By Jason Menard
For a group that protests the monopoly that the few hold over the world’s finances, it seems to have little problem with asserting its monopoly on the concept of right. And if it accepts help from cyber-hacker group Anonymous, it’s effectively putting an end to any chance of gaining the public support the Occupy movement so desperately needs.
The Occupy London movement is currently working on its manifesto. But as we await London’s group’s next steps, we’ve recently received a threat by the self-professed hacktivist group Anonymous in anticipation of Toronto’s upcoming eviction of their Occupy group.
“By next week, if you do not change your mind. You shall be removed from the Internet,” Anonymous’ YouTube threat states, concluding with their traditional “We do not forgive, we do not forget. We are legion.”
Before we go further, let me share some visionary protesters that I admire: those who changed the world, not just through sit-ins and threats, but through actions, words, and working the system. People like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., — even John Lennon, who fought for peace through the courts and was validated.
So what should I call a bunch of faceless “activists” making threats against a whole population? I hate to be inflammatory, but I fail to see how their tactics are anything less than a form of terrorism?
We are allowed to disagree. We are allowed to fight the power. If the removal of the Occupy Toronto (or Occupy London, for that matter) encampments is truly against the law, then you fight it in the courts. You stand up for your rights all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada – and you prove you’re right.
You don’t threaten the very livelihood of the 99 per cent you’re allegedly supporting. You don’t support an action that could have a vast-reaching impact not just on the local government, but perhaps the people struggling to make do with their businesses – businesses that may rely on the internet to attract or direct customers to their shop so that they can make a living.
You know, the living I’m allegedly supposed to be supporting?
Yet, because government is supposedly faceless, we’re supposed to be comfortable with this. But government is not faceless – they are actually our faces. While I may not agree with my elected representative on all issues, I do know I can call her up, talk about the issue, and have my voice heard. I also know if enough people do the same, it will certainly impact her opinion on what the Ward/Riding wants. It’s working the system — but it takes time and effort.
Perhaps this is reflective of the me-now mentality of today’s youth – the idea that certain aspects of life, for which previous generations have had to work, are taken for granted as something owed to them. In many ways, this Occupy Movement has been merely protest for protest’s sake. That may be enough for the participants, but it’s not enough to gain the support of the majority of the 99 per cent – the very people you alleged (and presume) to represent. And for the movement to have any success, Occupy needs the 99 per cent supporting them.
It’s not enough to stomp your feet and demand change; as we grow up, we learn that we must be part of that change and be willing to present and be part of the solutions. Most importantly, we all must learn to respect each other’s opinions. Different does not always mean wrong. And might – whether it’s through the form of police force or squatting in a public park – certainly does not make right.
King Jr., Gandhi, Lennon, and the like all had two things that the Occupiers are neglecting – one of which creates the other: and that’s a clear, defined message which would garner public support.
The Occupy movement has put the cart before the horse: with no message, the public’s tolerance level is strained. Now subjected to threats, how does the Occupy movement expect the average citizen to react? Scare tactics only induce fear and that seems to be counter-productive in terms of garnering support.
Instead of threats (and I’m pleased to see that the working document of the Occupy London manifesto has been changed. An early edition used the term, “We have, so far, remained peaceful…” which was an implied threat. It now reads – at least at the time of this writing, “We have, so far, and will continue to remain peaceful…”) the group must give the public something to embrace.
For a group that’s demanding the respect of so many, it’s time to give some back. Understand there will be those who disagree with the message, the tactics, and the movement. That’s OK. If your message is solid and resonates, you will gain support organically. And that’s why their refusal to-date to set up an information tent is discouraging. If I had a message of this importance to share, I’d be doing everything I could to get it out so that I could get the conversation started based on fact and ideas, not innuendo and speculation.
The Occupy movement may feel people are just looking for an excuse to dismiss them. But there are equally as many of us out there looking for a reason to support them and embrace their message wholeheartedly. A manifesto is a start because the message is the most important thing.
