Why Occupy Wall Street is connected to Palestine

10614127_1451255695145673_4907426003436789480_nAmin Husain grew up in Palestine, just outside of Ramallah, and is a veteran Occupy organizer, activist, artist, writer and lawyer. Now, he is one of the key organizers behind #NYC2Gaza, an ad-hoc collective of activists in New York organizing solidarity actions for Palestine. On August 20, he and many others will be marching in solidarity with Gaza and occupied Palestine. I got a chance to catch up with him about the importance of continuous collective action and civil disobedience to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine and break the siege on Gaza.

To start with, tell me a little bit about #NYC2Gaza.

It is a loose group of individual organizers, activists and people that are moved by what is going on and recognized that there was a space. We had come together with a call to put out saying that this is a direct action front for Palestine.

Many of us knew each other from Occupy, so we wanted to create a hashtag that symbolizes what we think we’re trying to do, which is create that bridge between New York and Palestine, recognizing that this is the center of empire and the people here have a responsibility to escalate in ways that reflect how bad the situation has become in Palestine.

Recently there have been other Palestine solidarity activists that have questioned the need for civil disobedience if there is, in fact, a ceasefire brokered between Israel and Hamas. What do you think about this?

Of course it is still needed. The situation in Palestine is so dire; I think people are moved by the fact that they see these bodies on television and they see bombs falling, but the killing is happening on a daily basis because of the structural violence of the Israeli occupation, the apartheid-like regime and the siege that has been put on the people of Gaza for over seven years. There is no way for these people to rebuild. There are no medical supplies, there is no electricity, there is no water and there is a temporary ceasefire right now that is likely to fall through.

So, I think these calls to halt civil disobedience, even if they are well intentioned, are out of touch. It points to a bigger problem with the type of solidarity work and the challenges that we have to understand about this work. It does not begin and end with whether you see a bomb or not; it begins and ends with whether the occupation goes away or not.

Right now Israel‘s atrocities are all over the news, but it isn’t always like this. How can activists maintain pressure on Israel to end the occupation of Palestine and break the siege on Gaza when it isn’t necessarily in the headlines?

Number one, the issue of Palestine is something that relates to empire, and our struggles being connected. The NYPD has something to do with the Israeli occupation. The bombs that are being experimented with on the Palestinian people are part of an industry that we are promoting in our country. Our tax dollars are going over there.

Number two: part of the way you avoid actions starting and ending with whether or not there are bombs on television is if the person who is organizing is closer to the activity or not. It is very important for people who do solidarity work, for example, with Palestine to actually see and wonder and ask who is in the room with them. Are there any Palestinians? Are there any Muslims? Are there any people of color? Because the privileged white male position, although welcome, could be dominating and out of touch.

There has been a lot of talk lately about representations of Palestine and Palestinians in the media improving recently. Do you think this is the case? Do you think that it matters?

I think no one can deny that the front page of the New York Times featuring a picture that shows the humanity of Palestinians is significant. But the language and the ideology surrounding [media depictions] still hasn’t changed. Why do people talk about Hamas as if it is a terrorist organization, not a resistance organization? Why is the focus always on two parties in conflict — this sterilized way of thinking about things — when in fact there is an occupier and a people who are occupied, there is an oppressor and a people who are being oppressed. The voices that are always quoted tend to be the voices of those who are powerful. To me, that is what has not changed much.

But I think that there is also this media opening, and I think it is facilitated by social media. I think a lot of people have become this other kind of journalist which has allowed us to stay more informed than we normally would.

What are the connections between the struggle for economic justice and equality and justice for Palestine?

To me, I have always said that my involvement in Occupy Wall Street was what I could do for Palestine from here. When we were doing Occupy Wall Street, my dad came and visited me in the park. He came, he sat down, and he looked around, and he’s like, “Amin, this makes sense.”

What we were doing in the park made sense because we know who funds Israel. We know that it’s not just about funding. We know why the project that the state of Israel — and I want to be clear, I am not talking about Jews or Jewish-Americans — serves the national security interests of the United States today. I think we know that those national interests are not the people’s interests. Three billion dollars per year going to Israel, with $220 million extra for the Iron Dome, is money that could be allocated for things over here and is definitely not money that should fund another people’s oppression.

What about the Arab Spring?

If you look at the history of Occupy, which actually was inspired by the Arab Spring, you can understand why what is happening in Gaza, that resistance, is another iteration or promise of an Arab Spring that all of these large powers have tried to extinguish. Ultimately democracy is about freedom and liberation. That’s exactly what the people in Gaza and the West Bank are fighting for.

What do you think about the pro-Palestine and pro-Israel labels? Are they outdated?

I think they are used so that we can legitimize both sides. So if you’re not in this camp, you’re in that other camp. Games are like that. Competitions are like that. But that is not the issue. It’s not a soccer match! Don’t talk to me about peace. Peace is a white man’s word that actually white washes the whole damn thing. Talk about liberation. Talk about freedom. Think about freedom not as something to be attained, but something to be exercised daily.

