Fox News invited me a few days ago to discuss Occupy Wall Street. Greg Gutfeld over at the late-night show Red Eye showed some interest in my column here at Taki, especially the “Alien Pod Person in a Room Full of Leftists” one. A lot of New Yorkers comment on that one. In this city, disagreeing with anything the left says is an invitation to be screamed at by a hysterical person. I’m not exaggerating.
I said yes but decided to go down to Wall Street before the taping. Most of the print media seemed to be portraying the protestors as crusty teenagers who defecate on police cars and grope random women. YouTube videos focused on uninformed college kids who think a government-enabled big-business bonanza can be cured by more government. I hate that shit. Obama hires General Electric’s CEO to chair his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness and the next thing we know, GE has a record-breaking year—tax-free. He gives a dying solar company half a billion dollars and they go under. The solution? Let the government make MORE decisions. I don’t get it. So I went down there with a sign that said, “FUCK THE CEOs BUT…” and a T-shirt that said “COMMIES AREN’T COOL” with Che Guevara’s face crossed out.
I was a little nervous when I got there. I’d seen what happens to the likes of me at dinner parties, so who knows what adrenaline-pumped socialist teenagers would do to me at a rally? When I was 18, I wore a Lenin pin in my studded leather jacket and would have loved to stomp some wrinkly old codger in an anti-Che shirt. Still, I raised my sign and resolutely marched into battle. I saw some Latino types playing guitars and yelling about immigration. They had Che hats on, so my shirt and I danced with them. They laughed and carried on. Someone with a mop pushed past me yelling, “Mop coming through!” I thought he was kidding, but he explained they were going to get kicked out if they didn’t clean up. A kid in an anarcho punk shirt snorted at my shirt but clearly didn’t want to fight about it. We’re told it’s just little kids down there, but the ages seemed to range steadily from under ten to over sixty. The old people especially liked my joke, and almost all of them took photos.
I thought the movement had totally skipped over big government’s role in all this, but that’s not the impression I got from the people there. They weren’t there to get violent or shake their fists at the sky. They were there to discuss things. They’re not oblivious to Obama’s incompetence, and they don’t think a few rich people can solve all their problems. My impression is they are there to say, “We’re angry John Thain thinks he deserves $10 million for letting Bank of America take over Merrill Lynch.”
True, their solutions were all over the place. Every time they come up with a charter, there’s a huge debate on whether it “represents” them or not. As Eugene Robinson wrote in the Washington Post the same day I was there, “Occupy Wall Street and its kindred protests around the country are inept, incoherent and hopelessly quixotic. God, I love ’em.” One of the signs said, “Unified Chaos.” As I pointed out on Fox later on, these protests will mark a point in history where the people said they weren’t just mad at big government. My wife works at a museum down there and recently texted me, “I might be projecting, but I felt like the suits getting off at that stop were a little less cocky than usual.”
After circling the park a few times, I came across that anarcho punk kid who dressed exactly the same way I did twenty years ago. He had a table of literature in front of him and one of the books was The Communist Manifesto. “Oi!” a gray-haired woman yelled, “What’s THAT doing there?” The kid defended the book, saying it’s just more information. She retaliated that the book did a lot of people a lot of harm. When the punk said all that was long, long ago, some old guy who had lived under Stalin leaped in and said people like him are very much alive and still angry. Things got heated, but soon they all found common ground and agreed that all change starts with the individual. They shook hands at the end and walked off better for it. I know the lady who said “Oi!” and she was a big part of the anarcho-punk movement—she had even been a member of the band on the kid’s shirt. “Why didn’t you tell him?” I asked her. “Because it’s not relevant,” she said.
The green room was filled with chairs, a big TV, and two makeup artists getting guests ready. A brassy broad named Brooke Goldstein was getting her hair done, and Greg Gutfeld was drinking coffee riffing with the rest of them, including comedian Joe DeRosa. I’m told the agenda at Fox News is to destroy anything that stands in corporate America’s way, but in this room at least, the “agenda” consisted of zinging the other guy as quickly and cruelly as possible. Brooke won.
I got the feeling the protestors were going to get lambasted, so I walked into the studio determined to defend them. The show’s guests were all around the same age, and there’s a tendency among us old dudes to trivialize youth culture as a misdirected waste of time. As I anticipated, DeRosa said protests have never changed anything. I conceded that illegal immigrants protesting the fact that they’re illegal is just begging to be arrested and that fighting for pot legalization is silly because it is basically legal. Still, I tried to convey Ian MacKaye’s sentiment: “At least they’re fucking trying.” Instead of the Fox News machine shutting me down, the host said I was starting to convince him.
I can’t speak for all of Fox’s shows and Red Eye is considered their most out-there, but I didn’t feel pressure to sculpt my comments to fit their agenda. They wanted me to be informed and as funny as possible. As with the people I met at the rally, the priority was dialogue. There seemed to be some disappointment in a liberal guest’s performance, but not because he wasn’t conservative. It’s because he didn’t talk enough.
The protestors would be shocked to learn how similar they are to the people I met at Fox. They didn’t want to ram anything down my throat. They wanted to get it all out. I enjoyed hanging out with both groups. Similarly, I see the armchair critics on the right to be just as unlikable as the dinner-party liberals. They’d rather stay at home and shake their fists from afar than step into the fray. Get in the sandbox and make a mess. Contradict yourself and change your mind. That’s why it’s there.
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