BroadSnark

Thoughts on politics, religion, violence, inequality, social control, change, and random other things from an autonomous, analytical, adopted, abolitionist, anarchist who likes the letter A
Subscribe

Occupying the Narrative

November 10, 2011 By: Mel Category: Change, Violence

Kids Protesting on Bank Transfer DayDemonization of the occupy protests is in full swing now. The violence in Oakland was just what some people needed to start the narrative change that we are beginning to see. The Washington Post is running stories about occupy violence. Fox news accused occupy protestors of knocking over an old lady. (Complete bullshit, of course.) There are stories about evil drug users and sexual violence galore. Or you could just read The Heritage Foundation’s little wrap up.

I was going to write about how frustrating it is when things are going well and some buttheads come along and get into unwise confrontations, losing us immeasurable good will.  I was going to ask how we can keep clueless people or sabateurs from doing things that media will use to demonize everyone. Basically, I was going to write about how to deal with bad actors.

But that is a trap. Those things need to be discussed. We need to keep people safe, preferably without involving police. We need to block people who are out to sabatage us. But we are never going to be able to control everyone’s actions or prevent people from doing dumb things near us or in our name. We will never be able to control the national media narrative. It isn’t in their interest. Chris Hedges is right.

It is vital that the occupation movements direct attention away from their encampments and tent cities, beset with the usual problems of hastily formed open societies where no one is turned away. Attention must be directed through street protests, civil disobedience and occupations toward the institutions that are carrying out the assaults against the 99 percent. Banks, insurance companies, courts where families are being foreclosed from their homes, city offices that put these homes up for auction, schools, libraries and firehouses that are being closed, and corporations such as General Electric that funnel taxpayer dollars into useless weapons systems and do not pay taxes, as well as propaganda outlets such as the New York Post and its evil twin, Fox News, which have unleashed a vicious propaganda war against us, all need to be targeted, shut down and occupied. Goldman Sachs is the poster child of all that is wrong with global capitalism, but there are many other companies whose degradation and destruction of human life are no less egregious.

So instead I would like to focus on some of the things we are doing right, the things we need more of.

The picture above comes from what might be the cutest protest ever. A bunch of parents took their kids out for bank transfer day. Adorable children holding handmade signs telling banks to share is total win. And bank transfer day itself was a resounding success.  650,000 people joined credit unions last month, more than all of last year. Even some rich people are dumping BOA.

How many people in this country are paying rent to slumlords for unsafe buildings without heat and water? This Harlem resident marched down to Occupy Wall Street and got a cadre of protesters to help her stand up to her landlord. That is some real shit that people can get behind.

Far too many people don’t have homes at all. Many of them are staying in the same parks with occupy protesters – like this guy who seems to have found a new mission in life. As Barbara Ehrenreich pointed out, living on the street has made homelessness a little more real for many of the participants. But some are taking it to the next level and actually trying to help protect the homeless encampments that are always under attack.

There are whispers of debt strikes beginning. Bloods and Crips are now best friends. Man’s best friend is running things in Denver.

But I think my favorites have the be the direct actions in response to foreclosures. This woman re-entered her foreclosed home, with the help of some activists. Occupy Atlanta moved their encampment to a police officer’s home that is about to be foreclosed upon. And the occupy foreclosures movement looks poised to keep growing.

The media is unlikely to pick up on these things with as much relish as they do violence. So we are going to have to publicize the shit out of them ourselves. But when you have gorgeous visuals like those kids marching, or heartstrings-tugging personal stories about elderly people without heat, it isn’t very hard to get people interested in the story.

That doesn’t mean we don’t have to talk about how to deal with violence and sabatoge. It is especially important for us anarchists, who have to deal with much of the bullshit being done in our names (or at least blamed on us). It wouldn’t hurt for us to post videos of clean-up crews going in and fixing what was broken or shots of us blocking people from doing dumb shit. But we can’t let that become the predominant narrative.

So lets take the focus off of the encampments and the minor skirmishes between protesters and police (by which I do not mean ignore police brutality). Let’s get the focus back on the real conflict – everyday people banning together to fight powerful forces that they can’t stand up to on their own.

Ciao Newsrooms. I Won’t Miss You.

