Overheated rhetoric in Chicago

January 31, 2012

After glancing at recent headlines and listening to rumors,
I was under the impression that the Chicago City Council had passed repressive
new restrictions on protests leading up to the G8 summit in May. The
newspapers' pictures of Mayor Rahm Emanuel looked dictatorial. I pictured
Emanuel strong-arming the council into passing a crackdown.

"Rahm Ramps Up the Repression" ran one headline. Even the Chicago Tribune used the phrases
"unfettered power" and "stifle dissent."

When I finally got around to researching the matter, I found
little to substantiate the image forming in my mind. It is true that Emanuel
proposed heavier fines for resisting arrest, and he wanted to restrict parades
to two hours length. (The current limit is 2 hours and 15 minutes.)

In the end, Emanuel dropped both of these requests. The
changes that were made are of little consequence. There was little support for
any large-scale repression of free speech.

I have been a backseat supporter of the Occupy Movement,
cheering for it everywhere. I haven't had a lot of patience for those calling
for the Occupiers to "hone their message," and I've been moved by the
experimental forms of community that Occupy is making happen on the ground.

But I find the kind of overheated rhetoric that Occupiers
brought to this occasion to be unhelpful in the extreme. It makes them look
desperate for an enemy, and it underplays their legitimate concerns.


In your first two paragraphs,

In your first two paragraphs, you identify a particular newspaper headlines and two phrases from a particular newspaper. But in your final paragraph you object to the "overheated rhetoric of Occupiers." Do you have a good reason for lumping "Occupiers" in with the newspapers you cite?

Also, do you imagine that your phrase "unhelpful in the extreme" is not, itself, a form of rhetoric? And if excess is the problem, how is your phrase "in the extreme" not excessive? (This is to say nothing about the important question of why you believe that strong rhetoric is to be avoided, even if it could be.)

I do believe that granting police the authority to determine when a person is resisting arrest, and then imposing financial hardship on the basis of such a judgement is repressive; and it is clearly intended to stifle dissent. If you do not think so-- that is, if you disagree with the papers' estimations, you should say why. In short: more argument please, less stipulation. Or: more substance, less rhetoric.

It seems to me that describing and critiquing such a decentralized
group of people as the "Occupiers" requires greater care than you showed in this piece.