Eulogy for #Occupy: beautiful, brutal postmortem

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.

A Eulogy for #Occupy [Wired]


    1. This paragraph nailed it:

      “Occupy faced what is real in a way that so much of regular life never does. We deputize people, actual deputies, to make the hard parts of life disappear. But that’s all they do, make things disappear. They don’t deal with it, they don’t understand it. They don’t embrace it, and hold it on the ground until it calms down. They just beat on it until it finds a place to hide. In the end, that’s what they did to Occupy, too.”

    1. What’s also depressing is the way the wind blows in the Wired comments section.

      For the sake of the author, BB readers who bother to read the whole thing should downvote some of those comments…

  1. So a bunch of street protestors, encamped for months in a park, who had no coherent platform or plans to accomplish it, ended up achieving nothing worthwhile? 
    In other breaking news: water is wet; fire is hot. 

    The tangential thing OWS might have accomplished is to show us to just how brutal police depts & the feds are becoming in violating civil rights these days. But that’s not exactly a secret – the president signed a law allowing him to kill US citizens w/o any due process. 
    And he got re-elected. 

    1. I do think Occupy did some good — the 99 vs. 1 Percent concept got into mainstream consciousness and into political discourse. Occupy helped to get discussion of class issues and the greedy rich on the table in a tangible way.

      Also, Occupy is not dead; it’s taking on new forms, such as helping out at Hurricane Sandy, and with mass loan forgiveness, and with helping housing residents fight unjust foreclosures.

      The Wired piece, at least as excerpted here, comes across as too hopeless about the Occupy Movement, and about resistance in general. 

      1. Agreed, they accomplished quite a bit. Did they accomplish what the most passionate protesters hoped for? Maybe not, but I’m not sure I would have liked that anyway. Even if you would have liked that anyway,  mainstreaming the issue of social inequality is pretty impressive. This excerpt is too negative.

    2. The fact that they had “no platform” as you say….. was the best part. As we know, whenever they did issue demands they were immediately attacked by Libertarian types like yourself and critics who’d seek to pin them down to talking points that are easy to mock and undermine. They did not allow themselves to be co-opted or undermined which is one of the reasons politicians, the media, right wingers and Obama-crats are still so furious with them and feel the need to constantly write articles about the movement’s death, as we saw around the one year anniversary……..

      “They are so irrelevant that we must write another article about their irrelevance!”

      The notion that they accomplished nothing is ridiculous as well, they changed the whole narrative in this country for starters. I’d also imagine that the people they helped during Sandy way before any government or private organization did probably think the movement is less dead than the author does.*

      * I see the author acknowledges this at the end of the piece.

    3. Killing US citizens w/o any due process goes back to George Washington, it’s just finally been taken public.

      1. Funny how Libertarians like him were nowhere to be seen when people were out protesting wars and violations against civil rights.

          1.  As a “philosophy” it is squarely against democracy and civil rights. It’s funny to hear them complain about violence done on behalf of the elite business class.

        1. I’m not a Libertarian, but I can tell you for a fact that libertarians were among the most outspoken critics of the Bush administration. And, unlike your adorable little anti-war and civil rights protesters, they didn’t lose interest and wander off as soon as the guy with (D) after his name got elected.

          1.  Funny thing is, I was a part of the anti-war movement for years and years. Didn’t see a lot of libertarians putting shoe leather to pavement.

            Lots of Christian peace groups, but no libertarians.

            Mild disapproval is not protest.

          2. Christian and other peace groups oppose war because of the effect it has on others. Libertarians only oppose war if it affects them personally. There were libertarians who criticized the cost of the war, but as long as they were benefiting from tax cuts and not being personally affected by the war there was no compelling reason for them to try and prevent or end it.

          3. I vote Green Party (when able), and have participated in protests for the war(s), NATO, and other Occupy protests and events since before and after Obama became pres.You’ll have to try that again….it was adorable though…especially the part about Libertarians being so vocal about Bush…

          4. I’m a Libertarian, but I’ve also voted for Greens and even an Occupy person.  And except for some Libertarians who got sucked into the “Muslims are trying to kill us all!” Bush propaganda, most of us though Bush was the worst president since at least FDR. 

