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U.S. Press Freedom Rankings Plummet
January 30, 2012 4:40 PM   Subscribe

“The United States [owes] its fall of 27 places [to 47th] to the many arrests of journalist covering Occupy Wall Street protests.” -Reporters Without Borders

Btw, Occupy Wall St. has begun heating up again for the spring with 400 arrested in Oakland yesterday. And a blooming Occupy K Street movement (DC, FB)

“Crackdown was the word of the year in 2011. Never has freedom of information been so closely associated with democracy. Never have journalists, through their reporting, vexed the enemies of freedom so much. Never have acts of censorship and physical attacks on journalists seemed so numerous.”

There are various interesting observations throughout the report, such as Uganda's extreme crackdown, Chile losing 47 places over security forces assaults on student protests, and Brazil plunging 41 places due to attacks on journalists and bloggers. Africa saw the biggest falls overall, but a few African nations gained ground. Niger rose a spectacular 75 places.

As an aside, Reporters Without Borders and WikiLeaks recently exposed NASDAQ for shutting down the U.S. based Chinese language TV network NTD TV upon the request of Chinese State Security. RSF/RWB also found that the French satellite broadcaster Eutelsat shut down NTD TV's broadcast on China's behalf.
posted by jeffburdges (232 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
Yeah, but I bet that fall 20 spots to 47th was like the single largest and fastest drop ever. So technically . . .

WE'RE #1!
WE'RE #1!
posted by quadog at 4:49 PM on January 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


Frightening.
posted by fuq at 4:55 PM on January 30, 2012


The Occupy crackdowns were certainly disturbing but let's not forget the Obama admin's war on the reporting of "national security" abuses, prosecuting the sources for vital news stories under the Espionage Act.
posted by grobstein at 5:02 PM on January 30, 2012 [11 favorites]


The Occupy crackdowns were certainly disturbing but let's not forget the Obama admin's war on the reporting of "national security" abuses, prosecuting the sources for vital news stories under the Espionage Act.


But all the military tells us we are the "free world" and without spending all that and invading all those countries we wouldn't be free... should i believe what they say or do? (rhetorical question, i don't believe them at all.)
posted by usagizero at 5:07 PM on January 30, 2012


I'm pretty sure that even the most laid back government is gonna arrest people that try to 'take over' abandoned buildings. You'd have to essentially be a failed government to let that happen.
posted by empath at 5:07 PM on January 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


To be fair, the arrests yesterday weren't for a peaceful demonstration. They were for an openly violent riot.
posted by kafziel at 5:09 PM on January 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


As much as I sympathize with OWS, I really think they should leave Oakland alone.

Clearly, the 1% doesn't live there, and I was actually kind of pissed off when they blocked the docks. I mean, they were stopping real workingpeople from working. That's not cool. It's not like they were scabs or anything.
posted by Afroblanco at 5:10 PM on January 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


I mean, it's like how the LA riots mostly trashed the disenfranchised parts of LA where the rioters actually lived. The whole thing just adds to the (mostly mistaken) impression that they have no unified goals or means.
posted by Afroblanco at 5:12 PM on January 30, 2012


As someone who followed the Occupy protests very closely in the past 6 months I'm going to have to add Reporters Without Borders to my list of position-pushing groups posing as unbiased watchdog organizations. When you're a blogger participating in a mob, you can't expect to be treated like someone sitting in the audience at a press conference. Looking at the official RWB list I see that they are listing South Africa above the United States which must be a very selective and useless reading of when it is "safe" to report facts.
posted by shii at 5:13 PM on January 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


OAKUTRON 201X
posted by brundlefly at 5:16 PM on January 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oakland is why we can't have nice things.
posted by Mick at 5:16 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


What Really Happened At Occupy Oakland, an eyewitness account on Reddit that contradicts the media and police summaries quite drastically. One quote:
Tonight was different. When I fell behind the group, I knew they were going to arrest a very large number of peaceful protesters without declaring an unlawful assembly at the location. And then they did. I thought this sh*t was reserved for G20's and WTO meetings. I felt shame for being intimidated away from my rights. 'Unlawful assemblies' feel like a boot stomp on the first amendment, but this was like them wiping their ass with the constitution and force feeding it to me.
Related: OPD Used Violent Cops Against Occupy.
posted by Malor at 5:19 PM on January 30, 2012 [15 favorites]


The best thing about arresting loads of journalists who actually cover events on the ground is that it then frees up the police to describe protesters as violent thieves and rioters who deserved to be beaten up, and nobody can contradict them.
posted by wwwwwhatt at 5:23 PM on January 30, 2012 [10 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that even the most laid back government is gonna arrest people that try to 'take over' abandoned buildings.

Not true at all, but a good indication of how cowed American activists are, and how cut off they are from activist strategies in the rest of the world.
posted by wwwwwhatt at 5:26 PM on January 30, 2012 [18 favorites]


"As someone who followed the Occupy protests very closely in the past 6 months I'm going to have to add Reporters Without Borders to my list of position-pushing groups posing as unbiased watchdog organizations. When you're a blogger participating in a mob, you can't expect to be treated like someone sitting in the audience at a press conference. Looking at the official RWB list I see that they are listing South Africa above the United States which must be a very selective and useless reading of when it is "safe" to report facts."

Meh. You've been kvetching about OWS on MeFi for the last six months or so; burning a flag isn't evidence of being a "mob;" reporters do report from the inside of mobs without getting arrested. And bitching about South Africa is thin tu quoque sauce.

So I guess we add you to the list of position-pushing members posing as unbiased observers.
posted by klangklangston at 5:44 PM on January 30, 2012 [40 favorites]


There wasn't much comment about methodology in their report, although wikipedia says they obtain the information from "14 freedom of expression [organizations] in five continents", but overall I suspect they're simply counting arrests, beatings, deaths, etc.

“In the space of two months in the United States, more than 25 were subjected to arrests and beatings at the hands of police who were quick to issue indictments for inappropriate behaviour, public nuisance or even lack of accreditation.”

If we're comparing with South Africa, then PEN reports 12 arrests during the last 18 months.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:08 PM on January 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


A different eyewitness account present a yet another perspective. The flag that was burned was taken from inside Oakland City Hall by the protestors, so local upset isn't about the fact of a flag being burned as about the fact that public property was destroyed. I'm in the process of moving to Oakland at the moment but didn't attend this.
posted by anigbrowl at 6:13 PM on January 30, 2012


as for DC, the two sites are pretty small these days and many of the tents are empty. Smartly they've left them up to seem larger.

Drive or walk by each site nearly every day.

I didn't see anyone on K street, was down there twice today.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:13 PM on January 30, 2012


I'm more than a bit perturbed at the number of people who value space and property over human rights such as freedom of speech, freedom to protest one's government; and down to basic human needs such as a secure place to sleep, warmth so that one doesn't die of exposure, somewhere the take care of basic bodily functions such as cleaning and relieving oneself, the ability to grow, scavenge, or otherwise procure food.

The U.S. has a huge and growing number of people who are homeless, for example. Meanwhile, cities and towns have been on a decades long crusade to criminalize basically everything about being homeless. We ostensibly have a democratic system of government. Yet public venues where people can come together as citizens to discuss civic issues are rapidly disappearing, or use of such public spaces is becoming ever more restricted and proscribed. If you have to pay a fee to use a public space, then it's not really public. (Perhaps we forget the economic privilege that allows all of us on Metafilter to have our elucidating if sometimes contentious discussions on issues of civic import, cultural import, or even of no import to speak of.) This withering away of the commons, of public space, has severe repercussions for the ability of citizens to engage in civil discourse, and for neighbors to come together to build and maintain communities. (An engaging book on this topic, for folks who are middle class and above, is "Not Buying It: My year without shopping.")

Occupy is pushing back against this trend by, literally, occupying space; turning ostensibly public or private but unused spaces back into true public space. Occupy groups are doing this in their own neighborhoods, where they can use their reclaimed public space to strengthen their locational communities. That's not akin to rioting and deconstructing their communities; that's smart activism that will help them reconstruct communities that, in many cases (eg. Oakland from what I hear), have some fairly significant problems. I think one could reasonably argue for this reclaiming of the public sphere as one of the most important struggles in the U.S. today; a fundamental issue underlying all sorts of other problems, from political corruption, to corporate malfeasance, to economic injustices, to reported degradation of communities and social fabric that conservatives like to talk about.
posted by eviemath at 6:20 PM on January 30, 2012 [33 favorites]


Yeah, Americans love protests when they happen in other countries.
posted by JHarris at 6:25 PM on January 30, 2012 [13 favorites]


They could also, you know, vote. But that's not as fun.
posted by empath at 6:26 PM on January 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm more than a bit perturbed at the number of people who value space and property over human rights such as freedom of speech, freedom to protest one's government
If one has property but nothing in particular to say, isn't that natural?
posted by planet at 6:26 PM on January 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here's another first person account of what happened in Oakland.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:28 PM on January 30, 2012


That appears to be exact same account as that in the FPP and in Malor's link, rather than an additional perspective.
posted by anigbrowl at 6:29 PM on January 30, 2012


I'll be happy with 48th if they send Bill O'Reilly to Damascus.
posted by I love you more when I eat paint chips at 7:00 PM on January 30, 2012


I'm pretty sure that even the most laid back government is gonna arrest people that try to 'take over' abandoned buildings.

That goes double for "abandoned" buildings that are a) city property and b) not actually abandoned, like the Kaiser Convention Center that Occupy Oakland tried to break into over the weekend.

The Kaiser, which I've lived basically across the street from for the last dozen years or so, is closed because the property is being used as a staging area for the 12th Street Reconstruction project. The construction company has completely taken over all the parking areas around the building for office trailers, equipment and fill dirt, which is why the whole site is fenced off. It would be next to impossible to run an event there under these circumstances, so the building isn't operating at the moment, but it was in use right up to when construction started, and as far as I know all the offices and furnishings and equipment that were in there before the construction started are still in there today. It's about as "abandoned" as a grade school during summer vacation.

I'm cynical enough to suspect the folks who organized Move-In Day knew all this, but targeted the building anyway because it's a prominent local landmark that lots of people would get excited about trying to "take over". It's not like the people involved in the protest would ever have figured out they were being misled about the property being "abandoned", since the city and OPD weren't going to let any of them actually get into the building in the first place.

It's like a dog running after a car. They love the thrill of the chase, but wouldn't know what the hell to do with it if they actually caught it.
posted by Lazlo at 7:05 PM on January 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


They could also, you know, vote. But that's not as fun.
posted by empath at 18:26 on January 30

You seem to have missed the part where various OWS and OWS-sympathetic people explained how pretty much both major political parties in the US are essentially beholden to the moneyed interests (banks and corporations) who effectively control them.

So, you could accuse OWS protestors of being in the street just to have "fun", but, hey, why not go all the way with "get a job and take a bath, hippie". It's the Newt Gingrich strategy, and it seems to be working reasonably well for him.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:07 PM on January 30, 2012 [28 favorites]


The drop, of course, is purely concerned with the arrest of reporters. No matter how violent or lawless the "hippies" might be, it doesn't really justify that.

But, I expect that if any public figure were to deign to address this at all, it would be to contemptuously dismiss it with the claim that "America is the freest nation on Earth."
posted by tyllwin at 7:31 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder how strictly they defined 'journalist' for the purpose of this index.
posted by Ardiril at 7:34 PM on January 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


"When you're a blogger participating in a mob, you can't expect to be treated like someone sitting in the audience at a press conference."

...yep, '00s was a great decade for reporters, sitting in televised press conferences, creating the illusion of news.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:36 PM on January 30, 2012 [15 favorites]


But, I expect that if any public figure were to deign to address this at all, it would be to contemptuously dismiss it with the claim that "America is the freest nation on Earth."

Apparently, so are quite a few Metafilter posters. It's always interesting how serious issues that would rightly be called suppression of the press in other (darker-skinned) countries become A-OK when they're done to people regarded as smelly hippies.
posted by jhandey at 7:44 PM on January 30, 2012 [10 favorites]


To be fair, the arrests yesterday weren't for a peaceful demonstration. They were for an openly violent riot.

Hi, I live in Oakland, attended the protest, and I can tell you that there was no riot. I have been at protests in Oakland previously that did devolve into riots, so I am not blanket defending OO and I actually live and work on 10th Street. I could see my studio through the clouds of tear gas at the major confrontation during the day on Oak St. Here is what I saw and my thoughts as an actual Oakland resident / business owner.

Yes, they intended to take over a vacant building, which is illegal. You can't have civil disobedience without the disobedience, that is the point. This decision was not made in a vacuum. Oakland has an epidemic of abandoned buildings owned by absentee, out of town landlords who don't give a shit about our town and would rather let their property rot than rent in a soft market. Lots of neighborhoods have been hit very, very hard by foreclosures while at the same time the city has completely gutted the agencies that help the homeless. To add insult to injury, Oakland actually does have a "blight tax" but this law is absolutely never enforced on bank owned properties.

I have seen OPD be completely over the top aggressive at past protests, but this time there was not even the pretext of waiting for some idiot to throw a bottle. As the marchers went down Oak Street, they opened fire with tear gas, rubber bullets, and tons of flash bang grenades. From where I stood on the steps of the OMCA, I did not see any rocks or whatever thrown at police until after they police launched their offensive.

Regardless, OPD's own crowd control policy states that these weapons cannot be used indiscriminately at a crowd even if some fucking idiot does throw a bottle. They are required by law and their own regulations to isolate the assholes. It also says they can't overhand beat people with batons, although I never saw an officer not use their baton that way.

It also states very, very clearly that protestors must be given an order to disperse and that routes for dispersal identified clearly before arrests are made. They must do this even if a previous order has been given and the crowd moves.

At 19th & Telegraph, the crowd was kettled with all exits blocked. I saw people crying and begging OPD to let them disperse. They then fired tear gas into the trapped crowd (in the hopes of inciting a real riot?). People knocked down a chainlink fence and sprinted away back to the streets.

The crowd continued down Broadway to 24th by the YMCA and OPD again kettled the marchers (let me add: at this point there are still zero broken windows, no graffiti, no vandalism, no rioting). All exits were blocked, and there was no dispersal order given. They announced "Everyone is under arrest". I saw an employee at the Y open the door and apparently some people escaped through the back before OPD stopped that.

At this point my friend and I ran across the street and quickly hopped a fence and escaped to the next block over. We were just marching, we did not plan to do anything illegal. If a dispersal order had been given, we would have left immediately.

I live in downtown Oakland, this is my neighborhood, and while I support Occupy Oakland I have gotten awfully fucking sick of the vandalism related to the protests. What I saw yesterday was a crowd attempting to be disobedient - and to the best of their collective ability, non-violent - face off against a police force intent on inciting destruction and headlines.
posted by bradbane at 7:54 PM on January 30, 2012 [84 favorites]


They could also, you know, vote. But that's not as fun.


I think the part of the point of Occupy is that the system is rigged against most people. Voting in another 1% stooge isn't going to help matters. For the record, I have always voted and always will, even if it feel futile.
posted by IvoShandor at 7:58 PM on January 30, 2012 [10 favorites]


Apparently, so are quite a few Metafilter posters

Oh, the "When you're a blogger participating in a mob" notion? Well, if those bloggers were tossing things through plate glass windows, or throwing Molotov cocktails, or overturning cop cars, I'd expect them to be arrested. When they're standing there peacefully, I expect them to be treated like a citizen standing there peacefully.
posted by tyllwin at 8:00 PM on January 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


As far as this news, from Reporters Without Borders, which came out several days ago, it's not surprising or unprecedented. I think it was the RWB link that I read the other day (could have been a news outlet) that mentioned we were as low as 53 during the Bush years. I think only the naive and, possibly, the heavily medicated think the United States has an absoutionist stance toward press freedom. Maybe think is the wrong word, perhaps hope.
posted by IvoShandor at 8:04 PM on January 30, 2012


Clearly, the 1% doesn't live there, and I was actually kind of pissed off when they blocked the docks.

Huh, it was actually one of the better days of my life. Different strokes, I guess.
posted by the_bone at 8:10 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Clearly, the 1% doesn't live there, and I was actually kind of pissed off when they blocked the docks. I mean, they were stopping real workingpeople from working. That's not cool. It's not like they were scabs or anything. -- Afroblanco
*rolls eyes* How many people did the Montgomery bus boycotts stop from working?

Obviously these banks are intertwined deeply in the economy, so when people do "real work" they're going to be within one or two degrees of separation from the banks. In the case of the ports themselves, a large chunk was owned directly by Goldman Sachs.

The idea that you could have an effective protests without disrupting anyone is absurd. The media will just ignore you, and then what have you accomplished exactly?

So there's a choice, either do nothing, or inconvenience people.

What do you think they should have done instead?

By the way, I believe in this case they were trying to take over a foreclosed, vacant building. In another thread someone was actually saying "OWS should take over vacant buildings instead of blocking ports!" – Now they try to do that, and people bitch. What should they be doing instead? Just shrug their shoulders and give up?
They could also, you know, vote. But that's not as fun. -- empath
I'm pretty sure they did in 2008. Has inequality gone down since then? Voting does nothing to advance your agenda if the people you have to vote for aren't even offering to do so, let alone actually trying to. The healthcare bill is a good thing, but it's less important for younger people who are much less likely to have health problems.

Again, look at the civil rights movement. Black people "just voting" could not have gotten them their civil rights, because, you know they didn't make up a majority. Or do you think that civil rights protests shouldn't have happened, and if black people couldn't have gotten civil rights through voting alone, it just shouldn't have happened?

The attitude seems to be: if you can't get a majority behind you, your issues simply shouldn't be addressed. That's obviously ridiculous. The comment was flippant nonsense.
Oh, the "When you're a blogger participating in a mob" notion? Well, if those bloggers were tossing things through plate glass windows, or throwing Molotov cocktails, or overturning cop cars, I'd expect them to be arrested. When they're standing there peacefully, I expect them to be treated like a citizen standing there peacefully.
And just how would you actually know what they were doing before they got arrested? Do you have any evidence that the people who were arrested were throwing Molotov cocktails? Are you just making that assumption based on the idea of everyone involved being a dirty hippy anarchist or something?

There seem to be a lot of people in this thread who seem to think that if you can't get mainstream politicians to do what you want, you should just suck it up and get over it.
posted by delmoi at 8:14 PM on January 30, 2012 [21 favorites]


My impression is that the historical Civil Rights movement is taught in American schools as an exemplary model of a peaceful social movement. It surprises me, then, to see so many people emphasising the criminality of Move-In Day, considering that the Civil Rights movement's paradigmatic form of activism was a type of criminal trespass that often turned violent.

They could also, you know, vote. But that's not as fun.

What makes you think they don't also vote? How could voting alone reverse the enclosure of public space, the lack of everyday democracy, and the diminution of public politics, when voting is only practiced on a special day once every couple of years in a hidden booth? When has voting alone achieved anything, and why would you immediately look at a new form of protest and suggest it be given up because it's not just voting? You say voting's "not as fun". Does this not also mean that it's not as engaging? Isn't that a serious problem, not just a triviality?
posted by wwwwwhatt at 8:18 PM on January 30, 2012 [10 favorites]


Well, if those bloggers were tossing things through plate glass windows, or throwing Molotov cocktails, or overturning cop cars, I'd expect them to be arrested. When they're standing there peacefully, I expect them to be treated like a citizen standing there peacefully.

Like, dowsing them with pepper spray, right? Cause that's been real popular with the cops.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:24 PM on January 30, 2012


Eerie screen capture from @oakfosho's livestream of the event.
posted by stagewhisper at 8:28 PM on January 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


Wow, I must have expressed myself badly. I was trying to say that unless there was evidence that a given blogger had been doing something destructive -- which there doesn't seem to be -- they should have been treated with the respect due any citizen peacefully standing there. My point was that they did not deserve to be treated as "part of a mob" -- I wasn't defending their arrests at all.
posted by tyllwin at 8:36 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


What I saw at Occupy Oakland #J28:

-I saw Officer R. Kirkland shove a protester over the bike she was walking, and then the riot-line advanced and got their snatch-on.

-The same Riot Line had just shoved a senior-citizen to the ground and almost snatched him up too. [Video by fellow livestreamer Jeff Kloy]

-Among the footage my fumble-fingers did not save (but which was streamed live) included the same Officer R. Kirkland using his baton to swat the cell-cam out of a protester's hand while the snatch-team was arresting another marcher who had fallen. The phone's owner stood his ground and demanded his phone back (which was behind Kirkland). A Sgt came forward and allowed him to get it back.

