Quinn Norton wrote a lengthy piece on her experience as an embedded reporter at Occupy, from the hopeful early days through the aftermath of the evictions:
Because the GA had no way to reject force, over time it fell to force. Proposals won by intimidation; bullies carried the day. What began as a way to let people reform and remake themselves had no mechanism for dealing with them when they didn’t. It had no way to deal with parasites and predators. It became a diseased process, pushing out the weak and quiet it had meant to enfranchise until it finally collapsed when nothing was left but predators trying to rip out each other’s throats.
In other words, it fell to the “tyranny of structurelessness, a long-time problem for leaderless organizations. And the radical exclusivity ended up excluding almost everyone:
As the camps became darker, the women mostly left, and those who remained were grateful to just be left alone. By my count Occupy had dropped from as high as 40 percent women to less then 10 percent, in an atmosphere of sexual violence, bare intimidation and hatred. By then for a certain kind of occupier, anything with breasts was a target in the camps, either for scorn or being too sexy or being insufficiently sexy. It was never the majority, but the majority did nothing to stop it. They had a progressive stack in the GA that purported to let women speak first, but no one talked about the comments, the groping, the rumors of rapes.
One of the failures Norton identifies was the inability for both the GA and the Occupy media to self-critique. This lead to the media groups being propagandists enabling self-deception:
“One of the main reasons I wanted to have the PO separate from the GA, is I wanted, from the very beginning, a means within the process for booting people out. The GA had no such process,” he said.
His original idea was to tell positive stories from the camp. He worked with media teams from Boston, LA, Chicago, and New York, and traveled to other camps to get the stories out. In time, Rothstein came to see that Occupy’s media needed to tell all the stories of what was going on: the wonderful and the terrible. By then it was too late.
I’m hesitant to call Occupy “over,” what with the Rolling Jubilee and the ongoing occupation of foreclosed homes, but certainly the movement, as it originally existed, is over. But there is much to be learned from how things went down.
Wired published Alan Moore’s contribution to Occupy Comics, an essay of the history of comics as subversion:
In the derivation of the word cartoon itself we see the art-form’s insurrectionary origins: during the tumults and upheavals of a volatile seventeenth century Italy, it became both expedient and popular to scrawl satirical depictions of political opponents on the sides of cardboard packages, otherwise known as cartons. Soon, these drawings were referred to by the same name as the boxes upon which they’d been emblazoned. As a method of communicating revolutionary ideas in a few crude lampooning strokes, often to an intended audience whose reading skills were limited, the power and effectiveness of the new medium was made immediately apparent.
This may also be the starting point for the receding but still-current attitude that comics and cartoons are best regarded as a province of the lower-class illiterate. However, following the realisation of the form’s immense political utility, it’s only with increasing difficulty that we can find a political event of any scale that has not been commemorated (and, often, most memorably commemorated) by the means of a cartoon.
The eighteenth century, with its more readily available print media, saw the promotion of the scathing cartoon image from its lowly cardboard-box beginnings to the cheap pulp paper mass-production of the broadsheets and the illustrated chapbooks. Consequently this same period would witness the emergence of the form’s first masters, artists who could see the thrilling possibilities in this unruly and untamed new mode of cultural expression. We can see this evidenced in James Gilray’s often-scatological and lacerating barbed caricatures of the dementia-prone King George the Fourth, in William Hogarth’s stark depictions of society’s deprived and shameful lower reaches and even in the sublime illuminated texts of William Blake, in which the visionary’s radical opinions… He’d stood with the firebrands of the Gordon Riots, in a red cap denoting solidarity with the French revolutionaries across the channel, watching Newgate Prison burn…were of necessity concealed beneath a cryptic code of fierce spiritual essences; invented demi-gods with grandiose and punning names that can be viewed as having much in common with the later output of the superhero industry’s presiding genius, the genuinely great Jack Kirby.
At the LA Zine Fest, V. Vale tells Henry Rolls about about his idea for an “Occupy Handbook” collecting posters and slogans from the movement worldwide. Rollins talks about his collection of George W. Bush graffiti from around the world.
Nearly 30 years after publishing V for Vendetta, writer Alan Moore and artist David Lloyd are throwing their support behind the global Occupy movement that’s drawn inspiration from their comic’s anti-totalitarian philosophy and iconography.
