As Mideast Burns and China Riots, Occupy Protests Fizzle

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By James Gibney

If you want to bring people out into the streets, inequality seems a poor draw compared with religion or nationalism.

From Cairo to Jakarta, the Muslim world is burning up over some anti-Islamic bigot's Z-grade movie. Across China, angry mobs are torching Toyotas and pelting the Japanese embassy over some specks in the East China Sea.

Meanwhile, the Occupy Wall Street movement's one-year anniversary seems to be many bongos short of a good drum circle, notwithstanding a continuing cavalcade of scandals involving top-tier banks supposedly chastened by the regulatory lapses that helped precipitate one of history's biggest erasures of wealth. Come on, guys -- at least torch a bus or sumpin'. You're making the U.S. look bad. As Country Joe sang in another context: "Listen people, I don't know [how] you expect to ever stop the war if you can't sing any better than that."

We should of course be glad that no violent malevolent forces are stirring the Occupy pot, as the Chinese government has doubtless done with the anti-Japanese protests (you can bet your bottom yuan that any Falun Gong or Free Tibet demos would be shut down in a Shanghai minute) or any number of anti-U.S. actors have in the Middle East. And you can give OWS props for getting people to mouth the words "income inequality" with more frequency (though a quick Google Insights for Search analysis suggests that effect was evanescent). Still, given the dollar for dollar impact on people's wealth and the continuing toll of 8 percent plus unemployment, you have to wonder, as Bob Dole once did, "Where's the outrage?" Maybe they're too busy securing their spot in line for their iPhone 5.

(James Gibney is a member of the Bloomberg View editorial board. Follow him on Twitter.)

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-0- Sep/17/2012 20:27 GMT