Friday, November 18, 2011

The Big Issues: How to get the real story?

On Thursday night, I participated in the Occupy Wall Street November 17 Mass Non-Violent Direct Action. This SHF GreenRant is my attempt to capture and share my amazing personal experience.

No, I didn't fly to New York and get arrested, but with tens of thousands of others all around the world, I most certainly did participate.

On Thursday night, live on my computer, I watched as tens of thousands of happy, excited people peacefully reclaimed the streets of New York.

I watched live as buildings, parks, bridges, and at times seemingly entire neighbourhoods were reclaimed and occupied by peaceful, happy, singing crowds.

I watched live as the NYPD behaved (mostly) honourably and (mostly) with integrity. There were moments when some almost seemed to help protesters.

I watched live as retired police captain Ray Lewis allowed himself to be arrested in support of the protests. I heard the cheers and chants of thousands of people in support of his brave personal sacrifice.

I watched and held my breath as I witnessed troublemakers (often allegedly plain-clothes police) attempt to incite the excited crowds to do something stupid...

I watched live as these troublemakers were repeatedly and peacefully ousted by the protesters who admirably managed to resist the temptation to take their frustrations outside the law.

In a classic moment, I watched live as thousands of people cheered with victory when they thought the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange was delayed. (Note: The protests never intended to delay the opening, but the crowd got the opening times wrong and cheers of excitement rippled through it at around 09:15. The bell rang on time, as usual, at 09:30, of course - even organised mobs are a little off the mark at times :-)

I listened live to the people's microphone as it united people and shared ideas. (You haven't heard of the people's microphone? Really? Ok then, the People's Mic is an absolutely ingenious workaround for a law that banned Occupy Wall St protesters from using any kind of amplification (bullhorns, speakers, etc.) Check this video to see how it works, and more generally, how democracy can work)
I watched live as one of the organisers of the Tahrir Square protests used the people's mic to address a huge crowd of students. I heard him telling them that the people of Egypt supported their protests, and would have their own protests the next day.

There were moments when I listened in awe as the normal cacophony that is downtown New York went silent. I shared the eerie quiet when the protesters just stopped singing and chanting to take a collective breather. Without traffic, New York City can actually be pretty peaceful...

I spent hours glued to my computer - much of it experiencing what it was like to be a 5"10' guy called Tim Pool... I was right in the middle of the utterly organic, chaotic excitement that was the most important mass, non-violent civil disobedience action that America has seen for a very long time.

It nearly killed me to do so, but even though the protests were still in full swing, I dragged myself to bed as it was getting dark in NY. I knew that despite my vicarious participation, in the morning, here in Belgium, I would need to be a responsible bread-winning father and husband.

With happy memories of a seriously important and almost flawlessly executed action, I slept soundly. I even let myself dream that a new and better world was possible...

Then I woke up...

... and, stupidly, the first thing I did was check the New York Times to see what they had written about this momentous occasion. Big mistake.

I wish I had copied the exact wording of the two brief yet incredibly patronising front-page paragraphs dedicated to the protests, because OWS has now gone completely from the front page. A search for Occupy Wall Street brings up a few lame stories with quotes like "Hundreds of Occupy Wall Street protesters marched on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday, engaging in scuffles with the police throughout the day."

Almost every other mainstream news source that I checked had similar crap, and most repeated Mayor Bloomberg spouting lies like:
[the march on Brooklyn Bridge] "was just an opportunity for a bunch of unions to complain or to protest, or whatever they want to do." He said, "it really wasn't the protesters that have been in Zuccotti Park or that you see around the country."
I work with a lot of smart, educated, worldly people but I got a strange look every time I asked a colleague what they thought about what happened in NY yesterday. Even those who knew about the Occupy movement seemed surprised that anything had happened at all - most made a comment along the lines of "Oh, I thought that was over? Didn't the police kick them out the other day?"

And so, at last, this is my rant...

Friends, please! You will never understand the Occupy movement if you listen to the mainstream media. This is part of the Occupy plan:

So if we can't trust Murdoch, TimeWarner, Google, Yahoo, MSN, or even Facebook, then how do we get the real story?!?!

Well, rejoice. You are part of the first generation of humans who can watch the whole world unfold live. But it takes a little work - the real world isn't packaged up into neat little bite-sized guilt-free, indigestion-free news snacks.

The first thing that you must do is get a Twitter account. It takes less than a minute, but it will change your life. Yes, I know, I know... I resisted the urge to become a twit for ever too. It was only when I was forced to setup an account for work a couple of months ago that I almost immediately recognised the incredible power of this resource.

You can have many different accounts to follow your different interests - I've very recently setup JamieOBE and have started to grow that persona in line with this blog. If you're interested in Sustainable Human Flourishing, then find me @JamieOBE and check who I'm following.

Now, to find out what is going on with the Occupy movement, and to follow the global revolution as it unfolds live, watch tags like #OWS and follow people like @OccupyWallSt. Find the tags and users relevant to your local Occupy group such as  @OccupyPerth@OccupyBrussels, @OccupyLondon, etc.

