Hedges, of course, was talking about so-called "Black Bloc" anarchist elements infiltrating various Occupy groups and fomenting violence. Occupy Oakland is the poster child for the radicalization of the movement, with its shutdowns of ports and storming of vacant buildings and "clashes" with paramilitary police.
That the corporate pundits are quick to smugly declare OWS dead and buried with each crackdown and each eviction is to be expected; they have, for the most part, denigrated it from Day One of its Zuccotti Park birth. From time to time, the mainstream press has legitimized the protests and it actually became chic to take quick rides on the resistence bandwagon, straight to cable. If you had a minor tussle with the fuzz and got the plastic cuff treatment for an hour or two, so much the better. It seemed like the nightly cable shows were filled with celebrities chattering about their forays into one camp or another. Then came the presidential horserace reality show, and Occupy was pushed off the national radar. Coverage revolved around the latest in a round of serial evictions. The public, decreed the pundits and their polls, was growing tired. The novelty of a protest movement was wearing off.
And now, coupled with corporate media ennui, comes Hedges' declaration that there is a Cancer on Occupy. What's up with that? I love Chris Hedges, I really do. But let's face it: the man is a professional diehard pessimist. Read his book -- he predicts that sooner or later we'll all be living in widely scattered communes, scratching out a miserable existence in a dystopian hell that even George Orwell didn't imagine. During interviews at the burgeoning of Occupy, he expressed pleasant surprise that the propagandized masses had actually mobilized. It seemed like he was All In.
Then the revelation of the Black Bloc element, which Hedges predicts is a possible death decree to the inherently pacifist Occupy. Only peaceful nonresistance is allowed in a populist uprising. Be good little Gandhis, or begone, I reckon. The violent, "hypermasculine" outside agitators, he writes, will give the security state the perfect excuse to smash the entire movement into smithereens:
The absolute worst thing we as citizens can do is moan, groan, bitch that anarchists are spoiling things and therefore we might as well give up while we are ahead. What we should be doing is mounting a PR counteroffensive. The "official" newspaper of OWS -- The Occupied Wall Street Journal -- is doing just that, and publicizing the debate. Here's how Crooks & Liars Managing Editor Tina Dupuy tells it in one guest contribution:The corporate state understands and welcomes the language of force. It can use the Black Bloc’s confrontational tactics and destruction of property to justify draconian forms of control and frighten the wider population away from supporting the Occupy movement. Once the Occupy movement is painted as a flag-burning, rock-throwing, angry mob we are finished. If we become isolated we can be crushed. The arrests last weekend in Oakland of more than 400 protesters, some of whom had thrown rocks, carried homemade shields and rolled barricades, are an indication of the scale of escalating repression and a failure to remain a unified, nonviolent opposition. Police pumped tear gas, flash-bang grenades and “less lethal” rounds into the crowds. Once protesters were in jail they were denied crucial medications, kept in overcrowded cells and pushed around. A march in New York called in solidarity with the Oakland protesters saw a few demonstrators imitate the Black Bloc tactics in Oakland, including throwing bottles at police and dumping garbage on the street. They chanted “Fuck the police” and “Racist, sexist, anti-gay / NYPD go away.”
.... the destruction of property is exactly what Occupy is protesting against; it’s what the banks took from us. Occupy has pointed out the criminality of the banks and the seeming collusion with government to take wealth and property away from working people and give it to the wealthy. So protest property crimes, by committing crimes against property? It’s nonsensical.On the other hand, protest movements throughout history have had their ugly, violent sides. People protest when they get angry, and some angry people have anger management issues. And Occupy Oakland is unique. It exists in a city with a horrible reputation for police brutality and repression, even murder; its police force is on the verge of being taken over by the Feds because of its pattern of civil rights violations. Blogger Josh Cook of Deep Green Awakening thinks we can acknowledge the anarchic mindset without condoning it:
Destroying property destroys moral authority.
Compare the “property damage” (and the whole issue of property and what sort of damage constitutes violence is another discussion altogether) with the long-term harm done to the People of Oakland, especially minority groups, activists, and Occupiers. It should dawn on rational, empathic people that such intense moments of conflict are practically unavoidable in the face of so brutal a system, and rather than waste time judging people, we ought to cry out louder for an end to the rule of the 1% and their system, the true root cause of social unrest and violence.And in an article in Counterpunch (don't you love all these aggressive-progressive blog titles?) Peter Gelderloos accuses Hedges of using the C word as a scare tactic to frighten OWS into submission... or nonexistence. Nobody, he says, ever promised you a revolutionary rose garden:
Furthermore, at this point, it is silly to talk about Constitutional rights. We in the US live in a Police State. We have no such rights — most recently and dramatically demonstrated by the passing of the NDAA. For moral force, I suggest speaking of human rights, as this has the added benefit of keeping us connected to the international dimension of this movement. Solidarity with all people struggling for democracy and justice is of utmost importance.
The medical language of Hedges’ title, referring to the anarchists as a “cancer,” should immediately ring alarm bells. Portraying one’s opponents as a disease has long been a tactic of the state and the media to justify the repression. This language was used against the Native Americans, against the Jews, against communists, and many others. Recently the police and the right wing used this same language of hygiene to talk about the occupations around the country as health threats so as to justify their eviction and generate disgust and repulsion.....There have been setbacks in every movement for change. Outside agitation is nothing new and it serves the agenda of the oligarchy in squelching protest only too well. Perhaps the most famous (or infamous) incident of violent elements nearly destroying the entire labor movement was the Haymarket Massacre in 1886, when an unknown assailant threw a bomb into a crowd of protesters, killing a Chicago policeman, with an ensuing gunfight killing more cops and citizens. It was not until several years later that the "anarchist" labor movement demonstrators got what they wanted in the first place: an eight-hour day. It's something we take for granted today, not something we can envision people actually dying for.
But beneath the black masks, anarchists have been an integral part of the debates, the organizing, the cooking and cleaning in dozens of cities. Anarchists also participated in preparing the original call-out for Occupy Wall Street, and they played a key role in organizing and carrying out the historic Oakland general strike and the subsequent West Coast port blockades–probably the strongest actions taken by the Occupy movement to date.