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November 2011 

Occupy Philly

Messaging Working Group

People’s Plaza

Broad St. & Market St.

Philadelphia, PA 19107 



Results and Locating Pathways to Keep Moving Forward

Within the financial industry, neoliberal doctrine informed the promotion of loose governmental regulations, encouraged speculation, and made a strong reliance on market logic appear rational; all of which resulted in the housing market bubble and bust and the subsequent financial industry collapse in 2008. In reaction to the collapse, the US government responded by resuscitating the failing private banks with public taxpayer money, channeled through the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Since the financial industry collapse and its state aided recovery, the general public within the US has had to contend with a poor economy, high unemployment, greater precariousness in the workplace, and increased amounts of personal debt and financial losses- most visibly seen in the form of homes lost to foreclosure.

Within this context, in mid-September 2011, activists descended upon Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan, New York City and established Occupy Wall St. to protest the current neoliberal informed workings of finance capital and its influence over and its immersion into the US political system. In solidarity with Occupy Wall St., similarly styled occupations were established in towns and cities nationwide, including here in Philadelphia.

In the course of forming Occupy Philly, it became apparent that many different issues were of concern to members of our community. In order to identify and address these issues, the Occupy Philly Messaging Working Group was formed. Over the course of the last few weeks the Messaging Working Group conducted surveys and compiled the resultant data. According to survey results across Local, State, National, and International categories; it was determined that the following issues were of concern to the Occupy Philly movement: Education, Economy/Jobs, Corporate/Private sector accountability, International Conflicts and Human Rights. The prevalent, persistent, and interconnected nature of these issues suggest that they are complex and not necessarily contingent upon local or state particularities; but rather, they are issues of wide concern with far reaching consequences for many people regardless of geographical location.

As we move forward and continue to explore these issues and search for solutions to our problems many fundamental questions will need to be confronted. Some of our now familiar refrains hint at these questions; “Banks got bailed out! / We got sold out!” highlights our government’s implication in re-establishing the neoliberal status quo within the financial industry, which occurred at the public’s expense- all while blind to the fact that neoliberal logic lead to the industry’s collapse in the first place. “Banks got bailed out! / We got sold out!” suggests indignation with the status quo and a strong desire for change; but, change is never easy.

Today, neoliberalism impacts nearly every facet of our society and our lives. Neoliberalism can be seen in the dominate role that corporations have assumed when it comes to influencing legislation that shapes our health care system. Neoliberalism is the driving force behind the increasing privatization of our public education system and neoliberalism fuels the proliferation of the for-profit prison system. Neoliberalism informs US foreign policy. Neoliberalism plays a role in determining how, where, and when we engage in international conflict- or if we decide to engage at all. Neoliberal logic drives the US military to apportion large amounts of its budget to private sector defense and contractor companies for their services in key military operations…

At some point it will need to be asked; do we, as a country want to continue our unambiguous support of neoliberalism’s preferment of private sector solutions to public problems? Is market logic always the best or most humane basis for decision making? Is a reliance on market logic always rational or pragmatic? How many more industries will we have to bailout after they’ve been gutted by a small few and then left in an entangled ruin? Let’s keep examining these issues and continue working towards solutions.

– FM

Black Blocs and the Clash of Ideologies

Journalist Chris Hedges wrote a piece over at Truth Dig condemning blac bloc anarchists within the Occupy Movement which can be found following the below link:

The Cancer in Occupy:

The blog over at Jacobin Magazine posted a related piece from Louis Proyect titled “Black Bloc Idiots” on February 7, 2012 which can be found here:

I left a comment over at the Jacobin blog. My reply:

“My quick take is that with the rise of individualism, decline of “real” communities, and the heavy presence/proliferation of and access to media, particularly the internet… disciplined, mass collective action is almost impossible. Moreover, the potential socio/economical stratification of the participants in mass actions will almost always be points of serious contention and will shape the course of actions.

1. I do believe that the attention and focus placed on the “anarchists” and the black bloc are overblown and intentionally sensational.

2. For whatever its worth, Chris Hedges is an elite- maybe not of the economic type but still… For the time being, I think he should have skipped over addressing this issue…

3. Ultimately, I think that you have to let people do whatever they want… Acceptance of a “diversity of tactics” to me reads “we know that we can’t control people so we are not going to try.” It would be funny though if an advocate of nonviolence decided to get all reactionary and violently respond to a black blocer.

I was reading in the Ed Noys edited Communization and its Discontents a little while ago and in an article someone made the claim that the current modes of protest and dissent harmfully gloss over and/or conceal the very real contradictions present within our society- perhaps for the sake of unity, nonviolence, long term planning, or whatever…    All of that gloss-over-work is hard and doesn’t always mean that progress is being made.

