Skilluminati Research

#Occupy Itself

Posted Oct 04, 2011 28 comments

"Since August, investigators with the Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have monitored the online efforts of activists to bring demonstrations to Wall Street." -- NYT 9-26-2011

Anthony Bologna NYPD

It's easy to write some critical theory noise about asymmetrical emergent rhizomes, and it's easy to wish the #Occupy movement was more clearly defined. Jagged edges are good, though: there's no reason it has to be simple. Media training makes soundbites easy to digest, but "easy to digest" only leads to "quickly forgotten" here in the age of Cognitive Overload. Bottom line: as an exercise in non-violent democracy, the #Occupy movement has been a fascinating success so far.

Occupy Wall Street Test Run

Despite the clear communication, advance planning and the public nature of the event, most people still have no idea what is happening. Spectators who lament the poor organization of the Wall Street protest probably don't know about the test run on September 1st, 2011. Seventeen days later, the operation was officially launched. When Wall Street failed to surrender within 24 hours, most observers declared the whole thing a failure and moved on.

David Karpf eulogized it like so: "Anarchists and radical organizers have a bit of collective amnesia with regards to the “Battle of Seattle.” The kids in black bandanas were only a very small part of the coalition that shut down the city in October, 1999. Their acts of childish violence against a Starbucks may have become the lasting public image of the event, but they were hardly representative. The bulk of that anti-globalization protest was composed of labor unions, environmentalists, and other organized progressives...The culture jammers are practicing activism-as-public-art. The community organizers are practicing activism-as-public-process. Both have their place, but we rarely spell out the differences. And they’ll lead you in very different directions."

#Occupy Itself

The Hippies Are Here

Clearly they're doing something right. Wall Street remains occupied, two weeks later, with a steady stream of celebrity guests and spectacle-worthy abuses of power. The protest has also taken on a larger scale as an open source movement around the country. This is more fascinating and more powerful than the Wall Street action itself: the moment when a movement catches fire.

It's important to decentralize quick, because a single location would be too easy to co-opt and control. In NYC, police essentially make arrests at will and are clearly making those decisions based on a strange political logic. Law enforcement attempts at containment have been a SNAFU circus so far, whether that's because of byzantine red tape complications or just internal disagreements remains to be seen. Still, Anthony Bologna provided a whole week of headlines, and for any protest action, the police are a strategic asset. The media, on the other hand, are a strategic threat.

Dylan Ratigan Getting His William Jennings Bryan On

Lawrence O'Donnell and Dylan Ratigan are not allies, they are a predator species. They are also incredibly helpful. Modern reality is fractally packed with double binds like this, and no movement can sustain the analysis paralysis of evaluating every opportunity for hidden traps. The immediate future is going to make a lot of people very uncomfortable, and that's a good thing.

There's a lot being written right now about "selling out" and "getting co-opted" but #Occupy might prove too slippery and too strong for that Nixon-era smear campaigning. Besides: do you say No to Susan Sarandon? What are we to make of change agents like Hazem Sayed showing up to the campfire? He bought a lot of headlines for just $900 bucks, back in the dark ages of March 2011, when he bribed his way to the front of the line for an iPad2 at a media-saturated "Launch Event" -- it worked then, too:

Hazem Sayed #OccupyWallStreet

Terrence O'Brien"Intrigued by the man who was willing to pay so much money just to get to the front of the line, reporters began lining up to talk to Sayed, who wasted no time plugging his company, [whatever], and its latest app, [whatever]"

Now he's hyping up Vibe, a "smartphone messaging platform" that posts anonymous messages to localized lists. These messages can be set to disappear minutes or hours later, allowing for real time communication about police actions and logistics problems. Sayed made the tech news again for flying out to the Wall Street occupation with flyers about his free application. It's a beautiful application of stigmergy -- the ordering principle that keeps ant hills running like armies. No matter what you might think of Sayed's marketing intentions, his model is a smart one for protest situations and his technology has proven useful.

