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TIME names "The Protester" 2011 Person of the Year

In TIME magazine's 2011 Person of the Year issue, this cover by artist Shepard Fairey, portraits of more than 50 protestors from around the world, and an essay by Kurt Andersen:

Massive and effective street protest' was a global oxymoron until-suddenly, shockingly-starting exactly a year ago, it became the defining trope of our times. And the protester, once again, became a maker of history....The stakes are very different in different places. In North America and Europe, there are no dictators, and dissidents don't get tortured. Any day that Tunisians, Egyptians or Syrians occupy streets and squares, they know that some of them might be beaten or shot, not just pepper-sprayed or flex-cuffed. The protesters in the Middle East and North Africa are literally dying to get political systems that roughly resemble the ones that seem intolerably undemocratic to protesters in Madrid, Athens, London and New York City.

"Protester" is an interesting choice of language. "Activist," or "Occupier" if the focus is on America, would have also been apt.

The related "Runner-up" interview with Ai Weiwei is a great read, too. I was surprised not to see Julian Assange or Steve Jobs mentioned in this annual foo-fah; their lives and work certainly had an impact (though neither is a simple hero in my book). The former Apple CEO, who died this year after a long battle with cancer, isn't mentioned at all.

What do you think?

Occupy Oakland takes over Port of Oakland: photos

Occupy Oakland demonstrators sit on top of a trailer truck outside the Port of Oakland during the Occupy movements' attempts to shut down West Coast ports in Oakland, California on Monday, December 12, 2011. OWS activists trying to shut down West Coast ports on Monday managed to close several terminals and encountered forceful responses from police, but fell short of mounting the full-scale cargo blockade they planned. Below, an Occupy Oakland demonstrator wears a tent and an "Anonymous" mask during the action. (REUTERS/Stephen Lam)

Who is a journalist?

Writer and comedian John Knefel reaches for his glasses as police pull him away during an Occupy Wall Street protest in New York City yesterday. This really great photo was taken by Jessica Lehrman in the lobby of Winter Garden, a building owned by Brookfield Property, the same company that owns Zuccotti Park. To get a different view on the same scene, check out a video that someone else was filming at the same time. You can see Knefel falling down around 6:30.

The photo and video bring up something interesting. Knefel is a writer and comedian, one of the many people documenting OWS from the inside while trying to navigate the very grey boundaries of journalist and participant in the age of Internet journalism. Personally, I think this conflict is pretty interesting. If I can get all "journalism ethics class" for a minute here, I think OWS is drawing attention to the already existing need for new definitions of who constitutes "media" and who doesn't. Why is this more confusing than you might thing? Let me use Knefel as an example.

Knefel doesn't work for a major media outlet. But he's also not just some random bystander. He's got a political podcast with new episodes three times a week. Do we only call someone a journalist if they have enough page views? Do they have to have a journalism degree? What's the line?

Knefel is a biased source of information. But so are a lot of mainstream commentators. We'd call someone from Fox News a journalist. We'd call someone from Reason magazine a journalist. We'd call somebody from Mother Jones a journalist. Having a clear political angle to your coverage doesn't make you not a journalist. Except when it does. So what are the actual criteria?

Knefel didn't have a press pass. But, as Xeni has pointed out, the press pass system in New York is incredibly convoluted and contradictory. So what if you can't get one? Does that mean you aren't a journalist? This is particularly problematic given the fact that the rules seem to be set up to favor long-standing publications with lots of resources that mostly just cover New York City. How does that fit into a globalized world? Why punish media entrepreneurship?

We live in an age where publishing is easy and the tools to do it are available to a much wider swatch of people. But our standards and rules for who gets protection as a member of the press are based on a paradigm where publishing wasn't easy and only a limited number of people could do it. At the same time, we have to acknowledge that not everybody who uses the Internet is a journalist, because being a journalist comes with responsibilities not just protections. I'm pretty sure my Dad doesn't want to hold his Facebook to the same standard that I use when writing here.

I don't know the answer to these questions. But I know we need to have this conversation. Occupy Wall Street just shows us what can happen when we keep applying old rules to a new world.