Hong Kong’s Pro-Beijing Groups March to Oppose Occupy Central

Tens of thousands of pro-Beijing demonstrators marched in Hong Kong on Sunday to protest the Occupy Central movement. Video: AP

HONG KONG—Pro-Beijing groups in Hong Kong mobilized thousands in a march to oppose Occupy Central, a democratic group that has threatened mass civil disobedience if China doesn’t offer the city a real choice in the next election for its leader.

The counter-rally, dubbed a “march for peace,” was meant to overshadow this year’s July 1 pro-democracy march, and to undermine the Occupy movement, which opponents have accused of putting Hong Kong’s economy at risk.

For months, Occupy Central’s organizers, led by two college professors and a Baptist minister, said they would assemble thousands of protesters to paralyze the city’s financial district if they judge China’s proposal on electing Hong Kong’s chief executive to be insufficiently democratic.

Their cause gained strength in June when an unofficial poll on democratic reform drew nearly 800,000 votes, followed by the large pro-democracy march. But public support for the civil disobedience appears to be waning, while the movement itself has been marred by internal discord over when to take to the streets.

A Look at the Turnout for the Pro-Democracy and Pro-Beijing Rallies in Hong Kong

In recent weeks, a countermovement backed by the business community and Beijing-friendly groups, the Alliance for Peace and Democracy, started its own petition drive to denounce civil disobedience and Occupy Central in particular.

The group says it has collected over 1.3 million signatures, far more than Occupy Central’s poll on democracy in June. Those who signed the petition include Hong Kong Chief Executive

Leung Chun-ying

and other senior officials.

“They didn’t suddenly speak up; there’s no magic in this,” said

Robert Chow,

a former Hong Kong radio host and the public face of the Alliance for Peace and Democracy. “Occupy Central screwed up. This is a group of people saying they want one step less than a riot.”

Mr. Chow said he is confident that a critical mass of Hong Kong people won’t sympathize with the civil-disobedience movement, especially if their economic interests are at stake.

Pro-Beijing protesters gather ahead of a march against the Occupy Central movement in Hong Kong on Sunday.
Tyrone Siu/Reuters

Hong Kong, a former British colony, continues to observe British common law under the doctrine of “one country, two systems” established when the city was returned to Chinese rule in 1997. The city is governed by the Basic Law, a mini-constitution that guarantees a “high degree of autonomy” for Hong Kong’s internal affairs.

On Sunday, the pro-Beijing group rallied in downtown Hong Kong with what local police said was a crowd of 110,600 people at its peak, though researchers at the University of Hong Kong estimated that between 79,000 and 88,000 participated. The university estimated the July 1 pro-democracy march drew between 154,000 and 172,000 protesters.

The next test will come later this month when China’s top legislative body, the National People’s Congress, issues its position on democracy in Hong Kong, which is expected to all eligible residents to vote, but only for approved candidates.

The anti-Occupy Central campaign’s focus on the impact of civil disobedience has appealed to the pragmatism of many Hong Kong people. While many support democracy, they also just want to live their lives and go to work unimpeded.

Thousands marched in Hong Kong on Sunday in opposition of the Occupy Central movement.
Getty Images

“I don’t care if you want democracy, even if you protest and have demonstrations. But why do you have to stop people from making a living?” said

Bill Chan,

a taxi driver, referring to the Occupy movement.

Despite Occupy’s threats, lawmakers and political analysts expect the National People’s Congress to require prospective nominees to overcome a committee stacked with Beijing loyalists.

“We can’t be optimistic at all—the pro-Beijing camp will control the entire list of candidates,” said

Joseph Cheng,

a political-science professor and convener of the Alliance for True Democracy, a coalition of democratic parties supporting Occupy Central.

“This is our worst fear, our worst-case scenario,” he said.

In a last-ditch attempt to negotiate,

Emily Lau,

chairwoman of the Democratic Party, and other pro-democracy legislators met Friday with Beijing’s top representative in Hong Kong, but they left with no clear promises from the Chinese government.

“We left him under no illusions,” said Ms. Lau. “We will under no circumstances accept an electoral method that is fake and dressed up as one person, one vote.”

Demonstrators carried a Chinese national flag during a rally Sunday in Hong Kong. Pro-Beijing groups mobilized thousands for a march to oppose Occupy Central, a group that has threatened mass civil disobedience if China doesn’t offer the city a real choice in the next election for its leader.

To achieve universal suffrage in 2017, the Hong Kong government must broker a reform package that will garner both the support of Beijing and two-thirds of the Hong Kong legislature. The government’s final proposal is expected to be released at the end of the year.

Universal suffrage for the chief executive was codified in Hong Kong’s de facto constitution. But so was a nominating committee to select candidates for office. Occupy Central demands that the committee won’t be able to screen candidates for political reasons.

Organizers of the Occupy campaign recognize that garnering support for civil disobedience is an uphill battle. Some moderate democrats have already signaled that they may be willing to accept a compromise that would keep Beijing’s plan intact.

Still, pro-democracy activists hope that the democrats will stay united and reject any electoral reforms that include political screening.

“Hong Kong people don’t want North Korean-style democracy,” said

Joshua Wong,

the 17 year-old convener of Scholarism, in reference to illiberal elections with severe candidate restrictions. The high-school activist group gained attention in its role to scuttle plans to impose pro-Chinese patriotism classes in local schools in 2012.