-I saw Occupiers with defensive shields made from garbage cans being met with flash-bang grenades, bean-bag rounds pepper-balls fired from paintball guns (a.k.a. "The Battle Of Oak Street"). The grenades were used (again) in violation of OPD's proceedures i.e. that they not be thrown directly at protesters. If that was a battle, how come only one side was armed?

-I saw a 19-year-old street-medic w/ cancer that the insurers won't cover (pre-existing yadda-fucking-yadda) being treated by paramedics, crying out in pain.

Earlier at the 19th & Telegraph illegal kettle, was assiting someone who'd been tear-gassed, Badge number #119 swatted her with his baton while running uptown towards the YMCA where the march had gone on to. When I came to her, she'd gotten worse and friends had called paramedics.

Guess who OPD badge #119 is? R. Kirkland again. I wonder how hard it would be to google "R Kirkland 119 Oakland Police" and see if he's already been d0x'd (not that I'd ever post such a link to the blue). But no, really. As an Oaklander, Rodney Kirkland, badge #119, is a piece of shit.

-I saw a snatch-team of imported cops grab a young woman for dancing threateningly at them. Nasty robot she had going on.

-I saw a metric fuck-ton of cops declare an unlawful assembly and square off against me & 2 other pot-smoking livestreamers, a few MSM cameras, and barely enough people in Oscar Grant Plaza to fill the Peet's Coffee on 13th.

-I saw Alameda County Sheriff's bring a fucking TANK to arrest ~400 people who, after an illegal kettle w/ no avenue of escape offered, were ALLOWED INTO THE YMCA BY THE STAFF INSIDE WHO UNLOCKED THE DOORS. About a hundred made it out the back door, ~ 300 got arrested.

WHY THE FUCK DOES ALAMEDA COUNTY HAVE A FUCKING TANK AND WHY DID THEY BRING IT SATURDAY NIGHT?

The mainstream media is full of shit. Get a fucking camera and get out there, see/film for yourself. Pix, or it didn't happen. BE THE MEDIA!

And like I posted a little while ago:
Film the police, run a tape for the underclass
Get the face, name, number on the badge
They flash, we flash back
When they act disorderly, react accordingly & capture all we see
Nightstick, zipties, and tasers, think you're licensed fore type-vicious behavior
Make the tight fist with the video trained towards the pigs like this
They trip, and we make 'em famous
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:48 PM on January 30, 2012 [46 favorites]


-I saw Officer R. Kirkland shove a protester over the bike she was walking, and then the riot-line advanced and got their snatch-on.

"Your honor with all due respect the defendant's body struck my outstretched palm and her side then struck my shoe. This is prima facie evidence for assault on a public officer"

WHY THE FUCK DOES ALAMEDA COUNTY HAVE A FUCKING TANK AND WHY DID THEY BRING IT SATURDAY NIGHT?

Really? This is the same Alameda County Sheriff's Office that shot at kids back in '69 right?

I feel scared for people going for Occupy Chicago during G8 and NATO. What's the bet that they escalate to live ammo by the time they're done?
posted by Talez at 9:15 PM on January 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


That wasn't a tank… That was hardly even an armored car. Oakland PD's response is obviously wrong, but you're not helping by posting exaggerated stories.
posted by hattifattener at 9:25 PM on January 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


What's the bet that they escalate to live ammo by the time they're done?

Wouldn't be too surprised myself. For a good indicator of what's in store for the future, concerning police and US military response to increasing protests and organized calls for social justice in US cities, we need look no further than last week's joint military/police exercises in LA. A Blackhawk and other US military helicopters buzzed the night skies as Posse Comitatus spun in its grave.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:26 PM on January 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


I have no money, but how much would it take to get to Oakland?

This is what class war looks like. Everybody who's saying that this sort of action is doing the Occupy Movement a disservice is lying to themselves. This is the point. We have been shit upon for far too long, and we're re-learning our history. There's a lot of it, and I know it can seem intimidating and violent, but thems the dice.

No war but class war.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 9:32 PM on January 30, 2012 [9 favorites]


It surprises me, then, to see so many people emphasising the criminality of Move-In Day, considering that the Civil Rights movement's paradigmatic form of activism was a type of criminal trespass that often turned violent.

The Civil Rights movement's paradigmatic form of activism was nonviolent passive resistance. The shocking disconnect between the protesters' behavior and the violence used against them is why the movement succeeded. Any attempt to draw moral equivalence between the tactics of the Civil Rights movement and the tactics of Occupy Oakland is farcical.
posted by Lazlo at 9:37 PM on January 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


That wasn't a tank… That was hardly even an armored car. Oakland PD's response is obviously wrong, but you're not helping by posting exaggerated stories.

Ya know what? As a civilian who has never been in the military, standing next to that thing on a Saturday night as it rolled up Broadway in the city I fucking live in, that's a fucking tank. The armored car was from Union City Police. Go to my full stream, it rolled up around a different corner a minute or so earlier in the broadcast.

But fine, I'll play your semantic word games. "Why does Alameda County Sheriff need a FIFTEEN-FOOT TALL URBAN ASSAULT VEHICLE? to affect a mass-arrest of a protest march that had sought refuge in the YMCA after an illegal kettle?"
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:38 PM on January 30, 2012 [7 favorites]


*rolls eyes* How many people did the Montgomery bus boycotts stop from working?

This crap needs to stop. The problem, still, is occupy's lack of cohesive message. Invoking the civil rights movement of yonder is a dick move intended to deflect criticism. Occupy needs to carve its own way without crying, "But, the 60s!" It doesn't matter how well intentioned it is, burning a flag or playing with fireworks is a stupid move that impresses very few. Once again, Occupy Oakland's lack of discipline conspires with OPD to lose the high ground.

Occupy fans on MeFi need to honestly get out of the bubble and take a good assessment of the movement. Making excuses for dumb behavior isn't going to work. All the valiant failed confrontations against the police mean dick if the reasons for the confrontations still aren't all that clear to most of the 99% that Occupy claims to represent. Let alone agreeing with the reasons.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:42 PM on January 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Civil Rights movement's paradigmatic form of activism was nonviolent passive resistance. The shocking disconnect between the protesters' behavior and the violence used against them is why the movement succeeded. Any attempt to draw moral equivalence between the tactics of the Civil Rights movement and the tactics of Occupy Oakland is farcical.

So breaking into buildings and not acquiescing to the cops is some form of violence? Jesus fuck, you people are small.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 9:43 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is what class war looks like. Everybody who's saying that this sort of action is doing the Occupy Movement a disservice is lying to themselves. This is the point. We have been shit upon for far too long, and we're re-learning our history. There's a lot of it, and I know it can seem intimidating and violent, but thems the dice.

No war but class war.


Dude, this is delusional.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:43 PM on January 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Dude, this is delusional.

Go on?
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 9:45 PM on January 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


that's a fucking tank - This fevered perspective of paranoia and foreboding is what I think that which separates the believers from the unimpressed.
posted by Ardiril at 10:03 PM on January 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


So, you could accuse OWS protestors of being in the street just to have "fun", but, hey, why not go all the way with "get a job and take a bath, hippie". It's the Newt Gingrich strategy, and it seems to be working reasonably well for him.

It's been working pretty well for the Democratic Party, as well as for the Republicans.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:05 PM on January 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


The problem, still, is occupy's lack of cohesive message.

At this point anyone who is still trotting out this line of garbage is not just "not listening" they are in fact actively opposed to listening.
posted by mstokes650 at 10:07 PM on January 30, 2012 [26 favorites]


For the record, about a month ago I said I thought this was a bad plan, especially if HJK was the target.

I personally think we should espouse Kingian/Ghandian non-violent civil disobedience. Training here in Oakland for that starts Feb 18. Many of us OO supporters are not happy about the militant stance we've taken as a movement, and I KNOW it alienates people who started out as OO supporters.

OPD is fucked up and bullshit. I don't subcribe to "Fuck the Police" or "All Cops Are Bastards", but pretty much fuck OPD. 7% of them actually live in Oakland, the rest just come into to town get their cop-on, and then go home to the suburbs and talk shit about what savages we are here in the 510.

But if we had faced their lines with linked arms and no masks, would have been a different day. And WHEN they got out of control, then the images would be more sympathetic, plain and simple. Said this many times over several streams.

We're in a PR War, and many of my OO comrades just don't understand how these images play out beyond the Bay-Bubble we live in.

And yet, OPD is on the verge of being taken over by the Feds because they can't get their shit together. Fuck 'em.

If ever there was a time to stop watching the mainstream media reports about just about ANYTHING, it's now. The closer one lives to newsworthy events, the more one sees how bullshit the media is.

I got no car, no kids, no cable TV, just a data-plan to burn livestreaming. So I'm filming the events on the streets I live in. Fuck the corporate media. Like B. Dolan says in "Film The Police":
We The People are the only real media we got
Let's protect one another from the fucking goon squad!
This is 2012. Get WAY over the idea that you can go out in public and not end up on camera. Your only choice is to pick up a camera and film back, or not. I picked up a camera
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:09 PM on January 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


This fevered perspective of paranoia and foreboding is what I think that which separates the believers from the unimpressed.

Or, to put the shoe on the other foot, one might say that your Pollyanna-ish lack of concern about heavy-handed police* efforts at quashing dissent is what separates the rightly concerned from the police-state apologists.

*soon to be military/police
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:10 PM on January 30, 2012 [13 favorites]


*FACEPALM*

I love when people trot out the no coherent message argument. Shows who has their fucking fingers in their ears.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:12 PM on January 30, 2012 [7 favorites]


U.S. public order policing: "technically that's not a tank".
posted by wwwwwhatt at 10:14 PM on January 30, 2012 [12 favorites]


However you want to phrase the rhetoric, the primary point is still that the message is not getting through.
posted by Ardiril at 10:16 PM on January 30, 2012


the primary point is still that the message is not getting through.

Oh yeah? I'd say it's gotten through to a hella lotta people. Did you not notice the massive sympathetic marches from various labor unions, for example?

I think plenty of people get the message. More and more every day. That's part of the reason so many people who aren't particularly enamored of the message keep repeating "BUT THERE'S NO MESSAGE!" It's about the only thing they can come up with to say, outside of, maybe, "Yeah, I want my elected representatives in the pocket of Goldman Sachs, the Koch brothers and Monsanto!" But they know saying that won't really fly, see.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:24 PM on January 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


Did you not notice the massive sympathetic marches from various labor unions, for example?

No, I didn't notice any sympathetic marches by any labor unions, nor did I notice any advance publicity of last weekend's protest in Oakland, only a news report after the fact that a bunch of people were arrested. The only people I know, online or off, who seem to have any idea that something even occurred in Oakland over the last few days are those participating in this very thread.
posted by Ardiril at 10:31 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, I didn't notice any sympathetic marches by any labor unions

Perhaps I should've made clear that I'm talking about the OWS movement in general. NYC saw several large marches on Wall Street by labor unions a few months back, which is what i was referring to. Anyway, I was certainly under the impression that when you say "the message is not getting through", it's the movement's message (as a whole) you are talking about, and not specifically a message from the Oakland protests.

So, should I assume, then, that you are of the opinion that the general OWS message is indeed getting through? That we're not just talking about Oakland here? Or what?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:42 PM on January 30, 2012


No, the general OWS message is not getting through. "A few months back" is ancient history. On vastly more days than not, I must directly search for any current Occupy news as the usual news feeds appear to ignore the movement altogether. That then is why I wonder just who the movement is trying to impress, and how do they think the message is being conveyed to that target audience. I just ran my search script on Google news for Occupy and the Oakland arrests are third following a Washington Post story on how the movement is dividing and some anti-racist blogger claiming that Occupy focus is in fact racist.
posted by Ardiril at 10:51 PM on January 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


That I even have to run a script on Google news, rather than using the usual personalization keywords, should be telling in how short the message is falling.
posted by Ardiril at 10:53 PM on January 30, 2012


Also, people are not just saying "BUT THERE'S NO MESSAGE!", they get that Occupy doesn't like that the bailouts occurred. What they want is some continuation, some explanation as to why protesters feel that that was so bad that they are willing to shut down ports and get arrested.
posted by Ardiril at 11:07 PM on January 30, 2012


I must directly search for any current Occupy news as the usual news feeds appear to ignore the movement altogether.

Well, I'll be damned! I wonder why that is? Isn't that just something? Mmmm-hmmm!

"A few months back" is ancient history.

No it's not. It's just the beginning. You're playing the mass (corporate) media's game when you insist that it's "ancient history". Movements like this historically can play out over much longer periods than the 24-hour news cycle is comfortable with. Or wants people to remember.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:15 PM on January 30, 2012 [8 favorites]


I love when people trot out the no coherent message argument. Shows who has their fucking fingers in their ears.
So far the two responses to this argument have been ad hominem attacks, one with a rage comic. We're doing political manifestos in MS Paint now?

The closest thing to a coherent message I've seen is the "Declaration of the Occupation of New York City". If that (or something else) is the message then I'd suggest pointing it out in response to any future "no coherent message" arguments. The most persuasive answer to "X doesn't exist" is not "Yeah huh it does stupid!", but rather "Look, it's right here."
posted by roystgnr at 11:25 PM on January 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


You are missing the point. I have some interest in the topic and I must perform operations typical of a researcher to keep somewhere in the vicinity of current. I only know that the message runs deeper than bank bailouts because I have sifted through a couple thousand comments here on MeFi for a few nuggets that I then had to parse together into something halfway coherent. I am going well beyond what the average person is doing.

If I have to do this much work for a half-formed image, what message do you think the average Joe is getting?
posted by Ardiril at 11:30 PM on January 30, 2012


More americans give a fuck about this than they do #Occupy.
posted by Ardiril at 11:48 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I must directly search for any current Occupy news as the usual news feeds appear to ignore the movement altogether.

Have you even thought about that statement, for a second? At all?
posted by IvoShandor at 11:58 PM on January 30, 2012 [7 favorites]


More americans give a fuck about this than they do #Occupy.

You may be right. And maybe they'll therefore deserve the sort of third-world-country, gaping economic inequality that they are rapidly heading for. Maybe they'll stay glued to their celebrity gossip shows right up til the moment that the repo man comes into their living room and unplugs the TV, and the soldier/police officer at the door makes sure they don't try to break back into the house that their bank foreclosed on. Maybe all is lost.

But here's hoping political consciousness will rise, and the Occupy movement will not have been in vain.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:01 AM on January 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


IS: I have been thinking about how online news media covers activism for over 15 years. What's your point?
posted by Ardiril at 12:03 AM on January 31, 2012


My only point is the fact that you have to search for the information says myriad things about how the narrative is contained by the msm. So some people are making noise? So waht? It's not a big story. I'm sure your fifteen years experience following news has shed light upon that issue, no doubt.
posted by IvoShandor at 12:11 AM on January 31, 2012


eviemath: "Occupy is pushing back against this trend by, literally, occupying space; turning ostensibly public or private but unused spaces back into true public space."

This is a fallacy, repeated again and again since this thing started. Here's the thing: Occupied spaces are not public spaces. Occupied spaces are private spaces temporarily owned by the Occupy movement. The Occupy movement does not represent "everybody".
posted by falameufilho at 12:18 AM on January 31, 2012


I have been thinking about how online news media covers activism for over 15 years.

Hmm. As someone who's been thinking about how news media (online and pre-online) covers activism since 1973 or so (hey! I've got 23 years on ya!) I'd say that news media has marched to the beat of their corporate masters ever more obediently (especially within the last 10 years or so) and that I am therefore not one whit surprised that media is actively ignoring the movement. Protests that focus on economic inequality are especially likely to remain vastly underreported on by media conglomerates whose interests are at stake.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:20 AM on January 31, 2012 [8 favorites]


No, the general OWS message is not getting through.

Huh?

If I have to do this much work for a half-formed image, what message do you think the average Joe is getting?

Even if the "average Joe" has no idea what Occupy is about (which I seriously doubt) then at least they are being exposed to the change in tone.
posted by Defenestrator at 12:50 AM on January 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


OWS is open source in the form of people. The one thing OWS wants is for you to fucking listen, not just to 'hear' but listen. Free, open source OWS forks are coming soon. Have a problem with OWS? Report bugs, apply bug fixes. Determined not to use OWS? No problem, just don't bitch about it.
posted by fuq at 12:52 AM on January 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Civil Rights movement's paradigmatic form of activism was nonviolent passive resistance. The shocking disconnect between the protesters' behavior and the violence used against them is why the movement succeeded. Any attempt to draw moral equivalence between the tactics of the Civil Rights movement and the tactics of Occupy Oakland is farcical.

You are missing the point. When the Civil Rights movement was actually happening, they were called rioters, violent thugs, and outside agitators. At the time it was not considered "passive" protest. The injustice seems obvious to us now, but like you said that is the paradigmatic change they were making. They were contrasting the perceived "violence" of stepping outside the accepted social norms with the actual state violence used to enforce them. Direct action means acting as if you are already free, and that is what they did. Sitting down at a lunch counter forces the state's hand. It was non-violent, but also very confrontational, and that's why it worked.

Trust me, I have mixed feelings about Occupy Oakland so I am not drawing a moral equivalence. There are a lot of idiots and wannabe-revolutionaries (and the Kaiser Center was the dumbest fucking target ever). But occupying space as a tactic is nonviolent. You could even say that there's a parallel between the kind of state violence necessary to perform a foreclosure eviction for a bank and that needed to keep protestors from reopening an abandoned community center. That is why the camping, and their obviously foreseeable evictions, resonated enough to break the usual media filters.

I guess Occupy Oakland kind of embodies how I feel about Oakland as a whole: it has a lot of potential, and it feels like anything is possible. The reality is a little messy though.

It doesn't matter how well intentioned it is, burning a flag or playing with fireworks is a stupid move that impresses very few. Once again, Occupy Oakland's lack of discipline conspires with OPD to lose the high ground.

At previous protests in Oakland, I saw every window in downtown smashed. Graffiti covering everything. Cars set on fire. People openly ganging up and assaulting cops in the street. Block blocs running wild. Barricades built. Stores being looted.

This time there was one single broken window and a flag burned 10 blocks away from OPD's mass arrest of 400+ "rioting" protestors.
posted by bradbane at 12:56 AM on January 31, 2012 [6 favorites]


[Some comments deleted; personal spats can go to email.]
posted by taz at 1:02 AM on January 31, 2012


WHY THE FUCK DOES ALAMEDA COUNTY HAVE A FUCKING TANK...?

Police departments across the country have been training and supplying themselves for urban assault and crowd-suppression for a good long time now. Decades, actually. They train alongside the military in tactics and armed assault.

They've been ready and waiting (eager?) for shit like OWS to hit for a good long time.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:19 AM on January 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


That wasn't a tank

It was an armored car, NOT to be confused withe the ones that ferry around cash, this is a technical term for a military fighting vehicle. It's considered armor, just like a tank would be, and it is ABSOLUTELY INAPPROPRIATE to use in crowd control.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:26 AM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


if i get a new name it's going to be "Technically Not A Tank"
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 5:45 AM on January 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


I saw Alameda County Sheriff's bring a fucking TANK...

More precisely, that is an MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected, you know, for handling all of the roadside bombs protestors are planting...) -- note the V-shaped hull underneath. While, yes, it's technically not a tank, it is heavily armored military equipment and wholly inappropriate for any kind of police use, let alone dealing with peaceful protestors.
posted by indubitable at 5:57 AM on January 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'd imagine this report employs a rather strict definition of journalist if they found only 25 arrested or beaten across the entire U.S. during two big OWS months, but they might count bloggers and amateur photographers separately. Btw, South Africa has about 1/6th the population of the U.S., but 2 months is 1/9th of 18 months.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:19 AM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


the primary point is still that the message is not getting through.

What theme did President Obama s in his recent State of the Union address call "the defining issue of our time," and, by clear implication, propose as a major plank of his re-election platform?

Economic fairness.

And where do you think that idea came from, the moon?

When the President of the United States is pitching an idea to the American people (and apparently regarding it as not only good policy but good politics), I think it's fair to say that "the message is getting through," Google news search results to the contrary.
posted by La Cieca at 7:35 AM on January 31, 2012 [13 favorites]


There was a commentator in another thread who wisely observed that the Republican's attacks on Romney for being a corporate raider prove that OWS's message is coming through loud and clear.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:59 AM on January 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


It was desperation from Newt Gingrich, and it didn't work.
posted by empath at 8:01 AM on January 31, 2012


[A couple comments removed. I know it's a fraught and complicated topic, but please try crank it down a notch.]
posted by cortex at 8:02 AM on January 31, 2012


See you in Chicago.
posted by broadway bill at 8:30 AM on January 31, 2012


Back on Jan 20 at the "Occupy Wall Street West" day of action, I was interviewed for Citizen Radio about the difference between Occupy SF and Occupy Oakland. Starts ~41:30.