Moore will contribute a long-form prose piece, possibly with illustrations, to the Occupy Comics project. His writing work will explore the Occupy movement’s principles, corporate control of the comics industry and the superhero paradigm itself.
Lloyd signed onto the growing Occupy Comics project last week, as did Madman’s Mike Allred and American Splendor’s Dean Haspiel. Occupy Comics will eventually sell single-issue comic books and a hardcover compilation, but an innovative arrangement with Kickstarter means that funds raised through pledges of support can be channeled directly to Occupy Wall Street’s populist ranks now.
For The Guardian, Naomi Wolf covers the Occupy crackdown thus far and makes some very interesting informed speculation:
Why this massive mobilisation against these not-yet-fully-articulated, unarmed, inchoate people? After all, protesters against the war in Iraq, Tea Party rallies and others have all proceeded without this coordinated crackdown. Is it really the camping? As I write, two hundred young people, with sleeping bags, suitcases and even folding chairs, are still camping out all night and day outside of NBC on public sidewalks – under the benevolent eye of an NYPD cop – awaiting Saturday Night Live tickets, so surely the camping is not the issue. I was still deeply puzzled as to why OWS, this hapless, hopeful band, would call out a violent federal response.
That is, until I found out what it was that OWS actually wanted.
The mainstream media was declaring continually “OWS has no message”. Frustrated, I simply asked them. I began soliciting online “What is it you want?” answers from Occupy. In the first 15 minutes, I received 100 answers. These were truly eye-opening.
The No 1 agenda item: get the money out of politics. Most often cited was legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which lets boundless sums enter the campaign process. No 2: reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act – the Depression-era law, done away with by President Clinton, that separates investment banks from commercial banks. This law would correct the conditions for the recent crisis, as investment banks could not take risks for profit that create kale derivatives out of thin air, and wipe out the commercial and savings banks.
No 3 was the most clarifying: draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.
When I saw this list – and especially the last agenda item – the scales fell from my eyes. Of course, these unarmed people would be having the shit kicked out of them.
Update: I’d been avoiding posting anything about speculation that the Department of Homeland Security had anything to do with coordinating the police raids on occupy until there was some real evidence. I thought Wolf had some new sources but, as Kenneth Huey points out in the comments, it turns out Wolf’s sources rely on that same old anonymously sourced Examiner story. But there is currently no evidence that Congress or the White House ordered or coordinated the raids, and the White House has specifically denied this. If anyone knows of any particular mayor or police chief denying DHS involvement, please let me know.
There are many other problems with Wolf’s account of the story, as detailed here. That The Guardian is still running this story from Wolf without any updates or corrections is disappointing.
It’s worth noting that another source of national coordination regarding the Occupy movement has emerged. Wes Unruh pointed me towards this story in the San Francisco Bay Guardian which reveals that the international non-governmental organization The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) coordinated raids nationally. Police chiefs in several major cities participated in a series of conference calls distinct from the 18 mayor call mentioned by Oakland Mayor Jean Quan. PERF has also been involved in coordinating crackdowns on anti-globalization protests. The executive director of PERF, Chuck Wexler, is also on the advisory council of DHS, leading some to refer to the organization as “having ties to” DHS (including the San Francisco Bay Guardian), but I wouldn’t (yet) read too much into this relationship.
It might also be worth mentioning that according to Tom Henderson DHS vehicles were spotted at the Occupy Portland eviction, but as Tom notes the Occupy Portland spilled into federal park, so we can’t read too much into that.
One final note on the potential federal involvement in the Occupy crackdown. I’ve noticed that Portland Mayor Sam Adams almost always mentions drug use in the camp when explaining why he flip-flopped from supporting Occupy Portland to ordering its eviction. Since 1981 there has been an ongoing erosion of military and civilian law enforcement, particularly with regards to drug law enforcement. Here’s an excerpt from Diane Cecilia Weber’s paper Warrior Cops: The Ominous Growth of Paramilitarism in American Police Departments:
In 1981 Congress passed the Military Cooperation with Law Enforcement Officials Act. That law amended the Posse Comitatus Act insofar as it authorized the military to “assist” civilian police in the enforcement of drug laws. The act encouraged the military to (a) make available equipment, military bases, and research facilities to federal, state, and local police; (b) train and advise civilian police on the use of the equipment; and (c) assist law enforcement personnel in keeping drugs from entering the country. The act also authorized the military to share information acquired during military operations with civilian law enforcement agencies.
