Time was when large-scale street protests in the United States would be accompanied, just about invariably, by a predictable chorus of criticisms. At its least articulate this line involved instructions to the protesters to get a job, as if getting a job was a political strategy. And at their most admonishing critics would plead with protesters about working within, rather than outside of, “the democratic process.” Such pleas often used that phrase, like an incantation—“the democratic process.”
So it’s been refreshing, and not a little surprising, to see the media do better in its recent engagement with the Occupy movement—so much so that Anne Applebaum’s recent column in Slate, which falls back on all the old tropes, feels like a boring retread:
They are similar in their lack of focus, in their inchoate nature, and above all in their refusal to engage with existing democratic institutions. In New York, marchers chanted, “This is what democracy looks like,” but, actually, this isn’t what democracy looks like. This is what freedom of speech looks like. Democracy looks a lot more boring.