Monday, April 30, 2012

Should we be thankful for Occupy Assemblies?

"The anarchists’ way of operating was changing our very idea of what politics could be in the first place. This was exhilarating. Some occupiers told me they wanted to take it home with them, to organize assemblies in their own communities. It’s no accident, therefore, that when occupations spread around the country, the horizontal assemblies spread too.
At its core, anarchism isn’t simply a negative political philosophy, or an excuse for window-breaking, as most people tend to assume it is. Even while calling for an end to the rule of coercive states backed by military bases, prison industries and subjugation, anarchists and other autonomists try to build a culture in which people can take care of themselves and each other through healthy, sustainable communities. Many are resolutely nonviolent. Drawing on modes of organizing as radical as they are ancient, they insist on using forms of participatory direct democracy that naturally resist corruption by money, status and privilege. Everyone’s basic needs should take precedence over anyone’s greed."

I'll have to agree that the assembly allows everyone to have a voice.  It is a way to try to keep from developing a hierarchy.  In general I like it.  But I also have two complaints;

1) arguing over minutia for hours (which I saw watching a Denver Assembly) does no one any good.  If you argue over a position, a plan, or something important, then yeah. It's great.  If you just go round and round over nothing, then that's just time wasted.

2) the loudest person still gets the biggest voice.  The wall flower probably still won't talk.  The shy, the easily cowed, will have less voice.  The brash extrovert will be heard the most. It's human nature.  So don't think the Assembly somehow magically gets everybody equally involved.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

1% of an Internet social group are actually active?

"The 1% rule states that the number of people who create content on the Internet represents approximately 1% (or less) of the people actually viewing that content (for example, for every person who posts on a forum, generally about 99 other people are viewing that forum but not posting). The term was coined by authors and bloggers Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba,[2] although earlier references to the same concept[3] did not use this name. For example, a large 2005 study of radical Jihadist forums by Akil N Awan found 87% of users had never posted on the forums, 13% had posted at least once, 5% had posted 50 or more times, and only 1% had posted 500 or more times.[4]"

Would this rule apply to Anonymous when they started going after Scientology in 2008?  I have one little tidbit that might show percentages there.  I wrote "We Are Legion" about the Anonymous movement.  When I posted it online, I was completely baffled by the counter I had on the page, which was showing 12,000 visitors or so per day!  Where did all these viewers come from?  The actual count of the first physical Anonymous worldwide protest was about 8000 people.  So who were all these people interested in my reasonably obscure article?  Well, perhaps they are the 99% of Anonymous who are mostly passive.

Police as free speech squelchers

"The documents, however, have already been published online. And buried in the training guides are insights into three trends in law enforcement that have been occurring not just in Virginia, but nationally: the demonization of protest, the militarization of police, and turning local cops into “terrorism” officials.

The Demonization of Protest
Militarization of Local Police
Deputizing Local Cops as Counter-terrorism Officials"

Thinking back on when Anonymous started protesting worldwide in 2008, I think only Atlanta went nuts and brought out riot gear and way too many cops.  Now it seems that at any protest that is the norm.  I blame this partly on the Black Bloc and groups that use peaceful protests to cause vandalism.  But it's deeper than just that.  Here in the U.S. we have become paranoid about everything. We can't get on an airplane unless we're frisked first.  We have more people in jail than any other country.  And our government sees protest as terrorism.  We need to get back to our roots and realize that protest is a vital part of our culture.  It's built in to the Constitution.  And without it we are in a totalitarian state.


Monday, April 23, 2012

"leadership" at Valve

"Why do I need to pick my own projects? We’ve heard that other companies have people allocate a percentage of their time to self-directed projects. At Valve, that percentage is 100.
Since Valve is flat, people don’t join projects because they’re told to. Instead, you’ll decide what to work on after asking yourself the right questions (more on that later). Employees vote on projects with their feet (or desk wheels). Strong projects are ones in which people can see demonstrated value; they staff up easily. This means there are any number of internal recruiting efforts constantly under way."

Who needs hierarchy?  The projects that deserve attention get attention.  I could see that some people wouldn't have the personality to fit into such an atmosphere.  But other than that, this makes sense to me.  Decisions, hours per project, all that stuff is decided by the employees. Hence, no need for middle management. Hence, savings!  Where to put that savings?  Back in the employees!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Free speech zones in U.S. How far can they go?

"According to an updated map on the website for Federal Hall, as pointed out by Gothamist, demonstrators will be asked to stay on one side of the big George Washington statue — he was inaugurated at the building — in the 'First Amendment Rights Area,' a.k.a. 'freedom cage.' Visitors can enter from the other side, steering clear of the riffraff."

There are areas that have been designated by our court system that are MORE free speech zones than others.  Public sidewalks are pretty much all free speech zones.  Private property is not.  But how about sort-of-public places like malls?  That's a bit trickier (see Pruneyard case about that).  The courts weigh private property concerns with a Constitutional free speech right.

