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Protest, Protest Forever!

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“The medium is the message,” so said Marshall McLuhan to suggest “the form of a medium embeds itself in the message, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived.”

No truer words have ever been spoken, no better words of advice; whenever we’re at our wit’s end trying to come to grips with, and make sense of, the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement, by far the most significant development in American political history since the counter-revolution of the sixties, the anti-war demonstrations and the Civil Rights struggle. As far as I am concerned, Katha Pollitt said it best in her recent article in The Nation, “We Are All Occupiers Now: The Mainstreaming of OWS.” The gist of Ms Pollitt’s article comes down to four words, “Protest is the message.”

Interestingly, Ms Pollitt took the lead from a recent New York Times editorial page, that staunch defender of the status quo, liberal edition, and no less beholden to corporate interests than FoxNews, but that’s axiomatic. In its usual, backpedalling kind of way whenever faced with hard-nosed issues, the Times editorial board took back what it first gave away. “It is not the job of the protesters,” the editors declared, “to draft legislation. That’s the job of the nation’s leaders, and if they had been doing it all along there might not be a need for these marches and rallies.”

The subliminal message is, of course, we could well dispense with all these marches and rallies, would be much better off without them, in fact, had the nation’s leaders only done their job and drafted the right kind of laws.

Times just doesn’t get it! What legislation, what leaders, what rule of law could possibly avert the kind of crisis we’re facing as humans, economically and politically? The glib assumption is, the system works if only . . . The unfortunate, if not predictable, thing is, Times never spells out what are the sufficient, let alone necessary, conditions for this thing we call democracy. It simply assumes, it wants you to believe, America is a fertile ground, as fertile as any, and if democracy can’t thrive here, it can’t thrive nowhere. All we’re posed with is the “If Only”; and it’s posited as a promise, a Hollywood-type promise, a grand illusion, with all the signs of cheese but no cheese at all. It’s to Ms Pollitt’s credit she’s taken the Times’ slogan, dispensed with the interpretation, and decided to run with it.

Protest is the message! End of story!

Indeed! The very idea of occupation, of taking over the streets and public squares, all venues in fact which, for better or worse, have been declared private property, flies in the face of private property rights. How we got there, whatever possesed us to ever consent to have such venues excluded as public spaces in which to conduct a meaningful public debate and to engage in direct participation, the lifeblood of democracy, is a question for another time and place. Suffice to say, it’s precisely those very rights that are being challenged, which is why the powers that be, from Mayor Bloomberg to the NYPD, are short on answers.

In her well-crafted essay, Occupy Wall Street and the Abolition of Public Space, Anarcissie spoke to the dire need for reclaiming public spaces as our inherent right, as a precondition of true democracy. If you’re not going to read it and proceed to comment regardless, shame on you! Meanwhile, I can’t improve on the idea except by saying that protest is the message and the physical spaces which are being reclaimed, the medium (Although, as an old friend and a comrade in arms has recently suggested, the proper business of the occupiers is “unoccupation”).

Long live the democratic process and the revolutionary spirit!

About Roger Nowosielski

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    You can’t forge consensus, Mark, by organizational tricks, however well intended. Either it’s going to happen or it’s not going to happen. Much depends on the moment and people’s readiness, but there’s no better way of striving for it than speaking the truth. It’s not something that should be arrived at by artificial means, it’s got to grow from the people’s minds and hearts, organically. Otherwise, we’re talking about compromise — the very thing we see in our corridors of power day in and day out.

    If my “style” is contentious — and thank you, BTW — it’s only because the message is being met by the sea of resistance, not only from our well-meaning liberal friends here, but also from such radicals as Anarcissie and you. At least that’s my impression.

    Well, I’ve given up on our well-meaning friends for the time being, but I haven’t given up on you. Consequently, all of you are forcing me to speak with a stronger voice. I wish I didn’t have to.

    Tell you what! I’ll wait for Cindy’s response before I declare myself completely insane. If she’ll so no merit whatever in what I’m saying, I’ll abide by the group decision and do whatever you want me to do.

    [And BTW, I believe I've already reneged on the original idea of having the group limited to any number of participants (you spoke of generating the rules of engagement as the process evolves, and I concurred), so it's a moot point by now.]

