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"You are all individuals!" "I'm not!"
October 4, 2011 9:05 AM   Subscribe

You need a permit (PDF) to use amplified sound in New York City. Which the #OccupyWallStreet protesters haven't got. So they've come up with a unique solution for transmitting their message - the human microphone.
posted by scalefree (111 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
It sounds exactly like the call and response of a church service.
posted by jedicus at 9:11 AM on October 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


with every few words / WITH EVERY FEW WORDS!

repeated and amplified out loud / REPEATED AND AMPLIFIED OUT LOUD!

by what has been dubbed / BY WHAT HAS BEEN DUBBED!

the human microphone / THE HUMAN MICROPHONE!!! (jazz hands here).


All my future political sloganeering will incorporate jazz hands.

(This is a really neat idea for this application, and as the article pointed out, the pluralistic nature of the thing is in and of itself a cool feature. Nothing revolutionary, but neat nonetheless.)
posted by quin at 9:13 AM on October 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


Ingenious! But the sentence fragments! Are kind of annoying! After awhile!

Mic Check!
posted by R. Mutt at 9:13 AM on October 4, 2011


I was so afraid this would somehow be related to the human centipede.
posted by hermitosis at 9:15 AM on October 4, 2011 [15 favorites]


Here's the technique
HERE'S THE TECHNIQUE
in action
IN ACTION
posted by Iridic at 9:17 AM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Mic Check!

I be the anti-myth rhythm rock shocker, what?


Sorry.
posted by quin at 9:18 AM on October 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


What?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:18 AM on October 4, 2011


Interesting - from Iridic's video links, the crowd is too big for the message to travel in two steps (speaker to masses), and instead ripples out from the center.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:19 AM on October 4, 2011


NPR had examples of this. One benefit is if some idiot says something idiotic the crowd doesn't get enthusiastic about the replies. Then they fade away.

The silliness showed when they were using this to RESOLVE NOT TO SPIT TOOTHPASTE.

Some of the messages seemed like nothing anyone should be saying, let alone have a hundred people repeat.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:19 AM on October 4, 2011


Mr. Micheal Check in the nearby office tower is getting a little paranoid.
posted by The Whelk at 9:20 AM on October 4, 2011 [15 favorites]


So have any young traders or bankers had a change of heart and joined these crowds or is it all just a lot of noise?
posted by Horselover Phattie at 9:20 AM on October 4, 2011


Fascinating. I bet at the back of the crowd you get a slightly garbled message, like in Operator.

WE WANT THE FAT CATS TO BAIL OUT THE PEOPLE!

-->

SHE WANTS HER FAT CAT TO FAIL AT THE STEEPLE!
posted by theredpen at 9:21 AM on October 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


Some people are making a connection
Some people are making a connection
Some people are making a connection

Between economic inequality
Between economic inequality
Between economic inequality

And the force used to enforce it
And the force used to mumble mumble
Purple monkey dishwasher
posted by BrashTech at 9:21 AM on October 4, 2011 [13 favorites]


I've been making a point to pass by the protest whenever I can. The human microphone is, indeed, one of the neatest hacks I've seen in the wild.

Speakers get on a promontory and shout "mic check!" and the listeners shout back "mic check!" The speaker then speaks and the listeners repeat. It's neat how the human microphone forces your message to be concise and declarative. It's neat how the human microphone dissolves the individual into being merely the cone of a speaker. It's also extremely slow, and not suited at all to detailed discussion about ideas, but I haven't seen anyone try to get into a detailed economic discussion in a group setting. Just as well.

There's another axis as well that I've seen in the general assembly. Up-waggling of the arms indicates approval, while down-waggling of the arms indicates disapproval. Here's a self-linked picture of enthusiastic up-waggling for a union worker.

This leads to puzzling results sometimes, however. I saw a young man in a trench coat speak at a meeting, but after a while, people abruptly started to down-waggle their arms and stop repeating what he had been saying. I was never able to parse out what he had been saying. The discussion "moderator" chastised the listeners, saying that you should repeat everything whether or not you agree with it, but there was no follow-up on that person or whatever his issues had been.

There was also a strange moment where a young woman declared, with disappointment, that she would no longer be organizing some committee or event, as no one had followed through with her instructions with regard to organizing that committee or event. This led to the sight of a woman saying that she would no longer be accepting these responsibilities because no one was listening to her, and then a crowd of people obediently and monotonously repeated those sentiments back to her. They were also up-waggling their hands, indicating approval, but did that mean that they agreed with her, or that they agreed she should not be listened to?

