The governance and leadership mechanisms of the open source #OccupyWallStreet protest

What is interesting about the movement there is that they eschew leaders of any kind.

The first excerpt is from Chris Corrigan; and stress the ‘absence’ (but not lack) of leadership. In the second, John Robb analyses the movement as a open source protest. We conclude with the analysis of Naomi Klein for DemocracyNow.

1. Chris Corrigan:

“What is interesting about the movement there is that they eschew leaders of any kind. This is a traditional anarchist approach, and it’s being put into practice quite deliberately. There are many facilitators who are helping the group to decide themselves on what to say and do and so far the group has been very clear about non-violence and is even actively discouraging vandalism. I was in one meeting of the outreach team who were reporting on the controversial debate taking place about whether to mark subway maps with the local of the protest. in general, the group there wants to be very careful not to give the police any reason whatsoever to become violent with them. So they are staying away from anything that might be construed as violence or damage and are instead focusing on powerful speech, using their first amendment rights to talk about and explore what they stand for and what the issues are. There is no presence of the Black Bloc or other masked militants who have brought the wrath of the police state reigning down on protests here in Canada in recent years.

And there is is no clear single agenda, because the totality of the problems facing the USA cannot be summarized with a pithy statement of demands. They are not hijackers and they are not holding anything ransom. They are trying to figure out how to discuss and actively represent the malaise and serious economic, social and political issues going on in the USA systemically and accurately. So much of this analysis and practice lies outside of the mainstream of American thought and debate that it is hard to say it all without seeming crazy. But the USA is coming apart in fundamental ways – even the Wall Street folks don’t dispute the fundamental economic analysis – and standing for possibilities is hard, hard work right now.

It is inspiring to watch them in General Assembly, where twice a day they work through an agenda of decisions using “the people’s mic” as their amplification system. The police have banned megaphones of any kind and so they speak to the crowd by repeating what the speaker has just said. This has the double effect of ensuring everyone can hear as well as bringing a quiet shared tone to everything. It is slow and orderly discourse. When the general Assembly isn’t meeting, the place runs in a big general Open Space – type gathering. Anyone who wants to call a session calls out “mic check!” and everyone within hearing distance repeats the phrase. When enough people are paying attention, an announcement is made, a time and place chosen and the group goes back to work. It is beautiful to watch.

All people are going to have to challenge themselves to reach across divides if there is any hope of finding solutions to the current and looming crises. At Wall Street many protesters and many bankers were willing to do just that and many many conversations are happening there between suits and sleeping bags. Very little anger at all. They set the bar high for civil discourse …”

2. John Robb:

Occupy Wall Street is an open source protest.

This type of protest has been very effective over the last year in toppling regimes in north Africa. It’s proving relatively successful in the US too.

Open source protest is an organizational technique. Probably the only organizational technique that can assemble a massive crowd in today’s multiplexed environment. Essential rules of open source protest include:

* A promise. A simple goal/idea that nearly everyone can get behind. Adbusters did pretty good with “occupy wall street.” Why? Nearly everyone hates the pervasive corruption of banks and Wall Street. It’s an easy target.
* A plausible promise. Prove that the promise can work. They did. They actually occupied Wall Street and set up camp. They then got the message out.
* A big tent and an open invitation. It doesn’t matter what your reason for protesting is as long as you hate/dislike Wall Street. The big tent is already in place (notice the diversity of the signage). Saw something similar from the Tea Party before it was mainstreamed/diminished.
* Let everyone innovate. Don’t create a leadership group. The general assembly approach appears to work.
* Support anyone in a leadership role that either a) grows the movement or b) advances the movement closer to its goal. Oppose (ignore) anybody that proposes a larger, more complex agenda or those that claim ownership over the movement.
* If a new technique works, document it, use it again, and share it with everyone else. Copy everything that works.
* Spread the word of the movement as widely as possible.

That’s the gist of it.

What’s the real goal of this protest? Frankly, it’s probably a recognition that the center of power in the US doesn’t reside in Washington anymore. It’s on Wall Street. This protest dispenses with the middle men (the US government) and goes straight after the real power.

My guess is that the Adbuster team that launched this open source protest felt that an October financial meltdown was possible, hence the September start-date. If the meltdown does occur, this movement is going to go global, just at the moment when the banks are going to be at their most vulnerable. Regardless, this effort is going to set the groundwork for a fast launch in the future when the next financial meltdown occurs.

What’s the big picture? Global guerrillas are getting better at building open source protests. We are going to see more and they are likely to become a prominent feature of the geopolitical landscape.”

3. Naomi Klein:

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