“Evacuate?! In our moment of triumph? I think you overestimate their chances.”
- Grand Moff Tarkin, seconds before the destruction of the Death Star
It’s official: the Tarkinesque arrogance of financial elites towards the Occupy movement has gone out with a flashbang. A small band of rebels has done the unthinkable and destroyed the status quo’s Death Star of Widespread Apathy. Thanks to the hundreds of occupations that have sprung up organically across the country, once-abstract issues like income inequality and finance reform (not to mention, I don’t know, “Justice”) have leapt to the forefront of the national conversation. There’s a tangible sense that the population is finally waking up to the institutional rot that surrounds them.
But as the rubble of our shattered apathy drifts away into space, we’ve gotten word that the Empire is preparing to strike back.
A memo has leaked from CLGC, a powerful D.C. lobbying firm which represents a who’s-who of corporate interests, from Koch Industries to AT&T and Verizon. It’s a pitch of sorts to the American Bankers Association (also their clients), proposing an organized strategic “response” to the Occupy movement. And for those who have shivered in sleeping bags and suffered blasts of pepper spray for the past two months, it’s a hell of a motivator.
They begin by warning that if OWS makes targeting large financial institutions a popular electoral strategy, it “has the potential to have very long-lasting political, policy, and financial impacts on the companies in the center of the bullseye.” The heaping praise continues:
““It may be easy to dismiss OWS as a ragtag group of protestors but they have demonstrated that they should be treated more like an organized competitor who is very nimble and capable of working the media, coordinating third party support and engaging office holders to do their bidding. To counter that, we have to do the same.”
Why, don’t make me blush, lobbyists! We may still grouse when the mainstream media paints us as a bunch of clueless, heroin-slamming miscreants who don’t know how “things actually work”, but behind mahogany doors in executive boardrooms, the power brokers of our dysfunctional system are getting nervous about us.
The CLGC makes abundantly clear the political dangers for large financial institutions:
“Well-known Wall Street companies stand at the nexus of where OWS protestors and the Tea Party overlap on angered populism...this combination has the potential to be explosive later in the year when media reports cover the next round of bonuses and contrast it with stories of millions of Americans making do with less this holiday season.”
The firm doesn’t find it “surprising that the Democratic party or even President Obama’s re-election team would campaign against Wall Street in this cycle.” But the far greater danger, in their eyes, is that “Republicans will no longer defend Wall Street companies - and might start running against them too.”
So how do they recommend dealing with an uppity legislator who might think of taking up a populist, anti-Wall Street banner? CLGC eerily advises its banker clientele that it’s important “to demonstrate that these companies still have political strength and that making them a political target will carry a severe political cost.” You hear that, would-be reformers in Congress? If you want any money for your re-election bid, you better tread lightly. It’s hardly a surprising bit of advice, but the fact that they even see a bipartisan attack on Wall Street as a possibility is a testament to how far we’ve come as a movement.
“Individual companies under threat by OWS,” CLGC explains, “likely will not be the best spokespeople for their own cause.” So what will protect the banks from these pitchfork bearers? An $850,000 research and media campaign to fish for information that will tarnish OWS’s credibility, of course:
“If we can show they have the same cynical motivation as a political opponent it will undermine their credibility in a profound way. A key strategic goal will ultimately be to show any evidence of fraud on the other side.”
A major tentpole of their strategy involves gathering public records of our “leaders’ histories including civil and criminal information, litigation history, tax liens, bankruptcies, judgments, and other associations.”
An ominous strategy, except for that fact that the Occupy movement has no leaders to tarnish. One of our greatest strengths thus far has been fluidity and open-source in our structuring; we’ve effectively limited the impact of such a smear campaign by not bestowing official leadership roles onto any one person. As they themselves conceded, that’s us being nimble.
Indeed, the memo is littered with misconceptions about how the Occupy movement operates (Fox News bogeyman George Soros gets the obligatory mention as a potential shadow-funder) and our completely unproven willingness to be co-opted by the Democratic Party. Even the most clever backroom players can’t seem to fathom that this movement is bigger than the 2012 election and the two-party system. All they know is that we stand a chance of really harming the political clout of their clients - and for once, we wholeheartedly agree.
Here's a link to the full memo: http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/i/msnbc/sections/news/CLGF-msnbc.pdf
- David Romanski