Julian Assange chats (sometimes pointedly) with
leaders prominent members of the #Occupy movement from New York and London, including David Graeber, Alexa O’Brien of US Day of Rage and Aaron Peters. Does Assange get Occupy? Not fully, which leads to some interesting exchanges, particularly around the subject of force and violence from without and within the movement. These are amazingly intelligent people all around, which makes for occasionally abstruse dialogue. But it’s very much worth sticking with to the end. Uncommon television. Lots and lots of food for thought.
PS: I want to point out a startling (on first hearing, but not on second thought) revelation from David Graeber during the discussion in the video’s late portion about how #occupy deals with disruptors that the NYPD “allegedly” sent newly released prisoners by the busload to Zuccotti Park last fall, telling them that there was free food and shelter available. As Graeber says earlier in the program, the United States (and its hired goons) do not act well to the threat of democracy breaking out all over.
Before the changeover to DU3, which I wrote about in my last post, Democratic Underground’s rules for posting in its forums were last modified in August of this year, about a month before the #OWS movement was front-page news. “Failure to abide by these rules,” the introduction to them warned, “may result in your post being removed, your thread locked, or your posting privileges revoked without warning.” A sampling demonstrates the administration’s bare tolerance for politics left of the Democratic center:
- This is a website for Democrats and other progressives [sic].
- Do not personally attack any individual DU member in any way. Do not post broad-brush attacks, rude nicknames, or crude insults toward a group of DU members.
- Do not post support for non-viable or third-party spoiler candidates in any general election.
- Do not post disrespectful nicknames, crude insults, or right-wing smears against Democrats.
On the face of it, the second bullet point, adapted from many previous iterations, looks like a fair (and balanced) warning to both sides of the primary wars of 2008–team Obama and team HRC–not to attack each other. Not being inside the administrators’ heads, I won’t presume that they didn’t intend it to be taken that way. The effect, however, was that by the time those revised rules were posted, most of team HRC had long before either been driven underground or “tombstoned”–as a ban from DU was called because of the image of a tombstone (with the epitaph “Here lies a disruptor. He disrupted badly.”) that replaced the offender’s avatar on their member profile page. But those primary wars had continued by proxy, it seemed to me, in battles with moderators and more and more with a stable of Obama faithfuls who were quick to gang up on anyone who made the slightest criticism of the president’s performance. Continue reading
Louis CK, the comedian and star of the FX comedy series Louis (which, I confess, I haven’t gotten around to actually ever seeing), just conducted an amazing, radical experiment in do-it-yourself capitalism that has paid off beautifully for him. Continue reading
I’m reading a book that is so good, so well-written, so relevant to the zeitgeist, that I can confidently recommend it to anyone who reads, though I’m just a bit more than halfway through it myself: Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber.
Before I tell you why you should go now and buy, borrow or reserve this book and get reading, I’ll call your attention to an interview Graeber gave the British magazine The White Room which gives an interesting peek into his background and main political ideas. Graeber, a well-respected anthropologist, is becoming better known as one of the influencing thinkers behind #occupyWallStreet. A couple of sentences from the introduction of the White Room interview beautifully make a point about OWS that I less successfully try to make when people criticize its “fuzziness” and lack of demands:
…Graeber has put the spotlight on the anarchist principles of the Occupy movement, explaining that the lack of concrete demands is part of a pre-figurative politics. The protestors act as though they are ‘already living in a free society’, and thus refuse to accept the legitimacy of existing political institutions and legal order – both of which, he says, are immediately recognised in the placing of demands. Continue reading
A couple of days ago, I accidentally stumbled upon a fascinating American subculture I was not well aquainted with: the prickly, stranger-shy cluster of rightist (though many self-identify as “liberal”) Hillary Clinton voters who were so enraged by the alleged (not to imply falsely alleged) chicanery between Team Obama and the DNC during the 2008 Democratic primaries that they picked up stakes and headed for any hill they felt sure Obama or the Democrats hadn’t defiled with their presence.
In my ramblings on the internet over the last few years, I have encountered many a Clinton supporter of the left who was driven to internet purgatories where other disaffected or disaffiliated Democrats gathered to share solace and critiques of Obama’s America with lefties (Greens, Naderites, Marxists) who had given up on the Democrats as the best hope for progressives long, long ago. Indeed, I’ve lately felt much more comfortable with the left-wing victims of Obama’s serial betrayals than with Obama supporters, one of which I nominally was in 2008. But this was my first encounter with the radicalized centrists and center-rightists in the Clinton contingent who felt the sting of the Party’s betrayal.
