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The best way for Occupy Wall Street to be effective

If the Occupy Wall Street movement ("OWS") wants to have any sort of long-term impact [1], they're going to have to eventually tell people in detail what they support and what they oppose. Street protests and "occupations" are great theater, but interest in them - both by observers and the occupiers themselves - will quickly wane. There won't be too many people occupying Wall Street with snow on the ground or even after a few days of cold weather.

Defining what they support is left to them. This post describes a devastatingly effective way to help define what their movement opposes.

The best way to show what they oppose is to intellectually engage their opponents and try to show as many people as possible that those opponents are wrong. And, the best way to do that is to engage a nationally-known opponent in debate on video for Youtube with the goal of showing how that opponent's ideas are wrong.

Obviously, OWS must think some ideas and some people are wrong about policy, otherwise why are they doing what they're doing?

Here's an outline of what would be involved:

1. Identify one policy that they think is wrong.

2. Identify politicians or other nationally-known figures who support that policy.

3. Look for the flaws in the politician's argument supporting that policy.

4. Develop a line of questioning designed to reveal those flaws to as many people as possible.

5. Recruit a smart and experienced questioner - such as a trial lawyer - to engage the politician in debate at one of his public appearances using that line of questioning. The goal will be to show as many people as possible that the policy in question is flawed.

If the questions are good and the questioner is skilled, video of that could get hundreds of thousands or millions of views on Youtube. That would tend to reduce the chances of that politician continuing to support the same policy and it would also reduce the chances that other politicians would support the same policy.

Here's a simple example. Let's say that a politician supports a toxic waste dump that some scientists say stands a 1% chance of polluting the ground water under certain conditions. The politician scoffs at that prediction, and only highlights the positive impacts of the toxic waste dump. So, the questioner points out to the politician that those certain conditions have occurred in the past, and asks the politician what he intends to do if the worst happens. If the politician has no contingency plan, at the very least he'll look bad and it will have an impact on his political career. For instance, his opponents will be able to use the fact that he doesn't think things through and plan for all contingencies in campaign commercials. Depending on the circumstances, that might have an impact on the toxic waste dump itself and might make other politicians think twice before supporting it without coming up with a contingency plan.

OWS can likewise find an issue that most agree on and that has mainstream support. Then, using the steps outlined above they can develop a line of questioning and recruit an experienced questioner to intellectually engage a nationally-known opponent. Even if they did that without ever coming up with a comprehensive platform they could have a very healthy impact on the level of debate in the U.S. And, they'd make politicians think twice before promoting flawed policies.

Ready? See these:

* Question Authority: this is the plan that's outlined above. Note that I'm been promoting that plan for over five years, with little help from others. That page has a very important note about the types of questions I have in mind: my definition of what is a tough question differs from what's to be seen in political debates and interview shows.

* How to ask politicians tough questions

* Bad questions: several examples of those who've asked politicians weak questions and thereby in effect helping those politicians to mislead or continue to support flawed policies.

I'm also willing to edit questions for maximum effectiveness, simply leave them in comments or contact me via Twitter: @24AheadDotCom

[1] I'm somewhat supportive of some aspects of the OWS movement, to the extent that they've stated any goals. Specifically, the pro-U.S., homegrown, anti-corruption aspects. I suspect that their immigration position is wrong and helps their opponents, but the jury's still out on that. However, some aspects of their movement have a slight foreign flavor, whether Canada, the UK, or other countries. Some statements I've seen from their associates don't seem to realize that we have a First Amendment in the U.S. (unlike other countries). And, I'm very uncomfortable with their linkage to anti-speech foreign criminals: those who try to silence those with whom they disagree by hacking their websites. Some or many of those criminals aren't based in the U.S. But, any attempts to use the plan outlined above to promote bad policies will be self-defeating.

Mon, 10/17/2011 - 08:46 · Importance: 4