OWS Christmas Coup

Remember this one?

Remember this one?

“Whatever happened to Occupy Wall Street?”

People ask me this sometimes when we get to talk about activism. Many of them hardly remember anything. They recall some images of folks camping out on the squares with cardboard slogans. “Wasn’t it the autumn fashion, the year before last?”

I guess it was.

“So what happened?”

For me, it used to be pretty difficult to answer that. Occupy must have ended somewhere along the way, but I can’t say exactly what happened.

Now I know.

Occupy Wall Street ended up under the Christmas tree.

“Give the gift of spiritual insurrection, posters and canvases now available, click here to purchase”

It’s kinda curious. And in some way, everything fits. Occupy Wall Street started off with a poster, and it ended with that very same poster. Under the Christmas tree.

Now get this. During the course of the French Revolution the representative body steadily decreased in size from an assembly to a directorate, to a triumvirate. Three consuls at the head of the Republic, and one of them made the rules.

Now imagine Occupy Wall Street. There is a small cabin in the woods, upstate New York. Inside, three conspirators are gathered around a laptop, writing a letter to Santa Claus. All three of them wear Santa’s red hat. Only one of them also wears a beard. He is the Leaderless Leader. On top of their wishlist, a flying reindeer sleigh. The three conspirators dream of flying around the world and scattering star dust over the roofs. Disney/Pixar wide screen 3D. Can you see it? Can you see the houses light up, the people taking the streets? It’s the 99%! They are rising up!

No. Different cabin. Same three conspirators. They have forked hooves and a tail, the Leaderless Leader also carries horns. There is a blue haired lawyer knocking on the door. He brings his client and a contract to sign. Three little souls in exchange for every dime that can be made out of the OWS brand.

No. Different cabin. Same three conspirators. They are dressed up in grand uniform. Marshals of the People’s Republic of the 99%. The Leaderless Leader wears a bicorne. They are behind a laptop, photoshopping themselves into the hall of presidents at Disneyworld, Florida.

The Leaderless Leader is the founder, theorist, and prophet of the movement. The commandments of activism that he has brought down from the mountain to the blog are, unfortunately, written in a neo-intellectualoid dialect that isn’t meant to be understood by the 99 percent, if at all. One day, during a university occupation, the Leaderless Leader had a vision of people bringing the occupation to the squares. Maybe he thought he was the first, maybe he had never heard of Tienanmen Square.

Three conspirators. Board members of the ‘Occupy Solidarity Network’, operating occupywallst.org, the biggest megaphone of the movement.

Occupywallst.org is not, and never has been, a tool of the New York City General Assembly, or of Occupy Wall Street or the Occupy Movement as a whole. It is run by a closed affinity group of self proclaimed radicals. As an anarchist collective, they used to refrain from signing their communications with names. Until recently, when the three conspirators dropped their masks and entered the limelight as ‘founders of the Occupy movement’.

The Leaderless Leader presents an interview with Adbuster’s Kalle Lasn and himself in the New Yorker as his credentials for being an Occupy founder.

Let’s go back to the French Revolution for a sec. History as a tragedy and as a farce. When Napoleon and the other two consuls grabbed power on 18 Brumaire 1799, the revolution still held sway over France and beyond her borders. When the three OSN conspirators staged their coup, Occupy Wall Street didn’t occupy a damn thing.

So they organized a christmas sale. “Give the gift of spiritual insurrection, posters and canvases now available, click here to purchase”

Were they really serious? Did they just want to make fools out of themselves? Did they really think it wouldn’t cause a stir among those people who still feel a certain link with Occupy Wall Street? Maybe they really didn’t. And indeed, on the site there is a queer absence of negative reactions to the poster sale.

A tiny minority appropriating something that belonged to all of us, in order to sell it off. Wasn’t that what made people Occupy Wall Street in the first place? There’s irony here. Read ‘Occupy Irony’, the reaction by the people from ows.net.

It gets more hilarious. The Leaderless Leader is a former editor of Adbusters. As such, he participated in the launch of the original call to occupy Wall Street. Adbusters also created the famous poster. Over a week ago, the Leaderless Leader hacked into the Adbusters Twitter account, to protest against whatever personal resentment separated him from the magazine, and to sell their own poster.