OSF, particularly J20, as more "traditional" OWS-type protest; bank shutdowns, people chaining themselves to the doors, focus on incom inequality, foreclosures, econopocalypse, etc.

Oakland has no financial district to protest, and that plus the egregiously violent repression of American Citizens engaging in peaceful protest has turned OO very much into the anti-police-repression-focused Occupy.

The way OPD have been targeting activists for arrest (they have a photo book), using excessive force in crowd control, not even allowing a 24-hour non-violent vigil to remain in Oscar Grant Plaza... people have gotten riled up. Whether or not I think it strategically beneficial for our long-term movement message, the fact is that OPD is violent and bullshit, and are about to go into Federal receivership because they violate their own rules so often. Fucking Mayor Quan and City Manager Santana are now trying to get "Stay-away" orders, not only from the Plaza/City Hall, but from all of Downtown Oakland.

A lot of Oaklanders consider "Tha 'Town" to be the petri dish where anti-occupy techniques are being refined b4 tried in other cities. Chigago gonna be interesting.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:53 AM on January 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


... OWS's message is coming through loud and clear

OWS is actually just voicing (collating) the message that is already out there - people are mad as hell. The part about "aren't going to take it anymore" is harder to articulate since masses of people are still hypnotized by the American Dream ("you, too, can become part of the 1%, so don't ask for any changes.")

And so ... to get back to the fpp, free press - good information - is more important than ever (at all levels - from wikileaks to msm). A coordinated Occupy action to reveal/protest the treatment of journalists and the lack of free press would be an especially savvy move right now. (SOPA and PIPA were just a small hint of organized assaults on free information)
posted by Surfurrus at 8:57 AM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


"All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 9:07 AM on January 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


PBZM - if Oakland OPD is the "petri dish where anti-occupy techniques are being refined", then the OO can almost be seen as the petri dish for other Occupy groups' responses to police actions. Videos of the shields used by OO were discussed online by some Occupy Seattle people ... along with thoughts about using knives and other weapons (take this with a grain of salt ... it is online, after all - most are posers/trolls).

Some of this is disturbing, but it brings the topic of non-violence back into the main discussion again. Seattle is hosting Kazu Haga (peacewarrior above) this coming weekend and again in March. -
This Seattle effort mirrors a discussion that is going on in Occupy groups around the country. The schism between 'radical DOT ('diversity of tactics') advocates and radical non-violence adherents has to be bridged ... soon.
posted by Surfurrus at 9:10 AM on January 31, 2012


It was desperation from Newt Gingrich, and it didn't work.

I'm not convinced of that. I think it got on the nerves of some Republican machers and political strategists who could see the picture bigger than Newt's ego, and that he got a stern talking-to from the people with the money.

But note when Newt's surge peaked: January 13. What did Newt do on that date? Asked his SuperPAC to pull the King of Bain documentary.
posted by gauche at 9:15 AM on January 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is fascinating: Thanks to Metafilter, I can see exactly what Dr. King was talking about when he complained that some of the biggest impediments to the Civil Rights movement were moderates and people who claimed to be sympathetic to the plight of blacks but didn't like all that annoying disruption.

It's quite amazing and amusing that during the midterms in 2010, if even three people claiming to be from the Tea Party showed up somewhere, the media gave them flattering coverage; and when they showed up acting raucous or armed, the order came from on high that they were to be left alone. Not to mention a number of moderates and "reasonable" lefties chiming in to tell us how folksy and natural and grassroots and diverse the Tea Party was, despite ample evidence to the contrary on all counts.

But you get 1000's of people -- from a wide variety of backgrounds -- peacefully protesting in the Occupy movements, and our leaders coordinate across states and cities to forcefully put them down, and the mainstream media runs with a "they have no goals and they're violent" storyline when they can even be arsed to cover the movements at all.

Something smells rotten here, folks, and I'm pretty sure it's not the "hippies" in the Occupy movement.
posted by lord_wolf at 9:16 AM on January 31, 2012 [23 favorites]


If I have to do this much work for a half-formed image, what message do you think the average Joe is getting?

Well, since most average people stop after reading the relevant Wikipedia article, I think they have a pretty clear sense of the aims of OWS. From the first paragraph of the Wikipedia article:
The protests are against social and economic inequality, high unemployment, greed, as well as corruption and the undue influence of corporations on government—particularly from the financial services sector. The protesters' slogan We are the 99% refers to the growing income and wealth inequality in the U.S. between the wealthiest 1% and the rest of the population.
Seems pretty clear to me. OWS identifies a collection of problems, including increasing economic inequality and the capture of government by the wealthiest -- so that government does not represent the vast majority of people. Concrete proposals for fixing the problems vary, but there is widespread agreement among OWS protesters about some of them, like reinstating Glass-Stegall and amending the Constitution to end corporate personhood.

Anyone who can't figure out this much isn't really trying, and anyone who, having figured out this much, still says that OWS has no clear message, is lying.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 9:16 AM on January 31, 2012 [12 favorites]


But occupying space as a tactic is nonviolent.

I agree—but trying to take that space using improvised riot gear in the face of active police opposition is not. OPD must have been licking their chops the moment those stupid fucking corrugated-metal shields came out, because that show of force instantly validated their use of force in response.

There was broad sympathic media coverage of the Ogawa Plaza clearing, and the pepper-spraying up at UC Davis, because they were clear use of excessive force against passive targets. As with the segregatonists' tatics in the '60s, there was no excuse for the level of violence the cops used. But there's nothing passive about laying siege to a building, no matter how high-minded your motivations are. (And if you want a great example of "no coherent message", trying to take over the Kaiser Auditorium is an excellent poster child. WTF does that have to do with corporate control of the political system?)
posted by Lazlo at 9:17 AM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks to Metafilter, I can see exactly what Dr. King was talking about when he complained that some of the biggest impediments to the Civil Rights movement were moderates and people who claimed to be sympathetic to the plight of blacks but didn't like all that annoying disruption.

Do you have a link or quote for this? I'm genuinely curious and not trying to gotcha.
posted by Big_B at 9:21 AM on January 31, 2012


Do you have a link or quote for this? I'm genuinely curious and not trying to gotcha.

From a Letter from a Birmingham Jail:

"I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection."
posted by lord_wolf at 9:26 AM on January 31, 2012 [17 favorites]


If you want to read the whole letter, it's here. The portion that lord_wolf quotes is about a fifth of the way down the page.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 9:29 AM on January 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thanks
posted by Big_B at 9:31 AM on January 31, 2012


Those of us in the disaffected camp of OO call it "Oakland Fever" when other Occupies start thinking "Hey, let's get militant like Oakland!"

What I point to is the fact that non-violent political revolutions have about twice the success rate as violent ones. Gotta dig for the reference, but it's something like ~53% success for NV, over ~25% success for V. NV protesters gain more sympathy against repression, and violent response allows the govt an excuse to reply violently "In the name of public order".

Otpor, the movement that overthrew Milosovic in Serbia, started as violent resistance. but the State will ALWAYS be able to deploy more violence than us.

So Otpor turned to non-violent resistance. They set up events to demonstrate that overreaction of the State. Anytime an activist was arrested, the first words to the media when they came out of jail was always the dame: "Violence is the last refuge of the weak".

Otpor won.

I think Occupy will learn that lesson. We're a 4-month old movement trying to fundamentally rewire society on more just, less abusive terms. Probably not gonna happen overnight.

But then, revolutions that reshape the world rarely do.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:31 AM on January 31, 2012 [8 favorites]


Anyone who can't figure out this much isn't really trying, and anyone who, having figured out this much, still says that OWS has no clear message, is lying.

No matter what, it is always going to be OWS's responsibility to make sure that the message is heard. It cannot place that responsibility.

As for quoting Dr. King, you will have to resolve that tension between the idea that people want both things, order and progress at the same time. Castigating others for having issues with what you are doing does not broaden your movement. In a nation of 310,000,000 you can't just be a 'feelgood' tiny minority--if there is something as bad as being a liberal who wants order its wanting to display disorder to express personal emotional feelings even if it does not actually help anyone.

If OWS wants to actually change things, it will have to fundamentally resolve the tension between the desire for change and the desire for civil order. If it cannot, it will not succeed.

Understanding this is about understanding what got Nixon in the White House. Your methods should not destroy your purpose. This is the tension that OWS must solve. It cannot demand that the world just love whatever it is it is doing. For it to be worthwhile, it has to be effective.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:50 AM on January 31, 2012


My attitude: anyone advocating violence, property destruction, etc is a cop.

It's never the non-violent, peaceful protester next to you who is gonna shave, put on a suit, and testify against you in court. It's always the violent, fire- and fight-starting maniac who is the rat.

See "Mark Kennedy/Mark Stone, a UK cop who spent 7 years undercover in the Yurpeen environmental movement as a mole, becoming quite influential. He also went on to have an affair with one of the activists he was spying on (leaving his wife & kids at home).

Supposedly his job was to feed intl so that the cops could "appropriately respond" not too much, not to little. In reality, his intel was used to pro-actively disrupt and attack protesters.

And now it seems he's been abandoned by both the people he lied to and spied on, as well as the fucking cops he did it for. Too fucking bad. That what you get for being a rat and a spy.

Security culture & militant secrecy allow the fucking cops top infiltrate and disrupt. An open, radically transparent, nonviolent movement is harder to use APs against.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:53 AM on January 31, 2012 [6 favorites]


Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey: "My attitude: anyone advocating violence, property destruction, etc is a cop."

This is a good example of the "No True Scotsman" fallacy. I can point to several examples of people advocating violence and property destruction in OWS threads in Metafilter. Unless you think they're all cops, your argument doesn't hold water.
posted by gertzedek at 10:40 AM on January 31, 2012


Gertzedek: They don't have to be a sworn peace officer to be a rat/infiltrator/provocateur. They can be on the cop pay, and willing to turn around and testify against their fellows.

Crazy Tom the FBI rat was a civilian. He was "Too crazy to be a pig".

They're not all cops. They just all untrustworthy because you can't tell who IS the cop. Even if they're not the cop, they are the open door through which the cops get in, and in which crowd they hide.

So in the end, they're just as bad as a cop and should be shunned the same way. For the good of the movement.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:50 AM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


My attitude: anyone advocating violence, property destruction, etc is a cop.

Do you read these links before you post them? The author breaks advocates of violence into two groups: traditional provocateurs such as anarchists and would-be revolutionaries, and law enforcement masquerading as provocateurs. The latter are a real problem, but so are the former and you are just pretending they don't exist. The author also provides examples of what doesn't qualify as nonviolent direct action, which includes a lot of the stuff OO is getting critiqued for, such as attempting to occupy buildings. I understand that this movement means a lot to you, but you are contradicting yourself almost continually - one post saying that violent types are a problem in OO (but disclaiming any responsibility for inhibiting or obstructing such behavior), another post saying that all violence originates with the police when this is patently untrue (although OPD does have a track record of violence and is on the verge of a federal takeover, albeit for reasons which long predate the Occupy movement).

For the record, there was some advance announcement, in the form of flypostings around Oakland that appeared last Wednesday or Thursday (at least in my neighborhood near Children's Hospital, where they poster heavily). January 28 was billed as 'move-in day' so it was pretty obvious that a building occupation was planned.
posted by anigbrowl at 10:59 AM on January 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


I can point to several examples of people advocating violence and property destruction in OWS threads in Metafilter. Unless you think they're all cops, your argument doesn't hold water.

I read it more as "is totally playing into the cops' hands and handing them this movement on a silver platter such that they might as well be a cop themselves."

"is a cop" is a (variously effective) rhetorical device to undercut an agitator's arguments by casting suspicion on his or her motives.
posted by gauche at 11:01 AM on January 31, 2012


I agree—but trying to take that space using improvised riot gear in the face of active police opposition is not. OPD must have been licking their chops the moment those stupid fucking corrugated-metal shields came out, because that show of force instantly validated their use of force in response.

Given OPD's track record I really don't understand why people point to bringing shields as "violent". Given the level of violence being aimed at protestors it just seems pragmatic.
posted by bradbane at 11:14 AM on January 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


^^^ Ditto.
posted by tr33hggr at 11:19 AM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


I mean if they were distributing baseball bats, ok. But I saw a group of masked people drop off those garbage can shields at the plaza before the march started on for anyone to pick up and take. On the back of each was written "Keep calm - protect the person behind you".
posted by bradbane at 11:28 AM on January 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


For the record:
-I'm against diversity of tactics because it looks bad on camera. Unmasked people w/ linked arms getting abused looks better and gains more sympathy in the PR War. If Pepper-Spray Pike had gassed UC students in black balaclavas behind shields, no one would give a shit.

As it is, UC Chancellor Katehi's walk of shame will follow her to her grave. Because when word came out that she felt "threatened" by the mass of students outside, The students WHO HAD BEEN SPRAYED AND WHO HAD COME TO CONFRONT THEIR CHANCELLOR asked all their fellow students to line up on one side of the road so she wouldn't have to walk a gantlet, and maintain absolute silence as she walked to her car. The only sound was the click of her designer heels.

THAT is moral authority. THAT is PR War win.

Also, the research about NV revolutions having a much better success rate.

-OPD is fucked up and bullshit, abusive motherfuckers who 9 times out of 10 don't live in this city. So fuck them. But smashing windows and setting fires in the streets allows OPD to be all fucked up and bullshit w/out taking the PR hit for it. That's a loss of OO in the PR War.

Do you read these links before you post them? The author breaks advocates of violence into two groups: traditional provocateurs such as anarchists and would-be revolutionaries, and law enforcement masquerading as provocateurs. The latter are a real problem, but so are the former and you are just pretending they don't exist.

Their effect on the movement is essentially the same: lost public support, bad PR, excuses for the cops to crack down. So what I see is a distinction w/out a difference. YMMV.

-Occupying a building is not a violent action. Choosing HJK Auditorium was a stupid idea for a target. But if we hadn't had weekly "Fuck The Police" marches, hadn't taken the militant stance, had signed action agreements about non-violence, non-destruction of property (and no, breaking the lock to get in doesn't count :P), OPD would have less public support to come-out a-swingin their batons when we marched to put a vacant, public building to the service of the community
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 11:40 AM on January 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


Given OPD's track record I really don't understand why people point to bringing shields as "violent". Given the level of violence being aimed at protestors it just seems pragmatic.

Police have a tendency to categorize any defensive effort to be a hostile act. If that defensive act involves raising sheets of corrugated metal...well...in the police's eyes, you've just brandished "dangerous weapons" and given OPD an opening to justify an attack. I'm not defending the police, mind you. I'm just giving you their interpretation.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:50 AM on January 31, 2012


I'm against diversity of tactics because it looks bad on camera

Orwellian language mangling is bad even when the government isn't doing it. Call it what it is. Violence.
posted by empath at 12:14 PM on January 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


in the police's eyes, you've just brandished "dangerous weapons" and given OPD an opening to justify an attack.

I get what you're saying, but OPD has shown over and over again that it doesn't matter what the protestors do, they're going to fire their weapons. That is what got Scott Olsen almost killed, OPD fired unprovoked on a peaceful march. Even this time they are saying "but they threw rocks!" not "but they brought shields!"

Orwellian language mangling is bad even when the government isn't doing it. Call it what it is. Violence.

In OO's internal debate, "diversity of tactics" has definitely been synonymous with vandalism/violence. I was very outspoken about the Black Bloc type actions that have occurred before, I thought they were juvenile and stupid (still do).

But I saw this weekend how the line can become murky. Smashing downtown and setting fires in the streets? Stupid, violent. Tearing down a fence so an illegally trapped crowd can escape from tear gas? I don't think so.

The problem every movement has is that the type of person who will be the first one to start ripping the fence up is also the one who will be the first to throw a rock through a window.
posted by bradbane at 1:26 PM on January 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


They could also, you know, vote. But that's not as fun.

Many of them do, but at this point, that's not enough.

I wrote about a great counter-example in the recent article about Benton Harbor, Michigan.

Commissioner Dennis Knowles of Benton Harbor was elected based in large part on his mobilization of friends and supporters in the local soup kitchen and homeless community. Then the Republican Michigan Governor used the recently passed Public Act 4 to quite literally come and take over the governance in the town.

Here's a quote from the article the original post links to:

To defenders of Michigan’s takeover of Benton Harbor, like the Republican state representative Al Pscholka, Knowles is Exhibit A for the case for intervention. “He got his friends down at the soup kitchen, took them to the polls and told them to vote,” Pscholka, a sponsor of the state’s emergency-manager legislation, told me one morning in Benton Harbor. “It was like play government over there,” he said, referring to the town’s City Hall.

That's how he refers to legitimate organization of voting by the poor.

The system is corrupt and broken. Voting is no longer enough. We must organize.
posted by formless at 1:29 PM on January 31, 2012 [7 favorites]


Smashing downtown and setting fires in the streets? Stupid, violent.

Remember that this may not be the protestors at all -- the police departments are known to place agents provocateur among protestors.... these agents then break windows and burn things, for which the protestors are blamed.
posted by Malor at 1:49 PM on January 31, 2012


Ugh. So many terrible arguments in this thread. I like OWS, but I don't feel that strongly about them. I kind of had the impression they'd basically fizzled.

But the arguments against them are just awful. This probably makes me look like a big supporter, because I can't help pointing out how unbelievably nonsensical the anti-OWS arguments are.
The Civil Rights movement's paradigmatic form of activism was nonviolent passive resistance.
There were plenty of massive race riots in the U.S. during that time period. There were leaders who advocated more violent responses to injustice, i.e. Malcolm X, the black panthers, etc. There were riots after King was assassinated.
Despite the urging of many leaders, the assassination led to a nationwide wave of riots in more than 100 cities.[23] After the assassination, the city of Memphis quickly settled the strike on favorable terms to the sanitation workers.[24][25]
Riots in more then100 cities! yet, if it was up to some people in this thread that should have discredited the entire civil rights movement, or something.

And more importantly, not every peaceful civil rights action went off perfectly.
The shocking disconnect between the protesters' behavior and the violence used against them is why the movement succeeded.
The same is true of OWS. How often has OWS kettled or tear gassed the police? The idea that the violence on both here is insane, if that's what you're arguing. If that's not what you're arguing, then it's not even clear what you think the difference is between OWS and the Civil Rights movement are. Both are examples of generally non-violent protest being brutally suppressed by police violence.
Any attempt to draw moral equivalence between the tactics of the Civil Rights movement and the tactics of Occupy Oakland is farcical.
The only thing farcical here is your historical illiteracy. There seem to be a lot of people who think 1) The civil rights protests never inconvienced or annoyed anyone or prevented them from working and 2) There was never, ever, any bad or violent behavior with people who generally agreed in racial equality.

Both ideas are completely absurd.
This crap needs to stop. The problem, still, is occupy's lack of cohesive message. Invoking the civil rights movement of yonder is a dick move intended to deflect criticism.
A) don't tell me what not to say. If you disagree, you can say so. The only "Dick move" is acting like you can decide what arguments people can and can't use

B) Whether or not OWS has a message or not is irrelevant. The point is, the criticism of as "interfering with people's jobs" or a few examples of violence were both true of the civil rights movement.

What's mind boggling here is that so many people are just historically illiterate about what happened in the civil rights movement. It like think King gave some speeches, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, at some point some firehoses were used? Maybe? And then boom civil rights happened.

And then the "How dare you compare OWS with the Civil Rights Movement!!!" -- I'm not. I'm just pointing out, for people who apparently slept through their highschool history classes, what actually happened and why criticism frequently leveled against OWS would have worked just as well against the Civil Rights Movement.
No, the general OWS message is not getting through. "A few months back" is ancient history.
Gosh, learning what actually happened in the civil rights era must be like paleontology or something!!!!
It was desperation from Newt Gingrich, and it didn't work.-- empath

Except the part where he won the primary election after making those arguments? How is that "not working"?
This is fascinating: Thanks to Metafilter, I can see exactly what Dr. King was talking about when he complained that some of the biggest impediments to the Civil Rights movement were moderates and people who claimed to be sympathetic to the plight of blacks but didn't like all that annoying disruption.
Which is the biggest historical oversight by the "How dare you mention the Civil Rights Movement!" crowed. The idea that there weren't people saying the exact same thing they say about OWS today that people said about the CRM at the time. Not only could the arguments be made against the CRM, they were made. By the people King called "white moderates"
Remember that this may not be the protestors at all -- the police departments are known to place agents provocateur among protestors.... these agents then break windows and burn things, for which the protestors are blamed.
Which also happened during the civil rights movement. Blaming an entire group for something they not only have no control over but in fact that their opponents can control is nonsensical.

