“Everything the Tea Party Pretended to Be and Isn’t, Occupy Wall Street Is”



Jeff Smith distinguishes between populism and “false populism” in a thought provoking piece that analyzes a now popular dialogue comparing the Occupy movement with the Tea Party movement.

“Beyond easily noticeable similarities, however, deep and fundamental differences significantly undermine the Tea Party-OWS parallel posited by Scherer and other mainstream commentators.” 

“The Tea Party was and is not a social movement at all but rather a loose conglomeration of partisan interest groups set on returning the Republican Party to power. It is Astroturf and partisan Republican to the core. It is not an “uprising” against a corrupt political system or against the established social order. It is a reactionary, top-down manifestation of that system, dressed up and sold as an outsider rebellion set on changing the rules in Washington.”

“Consistent with its genuinely grassroots and anti-establishment origins, OWS really is a leaderless and democratic, many-sided social movement. It makes its decisions through a militantly democratic consensus process embodied in its nightly extended and often fiercely contested General Assembly (GA) processes. Within and beyond Zucotti Park, the movement’s slogans, tactics, philosophies and practices percolate up from the rank and file, not from the top down – not from any left equivalents to the Koch brothers, Dick Armey’s Freedom Works, and FOX News, who provided the narrow, canned, and widely repeated, elections-centered talking points and marching orders prevalent in many Tea Party meetings and gatherings I attended in 2010. OWS activists are highly engaged in a broad number of tasks and activities organized by the small committees their parent GAs create through consensus process: maintaining the camp, communicating with the municipal park and permit authorities, inviting outside speakers, holding teach-ins, staging poetry readings and musical performances, designing street theater, communicating with the other occupation chapters, soliciting donations and other forms of assistance; generating public outreach materials; holding marches and demonstrations and more. In these and other activities, its members and demonstrate a genuine passion for organizing and collective and democratic action, the real stuff of genuine social movements – something I found sorely lacking in ‘the Tea Party.’”

Smith also discusses the position of Democrats and attempts by Dem leaders to align themselves with #Occupy.

Very much worth reading.

The Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy is a watchdog group formed “in response the growing influence of the corporate media. GRIID teaches media literacy, critical thinking skills about how media functions and how it can misinform the public on critical issues like war, race, gender, health, the environment, consumerism and elections.”

Austin Lord

Austin Lord is a graduate student at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, focusing in Political Ecology and Environmental Anthropology with an area concentration in Himalayan Studies. His ongoing research concerns processes of social and spatial change in areas affected by hydropower development in Nepal, with a particular focus on changing livelihoods and shifting patterns of migration and mobility. Austin spent over six months conducting fieldwork within Nepal during 2012 and 2013, focusing specifically on the upper watersheds of the Trishuli and Tamakoshi rivers, and he plans to return to Nepal in 2014-2015 to continue and expand this work. Prior to attending Yale, Austin studied Hydrology at Portland State University and received an A.B. in Economics and Studio Art from Dartmouth College. A broader collection of his photographic work (from Nepal and elsewhere) can be found at www.austinlord.com.

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