Less than two months ago, the #occupy movement captured the hearts and minds of people around the world. Tent cities sprang up in cities everywhere, and idealistic videos like “Women of #Occupy Wall Street” (above) wistfully showed articulate young people to be quite the opposite of the entitled, apathetic losers the media often likes to paint them as. The positive public reaction was sincere, widespread and powerful.
But somewhere around the beginning of November, public opinion began to change. As Naomi Wolf’s excellent Guardian article points out here, there was a concerted effort to discredit the tent city occupiers, and turn the general public against them. Vancouver city officials and police admitted to being privy to continental-wide conference calls between #occupy cities, which were organized by the US Department of Homeland Security, about how to deal with the tent cities. Clearly, there was serious concern in high places, if Homeland Security was getting involved. The fact that our “progressive” civic officials took part in this, and, after some delay, caved in and went along with this propaganda effort against the most progressive movement in decades, speaks volumes about how progressive they really are. (Quisling comes to mind.)
So not coincidentally, during Remembrance Day week, police departments across North America began issuing form letter-like media press releases claiming that violent, Black Bloc anarchists had infiltrated the tent cities (supported by no evidence whatsoever). The media in every #occupy city in North America lapped it up without ever bothering to check to see if it was true. Fire and public health concerns were constantly raised. Drug use and overdose deaths were signs that anarchy was prevailing. Surrounding businesses were reportedly losing money. This peaceful, non-violent protest was suddenly being portrayed as a dangerous shit show, and calls for it to be shut down grew louder by the day.
It was, undoubtedly, one of the best-orchestrated propaganda campaigns of recent decades.
Regardless of who actually was in the protest camps, those tent cities were a symbol of the seething discontent prevalent today, and the possibility and hope that maybe, just maybe, the pendulum of avarice, greed and conspicuous consumption that has dominated the west since the 1980s had finally reached its extreme, and was about to swing back hard.
And as long as those tents remained, the debate about what they represented went on. The media, slow on the uptake at first, began pumping out stories and column inches debating the movement. People from all strata of society were engaged. Everyone had an opinion and seemed to care, one way or the other.
And for the corporate agenda, that is probably the scariest world imaginable: people questioning their ethics, the ponzi scheme they have created, the corruption that has infiltrated the pillars of democratic society.
People talking about change.
And so the symbol of the movement — the tent cities — had to go.
It’s been barely two weeks since the #occupy Vancouver tent city was dismantled, and, not surprisingly, media stories about income disparity, Wall Street ethics, campaign finance reform, progressive taxation, have all but completely vanished. #Occupy might as well have happened in 1968 it seems so distant now, since it has been virtually expunged from the public discourse.
It was swift, often brutal, and entirely effective. Erasing the key symbol was like dropping a nuclear bomb to end the war for public opinion. Time will tell if it really was a death blow to the movement.