Jimmy Zuma

Jimmy Zuma
Washington, District of Columbia,
August 01
After ten years haunting online political forums and much longer as a disability rights advocate, Jimmy Zuma started the online political journal, Smart v. Stupid. Since then, he has emerged as one of the left’s most direct new voices. Almost immediately, Jimmy was offered the opportunity to join the political team at Technorati where he writes DC Water Cooler, a weekly feature on what the politicians and pundits are talking about. Most recently, his columns began appearing in the Tucson Sentinel in Tucson Arizona. He is also an occasional contributor to OpEd News. Jimmy's goal is to return vetting to the marketplace of ideas, by elevating the status of smart ideas and debunking dumb ones.

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OCTOBER 7, 2011 8:32AM

Do Occupy Wall Street’s critics have a point?

Rate: 23 Flag

  Occupy Wall Street arrived in Washington DC this week. A DC-based Occupy closes the circle around the big money interests who buy government and the elected officials who sell it. In Washington, Occupy Dbailout350C is really two different groups. One is a small, ongoing protest at McPherson Square, the other, a much larger day-event at Freedom Plaza. Both groups agree on core principles. It’s not democracy if you can buy it, right? 

Occupy is now in some 70 towns, according to Mother Jones. Finally the media are watching too, having been shamed by a grassroots Twitter campaign for not covering the story.

This is a turning point. Until now, coverage had mostly consisted of a mention, condescension, or outright ridicule (like Erin Burnett offered up on the first night of her new show.) There has also been a ton of  pejorative punditry along the lines of “If they want to be taken seriously, they need to…” But the protesters simply keep going and now McPherson groupmainstream liberal advocacy groups, like labor unions, are also paying attention.

But can the Occupy movement break out of its young-progressive demographic and begin to enlist a larger slice of Americans? A visit to the DC events at both McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza led me to conclude “not yet.”

After seeing Occupy firsthand, it reminds me of the early days of the anti-Vietnam war movement. I was sixteen when I started going to anti-war protests in the 1970s, so I was hardly an organizer. But I did learn a thing or two. Here’s my (affectionate) advice:

  1. Focus your message. During the 70’s we also had lots of different groups coming together under a single message—End the War! You’ve got dozens of groups meeting and marching together, but each is promoting its own niche, from ending foreign wars, to health care, to child abuse, to well, you get the idea.
    Find a single, simple phrase that unites you all, then repeat it often enough for a person who isn’t really paying attention to know it and to understand it. Unite under one banner, not just on one piece of ground. We started out just like you and we spent years stumbling before getting to the next level. It’d be nice if you could get there more quickly.
  2. Build a movement that has room for a majority of Americans. As a young, progressive activist you probably believe that most Americans aren’t so worthy of marching with you. And you’re probably right. But only a majority movement has any chance of undoing fifty years of entrenched government-for-sale. Your mission is actually much bigger than ours was.
  3. Find some kids. The event at Freedom Plaza was a fine place to have taken children. But it would not look like it to lots of middle class moms and dads. I didn’t see any kids. In fact the only stroller I saw was being pushed by some guy who rigged it to stream video.
    Until people again get used to the idea of seeing nonconformists gathered in groups, it’ll be important for you to put forward the family-friendly face of your movement. Bring your kids next time, guy in makeup or at least your little sister.
  4. Add an exclamation pointOccupy! Then go stencil it on every boarded up building in the country. One thing Wall Street can tell you is that repetition is the key to message retention. That’s how they created the big lie about being “job creators.” Make Occupy! into a screen saver, a laptop sticker, and a t-shirt.
  5. To lead from ahead, turn around and look behind. What’s that next, larger circle you want to bring into your movement? How will you get them to join? It’s way too easy for passionate advocates to become shrill and scornful. But nothing kills momentum more quickly. To succeed, make sure everyone finds your welcome embrace. Late is better than never.
  6. Lose the international baby-killer vibe. That problem takes care of itself when defense contractors no longer control the government. It’s a symptom of disease, not the disease itself. No matter what you believe about our foreign policy, expecting the next ring of people to face up to ugly truths is entirely unrealistic.
    Oh, and leave the mutilation photos at home. They get you nothing. Take care of the dirty money and the rest takes care of itself.
  7. Heroes will be forged in your group. Right now you’re striving to be leaderless, but even without intending it, leaders will still emerge. Let it happen. Leaders are mostly a good thing. Never underestimate the power of a single person’s vision.