Maybe people are underestimating him. Maybe it was all meant to be a brilliant joke, Andy Kaufman style. A spoof of the spoofers. The renegate prophet hitting Adbusters in the face with their own poster and making a buck out of it. Thus, OWS entered popculture, it consumed its 15 minutes of fame, and now it’s over. Buy the poster. Also available at Wallmart. Hang it on the wall as a memorial to what has been. Tell your grandchildren about it.

No, I fear this whole farce was serious. And even that I can understand. I have played revolution as well the last few years, whenever it was appropriate. It’s a fun game, it’s addictive, you can get carried away by it. You may start to think that what you’re doing is really important. Well, it isn’t. Nobody can predict the moment of revolution. Nobody can ‘make it happen’. Every once in a while there’s a revolutionary moment. Just like that. It won’t last long, maybe a few weeks, at most a couple of months. Then there’s pressure from the outside, struggle from the inside. The harmony breaks down, the bubble bursts, and the rest is vanity.

Vanity, my dear comrades. Give me a pulpit, give me a wooden country church, give me a gospel choir singing ‘Hallelujah!’, and I will preach! Yes I will. Sing it again. Hallelujah!

No really. I have a feeling Santa isn’t coming to town this Christmas. He’ll skip another year. Nobody will notice. Hardly anyone would even recognize Santa, without that silly beard, the red coat, the reindeer/sleigh accessories. The fact of the matter is that Santa comes to town whenever he pleases, and that’s rarely at Christmas.

I met him a couple of times, old Santa. Mostly in summer and spring. This year I saw him pouring coffee and tea for the people at Gezi Park. I have also seen him dance this year, linking together Turks and Kurds, and gay and straight and left and right and everything in between. Santa is jolly and kind. He is also a brave man. I saw him again, in clouds of gas, patiently delivering relief to people’s eyes with a spray of antidote. The last time I saw him, he was sitting in the sun, on guard of a barricade.

Outside pressure. Inside struggle. Vanity. Santa went back to the North Pole.

Will Santa still make it to town? Will the revolution be back next year? Will you give the gift of spiritual insurrection?

Posters and canvasas now available. Hallelujah! Order today, and have yourself a Merry Christmas, ho ho ho!



9 Comments on “OWS Christmas Coup”

  1. So, how do you think this whole economic justice movement we call Occupy Wall Street was supposed to work if it didn’t somehow involve changes in the economy, which involves transfers of wealth? I understand your concerns that these funds might be misappropriated, but the truth is, a movement must first accumulate or at least gain control of resources in order to re-appropriate those resources democratically and/or more justly and equitably. Let’s give Dr. White a chance and see if he makes good on his promise. And if the end result is Micah White gets rich, doesn’t help the movement, and is thus discredited, and the only positive outcome is that a bunch of occupy related art that promotes our movement is distributed all over the world thereby leaving relics for history, then so be it. Worse things have certainly happened. But, what if Dr. White really does use the income generated by the sales of our logo to finally break our movement out of its present stagnation and help it to realize its core goals and vision? Then won’t all of Dr. White’s fellow activists who may soon reap the benefits of these efforts regret having not supported one of OWS’s founders’ attempts to generate resources for the commons? I’m not saying that’s what will happen, but it could. It is also possible that Dr. White will fail when he could have succeeded in his stated goals to further our movement through this new project of his, as a direct result of excessive and perhaps unfounded cynicism and ridicule toward him by those whom he expected to be most supportive, such a failure would be celebrated by our common opponents, the 1%. Or maybe walmart will somehow benefit more than our movement by distributing our posters, but I honestly doubt that will be the case. The whole world should expect to profit from the Occupy Movement.

    “I believe that #Occupy was a “social movement IPO” – early adopters who stayed true to the path should be given stipends.” -Micah White


    Let’s hold him to his word and see if we can be of assistance.

    • postvirtual says:

      Dear anonymous contributor.

      Quit it already. You talk about this ‘Dr White’ as if he is the saviour of Occupy Wall Street, and we should be grateful to assist him on his noble quest. I don’t know him. If he wants to sell OWS posters, that’s none of my business. He can sell t-shirts and mugs for all I care. What I have a problem with is that he and his fellow ‘board members’ present themselves as the founders and leaders of Occupy Wall Street. They also seem to consider themselves guardians of the movement’s name and heritage. I am appalled by rumours that their board is trying to acquire the OWS trademark.