#OccupyWallStreet OODA Loop Stigmergy

There's going to be a lot of odd contributions like that. Expect more assistance from the Grey Zone -- self-promoters, ideological lunatics, shady billionaire types -- as any serious national movement gets off the ground. That's going to be unavoidable. Or at least, just as unavoidable as internet commentators declaring the movement "dead" because someone suspect gets involved. What if Adnan Khashoggi is caught writing checks? I think that the #Occupy movement can and will survive that...and no matter what, it will certainly be a weird year from here.

There's a lot being written right now about what the #Occupy movement must do. What it should be, where it all needs to go. Yet somehow, everything that looked like a mistake at first has unfurled into an advantage. All any single #Occupy cell needs to do is hold their ground for another night, and plan to make tomorrow bigger and better. It's easy to write a sneering caricature of a Tea Party rally, but it's interesting to note how many reporters wrote mocking hit pieces on the Wall Street crowd that all wound up being completely different. It's hard to get a bead on where the consensus is -- but the occupation itself is the whole message. Nobody on Wall Street is confused about what it means, at least.

Anonymous vs. Anonymize

#OccupyWallStreet Group Consensus Meeting

The Anarchists sing beautiful songs, but make no mistake: there is a management team in the mix.

Malcolm Sacks: "I'm hesitant to say that it's non-hierarchical, that there's no leadership, because I do really think that there's a core of people – the media and press team – who are doing a lot of the organising and shaping the public image. We tried to talk to one of the media folks about the problem of there not being people of colour, and the problem of people of colour not necessarily feeling comfortable participating, and there was resistance on their part to acknowledge that. They deflect criticisms by saying, 'if anybody want's to get involved they can get involved. If they want to be represented, they just come and they can do it too.' I think it's denying the real power dynamics that are at play now." Be Brave. Ask Questions.

"I Am the 99%" is powerful stuff, and it's also a heavy responsibility. There are a huge amount of voices to be taken into account to justify rhetoric like that. Building consensus is a whole different box of tools than organizing protests, it's true. That doesn't necessarily mean that some folks in Topeka, Kansas need to read up on Saul Alinsky in order to start a local #Occupy chapter. The room for mutation is a big part of what makes this phenomenon so interesting. As Burroughs croaked: "Any number can play."

Still, giving advice on "building successful movements" is dishonest. It all boils down to the same tautologies in a numbers game -- the further your movement spreads, the more leverage you'll have. That's not unlike Wall Street's advice for the unemployed and foreclosed: the key to making more money is just increasing your monthly income. There's a lot of free advice out there, and none of it is much more helpful than that.

#Occupy will become what it will. All that's left is waiting and watching and holding the square.


St. Marshall McLuhan

Because we always quote McLuhan here:

PLAYBOY: How does such environmental programing, however enlightened in intent, differ from Pavlovian brainwashing?

McLUHAN: Your question reflects the usual panic of people confronted with unexplored technologies. I’m not saying such panic isn’t justified, or that such environmental programing couldn’t be brainwashing, or far worse — merely that such reactions are useless and distracting. Though I think the programing of societies could actually be conducted quite constructively and humanistically, I don’t want to be in the position of a Hiroshima physicist extolling the potential of nuclear energy in the first days of August 1945. But an understanding of media’s effects constitutes a civil defense against media fallout.

Marshall McLuhan | Skilluminati Research

Filed in: Future Tech

Next entry: Notes on the #Occupy Media Teams

Previous Entry: James Angleton | 7 Types of Ambiguity


Sorry, but the comments for this entry have expired.

  • 1. Oregon Osho on Oct 05, 2011 at 12:03 AM permalink

    Thanks for not wasting anyone’s time with your advice! I think?

    Probably got that link from you.

  • 2. DeadlyGrim on Oct 05, 2011 at 12:59 AM permalink

    I can’t deny the Pavlonian thrill I get from seeing somebody agree with me.

    I was getting really annoyed with people continually announcing that #Occupy was dead already. I guess because they were viewing it like it was just another Tea Party protest or something. In many ways, the point of the movement is to just stay there as long as possible - like a black mass of tar that you can’t scrape off. The protests stay there, they continue to rile up the cops by their very existence, and the media keeps trying to figure it out. Which is great ‘cause as long as it’s a mystery to the media, the media will report on what’s happening but they won’t have a strong enough narrative to start interfering with it.

