Far be it from me to accuse Gandhi of missing a note, but in the case of the 'Occupy Wall Street' protests, the Mahatma's famous quote appears to be lacking a few essential words. "First they ignore you," he said, "then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win."
That's not quite correct.
Certainly, the OWS protests began with a great whistling silence from the "mainstream" news media. It is only because of the resources available to the average person in this marvellous technological age we live in that word of the protest ever reached beyond its original location.
Thanks to cell phones, video cameras, digital recorders, and of course, the internet – all wielded by patriot citizens – reports, images and video of the protest began to dribble out via Twitter, Facebook and a variety of blogs and alternative news media sites like Truthout. But from the "mainstream" news, there was nothing, and nothing, and nothing.
Eventually, however, the OWS protest broke through the "mainstream" news blackout, thanks in no small part to commentators like Lawrence O'Donnell, Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann. Once the "mainstream" news outlets finally deigned to lower themselves to report on the rabble down on Wall Street, their tone and tenor fairly oozed contempt. The New York Times, bastion of the status quo, published an article describing each and every participant of the OWS protest as a moonbeam-riding fuzzbrain, someone reeking of patchouli who couldn't string a coherent thought together if their life depended on it...which was followed up immediately by a barrage of reports defending cops who hosed down defenceless women penned in behind nylon barriers with pepper spray, because those cops were doing exactly, precisely the right thing. Or something.
This, as usual, from the same "mainstream" news media that didn't have any problem with the gun-toting "patriots" of the Tea Party and their catastrophically-spelled signs. Well, then again, the Tea Party has corporate sponsorship, while the OWS protesters are doing this on their own. It pays – literally – to have friends in high places.
Similar disdain was heaped upon the OWS protest from every corner of the "mainstream" news realm, most especially from Fox News and the long reach of conservative talk radio. These protesters are bums, hippies, losers, anarchists, idiots, communists and fools — a drumbeat which has continued to this very day.
First they ignore you: check.
Then they ridicule you: check.
According to Gandhi, the next step comes when they fight you — but here is the spot where his marvellous wisdom could use a bit of enhancement.
First they ignore you, then they ridicule you...
Then they get scared.
And they are scared, now. You can smell it. The criticism being levelled at the OWS movement has gotten far harsher in the last several days. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney recently deployed the old chestnut about "class warfare" to describe the protest. Rep. Eric Cantor doubled down on Romney's rhetoric with some of his own:
"If you read the newspapers today, I for one am increasingly concerned about the growing mobs occupying Wall Street and the other cities across the country. Believe it or not, some in this town have actually condoned the pitting of Americans against Americans."
That's pretty rich right there, don't you think? Fellows like Cantor have made turning American against American their bread and butter for the last ten years..."You're with us or against us"...but I digress.
Fact: OWS has bloomed in more than a dozen major cities all across the country. It stopped being a protest a while ago. It's a movement now.
And they're scared.
Know how I know? I know because a friend in San Francisco took the time to transcribe a document he was given by the major bank he works for. The document, titled "Protest Safety Handbook," explains what a bank employee should do when confronted with the horror and terror of an OWS protest.
I am leaving the name of the bank out of this to protect my friend. Some tidbits:
The movement in New York has begun to publish a four page news paper titled "The Occupied Wall Street Journal." The current edition of the published document loosely outlines the group's manifesto and intentions. The group has indicated that they have been inspired by the results from similar groups involved in the "Arab Spring" in the Middle East. The group's publication cites an intention to first to protest and then to march, escalating to civil disobedience when necessary.
These types of groups are reaching out to the disengaged and disenfranchised population of the United States for members, often encouraging the unemployed and homeless to join the movement. Often these marches and protests are unplanned and result from instant notification on "Social Networks" that produce "Flash Protest Mobs" in a matter of minutes. While this group has not yet resorted to violence the possibility exists that they can.
- Avoid poorly lit areas and isolated locations that may make you vulnerable to an attack.
- Keep the cars doors locked while driving in the area of a mob or protest march.
- Project an image of confidence and strength. Walk with a purpose and avoid hesitation, keep your head up, shoulders back and make eye contact with people you pass.
- Avoid confrontation and unnecessary contact with protesters.
- Avoid walking or driving alone. There is safety in numbers.
- Carry purses close to the body.
- Wallets and cash are best kept in a front pocket.
- Avoid wearing Bank ID or logo items outside the bank if possible.
- Keep your cell phone charged and close at hand.
- Have emergency contact information pre-programmed into your phone.
- Have your keys out and ready before you need them.
- If you feel that you're in danger or if you observe suspicious or illegal activities, call the police or dial 911.
- If confronted or attacked, try to remain calm and cooperate by following the attacker's instructions.
- Do not attempt to reason or argue with the protesters.
- Cooperate and do not risk your personal safety.
- Be a good witness and try to remember as many details of what occurred as you can.
Makes it sound like you're walking through a war zone, right? Not a peaceful protest, but some actively dangerous Thunderdome where instant and horrible death might reach out at any time to cut you down.
The financial powers-that-be are desperate to paint this peaceful, meaningful movement as some kind of civilization-annihilating upheaval, populated by rogues, pickpockets, mobs and murderers. They need the OWS protest to be seen this way by the general public, so they can discredit it and destroy it. Fear-mongering is an old, old tactic, and they are deploying it once again.
Note well: the bank that distributed this hyper-paranoid ball of gibberish is an entire continent away from the nexus of the OWS movement in New York City.
I guess San Francisco's OWS chapter has been making some noise. Same with Boston, and DC, and a dozen other cities.
First they ignore you.
Then they ridicule you.
Then they get scared.
Then they fight you.
Then you win.
I don't think the Mahatma would mind this small edition to his statement. It fits.
And it's true. They are scared.
You can smell it.
(This story was originally published in Truthout on 9 October 2011 and has been republished under a Creative Commons licence.)