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Sunday, October 30, 2011

‘Lord of Flies’ in Zuccotti Park

They’re railing against freeloaders and ex-cons for stealing their stuff and spoiling their utopia. They’re squabbling with each other over money and power. The weather is turning frightful and a cumbersome bureaucracy of their own making is strangling their spontaneity.

Their invasion is costing downtown Manhattan businesses and residents a boatload of money. But watching the Occupy Wall Street vagabonds bang their heads against the laws of human nature -- that’s priceless!

Oops, I just echoed a dreaded corporate slogan. My bad -- but somehow it fits the moment.

In fact, the problems the protesters face are almost enough for me to hope the police don’t break up the party. The “Lord of the Flies” descent from utopia to petty power struggles, in front of TV cameras, is a political-science lesson, not to mention deliciously ironic.

Running a protest movement apparently involves a lot of dirty work and isn’t so much fun. Imagine how hard it will be to run the world!

Six weeks after turning a small park into a fetid slum and spawning ratty imitations across the country, the socialist-inspired movement with a union face and bulging bank account is at a crossroads. The insistence that there are no leaders and that everybody gets a say on everything is yielding a gridlock to make Washington proud.

Most protesters still can’t define their goals beyond ending capitalism and making life more fair, which means they want other people’s money. Meanwhile, donations of goods and cash pile up, with a reported $500,000 on deposit.

The cash marks an embarrassment for a movement supposedly railing against capitalism and wealth, especially now that a radical group called the Alliance for Global Justice is legally sponsoring the protest. By lending its tax-exempt status -- for a 7 percent cut! -- the global-justice group allows donors to deduct their contributions from federal taxes and gives its own board control over the money.

The alliance, based in Washington, is a hotbed of far-left causes that range from backing hunger strikes in California prisons to denouncing the CIA and oil companies. Its Web site says the group sponsors operations in the Gaza Strip, with Hamas, and boasts of an alliance with Anarchists Against the Wall, which contests Israel’s security barrier in the West Bank.

The group suggests it has a relationship with Iran, supported the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua and expresses solidarity with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez against the United States.

For the 7 percent fee, it offers its tax-exempt status to “grassroots nonprofits” and provides payroll services, liability insurance and prepares federal tax forms. It also offers “activist training” -- which is like job training without an actual job.

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