            (I’d have taken Richard Nixon back instead of Bush…)

        2. That just balanced out the way in which the liberal anti-war movement practically evaporated on January 21, 2009.

        3. You must have just assumed we were fellow socialists when we were out marching with you, whether it was against the war or in favor of immigrants or against wiretapping.

          And you probably didn’t even show up for the really weird protests, like DVD Jon or the export control lawsuits.

  2. I call bullshit. Occupy did a lot of good beyond ritualized protest. It started the entire 99% dialog at a time when the tea party was dominating the national conversation. It helped open up a lot of eyes to radical politics who were not yet exposed. (and yea some were wrongheaded about it but they were kids, you expect kids to know everything and do everything right… if you do you are possibly a hypocrite and probably an asshole) Unions were a big part of occupy and it got people thinking along the lines of how unionization is good for the people after years of it being demonized by the press and big business, it helped create occupy sandy that helped thousands after Hurricane Sandy, Occupy Oakland helped dockworkers during their wildcat strike. So yea a lot of tangible good has been come from the occupy movement.

    were there problems yea… occupy was a tactic not a movement and they had no way to go on to the next phase of any widespread movement. They also in an attempt to keep appeal as broad as possible never had any platform or any plans beyond anti-capitalist sentiment. 

    But by and large occupy did more good than harm and sets the stage for more and more movements.

    1. A great deal more good than harm.  I’ve seen documented numbers that suggest before OWS, our top financial news story was deficits and the need for austerity.  After, the top story was – rightly – joblessness and the need for stimulus.

      To the extent that Congress follows the will of the MSM, it’s just possible this saved the recovery.

  3. Funny, there was another mass movement that protested against expensive and ineffective government, and managed to organize to elect congressmen, take State legislatures and at last count helped elect 30 State Governors in order to effect the changes they want.

    What was that movement called again? Something about tea….

      1.  in other words, even though it was effective, since it doesnt align with stevetronix viewpoint, it was clearly a astroturfed movement.  In this case “astroturfed” means “grassroots movement I disagree with.”

        1. Yep “Freedomworks”, Dick Armey, The Koch Bros….  grassroots oligarchs….

          *edit* whoops another Daily Caller troll…

        2. Astroturf means millions of dollars poured into it for buses, publicity, free lunches, and months of free positive publicity from Fox worth many tens of millions of dollars. 

        3. Astroturf also meaning turning out 5,000 people and having it described by right wing media  as “100,000” or 50,000 and having it called a “million.” 

        4. I’ve been around grassroots movements and astroturf movements, and the Tea Party was very good at taking people whose only common goal was that they were Mad As Hell And Not Going To Take It Any More (and Republican) and turn them into political noisemakers who’d echo whatever they were told to.  The Tea Party generally didn’t get that they weren’t actually in charge of policy, they were in charge of cheerleading against the Other Team, and the Machine did a good job of lumping the Deficit Hawks (who could have become a centrist movement) over with the Crazy Right-Wingers, where they wouldn’t do any damage.

          Occupy also didn’t have much in common at first except also being Mad As Hell (and not Republican), not really sure what they wanted but knowing they wanted it now, and raising a lot of serious discussion about social organization of the US and the modern world.  It was very very grassroots – nobody was funding a movement except volunteers.

    1. The Tea Party used to call my house offering bus rides on the Freedom Works charter bus with a box lunch. 

      Pat Buchannan said he hoped it would become a “nativist” (white racial identity) party.

      But in fact, it never much got past being an elaborate hoax.  And their brightest stars, like Allen West, got turned out of office for being batshit insane in public. 

      They actually had a decent shot at morphing into a Golden Dawn sort of neofascist movement (and white supremacists recruited at their events), but the average members age seemed to be about 67, as seen by the people ranting about big government from their Medicare wheelchairs. 

    2. Ultimately the Tea Party drowned under the weight of the conspiracy retards, the Birthers, the religious lunatics who don’t know the Bible from the Yellow Pages, the people who think the UN has already invaded America, that drones are spraying them with chemtrails, and a lot of old fashioned antisemitic fairy tales that has been manicured to remove direct references to Jews.   The people that they actually elected or got nominated often turned out to be spoilers because they pandered to the conspiracy nuts too much. 

