Democracy

The View From Zuccotti Park: On the Post-Political Thrust of OWS

I unofficially joined the Occupy Wall Street movement on August 2nd of 2011, not because I wanted to demand anything from the government, but because I wanted to use what I had learned over the past several years as a data analyst at a global advertising agency to somehow attack the system. I had, and still have I suppose, an agenda to somehow turn corporations upon one another, make them divide and conquer themselves so that we (I) can stop working for them and so that they’ll start working for us. Many of my comrades abhorred my ideas and proposals, like the one I had discussed in a private email to Micah White about having corporations actually fund us while we camped out. However, no one told me I was unwelcome, and I actually have met other individuals who found my ideas appealing. I, furthermore, have yet to be told that I am unwelcome at camp in spite of the fact that the same email thread was publicly leaked, and I have since been accused of being a corporate stooge by several conspiracy theorists with blogs. The movement is tolerant of diverse and extreme opinions, which is its strength as well as the reason why there isn’t a coherent message. Or is there?

I’ll confess that I never really imagined that Occupy Wall Street would actually happen. I knew the turn out wouldn’t be anywhere near the 20,000 that Adbusters had called for. There had been 200 at most at the New York City General Assembly meetings leading up to the 17th, and the occupywallst.org website didn’t even begin receiving more than a few thousand visitors until the 17th. I didn’t bring my sleeping bag to Wall Street. I ran home and returned to the park with it. Waking up in Liberty Plaza on the morning of Sunday, September 18th, was surreal. I thought the cause was lost on the morning of September 20th while in my office cubicle I typed out an unanswered email for help from the New School community as I helplessly watched on www.livestream.com/globalrevolution an acquaintance being thrown to the ground, cuffed and dragged off in the rain for pitching a tent. However, the camp was teeming by the time I returned after work. I wasn’t the only person who thought that the police would sweep through and arrest the entire camp on the night of Saturday, September 24th, after the brutal Union Square march, but then a photograph from the march made the cover of the Sunday morning edition of The Daily News, the police backed off and sometime shortly after that moment I and others I had talked to began to seriously believe that something much bigger than any of us was beginning to happen.

I also began to feel completely useless to the movement after that first week. It felt like every problem that arose at camp seemed to be addressed before I could even try to help address it. This wasn’t at all a bad problem to have. The camp seemed to grow on its own. Two others and I, using hand clickers, counted an average of 163 people sleeping in the camp on the morning of October 3rd. The count was up to 603 the morning of October 10th as news of occupations springing up in other cities continued to pour in. One of my closest comrades from Arts & Culture put it this way in a group email he sent out on October 12…

“For the sake of keeping your head sane and your heart still engaged, be aware: we are not in control. You are not in control. We at the NYC occupation are not in control. The website hosts are not in control. No one is in control of this hurricane. This realization is liberating. Think about this thoroughly.”

Why is Occupy Wall Street growing? No one in the media at least seems to even know what it is. The NYPD may have been the movement’s primary antagonist the first week, but the media took that role the next. Much like early Christianity, however, this movement has grown every time it’s been persecuted. Antagonistic news sources such as Fox, CNN, and The Wall Street Journal were so intent on framing the movement as a failure due to a lack of a single soundbyte goal that they were oblivious to the ways in which their derisive coverage actually stirred interest in the movement. This same coverage failed to resonate with the masses as well as the social media coverage we produced and which had beaten the mass media to the story by over a week.