The language of the 99 Percent

REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

Brian Stelter has a piece in the New York Times today about language and the Occupy Movement.

I was among those interviewed for the article.

Within weeks of the first encampment in Zuccotti Park in New York, politicians seized on the phrase. Democrats in Congress began to invoke the “99 percent” to press for passage of President Obama’s jobs act — but also to pursue action on mine safety, Internet access rules and voter identification laws, among others. Republicans pushed back, accusing protesters and their supporters of class warfare; Newt Gingrich this week called the “concept of the 99 and the one” both divisive and “un-American.”

Perhaps most important for the movement, there was a sevenfold increase in Google searches for the term “99 percent” between September and October and a spike in news stories about income inequality throughout the fall, heaping attention on the issues raised by activists.

“The ‘99 percent,’ and the ‘one percent,’ too, are part of our vocabulary now,” said Judith Stein, a professor of history at the City University of New York.

Read the rest.

Wall Street Journal reports LAPD made payments to Occupy LA protesters

Well, not exactly. But, "disburse" was an interesting choice of verbs in that there headline up there.

(thanks, Alec MacKaye!)

OWS and the webcasting revolution: Xeni on The Madeleine Brand Show

A man leans against the wall of City Hall at the Occupy LA encampment after the 12.01am eviction deadline in Los Angeles (Reuters)

I joined The Madeleine Brand Show today to talk about independent live-streaming backpack journalists covering Occupy Wall Street. What gear are they using, how and why are they doing what they do, and how is this changing how we get coverage of the Occupy movement?

Listen here [direct MP3 Link].

We spoke about three of them in particular: Tim Pool of "The other 99%," the 25-year old Chicago native I interviewed for Boing Boing; @punkboyinsf (J'Tao), 36, who generally covers Occupy SF, and @oakfosho (Spencer Mills), who generally covers Occupy Oakland. All of them have an abundance of passion and talent; but none of them seem to have any dough.

Both @punkboyinsf and @oakfosho are in Los Angeles right now, covering the Occupy LA story as the encampment there faces likely LAPD eviction.

LA mayor Antonio Villaraigosa imposed a Sunday night deadline on the OWS activists' camp in downtown LA, but so far, police have allowed the protesters to remain, while local authorities fight it out in the courts against those who believe the occupiers should be allowed to stay where they are.

Here are their streams:

• @theother99 (Gear: mostly a Samsung GALAXY S II and an Energizer XPAL 18000, more here).
• @oakfosho (Uses a LiveU backpack loaned/donated by Ustream, shown in the photo above).
• @punkboyinsf (HTC Thunderbolt + Ustream's mobile app).

A little footnote: @punkboyinsf, aka J'Tao, has been doing this sort of thing for a while. Here's an archived Geocities page from the '90s, when he was covering the Seattle WTO protests.

And below, here's an interview with @oakfosho by Janko Roettgers of Gigaom.

Venn Diagram: "Using a tent is not always just camping."

Link to larger size, from @punkboyinsf.

Occupy LA faces eviction deadline, follow events here

Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa has imposed a deadline of midnight tonight (12:00am Monday) for Occupy LA protesters to vacate their encampment of more than 60 days.

If they don't, LA's police chief drops a not-too-subtle hint that force may be used to remove them. Chief Charlie Beck told the Los Angeles Times "We certainly will not be the first ones to apply force."

Exactly when a raid might occur is anyone's guess, but Occupiers are bracing for possible police action within the next few hours, based on comments tonight by the mayor. By various estimates, there are anywhere from a thousand to two thousand people currently present at the site.

Watch live coverage: CrossXBones on USTREAM, or Occupy Freedom LA. A chat (next to archival streams) is here. Here's a list of more streams which may or may not be live. Southern California news radio KPCC has a good liveblog going. And KPFK has a liveblog, also.

(photo: @vote99percent)

NYPD "Disorder Control Unit" guidelines, snagged from inside van by arrestee

@newyorkist says, "@OccupyWallStNYC got their hands on a New York Police Department Disorder Control Unit document, allegedly picked out of a van by an arrestee."