Getting in bed with cyber-terrorists like Anonymous and playing the politics of fear? You’ll only end up screwing yourself — and your message.
My understanding is that you don’t choose Anonymous, Anonymous chooses you. Granted Occupy could, at the very least, release a statement distancing themselves from Anonymous, but my impression is that any alliance between the two groups is only a media creation.
I wouldn’t say it’s totally a media creation. As I mentioned to Jason, I did see a news report this morning out of Toronto where one of the Occupiers was quoted as saying there was a “straw poll” taken on site, asking whether they supported Anonymous’ statement and overwhelmingly the Occupy Toronto folks were in favour of the move. That’s a fairly substantial condoning of the activity. I’m not one to blame the media for fabricating things — in fact, I think the media has given the Occupy people plenty of opportunities to share a clear message and, to date, there’s been little desire to take advantage of that opportunity.
Howard is correct in that Anonymous chooses their targets regardless. Supporting it is definitely a bad move on the part of Occupy Toronto, though–while I could say that Anonymous is doing some good by targeting child pornography sites, they definitely aren’t good for any group’s PR.
I do think that Occupy London put far too much emphasis on “direct democracy” and not enough on the original message. I spoke with some of them and they knew for themselves what the message was all about, but I didn’t feel like going to a General Assembly meeting and saying “You know, you guys aren’t helping yourselves by not engaging the media”–I figured someone else was probably already doing that. It’s still not enough to form a small society based on direct democracy and then stand in front of the cameras patting yourselves on the back for having a small society based on direct democracy. I think the backlash from their recent march, including the departure of Eric Sheppard, has (hopefully) awakened Occupy London to this idea.
As for Occupy Toronto….by supporting the Anonymous threat, they’ve just handed the public a reason to hate them, the mayor a reason to disperse them, and a very high-profile blow to other legitimate Occupations that are attempting to do something positive.
The difficulty with Anonymous is that they sometimes suffer from dissension within their own ranks. While I don’t support all of the causes that Anonymous goes after, on occasion it’s been seen that one or two members do stuff like this without the general consent of the group at large, and they often do it on their own decision, and not by e-mailing, for example, the Occupy Toronto group saying “Hey, Anonymous would like to help your cause by threatening to knock Toronto off the Internet. You guys down?”
Agreed, Anonymous involvement with Occupy Toronto doesn’t look good to the general public, regardless of whether Occupy Toronto supports their involvement or not. Unfortunately, it’s hard to pin down a group of faceless hacktivists and tell them to back off.
The Occupy movement started with a clear message, if it was never stated in one collective manifesto. I applaud the working manifesto Occupy London has come up with, though, because I believe that in recent weeks that message was heavily diluted with a lot of stereotypes in both the mainstream media and social media, and the inevitable play of egos and villains within the ranks. Witness what’s happened to Occupy London since the eviction–retaliation, disrespect, and the idea that any contact with government is somehow disgusting to think about. The manifesto may just restore some credibility to a badly damaged protest, and give some purpose back to those who, like me, are a bit disillusioned with a movement that I once wholeheartedly supported.
My information regarding the link between Anonymous and Occupy Toronto is limited, however, I did see a news report this morning out of Toronto where one of the Occupiers was quoted as saying there was a “straw poll” taken on site, asking whether they supported Anonymous’ statement and overwhelmingly the Occupy Toronto folks were in favour of the move. I think it’s a bad idea, simply because they’re now condoning this type of threat. The Occupy London movement has just started refining its message, but for weeks they had no clear statement — in fact, they took pride in being a leaderless collective sharing multiple messages. If you’re trying to garner support of the mainstream — which they must do — you have to give the public something to understand. Yes, we all can agree that there should be a better distribution of wealth, but how do you go about doing that? Wealth creation in itself is not a bad thing — in fact, an artificial cap only serves to demotivate innovation. I’d like to support the Occupy movement, but there are too many moving parts for me to do so at this time. I’m not going to lend my voice when it can be misused.