This week marked the two-month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. With the Zuccotti Park encampment in lower Manhattan cleared and hundreds being arrested in demonstrations in the financial district, it appears protesters have adopted an unflattering victim mentality.
There's a whole lot of talk and tweeting going on about 'police brutality', 'Nazi' NYPD officers, 'Cossacks in riot gear' sent in to 'cleanse' Zuccotti Park, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg behaving like a repressive Arab leader. It all shows that today's radical left-wing activists are happy, not only to display great historical ignorance, but also to revel in an image of themselves as put-upon underdogs.
Why else would the new poster-girls for the amorphous OWS movement be an 84-year-old lady, a pregnant teen and a disabled woman -- three people who all got caught up in the tumult in the past few days? These are all figures many will recognize as fragile and innocent and so they are pushed to the forefront to demonstrate how vulnerable the protesters are.
For all of Bloomberg's liberty-quelling impulses -- he has, as we know, launched wars on everything from sugar and salt to transfats and smoking -- he is hardly a brutal dictator. And for all the protesters' desire to portray themselves as brave dissidents, camping in a park for two months without more or less any interference from the state is hardly the same as standing up to a murderous regime. Some protesters' willingness to draw invalid (to say the least) parallels between themselves and Jews in 1940s Europe is an astonishing diminishment of a great historical tragedy.
In the past two months, awareness of, and sympathy for, Occupy Wall Street has increased whenever dramatic images of mass arrests and protesters being pepper-sprayed have gone viral. To their credit, Americans appear more prone to sympathize with their fellow citizens who exercise the right to protest than with the police who clamp down on them. This also means that protesters are happier latching onto an image of themselves as oppressed victims than as strong political figures who can win people over to their cause through the strength of their political arguments. Because, as the Occupiers themselves proudly admit, they have no clear agenda, demands or goals.
So much easier, then, to play the bullied victim in order to be pitied rather than concentrating on building a coherent, intellectually sound movement with ambitious political goals.
Follow Nathalie Rothschild on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@n_rothschild