The pull quote: "A strong military appearance, with sharp and precise movements, is a force multiplier and a psychological advantage to us."

Actually, many of the criticisms of the NYPD's tactics against OWS protesters in recent weeks involve complaints that they have not followed some of the more reasonable guidelines set forth on this flyer.

Occupy News Bins: miniature Lego OWS, complete with pepper-spraying cop

"No property was harmed during this installation," DocPop tells us about this hilarious teeny-tiny Lego Occupy. "From what I understand the piece has already been removed though I don't know by whom."

The dronecam revolution will be webcast: Interview with Tim Pool of "The Other 99"

Webcaster Tim Pool of “The Other 99.”

In recent weeks, one source of live news coverage for the Occupy Wall Street movement stood out above all others.

Read the rest

Pepper-spraying cop gets Photoshop justice: Xeni's Guardian op-ed on meme-ing of UC Davis police brutality

LALO ALCARAZ

The nice people at the Guardian invited me to write an op-ed about the meme-ification of Lt. John Pike's unforgettable act of brutality against UC Davis students last Friday.

Photoshop out the students from that picture with your mind. Forget about Pike's uniform, let's say he's just wearing street clothes. Now, instead of a policeman spraying a less-lethal chemical weapon down the throats of peacefully seated 20-year-olds, you might be able to interpret this tableau as a figure sauntering through a garden, spraying weeds. Or maybe he's your paunchy, moustached uncle, nonchalantly dousing bugs in the basement with insecticide.

One way the internet deals with that kind of upsetting dissonance is to mock it. And that's what the internet has done with Pike. The "casually pepper-spraying cop" is now a meme, a kind of folk art or shared visual joke that is open to sharing and reinterpretation by anyone. This particular meme has spread with unusual velocity – in part, I imagine, because the subject matter is just as weird as it is upsetting.

Even Kamran Loghman, one of the men who developed pepper spray as a weapon with the FBI in the 1980s, had a hard time reconciling it. "I have never seen such an inappropriate and improper use of chemical agents," Loghman told the New York Times. And Loghman might add "insouciant" to that list of adjectives. I mean, look at the guy. He's not braced for imminent attack by a foe; he does not move with tension as if navigating a hostile environment. He's administering punishment, and his face says: "Meh."

"The pepper-spraying cop gets Photoshop justice" (Guardian)

GRATUITOUS BONUS PLUG: Illustrator Lalo Alcaraz, who is responsible for the 'shoop above, is releasing his 2012 Cartoon Doomsday Calendar, available by mailorder at laloalcaraz.com.

Photo:Brian Nguyen/The Aggie.

Breaking: Occupy Lulz/Pepper Spray Cop meme continues to be funny

More here at our previous post.

The image above: "Casually spraying Crispus", and here's a related Reddit discussion. (thanks, Mike Outmesguine)

CUNY police bully peaceful Baruch College students during OWS protest over unfair labor practices, tuition hikes

Photographer and Boing Boing reader Timothy Krause shares the photos and videos above and below in this post, and says,

Here are some videos of police violence and beatings that occurred around 5:15 at Baruch College, CUNY, in response to an Occupy CUNY OWS protest about tuition hikes, unfair labor practices targeted toward adjunct and other faculty, and the privatization of the public CUNY system. Protesters had planned to attend a public trustees meeting, but we were not permitted to voice our grievances, in contravention of CUNY's policies and the rights belonging to a free people.

The first (below) is CUNY security and the order to disperse (protesters are occupying the building's lobby.

The second (further below) is CUNY security staff pushing and hitting protesters with nightsticks.

More shots by Krause. Here's a livestream. Related reporting at the Baruch college newspaper with more video from another POV, and here's a related item in the New York Times.

Read the rest

"A Pepper Spray Thanksgiving," Norman Rockwell's long-lost Saturday Evening Post cover

By artist and illustrator Bob Staake, whose work you may have seen on the cover of the New Yorker. Gonna have to add this one to the meme-stack. As I post this, word's coming in that the ACLU has just delivered a letter of condemnation to UC Davis chancellor Katehi.