The overlap between civilian and military law enforcement was furthered in 1986 when President Reagan issued a National Security Decision Directive declaring illegal drugs a threat to national security. You can find more on this in Radley Balko’s book/white paper Overkill.
The possibility of federal involvement remains speculative, but returning to the line about drugs again and again could be a tactic to justify the involvement of the feds, at least at the level of funding.
This isn’t to say that health care reform, reproductive rights, immigration reform, and civil liberties for women and ethnic and sexual minorities aren’t important. But with the possible exception of the Federal Reserve issue, these are issues that affect everyone, and both liberals and conservatives can mostly agree on.
This is not a trivial challenge. A few years ago Slavoj Zizek wrote in a somewhat meandering critique of both Alexander Bard’s and Jan Soderqvist’s Netocracy and Michael Hardt’ and Antonio Negri’s Empire:
Is it then true that these tendencies (these lignes de fuite, as Deleuze would have put it) can coexist in a non-antagonistic way, as parts of the same global network of resistance? One is tempted to answer this claim by applying to it Laclau’s notion of the chain of equivalences: of course this logic of multitude functions – because we are still dealing with RESISTANCE. However, what about when – if this really is the desire and will of these movements – “we take it over”? What would the “multitude in power” look like? There was the same constellation in the last years of the decaying Really-Existing Socialism: the non-antagonistic coexistence, within the oppositional field, of a multitude of ideologico-political tendencies, from liberal human-rights groups to “liberal” business-oriented groups, conservative religious groups and leftist workers’ demands. This multitude functioned well as long as it was united in the opposition to “them,” the Party hegemony; once they found THEMSELVES in power, the game was over.
This is not, I don’t think, an insurmountable problem, but it must be kept in mind. These conflicts could destroy a coalition.
While there are many good reasons for members of the Occupy movement to related to the rehabilitated image of Guy Fawkes/”V”, I am personally convinced that the image of Krampus could potentially be a much more effective iconic symbol of the Occupy movement, especially in the coming weeks leading up to Christmas which is arguably one of the biggest and most lucrative times of year for large banking institutions and corporations that have been shown to have connections to less-than-equitable business practices. Krampus represents responsibility and accountability for one’s actions while more than willing to punish those who engage in harmful practices – business and otherwise.
The author lists out five reasons that Krampus would be better than Fawkes:
-Encourages radical community involvement.
-Actually aims to punish wrong-doings.
-Horns are much scarier than a mask and pantaloons.
-Makes reasonable demands.
-Hasn’t been usurped by Time Warner and was never a Papist tool.
Last year I participated in KrampusCon in Portland. It would be fun to connect this with Occupy. I don’t think Krampus necessarily has to replace any other mascot or symbol, but it sure would be fun to see a Krampus contingent!
American Knucklhead has quickly become my favorite podcast. It’s hosted by a local Portland college drop-out turned bowling alley equipment technician who goes by the name of Joe Knucklhead. Joe’s somehow managed to drift from Ohio through the mountain west and on up here to Oregon during his life, and has picked up a lot of observations about the state of the country and the people who inhabit it. Every two weeks or so he speaks his mind – just the perspective of your average American Knucklehead. He was kind enough to answer a few questions for me this week.
Klint Finley: Thanks for taking time to talk to the liberal media Joe. Why don’t you start by explaining who you are and why you started a podcast, for those who aren’t already familiar with your show.
Joe Knucklehead: My name’s Joe and I’m just a regular shmoe that works in a bowling alley in Portland. I started to podcast because it seemed to me that a lot of things were starting to get a little hinky in the good old USA, and I had a few ideas about how us knuckleheads might fix ’em.
You live here in Portland, best known as a place full of anarchists, tree huggers and trust fund hippies. But if I’m not mistaken, you’re from what Sarah Palin once called “The Real America” – Ohio. How different is Portland from the rest of the country?
Well, a lot in someways, and not at all in others. That ambiguous enough for ya? Portland is different in that it seems a lot more tolerant of a wider range of opinions and behaviors. Where I grew up in Dacron, Ohio, it was a pretty homogenous population, and they didn’t take to weirdos too well. If you’ve ever seen Heathers you’ll know what I mean.
On the other hand, knuckleheads abound, and most folks want pretty much the same things; a chance to earn an honest buck, shelter, safety, a future for themselves and their families.
