From:   beka economopoulos <>
Sent time:   Wednesday, October 12, 2011 11:55:17 AM
Subject:   Re: [september17discuss] MoveOn.Org and Friends Attempt to Co-Opt Occupy Wall Street Movement

Actually, many mainstream orgs, including MoveOn, have been doing heavy lifting to support this thing, and they truly don't want to co-opt the movement.  But the reality is the movement has gone mainstream now, and it will get sucked in to establishment politics. 

Astra Taylor, journalist and filmmaker said it concisely: "the Democrats would benefit from nothing more than the whole social and political playing field tilting left -- but that ain't gonna happen if they co-opt OWS! let them benefit inadvertently but that's it...we must push further".

I don't think saying publicly "DFA and other groups are profiting from the movement without giving back" gets us where we need to go.  Quite the opposite: that's an invitation for more mainstream participation at the same time that internally we're watering our message down (being descriptive and reactive and celebrating OWS as being about a diversity of voices, democratic process, empowering the 99%), without maintaining the radical orientation this started with.

This occupation was initiated by, and remains largely organized by anticapitalists. We don't need to say the "c" word, or the "n" word (neoliberalism - the agenda of the past 40 years: privatization, deregulation, financialization, and globalization, which has led to the concentration of wealth, corruption of the political process, and accelerated the destruction of all we hold dear.).  But file in the back of our heads that after the 2008 economic crash, even mainstream media headlines did go there. And outlets like the Wall Street Journal / Market Watch, Crains, IBT, and other finance industry rags are going there now.   

We can use softer, gentler terms: the free market, etc.  But if we want accountability, regulation and restructuring of Wall Street and the finance industry we need to figure this out, and it has to play a much bigger role in OWS messaging.  And an impending Eurozone crash if Greece defaults could result in a major economic crash here in the US, potentially soon. So there is an opening to push further.  

This isn't a denunciation of establishment orgs, there are good people within them and they all want to see this succeed. But they can't lead us there. Now that we're in a new phase (of media coverage, of participation), we owe it to everyone to radicalize our message, go beyond what these groups can publicly say.  

The Tea Party and radical right have always played this role.  They make the establishment right uncomfortable, they divide and provoke, and they've been winning.  The center moved to the right, and the republican party tows a much harder line, wielding greater influence in D.C. than they did before.

OWS needs to tow a harder line. Being more explicit about the finance industry, making clear that we're not calling for easy reforms, that both parties are the problem, our political process is poisoned by the influence of money, that this is an international movement, that Egypt, Tunisia, Greece, Italy, Spain and the UK are all popular uprisings, like ours, in response to the economic crisis, the cutting of social safety nets, budget cuts and privatization.  That our economic system is broken.  And we'll settle for nothing less than fundamental and structural change.  

I just ask that we be as radical as the mainstream finance publications that understand this movement better than the rest of the mainstream press.  Start saying what they are saying.

Enough focus on democracy.  Talk about capitalism (/insert euphemism here).


On Wed, Oct 12, 2011 at 9:44 AM, Will Gauss <> wrote:

Sent from my iPhone

On Oct 12, 2011, at 8:17 AM, Bailey McCann <> wrote:

It would seem that one of the most obvious ways to create the dividing line between OWS and groups like the DFA is to point out that they're seeking to profit off the movement. (AKA business as usual) I haven't seen anything saying that they'll be giving back any of that $14 to OWS or better yet, to any groups working with the disadvantaged.

I think if we just pointed this out, and highlighted the other orgs like MoveOn who are riding the wave without actually doing any heavy lifting, people are going to key into that. If we go further and force them to answer why they thought it was ok to profiteer off a campaign going after greed, that would be an interesting moment.

The moment you blanketly say we hate democrats, that becomes a divisive message and not really what everyone seems to be working at here. However, forcing the establishment democrats to answer why their go-to reaction was profiteering, that has some credibility.


On Wed, Oct 12, 2011 at 4:29 AM, beka economopoulos <> wrote:
Here's the thing: our messaging, our strategy, and our tactics must change based on the external landscape.  When we become embraced by the Democratic Party and its allies, we must go further than what makes them comfortable.  That's if we want to win more than concessions and easy reforms (that currently exist within the realm of possibility), and achieve game-changing substantive/structural reforms (that currently live in the realm of impossibility, that we didn't imagine we ever could see in our lifetimes).  

