imc indymedia

Los Angeles Indymedia : Activist News

white themeblack themered themetheme help
About Us Contact Us Subscribe Calendar Publish RSS
Features
latest news
best of news
syndication
commentary


KILLRADIO

VozMob

CopWatch LA

ABCF LA

A-Infos Radio

Indymedia On Air

Dope-X-Resistance-LA List

LAAMN List





IMC Network: www.indymedia.org africa: ambazonia canarias estrecho / madiaq kenya nigeria south africa canada: hamilton london, ontario maritimes montreal ontario ottawa quebec thunder bay vancouver victoria windsor winnipeg east asia: burma jakarta japan korea manila qc europe: abruzzo alacant andorra antwerpen armenia athens austria barcelona belarus belgium belgrade bristol brussels bulgaria calabria croatia cyprus emilia-romagna estrecho / madiaq euskal herria galiza germany grenoble hungary ireland istanbul italy la plana liege liguria lille linksunten lombardia london madrid malta marseille nantes napoli netherlands nice northern england norway oost-vlaanderen paris/Île-de-france patras piemonte poland portugal roma romania russia saint-petersburg scotland sverige switzerland thessaloniki torun toscana toulouse ukraine united kingdom valencia latin america: argentina bolivia chiapas chile chile sur cmi brasil colombia ecuador mexico peru puerto rico qollasuyu rosario santiago tijuana uruguay valparaiso venezuela venezuela oceania: adelaide aotearoa brisbane burma darwin jakarta manila melbourne perth qc sydney south asia: india mumbai united states: arizona arkansas asheville atlanta austin baltimore big muddy binghamton boston buffalo charlottesville chicago cleveland colorado columbus dc hawaii houston hudson mohawk kansas city la madison maine miami michigan milwaukee minneapolis/st. paul new hampshire new jersey new mexico new orleans north carolina north texas nyc oklahoma philadelphia pittsburgh portland richmond rochester rogue valley saint louis san diego san francisco san francisco bay area santa barbara santa cruz, ca sarasota seattle tampa bay tennessee urbana-champaign vermont western mass worcester west asia: armenia beirut israel palestine process: fbi/legal updates mailing lists process & imc docs tech volunteer projects: print radio satellite tv video regions: oceania united states topics: biotech
printable version - js reader version - email this article - view hidden posts - tags and related articles

Occupiers, Stop Using Consensus!

by crazy_inventor Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013 at 9:28 AM

Consensus process (the idea that a group must strictly adhere to a protocol where all decisions are unanimous) is the absolute worst idea that has ever been introduced to the activist community.

Occupiers, Stop Usin...
occupiers_stop_using_consensus.jpg, image/jpeg, 500x375

Consensus process is the tyranny of the individual. It is the most anti-social of all processes because it allows any one person to assert irrational authority over an entire group of people and block any sort of decision making. It has nothing do with anarchism (even the IWW doesn't use consensus!) because it was invented by Quakers for religious reasons. It's stood in the way of progress, destroyed social movements, destroyed groups, destroyed communities, and relegated radicals to the fringes of American politics since the 70's when it was first popularized.

Consensus process is in many ways an attempt to formalize the act of resistance, which I suspect is what makes it so popular in activist communities. Let's compare this to democracy, a system which was invented to formalize dissent. With democracy, you could fight and disagree without resorting to violence. Feathers could be ruffled, progress could be made, and life moved on according to plan. Resistance on the other hand is when you're so angry at something, that you're willing to go on a crusade and use all available means to stop that thing from happening. Resistance knows no rules. It is something that should never happen, yet is the responsibility of any socially conscious individual. It's a wild beast which cannot be tamed. Now ask yourself what happens when you get a bunch of people in one room, people whose nature inclines them towards resistance, and then give them the power to resist with a simple hand gesture and a requirement that all others be subservient to their demand. You do the math.

To give an example, the first time I saw a block used at Occupy was at one of the first general assemblies in August 2011. There were about a hundred people that day and in the middle of the meeting a proposal was made to join Verizon workers on the picket line as a gesture of solidarity in the hope that they might also support us in return. People loved the idea and there was quite a bit of positive energy until one woman in the crowd, busy tweeting on her phone, casually raised her hand and said, "I block that". The moderator, quite flabbergasted asked why she blocked and she explained that showing solidarity with workers would alienate the phantasm of our right-wing supporters. Discussion then abruptly ended and the meeting went on. The truth was irrelevant, popular opinion didn't matter, and solidarity—the most important of all leftist values—was thrown to the wind based on the whims of just one individual. Occupy had to find a new way to do outreach.

But as bad as that sounded, it was actually one of the most graceful instances I've seen of a block being used. This is because the proposal was actually dropped as though it never happened. Things don't always go so smoothly. Blocks have a tendency to bring out the worst in people. The thing they don't tell you about consensus, is that it only works if you're willing to exclude others from it. When faced with a block, it's common for people to use psychological manipulation, threats, invent process to deny that person a vote, or even pressure them to leave the group entirely. Oftentimes when such people don't get their way, they'll leave the group themselves. Consensus invites the most awful type of conflict because there can be no agreeing to disagree. But at the same time consensus also quells the more constructive forms of dissent because most considerate and rational people aren't masochistic enough to welcome the hatred and backlash inherent in blocking a proposal.

