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How disorganization is damaging Occupy

danps's picture

UPDATE: Two of the links in this post have been criticized for being misleading. I have changed them in order to clear up any confusion, and moved one of the original links to later in the piece for context. None of the text has been altered. Thanks to commenter anons for the feedback.

This was published with considerable feedback from affinis, Jasper, JuliaWilliams and lambert. My sincere thanks to them for their help.

A few weeks ago Occupy Oakland (OO) began to emphasize secrecy (or security culture) over transparency, which resulted in livestreamers being attacked as snitches or quasi-authorities. In addition, large group of transparency advocates have been ostracized as racists with little or no due process.

The attacks on transparency have become an ongoing effort; last week Kate Conger Tweeted her experience in running afoul of the secrecy police at OO. Interestingly, she is a freelancer who was more interested in the decision making process than whatever nefarious purpose the more conspiracy-minded saw in the shadows. And she also asked: "Explain to me why a movement founded on free speech principles doesn't support freedom of press?" Which as far as I know has not been answered yet.

This week it has gone even further, led by the explosive charge that police used livestreaming video in the arrest of activists Nneka, Cincinnati and Teardrop - aka the Ice Cream Three.1 There has been a great deal of comment on the piece; the key excerpt:

According to defense lawyer Dan Siegel, it was the livestream footage that allowed OPD to target and arrest the Ice Cream Three at subsequent demonstrations over a week later: "There would be no case at all if people were not taking video and posting it publicly, and if the defendants had refused to speak with police once they were in custody." Patti, Nneka's mom, commented, "The really sad thing is that the footage came from Nneka's best friend. She would never have wanted this!"

Keep in mind these are the thoughts of a defense attorney employed to present his client's case in the best possible light. Maybe his allegations are true, but then again maybe not. The eagerness with which anti-transparency advocates have swallowed those comments whole is striking, even taking into account the natural human inclination to believe those things that bolster one's worldview and more closely scrutinize those that don't.2

One of the, ahem, benefits of shutting down efforts at openness is that those who are calling the shots can hide in a cloak of anonymity and make decisions from behind the scenes. Occupations that have shut down what began with a robust culture of openness have constructed a neatly self-contained universe - one that permits them to wield substantial authority but disclaim ownership of anything produced by it. (It also tends to create its own self-reinforcing structures.) Decision making done by a few, responsibility shared by all. See here for an analogous dynamic.

Those who want to constructively criticize that dynamic are then left grasping at straws: with no transparency, there is no way to know who in particular is driving these unhealthy developments.

If it seems that, say, facilitation has turned into a power center where much of the direction is set, but there is no way to see or read exactly what is going on, how does one even begin to offer a critique? Those who are happy as clams with this state of affairs can simply demand to know who in particular is the source of the problem. With no transparency into the process, this is unknowable from the outside. So those who wish to be insulated from accountability get a free ride. A nice arrangement, if you can manage it.

Perhaps not coincidentally, opacity tends to work well in conjunction with violence advocacy. A culture of repression is very congenial to chaotic notions of autonomy, "no snitching" orders3, and an apocalyptic mindset that insists if revolution does not happen immediately then all is lost.

It also seems supportive of a certain moral vacuousness that stridently denies any responsibility for violence on the grounds that the violence had already been completed by the real villains (e.g. "anarchists don't fuck up health centers. Corporations and the government does").4 Cries of snitching and sexism in support of an attack on a clinic that serves the community are a bit hard to take.

Opacity works well with a certain kind of wilfully naïve view of the process, too. Consensus doesn't mean "everyone agrees" or even "most people agree." It is very involved, and some in the Occupy power centers seem largely ignorant of it5. Look at the contrast between this from one of the folks on an InterOccupy listserv:

The early facilitators seemed to believe that OWS invented the consensus process. Many of us who had training and experience in consensus decision-making were dismayed from the beginning, because what we were witnessing was not consensus, but a faux consensus. Many didn't return. I stayed to see if I could persuade the facilitation working group to adopt other modes, e.g. breaking up into groups during GAs, allowing for debates during GAs, making sure that substance was at least as important than process.

We have had a big problem of late in that insisting on being "leaderless" has left a vacuum that has been filled by tyrants in the group. Until the various dysfunctions are dealt with, we're unlikely to make significant progress. A few of us have identified the dysfunction rooted in lack of nonviolence training, including true consensus decision-making. And add to that a lack of vision of how it all fits together in horizontalism self-governance on a broader scale.

And this by an anarchist in the OWS Direct Action Working Group

This is just such an elementary understanding of the anarchic nature of occupy's functioning. It disregards autonomy entirely. You don't need "the movement" to do something. When you do something that is movement. Movements are more time than group. If this is a time of a peoples liberation movement then things that happen now in that vein are pieces of that movement. If what you are doing appeals to folks you will get their buy in and if not you will be doing it on your own. Those are both ok, so long as you're not speaking for people other than those present to consent to what's being said on their behalf.

The reason consensus would be a burden is if you're trying to force others into something they don't want. Nothing about other's non interest keeps you from doing something with those who choose to participate.

