The political chattering class expends a lot of hot air debating whether public opinion’s with, or against, the Occupy Wall Street movement. The pundits will cite this or that poll to try to prove where most Americans stand.
I’ve got a better barometer that says Occupy remains squarely in the American mainstream. His name is Mike O’Meara. Once half of the old nationally syndicated Don and Mike radio show, O’Meara and his crew now hold forth daily on an Internet podcast; ten-and-a-half million downloads and growing, as they like to boast.
They may broadcast their show from O’Meara’s home just outside Washington, DC, but O’Meara and his buddies are no political junkies. They’re much more likely to crack fart jokes than debate the Fed. For them, politics is just another comedy bit. A good example: One running gag has been for O’Meara to recite raunchy poetry in character as failed presidential candidate Herman Cain. Liberal radio hosts like Thom Hartmann, or even Ed Schultz, these guys ain’t. And that’s the point.
The guys on the O’Meara show aren’t among the usual suspects you’d expect to defend Occupy, but that’s just what they spent a significant chunk of one of their shows doing last week. O’Meara in particular, passionately took apart an anti-Occupy rant by another famous Internet comedian, Adam Carrolla. O’Meara dismissed Carrolla’s attack on Occupy participants as “self-entitled,” calling it nothing more than the expected party line. “You line up on one side or you line up on the other,” O’Meara says.
“Adam makes an assumption that everybody that has involved themselves in the Occupy Wall Street movement is a complete entitled, sloppy slacker. That’s as much of a stereotype as saying anything about any ethnic group, in my humble opinion,” he adds. “That’s a very popular, unbelievably popular, sentiment, because it’s a hate thing. The hate speech goes over.” O’Meara also jabs at Carrolla, pointing out that it’s easy for him to attack the movement because “he’s a rich guy.” “It’s easy for him to say, ‘I’m better than you.’”
O’Meara clearly gets what’s at the heart of Occupy. The movement, he notes, isn’t attacking those Americans who have done well for themselves by genuine hard work. The problem is with the Wall Street fat cats who collect exorbitant bonuses and make a disproportionate income, which “ain’t right, because all the rules have changed.”
“I’ve worked my ass off since I was 15 years old. I have worked hard. I know what hard work is,” O’Meara says, building up an obvious head of steam. “I also have another word that’s in my vocabulary, called compassion, for people who bought into the American Dream…Those people have been summarily f–ed.” Attacking OWS, O’Meara argues, is nothing more than “misguided hatred.” “You’re picking on the wrong people.” Now, for those of us close to the movement, there’s nothing really new in the substance of O’Meara’s stirring defense. He broke no new ground, except that he actually chose to come out and say it.
O’Meara closed by suggesting his stand might not be terribly popular with his audience. “I’m going to get a lot of hate, and I stand by it because I don’t give a rat’s ass,” he says. “Because I happen to believe that you should pick up your neighbor when your neighbor’s in the toilet. You should spread it around a little. I believe that. I’m not an effing socialist. I’m an American. I love this country.”
The point is that he felt free to defend the movement at all, and to do so with the vigor he did so. O’Meara may be right that a lot of his listeners won’t agree with him. But what he left unsaid is that most of his listeners won’t really hate him for it. If middle America, O’Meara’s podcast also is broadcast on on-air radio stations in Iowa, too, really was against the movement in a wholesale way, O’Meara wisely would have steered clear.
While O’Meara may have the leeway to challenge his audience, he can’t afford to alienate them, or the advertisers who he relies upon to support his show, either. The facts are that middle America isn’t as against the movement as its enemies would portray, and that O’Meara came out swinging strongly in favor of it last week. Maybe O’Meara changed some minds in favor of the movement. Maybe he didn’t. Either way, chalk it up as a big win for Occupy, and for what it represents.