Category Archives: Criticism

Occupier + current system + social media = ?

20 May 2012: The police crack down pretty hard on the Occupiers in Chicago today during their Anti-NATO protest.

I found this photograph moving around Facebook and I thought I’d post it.  I thought the Occupy protests were winding down, but based on this chaos, I’d say I was quite off the mark.

The focal point of the image is the young man guarding himself against a police officer, as well as on the overwhelmed and scared woman with the camera.  I feel like this image represents three main elements of the entire Occupy movement really well.

The young man represents the generic Occupier: the recent college graduate, possibly a hipster, who feels the need to stand out against the current regime and say that he doesn’t approve of the current status quo.  His hands are up to shield himself against the night stick, but the look on his face isn’t necessarily one of fear.  There is determination there, a confidence that comes out if you stare a little longer at him, and you can see that he isn’t just going to defend himself against the police officer, he is willing to take him on.

The police officer is not only representative of police presence and the issues that have come out of that during Occupy, but the illustration of faulty government itself.  The police are supposed to protect citizens, just as the government is supposed to benefit the people, but clearly the police were not protecting anyone but themselves in Chicago today, and clearly the system is not working for the governed because groups like the Occupiers and the Tea Partiers exist.

Finally, the woman with the camera represents media, more specifically social media.  Before social media took off, people heard about things like this through news articles or segments done by professionals.  Ideally, the news is supposed to be unbiased but it rarely is.  Now, with social media, people who were actually there in the moment can show their own evidence to anyone they want at lightning speed for free.  With these kinds of resources, the moments like this will always be available to the public and the truth will never be forgotten.

The Occupier, the current system and social media. Put them all together and what do you get?  Based on this photo, a real Charlie Foxtrot.

Iliana

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Crime in OWS vs Crime of OWS

From the violent shutdown of Zuccotti Park on November 15 to continued police brutality, the OWS movement is no stranger to crime. There is, however, a very large difference between the crimes committed by people who participate in OWS-related events and occupiers who commit protest-related “crimes.” What is unfortunate is that the media has played a role in discrediting the movement as a whole by its association with and response to these crimes.  According to a statement issued by the Women’s Caucus of Occupy Philly:

“Rape happens every day, murder happens every day and suicide happens every day. These tragedies are not symptoms or creations of the Occupy Movement, nor are they exclusive to the Occupy Movement; they are realities of our society and of our everyday lives.”

By taking what this quote says into account, the difference between the two groups is more easily defined. As a “society,” a term defined by Dictionary.com as “an organized group of persons associated together for religious, benevolent, cultural, scientific, political, patriotic, or other purposes,” the Occupy encampments are bound to have individuals in their midst who are prone to committing crime. Therefore, when sites like OWSexposed.com and PunditPress put together statistics seen in the chart below, it’s important to remember the circumstances that contribute to those statistics.

It’s sad to acknowledge that rape and sexual assault in particular have occurred in multiple locations across the nation; however, these actions weren’t carried out as measures backed by the OWS movement. In order to counteract this issue and raise awareness for its implications in society, some people are attempting to educate about how these issues go completely against the goals of Occupy Wall Street. In order to potentially eradicate sexual violence from first the movement and eventually the world, many people are asking for help.

With that being said, there are both those who commit crimes within the movement that can detract from its legitimacy (one woman reacts to an action by one of this type by saying, “You’re giving this movement a bad name right now, because you are going around and violating others’ space, and it makes people feel unsafe.”) and those who commit crimes for the movement. An example of this—most likely an occurrence that added to the 6000+ arrest that had already been made by February 2, 2012—can be seen in how one group of occupiers was promoting the idea of getting arrested. In the flyer below for a recent event, one of the two ways that the organizers ask people to get involved is by “acts of civil disobedience.”

With the intention behind this call to action as a demonstration of the evils of this nation’s justice system, these arrests are hardly seen as “crimes” in the eyes of occupiers and other supporters. Therefore it is important to realize that statistics cannot always be taken at face value.

Becca Barbush

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-11-15/u-s-mayors-crack-down-on-occupy-wall-street.html

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/society?s=t

http://www.occupypatriarchy.org/2011/12/12/occupying-patriarchy-throughout-the-u-s/

http://abcnews.go.com/US/sexual-assaults-occupy-wall-street-camps/story?id=14873014#.T6LhDo7qEhw

http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2011/10/another_rape_at_occupy_wall_street_goes_unreported.html

http://www.occupypatriarchy.org/2012/01/19/petition-to-address-sexual-assault-at-occupy-boston/

http://www.observer.com/2011/10/objecting-or-objectified-at-occupy-wall-street-women-get-attention-but-not-always-for-their-message/

Patriarchy at the root

“Occupy Patriarchy calls on the Occupy movement everywhere to support and attend these rallies because an attack on the 52% is an attack on the 99% and if we want to confront Wall Street, then we MUST confront patriarchy.”

