The Right turns nasty over Occupy Wall Street

Perhaps the surest sign that the national Occupy movement has gained at least some traction is a shift in the strategy of the Right, which has moved from dismissing the protesters to demonizing them.

A couple of recent polls showed widespread support of the still amorphous movement’s message.   Charles Blow of The New York Times notes that a Time/Abt SRBI poll conducted Oct. 9 and 10 found that  more than half of Americans (54 percent) had a “favorable opinion” of Occupy Wall Street. That figure was twice that of those with a favorable view of the Tea Party. The survey further found that of “those familiar with the protests,”  79 percent believe “the gap between the rich and poor in the US is too large” and 68 percent believe “the rich should pay more in taxes.”

An Oct. 14-17 poll by The Associated Press-GFK, which asked, “do you consider yourself a supporter of the Wall Street protests,” found that a more modest 37 percent said “yes” compared to 28 percent who supported the Tea Party.

These numbers appear to be unsettling to Republican conservatives, who are accusing the movement of everything from being “crackheads” to anti-semites, an attack that — if it held merit — would be of considerable concern to liberal supporters.

In her “Right Turn” column in the Washington Post, conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin wrote: “In the millions of pixels devoted to the radical Occupy Wall Streeters, virtually nothing has been said about its anti-Semitic elements.”  She references and links to what she calls an “eye-popping ad” produced by the Emergency Committee for Israel.

Liberal commentator Keith Olbermann took on that charge in his usual no-holds-barred style.  “Right-wing pontificators now doing their best to spread the smears,” he said on air (see link above). He further noted that the Emergency Committee for Israel is funded by leading conservatives and includes conservative Weekly Standard founder William Kristol on its board.

The New York Times addressed this growing conservative Republican groundswell reportorially late last week by simply visiting Occupy Wall Street in Zuccotti Park.  That piece, by reporter Joseph Berger, began like this:

Among the hodgepodge of signs that have sprouted in Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan, one man in jeans and a baseball cap has been carrying placards that shout their suggestions: “Google: Jewish Billionaires” and “Google: Zionists control Wall St.”

At the same time, among the sea of tarps under which protesters have been sleeping, a sukkah, a makeshift hut, was erected to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

The Occupy Wall Street protests, now in their second month, have increasingly been criticized by a variety of groups, most of them politically conservative, for flashes of anti-Semitism. Among those calling attention to the issue have been the Republican National Committee, Rush Limbaugh and the columnist William Kristol.

But the protests have also, on occasion, had a distinctly Jewish flavor …

Later in his piece, Berger prints the comments of one Jeff Smith, a 41-year-old member of Occupy’s “press team.”

“’To put someone out there to say, ‘This is who the group is,’ is about as dishonest as you can be,” Mr. Smith, who is also Jewish, [told The Times]. ‘”

Berger ended the piece with this quote from Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League.

He noted,  “The movement is not about Jews; it’s not about Israel. It’s about ‘the economy, stupid.’ ”

‘Nuf said.  Expect more Republican smear campaigns in the days ahead. Why?  Because the Occupy Movement is showing signs that it could eclipse the Right’s Tea Party.

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About jerrylanson

I teach, write, coach and sing, though you're not required to listen to the latter. I'm a journalism professor at Emerson College in Boston. My third book, "Writing for Others, Writing for Ourselves," was published in November by Rowman & Littlefield Publishing. You can read a sample chapter at www.jerrylanson.com. My passions are politics (generally liberal in outlook), music, mountains, golden retrievers and my grandchildren, though not in that order. Please stop by and mix it up with me. I always answer those who post.
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