The ideas expressed in the second excerpt strike me as shockingly immature. You cannot just say, do your own thing and if others dig it a hundred flowers will bloom! Nor can you say that whatever any subset of Occupy does is by definition Occupy; some actions - most notably violence - will be seen as representative of the entire movement. For those who want a nonviolent mass movement, a violence advocate's "when you do something that is movement" ends up being the negation of the movement.6

None of this is merely academic. Maintaining the charade that Occupy is leaderless, preventing any sort of visible decision making structure from emerging, not implementing any sort of review or sanction mechanism for those who refuse to adhere to an authentic consensus process: these all come at a terribly high cost, and nowhere was that more obvious last week than in the The Million Hoodie March. Elon James White wrote about his experience with an Occupy movement that at least partially attempted to co-opt a protest against the murder of Trayvon Martin. His report is consistent enough with others' (Esther Choi's, for example) that it cannot be dismissed as the griping of a malcontent.

Saying that those who tried to use the protest for their own ends are just a few bad apples is - in addition to being pretty stunningly unaware of the term's unsavory recent history - a nonsensical response if your position is "when you do something that is movement." In the kind of amorphous culture being created by those opposed to transparency, everyone does their own thing and therefore no one can be held responsible for anything. "That's not the REAL Occupy" isn't terribly persuasive under those conditions. However much logic it might have to those locked into that solipsistic world, the view of those like White and Choi who encounter it from the outside is overwhelmingly negative.

An Occupy movement that becomes increasingly insular and suspicious will thus alienate larger numbers of people. It will insist on its rightness and purity, oblivious to how it looks to those who haven't been marinated in its exotic narrative. It will be unwieldy, with uncoordinated arms each pursuing its own agenda, sometimes in contradiction. It will turn off all but the true believers. The backlash against the actions of some at the Trayvon Martin protest is a good snapshot of where Occupy goes if it does not become more open and yes, more organized.


NOTES

1. Here's a summary of the incident from the Oakland Police Department:

On February 22, 2012, at 6:00 p.m., the Oakland Police Department contacted a female victim after responding to a report of a robbery in the 4000 block of Piedmont Avenue. The victim told officers she had been walking down the street, across from the Wells Fargo bank, near a small group of Occupy Oakland protesters calling for a riot. The victim, who has been a resident of the area for over 20 years, suggested to the protesters not to riot in her neighborhood.

She was surrounded by three protestors and battered as they yelled vulgar epithets regarding their perception of her sexual orientation. Her wallet was taken during the crime. The victim broke away from the group, and called police who were able to arrest one suspect near the scene.

The Oakland Police Department prioritizes hate crimes for immediate investigation. A suspect who commits a hate crime aims not only to terrify or harm one individual, but to threaten and terrorize the entire actual or perceived group of people to which the victim may belong.

And a summary from a source more sympathetic to the defendants:

February 22nd was a day of arraignments for Occupy Oakland protesters at Wiley Manuel Courthouse in downtown Oakland. According to Nneka's mother Patti, a group of approximately two dozen left the courthouse after the day's proceedings for Fenton's Creamery on Piedmont avenue and then convened a protest at the nearby Wells Fargo bank. An altercation took place later, around 5:45pm, in front of Dr. Comics & Mr. Games and was initiated by Stowers herself. In Stower's testimony, she saw one Black woman, one Black man and one white man standing together on the sidewalk shouting the words "Let's start a fucking riot!" As she passed them on her way to Piedmont Grocery she said, "I've lived in Piedmont for twenty years and I know you don't belong here," to which Nneka responded "that sounds pretty fucking racist to me," and to which Teardrop replied "we need to talk about this." In the confrontation that ensued, Stowers' Obama pin was allegedly ripped from the outside flap of her purse. Then, she alleged, she saw Cincinnati's forearm emerging from her purse. She did not actually see him remove her wallet.

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2. Note the assumption that live streaming being used to arrest violent insurgents is a bad thing. There are many possible objections to the arrest of activists in general. For instance: activists could just be removed and warehoused for extended periods without trial or in other ways denied due process; they could get shot through a judicial proceeding little more than a kangaroo court; put through a penal system that is heavy on retribution, light on rehabilitation, and that brands them as criminals long after they pay their debt to society.

Those are all perfectly legitimate points to raise. As a general proposition, though - and specifically without comment on the details of the Ice Cream Three case - I would regard the use of livestreaming to identify and arrest those engaged in violence as a ringing endorsement of live streaming, a vindication of its use and a victory for transparency.

Also: look at the contrast between this and a nonviolent mass movement like Otpor. They spared some energy to try to win over the police instead of taking a stance of unrelenting antagonism, took arrests in stride and included all walks of life ("Parents of the kids were informed, and we had a network of old ladies who called the police station continuously" etc.) Which approach is more flexible? More sustainable? Which is better able to subvert authority?
(Back)

3. The fact that conspiracies of silence are championed by gangs, the mafia, and those engaged in cover-ups tells you roughly where that tactic resides on the ethics spectrum. As David Graeber noted, one of the goals of Occupy should be to demonstrate an improvement on the existing culture and not merely to shuffle its privilege:

That's why it's key to have an effect that will genuinely benefit people's lives. #Occupy certainly doesn't contradict that revolutionary impulse, and helps move us in a direction towards greater freedom and autonomy, by which I mean freedom from the structures of both the state and capitalism. Now, to create broad alliances along those lines, you'd have to be very careful about your organizational and institutional structures. Because one of the things that is revolutionary about the #Occupy movement is that it's trying to create prefigurative spaces in which we can experiment and create the kind of institutional structures that would exist in a society that's free of the state and capitalism. We hope to use those to create a kind of crisis of legitimacy within existing institutions.