---

Also, if you want to find someone who "doesn't have a message" just look at the anti-OWS position. Talk about not having a message. All they do is complain, without ever bothering to say what they actually want or what their goal is. For OWS to go away? I don't think I've seen a single post by a single anti-OWS poster explaining what it is that they want and how it differs from what OWS wants.
What I point to is the fact that non-violent political revolutions have about twice the success rate as violent ones. Gotta dig for the reference, but it's something like ~53% success for NV, over ~25% success for V. NV protesters gain more sympathy against repression, and violent response allows the govt an excuse to reply violently "In the name of public order".
Nothing OWS is doing would disqualify it from being a "non-violent" protest. If OWS were to somehow "win" then in the sense of "winners writing history books" they would record themselves as having been non-violent and claim that any violence was people who weren't "true" OWS protestors, that it was all agents provocateur, or opportunistic anarchist.

Look at the recent revolution in Egypt. That was a non-violent revolution, yet nothing OWS has been doing comes close to the violence we saw from protesters on Al Jazera live streams. Protestors were throwing rocks, even Molotov cocktails.
No matter what, it is always going to be OWS's responsibility to make sure that the message is heard. It cannot place that responsibility. -- Ironmouth
In another thread you said OWS was all about "fighting for white privilege" In order to make that statement, logically you must have been able to see that that was their goal.

So either you were lying when you claimed that was their goal, or lying now when you claim they don't have a clear goal.
Understanding this is about understanding what got Nixon in the White House. Your methods should not destroy your purpose. This is the tension that OWS must solve. It cannot demand that the world just love whatever it is it is doing. For it to be worthwhile, it has to be effective.
This makes it sound like you want OWS to achieve their goal, which you claimed earlier was to protect white privilege. Is that what you want? To protect white privilege? If not, why are you pretending to agree with the goal you previously claimed they had?

In any event, you are being completely incoherent.
This is a good example of the "No True Scotsman" fallacy. I can point to several examples of people advocating violence and property destruction in OWS threads in Metafilter. Unless you think they're all cops, your argument doesn't hold water.
Feel free to actually do so.
posted by delmoi at 2:01 PM on January 31, 2012 [8 favorites]


Oh I didn't even really notice this line from Ironmouth:
Understanding this is about understanding what got Nixon in the White House.
So obviously using that logic the civil rights movement was a bad thing since, despite all the gains in the 1960s, a republican got elected to the whitehouse, which Ironmouth seems to think is the greatest moral evil in the world. Nevermind the fact that Nixon started the EPA, ended the war in Vietnam, and tried to pass universal healthcare.
posted by delmoi at 2:06 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's not pragmatic at all if your objective is to be seen as the Good Guys. The student protestors I Davis got massive and almost unanimous public support because people saw a cop pepper spraying a bunch of obviously non-violent people who were just sitting still on the ground. The Oakland protestors are getting very little public sympathy because they look like they came for a fight. Throwing fireworks at the police is incredibly fucking stupid unless your intention is to rpovoke an outbreak of live fire in response, which thankfully hasn't happened yet.

I've been making this point for months now; you can't march alongside people who mask their faces and carry imrpovised weapons or other tools of confrontation, then beg off any negative outcome by talking about provocateurs and police brutality, even if those allegations are factual. If you have people arriving with or putting on amsks etc., then the only sensible thing to do is to stop marching and back away from them, not back them up with the implicit approval of a large crowd. If that means having protest marshals or something to keep a militant fringe away then so be it. OO has been doing a poor job of this.

Their effect on the movement is essentially the same: lost public support, bad PR, excuses for the cops to crack down. So what I see is a distinction w/out a difference. YMMV.

-Occupying a building is not a violent action. Choosing HJK Auditorium was a stupid idea for a target. But if we hadn't had weekly "Fuck The Police" marches, hadn't taken the militant stance, had signed action agreements about non-violence, non-destruction of property (and no, breaking the lock to get in doesn't count :P), OPD would have less public support to come-out a-swingin their batons when we marched to put a vacant, public building to the service of the community


PBZM, you're literally arguing with yourself. You say 'it's a distinction without a difference and then go on to point out what the difference is, though you don't seem to realize it. Also, claiming that occupying a building by breaking and entering isn't destructive is ridiculous. You don't get to make those determinations just because you're dissatisfied with the city's slow pace, for the same reason that I don't get to move into your home until my own place is move-in ready.

I find it somewhat ironic that OO has a security committee whose Guidelines for Exclusion include 'media approved zones but no media contact information.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:09 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


There were plenty of massive race riots in the U.S. during that time period. There were leaders who advocated more violent responses to injustice, i.e. Malcolm X, the black panthers, etc. There were riots after King was assassinated.

Let's also remember that the Black Panthers were an Oakland response to the Oakland police.

Remember that this may not be the protestors at all -- the police departments are known to place agents provocateur among protestors.... these agents then break windows and burn things, for which the protestors are blamed.

It would not surprise me at all if this were true, but in the bay area there really are people who think smashing a window is going to bring about the glorious revolution. Look at the guy upthread who wants to come fight the class war here. Those people are real. But from what I have seen at the protests here (from Oscar Grant to #J28) the vandalism always starts after police start a violent confrontation.

I don't think either side is blameless in any of the cases in Oakland, but OPD are the ones who show up armed to the teeth to every single time.

The real problem is that only 7% of OPD actually lives in Oakland. They come here, play adventure cop while racking up the overtime, and then go home to the suburbs.
posted by bradbane at 2:25 PM on January 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'd consider "anyone advocating violence is a cop" very good advice for protestors and a safe assumption for observers. Yes, there are always loonies who want a fight, but they probably aren't useful for or significant to the movement.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:42 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


No matter what, it is always going to be OWS's responsibility to make sure that the message is heard. It cannot place that responsibility.

Really? So do you hold, say, Barack Obama or the Democratic Party or whoever else you support to that same standard? If their message isn't getting out, it's their fault? It's almost as if we've stepped into an alternate reality in which there's no such thing as the Republican Party, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, or anyone else presenting counter-narratives (or just yelling louder).

I'll bet you a sizable sum of money that you don't hold those you support to that standard, though. What we have here is a classic case of moving the goalposts. It's a time-honored tactic - "well, I support this-or-that in theory, if only the people advocating it would just change this little thing..." and then after that little thing is changed or point is made, then another objection, and another, and another...
posted by jhandey at 2:55 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sure...just a few bad apples, not reflective of our values. Maybe it's time to try something different, because as I see it the problem is that both sides have been hijakced by confrontational militants, each of which is using the other as an excuse for aggression.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:57 PM on January 31, 2012


Perhaps one important thing to keep in mind in this discussion of non-violent protest tactics is that nonviolence is hard.

It requires a great deal of self-discipline and trust in the larger group. It requires a willingness to selfless sacrifice and collective action that is really, really not in vogue these days; so also requires emotional strength and willingness to be a social pariah.

In the U.S., we are trained to be violent and to interact with each other in coercive ways; we are not trained to be nonviolent. We're trained to be passive (not too physically violent) in public, to not resist the status quo too much, sure; but to use non-physical modes of coercion to get our way as adults. Even still, I know very few people who are not committed activists who would even claim to expect to (let alone actually) respond nonviolently to someone physically attacking them. Rather, most people I've known proudly declare that they won't take shit from people. Boys are taught that getting into fistfights is a reasonable way to resolve teenage or schoolyard disputes and that the boy who doesn't stand up for himself is unmanly (to put it mildly). Homeowners feel they have a right to have a weapon and use deadly force against home invasions. Et cetera.

Being nonviolent (as opposed to being pacisfist) is about treating all other human beings with respect and interacting with them in non-coercive ways (as opposed to pacifism, which is focused on not causing physical harm to others). That includes eschewing coercion through physical force, but also coercion through propaganda and deceit, or through other forms of manipulation. That requires communication skills that we aren't, in general, taught in the U.S. It requires un-learning more common coercive communication skills that we are taught, and that are held up as laudable (eg. most advertising and pr techniques).

A second important thing to keep in mind relates to something that I think is a common misconception of nonviolence, and one of the main distinctions between nonviolence and pacifism: the role of self-defense. Say you are being kettled and attacked by the police, who haven't given an order nor opportunity to disperse, when no one in your group or your immediate vicinity in a large group has initiated any violent action against the police. Or suppose you are being mugged in a dark alley all by yourself at night. A pacifist approach might say that, no matter what, you should not cause physical harm to your antagonists. A nonviolent approach says that, if you can defuse the situation without causing physical harm to your antagonists, then you should do so. Nonviolence training focuses on conflict de-escalation techniques, for example. Watching the video of the UCDavis pepper spray incident, part of why that went down as admirably as it did was that someone in the Occupy crowd there did some very effective conflict de-escalation, giving the cops the opportunity to stand down. However, a nonviolent approach would allow using the minimum force necessary to defend yourself, in the sense of maintaining your personal bodily integrity and asserting your own right to respect and freedom from coercion in a way that doesn't entail a greater degree of coercion against anyone else (there can be a balancing act, of course, and one can always second guess decisions made in a tense moment).

I would love to see a nonviolent movement for economic justice and direct democracy in the U.S. But I also live in the real world, and, as along with other passionate commenters upthread, am not going to damn the Occupy movement for not always adhering to an admittedly rather difficult nonviolent ideal. At least they are trying, and doing something about some serious systemic injustices.

Nonviolent protests might make use of more sacrificial, passive resistance type responses to police and state violence as a tactic. That can be extremely powerful, as we all know. That isn't the entirety of what nonviolent resistance is about, however. I encourage everyone to read up on the theory and practice of nonviolent resistance over the ages, and then to write more informed critiques of the tactics used by various Occupy groups (or argue with the description of what nonviolence is that I've presented here, if you prefer).

(Btw: bradbane, while there have been literal class wars, I certainly know people who talk about class war in terms of nonviolent resistance. "War" being used euphemistically in this sense, with a nod to the language used by the economically privileged who are worried about losing that privilege, or whose "wars" on drugs or terrorism or what have you have caused much immiseration. It is not, in fact, synonymous with smashing windows.)
posted by eviemath at 2:59 PM on January 31, 2012 [10 favorites]


By the way, can we please stop acting as though "incoherence" is a mortal sin? It's possible to be perfectly coherent AND perfectly wrong, you know.

That's all - sorry for the mini-derail.
posted by jhandey at 3:01 PM on January 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Riots in more then100 cities! yet, if it was up to some people in this thread that should have discredited the entire civil rights movement, or something.

I'm sorry, but I find the comparison ridiculous. OWS is a joke. They have some legitimate complaints, but they have the ability to address them by voting. Instead they're tilting at windmills and pretending to be revolutionaries. The civil rights movement was a movement of people for whom the democratic process was not a legitimate option, and they were attempting to correct an ongoing and obvious injustice.
posted by empath at 3:08 PM on January 31, 2012


OWS is a joke. They have some legitimate complaints, but they have the ability to address them by voting. Instead they're tilting at windmills and pretending to be revolutionaries.

So what do you do when voting doesn't change much? What do you do when both major parties support positions at wide variance with preferences expressed by majorities of the populace? Free trade's one of the most obvious ones - large majorities of Americans oppose free trade agreements, but they always sail through with solid bipartisan support. What do people who oppose this policy do? They exercise their right to vote, but when they do, nothing happens. What then? There's a host of other issues like this one - what should they do? Wish upon a star?
posted by jhandey at 3:14 PM on January 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ah, empath, is that why blacks in America are doing so well nowadays, now that the civil rights movement has guaranteed them voting rights, and there are no longer poll taxes and literacy tests and such?
posted by eviemath at 3:24 PM on January 31, 2012


"They have some legitimate complaints, but they have the ability to address them by voting."

C'mon, man, exactly how can the OWS folks pass, fer instance, a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United through voting?

A large part of these protests come from the perception that traditional methods of political self-correction have failed due to the corruption of the system (something, by the way, rather predicted in the Federalist Papers about the dangers of factionalism).
posted by klangklangston at 4:00 PM on January 31, 2012 [6 favorites]


OWS is a joke. They have some legitimate complaints, but they have the ability to address them by voting.

Wow, that's one dead horse you just won't stop flogging, man. Your first "vote" comment got several replies (from myself and others), but I guess they were just so out-of-left-field for you that they weren't even worth noting or considering or answering?

Anyway, your enduring faith in voting and voting alone as the end-all-be-all of political action and discourse is, um... breathtakingly naive.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:02 PM on January 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


But yeah, empath, in case you missed it, that comment of mine is here.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:04 PM on January 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yes, there are always loonies who want a fight, but they probably aren't useful for or significant to the movement.

Until your peaceful march is illegally kettled and the tear gas is rolling in and you need to get away.

Again, I am not blanket defending OO because I think there is a lot to criticize, especially the ongoing drama with "diversity of tactics" and "autonomous" Black Blocs. But the reason I'm not in jail right now is because some black clad anarchists confronted the police lines and destroyed property to free the crowd at 19th & Telegraph. These are not things I would do, as I believe in nonviolent direct action as well, but I sure was thankful in that case.

One thing I read was a statement from one of the police about how the metal shields were a "highly effective and mobile" tactic for the protestors. But I saw people unsuccessfully using them to try to break the kettles. So what were they so effective at? Preventing OPD from shooting weapons and throwing bombs indiscriminately into the crowd.

Part of my fascination with OO here is because I think the real showdown will be at the G8 in Chicago. OO is showing what is and isn't possible by taking a militant and radical posture. They are also building the infrastructure needed to support larger actions (ie. the coordinated port blockade, how to deal with getting large amounts of protestors out of jail, etc.). I think we are going to see a lot of metal shields and a lot of building occupations in Chicago, and it's going to be right after OO and lots of other groups have demonstrations for May Day (which I am just going to go ahead and predict will end in "violence" headlines in multiple cities, mostly because of police over-response).

They have some legitimate complaints, but they have the ability to address them by voting.

Sorry but I voted for "change" last presidential election and didn't get any. It's time for Plan B.
posted by bradbane at 4:07 PM on January 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


Voting is only as democratic as the selection of alternatives being voted on. For example, a commonly suggested parenting technique is to present a child with two or three options. "Would you like to wear the red shirt, or the blue shirt? Would you like the backpack with the elephant on it, or the backpack with the donkey on it?" Then the child feels like she or he has exerted choice and individuality. But the kid's not wearing anything the parent doesn't want them to wear. Not, for example, the costume that they might really want to wear, but that the parent would deem not appropriate school attire.

I vote in all elections that I'm eligible to vote in. I vote because many other women fought long and hard to win me the right to vote. And I vote because I view it as a harm reduction strategy: it's not difficult, and it can help prevent some of the worst abuses of power. But I'm under no illusion that voting from a very restricted list of politicians who are predominantly white and male, and are entirely rich and not representing my political viewpoints, is all I need to do to get political change. Even the couple of good people I know who have gone into politics, and who I would vote for more enthusiastically if I had the right address and were eligible to, find that the amount of political change they can instigate is limited. They have found that the higher up one gets in politics, the more systemic structures to maintain the status quo there are. Voting may be a hard-won privilege not to be taken lightly, or a human right, or a democratic responsibility. But it is most certainly not a panacea for serious and systemic political, economic, or social injustices.
posted by eviemath at 4:22 PM on January 31, 2012 [9 favorites]


The Commerce clause strikes at the heart of States and their rights, does it not?

It does not. The Commerce Clause gives Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce. The Tenth Amendment reserves powers not delegated by the Constitution to the states or people, but nothing under the Commerce Clause is included, because it's already reserved to the federal government in the Constitution.
The original point of the commerce clause was to have the U.S government do what the EU government does now, regulate trade between states. Set standards for random stuff so that it can be traded easily, that kind of thing (which the EU does). It's been expanded to include random stuff that the government wants to pander on, for example the commerce clause allows the federal government to ban marijuana production because people might smoke marijuana in lieu of taking other drugs. That might sound odd but remember the raich case was decided based on the Wickard v. Fillburn case which was about someone growing wheat for personal consumption. The idea is, even if you are not going to sell the wheat, your use of it impacts the economy because you no longer need to buy it. From the decision:
More concretely, one concern prompting inclusion of wheat grown for home consumption in the 1938 Act was that rising market prices could draw such wheat into the interstate market, resulting in lower market prices. Wickard, 317 U.S., at 128. The parallel concern making it appropriate to include marijuana grown for home consumption in the CSA is the likelihood that the high demand in the interstate market will draw such marijuana into that market. While the diversion of homegrown wheat tended to frustrate the federal interest in stabilizing prices by regulating the volume of commercial transactions in the interstate market, the diversion of homegrown marijuana tends to frustrate the federal interest in eliminating commercial transactions in the interstate market in their entirety.
A lot of people think that the U.S government has gone way beyond what the original founders expected that clause to mean, by applying it to anything that 'affects' commerce, which is almost everything people do.

Also, it's the 14th amendment that allows the government to ban racial discrimination.

---
It's not pragmatic at all if your objective is to be seen as the Good Guys.
I'm pretty sure OWS's objective is to reduce income inequality and government corruption, not to be "seen" as something or other.

This is part of the problem with the discussion Some people just seem obsessed with image, as if it were the only thing that matters is PR and mindshare. There seems to be this sort of view that the only thing that matters is how people think about you, not whether or not you accomplish anything important.

Yes, it's true that in a democracy, you have to win people over to your side in order to win elections. But OWS doesn't actually have to do that. Income inequality is not that popular and almost everyone hates government corruption. So OWS doesn't need to change anyone's mind on those issues.

I mean FFS, there were anti-pedophile riots in the UK a while ago, the mob even attacked the home of a pediatrician. Obviously, people thought they were ridiculous.

Do you people seriously think that those riots hurt the cause of protecting children from child molesters?

From my perspective, OWS has as much reason to worry about it's image making people support income inequality and government corruption as those anti-pedo rioters had to worry about hurting the cause of anti-molestation. That is to say, not at all.

Unlike the anti-pedo rioters, OWS needs a good enough image to keep people engaged in the movement. But they don't require a majority of people to agree with them to do that.
---

Actually OWS is actually more similar to the anti-pedo rioters or the Egyptian revolutionaries then the civil rights movement: they are fighting for things that most of society agrees with, even if they don't like the tactics (the Egyptian state media certainly engaged in a lot of "concern trolling" about how the protestors were disruptive, etc. Basically the same arguments against OWS in this thread). On the other hand, the civil rights movement needed a good image in order to rally people to their side who wouldn't benefit from it.
Riots in more then100 cities! yet, if it was up to some people in this thread that should have discredited the entire civil rights movement, or something. – me
I'm sorry, but I find the comparison ridiculous. OWS is a joke. They have some legitimate complaints, but they have the ability to address them by voting. Instead they're tilting at windmills and pretending to be revolutionaries. The civil rights movement was a movement of people for whom the democratic process was not a legitimate option, and they were attempting to correct an ongoing and obvious injustice.
Sigh. There's so much nonsense in this comment it's hard to know where to begin. I guess with the first sentence.
I'm sorry, but I find the comparison ridiculous.
Do you mean the comparison with the civil rights movement in general or the comparison you specifically quoted about riots in 100 cities after MLK was assassinated? I was comparing the riots with the supposed violence at these OWS things, I wasn't comparing OWS to the civil rights movement at all, other then to point out the same arguments were used against both.
OWS is a joke
Are their goals a joke, or their ability to cause destruction? The anti pedo protestors I mentioned earlier were a joke too, yet, child molestation is still illegal and abhorred by everyone.
but they have the ability to address them by voting.
Why do you say that? It doesn't make any sense, as I pointed out earlier.
1) there hasn't been any elections since OWS started and

2) With the electoral system the U.S has you can only 'address' your 'issues' if one of the two party candidates supports your position, and

3) You can only address your issues by voting if the candidates you support actually follow through. Obama campaigned on many of the issues that OWS complains about, in particular government corruption. Yet, he's done nothing about it. The democrats have traditionally been the party that's for the 'working man' yet other then fail to pass card-check obama has done nothing to address income inequality so far, and

4) getting elected in the US requires votes and money, in that you can't campaign without funding and therefore

5) Even though I said that I think majorities already agree with OWS, the point I was making with the civil rights movement is that it's not always possible to get a majority of voters to agree with you and care enough about your issue if they're not affected by it (or if they benefit from it) -- especially when you're opposed to something with bipartisan support, like massive lobbying from wallstreet.
Also annoying is how don't even bother to explain why you think that's true, you simply state it as if it were a fact, even though the problems with it have already been pointed out in the thread.
Instead they're tilting at windmills and pretending to be revolutionaries.
Maybe they are, maybe they aren't. I have no opinion about the efficacy of OWS, nor do I care really. Like I said, nothing they do is going to make people decide they like government corruption or income inequality. Nothing they do negatively impacts me personally, while government corruption does (i.e. SOPA, offshore drilling, lack of action on climate change, lack of a public option for healthcare, and on and on and on). And since they are not personally bothering me, why should I have a problem with them?