That said, it's still an extremely effective way to get the word out, without the hassle of breaking the law. It's also entirely portable and not subject to technical malfunction.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:21 AM on October 4, 2011 [13 favorites]



I wonder if it wouldn't be easier to set up a VOIP/Mulitcast conference call type set up.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:21 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's a sort of spoken form of the beacons between Gondor and Rohan.
posted by entropone at 9:21 AM on October 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I would like
I WOULD LIKE
to feed your fingertips
TO FEED YOUR FINGERTIPS
to the wolverines.
TO THE WOLVERINES.
posted by Spatch at 9:22 AM on October 4, 2011 [17 favorites]


Or the signal fires of Rome.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:22 AM on October 4, 2011


If it wasn't for a mic check, they wouldn't have a cheque at all
posted by Hoopo at 9:22 AM on October 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Isn't this more like a human megaphone?
posted by adamdschneider at 9:25 AM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh, also:

THE GREATER GOOD
posted by adamdschneider at 9:26 AM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm thinking there could be a bit of, ahhh, technology that could improve this.

One idea could be to have manual "subtitles", the speaker's speech written in big letters on a banner flashed while the fragments are being relayed. They could even make multiple copies of the banner and wave them in sync, like semaphore flags or something, just as the voice wave reaches a far-flung spot.
posted by the cydonian at 9:27 AM on October 4, 2011


The NY General Assembly is working with local community organizations to get a permit for amplification. On one hand I can see why this is useful, but on the other hand, it seems like it's harder to get a true "90% consensus" when one person's voice is amplified and no one else's is. It would certainly be more organized, but hard for someone in the audience to make what they are calling an "ethical block."
posted by muddgirl at 9:31 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Neat -- but I'm mostly just glad that folks are calling the process "the human microphone" and not "person-to-person re-tweeting."
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:35 AM on October 4, 2011 [10 favorites]


My favourite thing about this is that its messy and will get better as time goes on. Richard Dawkins has noted with respect to evolution that no species that can fly went from not flying to flying in an instant. There was jumping, then longer jumping, then a brief periods of flight, then longer periods of flight with each mutation.

Based on the challenges that Stitcher beast describes, I'm willing to bet that this will only grow more effective over time.

Aside: reading their First Official Statement, it appears that, while the medium demands pithiness, they could still stand to work on their brevity.
posted by dry white toast at 9:35 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's a tradition of using the same idea, albeit with a pre-written message rather than during a conversation, during the intervals in some concerts in the BBC Proms season in London.

Around ten members of the group who does it (a "Friends of the Albert Hall" charity, IIRC) simply stand up in the interval and speak their message in unison. They speak as a choir, enunciating very clearly and in time with each other, and it's remarkably effective: that handful of people can be heard and understood above the background noise of a few thousand people chatting, anywhere in the concert hall. They're probably helped by standing near the acoustic centre of the hall, but it's still a surprisingly powerful effect.
posted by metaBugs at 9:42 AM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I did not realize there was a method of communication even less reliable and requiring shorter messages than Twitter.
posted by localroger at 9:45 AM on October 4, 2011


Mmm. Churchy.
posted by The World Famous at 9:49 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


This led to the sight of a woman saying that she would no longer be accepting these responsibilities because no one was listening to her, and then a crowd of people obediently and monotonously repeated those sentiments back to her.
"You're all individuals!"

"Yes! We're all individuals!"

"You're all different!"

"Yes! We're all different!"

"I'm not."

"Shhh!"
posted by Flunkie at 9:49 AM on October 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


Chevy Chase: And now, as a public service to those of our viewers who have difficulty with their hearing, I will repeat the top story of the day, aided by the Headmaster of the New York School for the Hard of Hearing, Garrett Morris. Our top story tonight..

Garrett Morris: "OUR TOP STORY TONIGHT..."

Chevy Chase: "..Generallissimo Francisco Franco.."

Garrett Morris: "...GENERALLISSIMO FRANCISCO FRANCO..."

Chevy Chase: "...is still dead."

Garrett Morris: "...IS STILL DEAD!"

Chevy Chase: Good night, and have a pleasant tomorrow.

Garrett Morris: GOOD NIGHT, AND HAVE A PLEASANT TOMORROW!
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:51 AM on October 4, 2011 [11 favorites]


... and only now do I notice the title of the post. Doh.
posted by Flunkie at 9:51 AM on October 4, 2011


Metafilter: grumble grumble grumble
posted by victors at 9:52 AM on October 4, 2011


I'm done making fun of these guys and am now on to simple admiration for their tenacity. Good work kids!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:52 AM on October 4, 2011 [9 favorites]


This is awesome, and, as the linked article notes, very much in keeping with the democratic ideals of the group.
posted by eviemath at 9:55 AM on October 4, 2011


I was walking around Portland, OR, on Friday, and I stumbled on several large clusters of people on the waterfront, so I decided to check it out. I couldn't figure out what was going on -- clearly some kind of protest, but what was it about?

