|But, but, but... aren't we all supposed to be peace loving vegans?|
Caption by me, cartoon by Mike Armstrong
No sooner had the panel finished opening remarks last night than a woman scampered up onto stage and yelled, "Mic check!" It was an orchestrated effort by several dozen activists to use the People's Mic to interrupt a forum at Town Hall—a forum in favor of Occupy Wall Street, featuring three wonks and three activists from Occupy Seattle. Their stunt replaced what was supposed to be an informed discussion of the movement with an uninformative, shout-a-thon about process that consumed most of the evening. They booed opinions they disagreed with and drove supporters out of the building.
"I walked in supportive and left unsupportive," said 69-year-old Mary Ann, who declined to provide her last name. "I’m turned off by the negative shouts, repetition, and all I can think about is a cult. And I believe in every one of their damn principles."
The panel had been introduced explaining the process it was going to follow before being introduced. However, the mic check people objected to the "power dynamic created by speakers on stage talking into microphones".
A vote was held as to whether to follow the original procedures or the General Assembly style procedures of people's mike, uptwinkles and what-not. The General Assembly style lost the vote. However, that was not the end of it:
By a show of hands, Nick Licata—the moderator, who some activists later claimed was a proxy for the partisan political establishment—determined the activists had been outvoted. The event would proceed as a planned, right? The activists refused to lose. They demanded another vote and even insisted that, before we could vote again, they would first explain how a General Assembly worked. So for 15 minutes, the activists read the rules and we repeated them back.
"Assembly time is precious," the man yelled without a hint of irony. "Assembly time is precious!" we all yelled back, wasting precious time.
Then they insisted that everyone discuss the issue among their neighbors. If people opposed, they were drowned out by the people's mic. So we talked about their proposal. One activist slept on the floor in front of the stage, spread eagle. The place reeked of BO. A man next to me worked through half a tin of chew. Eventually, we took another vote and activists demanded a count by hand.
It was 8:30 p.m. at this point, one hour after the event began, and we'd only heard opening statements. The forum was supposed to conclude by 9:00 p.m. "We have only a half hour left," Licata announced. "This is very interesting."
Needless to say a number of the people who came to hear the original panel discussion were furious over the turn of events. The article was written by somebody sympathetic to the Occupy movement. One of his closing remarks in it was:
Let's think if the tables were turned: These activists would be outraged if Town Hall set up a stack of speakers at the General Assembly and blasted them with an amplified panel discussion. It was equally selfish to destroy the panel with their People's Mic.
And no, neither he nor the numerous progressive commenters to the article saw the huge irony in that statement. I'll just pull one of the comments, #67 by seandr, as an example:
OWS started out with broad appeal, but the shortsighted and completely arbitrary theme they picked to symbolize the movement - occupying various public spaces - meant that as time passed and the weather grew cold, the movement would dwindle to the self-marginalized lefty fringe, homeless people, and junkies.
It would be nice to see this energy and organization transform into other forms of activism, such as disrupting conservative political functions and getting out the lefty vote, but that seems unlikely.
The article and the comment thread are an interesting read, and well worth your time. What frequently jumps out is that while they are livid over the small group that wrecked havoc on their meeting by trying to dominate it via screaming, chanting and intransigence, not a one of them connect the dots that this is what they do to others.
So close, and yet so far.