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Pre-Occupied: The origins and future of Occupy Wall Street

Mattathias Schwartz, New Yorker
Kalle Lasn spends most nights shuffling clippings into a binder of plastic sleeves, each of which represents one page of an issue of Adbusters, a bimonthly magazine that he founded and edits. It is a tactile process, like making a collage, and occasionally Lasn will run a page with his own looped cursive scrawl on it. From this absorbing work, Lasn acquired the habit of avoiding the news after dark. So it was not until the morning of Tuesday, November 15th, that he learned that hundreds of police officers had massed in lower Manhattan at 1 A.M. and cleared the camp at Zuccotti Park. If anyone could claim responsibility for the Zuccotti situation, it was Lasn: Adbusters had come up with the idea of an encampment, the date the initial occupation would start, and the name of the protest—Occupy Wall Street. Now the epicenter of the movement had been raided. Lasn began thinking of reasons that this might be a good thing.

Lasn is sixty-nine years old and lives with his wife on a five-acre farm outside Vancouver. He has thinning white hair and the small eyes of a bulldog. In a lilting voice, he speaks of “a dark age coming for humanity” and of “killing capitalism,” alternating gusts of passion with gentle laughter. He has learned not to let premonitions of apocalypse spoil his good mood.
(28 November 2011 edition)
Long piece. -BA

The HIDDEN logic of the Occupy Movement

John Robb, Global Guerrillas
… It appears that Occupy’s extreme non-violence/passivity has finally generated a social system disruption. Videos and pictures showing policemen using violence against passive protesters have gone viral (UC Berkeley students, Grandma, and open mouth were the leading examples). Stories about this violence are now sweeping the media (7,910 news stories over the last 24 hours). Is this going to have a strategic effect?

Let’s look at this from the late, great American strategist John Boyd’s perspective. The dynamic of Boyd’s strategy is to isolate your enemy across three essential vectors (physical, mental, and moral), while at the same time improving your connectivity across those same vectors. It’s very network centric for a pre-Internet theoretician.

… Using John Boyd’s framework as a guide, this media disruption did have an effect across all three vectors:

  • Physical. No isolation was achieved. The physical connections of police forces remained intact. However, these incidents provided confirmation to protesters that physical filming/imaging of the protests is valuable. Given how compelling this media is, it will radically increase the professional media’s coverage of events AND increase the number of protesters recording incidents.
  • Mental. These incidents will cause confusion within police forces. If leaders (Mayors and college administrators) back down or vacillate over these tactics due to media pressure, it will confuse policemen in the field. In short, it will create uncertainty and doubt over what the rules of engagement actually are. IN contrast, these media events have clarified how to turn police violence into useful tools for Occupy protesters.
  • Moral. This is the area of connection that was damaged the most. Most people watching these videos feel that this violence is both a) illegitimate and b) excessive. Watch this video UC Davis Chancellor Katehi walking from her building after the incident. The silence is eerie.

John Robb is an author, an entrepreneur, and a former USAF pilot in special operations.
(20 November 2011)

How Students Landed on the Front Lines of Class War

Juan Cole, TruthDig
The deliberate pepper-spraying by campus police of nonviolent protesters at UC Davis on Friday has provoked national outrage. But the horrific incident must not cloud the real question: What led comfortable, bright, middle-class students to join the Occupy protest movement against income inequality and big-money politics in the first place?

The University of California system raised tuition by 9 percent this year, and the California State University system upped tuition by 12 percent. The UC system is seriously contemplating a humongous 16 percent tuition increase for fall 2012. This year, for the first time, the amount families pay in UC tuition will exceed state contributions to the university system.

University students, who face tuition hikes and state cuts to public education, find themselves victimized by the same neoliberal agenda that has created the current economic crisis, and that profoundly endangers democratic values.
(22 November 2011)

Bloomberg, Kelly Finally Piss Off The Media; Furious Letters Being Written

Graham Rayman, Running Scared (blog), Village Voice
The Bloomberg administration is being targeted by the media right now for the NYPD’s banning and arresting of reporters during last week’s expulsion of the Occupy Wall Street tent city.

In a letter signed by media companies and press groups, New York Times lawyer George Freeman accuses the police department of violating its own media procedures. The letter demands a meeting with Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and his spokesperson, Paul Browne.

After the jump, quotes from the letter, the curious statements from City Hall, and why press passes are useless in this city.

The letter cites a series of encounters between the media and the police during the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. Among the bullet points are the ban on the press from covering the raid on Zuccotti Park, the arrests of reporters, and several instances where reporters were shoved to the ground and verbally abused.

“The police actions of the last week have been more hostile to the press than any other event in recent memory,” the letter states.

Worse yet, the letter notes that the NYPD has ignored three previous letters on these issues dating back months. Can you say “no accountability?”

Bloomberg’s people justified the ban by saying they were “protecting the safety” of reporters. Nanny state rhetoric that shouldn’t have been uttered with a straight face. Another claim was that reporters were just trespassing like the protesters. Also, patently ridiculous.

… Here’s a secret: that special access isn’t coming. The NYPD press operation is not there to serve the media. It’s there to protect the mayor and the police commissioner. The tactics in Zuccotti Park didn’t come out of the blue. They are part of a pattern of reducing press access that goes back to 1995 and the Giuliani years, that Bloomberg and Kelly have continued and made even more restrictive. On a routine basis, the department refuses to release public records, ignores requests for information, fails to respond to emails, etc., etc., and incredibly, the press lets them get away with it.

The press corps might be smarter to simply assume zero access and develop other methods of getting information. Life is too short, after all.
(21 November 2011)

Biggest Week Yet for Occupy Wall Street Coverage

Jesse Holcomb, Pew Research Center,
A series of police crackdowns resulted in the biggest week of Occupy Wall Street media coverage since the protests began two months ago. And for the second week in a row, the stunning sexual abuse scandal at Penn State University registered as the No. 2 story in the nation.

Last week, the U.S. economy was the No. 1 story at 22% of the newshole, with the majority of that coverage focused on the confrontations between protesters, law enforcement, and the city governments that preside over the public spaces that have become encampments. All totaled, the Occupy Wall Street story accounted for 13% of the overall newshole during the week of November 14-20, according to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

That coverage marked a major spike from the week before when media attention to the protests had dropped to just 1% of the newshole. It surpassed even the week of October 10-16, when the protests, largely focused on income inequality, filled 10% of the newshole as the demonstrations expanded around the country and partisans began turning it into a major political issue.

News about the demonstrations unfolded dramatically last week, as Occupy sites in Oakland, Portland and other cities were cleared by law enforcement, precipitating a spike in arrests and several injuries. And coverage really took off when New York’s Zuccotti Park, the birthplace of the movement, was cleared of encampments for cleaning on Tuesday, November 15.
(20 November 2011)