We should aim for nothing less -- why aim for closing up shop soon when we have no idea what we're capable of?  

Phase 1 = vanguard moves in, initiates occupation, largely dismissed, but staying power piques curiosity, and police misconduct/violence draws attention and wins sympathy. 

Phase 2 = vanguards in other cities recognize potential, initiate occupations. At the same time, initial occupation gathers steam, grows, large membership orgs endorse and give legitimacy that wasn't present before, now the mainstream media start to change tune.  Focus of coverage is human interest story of life in the park; and what do they want?

Phase 3 = mainstream media interest explodes, NGOs, labor, community, and establishment orgs engage supporters, connect existing campaigns to #occupy frame, amplify visibility and suggestion of social movement.  Democratic leadership embrace movement, as do party-related and electorally focused orgs.  Media coverage attributes power to movement, queries whether it's a Tea Party for the left, whether it will gain electoral power and legislative victories.   

Phase 4 = ?

We currently find ourselves in Phase 3. Senior members of the White House administration, and the President himself, have expressed support for OWS.   Democracy for America, a Howard Dean initiated group just sent an email blast to more than a million members tonight selling yard signs that say "We Are the 99%" with co-branded urls: and  OWS is embraced by the establishment as a means to amplify existing agendae.  

Bloomberg gives tacit "permission" for our occupation, effectively rendering it non-threatening and normalizing it.  Result is rise in media coverage of occupation as nuisance to neighbors.  

This is a natural and necessary phase.  So now what?  

We're in this for the long haul. There are no "solutions" that can be presented quickly to make us go away. And so there will be moments where our presence is no longer an uncomfortable and unknown variable, but rather is normalized and integrated. It's in those moments that we have to push the envelop, pry open the space of possibility even farther. We go as far as we can to destabilize, but maintain momentum. And when that's the new "normal" then we go farther. That's how change happens, how we shift the terrain and the terms of the game.

From an actions perspective, that means getting tactical, and mobile, activating the rest of the city, executing higher-risk actions, civil disobedience and arrests.  

From a media perspective, we have to get ahead of the game. We no longer need to legitimize.  Or articulate the problem.  Both are clearly established.  So, given this new moment how can we use media strategically?  

We must draw a line, disavow the Democrats explicitly, make our messaging a little uncomfortable.  Yes, perhaps, split the support, lest we not be co-opted. This will be painful, internally, as it won't always achieve comfortable consensus.  But to hold this space and expand the realm of possibility, we have to go farther than others are ready to go.  It's how this started and we can't be too shy to be bold. 

On Wed, Oct 12, 2011 at 12:05 AM, Jon Good <> wrote:
This is a thing that keeps happening: we have a hard time recognizing the difference between a group and the members of that group.

The Democratic Party is a corrupt money-machine organization whose leaders sell out their constituents as they suckle from the poisonous teats of banks and corporations, but its members are in the 99% and our potential allies.

The NYPD is a brutal engine of repression and persecution paid off by the banks and whose culture of corruption gives clemency to those who rape, murder, and beat the people they're supposed to be protecting, but most individual cops are in the 99% and sympathetic to our cause.

And so on and so on...

On Tue, Oct 11, 2011 at 11:32 PM, Gabriel Johnson <> wrote:
(Frowny face.) I thought you guys liked me…


On Tue, Oct 11, 2011 at 11:20 PM, Jason Jones <> wrote:
Only option now is brutal separation. The democrats are the enemy. Smash capitalism!

On Tue, Oct 11, 2011 at 11:19 PM, Jon Good <> wrote:
"anyone trying to co-opt our movement better be careful that they don't get swallowed by us. "

On Tue, Oct 11, 2011 at 11:16 PM, <> wrote:
That is %#$%ed up!  That is the problem with not controlling our message and not copyrighting our slogans, but we are getting free advertising.  Maybe the GA should put out a message condemning their, or anybody's stealing our endorsement. 
One thing though, anyone trying to co-opt our movement better be careful that they don't get swallowed by us.
On 10/11/11, Jason Jones<> wrote:
On Tue, Oct 11, 2011 at 10:43 PM, Charles Lenchner <> wrote:
Folks might be surprised at the level of liberal/radical fraternization that has been taking place since the Bloombergville stuff. The idea that liberals were ignorant, then snarky, then busy taking over is pure fantasy. I know some folks at Rebuild the Dream. They have no intention of taking over OWS.