With this quote, occupypatriarchy.org, a project by the Feminist Peace Network, sends its rallying cry to the internet.

While there are countless motives for people to be involved in the OWS movement around the world, it seems that many of the issues that people are fighting to improve stem from shared, deep-rooted needs of all human beings. With many different types of people making up the 99% and only a small representation of that number actively involved in the movement, it is important to discuss what those deeper issues really are.

One particular group has found a way to identify both a specific cause and what they feel is one of the source problems. In all probability, all of the contributors of the Occupy Patriarchy blog feel as though patriarchy is at the very root of the issues and that all of the specific concerns that stem from it are simply manifestations of this type of group consciousness. One contributor to another blog explains this as he or she discusses the presence of sexual assault in many of the OWS encampments:

“Sexual and bodily violence are part of the everyday social interactions that make up our economy and our lives. In the same way that we can’t begin to tackle the economic disparities between white and black Americans without acknowledging the racism and everyday violence/bullying/intimidation black people face in the workforce or as consumers, we will never truly make life better for ALL 99% if we can’t come to terms with how patriarchy, kyriarchy, and rape culture limit women’s access to wealth and economic opportunities.”

In this quote, the contributor acknowledges the “manifestations” of the issues and also brings the specific examples back to what problems he or she feels are at the root. Both blogs repeatedly reinforce the importance of raising awareness of the problems associated with patriarchy as the current standard around the globe. However, even if awareness can be raised, success cannot always be garnered so immediately. In the following quote it becomes apparent how this fight is a step in the right direction for progress, but recognizes that there is a long road ahead:

“But as women in the Middle East who have participated so fearlessly in the uprisings of the Arab Spring have discovered, the success of progressive and revolutionary movements does not guarantee gains in women rights.“

Women protest in Egypt

Now, with the ability for women in the United States to use the structure and status of the Occupy Wall Street movement as a platform, steps can be taken and change could be implemented that could eventually raise the quality of life for women around the globe.

Becca Barbush

http://www.occupypatriarchy.org/2011/12/14/the-global-occupation-of-patriarchy/

http://scatx.com/2011/11/03/ows-are-we-fighting-for-genuine-transformation-of-the-system/

http://www.occupypatriarchy.org/2012/01/19/petition-to-address-sexual-assault-at-occupy-boston/

http://inveritascrescentes.wordpress.com/2011/11/28/the-arab-spring-versus-occupy-wall-street/

Occupy Wall Street is Nothing Special

But what do they want? – by Tom Tomorrow, Oct 2011

Much has been made of the OWS movement’s apparent lack of leadership and concrete goals, its direct-participation organization and the idea of occupation as a radical act, and its utilization of technology. Based on my own historical research and the research of my colleagues, it appears that in truth, the only unique feature of OWS as a protest movement/mass demonstration is the technology, and this is only because such technology (and the resultant social organization/attitudes) did not exist in the past and so comparisons in that regard are apples-to-oranges. So in response to the question of “What is Occupy Wall Street?” my answer – from a historical perspective – is that it’s, well, nothing special.

Kara, in her post “What is Occupy Wall Street?“, discusses how OWS’s organizational principles are in line with long-established principles of true anarchism: loose organization, consensus-based egalitarian leadership, addressing economic grievances, and raising awareness. In addition, anarchism “seeks to transition the old system into one that fits their needs,” as opposed to a thorough overthrow of the existing system.

Erin has observed that the Great Depression saw similar economic-injustice/class-based protests. Protests on that subject go back to the 1800s with Coxey’s Army marching on Washington, D.C.–then, as now, the protestors were widely perceived as a disorganized mob.

So in this regard, the only radical thing about OWS is the literally radical (root-based) organizational mentality.

Oakland – Indigenous People’s Resistance Day 2011

OWS’s use of the word “occupy” is another radical, original action that the movement is credited with – yet this blog post, by somebody self-identified as unaffiliated with the movement, highlights how OWS has only been employing a superficial sense of the word. To be situated in, to engage, to take possession of. The movement as a whole has not been engaging with the highly problematic history of the word as a key referent to white colonialism and oppression. Sophie Lewis suggests that, since the word is now so entrenched, people should consider actually radicalizing the concepts espoused–in other words, actually pursuing equality for all, rather than reinforcing various forms of oppression such as cissexism and the erasure of people of color. The Albuquerque movement, happily, is one example of an active attempt at true radicalization: it has chosen to call itself “(un)Occupy” to more accurately reflect the goal of decolonizing the 1%. If such cases of true radicalization (e.g. discussion of social privilege) become more widespread and even part of the popular discourse, then OWS could be said to have more of a unique aspect to it.
(Adrienne K. of Native Appropriations also applauds the Denver movement, and her whole post is worth reading in addition to Lewis’s writing.)