Mainstream political attention came with mainstream media attention. Fox and others have tried to portray Occupy Wall Street as a liberal answer to the Tea Party. But it’s definitely not a political movement. A fellow member of the Occupy Wall Street PR working group told me to throw the term “post-political” around a lot and that our “goal” was to see as many people as possible attend General Assembly meetings across the country and globe while prepping me for a tense interview on Fox this past Monday on the occupenial of October 17th. My senior colleague Hector R. Cordero-Gusman of CUNY Graduate Center and I found that 70% of 1,619 responses taken from a nonrandom survey sample of occupywallst.org traffic on October 5th identified as politically independent as opposed to Democrat, 27%, and Republican, 3%. 93% of this sample supported the movement. 71% of 3,076 respondents from our latest survey, which is currently collecting data, identify as politically independent, which suggests that the finding is no fluke. A comrade I have yet to meet wrote this in a working draft of a non-cooptation statement sent to the Arts & Culture email group list…

“As the world continues to be galvanized by this movement, we wish to clarify that Occupy Wall Street is not and has never been affiliated with any established political party, candidate or organization. We are not a mouthpiece for any political organization. Our only affiliation is with the people who make up the 99%, those individuals who suffer from the exploitation by and collusion between the 1% and the representatives of their government, those individuals who are neither left-wing nor right-wing, conservative or liberal, but both. We are the economic 99%, joined together to re-establish the people as the authentic voices in democratic societies ab initio.”

Occupy Wall Street has nothing to do with empowering politicians, it has everything to do with empowering ourselves. But what is Occupy Wall Street if not a political movement? Social struggle perhaps? The bankers have expressed their prejudice towards us by attempting to pour champagne on us from the balcony of Cipriani on the afternoon of the 17th. I was informed that they were prevented from doing so by the NYPD from a reporter from The New York Times. I happened to meet the reporter at a counter-protest he was covering, which the bankers had organized and foolishly advertised on Facebook for the afternoon of September 23rd at the corner of Wall and Broad Street in order to sip champagne to our “good-riddance.” They thought we were about to leave due to an incoming storm. We called legal observers from the New York National Lawyer’s guild in the hopes of having them arrested for violating open container laws, but the bankers never showed due to some light rain, which never managed to stop us from continuing our protest.

It seems to me that the level of dissatisfaction with the country’s and the world’s political, financial and mass media systems has finally become so pervasive that respondents who are white (83%), male (62%), straight (85%), single (48%), full-time employed (47%) with a college education or better (92%), yet who make less than $24,999 (46%), have come to fully embrace and support the actions and ideas of a new revolutionary community of people. They do in fact strike me as a group of ethnically diverse and sexually adventurous anarchists who smoke marijuana on a habitual basis such as myself, but who would never actually jeopardize the movement by giving the NYPD a reason to arrest us by doing any of this in front of them or the media. I’ve heard reports from a couple that arrived at my apartment around 5:00am on October 16th after being released from jail that they overheard members of the NYPD direct other detainees not with the movement that they could eat and sleep at Liberty Plaza.

Occupy Wall Street is not a mainstream political movement in spite of the fact that it is now a mainstream social movement. It began with a relatively small group of people who all must have read the same books at one point or another, and it has quickly become an autonomous social organism with a deceptively sophisticated electronic collective consciousness whose mass has grown in increments of individuals from morning to night and from week to weekend. It is a leaderless, directionless, self-regulating community, with independent media capabilities now powered by solar and bio-diesel energy. Food and space to sleep are free for anyone, and everyone is always welcome to freely come and go as they please. It strikes me as a community built on values which demand that that we do our best to embody the sort of changes we want to experience rather than demand them from a politician from the failing capitalist system that surrounds Liberty Plaza. Similar camps have been autonomously established across the country and globe, and I can’t imagine them growing any smaller over the long term as our global society enters a second global recession.

My tentative hypothesis is that Occupy Wall Street isn’t a social movement as much as it is the beginning of a social change, a forward return to form of communal social organization that is beginning to re-exist now that the capitalist social system, which supplanted it, is no longer willing nor able to meet the needs of the masses.

