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Hierarchy, Censorship and Militarism in Occupy Wall Street Chat Room Portals

by StopGap Friday, Aug. 16, 2013 at 8:35 AM

Occupy World News Network violates the principles of egalitarianism, free speech and non-violence.

1) To whom this may concern,

2) I am a college instructor who has watched and participated in the Occupy Movement since it’s inception.

3) I’ve attended rallies and demonstrations in New York’s Zucotti Park, and in marches against various financial institutions in the city.

4) I am sending this letter the person who runs the site, Occupy Streams, a global directory of various Occupy sites, which feature streaming video and chatrooms, ostensibly designed to further the Occupy Movement.

5) occupystreams.org/

6) I wish to voice a concern I have about the inclusion of the site “Occupy World News Now,” on the directory page.

7) I believe this site does a very poor job of serving as face of the Occupy Movement.

8) I don’t contest the right of people who work on and run OWN to express their point of view, nor their right to run a chat room.

9) What I do contest is their claim that they represent Occupy Wall Street and the points of view expressed by the vast majority in the Occupy Movement.

10) I would like to request that the owner of Occupy Streams take the site off the directory, or at least investigate the OWN site, and the behavior of its moderators, in order to consider whether or not it should be taken down.

11) I wish to spark a discussion on the issue, and perhaps gently encourage the people running OWN to act and think in a more democratic way;

12) and to cease favoring certain political tendencies on the planet which advocate and commit violence.

13) I start with what I believe is the reasonable assumption that Occupy is dedicated to the principles of

1. Grassroots Democracy, and/or consensus, horizontalism and non-hierarchical social organization;

14) 2 Freedom of Speech;

15) 3. Non violence- opposition to the use of violence in attempts at political change, in the Americas, Eurafrasia and the world;

16) and a preference for non-violent direct action and civil disobedience, as opposed to physical violence, especially against living persons.

17) Permit me to make the case that OWNN is not a good face for the movement, and that (although they should feel free to express their points of view, as they see fit)

18) they should not be listed on the Occupy Streams Directory Page.

1. With regards to grassroots democracy.

19) This approach is not favored by the people (or perhaps I should say the person) who runs OWNN. Don’t take my word for it, just visit the site.

20) One person who uses the handle “Northern” makes the big decisions, and there is a stifling atmosphere, in which people are often saying,

21) “I don’t think I should say more on that subject,” or “I don’t wish to go too far,” and then they shut up on various controversial topics.

22) This is not to say that this is all the fault of one person, or that an actual “dictatorship” is in place, though many people receive that impression.

23) The problem is rooted in the rather unusual situation.

24) A very large number of mods are given very broad banning powers, and others who try to participate in the discussions, are not.

25) Often when disagreement with a point or procedure is raised, a ban is threatened or immediately implemented, without discussion, without specific warnings;

26) and people are banned over the most trivial so called infractions, which are not described in any set of guidelines.

27) Anyone who disagrees can be banned for “creating disunity,” or for similar “crimes.

28) This brings us to the second issue,

29) 2. Freedom of Speech.

30) There is some disagreement as to what should constitute genuine “freedom of speech,” in a chatroom. Some prefer no bans at all, or very few bans.

31) Some argue, quite reasonably, that people who spew hatred -- racism, sexism, homophobia and anti-semitism -- should be banned after one or two warnings.

32) Many believe, with considerable justification, that people who attack others personally, in a conversation, should be give several warnings and then banned, for short periods (hours or days).

33) There is reasonable room for disagreement on this point.

34) The question I would pose is this:

35) what is a good policy for a chat room that purports to represent Occupy Wall Street, and which has a place on the Occupy Streams Directory?

36) I would suggest that OWN does not have a policy that could be considered at all close to the ideals of “free speech”

37) which one sees in the Occupy Movement as a whole, in the general assemblies, or in Occupy’s attitude towards our media establishment.

