Skip to content

How to not Win Friends and not Influence People

The greatest challenge to the 99% movement is not the disproportionate power of the 1%, rather it’s the power of a self-indulgent minority within our own ranks. A ‘fuck-it-all-where-can-I-throw-this-rock?’ element plagues Occupy sites from Oakland to Chapel Hill. The unfortunate and stupid chant of “Kill the cops, Burn the prisons” recorded yesterday in Chapel Hill, NC will be attributed to the peaceful Occupy Chapel Hill rather than a splinter group leaving the Carrboro Anarchist Bookfair on Sunday.

Activist friends from across the country have expressed frustration with the chaos of Occupy sites. As I reported from Boston, it was witnessing the empathy of Occupy Boston for the plight of the lost and dysfunctional that sparked my appreciation. The homeless and mentally ill are a challenge but those who promote violent confrontation are a threat. How the Occupy movement deals with those who promote chaos may determine the limits of their success.

UPDATE: After much discussion, Monday night’s Occupy Chapel Hill General Assembly generated a press release clarifying this event including this statement:

Seeing police pointing machine guns at unarmed protestors, next to a public bus ready to carry them away, and plastered with a Wells Fargo billboard was really ironic. It really makes you think about the kind of democracy we have,” said Carrboro Alderman Sammy Slade.

The General Assembly thanks the occupants of the Yates building for their clear statements explaining that this was not an action of the Occupy Chapel Hill General Assembly at Peace and Justice Plaza. We also want to express appreciation to the various local media for their accuracy in reporting this important fact.

Frankly, I was very impressed with the way participants worked their way through this minefield of emotions and were able to achieve consensus on key points despite dramatically different perspectives on the prior day’s events. Occupy Chapel Hill has handled this quite well while providing a counterexample to this post’s title.

Read the entire press release here.

– Iron Filing



  1. Mountain Man wrote:

    You’re asking this VERY SPECIFIC protest to solve all social ills – the “occupy” protest is primarily about how the banks and the rich are skating away from ANY responsibility for their behavior – it’s not about fixing every social problem there is from dealing with the mentally ill to dealing solving the situation in Palestine! For Heaven’s sake – FOCUS! One point at a time! “Occupy” is about irresponsible wealth – not fix the world!

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 9:59 pm | Permalink
  2. starluna wrote:

    Mountain Man – to whom are you directing your comments?

    Monday, November 14, 2011 at 10:30 pm | Permalink
  3. ebdoug wrote:

    “lost and dysfunctional that ” I assume that lost and dysfunctional refer to people. This should read “lost and dysfunctional who” Jay Leno does this all the time (maybe you are Jay Leno but I think you are Dan (Don?) who said you were going to Boston and were delayed a week by the storm.
    “Who” is people. That are things. For me, all animals are who, but that would be a preference.

    For the 1%, the occupiers are “that

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011 at 5:16 am | Permalink
  4. TENTHIRTYTWO wrote:

    Been a while since I dozed off in English class, but I believe ‘that’ is correct since it is operating on ‘plight’ not people.

    “empathy for the people who…”
    “empathy for the plight that…”
    “empathy for the plight of the people that…”

    Back to the OP, I think this is certainly a valid concern. In general, “they” will operate to discredit the movement and things like this only give them more ammunition.

    I think a responsible thing would be to recognize the people but distance them from the movement. “There are anarchists here, but the movement is not about anarchy.” This puts it in a better light, at least to me, than screaming that there is no such thing as an anarchist as OWS, a-la racists at the tea party.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011 at 6:00 am | Permalink
  5. Iron Filing wrote:

    Well put, TENTHIRTYTWO, “There are anarchists here, but the movement is not about anarchy” are exactly the words I was trying to come up with at a General Assembly last night. Unfortunately, the young anarchists here think Occupy is all about them … sigh.

    Occupy Chapel Hill has a sign displayed prominently which says, “Our occupation will be based on respect of political diversity. As individuals and groups we may choose to engage in diverse forms of expression and action but are committed to treating each other with respect.”

    Unfortunately, it is hard for media to distinguish a group choosing to engage in a separate action from Occupy, especially when membership overlaps. I have to give kudos to local news sources such as the Raleigh News and Observer, , and the Daily Tarheel, , which have done an excellent job making the distinction while national news sources have not.

    You are also right that we should not pretend there are no extremists within our ranks. It would be obviously false. That sort of denial is one of the reasons that the Tea Party is imploding.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011 at 6:31 am | Permalink
  6. starluna wrote:

    I’ve observed that there is a significant level of egotism displayed by most young anarchists. I believe it must have something to do with the interaction of being young and being anarchist, both of which having a self-regarding orientation.

    I agree with 1032. I feel the same about many of the communities that I belong/ am connected to. Yes, there are socialist college professors who will fail students who have different beliefs. Yes, there are Mexican Americans who believe in “retaking the homeland.” Yes, there are gay men who are obsessed with sex and would love to legalize prostitution and make porn available in libraries. I believe it is our responsibility within our communities to have discourse with these people, to call them out when needed, and to keep focused on the larger goals of social justice.

    I was initially skeptical of Occupy Boston. But I’ve seen them reach out/ be open to the communities who have been subjugated for far longer than the middle class white kids who pitched the tents in Dewey Square. They have actively engaged with the existing grassroots groups (to varying levels of success) and are supporting Ocupemos el Barrio (Occupy the Hood/Barrio) without trying to take credit for it. Ocupemos el Barrio/ Occupy the Hood is less about wall street accountability and more about the forms of government domination that out communities have been living with for quite some time (S-Comm, immigrant raids and deportations, lack of economic development, poor quality schools, environmental injustice, police brutality/ police neglect, etc).

    The interesting thing is, except on the Spanish language channels, I have not seen any mass media discussion of the interaction with and support for other concerns or people within the Occupy movement. It does seem easier, or as Thought Dancer could discuss at great length – conducive to corporate media goals, to focus on the few anarchists and do-badders who take advantage of the Occupy protests than to focus on the good and interesting things that are coming out of the movement.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011 at 8:16 am | Permalink
  7. TENTHIRTYTWO wrote:

    It reflects poorly on the media how easily everyone was swept into the same lazy hippie bucket. It reflects poorly on America that it was bought into so easily and effectively. My mind boggles at the thought that people who are in part protesting the government handout to Wall Street can be lambasted for being socialists.

    As I commented on in another post, I’m sure a lot of the libertarians at OWS are shocked to learn they are communists. But this also gives me hope which really rises past my cynicism. That so many people from so many walks of life can come together and agree on so many things. I was happy to see someone on my social network who is a libertarian and ardent Ron Paul supporter scold people for saying that the OWS folks were all lazy kids.

    Funny side note: In NC the most backwoods right-wing rednecks are typically all UNC-CH fans. They love the sports, but loathe the university itself…it being a bastion of liberalism. Fascinatingly ironic.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011 at 6:53 pm | Permalink