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4. Tina Dupuy makes the connection between transparency and nonviolence explicit:

A true nonviolent movement can have its plans known – the cops can know, the public can know, it can be on the livestream for everyone to see – because you can't thwart civil disobedience by disclosure. Vandalism, property damage, graffiti, sabotage, throwing rocks and bottles at the police and petty criminal acts are not what the perpetrators want on UStream.

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5. For as important as consensus is, though, it shouldn't be fetishized. It is a means, not an end, and if not monitored carefully it can obstruct the achievement of the ends it is being used to further.
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6. For just one example of how violence is inimical to a mass movement, look at how Canadians reacted to the use of it during protests. When the public views you as a terrorist maybe you aren't some romanticized revolutionary vanguard as much as a common criminal.
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RanDomino's picture
Submitted by RanDomino on

It seems my much more thorough comment got eaten, but anyway the problem is not with Consensus, it's that it's designed for an organization or movement based on Affinity Groups, which Occupy is not. Therefore the answer is not to abandon Consensus, which would result in practically everyone leaving anyway, but rather to form these groups (or, rather, to recognize the affinity groups we already have- everyone has a 'crew' or a collective or even a gang, whatever you want to call it).

danps's picture
Submitted by danps on

umbrella Occupy movement though, of which the collection of Occupation sites are thought of as one (at least in the popular imagination). Whenever you hear "that's not the REAL Occupy" from someone, it's an example of how the movement is failing to show a clear identity. If you're in the "hundred flowers bloom" camp fair enough, but the kind of audacious and subversive social justice represented by, say, Occupy Our Homes can only be accomplished by a whole bunch of people moving in the same direction. (If the theory is that you can't arrest everyone because it would bring the criminal justice system to a screeching halt, you need a critical mass of people to make that obvious. A handful of protestors gan just get warehoused.)

Heather's picture
Submitted by Heather on

Reading this article gave me a (temporary and minor) pang of doubt about whether I should really continue with the Occupy movement given all the crazy dynamics that are so rightly pointed out. I haven't been involved with OO directly, but since the groups I am involved with are small (Occupy Berkeley and Occupy Education/Training) the existence of a large and active OO nearby has always provided me some encouragement. But if Occupy is going to fight for a culture of honesty, democracy, and justice, it first has to claim that culture within itself. This is just the kind of discussion we need to get there.

Since almost the start of my Occupy activity. I have been advocating for getting the consensus process down better. It is working well in OB and Occupy Training now that we are down to the core of active people. But the point about content taking precedence over process cannot be said enough. I saw a meeting on OO's calendar for discussing the GA process. I never heard anything about how that went or if any changes came out of it, but was glad they were having that conversation. Suboptimal GAs can be such a turn-off!

Heather

Submitted by lambert on

So work on your own, go see what OO is doing, speak your piece of you need to.

It's a wildly various movement, if movement is even the word.

UPDATE Adding, doubts are good if you believe in evidence and reasoning. We aren't fans or soldiers but citizens!

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. -- Mahatma Gandhi

affinis's picture
Submitted by affinis on

https://twitter.com/affinistim/status/185584355211616257
https://twitter.com/affinistim/status/185589379228643328
https://twitter.com/affinistim/status/185590930097713153
https://twitter.com/affinistim/status/185588712141357056
https://twitter.com/oomedia/status/185622808561319936
https://twitter.com/affinistim/status/185626462647353345

affinis's picture
Submitted by affinis on

1. Jasper says what he believes is true, in violation of social (groupthink) conventions. The heretic. The heretic is always hated more than someone with a distant opposed position. Jasper as intellectual lightening rod. 2. The level of anomosity toward Jasper amped up a couple months ago when he researched and tweeted about a strand of European autonomism/BB that took a fascist trajectory - the autonome nationalists (they're anticapitalist, use the standard anarchist black flag, have appropriated Che Guavera image, their BB agitprop videos are very similar in style to standard anarchist BB vids, etc.). This really offended some BBers in OO. 3. Jasper's sexual orientation - and more specifically queer guy - is also a significant part of it. Melvin, who's essentially the head of OO Tactical Action Committee, went on an antiqueer haterade against Jasper about a month ago. Posting really ugly shit on Twitter and threatened physical violence. Most of the rest of OO (with a few principled exceptions) either pitched in or circled the wagons around Melvin (rationalizing that it was OK). It established the precendent that it was OK to bully Jasper, and that there were no huge costs to doing so. In contrast, the consequences of verbally attacking you (Dan) or me are unclear - there might actually be some as-yet-unrecognized cost (e.g. alienating others). So they'll tend to refrain from doing so. Also, it seems that they'll respect and back off somewhat in the face of a hypermasculine response, but that's not Jasper's style.

For the most part, I don't think they have perspective on their behavior toward Jasper, since it's so reinforced and accepted by most everyone else in OO.

danps's picture
Submitted by danps on

hypermasculine response to criticism, and that's why I haven't gotten more of it?

affinis's picture
Submitted by affinis on

You don't have history with the OO bully crowd yet (no precendents; they mostly don't even know your response style) and they have no evidence yet that they can scare you. With Jasper, though they haven't been able to silence him, they've found that they can scare him (e.g. he was clearly frightened by the actual physical threats). Bullies prey on the weak (or at least, those they perceive - correctly or incorrectly - as weak). Jasper's non-hypermasculinity (he's actually the opposite of a hypermasculine male) contributes to the piranha effect.