That said, y'all know Max Berger? He did the 'briefcase brigades' with 'the other 98%' group, left his old job to work on economic issues from a grassroots, youth perspective, and was then hired by RTD. You want to paint him as some outsider liberal poaching off this movement? Just crazy. And a LOT of the folks under attack as 'coopters' would fall into a similar category. Is labor backed, former ACORN chapter New York Communities for Change 'liberal'? Is the Transport Workers Union 'liberal'?

That said, I'm not liberal. But some of my best friends are. And I've dated some. My sister married one. Heck, I'm pretty sure I've voted for a few in my day! So times really are a-changin'. Perhaps it is time to let bygones be bygones and let them integrate with folks like us. I lot of what I hear said about 'em is just plain ignorant. 

What we really need to worry about is the People's Front of Judea.


On Tue, Oct 11, 2011 at 9:57 PM, Jason Jones <> wrote:
Hi I am not a liberal. In fact I am generally extremely antagonistic toward the position. In spite of that, I agree with jemcgloin. OWS has so far been very successful at building numbers without alienating. The expression of frustration that we currently collectively represent clearly targets financial centers, and doesn't preclude militant tactics (like occupation). Be grateful for how far we've come so far. For now its true we really are in this together. Until that changes (allegiances change etc.) avoid divisiveness and use the opportunity to push the whole toward the most radical ends. With numbers we could really make something of this.

On Tue, Oct 11, 2011 at 9:23 PM, <> wrote:
Hi I am a "liberal" involved in the GA since the first day.  We are supposed to be and inclusive movement trying to gain support, not excluding liberals because they didn't all jump in on day one.  move-on has always supported the democratic party.  Their house parties have been going on all year.  I went to one in July and brought people from there to the first NYCGA and moveon members have been active the whole time.  I am not a fan of the democratic party, and I don't think we should be endorsing them or any other party or candidate, but we don't need to say bad things about their members, only policies or legislation we disagree with.  The 99% is very big and chasing away some that are close to our positions because they work within the system is not a good idea.
Diversity of tactics does not only mean civil disobedience.  It can also mean that other groups can attempt to pass legislation that helps people without our condemning their existance.  The moveon people that i know believe that corporations are destroying  the world and are trying to fight it the way they know how.  Go read the list of demands that they came up with through a national voting system.  Give them advise, disagree with them but please don't come on here and claim that they are trying to steal our movement.  We are all in this together.
On 10/11/11, David DeGraw<> wrote:

MoveOn.Org and FriendsAttempt to Co-Opt Occupy Wall Street Movement

Tuesday 11 October 2011
by: Steve Horn, Truthout | News Analysis

Demonstrators with the Occupy Wall Street protests in Zucotti Parkin New York, October 7, 2011. Protests in Wall Street section of NewYork enter their third week, with similar efforts springing up inBoston, Chicago, Los Angeles and Seattle. (Photo: Michael Appleton /The New York Times)

Gandhi once said [3] ofgrowing movements of social protestation, "First they ignore you, thenthey laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." The trajectoryof the ever-evolving and growing Occupy Wall Street movement followsthe same pattern almost to a "T," with slight variation.

Now, apply that model to the most recent public relations andmarketing ploys of organizations like, the ascendant"Reclaim the American Dream Movement" and the general segment ofsociety author and journalist Chris Hedges calls the "Liberal Class" inhis most recent book titled "The Death of the Liberal Class [4]" (of which the former two are both apart).

In so doing, one can observe a perfect case study of the liberalclass in action, in four distinct acts, with one exception: "then theyfight you" can be replaced with "then they attempt to co-opt yourmovement."

Act One - Getting Ignored: In the early planningstages of Occupy Wall Street, few eyes were on those working behind thescenes to make this vision a reality. With little funding backing theircause, the activists calling for this action, to those even paying anyattention to them at all (few and far between), seemed quixotic or atthe very least, overly optimistic. This was the case even to thosehighly sympathetic to the cause and its accompanying ideology.

