Inside The Occupy National Gathering
If one of the driving motivations behind the #Occupy movement was to be a living, breathing example of what society could be if people really came together and threw off the shackles of oppressive capitalism, then Thank You Very Much, Occupy! We have all learned a valuable lesson. It’s an ugly and smelly lesson, sure, but one that the current generation of iPhone enabled entitled hipsters needed to learn for themselves.
As ridiculous and offensive as the microwave Marxist ideas behind the Occupy movement were, the actual day-to-day reality was far worse. Their experiment in society building worked out just as well as the experiments in Russia, China and Cuba, albeit with a much lower body count and a lot more Ben and Jerry’s than past socialist debacles. The calliope crashed to the ground at what Occupy called The National Gathering, held in the days surrounding the July 4th holiday in Philadelphia. The freak-show event was failure on every single imaginable level -- but it got an extra burst of soap opera goodness when a well known Occupy malcontent was literally kicked out of the movement in a kerfluffle that involved accusations of espionage, cybercrime, mental hospitals and a female impersonator.
But we’ll get to all that later. First, let’s explore why The National Gathering was such a gigantic crash-and-burn for the Occupy movement. It was dismal on a variety of counts.
The turnout was awful. The Guardian said about 500 people showed up for the National Gathering. There’s no real excuse for that since the event has been promoted for months. Philadelphia was actually a great choice for a location and not just for symbolic reasons; it’s an easy train ride from a number of cities that had significant Occupy presences, including New York City, Washington D.C. and Boston. Even bringing a small percentage of the Occupiers in those cities should have culled a far higher number.
If the attendance was pathetic, the fundraising was downright humiliating. The Occupy National Gathering put up a fundraising page with the modest goal of $15,000. Let’s recall that the Occupy Wall Street camp in New York alone raised hundreds of thousands of dollars -- all of which was promptly squandered. The fundraising page was slick and professional and even claimed “We're proud to have 501(c)3 fiscal sponsorship courtesy of Volunteers for International Solidarity.”
Total raised for Occupy National Gathering according to their website : $600. Not a typo. Six. Hundred. Dollars. There are church bake sales in small towns that bring in more ducats than that. #NatGat list seventeen donors, who probably now wish they’d sprung for an extra Hacky Sack instead of tossing their cash into the Occu-pit.
So what was it like? U.K.’s leftist newpaper The Guardian paints the picture for us:
Activist nobles such as Medea Benjamin and Lisa Fithian circulated among the unwashed. Artisans crafted signs and peddled T-shirts, buttons and stickers.
The colorful semi-mystical gathering – among the faithful, Occupy has near-magical powers – recalled why it captured the imagination. There is no public space in which Americans of all types, income and opinions can talk, play and live together. The carnival spirit of Occupy flourished and the night-time curfew kept the decay and drugs at bay that burdened so many other occupations.
Brandon Darby will be happy to see that Lisa and Medea were there, proving his longtime contention -- hammered home in the film Occupy Unmasked -- that Occupy is nothing more than the same old stinky Left with a new coat of patchouli scented paint. It’s also wonderful to see that capitalists were there selling things and that an imposed curfew stopped the ‘decay and drugs.’
Nonetheless, the media bias is worth noting here. You have to love the Guardian's coverage: “There is no public space in which Americans of all types, income and opinions can talk, play and live together.” This is a shameful, obviously lie that ignores everything from church camping trips to college campuses. I’ve been to a number of Occupy camps and while it’s nice to see people talk about politics, it’s far from the only place to do it. Tea Party, anyone?
After a few paragraphs of this tripe, even The Guardian is forced to start getting real and admit :
Occupy's child-like view of politics – how consensus and participatory democracy will free the angels within every one of us – was a big reason for its success because it offered a palpable alternative to our cynical, acquisitive society. Yet it apparently hasn't dawned on the hive mind that it is impossible to satisfy all rights, every time, everywhere.
When even the leftist Guardian is calling Occupy ‘child-like,’ they should know they're in trouble.
And there's more from the Philadelphia Inquirer:
At times there seemed to be almost as many police officers and journalists as there were protesters. But several marchers said they accomplished their goal - broadly, to bring attention to abuses of power and inequality in American society. Of course, each protester had more specific areas of concern.
The ACT UP protesters were demanding a "Robin Hood Tax" on derivatives trades to raise money for the care, housing and other services for AIDS patients.
In front of Wells Fargo, a local educator shouted about her student loan debt and wondered what she would do if the city closed down her school. "I was told I couldn't get a forbearance," she said, pausing for the crowd to repeat her words in Occupy's standard call-and-response style. "Wells Fargo said, 'Sorry.' "
In front of UBS, they held banners reading "UBS blows up mountains," and shouted "frack you, frack you," referring to the the natural-gas extraction process known as fracking. Many communities near fracking sites say the process is hazardous to human health and the environment.
A man from San Diego was carrying a sign decrying working conditions in Appalachian coal mines. But he said his biggest area of concern is land rights and protections for Native Americans.
