Monday, December 26, 2011

Occupy doesn't have a platform, Occupy IS a platform!

RCReader | The Occupy movement comes under frequent attack from the institutional Left (and, it goes without saying, from the liberal establishment) for not offering a clear list of official demands – for, in other words, not offering a platform.

But that criticism misses the point. Occupy doesn’t have a single platform, in the sense of a list of demands. But it is a platform – a collaborative platform, like a wiki. Occupy isn’t a unified movement with a single list of demands and an official leadership to state them. Rather, Occupy offers a toolkit and a brand name to a thousand different movements with their own agendas, their own goals, and their own demands – with only their hatred of Wall Street and the corporate state in common, and the Occupy brand as a source of strength and identity.

Although the ends are quite different, the model of organization is much like that of al-Qaeda: an essentially leaderless organization, a loose network of cells, each of which adopts the al-Qaeda brand or franchise for its own purposes. It’s a much more effective use of resources to provide a common platform and then let a thousand flowers bloom.

A conventional, hierarchical activist institution wastes enormous resources on administrative apparatus and endless negotiations just to get everyone on the same page before anyone can do anything.

A common platform allows any number of movements, made up of voluntary aggregations of individuals with shared goals, to build on it on a modular basis, and to act without waiting for permission from the headquarters of the One Big Movement. And whenever they do anything that seems to work well, any other node in the network can adopt that tactic as its own without asking anyone’s leave.

That’s why the glocal Occupy movement is throwing off innovations like a fission reaction throws off neutrons. If anything, it’s done so even more since the wave of shutdowns in the U.S. divorced it from occupation as a primary tactic and scattered its seeds to the wind.

But let’s go back a ways. The Pentagon Papers weren’t published pursuant to an official decision by a nationwide anti-war movement, and Woodward and Bernstein didn’t try to found a national political movement to impeach Nixon. In both cases, the immediate actors simply published the information, and allowed anyone who would to leverage that information. They thereby created a free platform that could be developed by any number of antiwar and anti-Nixon activists for their own ends.

Fast forward to Summer 2010. Julian Assange simply published the cable dump at Wikileaks. Every single activist movement that piggybacked on that platform, starting with the uprising in Tunisia, did so on its own initiative, making – its own judgment – the best use of the free, common platform offered by Assange. So it’s gone from Tunisia to Egypt, to the Arab Spring, to Madison, to the demonstrations in Britain and Spain and Greece, to Occupy Wall Street, and back out to the global Occupy movement in hundreds of cities around the world.

Now, with the Occupy movement (thanks to Bloomberg et. al) no longer wedded to occupying public squares, the wave of innovations seems to roll in on a weekly basis. First Occupy Our Homes, and now Occupy the Ports.


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