“If we are buying fruit, don’t give us three rotten oranges to choose from,” he said.

—Chester Yung contributed to this article.

C-SPAN Caller Proves Theory on Occupy Wall Street and the Ferguson Looters

RUSH: A couple of sound bites.  I want to play for you something I said on the program a couple of days ago. On Tuesday, I was describing Occupy Wall Street. 

I was explaining it, reminding people how it began, what it consisted of — the people in it, what they hoped to achieve, their mindset, their worldview — and all of that.  It was to illustrate a point, and the point that I was making, which you will hear, was confirmed in a phone call to C-SPAN. But for the phone call to C-SPAN that happened today to be fully understood in full context, you have to hear this

RUSH ARCHIVE:  The Occupy Wall Street people basically attempted to convey that things, the stuff that you get in life does not come from work. That that’s a fool’s errand, and people who buy into the notion that you have to work to get your stuff are victims of a big con game.  The 1% never worked.  They have all the money and they share it only with themselves, and it’s all a giant trick to get everybody toiling away for meager wages to benefit the already rich 1%. 

It was built on resentment of capitalism, anger at the unfairness of the distribution of resources and all of that crap.  … Well, I think, using the Snerdley Doctrine, when it comes to explaining looters, I think looters have much the same kind of thought process. That stuff, things, houses, cars, what have you, that work is not gonna give you those things, ’cause it’s stacked deck.  If you engage in work, you’re just working for the man.

You’re working for the 1%. You’re toiling away to make him richer, but you ain’t getting any of it.  You aren’t seeing any of it.  And, indeed, social justice pretty much teaches this exact thing.  And, therefore, social justice tells people who don’t have things that they are entitled to take whatever the hell they want when they can and when they want it because they are entitled to it, because it’s being purposely denied them


RUSH:  Now, I can imagine, as is always the case, some of you listening on Tuesday when I said this replied, “Come on, Rush! That’s a little bit over the top, don’t you think?”  Listen, don’t doubt me.  Here’s a caller on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal today.  They were taking call-ins on the riots in Ferguson, Missouri.  This is Rick from Ohio.

C-SPAN CALLER:  The number one tool for the top 1% to control all the wealth is divide and conquer.  Divide and conquer!  This goes back to the Romans. It goes back to the Nazis.  And in this country, the media — Fox News — promotes racism like it’s promoting a sale at Walmart!  The Disney Corporation put Rush Limbaugh and Dennis Miller in the booth on Monday Night Football to promote racism!

RUSH:  (laughing)  So you see, ladies and gentlemen, the 1%, they’ve got all the money, and they’re keeping it from everybody “just like the Romans did and just like the Nazis did. Divide and conquer! Divide and conquer! Fox News promotes racism in media.”  I didn’t know that I was in the Monday Night Football booth.  I must have been dreaming.  Am I dreaming now, and I’m gonna wake up and realize I was there and got fired there, too?

Occupy Wall Street Justified Looting

RUSH: In regards to the looting in Ferguson, Missouri, or the looting in any circumstance like this and the politics of it.  Do you remember Occupy Wall Street?  Occupy Wall Street was a contrived, made-up, artificially created protest group to counter the Tea Party.  The Tea Party came into existence as far as anybody knows in 2010.  The Tea Party, just average Americans fed up with fear and anger over what they saw happening to their country. 

The Tea Party originally was animated by the rapidly accruing debt and the oncoming Obamacare.  The Tea Party was made up of people who were afraid of their kids’ and grandkids’ future, that the country was gonna go into such debt and that federal spending was gonna consume so much, that their tax rates would be so high that they would never have a chance to have a better life than their parents had had, which has always been part of the American dream.

So the Tea Party was just a group of citizens.  There was never any leader. There was never any particular candidate.  It was people that had never been formally involved in politics before, showing up at Town Hall meetings.  And because there was no leader and because there was no Washington tie, the official Washington establishment became petrified and paranoid, scared to death of the Tea Party. 

The left, which is totally consumed with PR and image and buzz because they have to avoid the substance of what their beliefs are, they cannot dare be honest about what they really believe.  So they rely on substance and image, lies about their beliefs and their philosophies.  Occupy Wall Street was an artificially created, made to look like another grassroots movement that had sprung up to defend Obama and Obamacare and the spending.  Occupy Wall Street was specifically created by wealthy Democrats behind the scenes to make it look like it was genuine and spontaneous, as an answer to the Tea Party. 

Now, one of the animating features of Occupy Wall Street — and it’s still around, by the way.  It’s dormant, but there’s still people in it, still living in shantytowns and so forth. Occupy Wall Street is where Elizabeth Warren came from, essentially.  Elizabeth Warren with the, “You didn’t build that! You don’t own that! You didn’t make that happen! You factory owner, you business owner, you didn’t make that happen.  Why, if we hadn’t all banded together to build the roads and put in your sewage system for you, you could have never become rich.  So you didn’t do it yourself.  You didn’t do it on your own.  You didn’t build that.”  And Obama picked it up.  Well that became the rallying cry of Occupy Wall Street.  And if there was a seminal, or a central, foundational belief in Occupy Wall Street is that work is not how you got things, because even that deck was stacked. 