    Should be interesting.

  • 3. PW on Oct 05, 2011 at 2:48 AM permalink

    The battle in Seattle occurred in November, 1999, not October.

    Viva N30! Occupy Together!

  • 4. Caleo on Oct 05, 2011 at 11:34 AM permalink

    Well, it doesn’t take much to impress you guys, does it?
    You are making way too much out of this.
    Theoretically, “occupying” Wall Street is a great idea, as is upending the pernicious influence the brokers/bankers exert on the economy, and our lives.
    But these are the wrong people to do it.
    As far as I can tell, a combination of children of privilege who realized their degree in Ethnic/Womens/Queer Studies is worthless and they are now in debt for the rest of their adult lives, and that DEEPLY offends them. Like, really OFFENDS them, dude.
    The rest are the usual leftist rabble that attends gatherings like this.
    Anytime you have a group talking about representing all races, and talking about being inclusive, you know it’s ALL WHITE. Or at least 99.5 %.
    After perusing the stated goals of several of these groups, it’s fascinating that they align almost perfectly with the stated globalist goals of Wall Street elites.
    These poor souls mean well, but they do not represent 99% of the population.
    Mr. thirtyseven, you’ve created an amazing resource here, but you’re jumping on the bandwagon of a train that has no wheels.

  • 5. Thirtyseven on Oct 05, 2011 at 11:54 AM permalink

    I resent the fuck out of your assertion that this was cheerleading or bandwagon-jumping just because I’m not actively sneering at these people. Let ‘em live, let it breathe.

  • 6. Queer Studies on Oct 05, 2011 at 12:05 PM permalink

    “these are the wrong people to do it.”

    Totally misses the point. You’ll be splitting hairs and waiting for the “right” movement years from now, Caleo. Good thing you have a safe environment here online to pass judgements without consequences!

    Think Utility value. Priveleged white kids are holding that ground because who else has the time? I double dare you to come down here and talk to the people here during the day. You say

    “As far as I can tell”

    But how far is that? Really. Come down here.

  • 7. Clausewitz on Oct 05, 2011 at 12:20 PM permalink

    The opening quote was quite a find. I am also surprised you’re not going to touch the possibility that Vibe, Hazem Sayed’s curiously free product, is a honeypot operation.

    My takeaway from this is that you find this ad-hoc “movement” compelling because it breaks so many assumed rules and survives anyway?

    I will agree with Caleo on one point. Doesn’t take much to impress you. Compared to Latin American or EU protests, this doesn’t even qualify as organized.

    One point I will agree with you, though, is the “wait and see” part. Something significant is happening beneath the circus antics and white whine. I’m watching.

  • 8. Thirtyseven on Oct 05, 2011 at 12:38 PM permalink

    I assume it was a Honeypot, intentional or compromised, but I just didn’t want to sound paranoid.

    As for being easily impressed, I refer people to this for a reminder of how low the bar is set in 2011:

    This is Americans we’re talking about. A protest event in NYC has gotten labor organizers, hippie anarchists, and Ron Paul supporters hanging out and talking logistics. I find that very interesting and hopeful.

    Saying it will collapse is a rational, safe conclusion and I agree with you 100%. I also happen to think it will collapse again and again, all over the country in the next month or so, and the model is open enough to accommodate that. I find that very interesting and helpful, in terms of studying #WhatWorks.

  • 9. Eric on Oct 05, 2011 at 1:18 PM permalink

    Failure is pretty much guaranteed and required to learn anything of value.

    *Organizers don’t have as much experience as people in other countries. Once again, if you succeed too often you have set the bar far too low.

    *The people they draw from is nowhere near as community oriented as Europe/Latin America, this is one of the biggest gaps in making anything happen. People in America love the Bootstrapper/Cowboy/Pioneer image that comes with people who make a shit load of money. “If you are so smart, why aren’t you rich?” wouldn’t fly in France.