    In closing, I don’t think even people like Hedges and other well-meaning authors of Truthdig or any other radical site (even though they put their bodies on the line) are asking the kind of questions that ought to be asked. Their stuff isn’t penetrating enough. Too fucking pedestrian. We can do better. You can do better. I can do better. Cindy can go better. Anarcissie can do better.

    We’re living in challenging times. Let’s challenge the shit out of this world. There’s no better time than now.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I’m aware, btw, that the source of my error may have to do with not paying sufficient attention to the process. And if my focus on “results” overshadows the importance and integrity of the process — the heart of democracy — than I stand corrected and must revise some of my thinking.

    If you have a suggestion or two concerning the latter, don’t hesitate to speak your mind.

  • troll

    there’s an interesting question — just what are the natures of the consensuses being achieved through GA processes?

    in what sense is the 9/10 super majority of ows’ process consensus?

    the ‘total consensus’ process in Albq allows for stand-asides that don’t require that the proposal in question be tabled…consensus?

    what about the 5-finger approach that defines consensus as 2/3 agreement?

  • t

    …the Zapatistas communities as I understand their approach shoot for actual total consensus and will spend months on single topics to achieve it

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Decent exposition by Chomsky on OWS, Boston, one hour long if you can stand it. “Decent” is the only word I can muster.

    For all the right things he says, and there are many, Chomsky is the apparent victim of a paradigm that’s beyond fixing, the same ole’ stale thinking, the belief the system can fix it all.

    It’s time to replace old farts like Chomsky with people who truly believe and speak with determination, force and conviction. Working within the system is not an option. Re-inventing it is the only solution.

    “Are you ready for the challenge?”

    “Are you ready for some football?”

    However the brief description of Chomsky;s talk misrepresents him via sound-bytes. Even so, Chomsky cows down to the powers that be, the political system in place. Building the masses behind you doesn’t have to translate, it had better not translate to, building a powerful opposition.

    I know, I know, it’s one possible scenario, but fuck you all, we can do better than that, much better.

    Let’s dismantle the political and economic basis upon which this country was built and survived thus far — count the hours and it’s demise and certain and short-lived — and let’s instead re-build it from ashes.

    Again, it’s about time the people took control of their political and economic destiny.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Okay, Cindy will provide the right links.

  • troll

    Cindy twittered a link to a relevant take on the consensus process

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    It’s under consideration. Will respond tomorrow,

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    A bit of stale news, but here’s a take from an old voice, somewhat disconcerting. I asked for permission to post a link, but in the customary manner was rewarded by silence.

    So here it is anyway: “Occupy in Denial of Anarchist Influence.”

    Perhaps someone more knowledgeable than I may care to comment.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    On a somewhat related or unrelated note, here’s a short clip from NPR’s Morning Edition show on the Anonymous. A full feature article is to appear in wire.com today, still waiting. Meanwhile, here’s a teaser.

    A possible guerrilla tactic to be employed on occasion by the OWS troops?

    Just wondering.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    @457

    Great piece on the art of communication and decision-making processes, especially the distinction between identifying people’s needs/concerns vs. the diverse voices. It unveils the emotional component underlying all dialogues, showing how, when not tended to, we happen to be talking past one another.

    Any thoughts on how to restructure “the project” in light of this?

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    459 He’s entitled to his own misguided opinion about anarchism.

    The property damage seems to me to be typically done by certain young male anarchists who mostly (but not always–some make better defenses, imo) strike me as having a fetish for destruction, though they will claim it is being used as a tactic. But why use a tactic in such a way as to lose more than you gain? Why always use a single tactic? Why use a hammer to pound in screws when a screwdriver might yield better results, for example? If one insists upon always using a hammer where another tool would be more effective, then it seems to me one’s obsession with using hammers might be a more salient factor in one’s behavior than the claim that one is using the hammer as a tool.

    I think using such a tactic under such a circumstance (where the community is attempting to vitalize a horizontal organization of power) has more relationship with replicating the culture they are ostensibly trying to smash. It is antisocial because it is disrespectful to the group process. I also think they are often unrelentingly hostile and have more of a stake and satisfaction in defining themselves as against other people than an interest in creating another world. Though I can understand their rage and their hostility, I think they take it too far. For crying out loud, why keep attacking liberals who are attempting to employ direct action and consensus decision-making? What is that about? They also seem to like being “cooler than” liberals. That strikes me as another indoctrinated wish (that plays on the real need for inclusion) that replicates destructive means to fill real social needs, which is a method offered by the society they despise, when ‘it’ rears us to become antisocial. (Perhaps, so we will believe it is natural and some can continue living at the expense of others with impunity. While others tolerate and except their own slavery as ‘natural’.)

