The Anti-Economist — From the March 2013 issue

The Fall and Rise of Occupy Wall Street

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A year and a half after the takeover of Zuccotti Park there exists a widespread conviction that Occupy Wall Street ultimately failed, and that it did so for lack of commitment, organization, and clear objectives. “The problem with the movement,” wrote New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin last fall, on the anniversary of the occupation, “was that its mission was always intentionally vague.” For this reason, Sorkin argued, OWS “will be an asterisk in the history books, if it gets a mention at all.” This response was typical of probanking commentators, but many progressives arrived at the same conclusion. “What do we have to show for [Occupy] today in our ‘normal lives’?” asked my Harper’s colleague Thomas Frank in The Baffler. (His answer: “Not much.”) Occupy began with great promise, wrote Frank, but it had become “mired in a gluey swamp of academic talk and pointless antihierarchical posturing.”

Veterans of the left had already been frustrated by the occupiers’ lack of leadership and determined unwillingness “to say clearly and succinctly why they’re there,” as Doug Henwood, publisher of the newsletter Left Business Observer, put it. So it was inevitable that these shortcomings should be blamed when the movement failed to re-establish a geographic base or regain media prominence after its eviction from Zuccotti Park by the New York City police. But it has become increasingly clear that OWS didn’t fizzle because its objectives were too muddled or its talk too abstract or its organization too chaotic. In fact, the movement was undone by a concerted government effort to undo it.

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