    *In other countries sticking out like that is strictly taboo, here it is seen as a virtue. If you make the WallStreet douches look less like industrious predators with huge mansions and super model girlfriends and more like boring bureaucratic parasites you’ll do much better. Polarization has it’s limits in use, otherwise you end up making a bunch of idiots into a brand name like the US did with Al Qaeda.

    *People are broke and want an escapegoat. The economy is undergoing a massive transition and/or collapse and most people can’t adapt to it on their own. If anything, I’m impressed by how many people have turned out using such a broad appeal without any clear benefit or guarantee. This means there is a high demand and a lot of angles that can be taken to increase turn out/conversion by each demographic group.

    *I can see overall that the movement has moved on from the “Great Idea” phase into the testing phase. The faster it can fail and adjust the faster it will become effective and outcompete larger/slower organizations.

  • 10. Caleo on Oct 05, 2011 at 2:22 PM permalink

    In response to thirtyseven, I’m sorry you took offense.
    To Queer Studies, I live in NYC, I’ve been involved in various forms of activism here for 20 years. I’ve been downtown, and AS FAR AS I CAN TELL, this is a combination of the usual suspects I’ve seen at various happenings for 20 years, and a whole lot of upper middle class, deeply offended white kids that are hard to tolerate for more than 15 minutes at a time.
    I will certainly let em’ live and let it breathe.
    If this scrub brush eventually catches a stray spark and starts a real fire, I will gladly admit I was completely full of it.
    After 20 years of this stuff, I can’t help it that I’m jaded. I’ve seen this process, with many of the same characters, play it self out dozens of times.
    I really hope i’m wrong.

  • 11. Thirtyseven on Oct 05, 2011 at 2:44 PM permalink

    Heh, I know the feeling. Amen. Are there any techniques, technologies, or demographics that do give you hope?

  • 12. Caleo on Oct 05, 2011 at 3:44 PM permalink

    I always try to mine a sliver of hope, no matter how deep into the cavern we are.
    That being said, I feel the U.S. produces a degree of atomization and hyper individualism that is hard to overcome.
    It also doesn’t help that a huge percentage of the population is simply still too comfortable.
    Compare us to Greece, for example. The sheer size, volume and ferocity of the protests in Greece is heartening, or stunning, depending on your perspective.
    The major, obvious differences being that a large section of Greek society is feeling the pressure directly, and they can anticipate a lot more pain where that came from.
    The Greeks are also, no matter what their social standing, a part of the same tribe.
    They are one huge, extended family, and a family that is used to making noise and having your sisters and brothers and cousins back you up.
    I’m of Southern Italian ancestry, and I appreciate the manner in which a deep immersion in one’s tribal affiliation can help strengthen one’s resolve.
    As far as I see it, the U.S. is too atomized, and the tribes that many Americans affiliate themselves with, based on politics or music or fashion, are too fleeting to give much strength to a national coalition. Too many conflicting identities. I read a lot from both sides of the political spectrum, and both sides resolutely despise each other. If there was an underlying ethnic identity that everyone shared, like Greece, I’d feel more hopeful.
    All that being said, I was in NYC on 9/11, and the severity of the situation made folks of every persuasion pull together in a way that I have never seen before, or since.
    Sorry to blabber on and on, but I think it will have to get much worse before large segments of the populace put aside their petty grievances and create a true national dialogue about the forces that are manipulating us so successfully.
    Everyone has to feel the heat.

  • 13. pan on Oct 05, 2011 at 8:31 PM permalink


    Its pretty rare that a leftist will acknowledge non-minority ethnic solidarity as being a driving social dynamic/a unit of social organization, I’m impressed.


    I dont quite grasp the relation of that McLuhan quote to OWS, any hints?  My best guess is that you’re waiting to see what tactics and tools the media will bomb OWS with?

  • 14. Thirtyseven on Oct 05, 2011 at 9:36 PM permalink

    Just that I suspect the costs of being Media Slick outweigh the benefits by a wide margin.