      The Tea Party attracted nihilists with a Khmer Rogue mentality of not believing in government, schools, or even paper currency. If they had their way, millions of people would have died as they tried to figure out how to reconcile their utopian individualism with a lifestyle that relied of government subsidies and buying white Florsheim loafers at Sears. 

      In some cases OWS and the Tea Party attracted the same people, like the La Rouchies, but mostly they tended to head to the Tea Party with their Hitler-Obama posters. 

      What the Tea Party needed was its own Night Of The Long Knives where the useless people were cast off.   Neither OWS or the Tea Party were ready for that next step of top-down purification and repression.  the people who bankrolled the tea Party instead pivoted to pouring all their resources into the 2012 elections at the level of consultants and PACS.

      1. Maybe its a demographic thing because of the current age and poor mental state of people who were young in the 1950s. Fast forward four years and a lot of those people won’t be voting any more, so the situation could be entirely different.

        1. Michael, get off my ****ing lawn.  There are young bigoted stupid people and there are old bigoted stupid people.  Yes, many of the Tea Party were the latter type, but you don’t need to be the former.

      2. The Tea Party was an astroturf operation aimed at attracting the deficit hawks and the rightwing crazies into a cheerleading section to attack the Republicans’ enemies while providing a certain amount of plausible deniability to protect the Republican Party Machine, who could play “centrist” while really being solidly corporatist.

        You can’t talk about them and the successes and failures as if they were a grassroots organization.

    3.  With whose money?

      Oh yeah, TEA party spent GOP campaign money to elect standard-issue GOP candidates.  Way to fight the status quo, guys.

      Did you know the original tea party was anti-corporate?

  4. “Proposals won by intimidation; bullies carried the day” which is why I ultimately chose not to get involved with occupy in my hometown. My previous experiences with activism have a constant theme: egos overtake the entire process. I can relate one specific event that made me say “fuck it”. During a weekend social forum a few years ago, I was helping to facilitate a discussion about issues associated with an impending regional free-trade initiative. The audience weren’t activists, just people who wanted to know more. Halfway through, hardened activists from another session piled into the room and hijacked our discussion to start organizing a march on a future meeting of business leaders pushing the trade deal.

    The discussion devolved into an argument over whether the food provided for the march should be vegan, or just vegetarian. I shook my head as, one-by-one, the original audience drifted away and left the room; I’m pretty sure none of them considered activism after that experience. The march happened in the end, but in many regards it was a pathetic failure because nobody really understood what the message was (that and the anarchists among us thought it would be a great idea to vandalize shit).

    It’s all too easy for these sort of movements to be derailed by people who lack any capacity for self-reflection. Time and again, I’ve come across “leaders” who demonstrated an incredible lack of empathy for fellow activists; ironic, given that they’re supposed to stand up for the little guy. The 99% (I have to laugh at the presumptuousness of that number) are screwed until they stop being the oppressive pricks they claim to be fighting.

    We can whinge about the police and the government making it hard for us -they do- but marches, protests and sit-ins will never succeed unless they are big – not just thousands of people but tens of thousands. That will never happen unless you can convince a large, diverse group of people it’s worth it.  

    1. Size isn’t everything.
      Unless you’re earnestly implying that the sheer volume of people lends a cause “rightness”.. and that if a million people gather together under one banner, their cause is just?   There is historical perspective in your last paragraph. (c.1933 – 1945)

      1. I am loving all these dismal anecdotal stories. The stories of personal self fulfilling failure. “I saw a guy paint on a bridge”, “some people years ago argued about vegan food… “

      2. I’m not implying that moral authority is correlated with group size, but the capacity to bring about change is. So much energy is poured into organizing protests and actions – something that most average people are uncomfortable with – that the hard work of convincing people that change is necessary is mostly ignored. Occupy wasn’t uniformly terrible at this, but they need to find a way to bring more people onside. Organizing mass protests when nobody feels ready to attend them is putting the cart before the horse. On the other hand, spinoffs like Occupy Sandy seem like a better place to start… being the change you want to see in the world and all that.