  • IrisDr

    An interesting inside look into the Occupy Wall Street movement and its camp in Liberty Plaza. I credit OWS with changing the national conversation, which had been dominated by Tea Party language against Obama and his “takeover” of the country with “big government.” However, I fear OWS could turn into a cut off your nose, despite your face movement. I don’t understand what “post-political” means. Everything has political implications. My hope is that even if most of the campers in the park are cynical enough not to vote, the thrust of their anger is nonetheless being directed in the right direction and (despite the intentions of the protesters) can inspire others to get motivated to do something constructive. Utopia does not exist. Capitalism has its problems, but at least Democrats generally believe in rules and regulations to curb the worst accesses and want a safety net that ensures a basic standard of living. Republicans, especially of this day and age, would take us in the complete opposite direction from where the OWS movement wants to go. If people sit on their hands and remain a-political or “post-political,” then we can very possibly see a Republican victory in 2012, which spells more inequality, more hardship, more poverty, repeal of any progress made to our healthcare system, etc., etc. We need to push Democrats in a more progressive direction and reward them with our votes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Adela-Wagner/100002586832611 Adela Wagner

    It is a shame that you used your time on Hannity to be rude, make up accusations you have NO proof of, and make members of your generation look like buffoons. I applaud Hannity for providing you a platform, as I believe my generation must have open dialogue with the future generation. However you used your time to shut down any such communication. You propose leechdom, and no one with any sense would back up a parasitical way of life. Just like a mommy bird pushes her young out of the nest and makes them use their wings to fly, you may end up extinct with your perpetual government teet sucking.

  • Anonymous

    This person is dangerous, in his ignorance which apparently has an audience. He never watched Hannity, yet he dared to evaluate him. He didn’t seem to know what he was talking about, yet he presents himself as having distinguised credentials. One wonders why he left all of those jobs. He spouted pure nonsense, re the police having brought derelicts into Zuccotti park to discredit the movement. He was filled with attitude. Something was very wrong with this person.

  • http://www.deliberatelyconsidered.com Jeffrey C. Goldfarb

    Because of some technical problems, I am having trouble editing comments. Generally this hasn’t been necessary, since the comments have used the general deliberately considered tone, from people of the left, right and center. I welcome all points of view, but want to discourage mindless name calling: neither Fox or MSNBC is a model. Here you should find an alternative to all that.

    Thus, though I think that Harrison’s performance on Hannity did not represent the best that can come out of Occupy Wall Street, the invective displayed in many of the recent comments here after his Fox appearance is disturbing. I disagree with them and with Hannity’s political position, but I even more so condemn their confusion of politics with both war and mindless entertainment. I disagree also with Harrison’s politics, anarchism now, really? But I also wonder why he stooped to Hannity’s level.

  • http://www.nleomf.org/officers/ FlatFoot

    “But I also wonder why he stooped to Hannity’s level.”

    He wrote a column on your website just 6 months ago. Why don’t you ask him?

  • http://www.deliberatelyconsidered.com Jeffrey C. Goldfarb

    I will. And I am thinking about preparing a post “Sean Hannity, Harrison Schultz and Me.”

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/ACV6RJTVVLQDUQLO2HZNANXRP4 tom

    So, then enlighten us as to WHAT the OWS REALLY wants? How can you, with a straight face, actually DEMAND free everything! Someone always pays the tab…..and to my view, none of you has yet to even begin the task of working to actually earn something!
    You all appear to be nothing more than a bunch of spoiled brats who need their diapers changed.

  • Sheik Yerbouti

    “….OWS could turn into a cut off your nose to spite your face movement.”
    Respectfully, Iris – when the self-same politicians you once had a symbiotic relationship with…who once praised your efforts, no longer even acknowledge your existence relevance and credibility become your chief concerns.
    And when your allies in the media can no longer hide and excuse your crimes, you might as well just admit you’re merely a bunch of angry, over-entitled kids who like to break things and attack innocent police officers.

  • Sheik Yerbouti

    Hannity shoulda just laughed at him.

  • http://www.deliberatelyconsidered.com Jeffrey C. Goldfarb

    I will assume that you are serious, that you really seek to be enlightened. I want to be able to have deliberations that involve the exchange of views among people who hold different political positions. You can see how seriously I have taken conservative thought on this blog, where I have published contributions by major conservative thinkers. I am not a spoiled brat in diapers, but a rather old man, holding the same job for over 35 years, an anti-communist veteran, in a sense, activist in the Solidarity Movement in Poland, and also an interested critical observer-supporter of OWS.