P.S. An aside - I lost most of my OO followers on Twitter in large part because I retweet Jasper (he's a black sheep and retweeting him made me a black sheep). Several weeks ago, some of my (few remaining) OO followers on Twitter explicitly asked me not to retweet Jasper. I refused, so they unfollowed me.

RanDomino's picture
Submitted by RanDomino on

"The level of anomosity toward Jasper amped up a couple months ago when he researched and tweeted about a strand of European autonomism/BB that took a fascist trajectory - the autonome nationalists (they're anticapitalist, use the standard anarchist black flag, have appropriated Che Guavera image, their BB agitprop videos are very similar in style to standard anarchist BB vids, etc.)."

Is implicitly calling people fascists not supposed to be offensive?

"Melvin, who's essentially the head of OO Tactical Action Committee, went on an antiqueer haterade against Jasper about a month ago. Posting really ugly shit on Twitter and threatened physical violence."

Got the links?

affinis's picture
Submitted by affinis on

Is implicitly calling people fascists not supposed to be offensive?
Your leaps of logic are problematic.
Jasper was showing that autonomism/BB was susceptible to going down that trajectory. And he wasn't spouting off - it was an intellectual discussion of autonomen nationalism and its history, drawing upon much linky evidence/interesting articles (i.e. well sourced).
That's not "implicitly calling" non-autonomen nationalists "fascists" (i.e. sloppy logic is required to conflate the former - what Jasper was doing - with the latter). Though perhaps some feel that such a discussion should be off limits (since it might offend delicate BB sensibilities).

re Got the links?
After Melvin (@OccupytheMob) escalated to physical threats, and someone said that there might be a need to contact the police, Melvin deleted all the tweets. However, some were captured in retweets, etc. e.g.
https://twitter.com/AnonymousNWO510/status/168126146658045953
http://twitter.com/AnonymousNWO510/status/167685672042369024
http://twitter.com/DJ_JDot/status/167062992347873280
http://twitter.com/shoutcacophony/status/168217451199340546
Also, here's an additional subset that Jasper captured midway through (Melvin continued to escalate after this, then deleted everthing).
Also, here are responses from a couple principled OO people objecting:
http://twitter.com/OaktownPirate/status/167798593242140672
http://twitter.com/Tgraph_REX/status/167057764802244609

RanDomino's picture
Submitted by RanDomino on

Well that's too bad. although I don't see any that are explicitly anti-queer.

As for "autonomous nationalists"- I found the article and it seems more that fascists picked up leftist tactics rather than leftists becoming fascists! What was the context of this discussion? If he simply stuck "You know who ELSE uses black bloc?" into a discussion, yeah, that's bullshit.

affinis's picture
Submitted by affinis on

You're coming perilously close to defending/minimizing gay bashing hate speech - either that or you're failing to read carefully.
What part of this anti-queer language don't you understand?
"you know what just keep yo happy flower looken ass in the house, EXPECT US MARK"
"Keep yo mark ass in the house, Pussy"
"YOU ARE FUCKen LIBERAL DUCHE BAG , STAY YO WEIRD ASS AWAY FROM ME"
"just shut the fuck up u soft ass mark."
"You can shut the fuck up, you indoor activist, EXPECT US"
"i Here To make sure yOu Bitch ass marks dont make My City look like a Bar OR a garden"

Also, read what I wrote. Jasper was not writing "who else uses black bloc".
I found the article
"the article"??? I didn't refer to a particular article. There's a large literature on this (that Jasper was linking). As far as leftists becoming fascists - read some history (e.g. Mussolini - in fact, the term originated with Mussolini's "Fasci").

Update: Perhaps I'm being too harsh - it occurs to me that you genuinely might not understand anti-queer hate speech. e.g. Think about what "soft ass mark", "happy flower looken ass", ""Keep yo mark ass in the house, Pussy", etc. means.

RanDomino's picture
Submitted by RanDomino on

An amalgamation of ignorance and fraud. For example the quoted line "Don't fuck with us. We'll sue you." is not part of the OccupyRNC's article or principles (as might be assumed from uncritically reading Swanson's article), but rather in a "Notice to Law Enforcement Spying on Us".

"In other words, it's not consensus. It's minority rule."
This highlights a gross misunderstanding of Consensus. Consensus is not Democracy. There should be organization and accountability, sure; but organization should be based on affinity groups and coalitions rather than mass, and accountability should mean refusing to work with people who have broken trust.
"Diversity of Tactics" has come to mean "Black Bloc" and that's unfortunate, because there has been precisely ONE black bloc at an Occupy event, and the response to that was so negative, and its effects so unproductive, that I don't think it will happen in Chicago (although there should be, and it's far more likely that there will be, defensive considerations against police violence, such as shields and bloc tactics). I have heard through sources I consider trustworthy that there are no plans for one, and I hope it doesn't happen; but if it does, and people choose to be lied to by the media again (in being lead to think that Occupy is all about vandalism and the police are always totally in the right), whose fault is that?

Don't forget, if the goal is sympathetic media coverage, you're fucked no matter what. Before "omg violence!" it was "omg rape and lice!!" or "lol hippies!". Media coverage is only good for alienated mass-movements in which people apparently have to be tricked into showing up; people who are involved because they're actually organized don't care what the TV or papers say.