Occupy Wall Street was originally aimed at the 1% on Wall Street, rich bankers, investment bankers, investment people on Wall Street, all these various financial houses.  And the Occupy Wall Street people basically attempted to convey that things, the stuff that you get in life does not come from work. That that’s a fool’s errand, and people who buy into the notion that you have to work to get your stuff are victims of a big con game.  The 1% never worked.  They have all the money and they share it only with themselves, and it’s all a giant trick to get everybody toiling away for meager wages to benefit the already rich 1%. 

It was built on resentment of capitalism, anger at the unfairness of the distribution of resources and all of that crap.  And therefore, any act of civil disobedience was justified because they were fighting injustice and unfairness and unequal distribution of resources in a rigged game.  This was made to buttress Obama, and this is, I guess, I say where Elizabeth Warren sprang up, because the “you didn’t build that, you didn’t make that,” is directly traceable to the same kind of convoluted perverted thinking in Occupy Wall Street. 

Well, I think, using the Snerdley Doctrine, when it comes to explaining looters, I think looters have much the same kind of thought process. That stuff, things, houses, cars, what have you, that work is not gonna give you those things, ’cause it’s stacked deck.  If you engage in work, you’re just working for the man. You’re working for the 1%. You’re toiling away to make him richer, but you ain’t getting any of it.  You aren’t seeing any of it.  And, indeed, social justice pretty much teaches this exact thing.  And, therefore, social justice tells people who don’t have things that they are entitled to take whatever the hell they want when they can and when they want it because they are entitled to it, because it’s being purposely denied them. 

So when an opportunity springs up, such as the unfortunate shooting in St. Louis — or when your sports team wins, whatever it is — you make a beeline, because it’s all about justice.  It’s all about getting even.  It’s all about finally being able to grab some of what people are not letting you have.  This is the belief system — and, by the way, this is not just Occupy Wall Street.

This is pretty much the left in general, and the reason for their anti-capitalist stance.  It’s rigged, it’s unfair, and all this labor (i.e., their jobs) doesn’t get them anything.  It doesn’t get ‘em health care, it doesn’t get ‘em a TV set, doesn’t get ‘em whatever.  It gets all that for the boss.  The boss and the owner.  That’s the guy that gets rich, and he’s out playing golf every day or having three-martini lunches or whatever. He’s not working.  Ho-ho no!

He didn’t build his business on his own, either.  That’s the latest scam to be revealed.  No, no, no.  He didn’t build that!  The same duped laborers, who toil away for embarrassingly low wages, made the business owner’s business. They built it. They made it possible.  Yeah, and some of these Occupy people actually believe, “What do you mean, go to college?  I go to college, I go into debt, and my first job is at  McDonald’s? 

“What a rigged game!  You mean I’m not gonna get 80 grand out of college?  You mean I’m not gonna be living in Shaker Heights right out of college?  I’m not gonna be living in Pacific Heights right out of college?  I can’t move to the Upper East Side right out of college?  I’m not gonna have a house in the Hamptons right out of college?  Well, what a rigged game!”  So it’s this entitlement to stuff that is purposely being denied.

Right there is the soft bigotry of low expectations and how successful it has been.  They look around and they see all the evidence that they’re wrong.  There are success stories all of this country. People started with nothing and have however they define success.  It’s all around ‘em.  But yet they don’t want to get rid of that victim status.  It’s just too comforting, and it explains their failure as being somebody else’s fault, not their own. 

That’s the politics of all this. 

Former Occupy Wall Street protester found dead in park

Anne WiswellPhoto: William Farrington

A former Occupy Wall Street demonstrator from Queens was found dead in Riverside Park early Saturday, surrounded by empty beer cans and prescription bottles, cops said.

Anne Wiswell, 25, of Astoria, was discovered by a dog walker at 6:45 a.m., ­police said.

The Southport, Conn.- raised woman struggled with mental-health issues and was on a leave of absence from Hunter College, said family members.

Wiswell told a Web site in October 2011 that she became involved with Occupy after she had to drop out of the New School when her parents could no longer ­afford the tuition.

“It was this massive realization — oh my gosh, I have to support myself,” she told Marketplace.org. “Welcome to the real world.”

There were no obvious signs of trauma, and the Medical Examiner’s Office will determine the cause of death.

Michael Hiltzik

Academic economists have been warning for years that rising economic inequality in the United States is hampering economic growth and punching holes in the social fabric. (See, for example, Piketty and Saez.) But they’re only professors, after all, so it’s been easy for their views to be ignored by bankers and investment types.

Sounding a broader alarm, they observe that inequality “may also spur political instability….The affluent may exercise disproportionate influence on the political process, or the needs of the less affluent may grow so severe as to make additional cuts to fiscal stabilizers that operate automatically in a downturn politically unviable.” (Examples of such automatic programs are unemployment insurance and food stamps.)

The SP economists acknowledge that some income inequality is necessary in a growing economy, as a spur to innovation and entrepreneurship. But “at extreme levels, income inequality can harm sustained economic growth over long periods. The U.S. is approaching that threshold.” 

