Left media establishment lords it over Occupy movement

Two of the last remaining Occupy encampments left in the USA have met with setbacks in recent days. Two members of Occupy DC remain jailed on charges of assaulting officers during a Feb. 4 clash with US Park Police who razed their encampment at McPherson Square. A second encampment at nearby Freedom Plaza was raided the next day, although many tents were left standing. (Huffington Post, Feb. 7) On Feb. 1, police cleared out the hearty souls who had stuck it out in frigid Buffalo. The raid came three hours after Occupy Buffalo held a press conference in which they stated their refusal to sign a contract with the city that would have required them to decamp by March 8. From a first-hand account in Buffalo’s ArtVoice:

Three hours after this peaceful assembly, the Buffalo Police Department, on order of Mayor Byron Brown, stormed Niagara Square with at least 100 officers, riot gear, bulldozers, pepper spray, dump trucks, and a military-style tank emblazoned with “Buffalo Police Department” and within a few hours razed a community that had been built up over four months and had become the home of nearly 30 people. That night the police arrested 10 brave men and women sitting silently on the sidewalk.

Controversies have meanwhile emerged in other cities. In two cases, one-time boosters and icons of the Occupy movement have won some bad karma with the protesters, alienating activists on the ground by issuing pronouncement from on high. First from Chicago. Reported WBEZ, Jan. 27:

Adbusters Magazine is based in Canada, but has followers and fans around the world. This week it posted a tactical briefing on its website that calls for a showdown in Chicago. They want 50,000 protesters to show up on May first with tents for a month-long people’s summit. That’s nearly three weeks before the NATO and G-8 summits will begin.

Adbuster’s rally cry was news to Occupy Chicago.

“Adbusters had not contacted us prior to making this internet call,” said Evelyn Dehais, a press liaison for Occupy Chicago. “We’re excited by the possibilities of it, but we’re still figuring out internally exactly how to deal with the situation.”

Dehais said Occupy Chicago is committed to non-violent action. The adbusters posting is calling for flashmobs and shutting down unnamed corporate headquarters if their demands are ignored.

Readers will be aware that we have our own problems with Adbusters, and have protested before how they have won underserved credit for starting the Occupy movement. Protesting the NATO/G8 summits sounds like a good thing, but the call should come from the local activists in Chicago. By failing to even consult with them, Adbusters is essentially gambling with someone else’s shirt.

On a similar subject, Chris Hedges got himself in some hot water with a screed in TruthDig with the unappetizing title of “The Cancer in Occupy,” in which he bashes the radical tactics of the Black Bloc anarchists in Oakland last month. He does make some valid criticisms of certain unseemly currents in the anarchist milieu—e.g. the useless “primitivism” of John Zerzan, which (as we have pointed out) only delegitimizes necessary critiques of centralized power and technology. Hedges portrays Zerzan (not accurately, we hope) as one of the “principal ideologues of the Black Bloc movement,” and calls out the Zerzanites’ wildly arrogant diss of the Zapatistas as bourgeois reformists or something. But Hedges himself is being (almost) equally arrogant—and ironically turns to vindication for quotes from another icon of “primitivism” (although his Wikipedia page informs us he rejects the term), Derrick Jensen.

Activist Don Gato replies to Hedges on the Oakland-based Revolution by the Book blog, in a piece obnoxiously entitled “To Be Fair, He Is a Journalist: A Short Response to Chris Hedges on the Black Bloc.” Oh, please stop! We at World War 4 Report were critics of Hedges before it suddenly became fashionable, but the problem is assuredly not that he is a journalist! On the contrary, it’s that he has abandoned journalism to become a Leftist Talking Head. This is what has led him into factual sloppiness and grandstanding at the expense of intellectual rigor. Spare us the kneejerk anti-intellectualism, Black Blockheads.

But Gato also scores some good points. This passage in his screed is downright delicious:

Self-critique is important for any improvement of practice—if it’s honest.

But here I feel betrayed. When Hedges wrote about the Greeks, notorious for their black blocs, he praised them for “getting it.” Indeed, according to Hedges, they knew what to do. In Hedges [sic] own words:

“They know what to do when they are told their pensions, benefits and jobs have to be cut to pay corporate banks, which screwed them in the first place. Call a general strike. Riot. Shut down the city centers. Toss the bastards out. Do not be afraid of the language of class warfare—the rich versus the poor, the oligarchs versus the citizens, the capitalists versus the proletariat. The Greeks, unlike most of us, get it.”

Apparently for Hedges, that’s good enough for the Greeks. But, by God, don’t you dare bring this filthy resistance to his home! You might accidentally (horror of horrors!) break a window! Perhaps it might belong to Hedges! Well, I passed around his piece on Greece thinking that perhaps there was, in fact, a journalist that “gets it.” I was wrong and I feel betrayed.

As well you should, Gato. But the problem isn’t that Hedges is a journalist. It’s that he isn’t.

See our last posts on the Occupy movement and the crisis of capitalism.

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  1. Occupy Asheville evicted
    From Mountain Xpress, Asheville, NC, Feb. 18:

    Enforcing a new city ordinance, the Asheville Police Department cleared tents from the Occupy Asheville campsite — among the last public Occupy encampments in the country — in front of City Hall late yesterday evening. Three protesters, claiming the rules infringe their rights, were arrested for ordinance violations.

    The new rules, passed by Asheville City Council in response to the camp, went into effect at noon. By that time, most of the rows of tents that had filled the space since late November were gone. City employees came by to clear away full trash bins and erect new signs declaring the camping ban. The grass in the area was mostly gone.

    But some were determined to stay. John Penley, an Asheville native who’s moved back to the area after helping start Occupy Wall Street’s original Zuccotti Park camp, moved his tent to the brick area in front of City Hall, asserting he intended to use it as a meditation and information space, not for sleeping. Another tent soon joined it, and remained until the police arrived. Penley made contact with an American Civil Liberties Attorney and claimed they advised him he was within his rights to do so.