Eyewitness to History!
Hanging out with Spooky the anarchist, Amy the gender-bender, Sid the Nazi, and other occupiers of Wall Street.
Oct 17, 2011, Vol. 17, No. 05 • By MATT LABASH
Besides, he likes it here. When not sleeping in the park with the others, he can go catch z’s at this all-night bar in Brooklyn, where he also checks his email and catches up with the virtual Revolution. Between all the Tweeting and blogging and livestreaming, it almost feels like you’re missing something if you’re actually here. For instance, at the park, the only musical entertainment I get is a few bad lute players and a constant band of drum circlers (one lets me sit in on conga, so that I can feel the very heartbeat of the movement). Whereas back home, I could watch Peter Yarrow get livestreamed while singing “Puff the Magic Dragon” during his visit to the Protester World Experience—with special lyrics about pirates actually being stock traders. Peter Yarrow! Of Peter, Paul and Mary! It’s like old times. Better than old times, since you can now get blown by the Winds of Change without even leaving the house.
If you want to actually see and hear the Revolution, the worst place to be is at it. (Though if you want to smell it—with no available showers, the park reeks of stale sweat socks and hummus gone bad—then you’re better off on the ground.) There’s even a “media center” in the square, where all the OWS revolutionaries sit at laptops, their nest of wires covered by tarps, so that they don’t miss a thing. Though sometimes the technology can feel invasive.
The reason Spooky won’t remove his mask, he tells me, isn’t that he’s being a good anarchist or that he plans to break windows at Bank of America across the street, though maybe he should, as they’ve just imposed new $5 fees for debit-card transactions. It’s all these damn Tweeting, livestreaming stalkarazzi. “I don’t want to get my face posted on Twitter,” he says. “I don’t like bad PR.”
Like most trouble in the world, this trouble started with Canadians. Specifically, the Vancouver-based anticonsumerist magazine Adbusters, which launched the initial call for protest in July. The protests began in mid-September, then for the most part organically mushroomed, picking up along the way the usual suspects: Anonymous hacktivists, Michael Moore, the Service Employees International Union. Adbusters is also responsible for headline-generating gimmickry such as “Buy Nothing Day,” “TV Turnoff Week,” and “mental environmentalism”—which sources close to Wikipedia tell me holds that “our minds can be polluted by infotoxins.”
After reading Occupy Wall Street’s literature, which could make Karl Marx want to become a hedge fund manager, I’m starting to think Adbusters was onto something on that last count. What exactly the OWS movement wants has been the source of great puzzlement. With all their talk of being nonhierarchal and having no official spokespeople, it’s difficult to get straight answers. Aside from the disparate responses I get from nearly every single person I ask (they want a millionaire’s tax, an end to capital punishment, modernized infrastructure, and so on), a single placard I see at the activists’ encampment perfectly illustrates the grab-bagginess of it all: “Close Corporate Tax Loopholes, Tax Religious Groups, End the Wars, Legalize Weed, and Bring Back Arrested Development.”
But on one of OWS’s many affinity-group websites, they did take a stab at quasi-officially listing their grievances. Get a snack. This will take a while. They are gathering, they say, to “express a feeling of mass injustice” on behalf of “all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world.” They are against corporations, which have not only taken your houses “through an illegal foreclosure process” and taken “bailouts from taxpayers with impunity,” but also “perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation.”
Corporations have additionally poisoned the food supply through negligence, profited off the torture of animals, held students hostage with college-loan debts, sold our privacy as a commodity, used the military to prevent freedom of the press, outsourced labor, blocked alternative sources of energy, covered up oil spills, kept people misinformed by controlling the media, created weapons of mass destruction to get government contracts, and perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad while participating in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.