July 07, 2011 By: Mel Category: Change

Chris Hedges recently wrote one of those sad obituaries for newsrooms. He longs for the old timey orgs like in All the President’s Men. But I’m not buying all the chicken little stuff when it comes to news. I don’t think the death of newsrooms is such a tragedy. And I’m not just saying that because I don’t care for the “fraternity.”*

First of all, as he admits in the article, the mainstream news orgs haven’t exactly been bastions of accurate information or checks on power. And the more professionalized journalists have gotten, the more they have served the interests of other elites. Today’s ivy league, journalism/public relations, grad degree douches are a far cry from George Seldes picking up info at his corner bar.

Speaking of George Seldes. Back in the 1920s, he quit his newspaper job and went freelance because the papers weren’t any better back then than they are now. He had to turn to book writing in order to get the information out there that his editors wouldn’t release. Sound familiar? Maybe those big newsrooms Hedges laments losing never served our interests?

It is true that “newspapers sustained writers.” As someone who writes and who occasionally thinks it would be nice to not have a day job, I sympathize with how difficult it is to earn a living. But I also have very mixed emotions about getting paid for writing. The truth is that I sometimes feel like I should pay you. Seriously, some of your comments are as long as any post I ever wrote. I don’t write this blog because I think I am some kind of author(ity). I write this blog because I want to think out loud. I want to share my experiences and hear about yours. I want to have a conversation.

Should people really be paid for having an opinion? Everyone has an opinion and everyone’s opinion is important. Why should Maureen Dowd or Matthew Yglesias to get paid for their thoughts? What makes them so special? Their analysis is usually downright sad next to most of yours. And if we professionalize opinionating, where does that leave us? Maybe it is not the loss of newsrooms that is responsible for a “decline in public discourse.” Maybe it is that we abdicated our public discussion to talking heads, ivy league brats, politicians, and celebrities.

And yes, Hedges is right that the internet can be an “ideological ghetto.” But it is also very easy to get out of your ghetto. And the internet gives me a chance to challenge the ideas and information that I come across. As far as I’m concerned, the free for all and direct challenges of the internet are a better check on false information than the professional news orgs have been.

What about that “culture and ethic” that Hedges says we are losing? Doesn’t that insinuate that only reporters are capable of thinking critically, verifying facts, or having ethics? Shouldn’t we all be thinking critically? Why are we creating some special class of people who have been trained to evaluate information? Why aren’t we concerning ourselves with how all of us can up our ability to weed out the bullshit?

As to the idea that “newspapers took us into parts of the city or the world we would never otherwise have seen or visited” - Did they? Do they? Should they? We have virtually no local news in DC. I live in the capital of the mother fucking USA. It is a city where a third of adults are functionally illiterate. We have the worst infant mortality rates in the country. We have the highest AIDs rate in the country. Unemployment in some wards is 20%. But you hardly ever read about that.

You know what though. There is not one legitimate reason why a person living in Dupont needs to read about all that in a damn newspaper. I don’t need a journalist to show me what being poor and forgotten is like. I can just hop a metro a few minutes from my house and be surrounded by poverty. I don’t need a reporter and some newsprint to stand between me and what is going on. I can just go out and talk to my damn neighbors. Novel idea, eh?

And the same goes for worldwide issues. Maybe I can’t go all over the world. But I don’t really need a reporter standing between me and news from other places either. When reporters are only going to war zones as embedded journalists, what is that really telling us? Aren’t we better off focusing on getting people access to equipment and distribution mechanisms that will allow them to tell their own stories?

Hedges talks about how newspapers sent photographers out to get shots of what was going on. But do we really need photographers if we have camera phones? A newspaper photographer can’t be everywhere at once, but we can. It isn’t professional photographers that blow shit open anymore. It is amateur cameras like the one that caught the Rodley King beating. It is citizens armed with technology by orgs like Witness. I’ll take a citizen with the balls to hold their SIM card in their mouth and get the video on YouTube over a professional newspaper photographer any day.

I realize that journalism is more than just opinionating or snapping photos. I realize that investigations take a lot of time. But I don’t think the newsroom model is the only way to accomplish that. I don’t think it is the best way to accomplish that. I am not going to miss newsrooms. But I do think that we all need to think seriously about how we gather, analyze, and distribute information. And we have to be thinking about the conflict between the need for information to be free and the need for people who gather information to pay their rent.

So you all ponder that a bit. I’ve got a follow-up post going for next week. We can continue the conversation then.

__________

*A fraternity (Latin frater : “brother”) is a brotherhood, though the term sometimes connotes a distinct or formal organization and a secret society. via Wikipedia.