How in the world does a rag-tag bunch of activists take on thefinancial power center of the world that calls the shots politically instatehouses around the country, on a federal level and around theworld? Because the task was such a monumental undertaking, theseactivists were essentially ignored all throughout the planning stagesand into the opening days of the occupation itself.

The liberal class, predictably, was nowhere to be seen in theplanning stages of Occupy Wall Street, wholeheartedly ignoring thefact, or simply not even knowing the fact, that this occupation was inthe works.

Act Two - Getting Laughed at: Once it was seenthat, while not yet a movement, the people occupying Wall Street had,at the very least, legitimate grievances, the liberal class resorted toscornful tactics like mockery of the type of people in the movement -ad hominem attacks, if you will.

The scorn was well-depicted by liberal environmental blogger,Grist's David Roberts, who tweeted [5],"I've been reading about #occupywallstreet for the last hour or two& it's just horrific. Practically designed to discredit leftistprotest." It was also on perfect display with liberal blogger DavidAtkins, who mockingly tweeted [6],"If you want to #occupywallstreet, 1) shave 2) wear some decent clothes3) coordinate signs about inequality 4) get a media spokesperson." Thediatribe proceeded for multiple tweets, Atkins having listed ten points.

In a post titled [7],"What's behind the scorn for the Wall Street protests?" Salon.comblogger Glenn Greenwald aptly explained their behavior and tactics,writing, "Any entity that declares itself an adversary of prevailinginstitutional power is going to be viewed with hostility byestablishment-serving institutions and their loyalists. That's just thenature of protests that take place outside approved channels, aninevitable by-product of disruptive dissent: those who are most vestedin safeguarding and legitimizing establishment prerogatives ... aregoing to be hostile to those challenges. As the virtually universaldisdain in these same circles for WikiLeaks (and, before that, for theIraq War protests) demonstrated: the more effectively adversarial itis, the more establishment hostility it's going to provoke."

The liberal class, though, quickly realized that Occupy Wall Streetwas gaining traction, with leaders of the left like Francis Fox Piven [8],MichaelMoore [9], Naomi Klein [10],Cornel West [11]and Joseph Stiglitz [12]joining the cause in solidarity, and its leaders realized that it mustco-opt the movement while time is still on its side.

Act Three - Co-Option: With Occupy Wall Streetoff the ground, but its longevity still in flux, and itscousin, the Center For American Progress [13], and Van Jones' [14]Reclaim the American Dream Movement [15], were nowhere to be found. Instead,they were busy planning the Take BackThe American Dream Conference [16],which took place from October 3 through October 5.

"Taking back the American Dream," Jones said in an interviewappearing on AlterNet [17],will be a three-step process.

First, the planned November 17 "Rising Tide of Protest [18]," a protest, led by the Reclaim the American Dream Movement [15], will be held in a network ofcities throughout the United States. As FireDogLake's David Dayen explained [18],"[The] November 17 protests announced by the American Dream Movement... [are] a one-day protest across multiple cities across the countrythat organizers hope will be a massive activation of their supporters."

Second, an amalgamation of coordinated house meetings and onlineteach-ins. "We're going to try to get a million leaders in Americaonline and talking with each other. And that's going to be a majorpiece," said Jones.

Third and most importantly to an organization "powered by," (aka aproject of) [19],which among other things, is an organization that raises campaign moneyfor Democratic Party candidates, Jones said the 2012 elections are avital piece of the puzzle. "And then there's a third piece and it's new- and it seems to have escaped people's notice - and that's that we'vesaid we're going to run 2012 people for office in 2012. Now, that's abig deal," Jones stated.

"We're talking about U.S. senators who want to run as AmericanDream candidates - soon to be announced. We've reached out to the HouseDemocratic Caucus; there are House members who want to run as AmericanDream candidates," he continued.

What this translates to, in layman's terms, is the very process ofco-opting a growing movement of democratic resistance and trying toreplace it with a sales pitch to go out in 2012 and vote Democrat.Jones and the Democratic Party operations in disguise, namely the likesof and the Center for American Progress, are taking a pageout of the Dick Armey and Koch brothers' Tea Party co-option playbookwith this one.