    That said here is an early link to a post I wrote about OWS when it was still operating in Zuccotti Park. http://www.deliberatelyconsidered.com/2011/11/the-clear-present-and-positive-goals-of-occupy-wall-street/ It presents a partial answer to your question.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1142564124 Ariel Merkel

    I am greatly disappointed at the plethora of anti-disability comments on this post (i.e. “idiot” and “retard”).

    As I understand it, this blog was created as platform for dialogue, regardless of the political position of the arguments—all political positions are welcome here. As such, I am surprised to see insults thrown around. However, I understand that politics and affect overlap, emotions rise and hateful words are thrown. I realize the term “retard” is used here to disparage OWS at large and Harrison in specific, but they are also an attempt to delegitimize the politics of disability at large, and the disability rights movement in specific. The cognitively disabled are arguably one of the most marginalized populations in the United States and while this conversation about economic inequality directly relates to these “leeches,” I believe we can have this conversation in a respectful manner, with dignity for all.

  • http://www.deliberatelyconsidered.com Jeffrey C. Goldfarb

    Ariel,

    Harrison was on Hannity and the Hannity fans have come to Deliberately Considered to attack Harrison. I thought I would eliminate the posts that run counter to the culture of deliberate and respectful deliberation (as specified by our posting policies) but couldn’t get the function to work. Generally, we should welcome strong differences of opinion, but trust people will be careful to be respectful and non – abusive. I condemn anti-disability comments, as I know you do, despair that this is the way people think they must express their opinions and entertain themselves.

  • David Peppas

    The Invitation Problem

    There are two things here that I see as self evident. Firstly, the majority of these comments do not invite a response. Secondly, FOX news is first and foremost propaganda par excellence. And I do not mean this in some casual metaphoric sense. I mean propaganda with a capital P-with all the historic implications that come with the word. I mean the dangerous kind. I mean the kind that deals in classism, sexism, racism, colonialism and all the various ‘isms’. Capital P propaganda is special in that it has the actual power to perpetuate these ‘isms’. For this reason I doubt that it is possible to express within FOX any utterance that poses any challenge to these ‘isms’ which in fact constitute it. Furthermore, though it may be possible for one to go on FOX and tell ones’ side of the story, one can be certain that it will be framed accordingly. Framed in such a way that it becomes part of the Propaganda.

    But I think the problem is even more sinister than framing. What I mean here is the problem of the invitation. FOX’s invitations-like so many of the venomous comments on this site-are not genuine invitations to constructive dialogue. In fact I’m convinced that any invitation from FOX should be politely turned down. I suspect that if FOX invites one back after one has given ones’ side of the story, it is a sure sign that FOX has decided that that person is serving their interest somehow. The interesting aspect of all this is that Propaganda like FOX does not really want guests that endorse it. What it thrives on, hungers for, and cannot survive without, is an antithetical, and equally hostile Other. Therefore, I think that perhaps sometimes the most powerful response to an entity like FOX is complete silence.

    David Peppas

  • http://www.deliberatelyconsidered.com Jeffrey C. Goldfarb

    I fundamentally agree David, especially when your observation is applied to Hannity and company. Perhaps the Sunday news discussion on Fox is different, but only a bit. This actually raises interesting theoretical issues and practical challenges. When do the rules of propaganda that you describe apply, when don’t they. Judgment is necessary on this. This reminds me of Josh Gamson’s analysis of Talk TV, Freaks Talk Back. Sometimes appearing in public matters and the propaganda effect you write about is not central. But here, I agree, it is.

  • David Peppas

    Jeffrey, as to “when do the rules of propaganda apply–when don’t they”, I really do not know the answer to that, in this context. However, I will take a stab at ‘theorizing’ the problem. I can say that I have what you may describe as conservative friends and family members who watch, and endorse, FOX news. And I find that when I talk politics with them, that though I largely disagree with them, their views are not nearly as simplistic and mean spirited as what I see on FOX. When I watched Harrison’s appearance on Hannity, I was struck by how much the exchange resembled the kind of altercation one might see on a reality television show. I have a hunch that reality shows are so successful because they have managed to transcend something that sports never could, the problem of the winner and the loser.