My problem is with bad arguments in general. My point, which I'll reiterate is that the arguments being made against OWS were also made against the civil rights movement, they were also used against the Egyptian uprising. If the arguments were incorrect then, then they're still incorrect now. It doesn't matter, at all, whether OWS is 'equivalent'

The civil rights movement was a movement of people for whom the democratic process was not a legitimate option This is one of the weirdest arguments. The voting rights act was passed in 1965. After that, what couldn't be changed through voting alone? Why did they still need protests and marches? Why did people riot after King was killed? Couldn't they have just "voted" on the issue? If there is some reason, why doesn't that reason also apply to OWS?

TL;DR your argument(?) doesn't really make any sense.
posted by delmoi at 4:47 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Part of my fascination with OO here is because I think the real showdown will be at the G8 in Chicago. OO is showing what is and isn't possible by taking a militant and radical posture. They are also building the infrastructure needed to support larger actions
You also have a cash-strapped city government, and the fact that OWS is ongoing. They'll only need to protect the G8 for a short period of time, with maximum force. They can just arrest everyone who causes problems and let them go when it's over.
posted by delmoi at 4:51 PM on January 31, 2012


ugh, geez the first chunk of this comment was meant for this thread.
*sigh*.
posted by delmoi at 4:55 PM on January 31, 2012


They'll only need to protect the G8 for a short period of time, with maximum force. They can just arrest everyone who causes problems and let them go when it's over.

What Oakland has shown is that they can't really do this. They bussed people all over the bay area and still couldn't find room for 300-something protestors. A lot of people who are still in jail right now haven't even been processed yet. What is Chicago going to do if Adbusters call for 50k shows up?
posted by bradbane at 5:04 PM on January 31, 2012


What Oakland has shown is that they can't really do this. They bussed people all over the bay area and still couldn't find room for 300-something protestors. A lot of people who are still in jail right now haven't even been processed yet. What is Chicago going to do if Adbusters call for 50k shows up?

They can't do it In oakland. That doesn't mean they won't be able to do it in Chicago. Look at what bloomberg did with the republican convention in NYC, they had a special facility set up just to hold people.
posted by delmoi at 5:14 PM on January 31, 2012


AdBusters' Tactical Briefing #25, Showdown in Chicago.

AdBuster's is still pushing Bank Transfer Day (previously), btw.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:00 PM on January 31, 2012


What Oakland has shown is that they can't really do this. They bussed people all over the bay area and still couldn't find room for 300-something protestors. A lot of people who are still in jail right now haven't even been processed yet.

That's because California is in the middle of what's called the Realignment process, a restructuring of the entire prison system designed to reduce the prison population by about 30,000 inmates. Some 10,000 non-violent offenders are being granted early parole (on a staggered schedule) while another 20,000 are being moved from prison back to local jails closer to their communities - the objectives being to increase community ties and reduce recidivism, while complying with a US Supreme Court order to mitigate prison overcrowding in a historic victory for 8th amendment advocates.

Oakland has little or no jail room because California has already transferred 11,000 people out of prison and back to county jails. Occupy is not overwhelming the system, it's just that the state is in the middle of dismantling it's prison-industrial complex, or at least reducing it it substantially, shaving at least $1 billion off the budget this year alone...which may possibly end the CCPOA's death-grip on California politics. This is probably the most drastic change in American criminal justice since the imposition of mandatory minimum sentencing in the 80s, and certainly the most drastic change in California since the implementation of the three strikes law.

In short, 300 Occupy arrestees just don't have very high priority right now as jail administrators have bigger issues to deal with.
posted by anigbrowl at 7:48 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


1) there hasn't been any elections since OWS started

Apart from those elections last November. OK, they were local rather than federal, but would still have been a perfect opportunity for some collective political action. Did Occupy influence or even participate in any local election contests, anywhere?
posted by anigbrowl at 7:56 PM on January 31, 2012


So what do you do when voting doesn't change much?

If you don't get what you want, you organize better and you try to convince more people of your argument. That's what the other side does. Losing an election isn't a good excuse to have a revolution.
posted by empath at 8:19 PM on January 31, 2012


Why did people riot after King was killed?

They shouldn't have. And all it accomplished was destroying black downtowns for generations afterwards. DC didn't recover for nearly 30 years.

If OWS burns Oakland to the ground this summer, that won't be something to be proud of.
posted by empath at 8:22 PM on January 31, 2012


And more to the point, the Civil Rights movement registered voters and organized people. The OWS people aren't even bothering to try. They're just using violence and intimidation to get what they want because their agenda isn't popular.

We've gone down this anti-globalism mass protest path before. It didn't work in Seattle, it didn't work in Miami, it didn't work to stop the Iraq War, and it's not going to work in Chicago. It's counterproductive and a huge waste of money and human energy that could be better spent organizing voters.
posted by empath at 8:26 PM on January 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you don't get what you want, you organize better and you try to convince more people of your argument. That's what the other side does. Losing an election isn't a good excuse to have a revolution.
Do you actually think that would work? Because it doesn't seem like an intelligent person could honestly believe that average people could "organize" better then people who have hundreds of billions of dollars to spend on lobbyists and advertising political consultants and own TV networks.

From 1998-2008 The financial sector $5 billion on influencing government $1.7 billion on campaign contributions, and $3.3 billion on lobbying. And that was almost all before Citizens United

Are you saying that OWS should be spending $300 million dollars a year on lobbying, on top of $170 million a year to support candidates they like? (and that's actually probably a lower bound on what the financial industry is spending now on politics, given the climate today. WallStreet wasn't nearly as politically unpopular in 1998-2008, on average as it is today )

Because, like i said it doesn't it doesn't seem possible that an intelligent person could actually believe something like that would be possible.

So it seems like you're just suggesting a course of action you know OWS couldn't possibly actually accomplish -- and do nothing else, which basically means they'll go away.
We've gone down this anti-globalism mass protest path before. It didn't work in Seattle, it didn't work in Miami, it didn't work to stop the Iraq War
Yeah see even this makes no sense. Do you believe any of the following things?

1) That there were no non-violent protests against the Iraq war?
2) That if there were non-violent protest against the Iraq war, they would have worked?
3) That there was an election between the time when Bush started threatening Iraq, so people who opposed the Iraq war could have just "voted" against it?

Because on the one hand it doesn't seem like an intelligent person could believe any of those things -- yet what you're saying doesn't make any sense if you don't believe them.

It's entirely impossible for people to have "voted" against the Iraq war, and there were massive non-violent protests against it. Hundreds of thousands of people marched against it in NYC before the war itself.

Your comments don't seem to make any logical sense at all. It seems like you're just saying "OWS should do X" where any reasonable person can see that X couldn't possibly work. and that therefore what you're really saying is "OWS should fuck off and die"

So why don't you just say that, instead of pretending like you're giving them advice or whatever.
And more to the point, the Civil Rights movement registered voters and organized people. The OWS people aren't even bothering to try.
Ugh, yeah 10 seconds of googling could have told you that's false. What is wrong with you?
posted by delmoi at 10:29 PM on January 31, 2012 [7 favorites]


"And more to the point, the Civil Rights movement registered voters and organized people. The OWS people aren't even bothering to try. They're just using violence and intimidation to get what they want because their agenda isn't popular."

C'mon, dude, now you're just making shit up.

But, y'know, if organizing and registering voters is the fucking panacea, how come you're not out there doing it right now?
posted by klangklangston at 11:55 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


The idea that the violence on both here is insane, if that's what you're arguing. If that's not what you're arguing, then it's not even clear what you think the difference is between OWS and the Civil Rights movement are.

I'm not talking about OWS, I'm talking about Occupy Oakland.

I've also never said or implied there wasn't violence during the civil rights movement. I'm saying that the movement as a whole eschewed violence as a tactic, and that its explicitly nonviolent tactics are why it had the successes it had. The race riots of the 1960s were related to the Civil Rights movement, but SNCC didn't hear of Dr. King's assassination and decide it was finally time to activate the Grand National Race Riot Plan.

Some folks think Letter From A Birmingham Jail is on point here, and I agree:
We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community. Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self purification. We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves: "Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?" "Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?"
That's the approach I associate with "nonviolent passive resistance" and with the Civil Rights movement in general, it's the approach that led to the only significant moments of public support Occupy has seen in the Bay Area, and it's an approach that--for whatever reason--Occupy Oakland appears to have very little interest in.
posted by Lazlo at 12:21 AM on February 1, 2012


empath: I notice you didn't really respond to my point. What do you do when no matter who you vote for, the politicians enact policies that are the opposite of what the people want? This isn't a matter of "organizing better" - their preferences are already there. At some point, it's not the voters' fault - it's the legislators and policymakers.

So it seems like you're just suggesting a course of action you know OWS couldn't possibly actually accomplish -- and do nothing else, which basically means they'll go away.

Being set up to fail. Moving the goalposts. There's lots of names for it, but it's a standard tactic. "I'll support you if you do this and change this and say this..." but the requirements are either impossible or, when met, simply changed.

The simplest explanation is that some people are simply opposed to OWS' (and the anti-globalization movement's) goals - they believe that corruption in politics and income inequality aren't problems. And that's completely fair. I live just outside of Washington, DC, and I can tell you with complete certainty that there are quite a few people who live here who think exactly that. I've known some of them. Barack Obama himself described them in a passage from "The Audacity of Hope":

“As a rule they were smart, interesting people, knowledgeable about public policy, liberal in their politics, expecting nothing more than a hearing . . . in exchange for their checks. But they reflected, almost uniformly, the perspectives of their class. . . . They believed in the free market and an educational meritocracy. . . . They had no patience with protectionism, found unions troublesome and were not particularly sympathetic to those whose lives were upended by the movements of global capital. Most were adamantly pro-choice and anti-gun and were vaguely suspicious of deep religious sentiment.”

I think it's deeply misguided, but people can disagree. I just wish they'd come out and say it, without all the goalpost-moving and setting of impossible goals. Be honest.
posted by jhandey at 3:48 AM on February 1, 2012


: I notice you didn't really respond to my point. What do you do when no matter who you vote for, the politicians enact policies that are the opposite of what the people want?

They are always the opposite of what some people want. That's how democracy works. Some people win, and some people don't.
posted by empath at 5:01 AM on February 1, 2012


That's how democracy works.

Hey, democracy is what people want. But it's not what they're really getting, no matter how many times they vote. What they're getting is a corporatocracy. What they're getting is, mostly, a class of politicians who answer to the calls of their biggest campaign donors, and the super-powerful banks, law firms, corporations who will give them a cushy gig when they are out of office. The people that voted them into office are not actually a politician's genuine constituency. His genuine supporters, as far as he is concerned, are the people who finance him. The corporations, banks, and very rich people without whom he would never have been elected. The system is rotten, the system is broken, the system is corrupt, the system isn't working, (except for the rich and well-connected) and the system is NOT a true democracy. That's why your mantra-like repetition of 'vote-vote-vote and otherwise shut up' is being laughed at repeatedly in this thread and called out as uninformed and naive.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:18 AM on February 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Okay, well have fun at your little revolution, I guess, while the tea party actually wins elections, and the rest of us suffer because of it.
posted by empath at 6:08 AM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Okay, well have fun at your little revolution, I guess, while the tea party actually wins elections, and the rest of us suffer because of it."

Okay, now your contributions to this and other threads make sense. You want us to be registering people to vote, but only if they'll be voting for the mainstream Democratic candidates, most of whom have already proven they don't really give a crap about civil liberties, income disparity, or civil rights. Lesser of two evils, and nothing really changes for the huge number of people suffering under the current policies. How about if you're so scared of our "little revolution" you get off your ass and start registering people to vote for your pet candidates yourself rather than blame your projected suffering on OWS not being a somewhat more progressive arm of the Democratic machine?
posted by stagewhisper at 9:09 AM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


The OWS people aren't even bothering to try. They're just using violence and intimidation to get what they want because their agenda isn't popular. -- empath
They are always the opposite of what some people want. That's how democracy works. Some people win, and some people don't. -- empath
Yeah, so what you're actually saying "OWS cannot succeed doing X, therefore OWS should lose". where X is "voting" and the typical stuff republicans and democrats do in terms of registering voters and turning them out.

If that's what you think, why not just say that? Framing your comments as if you were giving them sincere advice is just passive aggressive, obnoxious, and a huge waste of everyone's time.

Both the civil rights movement and OWS involved protests and voter registration. And plenty of groups and people who supported civil rights in general engaged in violence, as I mentioned there were lots of race riots in the U.S during that time period.

The other thing, you've never even once said what you actually want to happen. Since you're not even saying what you think of OWS other then in an oblique, passive aggressive way I guess we can't actually expect you to tell us what you actually want to happen.

But like I said it's incredibly Ironic that the people bitching about OWS always say that they have no message and, yet, they never have any kind of political goal or message that they think OWS is bad for. So, it seems like they just really like the status quo? Or they really just hate OWS?
Okay, well have fun at your little revolution, I guess, while the tea party actually wins elections, and the rest of us suffer because of it.
Okay I see- You don't like OWS because you think, somehow it will result in the democrats not getting elected in 2012? But obviously the everyone can see republicans are going to get destroyed in 2012. So at that at that point, you'll have to credit OWS the same way you credit the tea party for '10?

I don't think people even really associate OWS with the democratic party. I know OWS itself does not.

Like I said imagining that people not liking OWS is going to negatively impact the anti-corruption/income inequality 'movement' is like imagining that the anti-pedo rioters who attacked the house of a pediatrician would cause people to run out and molest children.

They are one facet of a broader movement, which includes people like Lawrence Lessig and Elisabeth warren who said of OWS "I created much of the intellectual foundation for what they do," back when they were new and much more popular. Yet, she's likely to win a senate seat. Even Newt Gingrich was borrowing their rhetoric to attack and subsequently successfully defeat Mitt Romney.

So forget the civil rights movement. Call the more excessive OWS protests, like OO equivalent to the anti-pedo rioters. Everyone is still against pedophiles. All politicians still campaign as being against them. Even though the anti-pedo protesters.

Like just a week ago you were saying some form of SOPA would still pass and all the protests were a waste of time and that people should be pre-emtively compromising. Yet, now SOPA and PIPA are completely dead, at least for this legislative session.

Thank god no one took your advice.
posted by delmoi at 9:11 AM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm not afraid of it. I just think it's a waste of time. And I don't care if they organize to support 'mainstream' candidates. They should organize to support candidates to oppose 'mainstream' candidates in primaries, if that's what they want. I'd back them 100% in that. I think we need more 'radicals' in congress.

The alternative to democracy isn't some anarchist utopia, it's chaos, or fascism.

The protestors in Egypt and Syria and other places in the middle east are protesting for the right to vote and control their own destiny. You already have what they want-- what they are willing to die for, and you aren't using it. You're just throwing a tantrum because your political agenda isn't popular and you want to get it adopted by force instead.
posted by empath at 9:13 AM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Like just a week ago you were saying some form of SOPA would still pass and all the protests were a waste of time and that people should be pre-emtively compromising.

I didn't say the protests were a waste of time. Only that they were still going to try and push something similar through. And they still will. Unless they just give up on piracy entirely, which they won't.
posted by empath at 9:15 AM on February 1, 2012


You already have what they want-- what they are willing to die for, and you aren't using it.

Please stop saying this, because it's blatantly false.

I am an Occupier, and I have voted in nearly every single election, special election, and primary I was eligible to vote in at the federal, state, and local level. I know many other Occupiers locally, and the vast majority of them vote on a regular basis.
posted by rollbiz at 9:25 AM on February 1, 2012 [10 favorites]


I'm not afraid of it. I just think it's a waste of time. And I don't care if they organize to support 'mainstream' candidates. They should organize to support candidates to oppose 'mainstream' candidates in primaries,
Well, why don't you do that and get back to us about how well it works?

I don't run around spending all my energy talking about what I think other people should do. If I want someone to fail, I'll say I want them to fail.

Take the republicans, for example. I want them to fail. I don't say "republicans should try to compromise with Obama if they want to win" I don't want them to win. If I want them to compromise with Obama, it's because I think it would be better for the country if they did so, not because I sincerely want them to do better in the next election.

The other thing -- why do you even think it's any of your business what people do with their time? And if you truly wanted them to spend their time in a more productive way, why are you so insulting? Bitching about how they're nothing like the civil rights movement and claiming that they can solve their problems by "just voting", which, even if it's true is not something they believe is true. It's also not something I believe is true, and in fact, it's obviously not true because it ignores the financial aspect of modern campaigns. There may not be a 1:1 correlation between money and votes but it's a hugely important factor, and the people who OWS is opposed to have orders of magnitude more.

And more to the point: what you're saying about OWS is insulting, it's insulting to the intelligence of everyone else in the thread. Lying about their not registering voters and claiming that they don't even vote is offensive. And how the fuck do you think you'll convince anyone of anything by being a passive aggressive dick?
Only that they were still going to try and push something similar through. And they still will.
Not this session. The protests were a success. the protests were to kill the specific bills and they succeeded. Had people followed your advice, there wouldn't have been protests and the bills might have passed now. Yes, in the future they might try again, and they'll need to be fought off again. But the tech industry has more money for lobbyists then the entertainment industry does, and a much greater ability to mobilize grass roots letter writers.

The fact that the protests were able to mobilize to kill the bill so quickly is also a huge boost to the power of the internet-freedom movement, which previously had been very ineffective.


Oh well, at least from now on I'll just assume anything stupid you say is just passive aggressive dickishness, rather then actual stupidity. Your comments will definitely make more sense now!
posted by delmoi at 9:30 AM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


The protests were a success. the protests were to kill the specific bills and they succeeded. Had people followed your advice, there wouldn't have been protests and the bills might have passed now.

Oh FFS, my comment about SOPA going through anyway was after the bill had been stopped by the protests. I backed the protests against SOPA. I back political protests and activism in general. I just think the occupy protests are bad tactics, and a waste of time.
posted by empath at 9:34 AM on February 1, 2012


The alternative to democracy isn't some anarchist utopia, it's chaos, or fascism.

OWS is not an alternative to democracy. It's an alternative to the hijacking of democracy by moneyed interests and the imbalance of power (and yes, fascism) that comes with it. I am now done arguing with you about this because you have no idea what the movement is about or how decision-making within it functions. An amazing feat given how active you've been in threads related to it, but nothing surprises me any more.
posted by stagewhisper at 9:35 AM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Moneyed interests, you say.
posted by anigbrowl at 10:11 AM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


"But Mr. Halper, who lives on the Upper West Side, had long been a supporter of the magazine, donating by his estimate $50,000 to $75,000 over the last 20 years since he was first attracted by the magazine’s spoofs on corporate logos and advertisements. So he wrote a check for $20,000 and returned to his life in New York."

Mind Blown! They are exactly the same.
Did you even read the article all the way through?
posted by stagewhisper at 10:44 AM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Let's also remember that the Black Panthers were an Oakland response to the Oakland police.

Occupy Oakland's Black Panther Roots
posted by homunculus at 11:14 AM on February 1, 2012


Of course I read it all the way through. I was perplexed about his ability to donate to the creation of OWS and Mitt Romney almost simultaneously. That doedn't strike you as even slightly strsnge?
posted by anigbrowl at 11:19 AM on February 1, 2012


He strikes me as a bit strange. What's the point?
posted by stagewhisper at 11:25 AM on February 1, 2012


That you're being manipulated. Same way the 90% threshold for agreement in the 'General Assembly' is designed to obstruct the democratic process and devolve power to committee structures run by a small 'inner circle'. Who came up with that? Supermajority requirements are always designed to impede change. A 90% requirement ensures the impotence of the GA as a deliberative body. It's an old tactic, designed to provide the illusion of unity while blocking any novel proposals that haven't been approved in committee. Only joke democracies have 90%+ majorities.
posted by anigbrowl at 11:56 AM on February 1, 2012


This suddenly all makes perfect sense. Thanks for clearing that up. I feel enlightened.
Wake up OWS sheeple!
posted by stagewhisper at 12:33 PM on February 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


Name a democratic country where 90% majorities are the norm. When 11% of participants can block any initiative, they control the process. Thus Occupy Oakland hasn't been able to ditch Black Bloc tactics because the large majority that wants to do so can't break 90% in a GA.

