Occupy’s Ineffective Media Strategy

Media - Occupy London - Finsbury Square - Real Democracy Now
Media, Occupy London, Finsbury Square. Photo: AndyRobertsPhotos/flickr.

Since the very beginning of the movement, Occupy has had a tense, and very often adversarial, relationship with the mainstream media. This should not come as any surprise—corporate media outlets are considered by Occupiers to be the mouthpiece of the One Percent’s policy preferences, and could therefore be expected to attempt to stifle the movement’s message, whether through a lack of coverage or through aggressively biased stories.

However, this did not change the standing fact that an act of civil disobedience needs some kind of publicity in order to be effective; otherwise, the act is simply a criminal one.

Occupy Finds Societal Alternatives Amid a Legitimacy Crisis

Protester upholding a sign
You cannot evict an idea whose time has come (Photo: qwrrty/flickr)

“Orthodoxy is experienced in debate and controversies, in those tacit agreements that are masked by overt disagreements.” – Ronen Palan, Global Political Economy: Contemporary Theories.

With the eviction of Occupy groups from their months-long encampments across the globe, and the cold of winter pushing people indoors, the general consensus was that Occupy had failed. Without long-term access to public spaces to practice their namesake tactic, few believed the movement had – or ever could – affect any meaningful change. However, this belief ignores the subtle ways in which the Occupy movement has come to, well, occupy our dialogue.

The Occupy movement grew out of a grumbling dissatisfaction echoed by youth around the world over broken promises from the increasingly globalized and interconnected economy. The broader concerns of the movement have resonated across the globe with people from all walks of life, and were reinforced through conversations over Facebook and Twitter. Every continent but Antarctica has seen its own version of the Occupy protests. Even recent protests that did not adopt the Occupy “brand,” such as the anti-Putin protests surrounding Russia’s elections, can point to it for both tactical inspiration and motivation, even if their specific goals may differ.

From Greece to Chile to the U.S., protesters spoke out against government policies such as austerity cuts, education policies, bank bailouts, and restrictions on internet freedom. With each step, the movement expanded the boundaries of what was acceptable criticism in our civic dialogue. Before Occupy Wall Street, there was little discussion of income inequality, underemployment, and living wages in U.S. dialogue about the economy. In Hungary, India, and Russia, corruption is under the microscope like never before. Protesters in Italy, Canada, and the United Kingdom are forcing a reexamination of the role of the state in support of the arts and university education.

Hola Mexico: A Post-election Reflection

The Mexican tricolour of green, white, and red , photo:Tracy Lee Carroll/flickr.
The Mexican tricolour of green, white, and red , photo:Tracy Lee Carroll/flickr.

In five weeks from now I will be moving to Mexico.

They say there is no place like home – and indeed, the state of things will be very different from what I know in Switzerland.

People not finding themselves under extraordinary circumstances emigrate because they want a lifestyle that can be best accomplished in their country of destination.

But I guess thoughts about lifestyle and how to best accomplish it would require deeper consideration – especially when it comes to accomplishing it in a country we associate with drug violence, economic problems and …swine flu. I will avoid going deeper and offer simply a brief reflection about the recent Mexican elections.

Has the country reinstitutionalized the revolutionary myth? The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) took power for the first time 80 years ago, enjoyed seven decades of domination, and has now accomplished a successful comeback. Therefore, I cannot help associating the PRI with the country’s authoritarian past.

When I go back and read James M Malloy words from 1977 about authoritarianism in Latin America, I can only hope that the described states of affairs would not still apply today:

“Mexico’s political system is characterized by patrimonially controlled participation exercised by the political elite based on the underlying assumption of privilege rather than right. (…) The decision-making process is legitimated by massive support from precisely those sectors of society that participate least in the distribu¬tion of benefits: labor, peasants, and Indians. For more than forty years the Party (PRI) has maintained this monopoly by preempt¬ing and institutionalizing the revolutionary myth and by creating for itself an image as the key component of an indissoluble trinity composed of Party, government, and political elite.”

However, things have changed during the past 30 years since Malloy’s writings.