    As a self identified leftist as I watched Harrison debating Hannity, I found myself finding pleasure in what I perceived of as the sheer magnitude of Hannity’s stupidity–and Harrison must be given credit for amplifying this more than usual. In short Hannity’s performance in a sense made me feel like an unambiguous winner. But who really is the winner here? I suspect that what I liked about the performance was the lack of ambiguity. It is like when you go to a ball game to see the Red Sox play the Yankees, you know your team and you cheer them on. You also know who the opposing team is and you know not to cheer them on. Most importantly, you can count on the fact that all of these unambiguous relationships will eventually be resolved in the form of an unambiguous win or loss. The problem is of course that with the creation of every winner comes a loser. Much like reality television, shows like Hannity, have transcended this problem. In that they have succeeded in creating a form of entertainment, which leaves fans from both sides feeling as if they have won unambiguously.

    I suspect that shows like Hannity are very good at giving many on the so-called left exactly what they want, in that they serve to situate them in a clearly unambiguous relationship. A relationship which brings into being the figure of ‘Hannity’. Hannity, is for the left, a sort of wish figure. A figure that represents everything they detest (capitalism, arrogance, lies, meanness ect). Yet, what makes the figure of Hannity so satisfying for them is that it flaunts these aspects so unambiguously, and in such a seemingly localizable form. The Hannity figure gives us on the so called left the false, yet satisfying, notion that the problem of ‘capitalism’ and ‘inequality’ is unambiguous-though we know that nothing could be further from the truth. Note also how the Hannity figure appears as unambiguously inarticulate and ignorant from the perspective of those on the left. Isn’t this also reassuring in that it gives the left the sense that their ‘enemy’ can be readily identified and is weak. Given this logic, it can be said that Harrison-for whom I have greater sympathy for in this rather pessimistic reading-was also while on that set transformed into a wish figure. I mean of course from the perspective of the right. The ad hominem attacks against him on this thread are evidence that many have come to view him as such a wish figure. One that arguably makes the Hannity wish figure more potent.

    In this way I think that FOX has quite artfully created a rather seductive sport where both sides walk away feeling as though they have won. One reason for this is that FOX always casts grotesque polemic opposites (casting is crucial). On the left people can look at Hannity and laugh, and talk about how stupid and mean he is. On the right, people can do the same with Harrison and the Occupy folks that they see him as embodying. Either way there is no room for ambiguity in such a world. This strategy is of course great for FOX in that it increases viewership by getting people who have very different political views than FOX to watch their programming. But in the end it seems destructive to both ‘sides’–sides which the strategy helps reify–because the strategy relies on and promotes, the perpetuation of a wall. And as we know a wall is rather good at creating an unambiguous dichotomy, but not so good at promoting ambiguous dichotomies. And ambiguity seems to be more in accordance with things like empathy and understanding–and even reality.

    Best,

    David

  • Harrison Tesoura Schultz

    Professor Goldfarb,

    I in no way feel as if I’ve stooped to Hannity’s level. I have my reasons for challenging him at his own game however. The fact of the matter is that our websites, facebook pages, and twitter accounts have a reach in the thousands even dozens of thousands daily and even more when things get really tense. An organization like MSNBC however has dozens to hundreds of thousands paying attention to them daily. An organization like Fox unfortunately has hundreds of thousands to millions paying attention to them everyday as Hannity sorta pointed out in spite of the fact that overall rates of TV viewership appear to be going down. Going on Fox, (I’ve done so about 5 times total now) is always a risk, and a necessary one in my opinion. I told Hannity the day after in a 15 minute interview that wound up lasting a whole hour that the reason why once respectable papers such as the Wall Street Journal don’t report on corporate crime on Wall Street is because Hannity’s boss, an international criminal as far as I’m concerned owns the Wall Street Journal. To be clear, Fox news is everybit as responsible for the crisis we are all in as Wall Street, both political parties, the Federal Reserve system, etc. My interview with Hannity may not have gone as well as the other interviews I’ve done on Fox, but the fact of the matter is that I’ll manage all the hate and ridicule I have to in order to confront these people when they offer me the opportunity to do so, because a civil society simply cannot exist so long as Fox continues to make it socially acceptable to pass off hate for others as news.