Go on, try changing the ground rules slightly or float something unexpected at a GA and see how far you get. It's an obstructionist charter.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:58 PM on February 1, 2012


Jesse LaGreca responds to Mayor Quan.
posted by JackarypQQ at 2:09 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


That you're being manipulated. Same way the 90% threshold for agreement in the 'General Assembly' is designed to obstruct the democratic process and devolve power to committee structures run by a small 'inner circle'. Who came up with that ... . Same way the 90% threshold for agreement in the 'General Assembly' is designed to obstruct the democratic process and devolve power to committee structures run by a small 'inner circle'. Who came up with that?
Yeah Saddam totally did 9/11 man.

Anyway, I agree the 90% threshold idea is completely ridiculous. OWS was structured to prevent co-option but the result has been an inability, co-ordinate (from what I've seen). Rather then 'control by an inner circle' the result is actually no control at all.
posted by delmoi at 2:19 PM on February 1, 2012


Moneyed interests, you say.

Did you hear that George Soros once donated some money to the Tides Foundation who gave money to Adbusters who eventually helped editor Darren Fleet to pay his water bill? Man, that TOTALLY proves that the entire Occupy movement - hell, all of the global protests from Tahrir Square to (in the past month) Nigeria and Romania - are utterly corrupt and worthless! Why, those hypocrites at Occupy Wall Street even allowed people to make donations of dirty, filthy money! They should stop using money at all if they want to be taken seriously as a protest movement against corrupt capitalism.

Yet another classic conservative attack against activists of any stripe: if you don't extend your principles to their most extreme conclusion and adhere to them dogmatically, you're a hypocrite. It's a common mode of attack used by climate denialists - look at all those enviro-whackos like l Gore using polluting modes of transportation!
posted by jhandey at 3:55 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Exiled's Yasha Levine has posted an article, with embedded videos, illustrating police actions at the protests.

Levine was arrested during the first Oakland crackdown on reporters and protesters, and wrote about his night in jail with Family Guy writer Patrick Meighan.

He's written and reported extensively about the Occupy movment.
posted by clarknova at 3:56 PM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Of course, if you do extend your principles to their most extreme conclusion and adhere to them dogmatically, you're the next Unabomber. The argument is set up as a trap - there's no effective refutation. It's a nice debating trick.
posted by jhandey at 4:02 PM on February 1, 2012


A bit more back on topic, The New York Times sent a letter (pdf) today to the NYPD regarding their interference with the media during OWS coverage. NYPD responded.
posted by stagewhisper at 4:04 PM on February 1, 2012


Yeah Saddam totally did 9/11 man.

I asked what I think is a reasonable question. Nor is it conspiracy theorizing to point out the yawning disconnect between donating the maximum amount to private equity capital hero Mitt Romney while financing the launch of OWS. It's astroturfing when Dick Armey and the Koch brothers do it for the Tea Party - to the point that many people on the left insist the TP has no grassroots support at all, which it obviously does. Given Romney's known deep unpopularity with the hardcore conservative base, his chances for victory appear to depend heavily on November's turnout being as low as possible. What is the best way for Republicans to capitalize on progressive discontent with Obama and depress his turnout?

Rather then 'control by an inner circle' the result is actually no control at all.

The power to veto is the power to control. That's why Republicans have so consistently used obstructionist tactics in the Senate; Obama hasn't had anything you could call a legislative triumph since 2010, and all his major wins have been in purely executive branch areas (eg eliminating bin Laden and deposing Ghaddafi). To the extent that he's tried to use his legitimate executive authority to reform the immigration system, for example, conservatives have fought him tooth-and-nail - the immigration agents' union has simply refused to allow its members to participate in training for a policy it disagrees with. This particular union has a bizarre symbiotic relationship with the xenophobic wing of the GOP.

When the aim is obstruction, then being able to block with an 11% minority is ideal. There's never any shortage of proposals in a popular movement, so you dont need a big constituency to get things off the ground; that can happen more or less organically. But you do need blocking power to head off anything that doesn't fit with your goals. From the Conservative point of view, Occupy is a wonderful political honeypot. It's full of loud nihilists, has no direction of its own, and annoys social conservatives no end. Remember the 18-month-long conservative whinefest about the 2 or 3 fringe black panther types that were loitering outside a PA polling station in 2008? Occupy gives them multiple revolutionary-talking mobs to hold up as the ugly face of socialism/Obama's street thug army/whatever.

So, I ask again: who is it that established the use of a voting system that is designed to stall. Militant action is defended as a 'diversity of tactics'. The result is a split in the movement. An SF Bay Guardian comment sums the issue up succinctly. On a more positive note, Occupy Oakland continues to float new ideas, this one being my favorite so far.
posted by anigbrowl at 5:13 PM on February 1, 2012


I asked what I think is a reasonable question. Nor is it conspiracy theorizing to point out the yawning disconnect between donating the maximum amount to private equity capital hero Mitt Romney while financing the launch of OWS. It's astroturfing when Dick Armey and the Koch brothers do it for the Tea Party - to the point that many people on the left insist the TP has no grassroots support at all, which it obviously does. Given Romney's known deep unpopularity with the hardcore conservative base, his chances for victory appear to depend heavily on November's turnout being as low as possible. What is the best way for Republicans to capitalize on progressive discontent with Obama and depress his turnout?

That's a Glenn Beck-caliber conspiracy theory, and frankly, is disingenous bullshit, and beneath intelligent discourse.
posted by jhandey at 6:20 PM on February 1, 2012


Yes, because who ever heard of someone being used by somebody else. Couldn't possibly happen here.
posted by anigbrowl at 6:51 PM on February 1, 2012


It's patently false that "supermajority requirements" are "designed to devolve power to committee structures run by [an] inner circle".

There is a theorem that if you control the order of bills and the political spectrum has two or more dimensions then you can pass any bill you wish. And clearly this effect gets much worse once you're electing lying representatives, not directly passing bills. There is afaik no way to dampen this effect except demanding a supermajority. I.e. your assertion is perfectly wrong.

Anarchists like wikipedians or OWS strive for voluntary group membership and consensus decision making without prejudice against outsider minorities forming their own competing organizations. Academia from mathematics through poly. sci. back these attempts. And their tactics are perfectly appropriate when organizing protests, which impose a high personal cost on membership.

AdBusters', et al. consciously modeled OWS on the Spanish Democracia real YA movement, which naturally drew on the remarkably successful but pre-Franco anarchist tradition in Spain. Yes, there is some typical exuberant optimism present in thinking that governmental forms that worked with population sizes 100 years ago necessarily work now when clearly no other governmental forms adapted correctly either.

Are general assemblies applicable in national politics? I'm personally rather conservative here, asserting that deliberative democracy should mean enormous legislative juries, complete with court like procedures. I'm happy when anyone finds a minimally coercive consensus based approach though too.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:02 PM on February 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's patently false that "supermajority requirements" are "designed to devolve power to committee structures run by [an] inner circle".

It would be, if that was what I had said. Next time, keep the general and specific cases separate instead of combining two sentences into one. Or simply quote the statements you are contesting. What I actually said:

Same way the 90% threshold for agreement in the 'General Assembly' is designed to obstruct the democratic process and devolve power to committee structures run by a small 'inner circle'. Who came up with that? Supermajority requirements are always designed to impede change. A 90% requirement ensures the impotence of the GA as a deliberative body. It's an old tactic, designed to provide the illusion of unity while blocking any novel proposals that haven't been approved in committee. Only joke democracies have 90%+ majorities.

Supermajorities exist for perfectly good reasons, although they can be abused as seen in the US Senate abuse of the filibuster procedure over recent decades. In the specific case of the GA, it is being abused wholesale to prevent progress, by multiple actors. For example.

There is a theorem that if you control the order of bills and the political spectrum has two or more dimensions then you can pass any bill you wish. And clearly this effect gets much worse once you're electing lying representatives, not directly passing bills. There is afaik no way to dampen this effect except demanding a supermajority. I.e. your assertion is perfectly wrong.


...according to your anonymous theorem, probably the median voter theorem. Perhaps you'd care to discuss this within the well-established framework of Arrow's impossibility theorem? Or are you referring to Nakamura's theorem? All of these insights are derived from Condorcet's voting paradox.

Of course, I never asserted that supermajorities in general are a bad thing, only that the 90% threshold that seems to appeal to the anarchists in the Occupy GAs is a bad thing, because it paralyzes decision-making by setting such an impossible threshold. A system which attempts to eliminate the possibility of losers is a recipe for inertia and thus external manipulation. As I said above, only joke democracies yield 90%+ majorities on a consistent basis. Even anarchist-inclined organizations like the IWW use a 2/3 supermajority. The Occupy GA model, by contrast, is like a filibuster on steroids.

I have nothing against Democracia Real Ya, but it's worth bearing in mind that the May and November elections held since the start of the DRY movement have resulted in a comfy majority for the conservative Popular Party. You think this fact is lost on American conservative strategists? The whole election is about splitting the opposition and going for a plurality this time around.
posted by anigbrowl at 9:51 PM on February 1, 2012


A pretty solid analysis on why the reporting from Occupy Oakland is so overall shoddy, by a local on the ground. Most MSM reports are half-assed OPD press-release stenography and the odd parachute-in, look around, type it up on the way out shallowness.

Here's what the National Lawyers Guild (the green hated legal observers that keep showing up in the vids I posted up thread) had this to say:
“It is appalling that the OPD continues to violate the law and its own policies,” said Carlos Villarreal, NLGSF Executive Director. “The police instigated the confrontation by immediately attacking the march with chemical agents, flashbang bombs, and a volley of rifle or shotgun-fired projectiles.”

As of 11 a.m., Monday, January 30, the NLGSF can confirm that at least 284 people were arrested on Saturday during Occupy Oakland’s Move In Day. The NLGSF received many reports of assaults on protesters, including an incident in which police knocked one person’s teeth out with a baton strike to the face. Police reportedly threw others through a glass door, and down a flight of steps. A videographer was pushed to the ground and clubbed.

“OPD has shown itself incapable of handling crowd control in a legal, much less professional manner,” said NLGSF Attorney Rachel Lederman. “We would urge the appointed monitor to take action immediately to rein in this abusive conduct, which is leading to ever increasing liability for the City.”
How much of this made it into the media reports you've read about OO J28?

The media is fucked, owned by the interests whom Occupy is targeting.

Which is a big part of why I picked up a camera and started livestreaming.
We the people are the only real media we got
Let's protect one another from the fucking goon squad
Fascism's coming to the USA!
Eyo, I got something to say:
FILM THE POLICE!

posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 11:58 PM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


OWS general assemblies operate on a consensus-building model, not a parliamentary model. That means that by the time things come to a vote, they should have been discussed exhaustively so that there is pretty much consensus on the item being voted on already, and no significant opposition such that members would block the item. The vote is merely a check and balance to make sure that things haven't been rammed through. In other words, if the item doesn't easily pass a 90% vote, then the consensus-building process probably didn't work as it should have.

This is an entirely different model from the representative or parliamentary system, where decisions are made by vote rather than by discussion and consensus-building. Where the role of the vote is entirely different, one should perhaps not be surprised to find different rules around voting and use or implementation of the voting results. One could probably make some argument that the 90% pass requirement for OWS general assemblies should be different. However, the fact that requiring 90% assent causes some problems in an entirely different system where voting plays a different role is irrelevant.

If anyone wants to learn more about consensus-building processes (and there are a number of different options and models out there), but is wary of reading a source that is too "hippy" or something, I'd recommend starting with Breaking Robert's Rules by Lawrence Susskind and Jeffrey L. Cruikshank, who have relatively corporate credentials. Well, Cruikshank at least was a professor at the Harvard Business School and now runs a private consulting firm; while Susskind is merely a professor of urban and environmental planning at MIT.
posted by eviemath at 8:04 AM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


There is a discussion in Donald Saari's Geometry of Chaotic and Stable Discussions, which calls the result the "Chaos Theorem", citing McKelvey. In essence, there is no median voter theorem in real world scenarios because real political spectra are always more than one dimensional. Worse, an elite holding procedural controls can manipulate legislative outcomes however they choose.

In practice, we simply only permit candidates who support entrenched special interests through various structural features, including first-past-the-post voting, meaning that disaffected people cannot realistically achieve political change through voting. Yet, the chaos theorem shows that we still need a more deliberative like process even if we fixed our voting system by adoption single transferable vote or a German style proportional system.

You might for-example require that legislation passes by greater than the margin for error for the election. You should also allow votes for "reject all" that increase the margin for victor further, basically creating an virtual "no" candidate who votes against all legislation, and votes "yes" in all no confidence votes, for people who aren't well represented by any existing candidate.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:49 AM on February 2, 2012


I'm occasionally making time to read Christian List's papers on deliberative democracy too, eviemath.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:59 AM on February 2, 2012


None of which addresses my basic point that decision making at OO has become so paralyzed that it has resulted in a split. A tiny minority that is focused on confrontation and vandalism is able to block consensus by wibbling about 'diversity of tactics.' If you deliberative process is resulting in the disintegration of your local movement, then it's obviously not working.

an elite holding procedural control can manipulate legislative outcomes

Yes, which is what's happening at the GAs. Like I said, try changing the procedure and see how far you get.

Incidentally, Oakland's city government is elected by limited STV.
posted by anigbrowl at 10:33 AM on February 2, 2012


None of which addresses my basic point that decision making at OO has become so paralyzed that it has resulted in a split. A tiny minority that is focused on confrontation and vandalism is able to block consensus by wibbling about 'diversity of tactics.' If you deliberative process is resulting in the disintegration of your local movement, then it's obviously not working.

I'm confused. Just a few posts up, you indicated that you believe OWS is a secret conspiracy of GOP-leaning rich folk for the purpose of siphoning off Obama's support (using Aesop as support for your theory). Now you're pushing a critique of decision making by consensus as inherently undemocratic while apparently lamenting that this process has paralyzed Occupy Oakland. Given your posts here and elsewhere on OWS, it seems that this would be exactly the outcome that you're hoping for. Honestly, it seems as though you're throwing everything but the kitchen sink at OWS, trying any line of attack at all you can come up with, no matter how outlandish or contradictory.

I'm done. I would be curious to see you spin out your conspiracy theory even further - maybe David Graeber is a member of the Illuminati. Or maybe there are secret General Assemblies that end with the sacrifice of infants. There's gotta be a way to work in David Icke's reptoids...
posted by jhandey at 3:26 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, that's your mischaracterization of what I wrote above. My point is that it suits some GOP-leaning rich folk for OWS to have a dysfunctional decision-making process, and that it might be worth asking how this unworkable 90% supemajority requirement came to be in the first place.

Given that OWS was organized by Adbusters several months in advance of when it actually started, and given the agreed-upon fact that the launch of this project was bankrolled by a wealthy trader who is also backing the GOP's almost cartoonishly capitalist 'establishment' candidate, it's entirely reasonable to wonder why. Having a long-standing ADD diagnosis myself, I can't say it's involved supporting diametrically-opposed political goals simultaneously. Of course, politics makes for strange bedfellows, but it can hardly have escaped conservative strategists' attention that Obama gets attacked from the left...a lot.

Halper has had brushes with regulators before. He was a vice-chairman and director of the same exchange he used trade on until he resigned suddenly in 2007, the year of skyrocketing oil prices, reputedly after a disagreement with the chairman. Congress has refused Obama's requests to increase the budget of the CFTC, which has a history of law regulation under the previous administration. Now, it seems to me that if you want less regulation of Wall Street, then you would probably prefer the Republican party to be in power, particularly in the executive branch; and that if you wanted a particular party of candidate to win, that you'd donate as much money to them as you legally could. And you would want to reduce support for the party that is trying to impose more regulation on the financial sector, perhaps by supporting a campaign dedicated to the idea that both parties are the same, voting is a waste of time, and so on.

Or hey, maybe he's just an indecisive guy that writes fat checks without really thinking about it, and he's totally surprised by this grassroots movement that he happened to pay for the launch of.
posted by anigbrowl at 5:24 PM on February 2, 2012


OWS helps Obama even when they ignore or bad mouth him. Ain't easy electing a corporate raider with poor people protesting the finance industry's misconduct.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:49 PM on February 2, 2012


I wish I agreed - and I don't say that to be facetious. I think the endless critiques of Obama from the left have a spoiler effect and depress turnout. It's hard to compare with EU countries due to the multiplicity of parties there, but it strikes me as no coincidence that most of the elections held in countries with widespread protests have resulted in more right-tilting governments (as discussed above re Spain, whose new prime minister would like to outlaw abortion and whose party is certainly to the right of typical Democrats in the US). I also think the rather dismal results of the 2010 midterms have to do with a lack of enthusiasm on the left, although that's been debated here on the blue many times and no consensus arrived at.

As for the GOP, the Tea Party is not good for them in the long term for the simple reason that many of the Tea Partiers are batshitinsane, while the party's core demographic is continually shrinking. So they're facing a choice between bland privileged guy (Romney) and erratic firebreather (Gingrich). Both have strong negatives for different reasons, but both are going to do their best to frame Obama as an economically illiterate class warrior, while at the same time people on the left are deriding him as a corpatist stooge. For that matter, some of the firebagger types have been saying that since 2008 and simply do not like the guy. Occupy's whole existence is premised on the idea that Obama's a sellout, and I'm sure those who plan to protest the G8 in Chicago are itching to have another round with Rahm Emanuel.

I don't really see how this helps the Democrats, and while you may or may not care much about this, I would strongly prefer them to win. I'm studying to be a public interest lawyer, and (unsurprisingly) I care a good deal about how the courts and justice system work. Newt Gingrich wants to wreck the judicial branch while Romney's chief legal adviser is Robert Bork. Neither alternative sounds like good news to me.
posted by anigbrowl at 7:17 PM on February 2, 2012


You cannot compare with southern European countries like Spain, mostly they throughly corrupt political systems whose existing parties cannot be reformed internally. Instead, they must be defeated by creating even more parties, but that requires creating a much more serious movement outside first.

Italian left wing parties gave Silvio Berlusconi control for almost two decades, only being outsed by the E.U. imposing marginally less kleptocratic leadership, because each left wing party was ruled by an old guy, said old guys all hated one another, and they couldn't fire the old guys even when they lost their own elections.

Any countries that moved rightward did so only because the right wing has tightened control out of fear. If the protestors stick with it, they'll destroy the existing parties legitimacy, then eventually they'll create a space for young less corrupt politicians. In particular, the Spanish remember functional pre-Franco anarchist local governments.

Anyone arguing over "what OWS wants" has already ceded ground to the Democrats by acknowledging that inequality poses a national problem, thus moving the Overton window, changing the Democrats internal politics, etc.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:39 PM on February 3, 2012


anigbrowl, as was mentioned above, voting isn't the decision-making process of OWS, that happens in discussion.

Vandals are impossible for OWS to truly stamp out because there's no real enforcement there. And I think you are greatly overstating Adbusters' role in the continuation of Occupy, as well as the role of funding in this.

But yeah, anigbrowl you are sounding a lot like you're grinding an axe. Just IMO of course. But at some point one has to stop running from the shadows of supposed puppetmasters and do something anyway. If the Republicans really did have infallible Seldonesque masterminds orchestrating things then why the hell are the Republican primary candidates tearing each other apart right now, and why do they continually raise up laughable figures like Romney and Gingrich as candidates?
posted by JHarris at 1:42 PM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


The battle for McPherson Square: Rough police tactics rout 300 protesters from their tent city in the heart of Washington
posted by homunculus at 3:40 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Journalist recovers video of his arrest after police deleted it
posted by homunculus at 11:02 AM on February 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Black Bloc: The Cancer in Occupy
posted by homunculus at 12:58 PM on February 10, 2012


Well that's one confused article about black bloc tactics. Firstly, from what I've seen at least, black blocs are like anonymous: something that some people come together to do, but not an organized group or identity. Hedges seems to want to have it both ways, saying that black blocs are specifically unorganized (in the sense of being unplanned at least?), but also that they are rigidly organized like police.

Secondly, he only has one pro-black bloc source and one anti-black bloc source? A sociological study of how black blocs come together, the ethos they tend to have, and who tends to participate would be interesting. I think perhaps there is something to Hedges (probably hyperbolic) claim that the tactic is hypermasculinized. I think that conversations about tactics and strategy and organizing are important within activist communities. I agree with Hedges statement that "[t]he corporate state understands and welcomes the language of force." I think that Hedges observation that "[i]t is a safe bet that among Black Bloc groups in cities such as Oakland are agents provocateurs spurring them on to more mayhem" is certainly something to be concerned about. But two sources?! One of whom he's just quoting the writings of but didn't actually talk to? Hedges should know better.