38) OWN more closely resembles the mainstream media in its blatant attempts to manufacture consent, its pressure to conform, and its very frequent use of the ban button.

39) Sadly, there is more freedom to dissent or to express one’s views on a C-Span call in show than there is in the OWN chatroom, and C-Span is “run by the cable industry.”

40) Now an advocate of OWN might counter, “we run our chatroom as we see fit, and we have the right to do so.”

41) I don’t dispute that. I must emphasize that I am not contesting their right to run their chatroom (or the right for the One Man to run his chatroom) as he sees fit.

42) The point I am raising is whether OWN can legitimately be said to represent the ideals of the Occupy Movement,

43) and whether they should legitimately, therefore, have a place on the Occupy Global Directory.

44) If Occupy Wall Street itself is a movement which values free speech,

45) should OWN be embraced by the Occupy as a a legitimate outlet, when it denies free speech to many of its most avid supporters?

46) I want to invite all activists who receive this message, and the owner of the page (Occupy Streams Global Directory) to visit the OWN site, and make their own observations.

47) I invite you to ask polite, but incisive questions about the practices there.

48) If you are banned OWN, then I invite you to express your views in the Global Revolution chatroom, which does not have a draconian policy of banning the expression of diverse thought.

49) OWN occupystreams.org/item/occupy-world-news-now

50) Global Revolution: occupystreams.org/item/occupy-wall-street-global-revolution

51) On the issue of diverse thought, many might be interested to know what kind of thought or expression is permitted on OWN?

52) The problem is not a lack of material on OWN, material which is relevant to the Occupy Movement.

53) On the issue of banking and Wall Street itself, there is ample material which is extremely relevant.

54) The problem comes when favoritism is shown towards certain views, while people who dissent from the views are banned at the drop of a hat.

55) I will cite this issue, since I believe it is of concern to many people in Occupy:

56) 3. Non-violence.

57) The issue of non-violence versus violence as a means of social change is often contentious.

58) I see nothing wrong with allowing broad discussion of that issue, in fact, I favor broad discussion and polite discourse over the use of violence, and the support of certain groups that use violence. I am not advocating censorship.

59) Rather, I am opposing censorship of those who advocate non violence in our foreign policy.

60) Take the issue of Syria, as just one example.

61) It is common practice in the OWN chatroom, to permit certain individuals to dump huge amounts of material in favor of the FSA (so-called Free Syrian Army) into the chat room.

62) When that is contested, a moderator will very often ban the person who says,

63) “we are a non violent movement, and we should not be supporting a violent revolutionary group that is funded by US imperialism and Saudi Arabian fundamentalists.”

64) When a discussion like that comes up on OWN, the discussants are threatened with bans, or the are just simply banned outright,

65) with no warning; but in practically all cases, those who speak against the FSA end up getting the ban.

66) They are accused of being “anti-American,” “anti-NATO,” (as if it’s a bad thing to be anti-NATO), and quickly given the boot,

67) while those who praise NATO and advocate US intervention in Syria are given a pass, and allowed to continue their discourse.

68) Why are advocates for US intervention in Syria not banned, even when they engage in personal attacks on those who dissent with their views?

69) Well, this is because they themselves, in certain cases, are actually mods, and it has been stated by the OWN owner(s) that these people were given mod status precisely so they COULD NOT be banned.

70) Now it seems counter-intuitive that people who support non-violence should be banned, and those who advocate for a violent revolutionary group SHOULD NOT be banned.

71) I for one, do not believe either type of person should be banned merely for expressing their views on the matter.

72) But if those who advocate for violence in Syria, and those who support the Pentagon (and US military intervention, in Syria) or elsewhere for that matter are ACTUALLY given preference, that is highly problematic for the Occupy Movement, in my view.

73) Oddly, videos will be shown, and signs will be displayed, which say, “The Banks = the military industrial complex,” on OWN. Some do not understand that equation, and when a discussant tries to explain it, he is often summarily banned.

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