If nothing else; I say, let every contradiction stand… There’s enough concealing coming from all sides.”

Making the above all that much more interesting, David Graeber an activist, participant of OWS, and a professor of Anthropology issued an open letter to Hedges defending black bloc tactics, their history, and he expounded upon their context within OWS. A link to the open letter is posted below:

Turns out Hedges had somewhat of a reply which seems to read as if he’s trying to establish or advocate for “organization” with the movement:

CH: I put in there that they detest organization of any kind. I use part of their jargon – “feral” and “spontaneous” protest – whereby you walk down a street and nothing is planned. You walk by a window and you break it. They feel that any kind of attempt to plan immediately imposes a kind of hierarchy that they oppose. That’s in the piece. There’s a limit to expounding upon the internal – I didn’t get into primitive anarchism and all this kind of stuff. But that was certainly part of the piece. It’s precisely because they detest – there’s a line in the article that says that they are opposed to those of us on the organized left. The operative word is “organization.”

Before I move forward, I just want to add that what I think that we are seeing is an attempt to sort out all of the ideological inconsistencies that I and many other people were writting about and experiencing in the early days of OWS…

“There are no leaders…”

“We are all leaders…”


Thirty More Years of Hell

By Connor Kilpatrick on February 6, 2012

Conner Kilpatrick wrote this entertaining generational oriented survey of the past few years highlighting the more favorable conditions that older people faced in their formative years compared to current conditions faced by young people.

I wrote a reply calling for an analysis of cohort effects rather than continuing the debate over the validity of mainstream media derived generational analysis:

“If people don’t want to believe in “generations” and marketing terms like “millennials” then fine; but, you can’t deny what academics call cohort effects.  The fact is that a large number of older people within American society paid significantly less for higher education, received better job training, enjoyed better wages in relation to living expenses, and a large number of older people did discharge student loan debt and were afforded a “second chance”…

Today, many young people are experiencing the opposite of those things… and it doesn’t look like anything will change anytime soon.

Many older people are using their benefits and their ideologically informed bullshit subjectivities to advocate for the passing of the problems of our time to younger people- largely so that they can hold on to the little bit of garbage that they have and to protect their precious, private families.

The gig is up (whether people want it to be or not) because the current system is simply unsustainable…”

New Jacobin Magazine Out Now… Winter 2012

New Jacobin Magazine out… I really like this magazine… its an outlet with a perspective that  I agree with… I’ve excerpted a few key points below.

I like this sentence in regards to this past year’s protests:

The growth of precarious labor, the structuring of youth as a vehicle of debt, and massive proletarianization have pushed the imaginary onto the level of reality.

The Need for New Language:

But real debates, the clash of ideas, beyond just rosy, impressionistic reports from the front, are required now more than ever. Jacobin has managed to find writers outside the Washington Post’s op-ed circuit.  And here’s the result, an outstanding issue – largely the product of precariously employed twentysomethings. Most of whom have never even seen a print copy of the New York Review of Books. The scene a few blocks away from that esteemed office offers inspiration enough — students and workers actively engaged in class struggle. Well, the majority of the protesters wouldn’t immediately embrace a term like “class struggle.” It strikes an arcane note, at which those weary of the radical left’s sectarianism and general insanity instinctively recoil. Yet this is language that needs to be reclaimed and confidently articulated. It’s political language that might have seemed out of place during decades of dormancy, but that will be increasingly relevant in the period to come.

Stop Production:

At the center of Burns’ story is what he calls “the traditional strike,” which was the heart of trade union activity from the beginnings of labor history until its virtual disappearance after the 1970s. The crucial characteristic of the traditional strike — its sole reason for being — is that it forces capital to stop production. Although this fact may seem slightly obvious, its significance for both workers and radicals has been largely forgotten.

Say “Nope!” to hope and “Well, ok, maybe…” to real change.

I was over at the Occupy Philly Media website; posting replies and engaging in discussion. I made some points that I wanted to re-post here:


This movement is based on liberal values: egalitarianism, inclusiveness, etc… ; and ideally liberal solutions: corporate accountability, enforced regulations, a general push back against neoliberalism.

If you believe in these things; especially here in the US, you are a minority- in every sense of the word. Ever been to a party where you’re the only _____ in a room full of _____?

“We” simply don’t have the numbers. I’d put the number of people who “truly” support liberal values and solutions within this country at around a maximum of 15% -20% of the total population.

So as you can see this puts us up against a whole barrage of opposition from people who “kinda-sorta understand and agree” to people who want to “straight destroy everything and everyone who aren’t them”.

The left has no power outside of people and we lack the numbers and all the cards are stacked against us- institutions, culture; and capital that flows through everything, are all controlled and arranged in a way to ensure that they are reproduced; which has ultimately resulted in our present day situation.