Thirdly, Hedges' anti-black bloc source seems prone to over-generalizations. He has something against (all) vegans and anti-car activists as well, apparently.
“Once you are hostile to organization and strategic thinking the only thing that remains is lifestyle purity,” Jensen said. “‘Lifestylism’ has supplanted organization in terms of a lot of mainstream environmental thinking. Instead of opposing the corporate state, [lifestylism maintains] we should use less toilet paper and should compost. This attitude is ineffective. Once you give up on organizing or are hostile to it, all you are left with is this hyperpurity that becomes rigid dogma. You attack people who, for example, use a telephone. This is true with vegans and questions of diet. It is true with anti-car activists toward those who drive cars. It is the same with the anarchists. When I called the police after I received death threats I became to Black Bloc anarchists ‘a pig lover.’ ”
While some vegans and some anti-car activists do indeed focus on personal lifestyle over systemic change, most of the ones I've known don't; and most of the philosophical thought underlying these positions that I've read is certainly focused on the need for systemic change, advocating for people to make personal choices that are ethical in that system not only for personal ethical reasons, but also as a tactic to highlight the issues. Many mainstream vegan publications (as well as vegans whom I know personally), or folks who support alternative transportation, are quite cognizant that they serve as ambassadors for this viewpoint to the mainstream culture, and thus need to be particularly welcoming and encouraging to others. Picking examples from only the most fundamentalist proponents of any philosophy does not, in general, make for a very clear understanding of the philosophy as a whole. Given that Hedges' single pro-black bloc source seems quite fundamentalist as well, this, to me, casts doubt on the applicability of his argument to general black bloc participants.

(Somewhat related (three and a halfthly?), Hedges seems to be equating black blocs with anarchists. While it may be the case that most black bloc participants consider themselves anarchists (though Hedges does not present evidence to support this claim), there are nonviolent anarchists, for example, who do not engage in black bloc tactics. Unlike Hedges' single pro-black bloc source, most anarchists I know of, and most anarchist literature that I've read, are very much in support of the Zapatistas. Many anarchists whom I know and whose work I've read are feminist and opposed to oppression in all forms, though tying other axes of oppression in with the ills of state power and capitalism. Ironically, perhaps many anarchists (and certainly, from the quotes that Hedges pulls, his one pro-black bloc source) would agree with Hedges one anti-black bloc source that "lifestylism" is not enough. I recommend "Anarchism and Its Aspirations" for anyone who wants to learn more about anarchism as a political philosophy.)

Fourthly, let's talk about this phrase "winning hearts and minds." This is a phrase thought up by the Bush administration to tell a story to the U.S. public about the tactics and goals of the U.S. military during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In it's origins and history of usage, the phrase is strongly associated with propaganda. Even standing on its own, the phase implies a one-way transfer of meaning and message: from those doing or attempting the winning to those with the hearts and minds. I believe that this viewpoint is contrary to the goals and idea of occupy, and would be just as harmful to the occupy movement as having a small proportion of people at marches using black bloc tactics. It sets occupiers apart from the general public, which is contrary to one of the main ideas and messages of occupy. It implies a distrust of the ability of members of the general public to reason critically about their economic and political situation or to trust their own observations and emotions in that regard. Rather, it implies that activists with special expertise or viewpoints have a correct interpretation, and that must be transferred to the general public, eg. through some sort of public relations campaign (activist branded, of course). This is directly contradictory to occupy's premise that average people understand when something (eg. the bank bailouts, corporate personhood, or corruption in politics) is not right, and that *everyone* should be empowered, to equal extent, to participate in democratic dialogue and decision-making. To view occupy as a special interest group that must get its message out in such a one-sided, non-dialogical manner would be to change the essential nature and character of the occupy movement; to change an important part of what so many people have reacted to so strongly and positively. (In short, Hedges apparently has not read his Freire.)

Fourth and a halfthly, Hedges seems to see peaceful resistance at marches (and he apparently only considers marches, not any of the myriad other activities that occupy groups around the U.S. and the world have been engaging in) as a tactic.
Nonviolent movements, on some level, embrace police brutality. The continuing attempt by the state to crush peaceful protesters who call for simple acts of justice delegitimizes the power elite. It prompts a passive population to respond. It brings some within the structures of power to our side and creates internal divisions that will lead to paralysis within the network of authority. Martin Luther King kept holding marches in Birmingham because he knew Public Safety Commissioner “Bull” Connor was a thug who would overreact.
I've written before about the conflation of nonviolence with passive resistance. But setting that aside. When nonviolence is seen merely as a tactic, one can argue about its apparent effectiveness. In "Nonviolence: The History of a Dangerous Idea", Mark Kurlansky claims that nonviolent revolutions have a significantly greater success rate than violent revolutions; particularly when it comes to attaining the original aims and actually changing power structures, not just rearranging the actors in a hierarchical system. Yet it's still not a 100% success rate. So at what point does a nonviolent revolution fail? From the perspective of over a hundred years later, it's easy to say that a revolution has succeeded or failed. It is far less clear in the moment, and, as with the civil rights movement in the U.S. (eg. with the birth of the Black Panthers, while other groups thought that nonviolent tactics were in fact making good progress), there can be significant disagreement about when people will feel that the nonviolent tactics have failed to accomplish their goals if progress is slow. And with as major a change as the occupy movement is calling for, progress will be slow. Success as a tactic is one important argument in favor of nonviolence, but if it's the *only* argument, that can become a very difficult argument to win. And the argument itself can be very fracturing to a movement.

Lastly, although one of Hedges' complaints about black bloc members is his claim that they reject all other activists on the left:
Black Bloc adherents detest those of us on the organized left and seek, quite consciously, to take away our tools of empowerment. They confuse acts of petty vandalism and a repellent cynicism with revolution. The real enemies, they argue, are not the corporate capitalists, but their collaborators among the unions, workers’ movements, radical intellectuals, environmental activists and populist movements such as the Zapatistas. Any group that seeks to rebuild social structures, especially through nonviolent acts of civil disobedience, rather than physically destroy, becomes, in the eyes of Black Bloc anarchists, the enemy. Black Bloc anarchists spend most of their fury not on the architects of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) or globalism, but on those, such as the Zapatistas, who respond to the problem. It is a grotesque inversion of value systems.
Yet Hedges uses these same tactics in his argument against black blocs: essentializing the people involved, demonizing them, reserving for them language that is at least as excoriating as his descriptions of these very same groups that *he* identifies as the "real enemies" (based on other articles of Hedges that I have read, at least). Rather than engaging the activist community that he purports to be a member of in a discussion of tactics, strategy and philosophy as equals, Hedges attacks and wants to expel certain people from the occupy movement. Although he argues for peaceful resistance to police violence on the grounds that it maintains a moral high ground which "wins hearts and minds," he has not demonstrated such a commitment to the moral high ground and to avoiding the attitudes that he opposes.
posted by eviemath at 6:25 PM on February 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


So at what point does a nonviolent revolution fail?

When it becomes violent.
posted by empath at 6:43 PM on February 10, 2012


You cannot compare with southern European countries like Spain, mostly they throughly corrupt political systems whose existing parties cannot be reformed internally. Instead, they must be defeated by creating even more parties, but that requires creating a much more serious movement outside first.

As a European who has lived and worked in Spain I don't really agree. The Spanish stuck with Zapatero's socialist government even after the Madrid bombings, despite initial suspicion that ETA was behind them - indeed, they stuck with Zapatero's government long enough for ETA to give up its decades-long campaign for Catalonian independence and disband. Spain's main economic problem is unemployment, and a lot of that has to do with rigidity in the labor market. It's quite difficult to fire a permanent employee in Spain, so employers are unsurprisingly unwilling to hire young people. Your suggestion that the 'right wing has tightened control out of fear' is at odds with the fact that the right had been out of power in Spain for most of the last decade. It's not as if they increased an existing parliamentary majority.

In particular, the Spanish remember functional pre-Franco anarchist local governments.

Not fondly enough at the voting booth, apparently.

anigbrowl, as was mentioned above, voting isn't the decision-making process of OWS, that happens in discussion.

I don't buy that. If it were true, then GAs would just adjourn rather than having any votes at all. You might as well say that voting in congress isn't important, it's all about the floor debates. Discussion and debate are part of the process, of course, but blocking and voting are the major procedural mechanisms however you slice it.

If the Republicans really did have infallible Seldonesque masterminds orchestrating things then why the hell are the Republican primary candidates tearing each other apart right now, and why do they continually raise up laughable figures like Romney and Gingrich as candidates?

I'm most certainly not claiming infallibility for them; political strategy in the US is more a case of throwing pizza against a wall and seeing what sticks. As I have said repeatedly, I am not opposed to the goals of the Occupy movement at all, just to the idea that it can get anywhere useful by including violence as a tactic. And redefining 'non-violence' to include 'necessary self-defense' is total BS. Every authoritarian ever has justified violence on the grounds of necessity and claimed that it was a response to external provocations.

Deep down, you know the voting is what matters, because the outcomes of votes are always cited as the justification for whatever actions ensue. so you don't have to run away, but you do have to ask the question of why you continue to go along with a 90% threshold and who benefits from the paralysis it imposes.

I'm no fan of Chris Hedges and admit that I'm an elitist and statist rather than a populist. But I think his article above about the Black Bloc being a cancer on Occupy is right on the mark. (I'm referring to the Black Bloc as an entity to mean the group of people who consistently practice such tactics...spare me the argument that they're not a formal group and that therefore there is no way to engage them. That's just childish reasoning.) The BB is stupid, parasitical, and inimical to the aim of peaceful and equitable socioeconomic realignment. Occupy's inability to eject them from itself shows that there is something wrong with the way that Occupy runs itself, and (as elaborated above) I think that's a function of the 90% decision-making threshold. You don't need an enforcement mechanism if you can agree on a public statement of refusal to engage in any violence whatsoever, and on an action plan during marches etc. of halting or physically withdrawing from people who start acting like provocateurs. You literally need to walk away from them en masse and leave them to face the police on their own, or ask that the police remove them from your midst. That's difficult given the abysmal record of the OPD and the NYPD (as well as police in some other jurisdictions), but if the Black Bloc crowd want to dress up and act like riot police, then let them go hang out with the riot police.

You cannot demand democratic accountability and so forth in pursuit of economic justice while simultaneously accomodating people who wear masks and profess the right to attack unrelated businesses and isntitutions just because they happen to be there (as in the example of local pot and coffee shops getting smashed up because they had the temerity to support the status quo by having business licenses and setting up in buildings rather than in tents). If you want to play a meaningful role int he wider socioeconomic debate

"winning hearts and minds." This is a phrase thought up by the Bush administration to tell a story to the U.S. public about the tactics and goals of the U.S. military during the 2003 invasion of Iraq

No it isn't. It's a phrase that has been in common currency since a counter-insurgency program of that name was carried out during the Vietnam war, and the phrase 'hearts and minds' originates in the Bible. Yes, it's somewhat propagandistic, but it's a useful shorthand for the actual situation faced by all activist of political groups of trying to engage people on both an emotional and intellectual level.

You can argue it up, down and sideways, but the fact is that the people who use black bloc tactics at Occupy Oakland have burned a lot of public goodwill by their insistence on smashing up parts of downtown Oakland and their obsession with baiting the police. This whole idea that we have to accommodate a diversity of tactics or that when the police are being aggressive that folks should be grateful to have an anarchist nearby - bullshit. That's the same argument religious types make with the claim that there are no atheists in foxholes.

Rather than engaging the activist community that he purports to be a member of in a discussion of tactics, strategy and philosophy as equals, Hedges attacks and wants to expel certain people from the occupy movement.

I live in Oakland. Why don't you go on Google Earth and point out to me which small businesses you think it's OK for the Black Bloc theorists to smash up the next time they want to express their militant philosophical views? Why should we address people who rely on militant tactics as equals? I don't want to hang around with a bunch of meatheads who think I owe them for their willingness to battle the police in between smashing up local infrastructure or property, for much the same reason that I don't want the OPD to act that way and am hoping that the federal government takes over the policing power from the city of Oakland.
posted by anigbrowl at 6:58 PM on February 10, 2012


Ok, as someone who is "Off the boat" (i.e. not part of OO), Chris Hedge's article is profoundly not about what's on the ground at Occupy Oakland.

For a view closer to the ground and from the horse's anarchists' mouths, I recommend Susie Cagle's reply. Susie's been covering OO from the beginning, is actually here in Oakland, and actually talks to people in Oakland.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:04 PM on February 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oops. That paragraph in the middle should end:
If you want to play a meaningful role in the wider socioeconomic debate, then you need to have open communication channels with the rest of society, and the society we live in reserves a legal monopoly on the use of force to the state itself, except in cases of individual and extralegal self-defense situations.
posted by anigbrowl at 7:05 PM on February 10, 2012


No it isn't. It's a phrase that has been in common currency since a counter-insurgency program of that name was carried out during the Vietnam war, and the phrase 'hearts and minds' originates in the Bible.

I stand corrected. I'd appreciate it if you'd read my comments a little more carefully before responding, however.
posted by eviemath at 7:06 PM on February 10, 2012


Susie's been covering OO from the beginning, is actually here in Oakland, and actually talks to people in Oakland.

So am I, and I don't think much of her analysis.
Of course, many within Occupy Oakland do not just want reforms - they want revolution, insurrection, overthrow and smash. But there has been only one event where that group came out in a bloc and utilized the tactics that so trouble Hedges and other Occupy Oakland critics on the left and it happened in the middle of what is arguably still seen as one of the movement's greatest victories: the General Strike. On November 2, an autonomously organized anti-capitalist black bloc marched through Oakland, destroying windows and other property at banks and, allegedly, strike-busting businesses such as Whole Foods.

The tactic, which emerged in the early 1980s in Germany among autonomist protesters defending squatters rights and anti-nuclear activism, hit America hard in the anti-globalization demonstrations of the late '90s, especially in the "Battle of Seattle," which resulted in heavy damage of multinational retail property in downtown. That November 2 march was arguably one of the most focused showings of stateside black bloc in a decade. That march resulted in the Oakland police calling in mutual aid, but it did not result in a discrediting of the national movement; tens of thousands still marched on the Port of Oakland hours later.
Well, that's an unqualified endorsement! Doubtless everyone who came along in the afternoon had time to evaluate and digest the events of the morning and chose to endorse them with their physical presence. That would explain why every OO action since has also drown tens of thousands of people. Oh, wait.
"That was at the height of the Occupy movement; that was as it was cresting," says Simons. "There was so much else going on, you couldn't isolate that and point to it as the singular problem. And now the militancy of Oakland is sort of like the only thing out there." The peaceful but militant blockade of the Port of Oakland on December 12, with its lack of union leader support, garnered Occupy Oakland more criticism than the black bloc actions on November 2.
As measured by...what?
Black bloc is not a lifestyle choice, but a tactical one. When a protester takes off their mask and unzips their black jacket - as many did after that November 2 march - they are no longer "black bloc." A protester who engages in black bloc tactics on one march may not choose to engage in them again on another.
How convenient! Clearly there's no point in trying to deal with such tactics, because it's all pretty ephemeral. At this point I think Ms. Cagle has taken up the role of advocacy on behalf of BB rather than documenting things objectively, but that's OK.
Hedges condemns property destruction in political protest by condemning black bloc tactics, regardless of the facts. The "local coffee shop" vandalism Hedges contends was committed by black bloc was in fact one window of a corporate coffee chain smashed in that post-strike fog of war - and by someone not wearing a mask, not wearing black.
Any word on the reasons for the pot dispensary getting smashed up? Oh, fog of war OK. Anyway, that was probably corporate too, since all property is theft or something. The understatement in the account above is almost comical.
The "diversity of tactics" Occupy Oakland embraces are ostensibly meant to promote a range of protest. "There is nothing preventing those who want to from organizing non-violent direct actions autonomously with clear guidelines as such," wrote the January 28 move-in committee. "This is what we mean by diversity of tactics."
There's just nothing we can do about it, you see! We're a non-hierarchical movement and it's completely impossible for us to predict such things.
"There was no black bloc. The front lines of the street battle that captured all the images were peace signs. No one even mentions it: that was the image of clashing with the police," says Angell. "If that's what a black bloc is, that's depressing to me. I personally am not going to throw a brick through a window, but I have some investment in the black bloc as a tactic and if that's what it is, if that's it at its most threatening, then that's just really sad."
Good grief. This is like saying 'the police are never violent - they're there to serve and protect, and it even says so on their vehicles.' I forget exactly what the motto of the OPD is - something like 'working together for a respectful community' or suchlike. It sounds great, but falls far short of the reality. Like the peace signs sprayed on the homemade riot shields. If I accept for a moment the idea of BB just being a tactic, then what are the black-clad mask-wearing people holding the shields doing, if not participating that very tactic (looking at the photo on Cagle's page). How am I supposed to take these claims of hapless victimization at face value when they are clearly at odds with reality, without putting my basic cognitive faculties on an extended hold?

As for her complaints about PR, I think the mainstream media has covered OO rather better than you or she admit. And I have to say that perhaps Occupy Oakland would connect better with a larger number of people if the posters pasted on every available surface employed something other than the language of militancy to communicate, if Occupiers abstained from psating them on top of community art (like murals and so on), and if Occupiers possibly considered cleaning them up afterwards or promoting something other than endless class struggle.

I'd appreciate it if you'd read my comments a little more carefully before responding, however.

Eviemath, I did read your comment carefully. I disagree with the bulk of what you wrote, or more specifically, with its substantive relevance. If you have a bone to pick about accuracy, then pick it.
posted by anigbrowl at 8:18 PM on February 10, 2012


Well, first, you seem to think that I support black bloc tactics.
posted by eviemath at 8:24 PM on February 10, 2012


Second,

I don't buy that. If it were true, then GAs would just adjourn rather than having any votes at all. You might as well say that voting in congress isn't important, it's all about the floor debates. Discussion and debate are part of the process, of course, but blocking and voting are the major procedural mechanisms however you slice it.

I explained the role of voting in a consensus-building process as an important check on the efficacy of the process. That two systems both involve discussion and voting does not immediately make them equivalent.
posted by eviemath at 8:27 PM on February 10, 2012


Third,

And redefining 'non-violence' to include 'necessary self-defense' is total BS. Every authoritarian ever has justified violence on the grounds of necessity and claimed that it was a response to external provocations.

So are you advocating no self defense ever in any situation? Political or (at least proximally) non-political (eg. mugging, rape). I brought this thorny issue of "minimal force" up in my discussion of what nonviolence is; you don't seem to have addressed it directly, unless you are seriously claiming that no one should ever use any force to defend themselves from aggression in any situation whatsoever.
posted by eviemath at 8:34 PM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


You've certainly expressed repeated support for the diversity of tactics idea and above in this thread for a highly elastic interpretation of 'nonviolence.' This isn't the same as saying you support heaving of bricks through windows, but the possibly-dead horse that I keep beating in this thread is that abstract discussions of such things are all very well, but that same language is used to defend the very concrete damage imposed on property and communities.

There's a social cost for me as an Oakland resident (and arguably, a small financial cost for me as an Oakland taxpayer and property owner, but that's sort of incidental), because the insistence of militants on baiting the police at every opportunity increases the likelihood of violent conflict at any given Occupy event, and thus makes it less safe for me to be around. Although a good part of the blame for this falls on the OPD as well, they're not operating in a complete vacuum. As a prosaic example, I just discovered a few moments ago that a Valentine's day action is planned for the evening of February 14th, which is meant to be pleasant and loving, but explicitly not for the police. Well, there go my original dinner plans, since Mrs Browl would probably not appreciate the risk of an after-dinner tear-gassing.

Are Occupiers hurling tear gas? Obviously not. Are some of them daring the police to deploy it? Absolutely. This is pointlessly confrontational and actively drives people away.
posted by anigbrowl at 8:41 PM on February 10, 2012


admit that I'm an elitist and statist rather than a populist

Why should we address people who rely on militant tactics as equals?

This is perhaps where our disagreement stems from. I am a populist. I believe that real, nonviolent change comes through engaging people in dialogue, and that this includes people who are doing things that are harmful to us. Like the police, or the government. If I should not address the militarised police and the government that deploys them as equals, how, then, should I address them? Why give more deference to the establishment power employing violence or property destruction as a tactic than I give to a group of relatively powerless individuals employing violence or property destruction as a tactic? I oppose the use of violence and coercion; I oppose the tactic. The people I treat as people. I don't think the solution to our social problems and injustices is to eject those currently in elite positions perpetrating and continuing these injustices from our society. Neither do I think that the solution to fellow activists using tactics that I think merely mirror the broader violence perpetrated by the state from the society of activists. It appears to be different from your viewpoint, but it is consistent.
posted by eviemath at 8:43 PM on February 10, 2012


abstract discussions of such things are all very well, but that same language is used to defend the very concrete damage imposed on property and communities.