Well, I’ve noticed that if you get outside the inner Portland bubble – which is where I happen to live – and get out to the rest of the city it’s a lot less “hipster.”
Yeah, that’s for sure. There are hipsters and hipsters.
But what do you think? Is there anything to this red state/blue state divide – or urban vs. rural?
Y’know, I’ve seen studies that showed that red state/blue state voting patterns correlate amazingly well with population density. People in higher densities tend to be more “tweetery” – the higher density makes ’em have to deal with a variety of other ideas and opinions. That’s one of the reasons Portland is relatively progressive, I think.
You’ve been talking a bit lately about the Occupy movement. There’s this online counter-movement of conservatives called the “53%” who claim to be subsidizing the Occupy movement via taxes. They say that the protesters need to “stop whining.” What do you think about this – is it a real populist sentiment, or just more divisiveness?
Naw, it’s a total PR ploy. The guy that dreamed it up, Erick Erickson, is a woofer blogger, CNN talking head, and radio talk show host. I’d say he’s been amazingly effective at providing a pointless distraction.
Well, sure Erickson dreamed it up – but all those people sending in their pictures can’t just be paid actors can they?
Sure, they could be paid actors or just liars. Don’t trust the Internets!
OK – maybe I shouldn’t be so dismissive. It’s pretty easy to whip up anti-Occupy sentiment by resorting to old prejudices and bigotry. Things are scary right now, and people can behave oddly when they’re scared. I’m sure the Occupy movement seems real scary to plenty of Knuckleheads out there.
Yeah, the right wing talking heads have convinced people that the Occupy movement is all about communism. I was just at Occupy Wall Street last week and even I was surprised at how level headed and non-socialist it was. The organizers spent a lot of the time I was there talking about how Occupy to support local small businesses.
Yeah, Occupy Portland seems pretty broad-minded, too. The way the conflict with the Portland Marathon was handled was pretty impressive. They came to an amicable agreement, and both sides were pleased with the extra attention. Synergy, friends and neighbors!
I talked to a league bowler who’s been coming into the alley for years. he ran in the race, and I thought he’d be carping about the “hippies” at the finish line. Instead he said they were really great – applauding the runners as they came in.
It seems they’re really interested in pitching a big tent and creating a platform for people to discuss how best to address the issues we’re facing as a country. But do you think there’s any room for the Tea Party and Occupy to form an alliance, or are they too culturally different? I know the Tea Party has a certain amount of establishment support, from Fox News, the GOP and so on, but it does seem that there’s a legitimate grass roots element there that could lend its support to the goals of Occupy.
I think that’s the next logical step – although sometimes logic don’t play too well in Peoria. Still, I hope that the Knuckleheads in both the Tea Party and the Occupy movement will realize that there’s a lot of common ground, and that the extremists are better off on the margins. Perhaps this group could be mobilized to create one or more new parties – I don’t have much hope for the two parties we have now.
It seems that when anyone starts talking about wanting to improve our economic situation, the right wing response is to accuse those tho speak out against economic injustice as having a sense of “entitlement.” Entitlement has become a dirty word. But really – do you think the average American deserves better than what we’re getting?
There’s a big difference in having a sense of entitlement and wanting a level playing field. It seems that things for the average Knucklehead have gotten worse over the last two or three decades. Wages remain stagnant while the costs of education, healthcare, and so forth have really gone through the damn roof.
OK, we’ve so far in this interview we’ve been pretty friendly to liberals. What message would you like to send the liberal readership? What should liberal elitists like me know about knuckleheads like you?
The main problem I have with tweeters is that they get too focused on pet causes and issues – usually with a maniacal zeal that turns off Knuckleheads like me who aren’t totally on board with that particular pet issues. Right now, I think everybody ought to stick with a wider view. Let’s look at the forest, and we can obsess over individual trees later, huh?
What do you read, watch or listen to keep up with current events?
Everything that the Alaska Quitter does! I usually get my news from mainstream media websites: CNN, Reuters, AP, the Onion. Sometimes I can hoark a copy of the Economist from a friend.
Has anyone approached you about doing a “real” radio show? Have you talked to KBOO?
Hadn’t really thought of it. I did college radio before I got kicked out of Ohio State – it was a blast. That’s what I like about the podcasting – also I don’t have to do something like pull a weekly shift in some godawful 3 a.m.to 6 a.m. slot – the horror, the horror…