Eventually I wandered into a cluster of people doing this. And that's when I figured out that it had to be related to Occupy Wall Street. Not because I knew OWS was doing this, but because it seems so very, very apropos for that group, somehow.

It's functional, yes, but it also involves people in a very visceral way in what's going on. It's a neat bit of psychology: getting people to say something aloud, I think, predisposes them to agree with it.
posted by gurple at 9:58 AM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


SHE WANTS A CAT TOO MALE PEOPLE!
posted by mattbucher at 9:59 AM on October 4, 2011


I'm done making fun of these guys and am now on to simple admiration for their tenacity. Good work kids!

this, thank you.

I'm on my way down there later with bagels and water. They are awesome.
posted by victors at 10:04 AM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Here's a well-written anecdote about a handful of people successfully interjecting into what might otherwise have been a steamroller of a discussion. It sounds like they were about to communicate that they had nuanced concerns, and the speaker arranged to meet them separately to have the detailed discussion.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:06 AM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Here's a well-written anecdote...

From that anecdote:
Seeing 300 people using consensus method was powerful. Knowing that a lot of people there had never been part of a consensus process and were learning about it for the first time was powerful.

This is the second time I've seen the term "consensus method" being used by people involved in a protest in New York.

How did this term acquire magical significance? Why did this author think people were "learning about it for the first time," as if it were some kind of newly revealed wisdom?

How can this possibly scale to work in an unfocused crowd of hundreds of people? Moreover, why do these protesters seemingly insist that it must scale?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:17 AM on October 4, 2011


How can this possibly scale to work in an unfocused crowd of hundreds of people? Moreover, why do these protesters seemingly insist that it must scale?

It sounds to me (maybe?) like you know the answer: because they are naive. Is your actual question something like: how far can a naive group of young people get? (I'm totally cool being wrong and if you accuse me of projecting I will admit as much...)
posted by victors at 10:23 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it's well-written in that it's readable, not in that it goes in to a ton of detail (in more than one direction - I wish it had included more specifics on the problematic language and the change they had made.) I don't at all see how the consensus method would work in a group big enough that crowd psychology really kicks in.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:24 AM on October 4, 2011


What if someone farted?
posted by stormpooper at 10:25 AM on October 4, 2011


I wonder how much my corporate overlords will pay me to go inject random junk into the consensus process. Who am I kidding, they won't pay me anything, I'll just keep my job another year.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:26 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


What if someone farted?

You need a permit for that.
posted by The World Famous at 10:27 AM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is actually a pretty old idea (all the best ones are, of course). I can't remember where I heard it, but it seems to me that a certain lefty activist (my brain says John Reed, but that appears to be incorrect) got his start as one of the boys at a rally repeating the speaker's words to the back. If I could remember who it was, I could look up what they were called. (It appears that human megaphone was a phrase with some currency around 1900-1920, but mainly for someone who is simply loud, appropriately or not. The word megaphone itself had only been around since 1890 or so.)
posted by dhartung at 10:28 AM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


While not as engaging of the populace, you'd think modern tech would come up with ways around this issue. Teleconferencing? Computer speech recognition (with its own attendant comedy) projected onto a large screen? If everyone had just taken sign language courses back in community college.

Groupsource PA obviously has more populist appeal but for information exchange its right up there with yelling the waiter's questions to grampa after his hearing aids quit.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 10:34 AM on October 4, 2011


How can this possibly scale to work in an unfocused crowd of hundreds of people? Moreover, why do these protesters seemingly insist that it must scale?

It scales to the extent that there are already shared expectations among the participants of OWS. Many of these expectations are tacit, but no less shared for it. The stated mission of OWS also self-selects for a number of ideals, traits, etc. This results in many "no-brainer" discussions where there is very little controversy over the decisions or pronouncements being made.

Also, OWS is a temporary protest movement with very few shared resources to begin with. In contrast, if OWS were intended to be a long-term living situation, like a squatters' town, then there would be a problem, because it would indeed be very difficult to reach consensus on all issues when there are hundreds of people who will be presumably reproducing over many generations.

While not as engaging of the populace, you'd think modern tech would come up with ways around this issue. Teleconferencing? Computer speech recognition (with its own attendant comedy) projected onto a large screen? If everyone had just taken sign language courses back in community college.