    Furthermore none of those interviews such as this one with Liz Claman had anywhere near as much exposure as the Hannity interview which been posted many times on Youtube with many of the posts several thousands of views. Other have actually made clips to respond directly to the interview.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=7kQHFnVlVRI#!

    I don’t particularly enjoy being ridiculed for attempting to have an honest conversation with someone who allegedly reports on the news, I’m not at all happy that the negative attention has spilled over into space which was deliberately set up as an alternative to the mass media spin zone, but this is unfortunately part of the job and I’m mostly ok with the way this is playing out at the moment. Did I make OWS look bad? It’s a matter of perspective. I doubt it mostly because most of the bloggers are slamming me personally rather than OWS. My colleagues in OWS all want to go onto Hannity now because they think that he looked like an idiot and the PR groups are thinking of ways to counter his strategy of interruption. Perhaps a few liberals were turned off by OWS because of this, but I’m willing to wager that they were infinitely more turned off by Hannity than anything I had to say. Consider this comment from democurmudgeon.blogspot.com…”Harrison Schultz took on Sean Hannity, (this is his second visit to Fox News) and showed how easy it is to make these ideologues look stupid. Cliched cartoon hosts really do insult the viewers intelligence…but then we are talking about the Fox News audience, nevermind?” And as for the conservatives? I doubt anything I had to say gave them a favorable opinion about OWS, but I don’t think that any of them had a favorable opinion of OWS to begin with that is if they had any actual opinion bout it at all. I find the fact that their talking this much (badly albeit) about OWS extremely significant. They not only perceived me as getting slammed but they certainly seemed to enjoy it as well, which is precisely why I suspect and hope that FOX news will probably want to start featuring more “news” about OWS, giving the movement more opportunities to return and continue to challenge them. Given this experience I almost think it may be preferable to actually allow hosts like Hannity to verbally abuse occupiers since it seems to get more engagement from conservatives than would completely slamming them. (The hour long radio rematch in which I miked checked Hannity has yet to appear online). Based on my experiences with this movement I’m also quite convinced that if these Hosts continue to verbally abuse occupiers who are less fortunate than themselves, merely for attempting to express their opinions, than I find it rather likely that public sentiment will turn against Fox just as it does when the NYPD physically brutalizes occupiers. I learned from my experience in advertising that ‘awareness’, of a given message often occurs before people become “favorable” to it and then they may choose to identify and “engage” with the message, product etc. Not that things always work out this way in the sequence, given that the conservative masses are totally engaged in slamming me at the moment. This is only the beginning of an “engagement funnel” as far as I’m concerned.

    As for anarchy, now, at a time like this? Yes absolutely of course. Most of those I met in the pre-sept 17 days, were in fact anarchists. The general assembly we used to arrive at group consensus was most certainly based upon Anarchist principles of horizontal-ism and leaderlessness. Anarchist ideals have taken this movement an incredibly far way, and given the success of May Day there’s little doubt in my mind that anarchist ideals will continue to take us even further away from business as usual. Anarchy has been a dirty word, associated with romanticized violence for far too long now and part of the reason why I’ve publicly identified myself as an anarchist, and showed up in a suit and (usually a tie) is in a direct attempt to challenge these stereotypes. Anarchy is also exactly the sort of thing that passionately irrational conservatives love to hate, and the more they enjoy hating it, degrading it, and using it as something to reverse-identify with, the more I suspect that they’ll unwittingly learn to love it.