        1. Occupy wasn’t uniformly terrible at this, but they need to find a way to bring more people onside.

          You have good ideas, maybe you should go to your local occupy and state them. It is the sum of its parts after all. Or perhaps all these things are convenient stories and excuses.

    2. I was at a similar event.

      I was at a showing for a documentary of a ridiculous protest in a college town to turn a concrete pit into a park. Afterwards during the panel questions of the film maker and some arrested protesters not one of them could answer the question of who owned the property. There happened to be a man who worked in permitting for the city in the audience and he stood, introduced himself and answered the question. During a follow up question he was interrupted.
      A group of women had charged to the front of the auditorium and announced that the discussion has obviously been overrun by the patriarchal powers, and they were removing their support from the documentary as there weren’t enough female voices.

      Anyone who was casually interested in the events were merely treated to a self-congratulatory reel of arrests, vandalism, and hi-jinks, without any purposeful discussion, reflection, or purpose.

      1. Surely there must be some journalistic record of this event if there were so many arrests…no links?

        Could you give us some hints?  The municipality or even just the state, and approximate date of occurrence?

  5. Spontaneous, collective action can have an impact, but it cannot form the basis for architecting and implementing a desired change in structure, unless that goal is anarchy. Disruption is possible without a plan, but any new designed structure requires clarity of purpose, leadership, and an implementation plan. For this reason, Occupy was doomed from the start, and no one who understands this principle expected anything different as an outcome.

  6. The Occupy movement had to happen. The people of the U.S. need to wake up and pay attention to who’s trying to take over the government of this country, the corporations and oligarchs. Occupy tried to shine some light on that. We’re well on our way to full-on Fascist state, and people need to know that.

    The things that happened in the camps, and the local government and police responses are symptoms of what’s happening to the U.S. We’re becoming a poorer nation, and less educated, and with corporate backed government willing to bust heads to keep us that way.

    The suffering the author describes among the camp population is a microcosm of what’s happening all across the U.S. And it’s happening to T(for traitor) Baggers, those who vote Republican, and Obama supporters as much as anybody.

    I have no love whatsoever for those who buy into the Tea Party line and the Republicans, but I sure don’t want to see people in my community lose their jobs, homes and futures for their children, for the outrageous acquisition of profit and wealth at their expense by the 1%. 

    1.  i hate it when people say “people need to wake up” it makes this arrogant proclamation that they and a select few are truly awake and everyone else is unconscious.sometimes its not that everyone else is asleep maybe…they don’t care, maybe they disagree, maybe they disagree and don’t care enough to debate the point with you. or maybe, you’re wrong. when you begin with the position of superiority you often overlook the positions of those with whom you should be trying to convince…or learn from as the case may be

      1. *wanking motion with hand* Let me rephrase the offensive phrase: The American public needed to have the misdeeds of the banking industry, and other vexing social issues, brought more clearly to their attention.

        I hate it when people navel-gaze about semantics in order to diminish someone else’s statement to make themselves appear superior and avoid the discussion at hand.

  7. Acquiescence is so sophisticated. Struggle is so unseemly. People from other classes are so dirty. I was wise to do nothing more than sneer.

    1. Struggle is lame and uncool too. Sincerity and principle opens you up to mockery by the “cool” liberals.

      It’s the final humiliating undoing of Enlightenment Idealism that made Liberalism possible–imagine if Jefferson, Diderot, Montesquieu, Madison et al reduced the entire Enlightenment’s struggle against the old feudal order to “I’m against the monarchy because the monarchy’s stupid…but then again, Rousseau makes a fool of himself with his Romanticism, and Tom Paine is so serious with his ‘Rights of Man’, the Revolutionaries are just as crazy as the Monarchists, so rather than join either side and risk opening myself to mockery, I’m just going to stand back and laugh at them all and say, ‘Really? Independence? Everyone is created equal and has the right to pursue happiness? Really, TJ? You sure you want to say that about Bluebeard? Really?” [LAUGH TRACK]…

  8.  Thats wierd, I thought what ended the Occupy movement was…you know…

    A coordinated nation wide police assault on every encampment…

    Maybe those brutalized journalists I read about were just imaginary journalists…hit by imaginary sticks…

  9. Wow some of these posts are a little too politically polarized even for my tastes…(and I’m a republican).

    I think I see a ban hammer coming over the horizon. 

