Blackspot

Imitating #OCCUPY To Death

Signs of decline at #OCCUPYCAL

In the four months since the launch of #OCCUPY, the movement has infected the body politic with uncanny viral speed. Encampments have sprouted in every state, hundreds of cities and dozens of countries. Twinkling fingers, temperature checks, general assemblies, working groups, consensus... the left's model of revolutionary activism has undergone a paradigm shift for the better towards leaderless, anti-authoritarian horizontalism. Now the danger we face is that we will stop innovating and start imitating.

After saturating politics at the city scale, #OCCUPY is splintering downward, becoming corpuscular. Encampments are emerging that target niche communities and causes, a welcome development. There is, for example, Occupy The Boiler Room, an encampment to block gentrification in Harlem. And perhaps the most significant new development is the move onto university campuses with Wednesday's launch of both #OCCUPYHARVARD and UC Berkeley's #OCCUPYCAL.

Sadly, the seven hours I spent at #OCCUPYCAL left me dismayed, cold and concerned about the future of the movement. The excitement I first felt, the intoxication of being in a crowd of passionate youth, quickly dissipated as I saw the tactics of #OCCUPY being debased through ritualization. Participants were imitating what they'd seen our comrades in Zuccotti do without an understanding of why. In one particularly telling moment, the Vice Chancellor made an announcement to the crowd through the "people's mic." His words were repeated twice, mimicking the layered people's mic used in NYC to communicate to large crowds, not because our crowd was too large to hear but because it felt special to do so. The day abounded in these minor examples of the growing trend towards memorializing, ritualizing and imitating the tactics of #OCCUPYWALLSTREET blindly, unthinkingly and to our detriment.

When we no longer understand the tactical reasons behind our actions then we open our movement to being hijacked by those who choose intentionally to imitate poorly. At #OCCUPYCAL, it was obvious that a core vanguard of student activists, the same activists whose antics had largely squandered and alienated campus sympathy in the prior two years of anti-cuts protests, had simply "rebranded" themselves as part of the #OCCUPY movement in order to attract fresh blood and revive their moribund efforts. Thus, as soon as the first general assembly was commenced we were being urged to vote on two proposals that had been drafted privately prior to the assembly and not disclosed until then. Many of us quickly understood that the second proposal gave immense power to these activists.

The power grab was buried in a clause near the end of a page long document. "We will hold General Assemblies everyday at 6pm," it said, "unless rescheduled or cancelled by the facilitation committee." Sounds reasonable until you realize that granting such power to an autonomous facilitation committee violates the core principle of the general assembly model. It isn't hard to guess who is on this facilitation committee that wishes to stand above the general assembly and cancel or reschedule at their whim.

Objections were raised, but ultimately dismissed. "Make an amendment tomorrow," one committee member said. "There are a lot of people here today, but they'll go home and we'll have to do it all like in the past," another was overheard to say. The persons who wrote this clause and tried to push it through the general assembly were absolutely aware of what they were doing: cynical imitation that preyed on the ignorance of the crowd. Although the proposal was ultimately tabled, less than three hours later, members of this self-appointed facilitation committee were already exercising their power by calling for an impromptu, unscheduled general assembly hours before the 6pm GA.

The irony is that #OCCUPYCAL could be a powerful addition to the movement. Because it is a niche cause-oriented encampment, it is uniquely suited to begin the long process of putting forward specific, credible demands. A nationwide campus #OCCUPY movement could achieve forgiveness of student loans, for example. This opportunity is being squandered. Instead #OCCUPYCAL looks like it will become the model for how to take over the #OCCUPY movement from the inside: rebrand, call your clique the facilitation committee, grant yourselves immense power, alienate everyone, speak for them anyway. I have no doubt that MoveOn, the democratic party, and every reformist NGO in America is keenly watching.

If #OCCUPY is to be a revolution, it cannot become a ritual. We must innovate and never imitate. #OCCUPYCAL may stumble onward but unless the general assembly acts swiftly to remove the would-be leaders, it will never succeed.

—Micah White

Note:#OCCUPYCAL has since corrected many of the problems cited in this article. Their general assembly on November 15 was wonderful. We wish them the best. In solidarity, Micah

Adbusters 111 Cover

On Newsstands December 3

At last we’re in Winter. It’s the year 2047. A worn scrapbook from the future arrives in your lap. It offers a stunning global vision, a warning to the next generations, a repository of practical wisdom, and an invaluable roadmap which you need to navigate the dark times, and the opportunities, which lie ahead.

Subscribe to Adbusters Magazine

60 comments on the article “Imitating #OCCUPY To Death”

Displaying 31 - 40 of 60

Page 4 of 6

Anonymous

When people copy, even without thought WHY a certain behavior is demonstrated, is because they probably feel uncomfortable about what exactly to do...they know that something needs to be done, and so they copy what seems to be working, even if it ultimately makes no sense in their present environment...i.e. mic checks in a small crowd. I understand your points just fine, however, and they make sense. Lets not throw out the baby with the bathwater...the West Coast Occupiers seem to be doing just fine on their own, even if they imitate without thought on WHY. It seems to be getting the job done, especially in Oakland. I cringe at the thought of twinkling my hands in approval or disapproval of a certain idea, and wouldn't/haven't done it. The point is having a BODY there, not whether you're following a certain behavior or thought process....I suppose SOME thought has to be implemented, as to be there at all, but not MUCH as the problems are so severe and obvious, even a completely deranged individual could see we are in deep doo doo. Imitation is an attempt to copy the SUCCESSES of OWS...nothing else. I appreciate your concern, but I think ultimately, at this point in the movement, the simple idea of getting BODIES in the streets, under the banner of OWS, is most important.

