Strategy @ Occupy Wall Street

A piece in the Atlantic on the strategies and tactics of the Occupy Wall Street movement – A Guide to the Occupy Wall Street API, Or Why the Nerdiest Way To Think About OWS Is So Useful.

Here are some of the ‘strategies:’

GET Strategy/studied police antagonism: Occupy protesters have courted some confrontations with police officers while shying away from others. While the occupations have been almost exclusively non-violent, they have also refused to heed police orders. Hundreds have been arrested and a few injured in clashes with police. In return, protesters have gotten to document the heavy force the police have deployed. Images of hundreds of riot police facing down unarmed protesters has catalyzed support for the movement.

GET Strategy/open source ideology: From the beginning, the occupation was meant to take on a life of its own. Organizers and occupiers alike have not tired to maintain control of the message or methodology for spreading ideas or occupations. Anyone who wants to support Occupy Wall Street can just do something, trusting they’ll be able to connect to the movement. Hence OccupyHistory and hundreds of like sites.

GET Strategy/General Assembly: The occupations are governed by general assemblies in which consensus rules. These are generally run by organizers who are familiar with the consensus method. The GAs strive for inclusiveness and bring the whole group together on some predictable schedule. Anyone can speak at the meetings and detailed minutes are taken.

GET Strategy/working groups: While the big decisions are made by the GA, the thousands of other tasks involved in running the camp have been farmed out to working groups that focus on specific issues. For example, the Internet Working Group works on the infrastructure requirements of the protesters.

GET Strategy/social media: Occupy Wall Street had a social media strategy from the beginning. They encouraged all protesters to record their experiences with cell phones and cameras and then used that media to drive awareness of the protest in its early days. Since then, a whole network of social media has emerged from Twitter accounts to Facebook pages to wikis. This web is woven together by a media team as well as outsiders who have begun to act as signal amplifiers and filters. A particularly effective outside effort was the WeArethe99Percent tumblr, which presented stories of everyday people who were struggling despite their hard work.

DELETE Strategy/Marxist ideology: Despite the dogged determination of some on the right to read any critique of capitalism as pure Marxism, this is just not the case. While some protesters may espouse the desire for massive and structural changes to our economic system, they are not calling for a Marxist revolution. As journalist Bruce Nussbaum put it, “OWS is against Crony Capitalism, not Capitalism. It’s FOR Entrepreneurial Capitalism… OWS has splits. Some want a share economy. Others are nihilist. But most see Steve Jobs as a hero.”

DELETE Strategy/Mainstream media mediation: In the early days of the protest, it garnered little attention. An NPR editor said they did not cover the protest because it did not “involve large numbers of people, prominent people, a great disruption or an especially clear objective.” So, the protesters made their own media and distributed it (see above on social media). While media attention is easier to get now, the channels the protesters created in the early days remain active and provide a direct transmission of what the occupiers think is happening.

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