The Occupy protesters might bring to mind images of 1960s hippies at first glance, but they have the potential to create a dramatic, important movement. Gene Lyons writes in his new column, “Occupy Wall Street’s Not Woodstock”:
In politics, it’s tempting to turn matters of temperament into matters of principle. Having disliked the hippie-dippy mellow aggression of the 1960s, my first instinct was to dismiss the Occupy Wall Street movement as feckless left-wing tribalism — as unlikely to survive the winter’s first strong cold front as the black flies pestering my cows.
Conservative by nature, I dislike big cities, and tend to avoid crowds. Even in my 20s, I’d no more have joined the drug-addled migration to Woodstock than volunteered for sex-change surgery. We spent that week in Dublin, visiting Jonathan Swift’s tomb — the 18th-century Irish satirist who took a dim view of human nature.
Everything else being equal, all it might have taken to put me off Occupy Wall Street was a widely circulated photo of an overweight Jerry Garcia look-alike wearing nothing but a loincloth, dancing barefoot and tootling on a flute.
That said, things are very far from being equal — or even halfway fair.
Which partly accounts for the near-hysteria on the Fox News/Limbaugh right. To them, the guy with the flute is no harmless eccentric, but a terrible threat. An excitable columnist in my local newspaper, Mike Masterson, described Occupy Wall Street protesters as an “unwashed, whining, smelly mob occupying and infesting Wall Street.”