July 29th, 2012

Julia Bond writes:

This started as part of the previous answer I was giving to what Occupy would look like if we focused on something (and how we still stay identifiably Occupy while doing that). I turned it into a separate post because it kind of took on a life of it’s own:

We’re going to have to continue to fight for our our futures in ways that non-violently resist the existing system, because those who pay for power deny us effective access to that system by design. So one thing we bring to any issue are the lessons we (hopefully) learned from what was so effective nationally about the *tactic* of occupation:

– Choose the battleground instead of fighting on our opponents’ home turf. We will NEVER be able to afford to out-lobby big business in Washington. We will never be able to buy enough advertising space to drown out the voices trying to tell us to just buy some more stuff and don’t think too much about the world outside our personal bubbles. Instead, make them talk about us and come to our spaces to do it. Leave them confused about how to handle a group that won’t give you ‘someone in charge of all this’ to talk to, and that directs its energy towards repairing problems instead of making demands of the people who created them.

– Refuse to designate leaders for opponents to tear apart and get the media to interview a diverse group that is composed of as many people as possible, letting everyone speak for themselves and letting no one become the voice of the group. (Also, realize that some stuff just makes you sound delusionally paranoid, and isn’t good to talk to reporters about – especially when it’s really happening – because then you’re just serving to discredit the truth. This applies even more to learning how to discuss things without sounding paranoid: pointing out the number of regulators who later work at high-paying jobs in industries they used to regulate – good; telling a reporter that there is a government conspiracy to protect bankers and cover up their crimes – not really helping.)

– Be our own media. We can’t count on the nightly news to tell us about the world or to tell the world about us. We can get the story out to those who have already realized this by self-reporting and self-publishing. Also, filming things, especially any kind of confrontation with authority, changes what happens. It changes how authorities react, and it changes how the public reacts to what the authorities did. Without videotape the pepper-spray cop would have gotten away with it and the protesters reduced to a couple lines of a story in the metro section. I said authority and not ‘cop’ on purpose though – this same thing applies to confronting politicians and bank representatives.

– But don’t ignore the old media either. One of the biggest things Occupy has done nationally is change the terms of the conversation for everyone. And it did this by getting on TV. A lot. News outlets have to produce a lot of content under a tight deadline and are frequently happy to run anything in a press release nearly verbatim. Corporations use this to their advantage all the time; we’ll never match their ability to implicitly threaten ad dollars but most of what we do makes for better stories. Also, most concrete victories that have been won (forcing banks to re-negotiate with a particular homeowner to stop a foreclosure and the like) were due to public pressure on the institution involved. A local news story generates much more of this than a Facebook campaign.

– Don’t hide our differences. Make it public that we are a group of people who do NOT share a common worldview or set of opinions other than that our country is broken and that our current political situation is too corrupted by money to be fixed by quietly and privately occupying a voting booth. Resist being reducible to a sound byte or a stereotype, it makes us harder to attack.

– So, remember that the people who don’t share your views are an important strength of the movement and do your best to work with them. I think (hope) we’ve all seen that there’s an amazing amount of common ground to work on with people who we might otherwise see as ideological enemies. Try to keep space open for those who disagree with you to contribute to the work of rebuilding our communities – focus on the things you can both agree to DO.

– Don’t just express anger and frustration, make sure to create joy too. There’s lots of stuff to be angry about. One of the things we need most to sustain us is the moments of joy and creation. Also, happy dancing people are just really, really dumbfounding to authorities who are trying to halt a protest.

Most of this stuff is about being resilient and difficult to fight, as well as turning opponents’ efforts against them. “You can’t evict an idea whose time has come” “Arrest us and we multiply” It is far more difficult to stop a mic check than a person with a megaphone – there are just too many people that you have to act against, and even then the image of overwhelming use of force works against you – and we’ll be streaming it live. We are at our best when our actions are like this – many people coordinating to amplify a message in a way that doesn’t present your opponent with any single spot to attack. It’s also creative in taking advantage of otherwise bad situations. Refuse to report what’s happening? We’ll make dance videos that go viral online. We can’t have tents? We’ll wear them and force you to either leave us alone or strip a girl in public.

This is what Occupy is about – not having a tent village on the city square, but about creating the kinds of actions that only get stronger when you fight them, give you no central point or person to attack, are fun and infectious in a way that makes average people want to join in, and which provide a low barrier to entry for those people to get started. (Casseroles in Quebec are another great example.)


  1. Jeff Hess says:

    Good morning Julia,

    Hear! Hear!

    I agree with Joseph, but dissemination throughout Occupy ought to be just the beginning. Who are the bloggers who would cross-post this? Ask them to spread the word (I’ve already begun that with Have Coffee Will Write):

    Get your own blog (I’ll host it for free) where you’ll have more options and better control.

    Send this to the Plain Dealer as an Op-Ed piece (no, seriously, they might actually print it).

    Email this to the produce or Sound Of Ideas, the 9 a.m. radio show on WCPN.

    Email this to Jill Miller Zimon and ask if she can get you on Feagler. Also ask Jill about hooking you up with the BlogHer network.

    Don’t stop at the Plain Dealer, hit every newspaper in Ohio and then spread the word to the nationals (New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal &c.

    Get together with the video wizards (Tim, are you listening) and do this as a voice over to a compilation of Occupy Cleveland video shots.

    Begin thinking about what people ought to be talking about every day; use your blog and network to put those thoughts in their heads.

    Identify that network as a flowing river into which you can cast your message and not a cloud that absorbs and disperses and ultimately obscures what you want to say.

    So, there are a few thoughts.

    Do all that you can to make today a good day,


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