The SP brief is filled with hard statistics about the rise in inequality over recent years, including the post-2008 recovery–anemic for everyone except those at the top of the income scale. The economists endorse others’ findings  that funneling a disproportionate share of income to top earners suppresses growth because high-income households spend less of their income, so squeezing moderate- and low-income families forces them into debt and leaves them less to spend, placing sand in the economy’s gears.

They observe that income distribution has a stronger effect on the sustainability of economic growth (that is, less inequality fosters more growth) than any other factor, including national debt, political institutions and trade openness.

What to do about it? The SP economists argue forcibly that improving educational access is the key. If the U.S. work force increases its educational attainment at the level of 50 years ago, when it gained a year of education during the period 1960-1965, potential GDP would rise by $525 billion, a gain of 2.4% over five years. That defines the untapped potential in the American economy. 

They suggest, carefully, a “rebalancing” of the U.S. tax structure, including closing loopholes that chiefly benefit the rich; using tax revenues to finance public investment or spending on health and education, which disproportionately benefits the poor, will lead to “broadening the pathways for our future leaders, to the benefit of all.” The consequences of doing nothing are dire: at its current level, the income gap “threatens the stability of an economy still struggling to recover.”

Is this the harbinger of a new wisdom on Wall Street? That remains to be seen, but it’s the strongest acknowledgment to come from the financial sector yet. SP’s clientele should listen carefully, for as its economists conclude, income inequality is “not just a problem for the poor.”

Keep up to date with The Economy Hub by following @hiltzikm.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

Executive Club: Occupy Wall Street still alive in Oregon

welsh jim 125x150 Executive Club: Occupy Wall Street still alive in OregonKeynote :Councilor Jim Welsh on Occupy Wall Street
Oregon Executive Club
Wed. Aug. 6th, 7:00pm
Portland Airport Shilo Inn – 11707 Northeast Airport Way
Bring a friend! ~~ $20 buffet option ~~ no host bar

Jim is a grocery store owner, a Nehalem city councilman, retired military communications analyst assigned to the NSA, family man with his wife,8 children and 16 grandchildren.

It was as a councilman that he first learned of the quiet Occupy Wall Street immigration to Nehalem. So he studied them. Then he talked to them.

And now he’s raising the alarm on Occupy Wall Street. That’s why he’s our speaker this month.

The Occupy Wall Street anarchist planners (isn’t that an oxymoron?) are in Nehalem.

Some names:

- Micah M. White, the conceptual father of OWS. PhD.Travels to Europe to organize Occupy-like protests. Brings back ideas developed there to make trouble here.
- Chiara Ricciardone, married to White. Organized Occupy Istanbul and got PM Erogan mad enough to ask that the US Ambassador (her father!) be recalled.
- Justin Wedes, one of the leaders of Zuccotti Square OWS.
- Priscilla Grim ran the OWS HQ in 2011. Collected so much money she had guards at her apartment.
- Justine Tunney is a self described transgender anarchist, and works for Google.
And the word is out: “Don’t give interviews!”

It’s time these Occupy Wall Street folks get some sunlight, isn’t it?
You really shouldn’t miss this Executive Club.

Join us Wednesday night.

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Occupy gathering offers discussions, performances at Southside Park

The Occupy movement’s takeover of a 1.5-acre tract of land owned by the University of California was touted as a model during the third day of the Occupy movement’s national gathering in Sacramento.

The discussion was one of many held Saturday at Southside Park during the gathering, the movement’s third annual national event. This year’s meeting started Thursday at the Capitol and has moved to several city locations. It is slated to end Monday. The gathering is the offshoot of the larger Occupy movement that started after Occupy Wall Street protests spread nationally about three years ago.

On Saturday, events included a performance of the San Francisco Mime Troupe, a meeting about the rights of the homeless and a gathering at the Capitol.

One of the Occupy movement’s more successful actions was the 2012 takeover of Gill Tract farmland in Albany. The onetime 100-acre farm is managed by the University of California. Proposed commercial development on that land has faced community resistance for more than 17 years.

On Earth Day 2012, Occupy the Farm and urban farm advocates broke locks to a gate at the tract farm and set up an encampment. UC Berkeley said the protesters damaged agricultural research and police removed the encampment a month later. Another encampment and protest followed in 2013. After being ousted by police, movement members returned to the site to plant seeds.

Soon after, the movement switched its focus and sought an agreement with the University of California to use the Gill Tract land. In that agreement, a small portion of 20 acres was set aside for education, research and community use, with oversight by UC Berkeley professor of agroecology Miguel Altieri.

In an op-ed last year to the Daily Californian, Altieri wrote that he believes the project “represents a golden opportunity for all within the university, including the newly created Berkeley Sustainable Food Systems Institute.”

The agreement presently involves a 1.5-acre plot at the Gill Tract farm. Commercial development is slated for 20 remaining undeveloped acres of the Gill Tract land.

“It’s not a lot, but we are building on that,” said Effie Rawlings, a UC Berkeley graduate who was involved in the 1.5-acre takeover.

She hopes the Occupy movement will inspire other encampments, protests and agreements wherever a community resists development of farmland.

“When people ask me how they can help, we tell them to take more land, and ‘talk to your neighbors,’” Rawlings said.