Anonymous

When people copy, even without thought WHY a certain behavior is demonstrated, is because they probably feel uncomfortable about what exactly to do...they know that something needs to be done, and so they copy what seems to be working, even if it ultimately makes no sense in their present environment...i.e. mic checks in a small crowd. I understand your points just fine, however, and they make sense. Lets not throw out the baby with the bathwater...the West Coast Occupiers seem to be doing just fine on their own, even if they imitate without thought on WHY. It seems to be getting the job done, especially in Oakland. I cringe at the thought of twinkling my hands in approval or disapproval of a certain idea, and wouldn't/haven't done it. The point is having a BODY there, not whether you're following a certain behavior or thought process....I suppose SOME thought has to be implemented, as to be there at all, but not MUCH as the problems are so severe and obvious, even a completely deranged individual could see we are in deep doo doo. Imitation is an attempt to copy the SUCCESSES of OWS...nothing else. I appreciate your concern, but I think ultimately, at this point in the movement, the simple idea of getting BODIES in the streets, under the banner of OWS, is most important.

Anonymous

I was there all day too. First of all you seem to show absolutely no sympathy for the beatings we had to sustain twice, not that it has anything to do with your critique, but an acknowledgement would be nice. Second, the GA is a LEARNING EXPERIENCE for all of us. People will make mistakes. People will sometimes opt for giving more power to a group in the interest of time and efficiency, thereby foregoing democracy, and that is a BAD thing, but something to learn from and correct, not something to condemn and write off, as you have done.

Anonymous

I was there all day too. First of all you seem to show absolutely no sympathy for the beatings we had to sustain twice, not that it has anything to do with your critique, but an acknowledgement would be nice. Second, the GA is a LEARNING EXPERIENCE for all of us. People will make mistakes. People will sometimes opt for giving more power to a group in the interest of time and efficiency, thereby foregoing democracy, and that is a BAD thing, but something to learn from and correct, not something to condemn and write off, as you have done.

Anonymous

I agree with you, just be aware that solving that now and improving the structure to make for a leaderless, transparent process early on is necessary...the decisions that are shaped early on can start a trend. Just be careful...make sure that ANYONE can be on the committee that has more power, first of all, then make a proposal that calls for that tabled concern to be brought up and decided upon...obviously the group wasn't ready to make a decision, therefore it should not have been acted upon. GA's are a learning experience for everyone...not everyone has experience with consensus decision-making. An inexperienced crowd using consensus decision-making can lead to a few people manipulating the group.

There are many professional facilitators and consensus trainers in the Bay Area...you should try to get some of them on board to offer workshops.

In solidarity,
Occupier in Oregon

Anonymous

I agree with you, just be aware that solving that now and improving the structure to make for a leaderless, transparent process early on is necessary...the decisions that are shaped early on can start a trend. Just be careful...make sure that ANYONE can be on the committee that has more power, first of all, then make a proposal that calls for that tabled concern to be brought up and decided upon...obviously the group wasn't ready to make a decision, therefore it should not have been acted upon. GA's are a learning experience for everyone...not everyone has experience with consensus decision-making. An inexperienced crowd using consensus decision-making can lead to a few people manipulating the group.

There are many professional facilitators and consensus trainers in the Bay Area...you should try to get some of them on board to offer workshops.

In solidarity,
Occupier in Oregon

Anonymous

@Everyone

Do not allow anyone to become leaders and rulers, not even yourselves. Do not let anyone benefit from your time, ideas and thoughts for their personal gains. Do not allow anyone impose their ideas upon you. Do not let anyone tell you what you are allowed to do.

If you allow anything of the aforementioned to happen, this movement will be dead.

Ideas must rule, not people.

Anonymous

@Everyone

Do not allow anyone to become leaders and rulers, not even yourselves. Do not let anyone benefit from your time, ideas and thoughts for their personal gains. Do not allow anyone impose their ideas upon you. Do not let anyone tell you what you are allowed to do.

If you allow anything of the aforementioned to happen, this movement will be dead.

Ideas must rule, not people.

Anonymous

YEAH, cause WE are the REAL occupiers! Yeah, we made this up, not you! And, like, only the newest, youngest ideas count. Nothing OLD! Nothing from the, like, past! Only NEW and YOUNG count, cause we like know everything and you don't! HEEEEEEEEEEYYYYYYYYYYYYYY, stop copying me!!!!

Anonymous

YEAH, cause WE are the REAL occupiers! Yeah, we made this up, not you! And, like, only the newest, youngest ideas count. Nothing OLD! Nothing from the, like, past! Only NEW and YOUNG count, cause we like know everything and you don't! HEEEEEEEEEEYYYYYYYYYYYYYY, stop copying me!!!!

Pages

Add a new comment

Comments are closed.