The protesters who tried to steal Christmas

The Grinches at Occupy reveal what they really think of the masses they claim to represent: not a lot.

Patrick Hayes

Topics Politics

The Occupy protesters, not known for their modesty, are fond of making comparisons between themselves and Jesus Christ. Some dress up as him at protests with banners saying ‘I threw the moneylenders out for a reason’. Others have created images claiming ‘Jesus was the original Occupy protester’. Even the church has decided to give them a further ego boost, with the Archbishop of Canterbury declaring the son of God ‘would be with St Paul’s protesters this Christmas’.

No-one will be making comparisons between the Occupy protesters and Father Christmas, however, who in their eyes seems to be competing for the role of Public Enemy No.1 only with former Royal Bank of Scotland chief executive Fred ‘The Shred’ Goodwin. On the photos section of the recently launched ‘Occupy Christmas’ Facebook group, there are ironic pictures of Father Christmas urging people to ‘Consume – we need you to get your debt up’; with a sledge plastered with corporate logos such as Nike, Shell and Marlboro; and in a classic ‘Uncle Sam’ pose declaring ‘I want YOU to spend a lot to prove you love your family’, while ho-ho-ho-ing hysterically. As Shirley Ceravolo of the Occupy Toronto protest put it, ‘Santa is just a symbol of corporate propaganda’.

At a time when Occupy protesters are closing up camps the world over – either due to force by the authorities or because it’s too cold to protest outside – the widely acknowledged founders of the Occupy movement, Vancouver-based magazine AdBusters has claimed protesters’ next move should be to ‘Occupy Christmas’. The rationale for this, is as follows: ‘You’ve been sleeping on the streets for two months pleading peacefully for a new spirit in economics. And just as your camps are raided, your eyes pepper-sprayed and your head’s knocked in, another group of people are preparing to camp-out. Only these people aren’t here to support Occupy Wall Street, they’re here to secure their spot in line for a Black Friday bargain at Super Target and Macy’s.’

What bastards the 99 per cent are! Occupy protesters have experienced an ordeal akin to Christ being nailed to the cross, and all the greedy, selfish, Judas-like masses want to do is shop! The new Occupy protests began on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) in the US last month, where goods are heavily discounted in shops in an attempt to kick-start spending and get shops’ P&L sheets ‘into the black’ in the run-up to Christmas. Occupy protesters left their tents and headed to the malls to tell consumers – or ‘cum-sumer whores’ as some protesters put it in their leaflets – to stop buying Christmas presents at discounted prices for their loved ones.

The idea behind this, as AdBusters – renowned also for founding Buy Nothing Day – noted is that ‘Occupy gave the world a new way of thinking about the fat cats and financial pirates on Wall Street. Now let’s give them a new way of thinking about the holidays, about our own consumption habits… This year’s Black Friday will be the first campaign of the holiday season where we set the tone for a new type of holiday culminating with #OCCUPYXMAS.’

While part of the campaign is to ‘hit the [capitalist] empire where it really hurts… the wallet’, a strong aspect of Occupy Christmas is about re-educating – or, at least, ‘de-programming’ – the ’99 per cent’ so that they recognise how they have been brainwashed into wanting more stuff. This is something that has troubled the Occupy movement – as they increasing realise that many of those they claim to represent either haven’t lent their support, or have ignored them completely, with one young Occupy London supporter writing a piece in Occupy’s official rag the Occupied Times asking why what he calls ‘subordinate groups’ – ie, much of the 99 per cent – don’t rebel.

The language used to describe these ‘subordinates’ by Occupy protesters is telling. They are victims of ‘rabid consumerism’, suggesting they are foaming at the mouth, diseased carriers of rabies, leading them to buy X-Boxes and iPads (or, as AdBusters chooses to highlight, ‘psycho-killer video games’) for their loved ones. If they are not diseased, then free choice certainly doesn’t come into it. We are forced into being consumers because, as Occupy Wall Street tweeted, ‘large corps and materialism has America by our throats’. Others describe the shopping masses as ‘hypnotised’, ‘frenzied’, suffering from a ‘mob mentality’ and ‘dependent on conspicuous consumption’. Are you not tired, one supporter wearily asks, ‘of running around buying stuff just for the sake of buying stuff because “they” told you you had to?’

Occupiers in Idaho went one step further, dressing up as zombies on Black Friday in an attempt to show those buying discounted gifts for their loved ones what they had become. Protesters in Chicago sang Christmas carols that ‘take on socio-political undertones, as protesters sing about the evils of consumer society’. Other initiatives planned include a ‘Santa sit-in’, where protesters will hang around store entrances encouraging people to ‘cut up their credit cards’; a ’whirly mart’ where protesters fill shopping trolleys with goods that they leave at the checkout and – unsurprisingly – a ‘Jesus walk’, which will consist of Occupy protesters putting on masks ‘in the Holy Son’s likeness and walk through malls, to create an eerie sentiment’.

The alternative? According to Occupy founders AdBusters, it’s about: ‘Being ecologically aware, socially aware, culturally aware, environmentally aware.’ They say, ‘the Occupy movement talks about a systemic change and a huge cultural paradigm shift, and for the holidays, it’s the same kind of thing we need to be thinking about.’

This paradigm shift is one of embracing austerity. As the AdBusters editor told the New York Times, it’s about trying to ‘create an economy and culture in which it eventually becomes cool to consume less’. It’s morally irresponsible to do otherwise, says one protester, as ‘to keep living our lifestyle’ means we are propagating ‘the system that could lead to some sort of climate-change catastrophe’.

Are the people with them? In a word, no. As the national broadcaster of Canada, CBC, has found, Occupy Christmas has little support even in the country that gave birth to the Occupy movement. Asking its readers, ‘Do you plan to ‘Occupy Christmas’ by boycotting shopping this holiday season?’ only seven per cent of over 2,500 who responded said ‘yes’, one per cent were unsure and 92 per cent said a definite ‘no’. Only just over 3,000 people have ‘liked’ the official Facebook page in the past month and the #OccupyXmas hashtag has been little used.

The attempt to Occupy Christmas shows just how estranged from the public the Occupy protesters are – and how easily they have shifted from focusing their ire from the ‘one per cent’ – the wealthy elite – to the masses. Far from representing their demands and emotions, Occupy protesters instead have an elitist contempt for those they see as diseased, addicted, zombie-like ‘subordinates’ whose decadence in wanting to buy presents for their loved ones means they are complicit in perpetuated the society that is, in the words of AdBusters, ‘fuelling our eco, social and political decline’.

Having now revealed their utterly degraded view of people as brainwashed, immoral consumers, can Occupy finally admit that they don’t represent the ’99 per cent’?

Patrick Hayes is a reporter for spiked. Visit his personal website here. Follow him on Twitter @p_hayes.

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Topics Politics


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