Consensus process can also be hacked. This is because it leaves too much to interpretation, doesn't actually specify procedure, and doesn't make sense! Take for instance kicking someone out of your group. Do you need consensus to kick them out? Or do you need consensus to keep them on board? Oftentimes such things aren't clear, so the system becomes ripe for manipulation and exploitation. If you ever want to be evil and push a proposal through a consensus body, just make a compelling argument that you need consensus to not pass your proposal (rather than the other way around). If that doesn't work, try writing your proposal with the opposite language and blocking it yourself. If people call you out on your shenanigans, just accuse them of being authoritarians who refuse to follow process and demand that they either step down or reach consensus on creating a rule to forbid what you’re doing. Then block that proposal too. If they tell you that you’re not allowed to block then you can always complain that true consensus cannot be reached until there’s a quorum of every single group member present.

Grassroots activist groups also follow the spirit of consensus regardless of what process they use. This is because participation in occupy assemblies, working groups, and affinity groups is entirely voluntary. Generally speaking, these groups do not control any land or resources upon which their members depend, therefore making it nearly impossible to practice any real coercion. When freedom of association exists in the truest sense of the words, the act of participation in and of itself can be considered itself a form of a consent, even if decision-making power rests in the hands of the majority or an individual leader.

Consensus should be reserved to teams (small groups where people work well together and trust one another) as de facto rather than official process. Many of us operate by implicit consensus without even realizing it. It’s a natural human behavior to not want to piss off and ignore other members of your team. But when the occasional irresolvable conflict arises, a majority vote isn’t the end of the world. It’s called democracy. If those conflicts happen too often, then perhaps it’s time to reconsider why you’re working with such people.

When it comes to deliberative process for larger groups that can’t be considered teams, start off with what's been known to work and has stood the test of time, like Robert's Rules of Order. It’s not the ideal system to prevent all forms of hierarchy, but it’s at least been proven to work in organizing democratic assemblies that are capable of functioning. Why must we reinvent the wheel? The only clear explanation is that it’s fun to fetishize process rather than accomplishing work. There are actually people who've devoted much of their careers as activists to unnecessarily reinventing process, and for years they've been using entire activist communities as guinea pigs in their experiments. Why must we allow ourselves to be pawns in someone else's game? Our goal should be fighting power and injustice, and we should settle for no less than the best tools for the job.

But we also shouldn't have to follow Robert's Rules by the book all the time. Oftentimes people will forgo formal process entirely until it's needed. It's also perfectly reasonable to borrow good ideas from other processes. One such example is the "progressive stack" which Occupy has used from its very first general assembly meeting. This means when you have a meeting and ten people want to speak at once, one person will be assigned to "take stack" by writing down the names of whoever has their hand raised. The person taking stack will then prioritize speaking order in favor of people belonging to groups whose voices have traditionally been marginalized. Examples of such groups include women, people of color, and the lgbtq community. This is great news if you're a queer trans woman of color, but not such great news for straight white middle class cis men whose voices have far too often dominated discussion. Another great tool for facilitating collective thought is the temperature check, where everyone in the room twinkles their fingers to express how favorably they feel about the topic of deliberation. But in reality, that’s just a more fabulous variation of Robert’s Rules where the chair will try to gauge support for a proposal during deliberation by asking everyone in the room to say aye / nay or give a show of hands.

The only significant experimentation we should be doing with process at this time is trying to find ways to use modern technology to make democracy more democratic. For the first time in the history of civilization, we are able to scale up conversations to span the entire globe. A deliberative assembly no longer must be limited to the number of people capable of fitting in a single room. Why are we not taking advantage of this? Several attempts have been made to develop such systems, but most of the existing solutions are either shoddy, hard to use, or focus on anonymous voting rather than deliberation. These systems also do not make an effort to define the procedural conventions to govern the aspects of software use which cannot be digitized. Engineers, please start teaming up with process experts to accomplish this.

To learn more about the follies of consensus, read the essays

"Blocking Progress" by Howard Ryan

http://www.connexions.org/CxLibrary/CX6187.htm


and "Fetishizing Process" by Mark Lance.