    I do think there is a place for black bloc and such tactics as property destruction. I don’t think this circumstance was the place. I think that the Greek uprising was an appropriate place, for example.

    If you would like to see what is happening in the anarchist community over it, anarchistnews.org will give you a microcosm of the varying views. Just type Oakland in the search box and you can see what those who defend the tactic say as well as what those who feel the tactic was less appropriate to the circumstances. (I would, of course, be in the 2nd camp and have made two comments about why and will repost some of this one there too.)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I wasn’t criticizing Chomsky’s right, and as regard Kurtz’s article only posed a question. But I would like you to chime in on what we’ve been originally discussing.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Chomsky?

    Are we on the same page?

    (Hiya, Roger. :-)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Here’s a good article on TD from The Guardian on the connection between police tactics vs. OWS and the Patriot Act, along with my comment:

    The connection made by the author of the article in the Guardian between police tactics and the Patriot Act is a very real one and deserves utmost consideration. The Patriot Act has a symbolic meaning in that it represents a significant step on the trajectory of an embattled State in its slide from what may have been a pseudo-democratic regime into what Agamben, among other people, calls “the state of exception.”

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Hi, I thought you were also referring to my #455, but I see that wasn’t the case.

    Anyway, have you given some thought to what I was suggesting? If you’d rather do it via email correspondence, OK, but this forum is just as good to iron out the wrinkles especially since “troll” and Anarcissie are participating as well.

    I am looking for some kind of show of support, because as now, I feel I’ve been dropped like a hot potato. People voice their objections, but then fail to come up with proposals of their own.

  • troll

    please restate your proposal Rog…I’ve gotten a little fuzzy on what you want to do

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    One of Chris Hedges’ best: “Finding Freedom in Handcuffs.”

    The underlying themes — morality, justice, Immanuel Kant, Hannah Arendt …

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Hiya again, Roger. Sorry, I had just gotten here last night and began from the last comment and made mine. I see I missed a whole bunch.

    We are in the hospital again (just a high fever, requiring blood cultures), after spending two nights at home after the storm. So, I sort of spent my free time here reading articles and tweeting them. Too tired to do much else. I will catch up when I get home tonight or in the morning.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Oh, and thanks Christopher and Jordan for the ad block links. Never knew there was such things.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Roger! Thanks so much for Grace Lee Boggs and that On Being blog, as well. Love, love, love them.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    OK, I’ll try to recap. Each of us are already more or less active participants on this and perhaps other sites as well. So it’s not exactly that we’d be required to do what we don’t already and quite routinely do, nor will it be required of us to reinvent the wheel. My thinking therefore is – why not create a comments space that will more adequately serve our needs and our concerns, more adequately than what appears to be available at the present?

    Now, why do I want to start with a nucleus as it were and then proceed co-centrically? Think me elitist if you like, but here are my reasons. In the course of my experience with BC and other sites as well, I’ve come to appreciate certain people more than others with respect to such aspects as dedication, intellectual integrity, sincerity and depth of concern, cogency of presentation, willingness to learn and to progress, innovation, power of ideas, and so on.

    Which isn’t to say other people don’t share in the same qualities, it’s just that in some, are far as I am concerned, those qualities shine more than they do in others. Mind you, it’s strictly a subjective judgment, but it’s my judgment.

    It stand to reason therefore, my reason, that those who are most actively engaged in thinking about the problems which face our society and humanity in general, those who are most dedicated and most deeply concerned, should take the initiative because they already show the initiative. It’s only a technical matter of re-channelling that initiative. And no, I don’t see the idea of a nucleus, in the sense I’m using it, as somehow antithetical to the idea of the democracy or the democratic process. We will include anybody and everybody, everybody who wants to be included, but we must start somewhere, and I think it’s a good start. If you think I’m wrong on this score, let me know.