  10. “But living in parks, having to rub elbows with the people society was set up to shield from each other”

    Society was not “set up” to shield people from each other. Society was “set up” by people who saw themselves as citizens, not consumers. They understood precisely that important changes could only come when people organized across social divisions. Consumers use consumption, and the power to consume, as the basis for social division, and the commitment to a consumer society is the commitment to the preservation of those divisions, and allegiance to the status quo that provides it. More briefly, a commitment to consumerism is a way of declining the chance for being a part of fundamental social change.

    On the topic of dead movements, anyone who writes a eulogy for a movement has unrealistic expectations for the rate of change of societies. No-one wants to live in a society that changes just because some people decided to sleep in a park ( I mean middle-class people : poor people do this all the time I hear). If you want change, stop writing “eulogies”, and try again, try harder, and learn from your mistakes.

    1. Society was “set up” by people who saw themselves as citizens, not consumers.

      society exists in a state of constant tension between the desires and capabilities of many different groups, some as small as a single individual, some as large as almost everyone. there are forces which encourage stasis and conservatism, and others which encourage (or at least want) change. the powerful are called that because they have … power. the tension between whoever has power and those who currently do not is what shapes society over time, and the attempts to change the distribution of power (too all, to one, to several) are generally only ever partially successful. society is therefore not “set up” by anyone, but at any time bares the scars and designs of a multitude of efforts to keep it the same and to change it.

      1. Well, I agree that the notion of being set up is questionable, hence the quotes. But while there are tensions between groups, of course, the way those tensions get worked out constitutes the “set up”. In the US, the Constitution, Bill of Rights, the institutions like the courts and legislative bodies are consciously set up, and they form a system of interlocking institutions that can be used to effect change. 

        Where I’d disagree most with your assessment, and that mildly, is that I’d say that the groups you mention are the function, to a significant degree, of those institutions, that we’ve “set up”. Churches and religious institutions have a protected status that makes of their members a significant potential force. Contrast that with another group with large membership but a relatively indefinite political presence, like drivers or right handed people. We set up institutions, and the groups that engage politically tend to reflect those institutions.

        To bring this back to Occupy – they failed to define themselves as a group with a demand for institutional power; they simply pointed out others’ institutional power and decried it. It’s expected that groups will emerge that have power, in fact it’s desirable, so that part of their agenda was foolish. But what they should have done was outline specific ways that the disenfranchised – from say, financial decisions in the banking system – could and should be given power.

        When FDR came to power, he raised a commission to look at the corruption and abuse of the financial system, because a lot of people who felt much the way members of Occupy did wanted an institutional response to the Great Crash. That defined a good part of the early agenda of the New Deal. That never happened under Obama, but Occupy never got around to it either, more’s the pity.

  11. I think it’s a mistake to write off Occupy. Just the fact that we’re here talking about it means it has had an effect. I think their calling attention to economic inequality and the primacy of business interests in politics is overall a good thing. We’re starting to hear “Get money out of politics” more and more since Occupy began and I think that’s definitely a good thing. Getting financial interests out of government is the first step to having a government that is truly by the people and for the people. Occupy might not be a good model for a successful revolution, but the point is they were courageous enough to try, and it’s a foundation to build on for future activists. Another thing I liked was that they showed that providing food, shelter, and education to everyone isn’t necessarily an impossible project.

    I’m disappointed to learn that the GA had no troll/bully defence built into it, but hey, there’s always version 2.

  12. It’s like a recent article about the failure of communes that tried to operate without rules and were taken over by predators.

    Most of the kids won’t realize they just got their first taste of corporate culture, which is just as dysfunctional in exactly the same ways. 

  13. I agree with the thought that all of these comments are evidence that Occupy succeeded (and perhaps succeeds) way beyond what everybody expected.

    This thread is evidence of that success. Here we see that people are disappointed in #OWS because it did not fit their ideals, didn’t achieve enough in their eyes, or was living proof that perhaps Breitbart is evil and the Republicans are tyrannical greedheads. 

    As my namesake from “Stand on Zanzibar” might say:

    “Hipcrime: You committed one when you read this thread. Keep it up. It’s our only hope.”