Right now, you may be doing the greatest civic duty of your lifetime. So enjoy yourself. Social change is supposed to be hard, but it is also supposed to be fun. If it’s not both, you’re not doing it right. Keep up the good work, fight the good fight, and always keep your eye on the next horizon. Save our country, will ya'?

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This is one of the best things I've read so far on the movement. One day it will just be called The Movement.

Check that, yes, they do have a point -- the point is to marginalize anyone who doesn't get in line behind the corporatocracy. Unlike their critics, these rebels do have a cause -- maintaining a civilized society in which "the land of opportunity" is more than just another two-bit slogan.

This gutting reminds me of the classic ... first they came for the, etc, etc, etc . When the Freemarketeers came for the unions and blue-collar workers, no one complained except blue-collar workers. But now that they've come for the middle-class, and in the process laid waste to the American Dream, everyone -- Left and Right -- is up in arms. Well, only the Right is up in arms -- so far.

Can it be that the Freemarketeers overplayed their hand? God, I hope so! And proof of that is that your post is accompanied with a googlebot ad for American Express. How fitting!
First I thought the movement would never materialize.

Then when it came, I thought that it might be a shooting star kind of thing...a fast burn out.

Now...I am beginning to think it will take hold in a way few movements have ever taken hold.

The revisions to our society needed to correct the inequality of wealth and income are monumental. The ain't gonna come without disruption on a HUGE scale.

I hope this is the beginning of something very much needed...and almost impossible to attain.

Good luck to all the young people involved.
More schizophrenia from OS's class clown.

First he writes a blog post defending the indefensible police attacks on PEACEFUL protestors, and now he wishes those same protestors luck.

Mealy mouthed frank showing his passive-aggressive dementia, AGAIN.

GREAT post, Jimmy - don't let the morons deter You from Your courageous posts.

they already have a slogan.... something like "let the 1% get their bloody fangs out of the 99%"
more in my blog, occupy wall street, my speech to the masses
This is superb. I spent the entire day at Occupy Wall Street. The first thing I did when I came home was change my blog title to Is the Revoluton Password-Protected? I was appalled that their wireless network is password protected, not accessible to occupiers, just to media. I was more upset that people didn't seem to have problems with that.

I had a fascinating conversation with a young Russian who pointed out that America is a third world country in times of public wireless access.

I was troubled by their cavalier attitude toward park permits, etc. I gently tried to pointed out that true civil disobedience consists of breaking unjust rules and accepting the consequences. It does not consist of fucking up Manhattan traffic.
Tom , you just love your own rhetoric don't you?
Only Right is up in arms. I would love to know exactly who owns each and every gun in this country. My guess is there is quite a number of liberals that do.

Here are 2 links for all of you. One comical but true and one serious from the liberal's favorite radio station. The serious one is long but worth listening to or reading. Of course you will blame Wall Street, conservatives and those that suit you need to be correct. But the fact is our gov. has screwed this all up for many , many years now on both sides.

So are they coming after the middle class now. Well that is one way to see it, but I think the "who" is not as simple as Wall Street.
People you voted for screwed up just as people I have voted for.
It is not nearly as simple as the Wall Streeters put it. It is not simplistic how we fot here, but it is simple to see it is screwed up.

Here are the links.


First Jimmy, good post! And second Vietnam was a phony shit war started by Bobby and Jack Kennedy to repair their own damaged egos from the Bay of Pigs debacle. We lost 58,000 soldiers for nothing and about 11,000 of them were from friendly fire as our training was second to everyone who ever fought in the jungle.

I do find it strange that no one is sitting on the capital steps in Washington where the real problem is. Wall Street didn't bail out Wall Street, Congress and Obama bailed out Wall Street and others as they chose the winners and the losers in America. The protesters are protesting hard working people that got up in the morning went to school, graduated and found a good job. The crook are in Washington living the elite life making themselves millionaires on insider trading which is legal for them.

If the protesters wanted to do some real good, go to Washington, demand term limits, demand that the money trail be investigated; that is the link between congressional programs and campaign contributions to the individual congressmen. You might be amazed that the wife of a person working in the Energy department made a couple million on the Solyndra as the outside counsel working for the government. Of course we know the deal itself was Pay for Play. There are thousands of such corruption in D.C. That is where the very intelligent protesters should be but don't take the unions, they love that corruption as they are part of it.
Excellent points, Jimmy, especially about making it more appealing to middle Americans. The larger the movement, the tougher it is to marginalize it.
Amen! This movement is still second page stuff. The all volunteer military happened because the draft became inconvenient for the military industrial complex. The protests succeeded when the majority of mothers with sons had to worry about the draft. The war was personal and visible.
The connection hasn't been made between Wall Street chicanery and empty real estate and unemployed workers in the same way, and I doubt can be made without a lot of effort and organization. I don't know if a critical mass can be achieved. Occupy! has to be happening in front of Big Bank offices across the country. R
Brilliant. I hope they are open to their leaders being of a certain age, provided said leaders are open to new ideas. Occupy! is perfect. Thank you.
Good advice Jimmy. Particularly numbers 1-3, but all good.