Why is it better if the situation is strictly technological? Teleconferencing would be silly - I can barely hear my SO's laptop over the whine of the air conditioning. Computer speech recognition projected onto a large screen would be expensive, use quite a lot of power, and would be necessarily restricted to one station in the park. Sign language is an interesting thought, but only so many people are fluent in ASL, and not everyone can see from all angles anyhow.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:38 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Up-waggling? Back in my day at the A16/WTO protests we called it "twinkling." It looked very silly but it worked.
posted by wowbobwow at 10:42 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Ingenious! But the sentence fragments! Are kind of annoying! After awhile!"

It's. As if. William Shatner. Was. Protesting.
posted by howling fantods at 10:44 AM on October 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


PURPLE! MONKEY! DISHWASHER!
posted by blue_beetle at 10:49 AM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is very cool and I admire them as well.
I do wish they would work on their PR campaign. I've heard a few interviews with OWS folks and they seemed a bit stymied when asked about their lack of a list of demands/proposals.
They're fighting the good fight, though.
posted by angrycat at 10:50 AM on October 4, 2011


BLESSED ARE THE CHEESEMAKERS!
posted by Strange Interlude at 10:51 AM on October 4, 2011


The consensus process is a method common in activist circles for making decisions in a non-hierarchical fashion in a group of people. The details differ from one implementation to another, but the basics are pretty simple. You set up an agenda (either decided on beforehand or scrawled on a piece of paper passed around), people talk about agenda items and make proposals. Proposals are open to amendment or blockage by anyone in the decision-making group. Adopted proposals are then the responsibility of then entire group.

The process actually works very well in long-term situations. I lived in a consensus-based cooperative for four years and worked with a couple consensus-based non-profit organizations, and it has worked very well. It's not as fast as having an executive deciding shit of their own accord and telling people what to do, but on the other hand everyone has input and a space to voice concerns (and amendments to) issues affecting the community. The Berkeley student coops have about 1300 residents and use a kind of tiered consensus system for decision making; each house has its own consensus body, and a couple representatives on the BSC board. They've been doing this effectively for decades, maintaining an organization that is owned by no one for the benefit of the residents.

Consensus is a radical idea when placed in the context of people whose main interface with decision making systems is one of: a) being told what to do by da boss, or b) having an up-down vote in an election with millions of participants, effectively a tyranny of the voting majority.
posted by kaibutsu at 10:54 AM on October 4, 2011 [12 favorites]


I should also say that consensus super-hero Kevin Wolf runs consensus meeting between, for example, loggers and environmentalists in order to resolve fundamental conflicts. These meetings have hundreds of people in near-violent disagreement with each other. A top-down decision in such a context tends to favor one group at the total expense of the other; by creating a consensus decision, you get buy-in from both/all sides.
posted by kaibutsu at 10:56 AM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Groupsource PA obviously has more populist appeal but for information exchange its right up there with yelling the waiter's questions to grampa after his hearing aids quit.

Actually, it's not. Have you seen it in action? I was pretty impressed with how it made it possible for about a hundred people to hear each other speak, however slowly.

I think it's more effective because it doesn't rely on technology. Being low-tech, itself, it's only susceptible to attacks that are also low-tech (plants, loud noises). Relying on technology is a good way to be shut down -- for example, if the telecoms decided to behave in their own interests.
posted by gurple at 10:59 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


This really does make a lot of sense to me. Humans were gathering in groups for a couple years before the invention of twitter.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:14 AM on October 4, 2011


Is your actual question something like...

No, my actual question is more about semantics and hour-to-hour tactics and expectations.

It's as if someone came up to me and asked, "Have you heard of this neato invention called 'television.'?" Yes, I have heard, and while I have an opinion of it, why do you think I have NOT heard? Are you so disconnected from everyday culture that you think others are similarly disconnected?

Again, the semantics of it is as if this is newfound wisdom that will instantly solve problems. Instead of, you know, what happens every day in every family everywhere. "What do you guys want to have for dinner? Pizza? Burritos? I could go for Chinese." Bang, that's consensus method, only we just call it "talking."

And then hour-to-hour expectations. I watch Whale Wars, as they throw paint at Japanese whaling ships. OK, that made for a nice picture. Now, what happens next? Just some more paint? You "occupied" Wall Street. Good for you. I actually believe in your message. Now what?