    So yes, I do count Cindy, yourself, Jordan Richardson, Anarcissie, Shenonymous, some other people from the TD discussion boards as well, among such people. Each of us have a particular kind of concern which is personal, more personal to that person than to anyone else perhaps. In Cindy’s case, for example, it’s the idea of “indoctrination,” which idea lends itself to natural extension to include the topics of ideology and culture. With you, it’s something different. And so it goes for every person, and who better than that person to bring his or her concern forth for the purpose of sharing it, discussing it, whatever.

    What I’m saying, I don’t necessarily want to be limited to commenting on other people’s article (which, in more instance than one, don’t go far enough for my taste), but I surely would want to participate in and comment on Cindy’s article(s), or Anarcissie’s, or your or Jordan – again for the reasons mentioned. Besides, it’s almost as though I somewhat know you – considering the amounts of time we’ve all spent on this thread. So this is the general idea. The details can be worked out and make whatever “rules” on the go. You’re better at it than I am.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    @469

    Look forward to that, Cindy. I do understand what you’re going through.

  • troll

    thanks for #472 Rog — sounds like more than anything you are encouraging us each to write analyses of what we think are critical issues…and thereby open up the discussion

    a good plan although a bit ‘out there’ for types like me who feel more useful cleaning up cig butts and such

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Well, in that case you can be a mod, in which case there may be all kinds of butts to clean.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Well, I’d like Cindy, Anarcissie, you, etc. to steer me clear of obvious errors in my articulation of my concerns, since I’m not an island. And I’m certain that Cindy, Anarcissie and others share the same sentiment. Of course I envy you in that you have resolved everything to your satisfaction and experience no dire need to air things out, but I can assure you that’s not where I’m at.

    Which is precisely why you’d make a perfect moderator.

  • troll

    eof

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Cindy, it may be eof as far as Mark is concerned, but I still want to talk to you.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Roger,

    I will try to steer you now: He didn’t say any of that. What is upsetting you? He’s being cooperative.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    eof = end of file, no?

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Yes, end of file.

    But what do you expect if you saddle him with this: “Of course I envy you in that you have resolved everything to your satisfaction and experience no dire need to air things out, but I can assure you that’s not where I’m at.”

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Well, doesn’t “the conclusion” kind of follow from our exchange?

    Anyway, I’ll be our for an hour to get some smokes. Meanwhile, why don’t you give some thought to my concept and tell me what you think.

    I think it should go without saying that I value your (and some other people’s) judgment. It’s really beyond me how this should have been lost in the shuffle.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Prime examples of co-opting: Robert Reich and Robert Scheer speak at Occupy LA.

    Have lost all respect for these guys. Point a finger at “few bad apples” who have spun this country out of control,

    What a myopic vision; and the worst part is, they mean well.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Cindy,

    You’re awfully hard to communicate with. I understand it perfectly, don’t got me wrong.
    Still, you come in like a thief in the night and then you disappear, until you resurface again.

    How can we hope to have communication or reach understanding. It’s like playing a game cf chess postal way, till death do us part.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Cindy, you’ll love this discussion panel.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I apologize, Mark, for pressing too hard and getting sarcastic at the end. I thought I was addressing what I took for a need we all shared in common; apparently, it wasn’t so.

    Peace.

  • Mark

    Rog, watching you slide easily back into your well established patterns of incompetent listening and pointlessly abusive communication even in this friendly environment has strengthened my growing understanding that I need to make whatever changes necessary to get back on the streets where my particular skill set can be useful. That’s where the ‘structural barriers to democracy’(Kline) will be identified and addressed through direct action in this ‘no bullshit’ moment in our history.

    Peace back at ya.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I was being respectful all along, Mark, until you’ve finally said you’re not interested. Meanwhile, I was being strung along in terms of all kinds of detours and obstacles — the format wasn’t right, we should include everyone, etc., etc. You yourself have even posted your own question about modes of representation as an example of “your” proposal on one of Cindy’s website. All you had to do was say what you said just now, and I’d perfectly understand your reasoning and leave it at that. But your idea of listening to me ended up humoring me, and no, I don’t appreciate. “No” is “no” and I can understand that, end of discussion.

    As I said, I believe I was addressing what I assumed to be a need we all to some extent share in common — or at least have shared in the past, as based on all our past exchanges — and I’ve gone to great length, not to mention detail, to connect in precisely that way, thinking as I still do it was a great idea. Heck, I even said I’d abide by the group’s decision, come what may. Of course I understand your reluctance, especially in these times, to get involved in what I was proposing, but you should have told me that straight out and in unequivocal terms rather than, in the interest of politeness perhaps, ending up what I see as leading me by the nose. Fuck politeness, as simple “no” would have been a far more honest thing to do.