On Saturday, Occupy the Farm passed out baskets filled with crookneck zucchini to those in attendance to show what is being grown on the Gill Tract farm.

“This effort was a success in the sense that we now have an open community project,” Rawlings said. “Where once we had confrontation and had to break locks, we now have a relationship and access.”

Call The Bee’s Edward Ortiz, (916) 321-1071. Follow him on Twitter @edwardortiz.

Occupying the Throne: Justine Tunney, Neoreactionaries, and the New 1%

How do you go from far-left socialist to far-right monarchist in three years?

How do you go from, in 2011, marching in self-declared solidarity with the “99 Percent” holding a banner saying “Give Class War A Chance” to, in 2014, tweeting that liberalism is “Truly one of the worst ideas ever,” calling for a return to aristocracy with techies as the aristocrats and saying the solution to the unemployment crisis is to bring back chattel slavery?

You wouldn’t think it was possible. But Google software engineer Justine Tunney did exactly that.

Most people who’ve heard Justine Tunney’s name at all know her from one of the brief, embarrassing post-Occupy debacles that thrust Occupy Wall Street back in the news this year. As a leader in “Tech Ops” for Occupy, she’d created the @OccupyWallSt Twitter account and OccupyWallSt.org website. In February 2014 she made headlines by unexpectedly reactivating these dormant assets and changing all the passwords on them, hijacking them as a platform for her to broadcast her personal grievances. She blasted LSE professor David Graeber for stealing credit for Occupy—a bold attack, for someone literally tweeting in the first person as @OccupyWallSt. She accused the Occupy movement as a whole of emotionally abusing her for the past three years and of being rampantly transphobic (Tunney is transgender).

Then it got weirder. Tunney’s rants shifted from being against the Occupy movement as a failure of left-wing activism to being against the Left itself. She posted a Storify claiming that the tech industry, as a whole, were “the true progressives” and that the Left were actually “reactionaries” because of negative news stories coming out criticizing the Bay Area tech elite.

As someone who doesn’t know Tunney but had been tangentially involved with the Occupiers in DC, I found her emergence surprising, but not shocking. “Leaderless” activist movements have a tendency to attract self-appointed leaders, and anyone who’s been to a highly activist college like Swarthmore is familiar with the cloud of drama that tends to follow self-appointed leaders.

But I didn’t really get hooked into this story until, in April, she tweeted “Read Mencius Moldbug.”

For the unenlightened, “Mencius Moldbug” is the pen name of Curtis Yarvin, an Internet denizen who created a faux-intellectual movement that stands against modernity in all its forms—based openly on the crankish writings of Julius Evola, 20th century Italian author of Revolt Against the Modern World who was too right-wing for Mussolini. Yarvin earnestly believed that the best thing for the human race was the abolition of democracy and egalitarianism and the reinstatement of social hierarchy.

He wrote about this at very great length, becoming a darling of various Internet personalities—mostly white, mostly male, mostly tech geeks—with a chip on their shoulder against one facet of the modern world or another. Bound together by a common understanding that the superior should rule over the inferior and the concept of equal rights is a mistake, these guys call themselves “neoreactionaries,” and the erstwhile “co-founder of Occupy Wall Street” has apparently found them a warmer home than the Left.

I’ve known who Moldbug was since he was just starting his career of intellectual trolling, showing up as a gadfly on the blog of one of my intellectual heroes, my former professor Tim Burke, to bravely defend South African apartheid against its detractors, just to give you an idea.

I’ve known about the “neoreactionaries” a lot longer, before they were given that name—back when they were just teenagers on the Internet, like me, furious that there were people less intelligent than us who dared tell us what to do.

I never bought into the ideology fully, but I understand its appeal. The vast majority of nerds don’t take it as far as neoreactionaries and decide every single thing about the pre-modern world—hereditary aristocracy, racism, sexism, the whole shebang—needs to come back.

Mostly what you get is people who vaguely identify as “libertarians” who dislike “political correctness” and being forced to pay taxes. And the vast majority of annoying Slashdot libertarians who campaigned for Ron Paul and against Obamacare have no idea who Moldbug is, and the ones who are aware of him tend to be decent enough to get turned off once the defenses of white supremacism begin.

But every social trend has its extremist leading edge. Most libertarians I know are not racists, but libertarian icon Ron Paul certainly had more than his fair share of pandering to racists when building his political base, and the pot-smoking free-love libertarians of Silicon Valley are often unaware how reactionary their political bedfellows are.

Every time a community springs up supposedly based only on mocking the “excesses” of “Tumblr activists,” the moderates who are in it just to make fun of the feminists or anti-racists who are “actually crazy” find themselves joined by “redpillers” (i.e. men’s rights activists) and advocates of “human biodiversity” (a coy euphemism for scientific racism and eugenics).

Living in the modern world is hard. Trying to be a decent person in a diverse, pluralistic society takes work, and there will inevitably be missteps along the way. All of us across the political spectrum believe that democracy has problems, the government has problems, “political correctness” has problems. But even in its most innocent form, as comedian Stewart Lee brilliantly observes, a dislike of “political correctness” and the modern world can take you to some very ugly places very fast—the past was, as only some of us have the privilege of forgetting, a very ugly place.