A woman from Buffalo, N.Y., cited the influence of corporate money on public elections. Others said they were there to protest economic inequality, government openness and corporate greed.
Sound like a party you’d want to attend yet?
If you want to get a first hand view of how this went down, read this blog entry from a woman who went on the National Gathering’s 99 mile march; an exercise in futility done in 100+ degree weather. This selection from the blog gives you a good sense of what this brave new society could look like:
So anyways, I actually slammed a door and ran off crying because I was so offended that I was being told to be self reliant when I was in such a state of exhaustion and hunger- especially after how much work I have done for this movement and how much I put INTO this march. I go and hide in my tent and BAWL. Next thing I know a few different people are at my tent, bringing me *more* peanut butter and jelly, lemonade and chips. The lemonade and chips were heaven. Another woman brings me a piece of cheese- what I originally asked for. I eat it all and pass out for most of the day. Needless to say I missed the march.
They went 18 miles. And it was hot, hot hot out there.
That night we all had a big concert/jam session but I was not really feeling well still. I passed out and woke up this morning and ate eggs very happily. We had a tortuously long GA where we all mostly complained and got almost nothing done, regarding solutions. And there is a very mentally ill woman causing a bit more trouble than we need right now … It is quite hard to know how to deal with her in a loving way.
None of this drama compares to the biggest blowout of the Occupy National Gathering, where a longtime Occupier named Sage was officially kicked out of the Occupy movement. If you’ve been following my Occupy Wall Street videos, you’ve already met Sage. He’s featured in Occupy Unmasked, too. Here’s a clip with Sage we shot back in October 2011.
Sage has been labeled a ‘disruptor’, which means he complains about things inside the camp. That’s not cool because he’s supposed to be complaining about the 1%. Things really blew up at #NatGat, however. Sage even made that article quoted earlier from The Guardian:
On Monday afternoon, I entered the park with two friends and we were greeted by Sage. Bare-chested, sitting on the grass, he yelled out to us, "I don't like you." His object of anger was Gregg, one of the nicest people from Occupy Wall Street. Sage continued, "Actually, I like you just fine. You taste sweet. It's the effects of what you do that I don't like." Mild words were exchanged and we quickened our pace. But Sage was not to be denied. Flying in from our left flank, he planted himself in front of us, babbling about "double sarcasm". Gregg asked to be left alone, but Sage deftly claimed he was being denied his right to speak.
It's unfair to blame Sage, who claims he was "born in a mental hospital". Virtually every occupation was beset by the same types, though New York seemed to have a surplus. Nonetheless, one seasoned Occupy organizer, by way of the Middle East, does blame the wayward behavior of a minority for "destroying Occupy as a functioning entity". He claims after the eviction of the Zuccotti Park occupation last November, there would be meetings of up to 300 people groping for a path going forward, but constant disruptions would "suck the energy out of the room."
The Middle East organizer mentioned that in Tahrir Square, Egyptians would surround provocateurs and disruptors (both of the voluntary and involuntary kind) chase them out of the square. If they came back, then a beating was in order. He said, "While it's a different political culture, the Egyptians and Syrians have had to deal with people shooting them from windows. Occupy Wall Street couldn't even deal with a few crazies."
Wait -- did Arun Gupta of the Guardian just approvingly quote someone suggesting beatings for Occupy disruptors?
Now, back to Sage.
Sage apparently was talking to a girl online for a while -- but when he got to the Occupy National Gathering, the girl turned out to be be a dude. This resulted in a number of soap opera-esque accusations, culminating in Sage's ouster. Warning: this account from the Occupiers makes about as much sense as a normal Sage rant:
TeamSix's broadcast team discovered through subsequent investigation that Sage had been pushing for the use of a social media messaging platform named @VibeWall since the very beginning of Occupy. Sage's associate "White Hat," is the creator of this application. @VibeWall (@VibeApp) is a geolocation based application that allows users to engage other users participating in the platform within an ascribed range. Though no one knew who this mysterious "White Hat" was, LulzTeamSix's intrepid reporters were able discover "Uncle Maurice's" real name is Hazem Sayed.
And on it goes, like a bad Cyberpunk novel meets 24 meets The Real Housewives of Occupy Wall Street. Sage is accused of trying to disrupt Occupy with his Uncle’s app that can spread info to the cops and he was being jerk and disinformation and blah blah blah. This is the movement that's supposed to change America? And that's a good thing?
The whole mess points out the state of the movement. Writer Justin Samuels sums it up well in his blog post:
Now I'm not going to even try to figure out who did what. Its largely irrelevant. If all Sage is accused of is true, quite clearly this points to serious flaws within OWS. Anyone can come off the street and be a member. Unfortunately, if you don't screen people that you want to join your organization or movement, you cannot be surprised when you have problems with the behavior of some people. Occupy Wall Street has fallen apart and nearly entirely disappeared for a number of reasons. I think Sage is just being SCAPEGOATED for the collapse of OWS.
After all, the total abject failure of the Occupy Movement as encapsulated the National Gathering CAN’T be the ideas. Right?