Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Occupy Movement and 2012 CPAC

To read about the True Tolerance workshop at 2012 CPAC, click here. To read about race and language at CPAC, click here.

The 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) took place on February 9-11 at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington D.C. The Occupy movement featured prominently at this year's CPAC, both as protesters and as a target for derision from conference speakers. To watch CPAC speeches, courtesy of C-SPAN, click here.

On Saturday, February 11th, CPAC featured a panel discussion entitled, "Taking Back Wall Street: The Tea Party vs. Occupy Wall Street." (Hat tip to Daily Kos.) The panel featured five conservative and Tea Party-affiliated speakers, including Amy Kremer (chair of the Tea Party Express and co-founder of the Atlanta Tea Party), Jennifer Stefano (Pennsylvania state director of Americans for Prosperity), Dana Loesch (editor in chief of Big Journalism), Ryan Hecker (chief operating officer of Freedom Works for America), and Kevin Jackson (author of The Big Black Lie).

I expected the panel to compare and contrast the ideas and strategies of the two movements, but instead, its five speakers hurled insults at the Occupy movement while lionizing the Tea Party. For example, at the 7:09 mark of the video posted above, Amy Kremer alleged that the media has favored the Occupy movement over the Tea Party movement, accusing the media of declaring the Tea Party dead.
"The media wants to write the narrative that Occupy Wall Street is alive and well, and they post their pictures and their videos and everything of their bright signs and boisterous people, and then they're writing these stories that the Tea Party movement is dead. Well, I have news for them. The Tea Party movement is not dead. We're alive and well."
She admonished listeners not to judge the Tea Party by its signs or the number of people at its rallies. "Judge us by our votes on election day when Occupy Wall Street is still out at their rallies or at their protests because they're mad," she said at the 7:50 mark. Kremer insisted that the difference between the Occupy movement and the Tea Party movement was that the latter had "great ideas" and has brought about changes in the political landscape.

At the 9:42 mark, Kremer alleged that Occupy Wall Street was an "astroturf" movement (a very ironic accusation) and told the audience that Occupy demonstrators were paid $60 each to protest at CPAC.
"This  movement, it is something that has been created by the left. It's an astroturf movement ... They were out in front of the hotel. They were paid I guess $60 a day to come here. I mean, the unions are infiltrating them because they see the value of it. But you know what? That's okay. We're not paid for this. We believe in it."
Next, Kevin Jackson hurled insults at the Occupy movement at the 10:43 mark, calling its supporters "nutjobs."
"Occupy has me madder than Janet Napolitano's blind date. It is a movement that has one foot on the grave and the other on a banana peel, and I will promise you, more people watch my kid's 5th grade YouTube video than watch that crap. I'll just be brief. I think these guys are nutjobs. I was so happy that they're here. I love to confront lunacy in all its forms."
At the 11:28 mark, Jackson suggested that African Americans do not have a presence in the Occupy movement. "By the way, how many black people are in Occupy? I want the media to cover that," he said. The strong African-American presence in this CPAC protest video, as well as Occupy Faith D.C. and the People's Prayer Breakfast, should answer his question.

