Typically narcissistic blogging.

A Critical Response To “We Are All Scott Olsen”

On Tuesday night in Oakland, in the midst of the shameful actions of the police force against peaceful protesters, a veteran by the name of Scott Olsen was critically injured. I am not writing to describe the event; it’s all over the news, and it’s awful. I’m writing because of the new solidarity battlecry: “We Are All Scott Olsen.”

I’m writing because I have got to call bullshit.

Because, NO. We are not all Scott Olsen. We are not all war veterans. We have not all put our lives on the line multiple times and fought for our country. We are not all in an induced coma, potentially about to make the ultimate sacrifice in patriotic love for our country. What we all are (and all ought to be) is proud of Scott Olsen. We are all proud to have stood with Scott Olsen, no matter what city we may have been occupying—I was fortunate enough to be in Oakland with him, and may even have stood beside him at some point that evening before things really went to hell.

And we must all pray for Scott Olsen, in any way your religion or lack thereof will allow.

But to create propaganda like this is lazy at best. It’s reminiscent of the mindless, meaningless Fight Club chant, “His name is Robert Paulson,” honoring a man without honoring him, recognizing that there was some kind of loss, some kind of meaning, but not fully understanding what that meaning is.

Occupiers, you don’t honor Scott Olsen when you say this. This isn’t solidarity, it’s convenience and it’s hubris.

Yes, we are all fighting the good fight together. Yes, we can all be potentially injured or killed if the authorities once again abuse their power. We are all in this, together. But we are not all Scott Olsen.

EDIT: The good news is, Scott Olsen is now awake and improving.

4 responses

  1. Drock


    October 27, 2011 at 4:51 pm

  2. Crowd mentality has something of the chameleon about it: a need to shed individuality and identify with the cause: and a martyr is the perfect focus for that need.

    It’s why crowd control during our London riots was so tricky: it was sparked off by a retaliation against one person who was held up as a reason. Later, the martyr figure remained while rioters shed their reasoning and indulged in wholesale looting: done for no other reason than that everyone else was doing it. When we’re in a crown situation we need to question our psychology. Hold onto our individuality and our own personal reason for being there. I’m with you on this.

    October 28, 2011 at 12:22 am

    • [There, edited.]

      Movements tend to need figureheads, shining examples of how the other side done us wrong. I get this; it creates sympathy and highlights how effed up things can get. However, creating martyrs is dangerous to both sides, and the laziness inherent in “We are all [x thing]” cheapens the whole thing and turns one man’s life into a catchphrase, and an inaccurate one, at that.

      It’s easy to want to latch on to those things, in our outrage and sadness, to not think about it before joining in the cry. But this movement can’t afford easy, it has to think through every move it makes on both group and individual levels.

      October 28, 2011 at 10:01 am

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