(This is the first of two articles assessing the accomplishments of the six week old #OccupyWallStreet movement)
Capturing the corporate media spotlight, even briefly, with a strong anticapitalist message is a major, unprecedented feat for any grassroots organization. Moreover, despite incessant jibes from the media and political establishment about being disorganized and confused about what we want, the coherence of the OWS vision is obvious from the speed with which it has spread across the US and around the world. Our refusal to limit our movement by defining it in terms of short term policy demands has actually been our strength. Young people around the world get it, if the US media doesn't. In one short month, OWS has produced a shift in global consciousness that will have major impact on an entire generation.
OWS is no longer a collection of public spaces where hundreds of activists camp out every night. It has transformed itself into a global institution that will survive as 1,000+ local activist networks even if Bloomberg and other mayors manage to shut down the actual occupations -- or heaven forbid government and corporate elites shut down Facebook and Twitter or even the Internet itself.
The Importance of Producing Our Own Media
The ability of OWS to create and adhere to a broad anticapitalist vision relates, in large part, to our ability to produce our own media. Through the live streaming of general assembly decision making, the profusion of OWS websites and blogs and even the printed Occupy Wall Street Journal we have empowered ourselves to take our vision and message to the public directly.
The ability to communicate directly with the other 99% will become even more important in coming months. Most of the important work -- the movement building leading to genuine change -- will take place outside the media limelight. The corporate-controlled media, which has the attention span of a hamster, will only cover OWS for its brief novelty appeal and be off to the next royal wedding or Hollywood scandal. The other painful reality is that mainstream media outlets bat for the other side, i.e. the multinational corporations that own them. They have no interest whatsoever in fairly or accurately reporting on a movement to dismantle the corporate state. Failing to acknowledge these facts leads to the potential trap that we begin to play to the media -- that we gear our efforts to gaining media attention, rather than expanding and strengthening the movement.
The other potential trap is that we become demoralized by media negativity and underestimate our effectiveness. This makes it critically important to devise our own self-assessment tools to recognize and critique our own accomplishments.
Our One Month Report Card
I find it helpful to divide our successes into intangible accomplishments related to consciousness raising and movement building (I can list at least eight of these already) and tangible accomplishments related to policy changes they win from government. Based on the experience of the antiglobalization movement, I would expect tangible accomplishments to take two main forms: 1) the empowerment of third world governments to challenge US power (I've seen at least two in the last month) and short term policy concessions federal and 2) short term policy fixes federal and state government enact to split or dissipate the movement. When Bill Clinton and the mainstream media repeatedly ask repeatedly what we want, what they really want to know is what will make us vacate 1000+ public spaces and go home.
Here is my report card on intangible consciousness raising, movement building accomplishments:
1. Defining what we're about without resorting to policy demands or settling for short term legislative fixes -- A+
2. Attracting media attention without letting the corporate media define us -- A+
3. Demolishing the pretense that Everything is Fine -- A+
4. Introducing a whole new generation to the joys of civic engagement and the phenomenal high that comes from organizing collectively for the common good -- A+
5. The acquisition (by tens of thousands of us) of invaluable skills in non-hierarchical decision making and governance -- A+