Let me tell you: radical centrism is a trip! I’m sure my new friends in this subculture would find such an amused anthropological assessment of them annoying. To them I can only say, I’m sorry. I can’t help it. You’d be laughing at yourselves too if you could only see yourselves through my eyes. But I’m going to try to set aside my amusement with them, which owes mainly to their strangely and almost uniformly vicious defenses against anyone not in their club–e.g., me, in my clumsy attempts to learn more about them–and try to focus on my observations about what this group tells us–tells me, anyway–about the Democrats’ prospects in 2012 and beyond. My main interest is in how the party’s recent past and future connect with the rise of #OccupyWallStreet. My hypothesis: The story of grass roots Democrats in the 21st century is one of numerous parallel threads of ordinary Americans’ political desires being thwarted by indifferent or even hostile political institutions, and this may be the beginnings of a new American Revolution. Continue reading
Here’s an interesting nugget in a comment, addressed to me, from the post on John W. Smart’s blog that I was discussing yesterday:
…Hillary lost because of documented, widespread caucus fraud, bribing of superdelegates, and the theft of her delegates on national TV (which I and many others watched live). She won the primaries, but they pulled him an inch over the finish line through the cheating. So our disgruntlement is about far more than Hillary. For many (most?) of us, the democrats were “the good guys”. What you obamabots did was to awaken us from our stupor, you allowed us to see how corrupt the obamacrat party really is. So for many of us our whole political philosophies have changed. We no longer trust the dems more than we trust the republicans, and we know now that there are a HELL of a lot of stupid and mob-like people out there who don’t have a CLUE what real democracy means. To them, it’s win at any cost. So your obot tactics burned a LOT of bridges. It may have been just one more day of cheating for you guys, but it was a life changing tsunami for everyone else. Many have changed to independent, some are still registered as Democrat but no longer consider themselves as such. So any numbers you think you have – you DON’T.
I’m not going to answer this person on Smart’s blog as I know my presence there this morning would be counterproductive to the purposes of dialog. He or she said some other things that are unhelpfully provocative boilerplate from the primary wars of 2008, and as everything that could possibly be said in those wars has already been said a thousand times over, there’s really nothing more anyone can add to it that isn’t also boilerplate or counterproductive to reasonable discussion. I’m really, really not interested in the “Who’s better/more progressive/more electable/ more presidential: Hillary or Barack?” debate. From my perspective, this is irrelevant to present realities, no matter how endlessly fascinating the question may be for some. It honestly never was a useful discussion for any leftist, ever, even while it was was relevant.
But it is eye-opening to experience the violence of feeling ready to erupt among the Clinton refugees and, I tip my hat to them, sincerely: it does make me realize that I, like probably every former Obama supporter, no matter how hot or cold they were for their choice, had blinders on during those primaries. Continue reading
I posted earlier about The New Republic’s “skepticism” toward #occupyWallStreet. There’s another fascinating display of liberal OWS bashing going on here. I was drawn to it, while perusing the OWS posts on WordPress a couple of days ago, by its provocative title:
“Failure.” “FAILURE.” [Shouting CAPS in the original.] In it, the author, John W. Smart (if that’s his real name), gloats about the impending doom of #OccupyLA’s encampment at City Hall (which I watched part of last night on ustream) before snarkily giving it his thumbs down:
Many Occupiers are busy congratulating themselves for their “accomplishment” – another perfect demonstration of pathetic public education system they emerged from. Everybody gets a sticker for showing up. Everyone’s ‘self worth’ is feted with a bull horn and a cookie. The concept of real accomplishment is utterly foreign, in fact, it is dangerous. The true “others” in this nether world are those who get things done. They must be fought.
In terms of ‘getting things done’ Occupy is an abject failure. 3 months in and not a single major bank as been shut down…or is even in fear of failure. No enabler in Congress is remotely concerned about his/her job. The middle class, who took it up the south side and continues to with the bailouts, is completely disinterested, if not disgusted. The sympathetic press – such as it is – has moved on, alighting only for the occasional graphic clip of pepper spraying or baton beating. What Occupy wanted at the outset (still a muddled question) has not come to pass, nor is any tangible action moving in that direction.
Still what one might call a success – if one is generous – did occur. There is a slightly greater consciousness of how rigged our system is. This is not nothing, though to my thinking it’s close. The population understood the system was rigged before Occupy showed up. Occupy did show us that some people are willing to do some thing about the appalling racket we call an economy. I give the protesters credit for this. Unless the encampments were merely a prelude and Occupy morphs into a vital, muscular movement – and quickly – I must call it like I see it: Occupy is a failure.
Let’s first note that Occupy as a viable force is two months old. I think it’s premature to expect any movement to outright “succeed,” however one defines success, but it’s certainly premature, not to say churlish, to conclude that something that is barely aborning is a failure. It’s this injustice in the remark that provoked me to plunge in with a comment in defense of OWS. Continue reading
Mid-South Tea Party member Jan Allen stands in front of the sign-in desk at a meeting where two Occupy Memphis members were speaking, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2011, in Bartlett, Tenn. (AP Photo/Adrian Sainz)
Van Jones tweeted a link to this blog post, which links to a news item about a meeting between #occupyMemphis and Mid-South Tea Party members, which he apparently took to be a good sign. I share Jones’s optimism about the enormous potential for positive change in the search for common ground between these two movements. From the quotes in the news item, it’s clear that Jones and I are not alone Continue reading
Here’s a fascinating and encouraging development from yesterday’s second-month celebration of the occupation of Zuccotti Park, something to indicate that the movement is far from being a flash in the pan and far from being defanged. A group of students and other protesters have taken over a space at 90 Fifth Avenue in preparation for creating a free “people’s university.” It may also provide an alternative space for at least some of #OWS’s displaced denizens during the winter months, provided the city and the owners of the building (which happens to be one of the nation’s largest banks, according to the protesters) don’t try to Bloomberg/Brookfield them out.
A Statement From the 90 5th Avenue Occupation follows the jump: Continue reading