I'm beginning to think Gandhi and Martin Luther King were the greatest geniuses the world has ever known, because they found a way to make civic protest actually work, instead of letting it devolve into drum circles and hacky sack.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:21 AM on October 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


I like the way they found a low cost way to circumvent the restriction and it has the added advantage of encouraging active listening and bringing attention to itself, but the real amplification here is the uploading of these speeches on Youtube.

Unfortunately this is an echo chamber if I ever saw one. There's a disconnect between Joe Stiglitz and Jeff Madrick making very salient points about asymmetrical incentives, moral hazard, market distortion etc and yet the loudest, most enthusiastically chanted solution (in the Moore video) is to 'Tax the Rich!' - i.e. dont change the underlying systemic problems, just demand a bigger cut. Also the creepiness and cultishness of this method would quickly become apparent if used by someone like Sarah Palin.
posted by marco_nj at 11:27 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anticipative human microphone:

I HAVE A FISH / IN MY PANTS
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 11:29 AM on October 4, 2011


From what I gather, one of the purposes that the original organizers intended was to specifically NOT offer solutions - it would have been pointless two weeks ago, when no media was covering them, and it's pointless now, when any suggestion will be viciously ripped apart by both cynics in the middle and pundits on the right.

Why should it be up to a small group of left-wing activists to develop a complete overhaul the financial system? Why shouldn't they have buy in (or "consensus") from the rest of America?

Again, the semantics of it is as if this is newfound wisdom that will instantly solve problems.

Who's saying this? Human microphone is just a tool, like a regular microphone. Consensus is just a tool, like a memorandum. They have their positives and their negatives. You've mentioned some negatives. Others have mentioned negatives. No one thinks that the amorphous concept of consensus will end poverty in America.
posted by muddgirl at 11:34 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


If the crowds get larger they should work on a system of bugle calls.

bah bah bah = down with the patriatchy.
bum bah bah = examine your privilege.
bah bah bum = who ate my hummus.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:37 AM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Potential tactic for the next large protest: en masse silence and inaction. No demands, no shouting, no response to authorities, reporters or anyone. Just stand very still, and force a reaction to the lone act of occupation.
posted by swift at 11:37 AM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


swift: Sounds a lot like a die-in, but standing up. Zombie-in?
posted by kaibutsu at 11:40 AM on October 4, 2011


Freeze-in.
posted by swift at 11:45 AM on October 4, 2011


So - if money = speech, and you need a permit for amplified sound (which is television and any electronic mechanism) then surely all those corps who are donating money to politicians are getting their permits properly from the jurisdiction before spewing their political ads everywhere?

or... Oh.. I'm sorry, that's only for dirty hippies who have to get a permit, I see...
posted by symbioid at 11:49 AM on October 4, 2011


Cool Papa Bell: Again, the semantics of it is as if this is newfound wisdom that will instantly solve problems. Instead of, you know, what happens every day in every family everywhere. "What do you guys want to have for dinner? Pizza? Burritos? I could go for Chinese." Bang, that's consensus method, only we just call it "talking."

The difference between this and the family discussion of dinner is higher stakes and more process. Does your family have consensus discussions about, say, setting bed-times or family budgets? How are those decisions made? Is the decision making process structured so that everyone in the family is guaranteed a right to speak or amend a proposal to make it acceptable?

I'm beginning to think Gandhi and Martin Luther King were the greatest geniuses the world has ever known, because they found a way to make civic protest actually work, instead of letting it devolve into drum circles and hacky sack.

I'm not so up on the history around Ghandi, but the civil rights movement in the 1960's was largely driven by grassroots organization by groups like SNCC. When sufficient groundwork had been done that things really started to heat up, MLK and his team would swoop in and subsequently claim all the credit. And then the MLK team would swoop out of town without looking back. MLK was a great speaker, but the organization that made things like the Birmingham protest happen were was generally performed by other people and groups.

For a truly inspiring piece of civil rights work that MLK didn't get in on, check out the story of the Mississippi Freedom Summer, which involved some serious balls on the part of the participants and was hugely effective.
posted by kaibutsu at 11:55 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


The human microphone is, indeed, one of the neatest hacks I've seen in the wild.

A completely unrelated sidenote;
I am so tired of people using hack in this way.
What, exactly are you hacking? Oh, you're not actually hacking anything? You're just using 'hack' instead of 'shortcut' or 'trick.' Well then.
posted by Windigo at 12:01 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Unfortunately, I think you might be just trying to hack the barn door after the cow already escaped.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 12:04 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think you might be right.

