In a recent article, “Smashing Culture,” I briefly described a scene in Philadelphia from 30+ years ago. Sitting in McGlinchey’s, I was drinking Rolling Rock.
This trivia triggered a most curious yet telling response from a commenter, “Rolling Rock? – really? Were you listening to the Eagles too? Nice street cred attempt, but it’s either ‘While knocking back a few beers’ or ‘While drinking a Guinness’ – Rolling Rock just makes you sound like, well, another pretentious art fag.”
It never occurred to him I was simply telling the truth. To establish “street cred,” I should have come up with something way cooler. It’s all about one’s image, you see.
With social media, everyone is a microscopic celebrity, the undisputed global star on his own cellphone, so online preening has become a universal obsession. Compulsively, they make duck faces while quack quacking bon, not really, mots.
Enjoying such a fabulous virtual life, they miss out on a real one, however, so “street cred” must be established, to mask the fact that they’re never on the streets, even when they’re on the streets.
Occupy Wall Street erupted in New York on September 17th, 2011. Four days later, I took a Chinatown bus from Philly to see what’s going on, and for the duration of this movement, I kept a pretty close eye on it. Besides the Occupy camps in Manhattan and Philly, I also visited those in Harrisburg, Trenton, Atlantic City, Washington, Raleigh, Savannah and Orlando.
Living in tents like urban savages, these protesters suddenly had a tactile and smelly existence inside a community, so despite the cold, rain and absence of indoor plumbing, they were soothed. Night after night, there were no brick walls between their bodies.
Their movement fizzled out, however, because it degenerated into an endless display of narcissistic posturing, with everyone making self-important speeches about his or her pet cause, to an audience of fifty, tops, which is not how a revolution is ever made.
Had Samuel Adams showed up, he would have had to squeeze his truncated speech in between, say, an animal right manifesto and a black reparation sermon.
Still, it was fun to fancy yourself a Mao, Che or Comandante Zero, even if your thundering cosplay was immediately canceled by the next, completely unrelated yet equally forgettable, performance.
Sitting on a striped blanket, a glum, balding guy went on a hunger strike to protest “UNEMPLOYMENT, POVERTY AND CORPORATE GREED.” Ignored by all, he disappeared after a few days, apparently to stuff his face greedily.
Conceived as not just an indictment but siege of Wall Street, Occupy became a sad, stinking and incoherent skit that increasingly annoyed nearly everyone who had to work, do business or transit around their messy camps.
Though government infiltrators undoubtedly helped to fragment Occupy, most protesters gleefully went along with their own gelding, because, to them, it was never about rallying the 99% towards common goals, as they vaguely claimed, but airing minority grievances. Most importantly, they could look cool doing it.
With visual evidence uploaded onto FaceBook, Tumblr and Instagram, etc., soy boys from strip malled subdivisions could accrue street cred.
Since “Occupy Everything, Demand Nothing” became Occupy’s rallying cry, it achieved literally nothing, predictably. A month after all tents were cleared from Zuccotti Park, Time Magazine anointed “The Protester” as Person Of The Year, so for being symbolically homeless for two months, the sans cazzo got a participation lollipop from the bossman.
Since then, unscathed and smirking Wall Street has only amped up its state-of-the-art shell games, punctuated by bailouts. What’s left of the country’s wealth keeps flowing to the top.
Although Occupy Wall Street exposed widespread discontent, it was deftly tamed by the state, without addressing any of the issues raised. Worsened economic malaise is papered over with fake news and statistics. Unable to afford even an efficiency, the young and not so young resignedly or bitterly move back home. I’m sure you know a few.
Beneath each basement, there’s another, even darker and danker, Americans kept discovering, so they just had to suck it up and simmer on, when not overdosing on opioids. It’s the new normal.
Occupy Wall Street protesters were mostly under-35-year-old whites, with at least some college education. Now, the same demographic is back on the streets, but instead of chanting for economic justice and representing, at least in theory, the 99%, they’re fighting Fascism and racism. With their inclusive definitions of such sins, however, they’re warring against most of the country.
It’s never been easier to be tagged as a Fascist. If you don’t think or feel correctly on all woke issues, you’re a Fascist, and of course, you’re a Fascist to the degree that you’re against antifa.
When it comes to sex, binarism is evil, for there’s no male or female, just endlessly calibrated genital transmogrification, if only in your gender fluid, intersexual mind, but with politics, binary thinking is uber kosher. If you’re not up-to-date woke, you’re a Fascist.
On August 14th, 2018, CNN reeducated us, “There is no national antifa group. It is mostly made up of people who are far left of center, who make it their mission to battle Fascists, racists and alt right extremists.” It’s a grassroot, homegrown resistance to hate, that’s all. “Behind the masks are people from all walks of life, artist, mom, ordinary American, as well as anarchist.” Four most gentle faces were shown.
On June 16th, 2020, CNN reemphasized that antifa was a belief system that unified all anti-Fascists, whatever their color, age or background, so how could you be against it, unless you’re a Fascist?! A burly, genial black man explained, “It basically means that you are against Fascism. If you are against Fascism, then you are antifa.”
In a BLACK LIVES MATTER muscle-T, a white wuss added, “Antifa is not a group. It’s not like everybody sits in, like, some basement, talking about how to overthrow the Fascist regime. I walked around picking up trash yesterday, behind the protesters. That’s what antifa looks like.”
Burly black guy, “White people have to be involved in fighting racism, in fighting white supremacy […] But if you are a white ally, remember that you still have to follow the lead of people of color.”
The New York Times and Washington Post have also written sympathetically about antifa. When the corporate media give you a positive spin, it must mean you’re serving the establishment. Mussolini had his Blackshirts, Hitler his Brownshirts and Mao his Red Guards. America’s rulers have antifa.
Far from threatening the 1%, antifa sows dissension among the 99%. Ignoring Wall Street, antifa trashes one Main Street after another.
Zealously branding its enemies as racist or Fascist, antifa generates more racism and Fascism.
Slammed by the economic crisis of 2008, Americans started to look more closely at Wall Street, Goldman Sachs and the Federal Reserve, etc., and they were enlightened by people like Ron Paul and Matt Taibbi.
In Rolling Stone, Taibbi wrote, “The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it’s everywhere. The world’s most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”
Banksters were scrutinized with increasing intensity. It was in this climate that Occupy Wall Street was born.
Not quite nine years later, almost no one is talking about banksters, incredibly, although the country has been plunged into a much worse economic hell, with millions suddenly laid off, and millions of mom and pops permanently ruined. Thanks to another monster bailout, only Wall Street is doing well.
Broke and enraged, mobs swarm American streets, but instead of targeting those who are imploding their society, they pull down statues, break windows, deface walls, loot stores and attack cops or each other.
When your tyrants can’t even be identified, much less found, no coup, uprising or revolution is possible, and it’s pointless to assassinate an American president, since he is but a puppet, so who should be shot?
The month I was born, two presidents were killed. Though Ngo Dinh Diem has often been caricatured as an American puppet, he obviously broke his strings, or he wouldn’t have been shot. Kennedy, too, went off script. His death was a warning. It works.
American elections are cathartic farces. Drawn out and elaborately staged, they’re designed to give false hopes and stoke emotions. With the national mood already so volatile and foul, however, this year’s balloting promises to be a horror show. Unable to aim at their oppressors, Americans will be reduced to shooting each other.