Submitted by JuliaWilliams on

The GOAL is NOT "media play", it is inclusion, and generation of a mass movement. The media here, as well as elsewhere in corrupt regimes, is irrelevant. When trying to inspire and encourage people of all abilities and ages and economic status, the potential for suffering the effects of an escalation of actions, whether through property destruction, or verbal escalation, can effectively deter the mass of people who need to be engaged to SUCCEED in your action. People need to feel safe, they need to trust, they need to believe that OUR movement will not hurt or endanger them (outside of the understood parameters of civil disobedience, and the pre-existing agreement to engage in such). Otherwise what makes this movement different from what they are already experiencing from their government?

Time for Real Change

RanDomino's picture
Submitted by RanDomino on

There is no such thing as "the mass of people". Thinking of people like that is also no different from 50%+1 politics. That's what I meant by "alienated mass-movements in which people apparently have to be tricked into showing up" vs "people who are involved because they’re actually organized". Stop thinking of it as "We" need "Them" to get involved.

Submitted by lambert on

Because it's degrading to the individuals involved -- they are considered a sort revolutionary lump -- and, to my mind, involves manipulation by a vanguard. In other words, a prefigurative 1%.

However, "mass" is a metaphor. We don't really have a good work to replace "mass movement" (that I know of). That's why I use the phrase "all walks for life," drawn from what I saw in Egypt. The advantages of vast numbers of people, however, as long as we don't misconceptualize how they participate with poor metaphors, are undeniable from a strategic perspective, and also, I believe, from a moral one.

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. -- Mahatma Gandhi

Submitted by JuliaWilliams on

But I personally don't have the same visceral response to the word "mass" (or masses). I see the term in the view of "large group" and "significant number". To me, it implies a large, cohesive, and goal-oriented group of people that share the same values and strategies (I can certainly understand Hugh's evaluation, but as I see Occupy evolving from an educational and awareness-increasing goal to activities such as home-foreclosure prevention and feeding the homeless, protesting transit cuts, etc., at least here in Detroit, I think the "morality" issues are coming forward). I don't have a 'manipulation' or "tricking' or 'Us v them' vibe, but maybe it's because I come from a hard science background, and there mass implies weight, density, cohesion. In any event, the word as a flag rather deflects from what my message was, and that was a concerted effort to be inclusive and non-injurious (without informed consent) is a basic tenet of a strategy that has been successful for Otpor, and other movements, and in addition is, I believe, a moral stance.

Time for Real Change

affinis's picture
Submitted by affinis on

I've already debunked the claim that there was only one OO BB action (and some of these other BB actions did involve trashing stuff, throwing shit, etc., though the greatest level of random trashing was during the Nov 2-3 action). There also have been both violent and nonviolent BB actions in Portland, Vancouver, and at multiple other Occupy locations.
For some of these, one could say that the events (e.g. FtP marches) weren't GA-approved, but that's a dodge (the actions were clearly Occupy-affiliated, often organized by tactical or DA working groups; and we've previously discussed the the reality of GA function and nature of autonomous actions in Occupy).

With Chicago, I did see online discussion of people planning property destruction prior to G8 being moved, but my sense is that the impetus for such action might have declined given that only NATO will be at Chicago. I will note that some of the "defensive" actions I've seen discussed for Chicago included building barricades and using BBers with slingshots against police equipment - if that actually happens, the trajectory would probably descend toward street fighting. The example I saw being mentioned for breaking/dismantling fences (something I'm not necessarily opposed to, depending on the circumstances) involved toppling a heavy fence on some cops cars, destroying them. I doubt that something like that would end well. As far as shields - there's a difference between the large plywood shield-signs used by BB in Portland F29 (each was a unique, well-made informative sign, with effective graphics/messages - this could be well-recieved and has obvious expressive value) and other types of shields.

RanDomino's picture
Submitted by RanDomino on

"debunked"

Where is the evidence of violence of property damage?

"violent"

Not an Occupy action.

"nonviolent"

1. You call that a Black Bloc?
2. Nonviolent, so what's the problem?

"Vancouver"

Wrong link?

affinis's picture
Submitted by affinis on

It's hard to argue with someone if there isn't some base of intellectual honesty. You claimed above was that there has only been one black bloc action. I've shown that this claim is incorrect. On ancillary points:
Where is the evidence of violence of property damage?
e.g. Bay of Rage:"We can only hope they enjoyed the sound of the Starbucks plate glass window shattering as much as we did. A few blocks down a Wells Fargo received an equally warm embrace. Shortly after that we passed a KTVU news van.It was swarmed by several people, some puncturing the tires, some scrawling a circle-A on the façade and others tearing the cables from the exposed switch board. This gesture should illuminate our relationship towards the media"
not an Occupy action
Doesn't hold water (see my statement on this above) - the assertion that an autonomous Occupy action (composed of Occupy peeps) "isn't technically Occupy" is a dodge.
You call that a Black Bloc?"
Everyone present at Occupy Portland F29 has referred to it a Black Bloc. e.g. Robin Ryan extolling them: "the black bloc assembled themselves....three to four bodies deep, a boulevard wide."
"Vancouver" links to commentary by a member of Occupy Vancouver (discussing the sharp drop in their poll approval ratings after six BB incidents).
I don't have time for more of this right now.