And the convergence of MRAs angry at feminism and HBD advocates angry at immigration and diversity and libertarians angry at the undeserving poor leeching off of their wealth, the dark heart of the seedy underbelly of the Internet, now has a face and a name. They gleefully call themselves the Dark Enlightenment and give themselves names cribbed from Lovecraftian monsters and revel in adopting as doctrine everything the modern world calls evil.

It’s obnoxious Internet troll contrarianism taken to the nth degree, and it’d be funny if it weren’t scary. It’d be easy to ignore them if the multi-tentacled octopus of the movement didn’t claim as its own the ex-CTO of Business Insider, if their talking points didn’t show up in speeches at Valley “startup schools,” if the men’s rights agenda they champion didn’t end up leading to the occasional mass murder.

And then there’s Justine Tunney, “co-founder of Occupy,” proud Google employee and self-declared defender of the tech elite.

Tunney does not just flirt with neoreactionary ideology, the way self-congratulatory “open-minded iconoclasts” like me did in high school and college. She goes full throttle in her embrace of it, doubles down on it, rejects every “politically correct” rejection of sexism or racism or classism that define the modern world.

She makes bold statements that IQ, law-abiding or -breaking tendencies and political alignment are all genetically determined. That Silicon Valley is moving away from capitalism toward feudalism, with tech CEOs as feudal lords, and this is a good thing. And, in the biggest headline-maker, she submitted a Change.org petition that President Obama should step down and appoint Eric Schmidt as unelected CEO of America, because Google is clearly better run than the government.

On some level, yes, this is just one individual story of crankery. Like many young activists, Tunney took on an unpaid volunteer role in a movement she thought would change the world, got burned out and upset with her fellow activists, and ended up spitefully turning on everything she once stood for. Like many outsized Internet personalities, she thrives on negative attention and is probably intentionally exaggerating her beliefs for clicks.

But Justine Tunney is not just an isolated anomaly. She’s the leading, crankish edge of a broad cultural trend. Justine Tunney is a troll, sure, and she’s not successful enough an example of her class to have lawyers and PR people to tell her to shut up. What that means is she’s willing to express, out loud and in public, what a lot of techies privately think.

“Mencius Moldbug” slowed down the writing to a trickle and returned to relative obscurity in 2013. Most people have never heard of him or his movement, including apparently the editors at Valleywag and Daily Dot when they speculated that Justine Tunney might just be doing Onion-esque satire.

But much like Ayn Rand’s Objectivism was a weird college cult among reactionary anti-hippies in the 1960s only to end up dictating the policy of the Federal Reserve, the neoreactionaries have more influence than we’d like to think.

Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, wrote a famous 2009 essay bemoaning women’s suffrage and saying “I no longer believe freedom and democracy are compatible.” Valley VC Tim Draper, right now, is demanding that the state of California be broken up into six states, so Silicon Valley won’t have to share a government or tax revenue with poor non-techies. And every day we hear another story about a tech company deciding rules don’t apply to them, whether it’s Airbnb and zoning rules or Apple and Google and wage-fixing rules or Aereo and FCC rules.

Nerds tend to talk a big game about standing up for the underdog but, I’m sorry to say, don’t seem to really want a leveling of society, a removal of hierarchies. They bristle against hierarchies of physical strength, of inherited capital, and of “popularity”—but only because those get in the way of a hierarchy of book smarts and technical skill, which is the right and proper hierarchy. The creepy nerd fantasy that remains alive and well in today’s Age of the Nerd Triumphant is not of making peace with the popular kids but taking their throne.

In Tunney’s case, the early warning sign was in January 2014, just before the big Twitter hijacking debacle, when she wrote a blog rant blasting fellow Occupier Justin Wedes for saying that Facebook should be paying dividends to its users—who create all of its actual content, and hence its value—and that they didn’t made them parasitic the same way financiers are on productive companies.

Calling capitalist ownership parasitism is an extreme position, perhaps, but one common enough among Occupiers. What drove Tunney nuts wasn’t the claim that capitalists were parasites but the application of this argument to tech companies. She starts with “This is a very problematic argument to make because it dismisses the labor of software engineers such as myself. Tread carefully if you go there, because you’ll be treading on my pride as a worker,” then goes on to blast Wall Street at length for being monsters and evil but in the same breath defend Mark Zuckerberg as being in a completely different category from the bad kind of capitalist.

Facebook, Google, Amazon and every other creepy company busy turning you into a data point to sell to advertisers—these are, in her words, “the greatest problem solvers in human history,” and to even compare them to those other kinds of rich people is base slander.

This solves the grand mystery, why someone who had such a closeted admiration for hierarchy and power would be a founding member of Occupy in the first place. Tunney was never against the one percent—she just thought that the one percent were the wrong people. The problem was they were tie-wearing investment banker fratboys and didn’t deserve to be on top. Just like in her view government fat cats and Hollywood celebrities and snooty academics don’t deserve to be on top. But tech geeks, with their superhuman ability to manipulate ones and zeroes, do.

This is why, as one of those young millennial whippersnappers who nonetheless identifies with the Old Left more than my own generation, I distrust the message we keep getting about the democratizing power of the Internet and New Media, about how progressive the Millennial Generation is.