Indeed, many forget that before the Tea Party was an Astroturfmovement funded by Armey and the Koch brothers, it was an enragedgrassroots movement, led mostly by Ron Paul libertarians [20].Then it got co-opted and now it is a rotten pawn of corporate elites.

If Occupy Wall Street organizers are not careful, this could alsobe their destiny.

Act Four - Win or Be Co-Opted? That Is the Question: OccupyWall Street, now three weeks into the occupation, now finds itself in apivotal moment. Will the nonpartisan, anti-establishment movement allowitself to be co-opted by the Democratic Party serving powers that be,i.e. by the MoveOn.orgs and Center for American Progresses of theworld, or will it remain a strong, left, independent force that growswith each passing day and strikes fear into what the late sociologistC. Wright Mills calls the powerelite [21]?

One thing is for certain - the liberal class is working overtime toco-opt a burgeoning social justice movement.

Exhibit A: On October 5, Day 19 of Occupy Wall Street, MoveOn.orgsent out an email calling on clicktivists (as opposed to activists) to"Join the Virtual March on Wall Street." "The 99% are both aninspiration and a call that needs to be answered. So we're answering ittoday, in a nationwide Virtual March on Wall Street to support theirdemand for an economy that serves the many, not the few ... Join in thevirtual march by doing what hundreds have done spontaneously across theweb: Take your picture holding a sign that tells your story, along withthe words 'I am the 99%,'" wrote Daniel Mintz of

John Stauber [22]is a longtime critic of organizations like and Center forAmerican Progress, and founder of the Center for Media and Democracyand co-author of "Toxic Sludge Is Good for You," a book that exposeshow corporations and vested interests work to co-opt movements forchange. In an interview, he stated, "Don't be fooled. This willprimarily be an effort to co-opt the language and energy to salvageObama and the Dem Party. This is how you co-opt movements. The OccupyWall Streeters are not leader oriented. Van Jones will become the voiceof this in the mainstream,"

"The same thing happened to anti-war in 2007. was, tothe mainstream, the voice of that movement," Stauber continued. "It iseasy to read between the lines. For one thing, there is no criticism ofObama in the 'Reclaim the Dream' messaging and marketing. No one with anational reputation is going to do anything to undermine hisre-election efforts. There is huge money in supporting Obama andnothing but pain and punishment in not - both desperation and selfinterest are driving this at this point in time."

As Stauber alluded to, one only has to look a few years down thememory hole to see that, as William Faulkner wrote in "Requiemfor a Nun [23]," "The past isnever dead. It's not even past!"

In an article about how the Democratic Party, teaming up and other like-minded apparatchiks, viewed the Iraq war as a"gift" to wield for electoral purposes in the 2006 elections, Stauberwrote, "And how have the Democrats treated their gift now that theycontrol Congress? The Democratic House and Senate have continued tofund the war while posturing against it ..."

Later, in that same piece, Stauber juxtaposed the operatives withIraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), an organization that is againstimperialistic foreign policy no matter who is in office, writing,"[IVAW] are not the concoction of a liberal think tank or PR firm; theyhave very little funding; they are not avoiding criticism of Democrats;and they are not playing political games trying to bank-shot Democraticcandidates into the White House and Congress in 2008. They are in opennon-violent revolt against US foreign policy, criticizing politiciansof all stripes who would exploit the war for political gain."

Fast forward five years and a nearly parallel situation exists. Anindependent and democratic economic justice movement, ground zero ofwhich exists at the power center of economic injustice, namely WallStreet, has now spread to every corner of the country in some form orfashion within the framework of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

The Democratic Party vultures are waiting to swoop in, steal thethunder and then make sure the focus is on electing Democrats, who arejust as much to blame as Republicans for the ascendancy of Wall Street.If anything, they are even more to blame for the pacification role theyplay in co-opting the overwhelming swath of the left time and timeagain, no matter what horrible policies they pass.

Will Occupy Wall Street of 2011 be a repeat of the Iraq war of2006? Similar forces are at bay, that is for certain.

It will all depend on activists deciding whether they choose to beused as a "gift," or if they choose to remain independent of the forcesof co-option.

Act four, to say the least, should be interesting.


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Bailey McCann

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