  • 15. Snorky on Oct 06, 2011 at 1:19 PM permalink

    I attended several large demonstrations in the US in recent years and drew the following conclusions:

    1. The demonstrations are stage-managed by a handful of people to result in nothing of consequence happening.  250,000 people show up in NYC to “protest” the RNC.  Most of them have no expectations as to what will happen, and are basically led around in a giant circle . . . and then dispersed by people they do not know and have never met before, people who claim the right to “lead” them, and whom they do not question.  Some guy from UFPJ says we should come to a protest!  Okay… Now he says we should leave!  Okay…

    2. The cards are so tactically and strategically stacked in favor of the establishment, its hilarious.  The “protesters” aren’t even confronting the establishment avatars, merely low-level wage-slave grunts.  The “protesters” aren’t “allowed,” by custom, convention, and ideology, to do anything other than impotently “protest” by waving around a sign, and even this requires a permit, or else the “protester” risks breaking the law.  The low-level wage-slave grunts, on the other hand, are allowed to pull every dastardly trick in the book, consequence free.  At worst, the police department will get sued, and have to fork over a few million in tax-payer dollars.  The cops can beat the “protesters” up and put them in the hospital, possibly crippling them for life.  They can tear-gas them, arrest them, put them in a cage, charge them with trumped up non-offenses to keep them in the cage longer, etc. etc.  The unspoken fact is, they can probably kill the protesters at any time with little consequence.  Protesters are killed all over the world where things are WAY more desperate than in the US, and nothing much happens other than maybe a cop or two is killed in response, but what does the Establishment care?  Plenty more of those to recruit to fill any gaps in the ranks.  People talk about the occasional “success” that happens in some far-flung country as if there were no such thing as (Western) intelligence agencies, who use these things as window dressing on their black ops to legitimize various regime changes and make them look like a product of popular revolt, all to legitimize tactics that simply don’t work in most circumstances.

    3.  The “protesters” don’t know why they are there or what they are doing, not really.  If they knew, they would call themselves “demonstrators,” and not the FOX News psyop term “protester.” What do protesters do?  They impotently protest against the inevitable, and look ridiculous in the process.  What do demonstrators do?  They demonstrate that they have numbers, can mobilize, can act in the real world in ways that would have unpleasant consequences to the Establishment.  That’s what a demonstration is about . . . it’s a demonstration of force, physical force.  The police and the military always use the term “show of force” and it is understood what is meant.  Not so the “protesters.” The police know they are there to demonstrate.  The “protesters” do not.

    Note:  I’m not saying that the people should physically attack the police.  I don’t think that would accomplish much.  It makes no sense to attack the enemy where he is strong, only where he is weak.  And I also don’t think violence towards humans would help much either.  The system recuperates violence towards itself as “terrorism,” which then results in all rules, however illusory, being suspended in the name of prosecuting a war, and not a mere criminal.  But, my god, one would think that after 10 years of failed impotent gestures, someone would finally wake up and actually do something that actually causes a real problem, other than allowing the police to accrue overtime.

  • 16. Eartha Klitt on Oct 07, 2011 at 12:42 AM permalink

    I’m surprised you are into nonviolence after all the 5GW material I have read by you.

  • 17. Eric on Oct 07, 2011 at 9:05 AM permalink

    Part of the reason people keep going back is the rush and bonding that happens under stress. It’s part of the reason people up for another tour in Iraq despite the fact they know they won’t change anything and won’t get paid for shit. It’s very primal and emotional, not goal oriented.

    Money is their blood, the protesters haven’t drawn enough yet. Word is the NYPD has spent about 1 million to a 50,000ish investment by protesters. The NYPD has been hurting for cash just like all other police forces since the recession started.

    If you can scale that up, you can hurt their economy even more. You may end up with an investment that is much higher, like spending half instead of matching 5% of their investment. 2:1 to an incredibly profitable attack if you actually have some kind of game plan. Eventually Wall Street would have to either outright fund the police or hire private security to take over or bring in the National Guard. NYPD has 34,000ish uniformed officers. Protesters, assuming they are 250,000, have 7 times as many people there. The NYPD cannot easily train and recruit people, their rate of replacement is much lower compared to the protesters.

