Say what you will about the tea-party movement, but I don’t recall tea-party types storming the doors at progressive events and knocking down old ladies. I think it’s safe to say that very few Americans approve of this sort of behaviour. Americans disagree sharply about a whole array of issues, but we expect to work out our disagreements in a civilised fashion, with a minimum of social disturbance. To assemble peaceably is a basic American right and a venerable tradition. To get together and aggressively antagonise other people peaceably assembled because you’ve decided they’re the enemy is not.
As long as the Occupy movement remains without acknowledged leaders who can credibly distance it from the worst behaviour of its least reasonable affiliates, the movement will increasingly come to be defined by its most egregious episodes. And if the sort of bad behaviour we’ve seen in Oakland and Washington doesn’t soon come to an end, OWS could easily end up more albatross than asset to the left.
UPDATE: This CBS News segment (via Justin Elliot at Salon) on divisions within Occupy Oakland over the truculent tactics of “black bloc” protestors nicely illustrates the Occupy movement’s general public relations problem. The nice fellow at the end there is so expansively tolerant and non-judgmental he’s unwilling to condemn the agitators who are destroying the chances that his social movement will have any lasting effect. You see the problem? Also, who watches CBS News? Older people. Older people who don’t cotton to this sort of shenanigans and vote in droves.
It is nice to see that more and more people are speaking out against the violent tactics that are part and parcel of the Occupy movement. Too bad that it took so long.