I think we’re just going to have to wait until people suffer more within this country and are forced to endure austerity measures and other restrictions to the material aspects of people’s lives. Then maybe culture will change and people will be more open to working towards “different” solutions to the problems of our times.

Never underestimate the power of stubborn, cynical, and selfish assholes to keep us stuck in the same shit generation after generation.


“Part of why the movement has been so important is that it has in some ways redefined what’s possible and actually opened up a visible conversation about how our political and economic systems don’t serve the vast majority of people in this country.”

I agree. We are talking; but, none of this is new…

Over the past few decades, social science research has routinely documented the trends that we are seeing and highlighting today; income and wealth inequality, increased amounts of neoliberal informed policy, stagnant wages, increased costs of higher education, etc…

“There’s definitely some kind of a political awakening going on in this country that’s neither liberal nor conservative (I certainly wouldn’t call myself a liberal, not to knock anybody who does).  What we don’t know is how deep it runs and what kind of effect it will have in the long run.”

What brought people into the streets is directly related to the financial crisis and failed hope in Obama. The kicker is that even this was not enough to mobilize the left in a “mass” way… More suffering and hardship will probably be needed.

You are liberal by virtue of your interest in this movement; its just that the terms “liberal”/”progressive” have been so tarnished in the past few decades, due to the rise and dominance of neoconservatives and neoliberalism, that few want to take on the perceived liabilities associated with those terms. I imagine that the terms “liberal” / “progressive” will become more fashionable in the coming years as more and more people are unable to hold any identification with neoconservative or neoliberal policy- after all, you look silly talking about the health and interests of corporate America, especially considering their actions, when you have no money in your pockets, you can’t feed your kids or buy a house, etc…

What’s it all mean, What’s it all for…

Over at the Occupy Philadelphia media site I made a post attempting to provide direction. It largely went unnoticed. Who knows what the future will bring. The following is my post:

ONE ISSUE NOW!!!!!!!!!!!

This movement has jumped into a pool of big issues and we’re drowning.

Our working groups are spread too thin and they are headed in too many different directions. Direct actions have addressed many issues but our numbers are decreasing. Our encampment is experiencing precariousness. We need one issue that we can really impact here in Philadelphia.

STOP thinking about the Spokes Council restructuring…

STOP worrying about the city…

STOP talking about anything else…

Starting now, let’s use the GA to come to a CONSENSUS about what OUR one issue will be…

At the GA let’s only talk about this one issue. Let’s put CoCo on hiatus. There will be no leaders. The only thing that will matter is one issue that is bigger than any of us. We should use every non-violent tactic available to address this issue. We should show everyone the power of collective action and the strength of a unified voice. Many across the nation are in a similar situation and are waiting… Let’s start it here.

We need to create change now. We need to decide upon this one issue now.

Spread this idea. Talk about this within your working groups. Bring this up at GA.

With a small win and a real change to the status quo we will only continue to grow larger and from there we can take on additional issues and restructure as necessary…

Postmodern Protests: Now we’re all grasping at straws.

Around the middle of last month, 13 Oct. 2011, I tried to get this blogger that I follow to do a column on OWS documenting the postmodern effects seen within the demonstrations. I figured like its manifestation in other forms, the characteristics of postmodernism would be initially met with praise and viewed as emancipatory but then eventually become a cage… The blogger never picked up on my idea so I’d figured I post it here…

“… I have a post idea that maybe you could run with…  I don’t have time or an outlet… but, I’ve been attending these demonstrations in NYC and Philly and I’ve been having some thoughts.

Basically, I think you could position the Occupy Wall Street demonstration and the ones that followed across the country as postmodern protests. Comparisons can be made between the freedom in postmodernism’s break from rules and forms as an initial positive benefit, as evidenced in early postmodern art, and then later as a negative consequence or hurdle to overcome (if that’s even possible) due to a lack of grounding. The leaderless, formlessness of the demonstrations could be seen initially as a benefit; however, I can see that freedom becoming a negative in the future.

Characteristics include formlessness, indebtedness/references to the past- in terms of dress, style, and tactics (pastiche), the lack of “demands,” etc… Stifling self-awareness… and the policing of political correctness so literally every group is included… Also, there’s something to be said about the inability for the future or direction of this movement to be articulated. And you could throw in something about celebrities showing up at the park…

…I think there’s something to the protesters’ complete self-awareness with the role they’re playing and their position in the historical continuum. I’ve come across more people concerned with being a part of history or making a mark for the sake of making a mark than people who are actually strongly concerned with changing or challenging something- like the criminality of financial capitalists and their role in the financial crisis.

…and there’s also this complete techno fetishism that seems to be prevalent…”