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Friday, October 14, 2011

Finding Mem(e)o

While the Occupy Wall Street Movements have been very successful at using innovative new cyber campaigning efforts, I think the image above illustrates part of why I reserve a certain degree of cynical distance toward the movement. Nonetheless, I am still hopeful that another world is possible, indeed, another world is here.

Antonio from Mediacology has an interesting new post about the resilience of the Occupy Wall Street movements. Although large media syndicates have barraged publics with accusations that the movements is a bunch of rabble rousing, mobs engaged in class warfare masquerading as social justice.  Antonio describes the complex and uncertain effects of the circulation of memes;

A meme works when it taps into a zeitgeist. It’s a flame that ignites, but doesn’t necessarily replicate exactly in the same form every time. It’s like an utterance that echoes and reverberates through resonance. It doesn’t exist as a thing but as part of an ongoing conversation. Few need a college degree to apprehend the depth of catastrophe the current economic model has become. By establishing contact zones with the awareness that something needs to be done, these occupations become apertures for an emergent reality that contests the delusional dreamworld propagated by the corporate media.
Memes exist at the intersection of several thresholds. They are not simply quotes, utterances of discourse, images or emotions alone in themselves. They bring an affective force that previously existed below the level of visibility to the surface. Almost ex nihilo they erupt and make manifest the collective sentiment and valence of a specific cultural phenomena.

Yes both the left and the right can offer analyses and provide figures explaining the crisis away. They likewise can both demonize and caricature public figures across the aisle. But neither of them can tap into that deep affective force without the spontaneous convergence of cognitive content, image and affect that is synthesized in the meme. While memes are often of comedic content, their truth value inevitably bleeds through and drives their circulation if they are to be of any force at all.

So how exactly has the movement sustained itself despite the vitriol of claims otherwise? Or the constant feedback loops of Herman Cain proclaiming the protests are the result of those conspiring to keep Obama elected.

One thing I can agree with Newt Gingrich on is that these protests are the result of a bad education system producing dumb ideas. The recent Texas Education Reform debacle probably proves that when you exclude the histories of struggle, such as Cezar Chavez, the Gay Rights Movement, and the like, and replace them with unquestioned theological foundations for American Exceptionalism people are dumbfounded when events like the 2008 economic collapse occur. 

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Si(g)n(e) Die

New Video from Occupy Wall Street, signs of a new beginning?

Nate Silver from fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com has an interesting new post about the dynamics of mainstream media coverage of the Occupy Wall St Movements. He analyzes information provided by the database NewsLibrary.com that indicates there was relatively little coverage of the protests until they provoked police response. The Protests which began originally on September 17 began with mainly local media responses from traditional mediums.  There was a significant surge when the police were caught on tape pepper spraying dissidents. A larger trend began to manifest itself in which clashes with police provoked proportional surges in media coverage.


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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Occupying the Middle at the Fringes

As the Occupation movements spread across the U.S. to different cities interesting geographies of protest have emerged. The movements in Dallas, Texas provide a poignant case study. The movements have taken the Federal Reserve Bank in Dallas as their symbolic point of attack, but they're late to the party, and something tells me that provisions of Tea will be served for refreshments.

Ron Paulians, Tea Partyers, End the Fed-ers, and A.M. Talk Radio Fans have been rallying against the Fed for years. Now that there is a larger contingent of people protesting the Fed there has been an interesting convergence between the New New Left and the Far Right. The Fed's always possessed  enigmatic affective traces, but now it will be stuck with mutually reinforcing associations from both sides.

The resonance and alliance of right and left provokes a paradoxical moment for protesters on both ends. When you have Rush Limbaugh and Ron Paul leading side-by-side with Cornel West and Slavoj Zizek how can any outcome be predicted? The uncertainty and complexity of the situation is awe inspiring. The proliferation of interpretations, passionate displays of angst, and rationalizations for the status quo and its supplementary resistance has made for quite a potent political cocktail. The question is will the more mild public drink it down or humbly choose to abstain?

Zizek recently spoke to the Occupy Wall St. movement, #OWS, at Liberty Park. He encouraged the group but also offered a few pieces of pointed criticism.
There is a danger. Don’t fall in love with yourselves. We have a nice time here. But remember: carnivals come cheap. What matters is the day after. When we will have to return to normal life. Will there be any changes then. I don’t want you to remember these days, you know, like - oh, we were young, it was beautiful. Remember that our basic message is: We are allowed to think about alternatives. The rule is broken. We do not live in the best possible world. But there is a long road ahead. There are truly difficult questions that confront us. We know what we do not want. But what do we want? What social organization can replace capitalism? What type of new leaders do we want?
He ended with a simple injunction to not just desire but actually want the other world that is possible;
We know that people often desire something but do not really want it. Don’t be afraid to really want what you desire.
He also told the groups that they should not paint the far right and the Tea Partyers as enemies. His basic point was that even if they are stupid, they should be on the left and so the movement should reach out rather than alienate such publics. His speech offered some tactical pieces of advice for the movement as it continues to unfold. He told the group to focus on the systemic totality not on individuals or abstract claims about greed, to reclaim family values and religion as better represented by the left, and to fight for 'the commons' not communism as such.

What are the implications for such a shift in leftist appeals? Can such traditional values be affectively recoded in a surge of emotional appeals and attacks on systemic violence? Or will it take something more? What is the role of media in these new protests? I will try to explore some of these questions more as the movement continues to develop and their strategy manifests itself in relation to more specific value questions rather than just the economy in the abstract.

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