I distrust my fellow young nerds. I distrust techies when they bear gifts.

Sure, electronic tools can be used to good ends. So can tools within the financial markets. It’s not any individual tool that’s a problem—it’s that the tools are all part of a deeply hierarchical system. And the people at the top of that system end up thinking they inherently deserve to be there, that they’re better than the rest of us.

There’s one tweet that’s particularly telling from Tunney:

Well, being unpopular because you’re short, or not physically attractive, or a different gender or skin color than people expect—that’s bad. That’s something I agree we should fight against.

Being unpopular because, say, you lock everyone else out of a communal online account because you feel you own it because you set it up? Being unpopular for using your cleverness to skirt regulations and skim huge profits off of other people’s work and other people’s resources? Being unpopular for being a selfish jerk who hurts other people and doesn’t care because you think your technical skill entitles you to immunity from social repercussions?

That’s a whole other kind of unpopularity.

It may be too late for Justine Tunney. But for the rest of us nerds trying to be decent people, that’s a lesson we desperately need to learn.

Occupy activists flock to Sacramento for national meeting

They gathered Thursday under a stand of redwoods near the steps of the state Capitol, a modest mix of young people and the graying veterans of the progressive and protest movements. They came to Sacramento, in the words of one, to reclaim the public square.

Three years after Occupy Wall Street and the larger Occupy movement sprang into the national consciousness with rallies across the country and calls for economic justice, foot soldiers of the grass-roots movement are arriving in Sacramento for the third annual Occupy National Gathering. Previous gatherings were in Kalamazoo, Mich., and Philadelphia.

“All of our grievances are connected,” said Nikohl Vandel of Palm Springs, who is advocating to close the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in San Luis Obispo County.

Activists from across the country and as far away as Europe and Australia are meeting in the capital city over the next three days – a rally is planned Saturday at Sacramento’s Southside Park – to mobilize, strategize, share ideas and take the temperature of a movement that has seemingly faded from the limelight of its heady early days.

“Being an activist can be a lonely adventure sometimes. This shows you’re not alone,” said Patricia Shore, who traveled from Philadelphia for the gathering. “We’ve got a lot to learn. We were naive before. This is the bedrock of our country, to be able to do this.”

Three years ago, Sacramento’s Cesar Chavez Plaza was but one site of what then was a growing movement. Hundreds of protesters there took to the streets and to bank buildings with a grab bag of causes, but many railed against wealthy individuals and powerful corporations – the “1 percenters” who Occupiers said wielded financial and political might.

Outrage at Wall Street and growing corporate control birthed the movement, but as demonstrations spread to other cities, including Los Angeles, Oakland and Philadelphia, issues and agendas mutated alongside: Joblessness and homelessness, health care and economic insecurity, among others.

When the movement was at full steam, Occupy activists made their biggest splash locally in protests at UC Davis. The campus became a flash point in November 2011 when students were pepper-sprayed by campus police during an Occupy-style protest of rising tuition rates.

“There was a fluorescence there,” said James Van Orden, 52, a longtime activist from Virginia, of the early Occupy movement. “But you get (intimidated), arrested. A lot of us went back to the underground.” Gatherings like Sacramento’s, he said, help to “maintain and protect Occupy.”

Charlotte Glode, 75, of Roseville, was attracted “to this spontaneous movement called Occupy” at its beginning in 2011. On Thursday, she wore a straw fedora dotted with buttons that read “Occupy Wall Street,” and “U.S. Department of Peace,” a happy warrior for the cause.

But she had plenty of time for soul-searching about her movement, how it should change and what it should look like in the future. Many of the faces in the crowd were older. Nearly all were white. The gathering, per custom, was leaderless by design.

“We’re too white,” said Glode. “I want to see Asians, kids, black people. … We keep calling Occupy dead, but it keeps popping up. But we’re not attracting change-makers. People aren’t curious about what we’re doing. Maybe the problem is that we’re so broad – people don’t know what we stand for.”

One local government scholar was surprised there was a still a movement to protect.

“I thought it had died out,” said California State University, Sacramento, professor Kimberly Nalder, who started the Project for an Informed Electorate on the campus.

Occupy and the issues it raised “resonated with a lot of people who were committed to the movement,” Nalder said. “But the longevity of a movement requires structure. I’m surprised they’re organizing some sort of gathering at all. What’s the old saying? ‘That’s so 2011?’ 

William Underbaggage, a Lakota Sioux environmental activist, implored the 50 or so gathered Thursday to “start the conversation. We’re the students everyone has waited for – to continue to talk about what Occupy started for. When we stand up and speak, we have to be courageous.”

Katharine Dawn said she is taking that message back to New South Wales, Australia. Dawn, 57, grew up in Washington state, but she has been an educator, care worker and activist in New South Wales for the past 40 years. In September, she is leading a direct democracy event inspired by the Occupy movement stateside.

“A lot of us have given up on talking with corporations and governments,” Dawn said. But, she said, “the people have established a platform of solidarity and the fire’s still burning. It’s burning fierce.”

Call The Bee’s Darrell Smith, (916) 321-1040.

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