With regards to technology and OWS – my comparison of the Kent State shootings and the November, 2011 pepper spraying at UC Davis revealed that, while the internet is more “immediate and personal” than other media, images from the Kent State shootings spread just as rapidly after accounting for the built-in delay of media development. Therefore, it seems unfair to say that OWS is a wholly new form of protest due to the inclusion of instant-communication technology; rather, it is simply a protest of its time, of a society infused with current technology, just as previous protests were products of their technological means. Coxey’s Army did not have television or radio coverage to help speed the dissemination of its message like the social justice and anti-war/nuclear protests of the 1950s-60s; were the mid-20th century protests new forms of protests because they had ham or CB radio available for popular use (cf. twitter) or television to help get their message out to the public faster?

One could argue that there have always been “slacktivists” – people who say they support the cause, but don’t actually get themselves out there to do anything. Is writing letters to the editor, for example, a form of pre-internet slacktivism? Attending the big, publicized protest but not any other events? Wearing a shirt with the anti-nuclear symbol (now known as the peace sign) and leaving it at that? I am skeptical of claims that “Facebook activism” is somehow worse than previous ways of failing to commit to a cause.

In conclusion – OWS is just another protest that may or may not end up being effective the way it intends, like the Alcatraz occupation with which (surprise) OWS shares its current momentum thus far.

Cody VC

What is Occupy Wall Street: (besides confusing)

Like one of my fellow classmates previously mentioned, explaining what “is Occupy Wall Street” is such a daunting task due to the many pieces and complexities within the movement. I almost think it would be easier to define OWS with less knowledge of the movement because as this class has progressed, and every article, blog post or news report I have seen, has added a new perspective, insight or layer of complexity to how I would define the movement.

My blog posts focused on Media Bias in reporting OWS as well showed comparisons to historical movements similar to Occupy Wall Street so I will attempt to tie these together to answer the daunting question of:

What is Occupy Wall Street?

Occupy Wall Street is a social movement which cannot and does not want to be defined into a simple “catch all” definition. As What is Occupy Wall Street, points out OWS is not just 1 group. It is a compilation of all different groups, with different goals, agenda’s, and motives. (91 and counting).  The only way to accurately define Occupy Wall Street would be to define all groups within the movement. (which would take way longer than I want  to spend on this project) Occupy Wall Street is not a leaderless movement, as many media outlets want to portray; instead OWS is a movement of many leaders and groups. In the same sense it is not a movement with no demands, it is just a movement with many demands of many groups within it. It has demands, just not uniform demands. In a post We demand better Demands, points out OWS has been portrayed in the Media as a movement with no goals, but in fact it does have goals, these goals were just not accepted and were called “Outlandish” by the media.

The main thing I learned from my research is not only what OWS is but also what OWS isn’t. Occupy Wall Street is not what it is being portrayed in mainstream media sources. Occupy Wall Street has picked up the stigma of a violent or deviant group, when in reality it is a peaceful attempt to bring some sort of social and economic change. This goes back to The One Bad Apple post which talks about how a few bad apples have been given the face of the movement by bias media sources. Certain Media outlets seem more concerned with reporting about the “bad apples” than presenting the various aspects of the OWS movement outside police/occupier violence.

 

 

Additionally, Occupy Wall Street has been portrayed as an unorganized movement. However in my previous post (labor movement) it explains OWS does not need a leader. It is loosely structured, not unorganized. Although the loose structure limits its ability to organize quickly it has allowed it to be more successful and survive as a movement, whereas past structured movements  with similar motives have not. (Labor movement 1981) It also has been shown that in fact OWS does have the ability to organize and form a rigid structure when it needs to communicate and relay message. (Meechie Peachie)

The presence of mainstream media bias in reporting has shifted the focus of OWS to labeling WHO is Occupy Wall Street and not what Occupy Wall Street is. The need to place one label or stereotype on who is occupying has taken priority over what the actual issues being protested are.

It is important to realize what Occupy Wall Street is as a movement and not what it is being portrayed as in the media. Occupy Wall Street is a diverse movement of different people, groups, motives, and goals, with the common goal of bringing attention and change to social and economic inequality. Media may report about one group within the movement but that does not truly represent the entire movement.