    1. An excellent point. The fact that this topic is STILL a giant magnet for the troll army is just proof that OWS was a little too close to the mark.

    2. So, what exactly did OWS accomplish? What is their net positive contribution to society beyond the insipid “99%” and “1%” terms?

      They did not raise awareness that wasn’t already there. They didn’t effect changes in policies. What positive effects did they actually accomplish for all their bluster and bile?

      I don’t get it. While I respect passion for necessary change, the sheer vapididity of OWS made it more a societal bowel movement than a political movement.

      1. I don’t get it.

        And, you probably never will.  If you can’t see any accomplishments whatsoever, you lack critical thinking skills.

      2. beyond the insipid “99%” and “1%” terms

        frankly, if that was all that occupy did, it would still be a near miracle. in less than one year, the dominant economic conversation in the US turned from endless austerity BS to shallow but widespread consideration of economic inequality and the insanely biased distribution of the gains in productivity over the last 30 years to a tiny group of Americans.

        various parts of “the left” had been trying to introduce this discussion into american media for decades and had essentially failed. occupy accomplished this.

        they were disorganized, incoherent, and crazily successful at a goal they probably never realized was as difficult as it was.

  14. DrDean and Lee,

    Both of you demonstrate why #OWS was and still is important. Occupy was (and still is) a populist movement that is part of the American left. This scares a lot of GOP/Tea Party/Libertarian types who still think that they represent The American People.

    However, OWS indicates that maybe, just maybe, the American people don’t believe in Breitbart and Rush Limbaugh. Maybe their vision of justice, freedom, and liberty matches up with the same-sex couples who are getting married in Maryland. Maybe Americans don’t want to be Randites. 

    And #OWS is a populist movement that points towards a place where people like Drudge and Grover Norquist are powerless. That would scare the pants off of old cantankerous coots like Pournelle for sure.

  15. Well, at first I thought that Occupy may have had some success, but I’m reconsidering now that so many new people have shown up here to call them names. True, it’s only by assertion and anecdote, but I know they’re reliable since they’re all first-time commenters without any history to make me think otherwise.

    Well done, folks! You are victorious, and can please move on now. No need to worry about us having any more reasonable discussion in your absence, honest.

  16. From the first time comments here, it is heart warming to see that OWS clearly still scares the living piss out of wingnuts. 

  17. The funny thing is that at business conferences, you can hear Bible Belt conservatives talking about climate change and economic fairness as if they were OWS.  Maybe there’s one wingnut in the back gives one lonely “Whoop!” when someone mentions the importance of deregulation, but otherwise you’d have no idea that these people are supposed to be rabidly conservative. 

    1. Down South, a lot of those people either are or were farmers or had parents who were farmers, and you can only tell them that Climate Change is fake so many times before they remember who they are.

      The Republican Party Machine’s support for the Anti-Evolution ranters was not just to bring in that voting block – it was also because if you get people saying “Don’t Trust Evolution Science”, it’s easier to get them to say “Don’t Trust Climate Change Science”, which is a message that the Party’s corporate sponsors really care about.  It’s also a way to tell church people that they’re conservatives, when there’s a risk that they’ll realize that in many ways they’re really supposed to be liberals.

  18. After reading the Wired article and these comments I now have a different perspective on 4 and a half months of my life. I was an occupier in San Francisco and I am a full time student.

    During the fall semester of 2011 I was enrolled in 18 units and cramming as many units per semester in as possible to get out as fast as possible in an effort to avoid continued spikes in tuition and fees. Here in California, news through the summer months was centered around failed budget talks and the same was being echoed at the federal level. I was receiving emails once a week warning me of delays in financial aid disbursements, potential immediate new cuts in financial aid, or of a new last minute fee increase pushed through (thanks to Jerry Brown’s (D) creative budget) that financial aid would not be adjusted for (which came out of my food, books, and housing budget).

    Republicans and those of the Corporatist wing of the Democratic party were on the daily preaching the corporate tax break, austerity mantra. Tuition simply has to increase and grants have to go away they told me. They said just get a job to make up the difference, unaware that I had already lost my job having been in the unfortunate position of being one of the higher paid employees with health benefits at a local retail outlet. As a matter of fact it was my unemployed status that had finally made school affordable for me. Full time employment at SF minimum wage will disqualify you on earned income from any aid while never providing enough income after rent to save for school.