RanDomino's picture
Submitted by RanDomino on

"e.g. Bay of Rage:"
Finally, an example of an Occupy-oriented black bloc involving property damage. and it only took you a month... That no one has mentioned it before is probably a good thing. Fuck those guys.

affinis's picture
Submitted by affinis on

that link and various others (e.g. OWSwest #J20 1 2 3 4 5) multiple times before.
If you want something from just this past weekend:
Wankers

Submitted by Hugh on

I have pretty much stayed out of the whole Occupy thing and taken a wait and see approach to its development. I would say this. Transparency is important as is listening to others. One of the failings of the elite blogs was that they too paid lip service to transparency and listening to their communities, even as they had this whole behind the scenes thing going on where decisions were made and announced to the site's community without any input from them or really their having any knowledge that a discussion, even a backdoor one, was going on.

Also I think people need to go back and study social movements in the past. I would suggest in particular Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement. King and the movement were effective because they were willing to confront authority in the pursuit of justice and they infused their movement and actions with a moral purpose. This not only served to unify those involved and keep them moving together in the same direction but the morality of what they were doing and what they were willing to risk and sacrifice won over millions to their cause.

This is what I see missing from Occupy. Certainly you can see bits and pieces of this in particular actions but overall the movement remains strangely morally empty.

Hugh

Submitted by lambert on

Morally empty in what way? What would something that is not morally empty look like to you?

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. -- Mahatma Gandhi

Submitted by Hugh on

As I said, look at King and the civil rights movement. It wasn't that they were intellectually right on the issues that swayed the country. That in itself was insufficient. Nor was it the justice of their cause. That might have won them a few converts. It was the moral purpose with which they imbued their struggle and which they were able to communicate to the general public that gave them their power. They did it in their words, their actions, and their sacrifices. They made millions care. They put their opponents on the defensive. They did this by focusing on the moralness of their purpose. People can dance around an issue for an age and still remain uncommitted. But by their example and sacrifice, those in the civil rights movement forced Americans to respond to them on a moral level. And on that level they were irresistible because a moral response is about who and what we are as human beings. It is the one place, if only for a little while, that we can cut through all the bullshit.

John Jay Chapman who belonged to a different era and another struggle said that reform movements to be effective must be religious in character. At the time when I read him, I wasn't sure I agreed. But with time, I have come to see the wisdom in what he was saying. Change does not come from winning arguments but by changing hearts. Change someone's mind, they may acknowledge the justice of your arguments, and do nothing. Change their hearts, and your struggle becomes their struggle. It is on the moral level that all this plays out. Words must fit actions and both must fit the moral purpose being invoked. If there is a dishonesty in any of that, then the battle is lost because people will be repelled by the falsity. They don't need to know all the facts and arguments. They only need to see the flaw. But if these are true, suffused with a moral purpose, and tempered by real sacrifice, most people will respond to that truth and act according to its demands.

Also as I said, I see essentially none of this addressed by the OWS movement.

Hugh

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Submitted by affinis on

for posting this Hugh. It echoes some of my own thoughts. Early on (in October I believe) George Lakoff published a couple articles making a somewhat similar point - that emphasizing moral vision was key to OWS capturing the hearts of the public and succeeding. Lakoff's suggestion was not well recieved in certain quarters of Occupy (Appeal based on moral vision/moral framing was perceived by some as too bourgeois/liberal reformer. Within some strands of post-left anarchism, morality is entirely rejected. e.g. Bob Black - "morality is to the mind what the state is to society: an alien and alienating limitation on liberty".)

Months ago I made two brief attempts to launch #moralvision twitter hashtags (I tried a couple different hashtag variants) in the Occupy twitterverse (i.e. to try to catalyze thinking along these lines). But they never took off. But even Lakoff's suggestions were somewhat more technically/framing oriented than what you're writing here. And I believe you're correct - that this is needed at the core (and that all actions must show integrity and flow from this).

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Submitted by RanDomino on

I think I agree with the sentiment if not the terminology. "Morality" to anarchists means the morality of religion and society- personal restriction even when it would harm no one, for no other purpose than control of individuals by institutions such as the church and State.

If you mean something more along the lines of 'vision' that we certainly have.

Submitted by Hugh on

Yes, "vision" will win you 3 or 4 new converts at the least. Sorry for the snark, but it really looks like you have no interest in making common cause with the 99% because you reject right off the bat speaking to them in any way they are likely to respond to. Not only will you be unsuccessful but you will deserve to be because you are being incredibly disrespectful of those you want as allies. You can not expect them to set aside their prejudices for even a little while if you are not willing to do the same.

Most people are focused on their everyday lives. They have their plans and their schemes. It is a lot to ask them to set that all aside, but there are moments in life such as before a great cause when they will if addressed precisely on that moral level which you discount. And that is where the disrespect comes in. The moral level is inherently respectful because, as King understood and what he counted on, was that millions of Americans could be reached at that level because he did not just believe in his own morality but he also believed in theirs. That's respect. He did not necessarily believe in their plans and schemes nor ask them to believe in his. This was not about doing away with difference. It was about finding the underlying similarity, and for that you have to go deep into a person. At that level if you ask them to stand shoulder to shoulder with you, you better damn well be ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with them. And if you are not even willing to go to that level, well the game is over before it is even begun. You are left on the level of everyday plans and schemes. And why really should they sacrifice theirs for yours?

