I’ve never seen The Andromeda Strain, but I gather the plot revolves around a deadly and highly contagious virus from another planet that’s been let loose on earth. Contemplating the hysteria that has greeted the Occupy Wall Street protests, I begin to wonder if a less deadly but no less contagious virus hasn’t been let loose among the left-liberal commentariat. The virus — call it the OWS virus — doesn’t kill, it merely mentally maims its victims. The chief symptom is a certain childish senility fueled by unassailable sensations of grandiosity. I minuted some yesterday in “The 99-Percent Solution.” The pièce de la résistance of that opus was doubtless the comment emitted by Michael Kimmelman, architecture critic for The New York Times, that there’s a deep filiation between the spoiled children making a nuisance of themselves in Zuccotti Park and the events in Tahrir Square, Cairo, last winter. And Tahrir Square was only the first droplet in Mr. Kimmelman’s incontinent drivel. “Kent State, Tiananmen Square, the Berlin Wall,” he gushes:
We clearly use locales, edifices, architecture to house our memories and political energy. Politics troubles our consciences. But places haunt our imaginations.
So we check in on Facebook and Twitter, but make pilgrimages to Antietam, Auschwitz and to the Acropolis, to gaze at rubble from the days of Pericles and Aristotle.
I thought of Aristotle . . .
Embarrassing, isn’t it? But it seems almost tame in comparison to a Talk of the Town item in this week’s New Yorker called “Wall Street Postcard Preoccupied.” It’s by one Lizzie Widdicombe. I rarely see The New Yorker these days, so I do not know if Dizzy Lizzie is a regular staffer or a recruit from a new experiment in surrealism undertaken by the magazine. Or maybe it’s that mentally incapacitating virus I mentioned. I don’t know. But there has to be some extraordinary explanation for statements like this:
Visiting the site of Occupy Wall Stret last week . . . was a bit like visiting a civilization at its peak. Paris in the twenties [!], Rome in the second century [!!], or, at the very least, Timbuktu in the fifteen hundreds [what the hell is she talking about?]. . . . The ongoing search for the movement’s purpose still turned up diverse, though not unrelated, sources of outrage: income inequality, corporate influence in government, student debt [student debt? Whose fault is that?]. People handed out anti-fracking flyers…
From one perspective, this spectacle of febrile mental paralysis is simply sad: The New York Times, The New Yorker: they’ve always listed left, but not always looney left. What a falling off there’s been!
As I noted yesterday, one of the curious features of the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon is the breadth of its sponsorship. It’s not every congregation of anarchists and anti-corporate layabouts that earns endorsements from the secretary of the Treasury, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, and the President of the United States. But so it is in this case, notwithstanding the mixture of incoherence and mendacity that characterize the phenomenon. How to explain it? I’m not sure, but I suspect anyone uninfected by the OWS virus will find it inspiring not sadness but irritation and contempt.
Here’s one possible explanation offered by a friend of mine: the Democrats are solidly behind this embarrassing feat of adolescent exhibitionism because they hope it will pressure Republicans into accepting Obama’s “jobs bill” (I mean his latest round of stimulus spending) which in turn will help bring down the unemployment rate at least temporarily and thus contribute to his reelection.
I grasp the logic but I am skeptical of the premise. I do not, in short, believe the Republicans will accede to a new round of federal largess. Nor, come to that, do I think it would have much effect on the unemployment rate were the bill passed. So I don’t believe the endorsements will have the desired effect. The 53 percent who actually work and pay income taxes represent a large slice of the putative 99-percent the children downtown are skirling about. Not many of those taxpayers, I reckon, are amused by the congeries of anti-American, anti-capitalistic nonsense that is emanating from Zuccotti Park. And it is worth noting that the anxious carnival spirit that has been coursing through the park has a tenuous hold on the proceedings. Already, widespread theft has instilled a certain grumbling wariness into the populace. It’s hard fighting against the evils of private property when some unfranchised redistributionist collars your laptop or makes off with your wallet. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the nastiness quotient in the protests grew. And what would happen then? What happens if there are violent confrontations? As I said yesterday, the Democrats own these protests. It’s something fragile we’re talking about. It might easily break. And then the Democrats will discover the price tag that comes along with the merchandise. I suspect they’ll find it a good deal more expensive than they bargained for.