    And so now you fall on the reliable strategy of commenting on my character and my presumed faults and by virtue of what — one solitary, though admittedly, sarcastic comment prompted by my frustration in the course of three years or so of our exchanges? And even for that I apologized, and for no other reason that I respect you.

    Not fair, my man, not fair.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    clarification of meaning:

    “frustration” references this one particular exchange, not the entire span of communications.

  • Mark

    I told you right off that I wouldn’t take part in a simple debate club – which is how I view your proposal. If I am wrong, prove me so over on your ‘justice’ thread and come up with something useful there that doesn’t simply end in circular meandering. I’ll keep my eye on it.

    fuck politeness?

    I will deal with you no further until you’ve developed the skill.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Yes, fuck politeness when it functions merely to prolong a conversation that should have come to a natural stop.

    As to my “justice” thread, it’s your loss that you see it as mere “circular meandering”. But it’s becoming apparent now since you haven’t posted a solitary comment.

    “Deal” with me? If that’s what you were doing all along, then do spare me the pleasure. “Develop the skill” posed as a precondition? Aren’t we putting ourselves here above another?

    But that’s alright. As I’m not in the habit of closing any doors, I’m not doing so now; but as things stand right now, further communication doesn’t serve any useful purpose.

  • Mark

    snaps fingers in the air indicating agreement with last sentence in 491

  • Igor

    IMO, Roger, in #483, illustrates (unwittingly) why the Occupy movement doesn’t put forward leaders and an agenda, as is so often demanded by outsiders who think they know better than the Occupiers:

    “483 – roger …

    Prime examples of co-opting: Robert Reich and Robert Scheer speak at Occupy LA.

    Have lost all respect for these guys. …

    What a myopic vision; and the worst part is, they mean well.”

    Condescending and patronizing.

    Any sentient person realizes that such attempts at trivialization and outright sneering are traditional tools of The Establishment to stamp out opposition.

    If The Establishment (say, Roger) can clearly identify a spokesman who seems to embody the persona of the upstarts, then it is a simple matter to discredit that person, and by implication the movement that we have chosen him to represent, for example, by citing his socialist past, his failed marriage, his arrest for littering, etc., anything at all. Maybe even his howl of victory at a post-election party (cf. Howard Dean) which no normal person would find unusual except when primed for disparagement by a partisan propaganda wave.

    If the establishment can identify a single agenda item to hold up for ridicule and disparagement then they can turn that over to their usual bully boys (The Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, National Review, etc.) where very articulate sophists will thrill to their well-contrived parodies and ironies (the modern establishment seems to thrive on Irony).

    Instead, the Occupiers seem to have almost instinctively realized the dangers of such divide-and-conquer opportunities and have refused to provide the purchase to their critics.

    By remaining amorphous (a very sophisticated Tao and Zen principle, after all) they continue to frustrate the Establishment and force it to find it’s failures within itself. As if to say “we don’t have to tell you what is wrong with your behavior because you already know what it is. Heal yourself”.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I don’t see where you disagree with me, Igor. I don’t think my comment about the two Bobs was either condescending or patronizing. I simply called it as I saw it.

    If you would have read my articles on OWS, you would have known that I’m all for the OWS to forge their own way, no outsiders, thank you.

    So really, perhaps you can enlighten me as to where we disagree, because I don’t see it.

    Indeed, as an example of what I regard as constructive kind of discussion, see my #485.

  • Igor

    Sorry, I don’t watch videos. Anything worthwhile will have a transcript.

    I don’t disagree with you Roger (as a rule, and I really don’t care), I just think that you exemplified a mistake, in that case.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    In any case, there may or may not be a transcript, but the discussion I linked to is one of the kind.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I’m really encouraged by this post, Christopher.

    Do keep it up!

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Roger,

    Um, what?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I was all over the boards last night, Dreadful, and yes, haven’t the faintest how #497 found its way here, nor what it pertains to. Too much Bombay I suppose.

    What are we arguing about, anyhow? Doesn’t make bloody sense.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Gin? Yeuch…