http://www.academia.edu/1110507/fetishizing_process

[Via OccupyWallSt.org]
Report this post as:
Share on: Twitter, Facebook, Google+

add your comments


LATEST COMMENTS ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 17 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
TITLE AUTHOR DATE
remember IMC's charter crazy_inventor Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013 at 9:49 AM
you should really know about that, hex 'told you so' Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013 at 10:57 AM
off topic, attack the messenger crazy_inventor Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013 at 12:30 PM
it's on topic, asshole excuuussse me! Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013 at 2:08 PM
I insult crazy_inventor Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013 at 3:07 PM
without its stupid graphics it's merely another moron why not? Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013 at 3:42 PM
Go play with yourself crazy_inventor Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013 at 4:26 PM
Who has the last laugh ccrider Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013 at 6:10 AM
not so much a gatekeeper than a clown realist Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013 at 6:12 AM
the teabaggers are dying crazy_inventor Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013 at 8:35 AM
spook zionist freaking spook crazy_inventor Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013 at 8:46 AM
notice anything? one trick dickweed Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013 at 9:24 AM
THE TEABAGGERS ARE DIVIDING AND CONQUERING THE GOP crazy_inventor Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013 at 9:47 AM
so much alike a one trick dick Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013 at 4:12 PM
nice links and data crazy_inventor Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013 at 7:22 PM
the sane ones pushing a carbon tax yup Monday, Feb. 18, 2013 at 6:18 AM
I agree, the carbon tax is a scam crazy_inventor Monday, Feb. 18, 2013 at 9:18 AM

Local News

Jane Fonda Divests From Wells Fargo J03 8:27PM

LA Solidarity Protest Rally For Japanese American Apparel Workers Who Face Loss D16 1:49PM

Architect Chris Mercier Unveils Mural in Rogers Park, Inglewood D16 9:13AM

Peace Vigils D15 8:20PM

Standing Rock Solidarity Action D11 9:59PM

Large Turnout for Dakota Pipeline Protest N16 3:35PM

NODAPL N15 2:24PM

Cruel Teacher Taunts 6th Grade Kids, Fired N12 8:47PM

How Cities Can Protect People Threatened By Trumpism N12 8:17PM

What ThisMeans, How This Happened, What to Do Now N12 5:03AM

PROTEST TRUMP TONITE N11 2:55PM

Westside Thanksgiving for everyone in LA ! N11 12:36PM

FOR A WORLD WITHOUT NUCLEAR RISKS   N10 5:05AM

Non-violent protest ideas; hooch bomb recipe N09 7:42AM

Nuclear Shutdown News October 2016 N05 6:17PM

State Legislature is where it's at N03 10:16PM

Tom Hayden on The Unfinished Business of Democracy O28 4:49AM

Video: Tom Hayden, Listen Yankee! 2015 O25 10:56AM

Art About Privilege Censored on Facebook O23 3:16AM

SAG-AFTRA video game performers on strike O22 11:04PM

Stop Circus Animal Suffering – Protestors Urge Audiences to Shun the Wild Animal Circus O20 3:04PM

KPFK LSB statement on DAPL arrests O19 10:25AM

Transit Dependent Residents Need a Guaranteed Right to Stay O15 11:36PM

My letter to JJJ on JJJ O11 12:33PM

Prop 60, Condom Law O10 12:43PM

KPFK-Pacifica Radio Archives being sold off on ebay? O10 10:31AM

KPFK struggles without re-solutions O07 2:25PM

Problems with Measure M O05 5:24PM

More Local News...

Other/Breaking News

Los Angeles Braves Extended Downpour to Tell Trump Hell No J21 3:32AM

Los Angeles Braves Extended Downpour to Tell Trump Hell No J21 3:04AM

Obituary - Robert George Tronge J20 12:07PM

De l'éducastration chattemite J19 10:15PM

The Shortwave Report 01/20/17 Listen Globally! J19 5:33PM

"Trump does not read much" J19 1:28PM

Important Discoveries J18 6:50PM

#J20 CalArts in SoCal Plan Walkout; NY Galleries & Nonprofits Plan Art Strike J18 5:25PM

FBI's "Suicide Letter" to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Dangers of Unchecked Survei J18 5:10PM

Camp 120 Will Hold Space in Front of City Hall Until Inauguration Day to Protest the Inac J18 5:03PM

Teamsters Local 2010 Initiates Mass Walkout and Strikes at University of California J18 4:12PM

Civil Rights Groups Sue Caltrans to Stop Illegal Raids Against California's Homeless J18 4:05PM

This Week in Palestine, January 13th, 2016 J18 3:44PM

Littératie ou numératie ou La loi J18 4:14AM

Nurses Storm The Boulevard To Pressure Trump on the ACA J17 4:49PM

Nurses Storm The Boulevard To Pressure Trump On the ACA J17 3:12PM

Gangstar New Orleans Hack J16 6:18PM

All Government Officials can be Sued for Actions Outside their Authority – Robert Tronge J16 12:36PM

The Effectiveness of Sex Offender Treatment Programs – Robert Tronge J16 12:32PM

Inevitable Conclusion J15 7:48PM

Trump and the Consequences: Democracy at a Crossroads J15 9:07AM

Nuclear Shutdown News January 2017 J14 8:17PM

Honduras coup update December 2016 J14 6:06PM

Evidence that fbi corrupts all of society at will J14 4:15PM

Intellectuels d'élevage, intellectuels de batterie, intellectuels industriels J14 8:03AM

Paraphysique de virologie politicienne J12 10:58PM

The Shortwave Report 01/13/17 Listen Globally! J12 5:23PM

Code Pink on the temple Mount J12 8:36AM

More Breaking News...
© 2000-2003 Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not necessarily endorsed by the Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Running sf-active v0.9.4 Disclaimer | Privacy