It’s should not come as a surprise that many of the participants in what has been labeled the “Occupy Wall Street” protest in New York City are out of work. While it’s true that unemployment rates are discouragingly and worryingly high, it’s also true that one can’t protest and apply for jobs simultaneously. Simply put: unless the wall street throngs are using their mass media technology to advertise themselves on LinkedIn and other job hunting websites while also promoting their still-undefined and unexplained protest, their luck isn’t going to change anytime soon. Perhaps it’s the innate cynic in me that has my eyebrows raised so skeptically, but it seems that a protest that lacks definition, goals, demands and cohesion -in other words, the very elements that have traditionally formed the foundation of all protests- is not really a protest at all: it’s a mob.
Now, throngs of people coming together to share a joint message could be and has been in many cases, a good thing. A mob of disorganized and leaderless people whose only real similarity seems to be that they are all upset at SOMETHING, however, resembles anarchy more than it does progress, and as such cannot earn my respect. The use of mass media as a way to advertise their “Cause” (or shared emotions, as it is) is similar to what we have seen overseas in Egypt and Syria. It’s not a new phenomenon at this point and it’s effectiveness is not to be questioned. What ought to be questioned, however, is at what point this mob (which has now spread to several cities outside of NYC) has the potential to move from annoying and troublesome to physically and politically dangerous.
In the 1960s anti-war protests were often accompanied by chaos: looting, theft, even death. Stores were ransacked, public areas became unsafe for families and their children, and crime rates soared. What is to stop these new, equally angry protesters from becoming out of control? Even the most well-meaning of individuals can be consumed by the overall emotion and activity of a large mass of people, and if one confrontation was to occur, who is to say that the consequences might not be deadly? In Manhattan the security numbers around wall street have already increased, and the pedestrian traffic caused by the protesters forced officials to close the Brooklyn Bridge for a period of time last week. While neither of these equate to destruction of property, they do signal that this mass of people has the ability to distract, slow down and potentially even shut down parts of major cities in the U.S.
In the event that these unpleasant scenarios do occur, the protesters will hurt both our economy and themselves in the process. Even now, while they camp out in streets and spend their days rallying “support” (of what?, I ask once again) they could be using their time more wisely and more productively. While is their right to put their lives on hold and spend their days sharing their anger with the world -this is America, after all- it is also the right of other sensible people who may be looking for work to swoop in and get the jobs that are surely passing these protesters by. Perhaps the few job openings that are sure to pop up as longer-term protesters continue to skip work in favor of emoting outdoors will be the silver lining to what otherwise appears to be a disorganized and unsettling situation.