Use Twitter to find the latest "official" live streaming video and other citizen media channels such as THEOTHER99 on USTREAM, and occupynycowsnyc, and global revolution on LiveStream that I've embedded below. Tune in and join the tens of thousands who are bearing witness.

Watch live streaming video from owsnyc at

Watch live streaming video from globalrevolution at

Watch live streaming video from occupynyc at

There are also other incredible resources such as Storify which I'll revisit later. Here are some examples of Storify coverage of OWS and here is a little presentation showing how MotherJones uses Storify to help them do their job:
If you have other ideas and links for important resources, please drop me a note and I'll add them.

Finally, I will close with another relevant point made by the Yes Magazine article that I linked above:
When political parties talk about building a base, they usually mean developing foot soldiers who will help candidates win election and then go home to let the elected officials make the decisions. The Occupy Wall Street movement turns that idea on its head. The ordinary people who have chosen to be part of this movement are the ones who debate the issues, determine strategies, and lead the work.
This could not be any more clear than by looking at the "Tea Party" - the "alternative" conservative movement that is bizarrely yet predictably compared with Occupy in the mainstream press. Check out their transparently ridiculous coverage of Occupy to see this old-school "base-building"mindset in action. 

So, let's remember that although we can't get our Occupy news from the "mainstream" media, we can't trust all "alternative" media. Everyone has an agenda - The Occupy guys and girls are just a lot more transparent about their agenda than most. That is one of the main reasons that I support them.


  1. Test - Are comments working?

  2. Test - are commentsworking anonymously?

  3. yes they are!

    Hello Jamie :)

    I read this post a couple of days ago and it has been in my mind quite a lot. Finally I get the chance to write! Here are some random thoughts.

    It made me smile that, even though you believe that the real and true information does not come from the mainstream media, in the morning you checked the NYT and you felt disappointed. I do the same all the time. We shouldn't feel disappointed but reassured! The NYT headings support your thesis :)

    Your work colleagues ... will they put down the NYT and read this, and give other media the credibility they deserve? I think this might be too high an expectation. They do have a job, they work in a particular sector. I do believe people hear what they want to hear, and see what they want to see. It might be too early for them. A bit like the climate change thing, we don't believe it until it is physically hitting us.

    I have to say that I stopped watching the TV news and buying newspapers when the war in Iraq started, a few years now! It hurt me too much to hear every day about it, I couldn't bear it. So I started following other sources of information and soon found myself in what seemed to be a parallel universe, where people care and act on things that are not reported by the mainstream. Still, I have never been able to switch off completely because BBC news and some newspapers enter our house most days, and I have to thank them because they help me appear kind of normal in some settings.

    My favourite quote ever is Margaret Mead's 'Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has'. I think this is what is happening now around the world. The 99% may not be a small group, but it is still small in terms of power. And the 'alternative' media are not small, but still most people give more credibility to the mainstream media. But everything is about to painfully change ...

    PS - I am very old school and don't twitter! I don't walk around wified and can't imagine having all these messages to read when I go on the internet two or three times a day. I do feel that I am missing out there, but otherwise I would miss out on what's going on around me, important things such as my children dropping the water on the floor for the fifth time in the last three minutes. I don't know how I would cope, unless my children were on twitter too :)

  4. Hi Eva - sorry about the problems with comments - I don't know what was wrong, but I've reset all my comment configuration and it seems to be working now - apologies to anyone else that lost their comments. I was wondering why it had gone so quiet even though traffic is on the increase.

    I actually switched off MSM permanently at around the same time as you Eva - just after 9/11 when I was living in the US - I simply couldn't bear the utter bullshit that my American friends were being told to believe, so I also retreated into the alternative media at that point - I love your parallel universe analogy. That is exactly how I felt too.

    You are also right about my reaction to NYT being silly :-) Today, I usually only go to the MSM if I feel myself getting complacent and feel a need to rekindle some righteous anger about something. (If I feel that I need to laugh at myself for getting too self-righteous, then I go to the Tea Party site :-) In this case though, on that morning, I really felt that what I had witnessed was so transformative that even the NYT would have to acknowledge it! That is why I have been more self-righteous than usual lately and even Bill O'Reilly ( is unable to make me feel better.

    I also love that Margaret Mead quote and I share your desire to appear more normal in some settings - I really hate that I have to shut up and behave in a social situation where people are parroting MSM lies though. I passionately want to believe that Occupy will be the trigger that will finally move "normal" towards us and allow us to talk about important stuff over dinner! As you can see in my most recent post, I'm pretty bullish on their chances… We already see it starting to happen - the MSM is definitely starting to pick up on some of Occupy's key messages so there is hope!

    You are right that Twitter takes work (to do it properly one must become a full-time Twit, so I can't do it either :-) The reason that I believe that Twitter is important is that the LiveStream links and website addresses seem to be quite fluid but the Twitter users are generally robust (although I noticed that @OccupySydney!/OccupySydney has been mysteriously suspended…?)

    I mainly use Twitter as a pointer to find the active live streams or other sites that contain the real info so I'd suggest that you do the same, at least until your kids are old enough to become twits themselves ;-)

    Thanks again for the thoughtful and insightful comments Eva - I look forward to more in future :-)