      Let me tell you about one of the fundamental differences between OWS and the Spanish ‘Indignado’ movement that preceded and inspired it.
      During the occupation, OWS got submerged by financial donations. This resulted in continued requests for funding from all sides, and eventually the only persisting topic in the General Assembly was ‘how to spend the money’.
      In Spain, the movement didn’t accept money at all. Only donations in kind. In Turkey, same thing. And I can tell you, as an eyewitness, that there was no shortage of anything in the camps, in the parks, on the march, and at the barricades.
      That, my brother, is revolution.

      • I was present for many meetings where we debated how to spend the donated wealth of the Occupy Movement. I only wish we still had that problem today.

        Maybe I think you should “quit it”. We should all quit bickering amongst ourselves and devote our full focus and energy to cooperatively accomplishing the will of the people and saving the environment we all depend on.

        I have a trademark of my own in the works. I intend for the vast majority of the income generated by the newspaper name and logo that I plan to trademark to go toward various socially benevolent and directly democratically governed organizations that will each be designed to accomplish one of the many specific goals of the occupy movement, such as providing affordable housing for all, initiating financial reform, establishing public assemblies whose resolutions will be recognized as democratic law, etc.

        I was a member of the Occupy Alternative Banking Group in NYC for several months, and I continue the work we began there in my new home even unto this day. I think that one of the most clear points that OWS reached consensus on was that it is essential for us to redesign and reform our economy in a way that will better serve the public interest and ensure accountability to the people, including but certainly not limited to reforming the media, publishing, banking, energy production, defense industries and production and distribution of goods. These systemic reforms will require the reformists to take part in economic activities. I’m glad to see that Micah is one of the first occupiers to do this publicly (he could have sold this poster secretly and we never would have known it if he were acting out of self-interest; he could have formed a stock corporation governed by proxies rather than a non-profit organization with his name on it). If the Occupy Movement and its supporters wield greater economic influence, this could be a good thing.

        All occupiers have a valid claim to a share of the revenues that will be generated by the sales of this poster. Rather than being paid a stipend for my contributions to Occupy (for now at least), I would prefer that my stake in our intellectual property be reinvested in an ongoing effort to transfer control of the mass-media from the billionaires to the occupy movement and other legitimate representatives of the majority of humanity through a genuinely democratic and decentralized resource allocation and accounting process.

        I firmly believe that the ENTIRE economy should be democratized, and I think that much of if not most of it should be non-profit (like the non-profit organization that these three occupy activists formed, presumably for the purpose of furthering our movement and its goals). I find it quite interesting that Micah and his associates have independently started pursuing a path that I and many other Occupy Activists are also following. Or we could be like the Founders of the U.S. and get loans from the other colonial powers to finance resistance to British rule. I would prefer that we develop an independent and sustainable method of self-funding the Movement.

        I too consider myself a founder of Occupy. But since I did almost everything that I did during Occupy anonymously, no one else could possibly proclaim my contributions other than myself and those whom I worked closely with while making these contributions. I am willing to bet that you are also a founder of the Occupy Movement, proclaimed or not. Maybe you should write Micah a call, tell him he owes you that stipend he promised us, and perhaps even offer to help him sell a few of these posters to someone who didn’t have the courage to take part in an occupy, or perhaps someone just wasn’t physically able to, but who would nonetheless be willing to buy a poster in order to support activists who are prepared to work full time and risk their own personal safety in support of the welfare of all human beings and the earth we depend on. Maybe some of your friends will put an Occupy poster under their Christmas tree, rather than a toaster, or a G.I. Joe action figure or a gift card from Chase Bank. Maybe your great grand-children will inherit one of these posters and look upon it as a symbol of the movement that saved the world from tyranny, economic slavery and environmental collapse. Maybe the Occupy Movement has just begun.

