By Jeff Cox
January 26, 2012
Raging malcontents with picket signs torching buildings, attacking police and obliterating the social order—that's what billionaire, leftist and one-percenter George Soros is forecasting for America and the Occupy movement.
Earlier this week, Soros attracted attention for predicting that the preceding scenario is almost a certainty for the U.S. due to social unrest over economic disparity.
“Yes, yes, yes,” Soros told The Daily Beast on the subject of whether “riots on the streets of American cities are inevitable.” The Beast described Soros as saying this “almost gleefully.”
But while Soros’ pronouncements almost always gather a large swell of progressive acolytes, he seems on his own this time.
Even those highly sympathetic with the Occupy Wall Street crowd and its various offshoots believe the movement would be slicing its own jugular if things turn violent.
“Soros is a great humanitarian and successful businessman, but his dire predictions of a revolution in the streets of America over economic conditions is more likely a dramatic effort to bring attention to the problem than any belief that it will actually come to pass,” says Mario Almonte, a public relations expert and well-known liberal blogger.
There are a few reasons that Occupy violence on the level that Soros describes is unlikely.
The first is that, in Almonte’s view, Americans are nowhere near as bad off as some other countries—Greece, to name one—where conditions are dire and protesters have been extreme in their tactics.
“We’re too comfortable at home to bother going out into the streets for too long,” Almonte says.
The second is that while the Occupy movements have been able to garner a level of grassroots support, that could evaporate quickly in the case of extreme violence.
“My sense is that there’s not widespread public support for any kind of violent protests over this particular subject matter,” says Richard Broughton, an assistant professor at University of Detroit-Mercy Law. “The public may be sympathetic to some of the claims of the Occupy movement. But when it comes to violence public sentiment will be overwhelmingly in favor of the government and law enforcement authorities.”
Broughton describes himself as “not particularly sympathetic” to the Occupy cause, which rails against the top 1 percent of the nation’s population controlling a large share of the wealth.
“In terms of engaging in public violence, I can’t even begin to imagine how anyone in the movement would think that’s going to benefit their cause,” he says.
So why would Soros put forth such a dire scenario, one which would endanger the existence of the Occupy movement that he is often accused of backing financially?
Perhaps, some way, just to call attention to the issues under protest and to generate some action.
"I believe while Soros was being hyperbolic in a sense, what he was trying to do was warn or wake up the World Economic forum to the very real threat the Occupy Movement poses to the world system—not just in violence but in an aroused public opinion,” says Ted Morgan, political science professor at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., and author of “What Really Happened to the 1960s” (University Press of Kansas, 2011).
“One of the key questions going forward is whether Occupy can find effective ways of getting its meanings through to the wider public, rather than being stigmatized by media images,” Morgan says.
One Occupy supporter, in fact, sees recent developments, particularly President Obama’s State of the Union speech, as reason for encouragement that the movement won’t need to fulfill the Soros scenario to be heard.
“We haven’t reached a fever-pitch yet…but I don’t think it’s entirely hyperbolic,” Fordham University assistant sociology professor Heather Gautney said of the Soros prediction.
“There is a real recognition at a higher level of power that the social movement activity we’ve been seeing is legitimate, that there is a desire in these offices to address these issues of inequality,” adds Gautney, author of “Protest and Organization in the Alternative Globalization Era” (Palgrave Macmillan 2012). “That’s one way to keep a movement in check – at least give them lip service and show some efforts are being made to cope with the economic downturn.”