Can I add to the list?
#8 Demand for a Porta-Potty drop off.

I joined in Occupy with a group of friends and we were sh!t out of luck on the waist removal front. Literally. Afterward I saw a segment on John Stewart about the exact same subject... except they didn't mention us protesters need Demand a Porta-Potty. I'll be back Occupying on Sunday. I'll be wearing a skirt this time around and carrying an empty container that will probably have to be put to use... I drink a lot of water.
Charlie - exactly who are you going to demand the pottie from?
i wish had the slightest hope that something good would come from this. but i've been watching americans in action for a long time now, and if they don't know what they want, don't know how to get it if they did, and can't be bothered to put in the sustained effort needed to organize the 'don't cares,' what chance have they got?
Well said - thanks for helping me make sense out of this phenomenon, which pleases and perplexes me in its amoeba-ish organization.

My current windmill of choice is corporate personhood. It seems to me that getting rid of it would be the first step in eliminating dirty money.

What do you think, oh large-brained one?
The mainstream media fights to woo the public to regard OccupyWallSt from its own craven but oh-too-seductive perspective. It is now titillated by it after ignoring, mocking, minimizing it but the moral parameters of the protest will be always be minimized. i celebrate the protest because it is getting some noble people out of doors away from the teebee and they are role modeling that there is a proactive life out there, and also the message that if you are not outraged in America right now as they say you are not paying attention. If you are not an active part of the solution, you are contributing to the deadweight of the problem (especially as I see it Obama deniers!). I was hoping my boycott of tv media for 5 days beginning October 25th would catch on since I think the television has "manufactured consent" as if it spoke for the citizenry to the citizenry for decades and continues to brainwash said citizenry with its group-think presumptuous posturing and its media celebs people crony up with. I say re the movement as you do at times above, let it happen organically. But having the media NOT embrace it was probably the best thing that could happen to it. May it keep its integrity as best it can during its evolutions, despite the ego-people that will try to access and manipulate it at times for their own self-aggrandizement. a very human and dangerous trap. libby
I was 17 when I grew conscious of the Anti-War movement, which very quickly altered the course of my life. 1970 was a pivotal year for me in a psychological sense.

So, I too was reminded of this past era by the Occupiers! And now at 59 I am with them all in spirit. And the denigrators and mocking pundits may just have to wipe egg from their collective faces before too long.
I've never protested. In DC I talked to protesters outside White House. Let me tell you. Not pretty. Not making much sense. I'm glad you wrote this. I fear those who protest won't. Occupy!R.Forwarded on FB.
@ Mango Sherbet: Your having talked to "protesters outside the White House" doesn't qualify you to pronounce judgment on all protesters, any more than Coulter's calling every liberal "the liberal" addresses individuals with liberal ideals. Until you've spent some time with some of the peaceful and respectful individuals at OWS, your characterization of protesters, like your memory of the White House, will be a relic of the past.
I think it's here for the long haul and the purpose is the same. They do need to focus the message, which will be hard to do because the effects of one act of a government being bought lead to numerous grievances that need to be heard.
There was a fine analysis in Sunday's NYTIMES by a former SDS president, which is what I was. The antagonisms now coming to the surface are archetypal in their current form since roughly the Spanish Civil War.

Almost by definition, the "left" will not organize in the way the right does, which is why the right so often wins. It's not a "reasonable process," and I'm afraid no injunctions for it to be otherwise are going to have much effect, yet the impact on the cultural level and among the educated, informed and creative is undeniable.

The guys on Wall Street know they're getting away with a crime against the rest but their attitude for the most part is "catch me if you can" and it works very well for them all over the world. Money talks, the rest walk.
I remember when I was newly entranced by and passionately involved with the mass anti-war movement of the late '60s. I remember lots of people had lots of advice for me then. But I never asked for advice, and so I paid it no mind. I stumbled on my merry way, became disenchanted with the mass protests, college protests, letter-writing campaigns, etc. I found a form of protest that spoke to me and held the potential for creating real change. I wanted to change the world, but wound up changing myself, which made many more things possible.