When asking yourself the question “What is Occupy Wall Street?” it is important to keep in mind the insightful words of Flava Flav “Don’t believe the Hype” (mainstream media hype that is)

I hope this made some sense, and allows you readers to answer this complex question.

From Alcatraz to Zuccotti: Part 2

American Indian people and their supporters wait for the ferry to Alcatraz in ’69 or ’70. (Ilka Hartmann, via California State University)

My previous post narrated the basic history of the 1969-71 Occupation of Alcatraz. This was the takeover of the then-abandoned former prison by a group of American Indians, mostly California-area college students, in response to unjust treatment of the First Nations by the federal government. The occupiers wanted their grievances heard, and demanded the deed to the island in order to establish an university, cultural center, and museum. The government refused to listen to their demands, the initially sympathetic press grew disdainful, and as the basic organization of the occupiers degraded the government found reason to invade and remove everybody from the island.

The occupiers’ concrete goals were not achieved, but public awareness of their objections was raised and the government policy of ending First Nations sovereignty was gradually halted. While the basic arc reads as very similar to that of the Occupy Wall Street movement thus far, as my colleagues have observed there are some significant differences. OWS has not articulated goals that are as specific; OWS is a larger, more amorphous group; llaurenfrank: “for OWS there doesn’t seem to be anything specific that the government can do in order to end the protest.”

While it is true that OWS’s goals have remained comparatively broad, a recent Washington Post article indicates that their basic goal of correcting economic inequality remains the same. Brittany Duck, a participant in the D.C. May Day protests, said that “[T]here’s still a lot to do. Politicians say the economy is turning around, but for many people out here, the blue-collar workers, it hasn’t.” savannahredwards1 asks, “are [OWS] actually trying to get a specific goal accomplished like the Alcatraz ‘occupiers’ or are they just trying to change the way we think?” The Post article, as well as the articles included in this round-up of coverage of the May Day protests, illuminates that a large number of OWS participants are not satisfied with having “made a lasting contribution to the national debate about income inequality.”

A group of American Indian people at Pier 40 following the June 1971 removal. (Ilka Hartmann, CSU)

The larger scale of OWS is indeed different from the Alcatraz occupation, but one could argue that there is some similarity to be seen in the diversity of the Alcatraz occupation–over 20 tribes were represented, which is part of what led to the development of factions (Winton). Their individual goals differed, but the overall goal of government respect and recognition was the same. This can be compared to regional differences among OWS groups, where the individual goals differ while the overarching goal (correcting economic inequality) remains the same.

With regards to how the government can respond to the OWS protests: it’s possible to argue that there is, in fact, something specific that the government can do to respond to the demand(s) of OWS. If the root problem is income inequality, then bills could be introduced raising the minimum wage to align more realistically with the current cost of living. This would turn the minimum wage into what is known as a living wage; Pennsylvania State University has a website that calculates the living wage for localities across the USA and shows the disparities, illustrating how the difference can contribute to poverty and economic inequality.

That is just one example of a concrete solution; debates over progressive tax rates, another potential concrete solution, are currently ongoing but do not seem likely to go anywhere.

So how does this link back to the Alcatraz occupation? Again, there’s the impact on the national discourse without (immediate) concrete gain. It’s possible that in the long run, due to OWS, we will see real attempts to address income/economic inequality, like the Alcatraz occupation helped end some discriminatory policies.

nb: it should be pointed out that, as has been observed repeatedly by my colleagues on this blog, the majority of ows participants are socially privileged in a way that the alcatraz occupiers were not. it could be argued that this is why their trajectory has bottomed out earlier than alcatraz’s; the perception of this privilege caused people/the media to dismiss them more quickly. however, what will be the real long term effects remains to be seen.

CVC

Occupy Bias

I’m going to keep this short and sweet.  To me, the Occupy movement is all about stereotypes based on bias.

Occupiers are considered to be radical socialists and anarchists, criminals, racist (this too), lazy and homeless, except when members of this diverse group are none of these things.  The police are overly violent and are under the control of the big bad government, except when they are just trying to do their jobs to the best of their ability (llaurenfrank, asulkin, kjonach, ivazuka).  Corporations are always evil, unless they fund Occupy, and everyone in the 1% are trying to keep the 99% down, unless they use their power and influence in favor of Occupy.

People are quick to judge the movement and place labels on it, just as Occupiers are quick to judge and label those who oppose them.  But when those labels are laid out so simply, and the incongruities are able to surface, does it still make any sense?  No?  My thoughts exactly.

Iliana