This is crossposted from mathbabe.org. The views expressed herein are those of Cathy O’Neil, and they do not necessarily represent the consensus view of the #OWS Alternative Banking group.
The Occupy narrative, put forth by mainstream media such as the New York Times and led by friends of Wall Street such as Andrew Ross Sorkin, is sad and pathetic. A bunch of lazy hippies, with nothing much in the way of organized demands, and, by the way, nothing much in the way of reasonable grievances either. And moreover, according to Sorkin, Occupy had fizzled as of its first anniversary.
To an earnest reader of the New York Times, in other words, there’s no there there, and we can move on. Nothing to see.
From my perspective as an active occupier, this approach of casual indifference has seemed oddly inconsistent with the interest in the #OWS Alternative Banking group from other nations. I’ve been interviewed by mainstream reporters from the UK, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, and Japan, and none of them seemed as willing to dismiss the movement or our group quite as actively as the New York Times has.
And then there was the country-wide clearing of the parks, which seemed mysteriously coordinated, and the press (yes, the New York Times again) knowing when and where it would happen somehow, and taking pictures of the police gathering beforehand.
Really it was enough to make one consider a conspiracy theory between the authorities and mainstream media.
I’m not one for conspiracy theories, though, so I let it pass. But other people were more vigilant than myself after the coordinated clearings, and, as I learned from this Naked Capitalism post, first Truthout attempted a FOIA request to the FBI, and was told that “no documents related to its infiltration of Occupy Wall Street existed at all”, and then the Partnership for Civil Justice filed a FOIA request which was served.
Turns out there was quite a bit of worry about Occupy among the FBI, and Homeland Security, even before Zuccotti was occupied. Occupy was dubbed a terrorist organization, for example. See the heavily redacted details here.
I guess to some extent this makes sense, as the roots of Occupy are outwardly anarchist, and there is a history of anarchist bombings of the New York Stock Exchange. I guess this could also explain the meetings the FBI and Homeland Security had with the banks and the stock exchange. They wanted to cover their asses in case the anarchists were violent.
On the other hand, by the time they cleared the park the movement was openly peaceful. You don’t get called lazy dirty hippies because you’re throwing bombs into buildings, after all. And the coordination of the clearing of the parks is no longer a conspiracy, it’s verified. They were clearly afraid of us.
So which is it, lazy hippy or scary terrorist? There’s a baffling disconnect.
The truth, in this case, is not in between. Instead, Occupy lives in a different plane altogether, as I’ll explain, and this in turn explains both the “lazy” and the “scary” narrative.
But Occupy Sandy did expose a principle that we occupiers have known to be true since the beginning: that we must overcome or even ignore structured and rigid rules to help one another at a human level, that we must connect directly with suffering and organically respond to it as we each know how to, depending on circumstances. That moral and ethical responsibilities are just plain more important than rules. But such a nuanced concept might seem from the outside to be a bunch of meditating hippies. So I kind of get that, although you’d have to kind of want to see that to think that’s all it is.
Second, the “scary” part is right, but it’s not scary in the sense of guns and bombs – but since the cops, the FBI, and Homeland Security speak in that language, the actual threat of Occupy is lost in translation.
It’s our ideas that threaten, not our violence. We ignore the rules, when they oppress and when they make no sense and when they serve to entrench an already entrenched elite. And ignoring rules is sometimes more threatening than breaking them.
Is mathbabe a terrorist? Is the Alternative Banking group a threat to national security because we discuss breaking up the big banks without worrying about pissing off major campaign contributors?
I hope we are a threat, but not to national security, and not by bombs or guns, but by making logical and moral sense and consistently challenging a rigged system.
I’m planning to file a FOIA request on myself and on the Alt Banking group to see what’s up.