      • postvirtual says:

        Dear anonymous contributor,

        Among the core activists I met on the road in Europe, there were two very distinct kinds. Those who ask themselves a. ‘What can I do for the revolution?’ and those who ask themselves b. ‘What can the revolution do for me?’
        If there’s a moment of solidarity, the former are the ones who get things done, without bragging and without a catch, whenever or wherever it is in the general interest. The latter usually impose themselves when the apex of the moment has already passed, to grab the spoils.
        You remember Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’, right? Well, this is about the moment the pigs take possession of the mansion.
        They are the ‘early-adopters’, the Founding Fathers who stayed ‘true to the path’. They are more equal than others.
        The funny thing is that the pigs don’t seem to notice that the whole manor is in ruins. Most other animals have already migrated elsewhere. Let’s face it. Occupy started and ended over two years ago. It’s not going to be the way it was. But there will be something else. Let’s think new. On different levels, many people are working to define and realize whatever our ‘goals and visions’ were. The Occupy experience will still serve as a source of inspiration for a long time to come. It belonged to all who participated in whatever way, without distinction. There are no founders and no adopters. No leaders and no followers.
        Dr. White can sell all the posters he wants, but he has no right to pose as a representative of Occupy. If he wants to engage in serious activism or subversive revolutionary activities, it might be more prudent for him to do so anonymously as part of a collective. If he wants to be a board member, a consultant, and have himself sort of acclaimed as an Occupy figure by second rate news outlets and maybe dream of being on Letterman’s couch one day, then sure, he should do so. But he shouldn’t expect real activists to take him seriously.
        And please, don’t try to buy me, or to play my own vanity.

  2. MIKE says:

    There are Occupations still happening. Occupy Sandy did woderful things in the months following the Hurricane. Because we’re not hundreds strong, in a city park, feeding all who come, doesn’t mean for a second Occupy is gone. I just realized how silly Santa hats look on top of GF masks…

  3. Here’s the twitter status link that I tried to post in the previous message:

  4. I don’t want to buy anyone. I want essential resources to make it to our most dedicated allies so that they may do the work of the 99%. I want the wealth of Wall Street to flow back into the households of the 99%, where it belongs.

    Here’s some concerns expressed about the poster that were expressed by a fellow occupy activist:

    “1. Occupy Wall Street has no founder. 2. How did occupy function? Certainly not due to monetary donations. (Which led to competition for resources). Occupy thrived on a spirit of equity and it contracted wherever individuals appointed themselves our leaders, seized power.”

    Here are my replies:

    “1. Occupy did have founders. That’s how it got started. I know, being one of them myself. 2. The actual physical occupation of public spaces died out because we couldn’t provide food, water, shelter and safety for those who came from all over the country to participate. That would have required resources that we didn’t have. 3. It also fell apart because we bickered more at each other than we did at the 1%. Micah White is not your enemy. 4. Occupy itself was and is fundamentally a competition for resources. That’s why it took place on Wall Street. 5. Infiltrators who were opposed to Occupy did everything they could to prevent us from gaining a permanent foothold in NYC by targeting our funding and our donors. If they hadn’t been successful, we would be operating from OWS HQ right now, which could have been purchased by the movement for public use, if we’d had sufficient resources, support from our fellow occupiers and the visionary leadership necessary to create a safe base of operations for the movement. If we had done that, OWS might be running NYC by now.”

    Followed by a quote from last night’s Twitter Storm:
    “#ImpeachTheGovernment they spend more money on killing people than feeding the hungry, housing the homeless and healing the sick.” -@GeisGeoff

    And to close, here is some of my hitherto anonymous writing that I disseminated on September 13th, 2011:

    “Well, it looks like most of the organizing will happen on the ground in NYC, SF, etc. That’s just as well. It is easier to make such plans in small groups in person than anonymously online.”

    “If you live in or near an area where a protest is planned, get together the day before. Pick a coffee shop, or bar, or park, or a friend’s house and make your plan. Create picket sign slogans and go home to build the signs. Designate a leader, and talk about and clarify your message and your plan amongst yourselves.“

    “Keep in mind, this is not intended to be a one day event. Once you arrive on the 17th, the pre-established small group leaders should seek each other out and come to a consensus about how to most effectively capture the public’s attention throughout the protest, how to keep you fellow protestors safe and non-violent, and how to use this once in a life time opportunity to deliver a message that will change the world.”

    “This should be a learning experience. Leaders will emerge. Do not be discouraged if there are barriers to your success. Expect them. Learn, adapt, and overcome.”

    May the Will of the People be fulfilled, and may Occupy never die.

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