Occupy Wall Street, Anti-intellectualism, and Censorship

Social action is one of the most potent catalysts of change in the world. When the people become so loud that they shout with one voice, their leaders have no choice but to listen.

What happens when those directing that voice have lost their way?

When Occupy first began, I was behind them. They started a conversation that was, and is, sorely needed in America…and around the world. Even then, though, I had some misgivings.

While speaking to Occupy activists locally, they were expressing a dangerous precedent. You see, instead of wanting the rich to pay their share, for the tax code to be fair and balanced, regardless of class, they wanted more. They wanted the rich to pay more than their share….because they were rich.

Now, how is that different from where we stand, with the rich wanting the poor to pay more? The idea of pushing for that made them no better, in my eyes, then who they were fighting against. After all, you can’t win a social battle by offering to treat those you fight against in the same way that they treat you. That’s the easiest way to lose. It isn’t ethical….nor is it wise.

I, of course, tried to be a voice of reason. This was met with vitriol, but at least it led to a greater conversation, and more to the side with spectators who had the same though as I.

Down the road, after the initial momentum had begun to fade, I was again taken aback. Once of the Occupy groups online began posting commentary speaking out against higher education. They insisted that no one needed higher education. They exclaimed that universities were indoctrination camps.

In many ways, they used verbatim the arguments of the Tea Party.

This, to me, was disturbing to say the least. Luckily, when again I attempted to be a voice of reason, there were plenty who were also wondering how Occupy could express such a sentiment.

Now, we come to today. This morning, the main Occupy Wall Street Facebook page posted a meme about agricultural biotech. It was misleading. It was the typical misinformation and fear mongering we’ve come to expect from the pseudoscientific anti-GMO movement. That, however, is only a small part of what bothers me.

You see, a lot of people commented questioning the meme. A lot of people tried to correct the information, or at least have the conversation. The Occupy page chose to remove those comments and ban anyone who questioned them, without a word.

So, what does all this say about the Occupy movement?

What does it say when a movement such as Occupy not only pushes anti-intellectualism is a world sorely lacking in rational thought already, but latches onto movements purely because it’s a popular stance, and not due to evidence or reason? What does it say when a movement such as Occupy only wants the cheerleaders, and seeks to silence any dissent?

Doesn’t that make them the exact thing they’re fighting against?

Let’s look first at their principles of solidarity, posted on their main web page.

  • Engaging in direct and transparent participatory democracy;
  • Exercising personal and collective responsibility;
  • Recognizing individuals’ inherent privilege and the influence it has on all interactions;
  • Empowering one another against all forms of oppression;
  • Redefining how labor is valued;
  • The sanctity of individual privacy;
  • The belief that education is human right; and
  •  Making technologies, knowledge, and culture open to all to freely access, create, modify, and distribute. (amendment passed by consensus 2/9/2012)

I can get behind every one of those. Why can’t they?

Let’s look at what they have. Most are just fine, but a few seem to be betrayed by their words and actions.

Empowering one another against all forms of oppression. Wouldn’t wanting to shift the imbalance onto another group of people also be a form of oppression?

The belief that education is human right. Then why speak out against education? Why state that being educated is inherently bad?

Making technologies, knowledge, and culture open to all to freely access, create, modify, and distribute. That’s fantastic. Why speak out against technologies that are scientifically sound, purely because it’s popular to be against them?

They also have proudly displayed on their site the following statement.

http://occupywallst.org/article/everyone-has-right-occupy-space-safely/

They believe that everyone has the right of protest. Why, then, do they censor any dissenting voices on their pages? Why, then, is being questioned, being kept honest, so terrifying that they can’t even bear to have it visible before them?

I believe I may have some of those answers.

Early on, it’s easy to forgive some being overzealous, and calling to oppress the oppressors on general principle. It’s not sound policy, but I get the sentiment.

Later, however, it becomes more problematic. When you begin speaking again education, joining the popular protests as opposed to the righteous ones, and silencing dissenters, you are no longer a social movement. You are no longer what can be called civil action. You are no longer working for the people.

That’s the moment that you have become the problem you were fighting against to begin with. They claim that their primary belief is everyone has a voice. Apparently that doesn’t mean people who disagree with them.

I suppose it’s right, what Harvey Dent said in the movie…”You either die the hero or live long enough to become the villain.”

Contributor: Robert Sacerich

Robert is a Philosophy of Science and Bioethics student, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes.

See his full bio!

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