    There isn’t going to be a magic golden light and a “Mission Accomplished” banner fly down from the sky telling you that you’re on the right track. It’s matter of understanding resource management.

    Executive Police Budget, NYC 2012 (includes number of uniformed officers):

    But you can’t become a veteran in a month. This swarm concept, democratic non violent warfare, is so unprecedented that you shouldn’t expect it to work outright no matter how novel it is.

  • 18. Eric on Oct 07, 2011 at 9:11 AM permalink

    By the way, how many people are there? I’ve heard the number has gone up but I can’t nail it down to a ballpark figure. It seems like you could pull any given number out of your ass and it could be the total, given how many people sympathize with them and passively support them.

  • 19. Roach on Oct 07, 2011 at 11:17 AM permalink



  • 20. Snorky on Oct 07, 2011 at 1:00 PM permalink


    The NYPD is near the state of the art when it comes to handling protesters with kid gloves.  Compare them to the Saudi police, who actually just killed a bunch, or the Miami police, who fired rubber bullets at old ladies and hit them in the face.

    Millions or even billions is chump change to the monied elite; they can always defund some perpetually underfunded public works program to pay off the police, or even incrementally raise taxes in some areas. They can also ratchet up the penalties of attending these protests.  For example, they can increase the arrest ratio, increase the detention time, add offenses, ratchet up the violence a couple of notches, and make attending the protest a more unpleasant experience, and less of a carnival.

    @Eartha Klitt

    Warfare doesn’t have to be violent.  Sun Tzu says the acme of skill is subduing the enemy without killing anyone, not scorching the earth beneath their carcasses.

  • 21. hey yo on Oct 13, 2011 at 12:24 AM permalink

    keep on rapping. i love your flows. fuck the mainstream, no humans allowed.

  • 22. Thirtyseven on Oct 13, 2011 at 2:05 PM permalink

    I didn’t stop.

    Glad you dig the album, though.

  • 23. Brother Blue on Oct 15, 2011 at 7:48 PM permalink

    Thanks for all of your work, Justin. We see you.

  • 24. Alkemical on Oct 18, 2011 at 2:30 PM permalink

    Keep up the good work. I went and attended my local #Occupy just to scope it out. Wasn’t like what the news reports show it to be. Much different in my area. Our city is also bankrupt and we have a Gov. Trying to sell off state lands for Frac’ing.

    I’m looking to try to help the local groups focus on some local/state issues as well.

    I’m all for changing the culture of Wall St. - But I also see many opportunities to improve the local ecology.

    I’ve injected a “local currency” into the local group - asked them to “pass it on” through channels to try to get some Occupy bucks - maybe increase the sustainability and offer an example of a solution to the problem(s).

    Nothing like a case study to prove the benefit?

  • 25. Eric on Oct 20, 2011 at 5:23 PM permalink

    Yeah, my local one was rather small given the size of the city. Like 12 people in sleeping bags, some tents and shit. The number varies day by day, depending on what issue that push.

    By god, you hippies might just get away with having a laundry list of thousands of problems on an agenda AND a “movement”. I still have no idea what this shit really is though.

  • 26. Jason on Oct 11, 2012 at 1:00 PM permalink

    All I’ve been seeing of occupy toward the end of 2012 is infighting and leftist bickering. Anarchists arguing about Anarchism.

    Where do you think the cutting edge went?

  • 27. Thirtyseven on Oct 13, 2012 at 7:02 PM permalink

    Hopefully into building front corporations, compounding pharmacies, consulting firms, Unitarian churches, splinter cells, security contracting firms, training groups, record labels, coffee shops, a thousand plateaus for everyone.

    There’s many thousands of interesting people who leveled up, or just cut their teeth, in the forges of #Occupy. I look forward to the next fitness landscape—and I’m betting Adbusters will not be remotely involved.

  • 28. Lakota on Dec 23, 2012 at 3:48 AM permalink

    When you said you liked the “OCCUPY UNMASKED” movie were you being facetious? You know that is Breitbart, right?

Commenting is not available in this weblog entry.

Skilluminati Innovation Patterns