Today’s edition of Combat! blog is late and extremely half-assed—we’re talking quarter-assed, really—because I have personal problems. As a crazy person who works for himself, I spend a lot of time balancing the demands of my unreasonable boss with the shortcomings of his incompetent employees. Some days it shakes out and I do the work. Other days I make a spectacle of myself, which is basically what we’re doing here. So buckle up: I’m an unreliable person whose shitty writing reflects his fundamental inner shititude, and I have tricked you into expecting better from me. It’s Friday, nothing matters more than my own disappointed narcissism except for possibly my narcissistic disappointment, and everything sucks. Want proof? I feel compelled to tell you anyway.
Two articles about Occupy Wall Street penetrated the blissed-out miasma that was my past week in Los Angeles: this New York Times report on the #occupywallstreet meme’s* origin in Adbusters magazine and this link roundup on the “shocking truth about the crackdown on Occupy.” They take different tones. The first is a straight profile piece about the world’s smuggest person, Kalle Lasn. The second is a semi-hysterical screed about perceived efforts to suppress the OWS movement, ranging from single-source-speaking-on-background stories that may as well be flash fiction to documented offers to coordinate anti-protest propaganda. It’s a lot to take in. The basic assumptions of each article—that OWS is a fun trend whose popularity reflects our dissatisfied zeitgeist, or that it is a repressed movement that has prompted collusion between the Department of Homeland Security and Wall Street—are impossible to believe at the same time. It’s almost as if what OWS is and what people want us to think it is are two totally different things. Or it’s like none of that is happening and we just think all the news about OWS is the product of a monolithic politico-media culture bent on deceiving us. Here we encounter the defining problem of the modern age.
As Occupy Wall Street approaches its seventh week, the demonstration in Zuccotti Park seems most significant as a testament to how well kids these days can run a protest. They’ve constructed an irrigation system, for Pete’s sake. Regardless of politics, anyone who has managed hippies must acknowledge OWS in Zuccotti Park as a breathtaking achievement in preventing people from freaking out. Less so in Oakland, where police turned tear gas on OWS protestors outside Frank Ogawa Plaza and cracked an Iraq war veteran’s skull. Scott Olsen is in critical condition with a wound on his forehead that looks like the rim of a tear gas canister, and people are pissed. It turns out that a demonstration of the will of the people is a different thing when dozens of guys with plastic shields show up to make it stop. And as USA Today somewhat gleefully notes, municipal authorities across the country are getting sick of this disobedience crap. So now comes the question of what OWS is going to do.