Hugh

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Submitted by RanDomino on

I've deleted three responses because this is so hard to understand, but it seems there's a big flaw in your reasoning- Occupy took off after people were pepper-sprayed for no reason and arrested en-masse... not because anyone was "stand(ing) shoulder to shoulder" with anyone in their "everyday lives". (and because it was based on spectacle rather than substance, it was doomed to be a flash in the pan)
And who's asking anyone to "sacrifice" their "everyday plans/lives"?

Submitted by lambert on

... to continue the metaphor, what gets the airplane to cruising altitude and then to the destination? i argue that where the appeal to "all walks of life" comes in, and Hugh is explaining how to do that. The wind beneath the wings as it were...

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. -- Mahatma Gandhi

Submitted by Lex on

What do you mean by "snitching"?

The sections of this on snitching and trying to win over the police strike me as funny except that it belies a terrible undercurrent of bourgeois WASPishness. It's also both amusing and enlightening to read an (apparently) middle-aged white man talk about how the "no snitching" rule is a product of criminal enterprises. That's true, especially if we include the Catholic Church and the US government as criminal enterprises. And of course criminal enterprises would have always had such rules given their nature.

But it's also what any defense attorney would tell anyone, with different words. A good attorney will counsel you to never speak to the police at all, not as a witness and not even as a victim. There is institutionalized training in American police departments to phrase questions and act in a way that makes people freely give up their constitutional rights. "Do you know why I pulled you over?" is a cleverly worded intro so that you will waive your 5th Amendment right to not incriminate yourself. A great many police actions are made against witnesses and victims who speak to the police.

No snitchin' is commonly associated with the urban, black community (where there is an element of not snitchin so that criminals don't take retribution) but extends to lower-class communities of all races. It stems from a well-earned and fundamental lack of trust for law enforcement.

And the tone of the "no snitchin" section of this post sounds an awfully lot like the people who say we should accept all the civil liberties infringing activities because if you're not a terrorist you have nothing to hide or fear.

Or as Frank Zappa said, "I'm not black, but there's a whole lot of times i wish i could say that i'm not white." Because this smacks of "white people" in the most derogatory way possible.

“Don’t believe them, don’t fear them, don’t ask anything of them” - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Submitted by lambert on

Splitting the authorities is good. The evidence is that happened in both Egypt and at the Capitol Occupations. Serbia too.

Oh, and characterizing a strategic choice that can actually shown to work as "making friends with the police" sucks too.

The arguments that violence advocates use are just as sloppy, tendentious, and yes, dishonest as the arguments put forward by the legacy party advocates (and Obama fans, in general). That should tell you something.

Adding, last I checked, the 99% included most people in most classes and all races. Did I not get the memo on that?

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. -- Mahatma Gandhi

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Submitted by RanDomino on

There was no "authority splitting" at the Madison Capitol Occupation. They used the illusion of being on our side to split us. The police followed orders and the Democrats dealt the deathblow.

Submitted by lambert on

Seems odd that Walker and the R leadership would allow that, to say the least. Anyhow, as a matter of record, the police were, between each other and from the state. (I'm not using "split" here strategically as "throw down their badges and join the revolution" (which nobody can define anyhow) or "standing aside" (as the Army in Egypt), but tactically, in that factions of the authorities were induced to act at odds with each other, which the Occupiers then leveraged. Either kind of split is good, and either kinds can be achieved with a Sharp-like "pillars" approach.

Of course the Ds struck the "death blow," that's what they do. That said, the recall movement thank so far as I can sell isn't a D movement, though it is an electoral one, and I think the engagement of citizens from "all walks of life" in the recall is good. Builds social capital, as it were.

UPDATE Glad you concede splits happened in Egypt and Serbia. If violence advocates here don't fuck it all for everybody else, we should be able to do that here.

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. -- Mahatma Gandhi

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Submitted by RanDomino on

I don't concede that splits happened in Egypt and Serbia. Serbia I'm not particularly familiar with (although I'm sure Andrej Grubacic has a thing or two to say about it), and in Egypt the police and thugs killed nearly a thousand people. Egypt is a terrible comparison if your point is to promote strict nonviolence, considering that every police station and ruling party office in Cairo was torched, barricades built, neighborhood patrols organized to protect against thugs, etc.

back to Wisconsin... I don't know how many times I have to say that I'm IN Wisconsin, and I was in the Capitol for a week, and pretty much everything you're saying is wrong- the police were kept in check by sheer terror of the realization that if they provoked a riot, they would lose. Tubbs in particular has shown his true colors now that people have stopped paying attention, routinely having activists arrested on bullshit charges (such as http://wcmcoop.com/members/possession-of...).

The recall is absolutely a D movement. Last March there was nearly a general strike (if even just a 1-day symbolic act), but the union "leaders" and Democrats worked extremely hard to shut down the occupation, shut down the radical talk, divide the workers enough to make them think there wasn't support for a strike, and end the protests and channel all of the energy into one path: Recall elections to give Democrats the political power for the exclusive purpose of restoring collective bargaining and automatic dues check-off.

That's the situation in Wisconsin. It's been dead since April, except a few holdouts (I suppose we should take credit for stopping the Gogebic Taconite mine, even as the Ds were trying to find a 'compromise' that would allow it at the unions stayed out of it). The idea of popular direct action to empower workers and citizens has been quashed in favor of politics-as-usual. When they lose the Walker recall (or even if they win and it means nothing because they still won't have the Assembly until 2014 at the earliest), they still won't learn a fucking thing.

affinis's picture
Submitted by affinis on

That's the situation in Wisconsin. It's been dead since April, except a few holdouts
You can believe RanDomino or you can believe your eyes.
March 10, 2012:


YouTube

Crowd estimates ranged from 30K to 60K (my own best guess is ~50K). For additional info see here and here.

