The protests in Hong Kong have affected me deeply. Students and youths have taken to the streets, blocking traffic, to protest the Mainland’s reneging on the handover agreement. In essence, Beijing is saying “you can vote for anybody, but the only choices you get are those we pre-select”. The students, youths, and thousands of others are not standing for that. They demand free elections.
The Umbrella Revolution name came after the first clashes with HK police, when students used umbrellas to shield themselves from unprovoked tear gas attacks. The first name chosen for the movement was “Occupy Central” (“Central” is the district where Hong Kong’s government is housed).
The name is wrong, but an understandable mistake.
Since 2009, there have been two basic protest movements in the west that have garnered international attention. “Occupy Wall Street” and its innumerable siblings garnered fawning adulation from the media, in large part because it was hypocritically anti-capitalist, and the western media hates very few things more than free enterprise.
The spontaneous, decentralized Tea Party movement, on the other hand, scared the ever-loving hell out of the media, bringing endless comparisons to the Nazi Party and the Nuremberg Rallies, as seen in Triumph of the Will. The media lied and lied and lied in order to besmirch the Tea Party protests and invalidate them in the popular imagination.
So why would I say that Occupy Central is a misnaming?
Occupy was a movement against free speech. While claiming to be pro-free speech, they railed non-stop to prevent the “wrong” people from having any rights at all. (Just breathe the words “Koch brothers” near an Occupier, and you’ll see what I mean.) They were anti-private property, anti-business, and destructive and disrespectful of the businesses that they dealt with.
The Tea Party was the first movement in modern history that left its protest venues cleaner than it found them. Tea Party rallies were invariably respectful of all private property and even idiotic local licensing requirements. And you know this is true, because if there were even one instance of a murder at a Tea Party rally, or the destruction of a business storefront, or a rape, it would have been trumpeted from every media outlet 24/7/365 as “proof” that the Tea Party was illegitimate, dangerous, and fascist.
Every single one of those things that never happened at a Tea Party rally, not even once, happened at multiple Occupy encampments. Well, okay, there might have been only the one murder. But it did not get reported, because it didn’t fit the media’s narrative.
And the Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong?
They spontaneously organized trash and recycling disposal methods. They have been deeply respectful of business owners and their property. They have posted earnest apologies for the inconvenience they are causing to locals. Students stay up through the AM hours to obsessively clean up. When someone dropped HK$400 on the ground, an Umbrella Revolutionary taped a note over the bills saying “Don’t take, no idea who dropped it“.
The police who tear gassed them? They hold umbrellas over the policemen’s heads when it rains.
These kids are not unwashed, petulant hippies demanding the world on a platter. They are quiet, respectful, polite individuals demanding one thing — a voice in their government. And they are considerate of others’ concerns and lives in doing so.
In short, they are acting like the Tea Party (and getting treated by the Mainland government-controlled media much the same as the Tea Party was snidely dismissed by the mainstream media here in the US), and not at all like the orgiastic, out of control Occupy movement.
Given the disparity in media coverage, it’s no surprise that they went with that label. But it remains wrong. These kids want freedom and individual choice and capitalism. And they damned well deserve all of it.