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October 20, 2011


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Robert Allen

Let's play a little OWS movement poker: I'll see what you learned in NYC and raise you what I learned in Des Moines Iowa, check out this Chris Farley soundalike's soapbox closer!


I don't think Doug Henwood need worry about a "flame out"; these folk are hungry and ready for a long fight.


"Imagine, Lloyd Blankfein depends on lots of people to do his dirty work. What happens when lots of them stop? When no one will drive him anywhere? When no one will tell him his schedule? When no one will prepare his food or take out his trash or fix his furnance? What if everybody is too busy occupying everywhere?"

The first rule of fight club is...


I suppose at some point you will comment on this:


I read it after reading your line "mindless grazing in social networks" in this post.

I've spent time at the Occupy Memphis site and at meetings there, etc., and I've spent time online at the Occupy Memphis website, their facebook page, and their livestream. The informational heart of Occupy Memphis is their facebook page. When at the actual flesh-and-blood Occupy site, people often check the facebook page via laptop or cellphone for the fastest access to Occupy Memphis info. It's faster for some to check their phones for a daily schedule than to walk the 30 feet over to the site schedule sign if they are at the location. And most of us intuit that the dry erase board on (actual flesh and blood) site might be wrong, but the schedule on FB is set in pixel stone and will be the standard.

One result of this interplay and the social media arch is that people who never set foot at the actual flesh-and-blood site can feel participatory in a manner the likes of which I have never seen before in social phenomenon (I reveal my fuddy duddyness here perhaps?) - to this degree anyway. At a general assembly the other night, people reported from working groups via the IM thread on the livestream page - and a person commented to me that one of the working group leaders who did this has only shown up to one of meetings in the flesh - most of his work and involvement is done via new media. I think some of the moderators look at the IM thread on the livestream when "voting" occurs at general assemblies. Thus it is hypothetically possible that one could "fully engage" in an Occupy "movement" - planning, discussion, voting, etc., without ever setting foot on site. Now that said, you're not going to have a hell of a lot of influence on GA decisions without showing up to a GA in the flesh, but still. Perhaps Memphis is unique in regard to new media participation but I doubt it. While most people flirting with Occupy via new media won't get that involved, because a high level of involvement via new media is possible, this elevates the existential power of the "vicarious" experience, even further blurring the lines between personal and vicarious political experiences.

With regard to the meetings, I was struck at how much they were like political meetings I have been a part of in more formal political venues (I used to work with the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party when I lived in Minnesota) - uberprocedure heavy. The main difference is that most Occupy people really want to reach a genuine consensus, and their is a sense of solidarity among the participants of a general assembly or working group. But as time goes on partisanship increases. The communists involved in Occupy Memphis, of whom I am one, have been getting some heat. It started online and then made its way into the in-the-flesh settings. To be fair, I have been fairly upfront online and on actual site that I don't think the Occupy movement and libertarianism share similar goals, and I have argued against libertarian moves in meetings (the "end the Fed" crap, etc.). Given time that partisanship within the movement will make the happy clappy feel of the consensus meeting model less campy.

But my experiences with this whole thing have been in backwater Memphis, which is probably idiosyncratic compared to the Occupy movement overall.

Robert Allen

Ron Paulites are the useful idiots of this movement. Some people really are that stupid. They work hard and have no clue this is an anticapitalist movement run by petty bourgeois liberals. Until they start donning jackboots and little mustaches, I say use 'em.

Jodi Dean

thanks for the comments--the different experiences are fascinating. I love the video, Bob.

Posto--what you say is really interesting. I am in the position of trying to decide whether a lot of my critiques of new media from the last decade are right, wrong, one-sided, misleading, kinda right, and/or in need of revision. The biggest revision I think I need to make is in terms of too sharply separating networked interactions from face to face interactions. At the same time, I think that the urgency, vitality, "in and for itself" aspect of face to face has been underplayed. Bluntly put, we gotta be in the streets and we gotta have enough solidarity to stick with each other when stuff on the streets gets bad. I hear you saying that in your experience, these are both reinforcing each other. That's my experience right now as well--yet I worry that the communicative capitalism in which we live wants to eat up the face to face side and make sure that we stay in our houses behind our screens.


Jodi - your reservations and concerns are mine. I'm inclined to think that this revolution has too many toys which facilitate a lack of real solidarity, which can only come from in the flesh struggle. But I'm nearly 40 years old, I don't have a smart phone, and some of the college student and young worker comrades tell me this is the way of things now, no going back. Still, I can't but wonder in what way such things commodify the movement. I have to say for myself that there have been days when I was watching my kids at home and watching Occupy Memphis on livestream. I might have packed the kids in the car and gone to Occupy on some of those occasions, but it was easier just to stay and home and have the livestream going on the computer screen. I have taken the kids down to Occupy a couple of times, but not as often as I would have had there been no livestream.

Jodi Dean

Posto -- re the Jacobin link: I think the author made the "debate" more coherent than it actually was (I haven't watched it though, so maybe it comes across differently from how it felt). I don't share the author's sense of it being dis-spiriting or going around in circles or anything like that. I think the conflict brings out the absolute urgency of the issues--I had the sense that the audience felt like this as well. I also felt like there was a strong sense in the room that OWS is crucial, new, and that tactics matter right now.

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