Jennifer Stefano made a scatological joke about Occupy Wall Street and the American flag at the 11:55 mark.
"If you're standing in a room and you're not sure how to separate the Tea Partiers from the Occupiers, do one thing. Raise an American flag. The Tea Partiers will stand, put the hands over their heart, and pledge to it, while the Occupiers defecate on it." [Audience applauds]
In response to accusations that the Koch brothers fund the Tea Party, Stefano proudly defended both at the 13:30 mark.
"If the Koch brothers or Americans for Prosperity or anyone would like to cut me a check to defend the cause of liberty, I'm going to do two things. I'm going to cash it, and I'm going to kiss them, and in that order. This gal's a capitalist." [Audience applauds]
At the 15:05 mark, Dana Loesch accused Occupy demonstrators of allegedly protesting for pay, in contrast to Tea Party supporters.
"It always amazes me how progressives believe that conservatives can't go out in public, and they can't peacefully assemble, and they can't raise their American flags and do things to help promote conservatism without being paid, and I think what we've seen from the Occupy movement is that--because that's how they live. They get paid to go out and fight for their ideology. We actually believe the things that we say, so we're willing to go out and do it for free."
With regard to accusations that the Koch brothers fund the Tea Party, Loesch accused Occupy Wall Street of hypocrisy at the 16:12 mark.
"If progressives, if Occupiers are absolutely so infuriated and so offended at the mere existence of this company, then why are they even still buying and using and even making money off of all of their products? Because you know they are."
Finally, Ryan Hecker contrasted the cleanliness and absence of racism among Tea Partiers to the alleged anti-Semitism of Occupy gatherings. At the 17:33 mark, he claimed that Occupy supporters want a "nanny state" to take care of them.
"They want complete nanny state babysitting from cradle to grave. That's what they define as freedom and liberty, when the government completely controls you, and hands you everything and makes you self-sustaining instead of you sustaining yourself."
At the 22:38 mark, Hecker claimed that the Occupy movement lacks focus.
"Occupy Wall Street is no different from every other G8 protest that's been taking place over the last thirty years. The same group of anarchists, deluded college students ... 'Free Mumia' types. It's the same amalgam of people without any single focused message."
In short, the panel discussion was not so much a comparison of Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party as it was a opportunity for speakers to launch ad hominem attacks at the Occupy movement. By caricaturing Occupy supporters as dirty, anti-American mercenaries, the panel avoided intelligent discussion of the origins, ideas, and strategies of the Occupy movement.

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CPAC featured other unfriendly commentary about the Occupy movement. For example, at the 6:36 mark of his speech, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) accused President Obama of neglecting the American people in favor of the "Occupy Wall Street fan club."
"The president seems to have forgotten that he was elected to lead all Americans, that he was elected to be president of the United States, not the Occupy Wall Street fan club."
During a panel discussion entitled "Return of Big Labor: What Can We Learn from Wisconsin & Ohio?", F. Vincent Vernuccio of the Competitive Enterprise Institute made swipes at the Occupy movement. The Huffington Post reported that Vernuccio said that it is a "badge of honor" to have the AFL-CIO and Occupiers target the panel, because it supposedly revealed their fear. Furthermore, he claimed that "the forces of forced unionism and big government" were losing.

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Of course, the Occupy movement made its own voice heard outside CPAC. Occupy D.C., in collaboration with AFL-CIO, SEIU, National Nurses United, Metro Labor Council, and OurDC, participated in a protest against CPAC on February 10th. The Occupy D.C. website depicted CPAC as a far-right gathering with a socially oppressive agenda.
"CPAC will parade and attempt to perpetuate the radical right wing’s imperialist ideologies with keynote speakers, movies and banquets dedicated to pursuing its racist, sexist, patriarchal and exploitative agenda."
According to the Huffington Post, hundreds of Occupy protesters demonstrated outside of the Marriott Wardman Park, with a large inflatable "fat cat" in tow. Campus Progress posted this video of the Occupy protests, featuring interviews with participants and friction between Occupiers and CPAC attendees.

Inside the Marriott, roughly twenty protesters stormed the conference chanting "We are the 99 percent!" According to Mediaite, these protesters were removed from the building by police and hotel security. In this video of the incident, CPAC attendees shouted "You are fifteen people!" and "USA! USA!" as security escorted the protesters outside.

Tight security posed a problem to observers as well. In a February 10th post, Slate reporter David Weigel wrote that police threatened to arrest observers filming outside, and that he himself was threatened with arrest.

Stay tuned for more 2012 CPAC coverage!

For additional news and commentary, visit the following links.

Talking Points Memo: Video of the Occupy CPAC Protests

Los Angeles Times: Occupy demonstrators target Romney with protest of CPAC speech

Freak Out Nation: Occupy CPAC becomes Recall Walker, Pro-Walker Shout fest (Update: Breitbart meltdown on Video)


  1. Wow. Do these RWRR/Tea Bagger folks actually believe the lies they're spewing or are they paid for them? (I happen to know some of them ARE paid ...)

    Sometimes it feels like we're in a war, doesn't it? The reasonable thinking people vs. the hate-spewing manipulators of the gullible ... That Mitch McConnell is an evil man.

    1. Cognitive Dissenter -- It's hard to say if they believe their own statements or not sometimes. The country is definitely getting more polarized, and it feels stronger every day.


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