There’s nothing to see here
Scared yet? They want you to be scared. Scared—and offended. Disgusted, too. So cue the name-calling.
They yell “Mob!”—that’s their favorite thing to yell. They also yell “Socialists!” and “Communists!” and “Anarchists!” and “Anti-Semites” and even—gasp!—”Community Organizers!”
Reality check: Somebody yelling “ACORN!” doesn’t mean you’re nuts.
They want you to revile “those people.” To ignore “those people.” To dismiss “those people.” “Those people” they’re yelling those things about: the Occupy Wall Street protesters, in New York and everywhere else.
“Those people” who, more than occasionally, look a lot like you, and like people you know. Although you’d never know it if you listened only to the right-wing smoke machine.
The right-wing smoke machine is in quite the panic lately; losing control of the conversation can do that. They liked it much better when all the talk was about deficits and budget cuts. This “inequality” stuff—that’s not their thing. (Or at least talking about it isn’t their thing; living it is something else again.)
If it’s OK with you, they’d really like to change the subject. And even if it’s not OK with you. Desperate times call for desperate measures, right? And the last thing they want to see—or want you to see—is a bunch of ordinary people taking to the streets in bigger and bigger numbers, in more and more places, expressing their concerns about how the system works these days.
How the system “works” these days is: really well for a few people—the well-positioned and the well-connected—and not at all for millions and millions more. Which you know in your gut (not to mention your wallet) is absolutely true. Truer now than it’s been anytime in recent memory.
Meanwhile, you worry that it’s only going to get worse. That the folks who write the rules—and the folks who keep the rule writers fat and happy, richly financed and tightly controlled—have stopped caring about people like you.
Have stopped even pretending to care about people like you.
Instead, they keep trying to tilt the playing field even further in their own favor. They want the lion’s share of the reward, and none of the risk. None of the accountability when things go wrong, or when they break the rules to grab an even bigger share.
“It’s not fair!” you’re thinking. Nope. And those protesters don’t like it any more than you do.
So they’ve taken to the streets to bear a kind of witness to that unfairness. To call out the rule breakers, and the accountability shirkers. To demand a fair shake—for themselves, for you.
No question about it: Some fraction of the protesters, in one location or another, at one time or another, have broken the rules themselves. Have crossed the line into violence, into rock- and bottle-throwing and the like—but only a fraction. The right-wing smoke machine wants you to think they’re all like that. It needs you to think they’re all like that.
Or if they’re not all bomb-throwing maniacs with hair-trigger tempers, then they’re all tie-dyed, blissed-out stoners. Or both. Simultaneously. Logic, anyone?
So cue another round of name-calling. The protesters are “Dirty!” They’re “Lazy!” They’re “Longhaired!” They’re “Unemployed!” (Right. And your point?) They’re “Un-American!”
And they’re “Divisive!” By pointing out the unfairness and the inequality, the protesters are engaging in “Class Warfare!” They’re “Pitting Us Against One Another!”
Only if you think that the people who sound the fire alarm are just as guilty as the people who set the fire in the first place.
Warning about the danger isn’t causing the danger—and you know the difference.
But watch the smoke machine try to make you forget.
Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.