I need a hack to find acceptance for silly, incorect usage of the word 'hack.'
posted by Windigo at 12:09 PM on October 4, 2011


hack?
posted by obscurator at 12:27 PM on October 4, 2011


I like that someone upthread mentioned the human centipede, because I think it serves as a perfect metaphor for the thing that the Occupy Wall Street people are against — unrestrained market capitalism is a process where people accept that we're strung together in a human centipede, and then posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:34 PM on October 4, 2011


hack
[very common]

1. n. Originally, a quick job that produces what is needed, but not well.
...
Descriptive, prescriptive, blah blah blah, (I sure as hell don't want ESR prescribing anything at all to me)... If there's any dictionary at all for hackers, it's The Jargon File, and it's clear in accepting this use of the word "hack".
posted by Llama-Lime at 1:05 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, they're hacking the permit law.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 1:06 PM on October 4, 2011


Yeah, they're hacking the permit law.

Welllllllllllll, they're hacking voice amplification. Hacking the permit law would be, say, finding a shortcut to securing a permit, or a legal loophole which allows for electronic amplifiers without a permit.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:15 PM on October 4, 2011


Yeah, that makes sense.

Even thouh you're hacking split hairs. ;)
posted by Horselover Phattie at 1:20 PM on October 4, 2011


As long as we're being pedantic, I feel an affirmative duty to leave no hair unsplit. ;)
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:21 PM on October 4, 2011


Llama-Lime - that definition is sort of opposite, or perhaps orthogonal to, the modern definition. Nowadays we might use the word "kludge" for the same purpose.
posted by muddgirl at 1:22 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Turn it up! TURN IT UP!!!
posted by Evilspork at 1:29 PM on October 4, 2011


Re: consensus method.

CTRL+F zapatista

Read that paragraph. It's been working for a long time.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 1:44 PM on October 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I was watching some footage of the protests on Democracy Now. Whoever was trivialising the movement by playing REGGAE OF ALL THINGS should be kneecapped.

Way to get Joe Sixpack on your side, guys.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:23 PM on October 4, 2011


re-examining how the word "hack" is used, via last week's On the Media on hacking.

Too bad no one has portable radios anymore. A pirate radio (even legal < 100mW might have enough range) transmitter for the orator and headphone-equipped radios for the listeners is pretty simple and cheap, if the receivers are commodities that everyone already has.
posted by morganw at 2:55 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, someone send them a Travis Tritt CD, STAT.
posted by muddgirl at 3:10 PM on October 4, 2011


If you bring drums, you are out of the revolution.
posted by The Whelk at 3:10 PM on October 4, 2011


I always said it was puppet shows and/or stilts.
posted by dunkadunc at 3:48 PM on October 4, 2011


Puppets are the herpes of protests.
posted by The Whelk at 3:50 PM on October 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


How can this possibly scale to work in an unfocused crowd of hundreds of people? Moreover, why do these protesters seemingly insist that it must scale?

In the case of the infamous Brooklyn Bridge incident, it appears it didn't really scale. There was one cop with a megaphone out in front that said something to the effect of "If you guys continue you'll be arrested." The info didn't make it to the back of the crowd, which led to all that confusion about whether they were deliberately misled by the police, which led to all that sturm und drang about the changed New York Times article that was edited shortly after it went up (to more accurately reflect the truth, but to do so without retraction or explanation seemed very irresponsible to me.)
posted by to sir with millipedes at 3:59 PM on October 4, 2011


Too bad no one has portable radios anymore. A pirate radio transmitter for the orator and headphone-equipped radios for the listeners is pretty simple and cheap, if the receivers are commodities that everyone already has.

Everyone's got a smartphone... Stream it to them?
posted by mikelieman at 4:49 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Everyone's got a smartphone... Stream it to them?

Yeah, NYC, cut off the 4G. I triple dog dare you.
posted by Spatch at 4:53 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


In the case of the infamous Brooklyn Bridge incident, it appears it didn't really scale. There was one cop with a megaphone out in front that said something to the effect of "If you guys continue you'll be arrested." The info didn't make it to the back of the crowd

Well, the info didn't make the back of the crowd, but even more importantly, the people at the head of the march didn't stop - they continued. And as they continued, people were also chanting "take the bridge" and suchlike, because a critical mass of them still wanted to "take the bridge" - which they did, temporarily, with basically predictable consequences.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:56 PM on October 4, 2011


Holy cow, have y'all seen this? Protester and activist Jesse LaGreca absolutely pwns some Fox News reporter sicced on the dirty fucking hippies by Greta Van Susteren, and Fox hides it under a bushel.

This guy should be working for President Obama, stat.
posted by spitbull at 5:36 PM on October 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


Steve Martin: "Now, let's repeat the Non-conformist's Oath:
I promise to be different!"