The recall is absolutely a D movement.
Four members of the board of United Wisconsin basically launched the recall.
The Dem Party was not in favor of a gubernatorial recall at this time (they wanted to combine it with the 2012 Presidential election, and fought against the current timing) and contributed little to the recall effort (in fact, the meager funds they allocated for it ran out halfway through). They also contributed little to the current set of State Senate recalls (local organizers eventually decided to essentially ditch the Dem Party in the recall petition drives - e.g. against Fitzgerald - and do their own thing. It was a grassroots effort.).

I will agree on a couple points. Energy has been channeled much too exclusively into recalls (to the exclusion of direct action, boycotts, etc.). Also, Falk managed to consolidate union support early on, with angling that prevented other better candidates from entering the governor's race (though I actually do like Mahlon Mitchell, who's running for the lieutenant governor position).

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Submitted by RanDomino on

"March 10, 2012:"

So what? Here's a picture of thousands of people rallying for Obama in Madison in 2008. Since when does a large turnout mean that a movement or organization isn't anti-democratic and disempowering?

It died when people no longer took strength in their own power, but resorted to representative politics.

"It was a grassroots effort."

...to elect Democrats. Although I see your point that it's being driven by the leftover energy from February. But it's being steered by the Democratic party and union bureaucracy. What they can control, they take; what they can't control, they marginalize and destroy.

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Submitted by affinis on

The energy at the March 10 event was that of spring 2011 (going strong). We ain't talking about a choreographed plastic Obama rally. I actually hadn't seen this kind of joy/creativity since last spring. Other recent events are also exhibiting similar energy (increasing crowds for the daily solidarity singalongs, etc.).

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Submitted by RanDomino on

That could be a good sign, but it is still directed at electoral politics rather than our own power. Now the most important thing is to prepare for the inevitable failure of this strategy, either because Walker wins or because the Democrats win and proceed to be Democrats, by reminding people that they are in the driver's seat (rather than the Democrats or union 'leaders'). After the elections, there WILL be a demobilization campaign!

affinis's picture
Submitted by affinis on

The problem with your assertion - I was there also. A few links: See here, here, here, and here. From the second link:

I didn't have any illusion that the police were all on our side. And Tubbs was trying to gently squeeze us out. But your assertion as written is incorrect.
BTW - it's also not correct that all cops fully followed orders (e.g. a couple allowed items to be smuggled in after Walker closed the Capitol, etc.).

affinis's picture
Submitted by affinis on

we appear to live in different realities. I didn't see the cops as a homogeneous mass. I saw some who backed us, many who didn't (either neutral or opposed), some who collaborated with us (e.g. in smuggling items in), some who were trying to squeeze us out (even if sympathetic). That's the nature of humanity.
I certainly didn't see gullible protesters under some illusion that police were all on our side (and being split as a consequence).
Like I said, we appear to live in different realities.

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Submitted by RanDomino on

The police were enough "on our side" to get gullible liberals to think that they were/are just regular workers. It encouraged people to follow orders that, had there been a more realistic level of antagonism, would have been refused.

I shouldn't entirely blame the police. There's also the pathology of seeing all orders coming from a boss as legitimate- i.e. when police, or whoever, told occupation leaders we had to give up conference rooms because they had been ordered to do so, said leaders acquiesced because the implication was that they would get in trouble and they were 'just doing their job'. I have no doubt winning sympathy was just a trick.

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Submitted by Heather on

At Occupy Berkeley a group of violent drunks used to push the "no snitching" line. In at least one case of attempted rape, they believed it was more important to conform to "no snitching" than to help the victim. The person who called the police took a lot of abuse for it. Eventually all the the best peacekeepers at camp left because they were labelled snitches and threatened for it. Two of them were homeless people of color. Suffice it to say that while severing our dependence on police seems like a good goal on a theoretical level, it is very low on my list of priorities.

Heather

Submitted by lambert on

"No snitching" defenders please feel free to speak up!

I mean, unless not holding rapists accountable is a priority?

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. -- Mahatma Gandhi

Heather's picture
Submitted by Heather on

I can see how maybe rape and other crime could be dealt with within the community if there is a strong enough sense of community. But, at OB there was not. We were bombarded by a huge pack of drug tourists who could care less about politics and probably resented our patronizing ideas of helping them. The sincere OB people were too outnumbered and divided to handle the situation. We had widely divergent ideas on what should be done and were never able to come to enough of a consensus to act in a united front to stop the violence. Ironically, the reluctance of some to work with the police on idealogical grounds made those whose calls for help were answered by the police appreciate the police even more.

Heather

Submitted by lambert on

You agree with Heather? What?

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. -- Mahatma Gandhi

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Submitted by danps on

is "good goal on a theoretical level" turns into "own goal on a practical level" pretty quickly.

If you want to bring along most of the population in a nonviolent mass movement, you have to do things that demonstrate the effectiveness and social acceptability in advance. You can't just promise utopia after some collective psychotic break, invoke some totemic in-group language (autonomy! Zapatista!) and expect everyone to see the same hallucinations you do.

Or: Reform of policing and the criminal justice system won't happen by holding Fuck the Police marches or throwing bottles at them. Those approaches only further entrench the current system.