    By September of 2011 I was worn to the bone, for the first time in my life I really felt angry. I would wake up angry, stress throughout the day, and go to bed angry. The daily news from Sacramento and D.C. made me more angry. Somehow I was public enemy number one just for pursuing an education, which every elected said our economy needed more people with. I wanted to help propel a change in the country, but was done savior chasing and simply voting.

    The Tea party, for which in its very, very, early days I had guarded hope could be a real populous movement, was by now an openly Republican funded racially motivated speaker box. Those most ardently declaring they were still Tea Partiers, but also opposed to the Republican takeover seemed to be armed racists and/or fascists, who were solely basing their fiscal policy ideals on their racism. So I knew there was no room for me there. In the meantime students on campus were finally talking about what was going on, as more of us felt like we had a target stapled to our backs. The dialog had been restarted. Then came Zuccotti.

    For the first few days of the occupation the only thing I did outside of going to class was watch the OWS livestream. I participated in the early SF marches and made midday trips to the fledgling occupation at 555 California in SF but at the time it was just four guys arguing about who could use the one bullhorn before yelling what seemed like nonsensical ramblings into it. I, in my insecurity, went back home and immersed myself in the OWS GA livestream, participated in chats, and began to really learn about grassroots organizing in part by watching a potential movement materialize in front of me. By October the first, or second, I was back to the OccupySF GA with a new understanding and focus.

    That understanding was simple, if I wasn’t going to do it no one else was. This was not from ego, I am no better than you or anyone else. It was physical fact. I cannot critique what others are doing wrong or right if I myself am not willing to stand up and do something to physically help, and also maybe it isn’t wrong what they are doing but it is me who is wrong. For the next few nights I went to GA and stayed longer and longer after. Then came the first raid.

    I figured San Francisco was different, that the SFPD would have seen how police raids in NY did nothing but swell Occupy’s ranks, and maintain a hands off approach. I was wrong. By October 7th I was in front of the Federal Reserve with a sleeping bag, bivvy sack, laptop, and all my textbooks for school. When I wasn’t using a textbook I would lend it to others to read through. Being an Accounting/Finance student I ended up in a lot of discussions with nearby University professors, and others on subjects like whole cost accounting and the fallacies of derivative based growth. But I also learned to appreciate the relative privilege of things like simply having an apartment to go back to. I would go home for a shower and grab more of my books, spare blankets and jackets, the gallon jugs of water my roommates had purchased to give out, and head right back to 101 Market to avoid missing a GA.

    The GA’s were always tough for all the reasons people have mentioned. Full time workers coming down with concerns and full time occupiers with their concerns rarely synced for a smooth productive discussion. But most importantly it was a lot of people airing concerns. It became clear that among the ever growing ranks of OccupySF there were few who were willing to coordinate and organize. Some were incapable, I cannot expect someone who is dealing with addiction to sit down and plan an action, but that person might find a way to help otherwise, which was (early on) often the case. Unfortunatly from those who were full time employed participants few ever stepped up to the plate other than volleying ever more vicious attacks on the dozen or so people who were doing more and more to help move Occupy along.

    I ended up being nominated for a liaison committee to meet with our appointed mayor Ed Lee (I learned of this meeting, the committee, and nomination from a text message while sitting in class, which I had to leave early and skip the rest of my classes that day to make) simply because no one else would step up and I wasn’t at 101 Market to tell the people there, no. At the very next GA full time employed attendees to GA with typed out critiques were demanding an inquisition into who was on this de facto emergency committee, how they got on their, and why weren’t they sent an “email or something asking if they could be on it”. Exemplary of a theme those who wanted politicking and elections were not willing to volunteer. Sadly those with the most privilege, and one would think greatest practice in professional social skills, were the first to attack others and also the first to refuse to volunteer and implement the changes they wanted to see.