Audience: "I PROMISE TO BE DIFFERENT!"

Steve: "I promise to be unique!"

Audience: "I PROMISE TO BE UNIQUE!"

S: "I promise not to repeat things other people say!"

A: "....."
posted by Mister Moofoo at 5:49 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am so tired of people using hack in this way.
What, exactly are you hacking? Oh, you're not actually hacking anything? You're just using 'hack' instead of 'shortcut' or 'trick.' Well then.


This definition has actually been around a while:
The Meaning of ‘Hack’
“The word hack doesn't really have 69 different meanings”, according to MIT hacker Phil Agre. [prev] “In fact, hack has only one meaning, an extremely subtle and profound one which defies articulation. Which connotation is implied by a given use of the word depends in similarly profound ways on the context. Similar remarks apply to a couple of other hacker words, most notably random.”

Hacking might be characterized as ‘an appropriate application of ingenuity’. Whether the result is a quick-and-dirty patchwork job or a carefully crafted work of art, you have to admire the cleverness that went into it.

An important secondary meaning of hack is ‘a creative practical joke’. This kind of hack is easier to explain to non-hackers than the programming kind. Of course, some hacks have both natures;


Others have spoken of hacking as a variation of zen. This thread seems like an argument over whether the Buddha has the Buddha nature. I think what distinguishes a hack from a shortcut or trick is its elegance -- which may be one of brute force. Obviously something could be all three. But to call something a hack specifically calls attention to problem-solving and creativity.

As Agre was editor of the Red Rock Eater Digest, I like to imagine he's anonymously participating in #OccupyWallStreet, perhaps even wearing an Anonymous mask. As an aside, I ran into this video letter to him: Dear Philip E. Agre. It's actually a fascinating discussion of network topology that has real resonance with this thread.
posted by dhartung at 11:38 PM on October 4, 2011


Could somebody please compare and contrast OWS with previous protests (e.g. "battle of Seattle")? Is this a nascent revolution or just another bunch of trustafarian puppets on stilts?
posted by whuppy at 6:44 AM on October 5, 2011


What?!? Bullhorns and amplifiers banned at a peaceful protest? Damn that country of yours is becoming is ruled by Stalin with a capitalist flavour or something?
posted by elpapacito at 8:39 AM on October 5, 2011


Is this a nascent revolution or just another bunch of trustafarian puppets on stilts?

Is it possible that it could be both? Is it possible that one can transform into the other?
posted by to sir with millipedes at 9:16 AM on October 5, 2011


In the case of the infamous Brooklyn Bridge incident, it appears it didn't really scale. There was one cop with a megaphone out in front that said something to the effect of "If you guys continue you'll be arrested." The info didn't make it to the back of the crowd,

Well, the cop didn't say "mic check."
posted by muddgirl at 10:54 AM on October 5, 2011


Is it possible that it could be both? Is it possible that one can transform into the other?

Name one that has in the past.

Seriously. I can't think of an effective, popular, people-driven revolution where, at the outset, one of the major signposts of the protest was improvisational entertainment.

I mean, I suppose you could say that those marching in 1960s civil rights and anti-war protests sang songs and spirituals. I just don't recall there being any hacky sack.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:10 AM on October 5, 2011


I didn't know that a major signpost of this protest was hackey sack. Since we learned to hackey sack in PE class in 2002 I find it hard to characterize it as something outré.
posted by muddgirl at 11:35 AM on October 5, 2011


This is how you protest. Suits and ties and Sunday best. Not drum circles and Guy Fawkes masks.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:30 PM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just spend 40 minutes or so at the Occupy Austin General Assembly (the official "occupation" begins tomorrow but they've been holding meetings for a week or two now.) I took notes!

There were probably thirty people there when I got there, and probably closer to 70 when I left. They were at Austin City Hall, which was built with an outdoor assembly area - stadium seating and all. They did have a mic so I didn't get to witness the human microphone thing.

The organizer-types introduced themselves, explained that running a GA was voluntary, rotating position, and then asked for a female to co-moderate because all the moderators were male. Someone volunteered. That was neat.

They started off with "report-backs" where people who had been getting shit organized took the mike, and this was was I was particularly interested in, because I haven't been able to figure out what these folks actually wanted to do. It was actually a lot more like a festival planning meeting than any sort of protest - it was all about process, logistics, and events, not rhetoric. Some things that stood out:
- They are planning to hold classes, discussions, and workshops throughout the occupation. They're getting volunteers from the community to run them - for example, tomorrow evening there will be a class on nonviolent communication.

