Quinn Norton's Eulogy for #Occupy is a wrenching, beautiful, long postmortem on the Occupy movement, including an eyes-open (and scathing) critique of what went wrong inside Occupy:
But living in parks, having to rub elbows with the people society was set up to shield from each other, began to stress people and make them twitchy from constant culture shock. Grad students trying to reason with smack addicts was torture for both sides. The GA [General Aseembly] became the main venue for this torture, and sitting through it was like watching someone sandpaper an open wound. Everyone said “Fuck the GA” as a joke, but as time wore on, the laughter was getting too long and too hoarse; a joke with blood in it. The metaphorical pain became less metaphorical with each eviction, with the gnawing feeling that something was coming.
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.
By the time I returned to NY from visiting the camp in DC, exhausted with the pain of six evictions, the NYC GA was a place where women were threatened with beatings, and street kids with calls to the police. All the reasonable people had gotten the fuck out. It had become a gladiator pit no one enjoyed watching. Even Weev, the famous internet troll, didn’t last through the nastiness of the GA I took him to. He left while I wasn’t looking, without saying goodbye. We never spoke about it. I didn’t blame him, and I didn’t have to ask why. It was the tiny, brutal, and bitter politics of failed people.
And some cogent analysis of why the wider world couldn't (or wouldn't) accept Occupy's message:
Standing next to an older officer after one eviction, telling him what I’d seen and listening to him worry about how he was going to send his kids to college, I overheard the police talk to each other. Of the protestors they kept saying the same thing, the same three words to each other and walked away: “They’ll be back.” Some said it with scorn, lips curled. Some said it with fear, some excited for the action. Some said it with the watery voices of drowning hope: “They’ll be back.”
Please, let something matter again, let something change.
The policing of protest in America makes it clear that protest has become mere ritual, a farce, and that, by definition, it becomes illegal if it threatens to change anything or inconvenience anyone. In time, all the police announcements came to say the same thing to me. “You may go through your constitutional ritual,” they intoned, “but it must stop before anything of consequence happens.” We must, above all, preserve everything as it is.
I write books. My latest is a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). More books: Rapture of the Nerds (a novel, with Charlie Stross); With a Little Help (short stories); and The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (novella and nonfic). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.