And abstract discussions like Hedges' article that demonize people engaging in black bloc tactics rather than engaging them also lead to very concrete damage to the cohesiveness and ability of social movements to effect change. Such language is used to defend political attacks on the causes of social justice, as well as physical attacks on even nonviolent social justice activists.
posted by eviemath at 8:47 PM on February 10, 2012


Are Occupiers hurling tear gas? Obviously not. Are some of them daring the police to deploy it? Absolutely. This is pointlessly confrontational and actively drives people away.

From Hedges' article:
Nonviolent movements, on some level, embrace police brutality. The continuing attempt by the state to crush peaceful protesters who call for simple acts of justice delegitimizes the power elite. It prompts a passive population to respond. It brings some within the structures of power to our side and creates internal divisions that will lead to paralysis within the network of authority. Martin Luther King kept holding marches in Birmingham because he knew Public Safety Commissioner “Bull” Connor was a thug who would overreact.
Do you disagree with Hedges and think that Martin Luther King, Jr. was wrong to keep holding marches in Birmingham then?
posted by eviemath at 8:50 PM on February 10, 2012


So are you advocating no self defense ever in any situation? Political or (at least proximally) non-political (eg. mugging, rape).

Politically, of course. The dynamic of operating as part of a group is wholly different from that of individual self-defense, where I think one can do whatever is called for to repel a violent extralegal attack. I don't own or care for guns myself, but don't think individuals need feel greatly constrained in matters of self-defense, since I've fought for my life a few times. When you're part of a group that is seeking to disrupt the established order (by gaining attention, blocking traffic, holding a strike or whatever) then the disruption is the point you're making. Any violence that comes from the police side has to visibly come exclusively from the police side. I cited the case of protesters at UC Davis getting pepper sprayed earlier. They wisely stayed sat on the ground and let the police pick them up and carry them away, and as a result they got the public very much ont heir side. If you're having a protest and have a bunch of people show up looking ready for a fight, well duh, the police are going to take refuge in the excuse that 'they started it' whether or not it's true. And no, spray-painting a peace sign onto your shield first doesn't count, for reasons I've explained above. Reasonable people are going to look at the peace sign, but they're also going to look at the masked individual standing behind it and question how sincere the graphical assertion of peacefulness is.

If I should not address the militarised police and the government that deploys them as equals,

...an assertion I haven't made...

how, then, should I address them? Why give more deference to the establishment power employing violence or property destruction as a tactic than I give to a group of relatively powerless individuals employing violence or property destruction as a tactic?

Right, because that's all the City of Oakland has ever done, oppress people. It doesn't provide any other services to Oakland besides the low-quality police force, the Mayor wasn't elected through the most democratic electoral process existing in the US at the time (ranked-choice voting rather than straight vote or 2-candidate runoffs, which was what existed previously), and the mayor isn't well-known locally as a long-time advocate for diversity and inclusiveness, like helping to establish ethnic studies programs at UC.

I don't think the solution to our social problems and injustices is to eject those currently in elite positions perpetrating and continuing these injustices from our society. Neither do I think that the solution to fellow activists using tactics that I think merely mirror the broader violence perpetrated by the state from the society of activists.

It sounds like you're quite happy to have them do it for you by proxy, though.
posted by anigbrowl at 8:59 PM on February 10, 2012


Politically, of course. The dynamic of operating as part of a group is wholly different from that of individual self-defense, where I think one can do whatever is called for to repel a violent extralegal attack. I don't own or care for guns myself, but don't think individuals need feel greatly constrained in matters of self-defense, since I've fought for my life a few times. When you're part of a group that is seeking to disrupt the established order (by gaining attention, blocking traffic, holding a strike or whatever) then the disruption is the point you're making.

I think you'll find, if you read my comment about nonviolence more carefully, that I agree with you on this.
posted by eviemath at 9:04 PM on February 10, 2012


It sounds like you're quite happy to have them do it for you by proxy, though.

How do you get this from my call to engage in a dialogue with them, in the same way as I advocate engaging in a dialogue with people in establishment positions who are doing harmful things? If I advocate respecting individual autonomy and engaging in dialogue all around, then wouldn't the police be engaging in violence for me by proxy too then? If you believe that demonizing and ejecting black bloc protesters from the activist group is the way to deal with tactics that you disagree with, are you then in favor of demonizing and ejecting from your community (i.e. Oakland) police officers who use excessive violence, or the politicians who order that excessive violence?

If you only view nonviolence as a tactic used by the weak against the strong, then this lack of balance in the responses that you are advocating against black bloc protesters versus state proponents of violence perhaps makes sense. In my post on nonviolence, and in my rebuttal to Hodges' article, I indicate that I view nonviolence as a deeper ethical position rather than merely a tactic, however.
posted by eviemath at 9:14 PM on February 10, 2012


And abstract discussions like Hedges' article that demonize people engaging in black bloc tactics rather than engaging them also lead to very concrete damage to the cohesiveness and ability of social movements to effect change.

Bollocks. They've made it clear that they're not willing to eschew violence, so if that leaves them feeling unwelcome in a movement that is ostensibly dedicated to nonviolent social change, then too fucking bad. It's like a family; cohesiveness is great, but if someone is persistently violent and refuses to take responsibility for their actions then the behavior degenerates into abusive co-dependency. If they're mirroring the violence perpetrated by the establishment, then you're mirroring the displaced responsibility of a fragmented administrative structure. You want the City of Oakland to reject the violent tactics of the OPD, reject the violent tactics of Black Bloc practitioners within Occupy, because Occupy's key advantage is the fact that it doesn't have a vast layer of legal and administrative and contractual procedure to go through every time it makes a decision.

Do you disagree with Hedges and think that Martin Luther King, Jr. was wrong to keep holding marches in Birmingham then?

There's a big difference between exercising your right to march and making a point of needling the police in advance to escalate tensions. I made the subject of my remark (the Valentine's-day action) extremely clear to begin with, so spare me your clumsy context-switching.
posted by anigbrowl at 9:16 PM on February 10, 2012


I think you'll find, if you read my comment about nonviolence more carefully, that I agree with you on this.

The bit that comes after that is equally important.

If you believe that demonizing and ejecting black bloc protesters from the activist group is the way to deal with tactics that you disagree with, are you then in favor of demonizing and ejecting from your community (i.e. Oakland) police officers who use excessive violence, or the politicians who order that excessive violence?

Yes, I believe I mentioned that I am hoping the Federal government will take policing out of the hands of the City of Oakland because both the city administration and the OPD itself strike me as terminally dysfunctional. It's a lot easier for Occupy to do that for its internal problem because it's a great deal smaller and doesn't have vast organizational inertia in the way that public institutions do. At least, it would be if Occupy wasn't saddled with this idiotic 90% consensus threshold for actually doing anything. Even the wobblies seem to get by with a 2/3 supermajority, so I'm not sure why Occupy clings to a system that is manifestly unworkable. It's proving to be a massive own goal.
posted by anigbrowl at 9:25 PM on February 10, 2012


If they're mirroring the violence perpetrated by the establishment, then you're mirroring the displaced responsibility of a fragmented administrative structure. You want the City of Oakland to reject the violent tactics of the OPD, reject the violent tactics of Black Bloc practitioners within Occupy, because Occupy's key advantage is the fact that it doesn't have a vast layer of legal and administrative and contractual procedure to go through every time it makes a decision.

I can't call for rejecting both simultaneously, in a manner that respects the humanity of all people involved even though I disagree with their actions?
posted by eviemath at 9:26 PM on February 10, 2012


Yes, I believe I mentioned that I am hoping the Federal government will take policing out of the hands of the City of Oakland because both the city administration and the OPD itself strike me as terminally dysfunctional.

You are advocating that occupy members in general eject those who engage in black bloc tactics from their ranks. Can't come to general assemblies, can't discuss nor vote, can't come to protests. The equivalent for OPD officers would be to remove their voting rights in Oakland, not allow them to engage in any city public meetings discussing civic issues, perhaps requiring them to move out of Oakland if they live there currently. This is quite different from calling for a change in administrative power over the OPD.
posted by eviemath at 9:29 PM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Regarding consensus decision making and the role of voting in consensus-building procedures, while I still recommend the book I linked to above ("Breaking Robert's Rules"), this review of consensus decision making at Swarthmore College can more quickly (than the book) and more fully (than Metafilter guidelines would allow me to, even were I interested) explain some of the key differences between a consensus decision process and processes such as that used by the U.S. Congress where voting plays a much more important role
posted by eviemath at 9:58 PM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


You are advocating that occupy members in general eject those who engage in black bloc tactics from their ranks. Can't come to general assemblies, can't discuss nor vote, can't come to protests.

Don't put words in my mouth. I am advocating that Occupy eschew the use of violence as a tactic under any circumstances. I stated this clearly above:

You don't need an enforcement mechanism if you can agree on a public statement of refusal to engage in any violence whatsoever, and on an action plan during marches etc. of halting or physically withdrawing from people who start acting like provocateurs. You literally need to walk away from them en masse and leave them to face the police on their own, or ask that the police remove them from your midst. That's difficult given the abysmal record of the OPD and the NYPD (as well as police in some other jurisdictions), but if the Black Bloc crowd want to dress up and act like riot police, then let them go hang out with the riot police.

I did not say any of what you have attributed to me above, in this or any other thread.
posted by anigbrowl at 10:02 PM on February 10, 2012


explain some of the key differences between a consensus decision process

I understand what the key differences are between consensus decision process and vote-based ones. Perhaps this will be astonishing to you, but these ideas are not new to me and I actually have some experience in running consensus-based discussions and using such techniques in the workplace. I have never once complained about Occupy being too much of a talking shop or that the general assemblies run on for too long or that nothing is doing because it takes so long for everyone to have a say or that people should have to get in line to have a say.

I have pointed out that the Occupy General Assembly itself set up a voting mechanism with a 90% threshold as its formal decision-making process, along with things like the block. The voting was clearly put in place for the purpose of formal decision-making, since a conversational consensus of the sort you can have around a meeting table is obviously hard to scale up to a group including hundreds of people. I'm not saying there needs to be less talking and more voting. I'm saying that there is already voting but it's structured in such a way as to give small factions excessive veto power.

For the very last time, who came up with this mechanism? Given that there is already a voting mechanism, what purpose does it serve if not that of legitimizing collective decisions? If it does serve the purpose of legitimizing collective decisions, why is the threshold of agreement set so absurdly high? Do you know of any genuine democracies anywhere in the world where 90%+ majorities are the norm in electoral or legislative proceedings?
posted by anigbrowl at 10:19 PM on February 10, 2012


Sooo... what, then, counts as eschewing the use of violence as a tactic under any circumstances? What, exactly, would Occupy Oakland need to do to qualify as eschewing violence as a tactic under any circumstances?
_____________

I did not say any of what you have attributed to me above, in this or any other thread.

If you have people arriving with or putting on amsks etc., then the only sensible thing to do is to stop marching and back away from them, not back them up with the implicit approval of a large crowd. If that means having protest marshals or something to keep a militant fringe away then so be it.
This seems to be the can't come to protests part.

They've made it clear that they're not willing to eschew violence, so if that leaves them feeling unwelcome in a movement that is ostensibly dedicated to nonviolent social change, then too fucking bad.
That seems to cover everything else?
posted by eviemath at 10:19 PM on February 10, 2012


Do you know of any genuine democracies anywhere in the world where 90%+ majorities are the norm in electoral or legislative proceedings?

Countries? Certainly not. However, Swarthmore College seems to require 100% majority for decision making, and the decision-making body would consist of probably a couple hundred people. How large are Occupy Oakland general assemblies?

One can argue the 90% threshold on the straw vote at the end of the consensus process, one can argue the blocking power. Just not with a comparison to the parliamentary procedure used in the U.S. Congress.
posted by eviemath at 10:24 PM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not saying there needs to be less talking and more voting. I'm saying that there is already voting but it's structured in such a way as to give small factions excessive veto power.

This, for example, I think is a valid critique. Some other groups, such as Occupy Patriarchy, have also had things to say about the decision making processes at OWS general assemblies. I haven't been to Occupy Oakland, I don't know who set up the process that they use, I haven't seen it in action, and thus I haven't expressed an opinion on the 90% threshold. I do have an opinion about what is or is not a reasonable basis for critique of the process, however.
posted by eviemath at 10:27 PM on February 10, 2012


Sooo... what, then, counts as eschewing the use of violence as a tactic under any circumstances?

What I posted above.

This seems to be the can't come to protests part.

No, this covers the 'things you can't do at protests' part.

That seems to cover everything else?

What, they they end up feeling a bit unwelcome if their calls for militant action don't go anywhere? Feeling unwelcome because nobody takes up their militant rhetoric is equivalent to being forbidden to even attend, take part in discussions, or vote?

Bullshit. Participation and validation are two wholly different things. I'm having real difficulty taking you seriously at this point, since you're plainly intelligent and don't suffer difficulties with reading comprehension, yet you keep presenting these wildly inaccurate interpretations of straightforward statements.

Swarthmore college uses consensus decision making on it's board. I don't think the board includes hundreds of people. You can get an idea of the size of Occupy Oakland gatherings from youtube, and I'm going to let you find your own clips rather thanbe accused of picking one that shows an uncharacteristically large or small GA.

I will, however, provide you with a clip of our local anarchist heroes in action earlier this year. These people strike me as colossal assholes, and if they were to end up feeling unwelcome or didn't get their worldview validated by the people at Occupy meetings that actually want to see some political change and social reform, then I am not going to lose any sleep over it.
posted by anigbrowl at 10:46 PM on February 10, 2012


Swarthmore college uses consensus decision making among its faculty, last I talked to someone on the faculty there. That includes hundreds of people, and indeed seems to be in the range of attendance at Occupy Oakland general assemblies.

What I posted above.

Apparently my reading comprehension isn't that great, since I don't know which part of your above comments you are referring to.

Participation and validation are indeed different things. Not validating and not welcoming are also two different things. In particular, there's a significant difference between not welcoming an idea (that is, not validating), and not welcoming a person (not welcoming). You seem to have advocated making the people who engage in black bloc tactics unwelcome at occupy events. That sort of attitude of "you're doing something we don't like, so we're not going to engage with you to talk about it, let alone engage with you on anything else" is precisely the attitude that Hedges attributes to black blocs and argues against. Part of the idea behind consensus decision making is to separate ideas and people, and to continue to engage the people until a disagreement around ideas gets sorted out. That's not possible if the people, themselves, feel "unwelcome". Thus to make a sub-group feel unwelcome seems to me to go against one of the major founding ideas of the occupy movement, as well as one of the principles of nonviolence. Whence my opinion that Hedges' article was itself potentially harmful to the goals of the occupy movement. In addition to being (grossly) incompletely researched.

I'm having real difficulty taking you seriously at this point, since you're plainly intelligent and don't suffer difficulties with reading comprehension, yet you keep presenting these wildly inaccurate interpretations of straightforward statements.

I seem to have different values than you, and am concerned with different processes and different end results. (I'm just guessing based on the opinions you've offered in this thread, of course.) Thus what you see as a straightforward statement, I perhaps see as containing a variety of false assumptions. I've tried to explain where some of those differences are, as far as I can tell based on your statements, and how that affects my outlook on the role of voting at occupy general assemblies and the interaction between black bloc tactics and the occupy movement in general.

posted by eviemath at 6:20 AM on February 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


homunculus: Black Bloc: The Cancer in Occupy

One of the Occupy groups on Facebook just posted a link to this response to that piece. It's long but I found it interesting reading.

Concerning the Violent Peace-Police: An Open Letter to Chris Hedges
In response to “The Cancer in Occupy,” by Chris Hedges.

I am writing this on the premise that you are a well-meaning person who wishes Occupy Wall Street to succeed. I am also writing as someone who was deeply involved in the early stages of planning Occupy in New York.

I am also an anarchist who has participated in many Black Blocs. While I have never personally engaged in acts of property destruction, I have on more than one occasion taken part in Blocs where property damage has occurred. (I have taken part in even more Blocs that did not engage in such tactics. It is a common fallacy that this is what Black Blocs are all about. It isn’t.)

I was hardly the only Black Bloc veteran who took part in planning the initial strategy for Occupy Wall Street. In fact, anarchists like myself were the real core of the group that came up with the idea of occupying Zuccotti Park, the “99%” slogan, the General Assembly process, and, in fact, who collectively decided that we would adopt a strategy of Gandhian non-violence and eschew acts of property damage. Many of us had taken part in Black Blocs. We just didn’t feel that was an appropriate tactic for the situation we were in.

This is why I feel compelled to respond to your statement “The Cancer in Occupy.” This statement is not only factually inaccurate, it is quite literally dangerous. This is the sort of misinformation that really can get people killed. In fact, it is far more likely to do so, in my estimation, than anything done by any black-clad teenager throwing rocks.

Let me just lay out a few initial facts:

1. Black Bloc is a tactic, not a group...

posted by flex at 7:46 AM on February 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


From flex's link:
Successful movements have understood that it’s absolutely essential not to fall into the trap set out by the authorities and spend one’s time condemning and attempting to police other activists. One makes one’s own principles clear. One expresses what solidarity one can with others who share the same struggle, and if one cannot, tries one’s best to ignore or avoid them, but above all, one keeps the focus on the actual source of violence, without doing or saying anything that might seem to justify that violence because of tactical disagreements you have with fellow activists.
posted by eviemath at 10:26 AM on February 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Andrew Breitbart to Occupiers: ‘Stop Raping People!’
posted by homunculus at 12:06 PM on February 11, 2012


A first-person account of the police raid on McPherson Square: Occupy DC Evicted From a Winter of Communal Discontent
posted by homunculus at 12:10 PM on February 11, 2012


Thanks for that link, flex.
posted by homunculus at 12:11 PM on February 11, 2012


An Open Letter to the Broader Occupy Community Regarding Occupy Oakland From a Small Group of Oakland Radicals
Occupy was the spark for the emergence of a broad wave of anti-corporate, anti-repression sentiment in our society. We are concerned that the inclusivity that began this movement and contributed to its rapid growth is dying in OO as a result of the dominant insurrectionist tendencies and the “vanguardist” maneuvering and manipulations of some of its proponents. Dramatically shrinking numbers reveal that this ideology and organizing style either misreads the real political situation in Oakland, or else underestimates the importance of consolidating and advancing a broad, united and popular front. We all collectively must take responsibility for this “hardening” and shrinking of the OO ranks, and we must recognize that in trying to re-make OO in an ideologically purist vision, we are destroying our ability to garner the wide base of support and goodwill that will be necessary to successfully resist corporate and state domination.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:13 AM on February 14, 2012


Thus to make a sub-group feel unwelcome seems to me to go against one of the major founding ideas of the occupy movement, as well as one of the principles of nonviolence.

So it's counter to a key principle of nonviolence to reject the advocacy of violent tactics, because that might make the advocates in question feel unwelcome as individuals?
Successful movements have understood that it’s absolutely essential not to fall into the trap set out by the authorities and spend one’s time condemning and attempting to police other activists. One makes one’s own principles clear. One expresses what solidarity one can with others who share the same struggle, and if one cannot, tries one’s best to ignore or avoid them, but above all, one keeps the focus on the actual source of violence, without doing or saying anything that might seem to justify that violence because of tactical disagreements you have with fellow activists.
I don't agree with this way of thinking; it's a gross abdication of responsibility. If you want government to be accountable and restrain the police, then it is both tactically and philosophically sensible to maintain discipline and accountability at protests. Looking the other way when a bunch of masked individuals propose more aggressive direct action and pretending that there's no point to or possibility of stopping them - but rather trying to maintain a limited solidarity with them to the extent that it's possible - is exactly the same thing that politicians do when they dismiss complaints of systemic police brutality as 'isolated incidents' or 'the work of a few bad apples.' It's like trying to have your cake (ethical high ground of nonviolence) and eat it (strategic high ground of greater participation, even if some of it is violent).

PBZM's linked letter is worth reading. I do not consider myself radical, and view state and corporate institutions as a good thing, in the abstract. But I also think that they are always capable of being improved upon and that radical proposals for reform or innovation can be just as important as incremental ones. The 'vanguardist' group and the manipulative behavior discussed in the letter are exactly what I have been criticizing all through this thread. I am not against the idea of the Occupy movement or even of the tactic of peaceful occupation as an act of civil disobedience. But I am very much against violence, and it's a sad fact of the human condition that idealistic people are often easily manipulated by those with a more selfish agenda.
posted by anigbrowl at 6:05 PM on February 16, 2012


The truth about violence at Occupy: In Oakland, the camp coincided with a significant drop in crime. But that wasn't the story we were told
posted by homunculus at 10:42 AM on February 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


Homeland Security Kept Tabs on Occupy Wall Street
posted by homunculus at 9:18 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


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