Why Andrew Breitbart can't grasp Occupy Wall Street

The conservative provocateur tries to take down a movement he doesn't understand by quoting a few harmless emails

Published October 18, 2011 4:44PM (EDT)

 Andrew Breitbart  (Reuters/Brendan McDermid)
Andrew Breitbart (Reuters/Brendan McDermid)

Andrew Breitbart has tracked down secret internal Occupy Wall Street emails that prove the entire movement is a leftist conspiracy to destabilize capitalism. There are anarchists involved! And ACORN!

Breitbart obtained a couple thousand listserv emails from some Occupy Wall Street participants and organizers arguing strategy and planning events, and he has "crowdsourced" his analysis of these emails because he doesn't really understand any of it.

Despite his inability to grasp who these people are and what they want, he has determined "the true purpose" of the movement, based on a couple of random things some anarchist organizers wrote to one another:

The true purpose of the Occupy movement appears to be further economic and governmental destabilization, at a time when the world is already facing major financial and political challenges. By embracing the Occupy movement, President Barack Obama, the Democrat Party, and their union allies may be supporting an effort to harm both the domestic and global economies; to create social unrest throughout the democratic world; and to embrace other radical causes, including the anti-Israel movement. Ironically, the emails suggest that the President and the Democrat Party may soon find their friends in the Occupy movement to be a political burden. The email below calls for the Occupy movement to begin “executing higher-risk actions, civil disobedience and arrests,” and suggests: “We must draw a line, disavow the Democrats explicitly, make our messaging a little uncomfortable.”

The emails themselves show the participants chafing at the prospect of the Democratic Party co-opting the movement, which makes it a bit harder to paint the whole thing as a White House plot of some kind. You can practically hear the gears in Breitbart's head grinding against one another as he struggles to make sense of that idea.

You'd think Tea Party champion Breitbart would welcome an independent popular movement that seeks to distance itself from the Democratic Party that he hates so much, but he can't process the idea that these scary leftists aren't in league with Obama. Poor Andrew Breitbart doesn't understand Occupy Wall Street because he has a simple-minded, binary understanding of the world: There are good, Tea Party things, and there are bad things supported by the White House/ACORN/SEIU alliance. This is his obsession with "the institutional left," which he is forced to imagine as a monolithic entity encompassing everyone in a position of power in Hollywood, the media, academia and the government. The idea of members of "the left" have wildly different priorities and goals does not compute.

It may be news to some that the leaderless Occupy movement didn't spring up fully formed, but evolved with the help and aid of "anarchists" and radical anti-capitalists. It may be news to those people because they haven't actually been paying attention: Of course there are veterans of the anti-globalization movement involved, Adbusters came up with the idea. Part of what's causing all this paranoia is that the right wing's old "hippies and anarchists are behind it all" line isn't deterring people from identifying with and joining the movement.

Lest you continue worrying about the "true purpose" of this movement, I'd like to point out that the occupation's direct democracy approach to decision-making means you get a better idea of what the movement's "purpose" is by actually listening to them than by reading their semi-private emails. There isn't a secret agenda. The agenda is right there, on the signs and at the General Assembly meetings, screened live online.

In their ongoing effort to report what is happening in the public square as a secretive conspiracy, Big Journalism now reports that liberal journalists and media figures sympathetic to the goals of the movement also emailed one another. (The MSM arm of "the institutional left" heard from, then.) If you wanted smoking gun proof that Dylan Ratigan supported Occupy Wall Street, you could've turned on his cable television show.

David Graeber, a writer affiliated with Adbusters, says the email list is "just an expressive forum." Matt Taibbi describes it as "a bunch of emails from friends of mine, talking about what advice we would give protesters, if any of them asked, which in my case anyway they definitely did not."

The emails were leaked by some clown calling himself "a cyber-security expert," who has been on something of a crusade against the online activist collective Anonymous. His aim seemed to be to prove that Anonymous is "secretly" behind the entire movement (their participation has not been a secret, as anyone who's seen the Guy Fawkes masks could tell you) and to somehow claim that they intend violence. (They're certainly waiting a while before making their move on that front, what with it being a month into the occupation.) What no one's been able to prove is that any group -- anarchists or Anonymous or the White House -- is "controlling" the movement, because there's no top-down control going on.

(The leaker also passed on emails to the NYPD and FBI. Anyone who's been involved with any sort of left-wing/anarchist/antiwar protest movement over the last century or so understands that the FBI and the cops will plant people with the movement. Modern demonstrators must obviously also be on the lookout for freelance agents of the right-wing media.)

By Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene

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Anarchism Andrew Breitbart Democratic Party Occupy Wall Street