    OccupySF GAs and various other committee meetings slowly devolved into nothing more than waring factions paranoid about some other faction pursuing a power grab. In lieu of full time employed supporters actually organizing, union leaders, and heads of non-profits stepped in more and more. Then the union leaders to remain involved wanted some form of ownership, which always manifested in the exclusion of others’ voices, to stay involved. Full time employed supporters who weren’t necessarily 100% pro union leadership (read as rank and file along with non union workers) objected to their (the union leaders) increased participation, but again refused to step up. Both of these parties however, could agree that those occupying full time with drug addictions, and other problems directly associated with their ongoing living situation outside of Occupy, were a blight and were destroying “the movement”.

    For me Occupy’s inevitable downfall became evident when established organizers be it union or non-profit lost sight of the fact that Occupy was born from a tactic of which it had not evolved away from, and began fighting over the Occupy brand. Upper middle class white folks from Bernal oblivious of their racial prejudice started belittling the “people of color” they wanted help, while demanding ostracization of the “violent ones” who were inevitably identified by their skin color as well. Having the head of the San Francisco teachers union personally attack me in a meeting in front of others until I was trembling and holding back tears for not “forcing other occupiers in line with what is right” and “advocating for violence” simply because I disagreed with him was when I walked away. Each occupation is different and each one wound down in a different way.

    One similarity from this article that seems clear is that too many got involved by association with the expectation that someone else would build and enforce membership rules for a movement they wanted as a possession, and then be a part of, for them. This last aspect had been particularly difficult do deal with over the last year. We are, it seems a nation of many talkers and fewer doers, who all know far too well how to critique doers to self justify being talkers.

    All that being said, there is still a chain link fence blocking off most of the sidewalk in front of the Federal Reserve building at 101 Market in SF which is a visible reminder that those who the message of Occupy was directly aimed at, do still fear Occupy, and are unaware if its “demise”. That is worth something.

    Now with the pending charges against me after my arrest for “Obstructing a Sidewalk & Resiting Arrest” expired, our DA never had the balls to give me a day in court to show a judge what a 140 pound male looks like after 9 cops have beat the shit out of him, I am rejuvenated and looking again into what I can do to further the cause of those who are worse off then me.

    1. Hope you find a movement in which you can make a difference, one with a general agreement on means and ends. I disagree with just one thing in your post, the idea that anyone ever feared occupy. Assumes facts not in evidence.

  19. When the media fully mobilized against OWS, they described it as a source of dirt, disease, rodents, immorality, and drug use.

    It really seemed like they were describing the Warsaw Ghetto to warm up the public to the idea of rolling in the tanks.  it just absolutely reeked of well-used Fascist propaganda themes.

  20. You can tell how insecure and neurotic right-wingers are by how they feel this bizarre compulsion to swarm liberal blogs to tell liberals how *wrong*wrong*wrong* they are about everything.

    We can see your comment histories, guys.

  21. The other amusing thing about OWS was how fast it entered the pantheon of imaginary wingnut boogey men – you know, the reasons they are stockpiling guns.  Back in 2011 they seemed convinced that OWS and ACORN were going to cut their throats in their beds unless they slept with their AK with the safety off. Truly funny and scary.

    1. True, and now it’s Tarantino’s new movie. “Oh shit guys, it’s going to set off the blacks! Load yer weapons!”

      1. We went to see Lincoln when the Tarantino trailer showed, and I doubt that one person in 50 caught that it was Tarantino film and intentionally campy.

        But yes, the guns and ammo hoarders are obsessed with the idea of repelling a human wave of ethnic savages.  That idea can be traced back to The Birth Of A Nation, Charlie Manson’s Helter Skelter, and the relentless racebaiting from Fox news.

  22. It’s fashionable to call Occupy a failure, but the reality is that everyone I know now has some sort of idea about how money corrupts elections, corporations, and banks, whereas five years ago most people believed that the free market was the highest and best form of wealth extraction.

  23. “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”I’m not sure which stage premature claims of death comes in at.Just because someone got bored and decided it was dead to him, doesn’t mean the movement genuinely is dead. The visible occupying of streets is scaled back because people are sick of being beaten; instead, people are organising and collecting on the net, instead.Harder to control, harder to stamp out, at least for the time being. So they are currently working to support the strikes in Michigan, for example.

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