their money out, even as Occupy Wall Street encourages supporters to shift funds from big financial institutions to smaller credit unions. More than $650,000 in deposits was reportedly withdrawn in one "Move Your Money" day of protest.

"More than $650,000 in deposits was reportedly withdrawn in on 'Move Your Money' day of protest."

Objectively, this is a time when a new force can shake up politics, but is OWS, as presently constituted, that force?

Democrats won recent off-year elections on important issues like collective bargaining and abortion. But the US media prefers to dwell on the sensational rather than the analytical with more pandering coverage of GOP candidate Herman Cain's alleged sexual pecadilloes years ago than the deepening crises that confront us today.

The challenge OWS faces is how to grow from a protest movement into a political force. That will be difficult because its social base is as, if not even more, alienated from conventional politics than everyone else.

Its leaderless style, anarchistic instincts and radical impulses do not offer a sensibility that politicians feel comfortable with. They find it threatening to their pro-corporate and compromise-oriented political style.

Fears of co-optation in the movement are widespread, and so alliances are problematic. They are less consumed with market sell-offs than political sell-outs by leaders they once respected.

The movement is better at using the regular and social media, their own and the corporate press, to discuss what they are doing than what they want and how people can join them.

If OWS is to be more than a passing phenomenon, it needs to craft a new and bold pro-active (as opposed to a reactive) media strategy to reach out to the millions of disaffected Americans hard hit by the economic crisis. A few infomercials and ads might help. How else can they reach and organise the sympathy that is out there? Putting one's a-- on the line is not the same as moving masses.

OWS also needs to find a way to mobilise other institutions to disinvest from banks known for fraudulent practices, and demand that CEOS who committed crimes be jailed. Such a "jailout" would make economic justice more of a reality than more bailouts. The judicial system seems as corrupt as the financial one.

The fact that this movement is still moving is impressive, but real questions remain about where it is moving - and how it will get there.

Wall Street already occupies the world. Can OWS dislodge it?

News Dissector Danny Schechter blogs daily at newsdissector.com. His film, Plunder The Crime of Our Time, looks at the financial crisis as a crime story (Plundertehcrimeofourtime.com) Comments to dissector@mediachannel.org

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

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