OWS: The Medium is the Message
by Adam Robbert
h/t Matt Segall who posted Robert Reich’s speech at Cal Berkeley earlier today. Segall writes:
One thing that really sunk in: if the Supreme Court ruled that money is speech and corporations are
moneypeople, then our government must also protect the rights of ordinary Americans to speak, and indeed, to speak in non-traditional ways (i.e., with their bodies in public tent cities) that enable them to garner the large audience necessary to make them capable of competing with corporate advertising.
The medium is the message here folks. When you ask, what is this movement about? what are its demands? what is its plan? You need to look no further than the formal properties of what is right in front of you. People are reclaiming public space as a space of debate, they are engaging in long-term problem solving, and re-learning the imperfect art of democracy in plain view. People are learning to coexist, and its a messy process. What we are invited to think here, as Matt also suggests, is that the encampment is the message.
Perhaps it is not a sustainable strategy in the long term, and new forms of activism will have to take root. Over at Adbusters, Kalle Lasn, originator of the #occupy meme, has suggested moving into a new phase of the movement, he writes:
The last four months have been hard fought, inspiring and delightfully revolutionary. We brought tents, hunkered down, held our assemblies, and lobbed a meme-bomb that continues to explode the world’s imagination. Many of us have never felt so alive. We have fertilized the future with our revolutionary spirit … and a thousand flowers will surely bloom in the coming Spring.
Thus while the encampments may have served their purpose, and delivered a message in full, it remains clear that the public sphere — in the very literal sense of the streets and common areas of cities and towns — has been occupied by advertisers and corporations for too long. In this sense OWS has blossomed into a new phase as an emergent, distributed entity formed out of the ethical outrage, passion, and connectivity of people all over the world.
How do you change the trajectory of a transnational corporation? You form a transnational movement every bit as distributed and elusive as the entity it is trying to influence.