  • David Peppas

    Harrison, Jeffrey and all,

    I think you are right. We cannot pretend that anarchist ideals and tactics do not play a major role in OWS. We cannot paper that reality over. And I think that we can all agree that the term ‘anarchy’ needs to be taken back. To avoid it, by coming up with less highly charged euphemisms, seems like a cop out. My thesis is that what scares the United States most about ‘anarchy’ is not violence, but instead the opposite.

    One anarchist strategy that has been hugely important to OWS has been the consensus decision making process–though its important to note that consensus decision making has been around much longer than the term anarchy. I think that non-competitive forms of political practice such as the consensus decision making process, which is a more truly democratic process than the current one, are seen by the status quo as to be more threatening than violence. Why?; because our current system, values competition above all else. And violence is both the root and the fruit of competition. This results in a society which sees consensus as to be much more alien than violence. More specifically, in such a society, total consensus is not only seen as to be counter intuitive but also violent.

    Corporations like FOX not only know this fact, they embrace it unabashedly. In this respect they are perhaps more honest then their liberal counter parts. They of course know that violence is a key ingredient in sensationalism. It is for them a form of currency. Anyone who has ever watched the consensus decision making process in action knows that it is perhaps one of the most frustratingly ‘unsensational’ things one could imagine. And, when played out in its most ideal sense there are no winners or losers. In a capitalist society such as ours this idea is viewed as to be far more radical and alien than violence. One sure sign of this, is the self evident fact that we are told constantly, on a daily basis, that the goal of society is to create ‘competitive individuals’. Given this, I think that what truly scares people about what many anarchist propose, are things like the consensus decision process.

    Best,

    David

    P.S. For anyone interested in the consensus decision process. David Graeber wrote a great little piece on it in the Occupy Wallstreet Journal. Heres the link:

    http://occupywallst.org/article/enacting-the-impossible/

  • David Peppas

    Harrison, Jeffrey and all,

    I think you are right. We cannot pretend that anarchist ideals and tactics do not play a major role in OWS. We cannot paper that reality over. And I think that we can all agree that the term ‘anarchy’ needs to be taken back. To avoid it, by coming up with less highly charged euphemisms, seems like a cop out. My thesis is that what scares the United States most about ‘anarchy’ is not violence, but instead the opposite.

    One anarchist strategy that has been hugely important to OWS has been the consensus decision making process–though its important to note that consensus decision making has been around much longer than the term anarchy. I think that non-competitive forms of political practice such as the consensus decision making process, which is a more truly democratic process than the current one, are seen by the status quo as to be more threatening than violence. Why?; because our current system, values competition above all else. And violence is both the root and the fruit of competition. This results in a society which sees consensus as to be much more alien than violence. More specifically, in such a society, total consensus is not only seen as to be counter intuitive but also violent.

    Corporations like FOX not only know this fact, they embrace it unabashedly. In this respect they are perhaps more honest then their liberal counter parts. They of course know that violence is a key ingredient in sensationalism. It is for them a form of currency. Anyone who has ever watched the consensus decision making process in action knows that it is perhaps one of the most frustratingly ‘unsensational’ things one could imagine. And, when played out in its most ideal sense there are no winners or losers. In a capitalist society such as ours this idea is viewed as to be far more radical and alien than violence. One sure sign of this, is the self evident fact that we are told constantly, on a daily basis, that the goal of society is to create ‘competitive individuals’. Given this, I think that what truly scares people about what many anarchist propose, are things like the consensus decision process.

    Best,

    David

    P.S. For anyone interested in the consensus decision process. David Graeber wrote a great little piece on it in the Occupy Wallstreet Journal. Heres the link:

    http://occupywallst.org/article/enacting-the-impossible/

  • http://www.deliberatelyconsidered.com Jeffrey C. Goldfarb

    Harrison, David and all,

    Outside a pretty small world, the discussion of anarchism is pretty obscure. On the other hand, issues of how decisions are made democratically, and the meaning of consensus are a completely different matter. OWS has many currents. I say let a thousand flowers bloom. But then there still is the question of what is to be done. Imagining anarchism is one thing, more engaged practical action is another.