Also there are possible time, place, and manner restrictions that can pass court muster, if the government can give a compelling argument why free speech should be restricted.  Some states have laws that you can't protest at a private residence, for instance.  If some group has a parade permit for a designated street, there could be more restrictions placed on others' free speech during the parade.  So, it's not all just cut and dried that you can protest wherever and whenever you want.

All that being said, I'm not sure why in this particular case the government wants to make a little box where free speech is ok.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Ivory Tower attempts to catch up with Anonymous

"Texting, tweeting, Facebooking, microblogging, online video and cell phone apps are not new to students. What is new is the efficient use of all their capabilities in combination to reach important aims in a few hours which the traditional brick-and-mortar academic world would take months or years to accomplish.
The key is the creation of protocols which serve as formulae for easily setting up Internet based projects which achieve well-defined goals, are infinitely replicable, grow by themselves through social networks, and enable each student to carve out a Web niche which serves as the Internet’s focal point for the student’s chosen issue. In practice, this means that each student is experimenting with making their work more public, and yet more personal, at the same time."

It's nice to see the Ivory Tower trying to catch up with what's already been happening on the Internet.  Anonymous, the Arab Uprising, Occupy Wall Street, and other movements have already been doing this stuff.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Another article reminding us that the net can be used against protest too

"He writes that linking up on Twitter makes activists today more vulnerable to the regime they’re fighting, than, say the Algerian insurgency was against the French in the late 1950s. The Algerian fighters had tight, person-to-person cells that were difficult to penetrate. 'The whole point of these platforms is ease of access and use …  they are inherently easy to penetrate. As such, social media is the exact opposite of a useful tool for a revolution.  Had Twitter existed in the 1950s, perhaps Algeria would have stayed French for another decade or two.'"

ICA is a tool.  You use it as best you can.  You must realize that your opponent (the cult, repressive regime, whatever) is also aware of the usefulness of the Internet, and they have resources to utilize more powerful tools than you have access to.  With that in mind, it's a matter of being careful and smart.  You learn how to stay anonymous when it's important.  You don't keep emails from fellow protesters to be found when you are arrested.  If it's a horrid, tech-savvy regime like in Syria, there's some things you just don't do or you will get caught.

So I see this as a constant battle for staying ahead of the other side.  You stay sharp, stay informed, and do your best.  I'm reminded of the White Rose Society during World War 2.  They printed and distributed anti-Hitler fliers anonymously.  But eventually they got caught during one distribution.  It's a risk.  Do you take that risk?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Tahrir Supplies web site; how they organize

The future of OWS

"Despite these problems, Occupy has an enviable brand, significant public support, a plethora of movements and an unqualified success in reorienting the national debate from austerity to inequality. The secret of Occupy Wall Street's strength is disrupting power in ways both simple, such as the "mic check," and grand, such as by occupying public space. Even if that space is now a rarity, Occupy Wall Street retains a disruptive capacity that defies prediction. It can be seen from Occupy the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission), which released a stunning 325-page critique of the Volcker Rule (which seeks to curb banks from gambling with government-insured money), to Occupy Our Homes, which has successfully engaged in dozens of successful foreclosure and eviction defenses nationwide since November."

This is a nice fresh view of what OWS is up to and where it may be heading. I note that the writer says "If the movement becomes predictable, the faces all look familiar and the organizing feels like drudgery, then it will have lost. For now, no one knows what will happen next. And that's a wonderful thing."  Embracing rather than fearing some chaos in a movement is a strength.  It mean less hesitancy.  It means more fun.  It means less reliance on some hierarchy.  

Friday, April 13, 2012

Arab Spring activists gather at Stanford for summit

AMENDS co-director Meredith Wheeler, a sophomore, said that after the conference ends she hopes the organization will continue to be an incubator for the kinds of ideas and initiatives that shape the future of the Middle East.
'I hope that people take out a renewed sense of confidence in their ability to be change agents in their country of origin,' she said. 'And I hope that they developed the kind of network both with the people at Stanford and with the other delegates to really make their ideas a reality.'"

Woah!  This type of summit should also include OWS, Anonymous vs. Scientology, and others who utilized similar tools and methods.  I hope this interaction grows.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

the 99% spring

"From April 9-15 we will gather across America, 100,000 strong, in homes, places of worship, campuses and the streets to join together in the work of reclaiming our country. We will organize trainings to:
  1. Tell the story of our economy: how we got here, who’s responsible, what a different future could look like, and what we can do about it
  2. Learn the history of non-violent direct action, and
  3. Get into action on our own campaigns to win change.
This spring we rise! We will reshape our country with our own hands and feet, bodies and hearts. We will take non-violent action in the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi to forge a new destiny one block, one neighborhood, one city, one state at a time."