In early January, reporting on the Occupy Wall Street New Year’s Eve activities I noted that the group would likely change its tactics “by encouraging their members to get themselves arrested, which is apparently the new metric of revolutionary success.” This was borne out on the six-month anniversary of the group’s “occupation” of Zuccotti Park, and has been one of that group’s key aims since. But it has rarely been so openly stated as it was last night in Santa Monica College in California by a group of protesters complaining about the cost of tuition.
After a student was pepper sprayed in the face for trying to force his way into an over-crowded meeting room, another rioter immediately shouted, “We won! We won! They pepper-sprayed us!”
Actually, nothing was won except for somebody pushing a police officer — whose job it was to ensure the room didn’t overflow — into physically restraining him. There seems to be a real conviction among protesters at the moment that protest in and of itself is inherently virtuous, and that one wins a serious victory by forcing the authorities to take physical action. Like the conspiracy theorist who considers himself to have won by dint of the widespread denials of his nonsense, the current crop of radicals appears to define victory by means of their own victimhood. It cannot be pointed out enough times that real revolutionaries — the founding generation, the Civil Rights advocates — measure their success by, well, their success. It is become tiresome to be told by representatives of various protest groups that we should take them seriously because “they had a march.” Lots of people have held marches and protests over the years, and many have got involved with the police. It doesn’t make them honorable, especially when they reveal that the purpose of the demonstration is to get arrested and attract news vans.