- They've gotten people to volunteer heath care, water, childcare (that sounds like it will be hairy) and legal services. They've got a help line set up in case people get arrested, and six lawyers so far. (They were careful to emphasize that they do not expect nor intend for anyone to get arrested.)

- The people there were, demographically, sort of what you'd expect in Austin - young, bearded white men, older first-gen hippie ladies, a smattering of minorities. There is a Diversity Committee working on reaching out to more people, and a need for some Spanish-language press materials, which are good signs I guess.

- The first external action seems to be organizing a mass account closure at major banks. They're collecting information on local banks and credit unions and will be encouraging people to make the switch.
The biggest irony was that because they had a small spotlight on the speaker, the speaker couldn't see any of the elaborate hand signals from the audience, so I saw no particular evidence of a consensus process. But then, I left when they got to the point where they were accepting proposals for agenda items, so they may have resolved that - the organizers were vocally disturbed by that as it got darker.

So yeah, apparently all of those old hippies at the anti-war protests were wrong. This is what democracy looks like - it's tedious, nitpicky, self-conscious, and ultimately builds something a lot more complicated (if maybe not more politically effective) than easy-to-remember chants.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:28 PM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


NYC is getting kinda feisty right now (WARNING GRAPHIC)
posted by The Whelk at 8:01 PM on October 5, 2011


What?!? Bullhorns and amplifiers banned at a peaceful protest? Damn that country of yours is becoming is ruled by Stalin with a capitalist flavour or something?

When I was young my parents traveled to Russia, back when it was in the USSR. One of the crazy stories they told when they came back is how you can't take pictures of Red Square. I wonder how many crazy stories are being told about the US by tourists these days?
posted by krinklyfig at 11:35 AM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is how you protest. Suits and ties and Sunday best. Not drum circles and Guy Fawkes masks.

Kinda hard to do that when the protest goes on for days and maybe weeks and has thousands of people participating. Not everyone owns a suit these days, FWIW, and I never went to church as a kid so not sure if "Sunday best" means that much to many people anymore. Various labor unions have joined in OWS. When they march they usually do so in unison (though not in suits), and I've seen that happening at this particular protest by those groups.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:49 AM on October 6, 2011


Today was the first day of occupying City Hall in Philly. I was late for something so couldn't get close to the demonstration, but many people on their way with various wacky signs.

It would be great in this really segregated city if we get more than Penn and Drexel students down there. I have my doubts, though; the students at my institution and at Temple, from what I know, are too radically time-stressed because they have to work 40 hours a week while going to school so that they can pay the tuition.

Thanks, Tom Corbett! Let's fucking occupy Harrisburg, already.
posted by angrycat at 11:53 AM on October 6, 2011


Joseph Stiglitz: Spend, Spend, Spend. There is only one way out of the global recession, and government must lead the way.
posted by homunculus at 11:59 AM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


The end game?

A good overview over at Esquire, lots of great pull quotes
posted by The Whelk at 12:00 PM on October 6, 2011


I'm loving the blatant ageism and classism at play in this thread. Nice to get it all out in the open.
posted by muddgirl at 3:49 PM on October 6, 2011


erm, mudgirl, was that in part directed at me and my comments about students from colleges with a more affluent background being more likely to show up at the protests?

All I can say is that I teach/tutor at a community college, and I know some pretty intimate duties of quite a few of my students' lives. They have to work just about full time if their families don't want to be saddled with serious loan debt. And this is community college. Many of the students have kids to take care of, too.

All I know about Drexel is expensive. I know Penn is an Ivy League and (natch) very expensive school. I attended a very expensive law school, where protesting was the thing to do. Because more people had the luxury of time to do things other than struggle to pay for school and living expenses.

So that's why I made my comment. If I mistook the direction of your angry remark, then disregard.
posted by angrycat at 4:47 PM on October 6, 2011


*intimate details*
posted by angrycat at 4:49 PM on October 6, 2011


angrycat - it was directed at repeated assertions made by another that the people seen in Occupy Wallstreet aren't legitimate protesters, for various silly reasons (their clothes, hackeysack, impromptu entertainment, u.s.w.)
posted by muddgirl at 6:04 PM on October 6, 2011


> The end game?

I hope not. From the article
Several other letters carried the suggestion of moving the protest-camp to the far larger, city-owned Battery Park.
The Bonus Army lasted 5 weeks in a Hooverville in Anacostia Flats. OWS could be supplied by water in Battery Park.
posted by morganw at 9:16 PM on October 6, 2011


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