|With a big and sustained boost from the Media, the Occupy Wall Street Movement has gone global. Beyond Los Angeles’ sustained presence outside of City Hall, the anger and angst is being heard in over a hundred cities, with protesters as far away as Italy and Japan adding their disaffected voices.|
Unfortunately, the hateful fringe of the Movement is now also coast-to-coast, though you might not know it from the mainstream media. Today’s hate propaganda from the New York protests has gone viral. This includes placards identifying “Wall Street Jews” as “Hitler’s Bankers,” and angry shouts of “Kill/Screw Google Jews.” According to anecdotal evidence, the conspiracy banter that the 9/11 attacks were a U.S. government and/or Israeli plot is also popular among some protestors.
From Wall Street to LA’s City Hall now comes a copycat wave of street posters including one with the headline “End the Fed Spigot” under which are pictures of missiles and Stars of David bombarding innocent victims. Another pseudo-learned poster tells us: “Humanity has been colonized by a Satanic cult called the ILLUMINATI . . . Masonic and Jewish bankers who . . . control the purse strings [and] are conspiring against us. They have orchestrated TWO WORLD WARS and are planning a THIRD.” We are told that it’s “Humanity VS. The Rothschilds”. Protester Patricia McAllister, who says she works for LA Unified Schools exercised her First Amendment Right thus: “I think that the Zionist Jews, who are running these big banks and our Federal Reserve, . . . need to be run out of this country.”
For almost 200 years, blaming the world’s economic woes on the Rothschilds or Wall Street or Jewish bankers has been “the socialism of fools”—and mother’s milk of every demagogue from Hitler to Henry Ford to the Internet bloggers who still insist that Goldman Sachs’s secret Zionist high-command cunningly engineered the 2008 global financial collapse. Of course, toxic hate is not the motivator of most protestors, many of whom are suffering from orsincerely concerned about real economic hardship. Yet history shows the danger of lunatic fringe ideas spreading from the periphery to the center of a tumultuous movement. And it’s not just anti-Semitism. Americans on all sides of the economic/political divide should be concerned about a New York Magazine poll showing that 34 percent of protestors already consider the U.S. government as bad as Al Qaeda.
The Tea Party, when it emerged in 2009, also attracted its own extremist fringe, as a hyper-vigilant national media was correct to quickly expose. Some of the Tea Party fringe equated Obama with Hitler and claimed that the first African American president was a Manchurian candidate with a phony birth certificate. Yet the Tea Party Movement eventually produced grassroots leaders who denounced such nonsense and repeatedly disavowed racism and racists. Though not everyone was convinced by the Tea Party’s disavowals of prejudice, millions of decent Americans who weren’t bigots voted in the 2010 elections to support the complaints and goals of the movement.
The Occupy Wall Streeters and LA’s City Hall crowd have won accolades for marrying new social network technology to bohemian garb. Its pungent invocation of 1960s hippiedom—”God Forbid We Have Sex ‘N Smoke Pot. They Want Us to Grab Guns ‘N Go to War!”—also strikes a nostalgic chord among some grey-haired pinstripers. But street theater is no substitute for the serious work of building a mass movement that can really change society for the good. America’s “Occupy Crowd” crowd likes to compare itself to Tahrir Square and the Arab Spring Movement that toppled a geriatric dictator. Alas, that Movement has largely collapsed—as Egypt slides toward political chaos or Islamic dictatorship—in part because young Egyptian protesters never learned how to move beyond demonstrating and tweeting to become a constructive social force.
If the Occupy Wall Streeters really want their movement to achieve mainstream credibility and clout, they should begin by policing their own ranks. Organizing the public sanitation in their own encampments is a start, but social and political civility must also prevail. The Occupy Movement’s leaders in LA as well as New York need to disown the purveyors of hate within their ranks. They must pull the plug on the bigots amongst them who view the slogan of fighting the detested “1 percent of fat cats” as their opportunity to mainstream the hatred of Jews.
*Rabbi Abraham Cooper is associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center
*Dr. Harold Brackman is a historian and consultant to the Simon Wiesenthal Center
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