Occupy Wall Street was a failure because its millennial leaderless co-leadership refused to employ the basic and well-known template for successful activism. The main problem was its lack of a coherent message or legislative agenda, which stemmed from its aforementioned lack of centralized leadership (well-illustrated in HBO’s The Newsroom).
It was frustrating to observe because it could’ve resulted in further Wall Street reforms and a stronger, more upwardly mobile middle class. Instead it drowned in its own soup of incoherence — rapidly disintegrating into a mixed bag of sanctimonious kids, hippies and weirdos.
The debate about NSA hasn’t quite descended to that level of hodgepodgery and impotency, but it’s certainly on that path. Granted, there are some legislative proposals that the movement has endorsed, which is a huge step up from Occupy. But there’s no sense of coherent, centralized leadership outside of, maybe, Edward Snowden himself who’s already declared victory. But Snowden as the leader of a successful movement is a hard sell anyway because, as Bill Maher pointed out, every time he opens his mouth, “He says something totally batshit.” Ideally, you want your movement to be accepted and joined by more than just the choir, so Snowden is kind of out.
The other problem, of course, is that the movement is largely based upon misinformation, hyperbolic headlines and frustratingly buried ledes — observations and criticisms about the journalistic malpractice that we’ve been documenting here from the beginning. It’s difficult to carry on a debate when some of the people who initiated the debate in the first place refuse to acknowledge basic history, context and political realities. And don’t get me wrong: I absolutely believe we need to have a serious, adult conversation about how to reform NSA, especially now that so many of its operations have been exposed. But so far, the debate has been engaged on decidedly shaky terms.
To wit: one of the first major protests occurred yesterday when a coalition of various websites and organizations teamed up under the banner of “THE DAY WE FIGHT BACK AGAINST MASS SURVEILLANCE.”
–On the positive side, it’s a digital rally using modern tools (more on this presently). Physical, outdoor protest rallies in the 21st Century, complete with ridiculous banners, tricorner hats and giant puppets are a big waste of time and typically achieve nothing. That said…
–The first major issue with this rally is, oddly, its title and timeframe. Specifically the first two words in the title: “The Day.” One day. That’s all? How about the YEAR we fight back? Maybe it’s catering to the short attention spans of internet users, or maybe after the interminable nature of Occupy, the organizers didn’t want to overreach on the timeline. I’m half joking, but if you believe in this cause, and if you have even half a clue about what it takes to realistically make changes to a complex, massive intelligence community, much less the U.S. government as a whole, you have to know that it’ll take considerably more time than a day. Think years. That last part is crucial. Yet here’s another protest rally that most people will forget about 24 hours later.
–”The Day” involved inputting your phone number or email into one of two form fields. If you entered your phone number, an operator called you with a scripted McMessage (based on misleading bulletpoints of comlicated operations) and then connected you with your member of Congress. Points for message consistency; points taken away for handing over your phone number and email to a corporate service called Twilio (among others). Whatever happened to providing a number, a script and the email for your representative or senator? Why is this third party service involved?… [CONTINUE READING HERE]