My point? If I'd listened to anyone's unsolicited advice back then, none of my subsequent stumblings and discoveries would have been possible. I had to follow my own lights, the way a writer follows his or her muse.

I see lots of good advice being offered here by many well-intentioned and experienced people. But my question is, who asked for it? Who asked you? If you really want to affect these new-style (and they are very new-style) protests, my question is, where are you? Are you doing anything, or just . . . offering advice, which costs nothing.

As far as I can see (and I was present at Foley Square last week) no one is asking for advice and therefore no one is listening to it. Nor should they. Let them find their own way, make their own mistakes, discover themselves in their own way and in their own time.
A to-do list can be extremely helpful.

Let me throw this item in the mix: I know some middle-class citizens, some elderly, who are wondering if they are targeted as the corporate problem, since they have spent years saving and investing (with banks and corporations.) When (was it Perry or Romney?) said corporations are people, I think he was referring to stockholders and the employees who file papers, make phone calls, clean the floors of corporate buildings... I have not heard any comments about average, month-to-month bill payers associated with corporations in these ways.

I mean, should "Aunt Edna" feel bad that she joined an investment group with other ladies and owns a percentage of 1000 shares of Walgreens stock?

Perhaps as the movement is clarified, we'll know. R
You hit the nail on the head regarding the Occupy movement; my fear is it will lose steam if there isn't a unified focus that's big enough to include (and inflame) Americans of all ages and from all over the country; #2 on your list is critical to its success, I think.

It sounds like this is happening in Chicago and they've even drawn up an agenda. Here's a link:

It's like you were at a different protest. The one I was at was in Freedom Plaza in DC. Where were you? It was not a day event. It is still going on. Get your ass down there. Break out of its young progressive demographic? I saw people of all ages, from infants to octogenarians.
1) Focus the message-Chris Hedges put it well, the message is one word:REBELLION. My sign said I Want A Government That Is Not For Sale. It was a consistent theme-get money out of politics. I agree there were many causes and messages and they all stem from the same thing: corruption, greed, money.
2)The theme is We are all the 99%. That seems like a pretty good theme for building a majority.
3)If you couldn't find kids, you must have had your eyes closed. My 4 yr old was there for 3 days and he played with other kids. There were mothers nursing and strollers all over.
4)I like the Occupy stencil idea.
5)Consensus was a driving factor in the decision making process, giving everyone a voice.
6) I talked to a lot of people who were disappointed that the wars of imperialism were not a larger focus. The majority of Americans are against the wars. I agree the dirty money is the issue, but a lot of people still need to see the links and that is why all the issues are important because they lead to the same place: Dirty Money.
7) I am the leader of the movement. And so are you. And so is everyone who is a part of the 99%. That is beautiful. It is empowering. A single leader can be killed, disgraced, marginalized. But if one leader falls, the other 99% are there to carry the flame.
I agree that the movement will have to forge some sort of concrete message and begin to support a few strong leaders... but it seems to have been thriving on the lack thereof sofar. Will be interesting to see how it can grow while gaining more credibility. Fingers crossed!
So why aren't you people talking to the T-Party? Aging Hippie Chick has a key issue in the need to seriously examine the notion of corporate "person-hood". And most of us in the T-party want something done about the Fed and the way it runs as an unelected gravy train for insiders, let alone as the financier for Crony Capitalism.

Is it just that we were too early in detecting that Obama had nothing to do with an authentic Black American experience, or any actual experience at all? it's perhaps time we stopped sorting ourselves by "Left" and "Right" and found another standard of judgment to rally to. May I suggest Moral and Immoral as a distinction that resonates with "The Silent Majority", not so silent these days? Or perhaps "Just" and "Unjust", though that is something that will spark debate as to "definition". Maybe "Constitutional" vs "Unconstitutional"?

How about if we all just take the Golden Rule as a starting point? Not the one that says"Do unto Others as You would have them do unto you" That "justifies" all too much self righteous posturing. How about the phrasing that says, "Do not do unto others that which is hateful to you", or better yet, "hateful to them?". But then, that's why the Bill of Rights was written in terms of what the government cannot do, not in terms of what it must "provide" as a "right". It doesn't mean we must let moneychangers get away with changing our work (money) to vapor and profiting in the process.
Here is one of my contributions to the movement.... so far. Pass it along.


Worth watching... subscribe if you like it.