As the Occupy movement gains increasingly respectful media attention, the most interesting question is how the occupiers govern themselves. Unlike those lousy ingrates who don't even thank us for all the social justice and economic fairness they've been receiving from the #OccupyIraq and #OccupyAfghanistan movements, we are lucky enough to consider this question in relative tranquility.
Last week, former Russia Today provocateur Adam Kokesh ran into some intransigent Occupy D.C. folks who objected to his filming a bunch of long speeches. The controversy grew so heated that even the Human Microphone broke down. Let's go to the tape:
This comes on top of evidence that the Occupy movement is less than open to impromptu speaking, has an exceptionally process-oriented approach to group dynamics, and entertains at least one bullying bigot who wants to speak for the organization.
The media's open-minded curiosity toward the Occupy movement stands in sharp relief to their dismissal of the Tea Party as a mob of racist religious fanatics. As recently as this summer, a little Eastern Seaboard paper called The New York Times was providing space for the honesty-challenged political scientist Robert Putnam to declare – with shockingly little evidence – that Tea Partiers have "a low regard for immigrants and blacks" (an easy conclusion to reach given the establishment media's strenuous efforts to deny the existence of non-white Tea Partiers).
But unlike the Tea Party, which presented a broad message against spending and overweening government, the Occupiers have by and large been calling for more regulation, jailing and/or execution of rich people, revival of Glass-Steagall, and other state shows of force. So how they govern their little patches of utopia is a pretty important issue that is not being addressed.
In the present case, Kokesh is clearly on the right side of existing law, existing interpretations of law, and existing custom around free speech and behavior in a public space. But do his would-be censors have any case on the grounds of general civility or Canadian-style principles of expression? I would say no: If a small minority at a public gathering in a public space object to being filmed, I say those people have the right to vote with their feet and nobody else has an obligation to respect their sensitivities.
But then I'm an extremist who thinks Film L.A. should be abolished because you shouldn't need a permit to shoot a film in America's (rapidly declining) movie capital. Maybe I'm wrong: Is there some freedom-of-assembly standard to uphold here?