If it accomplishes nothing else, Occupy Wall Street creates an extraordinary opportunity for a conversation about American values. This became clear to me yesterday morning as I was reading about the Values Voter Summit and tweeted:
#OWS 99% are value voters, too. #vvs
My thoughts had drifted from Values Voters to voters’ values, from the “Premier Conservative Event of 2011” at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington DC to Zuccotti Park, where people have been gathering to protest a whole multitude of outrages. Some are ridiculous and confused; some are dead serious. All, however, are pretty unanimous in their denunciation of greed – which is as good a place as any to start a conversation about the values we need to promote, embrace, recognize and celebrate in order to prosper. This is, I believe, a conversation we need to start now, and continue long after all the protestors have left Zuccotti Park.
Minutes after my tweet, someone named Dan Gainor (who, I have since learned, is a right-wing flack) shot back:
@lvgaldieri #OWS supports the WRONGvalues. #OWS #VVS
And that’s how the conversation started. When I asked what values he thought were being promoted by the Occupy Wall Street movement, Gainor said the protestors were intent on “crushing Wall St. and wrecking capitalism”:
@dangainor well how do you suppose they are going to accomplish that? And capitalism regularly wrecks itself without much help, doesn’t it?
@lvgaldieri Well Anonymous has vowed an attack on stock exchange. So perhaps they intend terrorist acts. Ask them.
so for @dangainor, OWS = Anonymous =Terrorists? Have you informed DHS yet?
@lvgaldieri I think they know already.And yes, making threats against the US economy and govt are acts of terrorists.
Had I previously heard of Gainor, I might not have been surprised by this exchange. Instead, I found myself heading down a rabbit hole, and through the right-wing looking glass. On the one side, American capitalists; on the other, the terrorists: which side are you on?
In playing the terrorism card, Gainor was referring to unconfirmed reports that Anonymous plans to take down the New York Stock Exchange today, October 10th. According to the Department of Homeland Security, the group has even been using Twitter “to solicit ideologically dissatisfied, sympathetic employees from within institutions in the financial sector.” But, a BusinessWeek report is quick to add, they haven’t found any: everyone within the financial sector is, I guess, ideologically satisfied.
A posting on Anonnews.org says the NYSE takedown, which surfaced in a Department of Homeland Security memo, “may or may not be a false flag operation initiated by authorities in order to discredit Anonymous and Occupy Wall Street”; as of this posting, a fire in a Mahwah, New Jersey data center seems to be the only source of technical trouble on the NYSE – a fire without ideological affiliation, I presume.
A few minutes after my initial exchange with Gainor, when some others had joined the fray and started exchanging insults, I tried to re-set: “no need for all the profanity. My original point: we should be having a conversation about values.” No reply.
I can’t say for certain, but I suspect that Gainor may not be terribly interested in pursuing that topic outside the confines of the Values Voter Summit – where people have the right values. I have come to think that he is a hacker in his own right, a social hacker, out to sabotage civility — in this case by making lots of noise around Occupy Wall Street, and tarring all the protestors with the terrorist brush.
Why? Perhaps because he thinks of himself as a great defender of the American way, but more likely because he wants to prevent or undermine any genuine, thoughtful conversation about values that we might have — in the street, in our living rooms, in bars and in offices, in malls and barbershops and coffee shops.
And this is, unfortunately, a tack others have taken, and on much grander scale. The major news media continue to wonder what Occupy Wall Street is really all about. What could be the trouble? The Wall Street Journal dismissed the protestors as a bunch of “ne’er do wells.” Cries of class warfare and ominous warnings from the likes of Representative Peter King have only compounded the fault.
Those who demonize or mock the Occupy Wall Street protestors for some of the more naïve-sounding and inchoate demands issuing from their midst– or for the sheer lack of demands – do us all a disservice.
The demonstrations on Wall Street and in cities around the country – like those in cities around the world — are a distress signal. SOS. We ignore it at our peril.
If threats against capitalism and the government are terrorism, who does that make a terrorist? We know that it has been an avowed position of many conservatives to do away with the government. Are they terrorists? David Stockman has described how trickle down economics was pushed by The Reagan administration, not because they thought it was good for the economy, but because they were hoping to bankrupt the government. Was Reagan a terrorist? While it is not an "avowed position," of "capitalism" itself, capitalism has probably done more recently to ruin the economy than anyone without money, something, one might note, regardless of what one might think of him, that Marx predicted would happen.What are people arguing here? It is not difficult, nor is it treason or terrorism to argue that "capitalism" has not served America or the world very well. This does not require an ideological stand nor a denouncement of capitalism. Even if one is a devotee of capitalism, one might want to be somewhat objective about its successes and failures to improve its performance.And what is capitalism anyway? Some people seem to equate it with any kind of business activity. Some people seem to think it is the same thing as democracy. And what is democracy? Voting? There was much discussion about what constituted democracy at the founding of America, as well as ancient Greece and other places. I don't think it is as simple as many seem to make it.At least Marx took the time to clearly define what he saw as capitalism.