Monday, 21 April 2014

Problems of Occupy: a critique. Misunderstanding the problems.Conspiracy theory.

Misunderstanding the problems

 The vagueness of the problems being framed with the slogan "99% vs.  1%" opened the way to conspiracy theory. This was extremely detrimental to the effectiveness of the movement.
 If the problems have been framed in class struggle terms  this would have blocked much of the conspiracy groups attracted to Occupy.

 Conspiracy theory is counterproductive to radical social change . I'd go further. I believe it is counter revolutionary. Conspiracy theory derails whole sets of important conversations and conceals the oppression of capitalism and related systems of oppression. Plenty times, discussions of poverty were muddied with discussions of fiat currency, chem trails or pseudo-law  theory.

 The problems of society are not caused by shadowy manipulations by omnipotent forces but by the existence of systems of oppression- Capitalism, the state and Patriarchy being some of the most pervasive mong them.

Conspiracy theory presents the shadowy groups as all powerful asserting total control through society and history.  This leaves little room for opposition and is disempowering to the oppressed, while claiming to offer them useful understandings of what is occurring.

While the oppressors do have a lot of power, they do not have unlimited power. Resistance always exists and is always possible. Throughout history the oppressed have resisted and made limited gains while never being able to get to the point of revolution.

By failing to understand the problems-  institutions which express a set of embedded values, a complete system of thinking and acting (Capitalism, patriarchy, hierarchy ,white supremacy and more) conspiracy theory cannot understand how to react to the way the world is organized and cannot propose anything like a meaningful alternative. Where it does so ,it either presents something open to obvious critique as is the case with Zeitgeist, or something quite liberal i.e. 'transparent government'.
 Far from being an anarchist as he claims, Charlie Veitch is more like some kind of libertarian.

Conspiracy theory is impossible to disprove since the theorists will claim critics work for the shadowy group. I'm sure this will be said about me. The most extreme conspiracy theorists have been known to claim Occupy was funded by the NWO, Illuminati  or their pet enemy of choice.

conspiracy theory tends towards some like vanguardism or maybe more precisely elitism. as against conspiracy theories argues, " Conspiracy theories often encourages an 'us few enlightened folk versus everyone else' world view. This creates an atmosphere where conspiracy theorists look down on people, or sheeple as they are often called, and ignores the fact that people, by and large, are actually pretty intelligent".

 Conspiracy theory has no theory of revolution, no vague outline of what revolution would require unlike both Marxism and anarchism. In a sense this is not surprising given the total control they grant to the ruling group. The system is air tight. When conspiracy theorists advocate resistance ,it is no better than that of the 'philosophical anarchists' like William Godwin who believe education alone would usher in wide scale social change . But this is clasping at clouds.

  I would describe this as gradualist, as an idealist theory of revolution. Education is of course  very important but it is only the beginning of the revolution . Conspiracy theory is likely to get in the way of legitimate revolution. Where it does so, we must not fail to treat it with the contempt it deserves- by whatever means this requires.

 Conspiracy theory was unfortunately  far too common within occupy. I've since discovered this is termed 'crank magnetism' . I will not attempt to discuss all of the various conspiracy theories and groups present in the occupy movement. Such  a project would be too long (sadly). It's just my purpose to comment on some of the more common ones which I personally encountered.

The Freeman of the land movement was particularly pernicious. Their claim is  that you can opt out of the legal system and government  using various arguments born from common law and tort law.
Within mainstream parameters it is ineffective. Numerous courts and jurisdictions dismiss advocates of these arguments as "frivolous litigants". Even if these arguments were true, it is extremely difficult to make the establishment stick to recently made laws never mind centuries old ones.  To anarchists and other revolutionaries, it is just worryingly conservative. They are the law and order bunch all over again framing themselves as radicals. They are the natural law thinkers who pose as rebels. The concept of 'lawful rebellion' is a contradiction in terms. It concerns me how easily these ideas link up with right wing 'libertarianism' and anti-feminist ideology. It seems more than coincidental.

another group often present were supporters of the  Zeitgeist movement. I don't necessarily oppose much of their ideas.  They favour a society without money which is completely in agreement with my anarchist communist politics. However for them this is not in the context of anti-capitalism, opposition to hierarchy, syndicalism, feminism or any of the other necessary vital  understandings to have a worthwhile understanding of the problems and how to find solutions.

  One of the positive things I have taken from my experience in Occupy has been the ability to detect the ravings of  a conspiracy theorist within a few sentences . If I never see another anonymous/ Guy Fawkes mask again it will be too soon.

 Where conspiracy theory was the dominant idea of  a camp it seems it couldn't help but hinder the camps  effectiveness. I would argue this was the case in Occupy Brighton for example.

The Occupy movement should not have pandered to conspiracy theory as much as it did. Future
attempts along similar lines must be keenly aware of this problem and cut off conspiracy theorists before they take hold, like weeds.

 By  framing the problems in such a way, "99% vs.  1%" slogan  caused untold misery and confusion. The next problem I will discuss is the idea of "the cops  as the 99% ".


How to overthrow the Illuminati,
"This pamphlet gives an excellent account, analysis and debunking of conspiracy theories and proposes a practical alternative for poor, black and working class people for emancipation. "

Occupied with conspiracies? The occupy movement, populist anti-elitism, and the conspiracy theorists,

99 Problems...

Against conspiracy theories: Why our activism must be based in reality,

 The Problem with “Zeitgeist”,
Short article exploring the idea of magical voluntarism and how it relates to questions of organisation. Fisher is quoted as defining magical voluntarism as  the belief that it is within every individual’s power to make themselves whatever they want to be.

 Conspiracy or Anarchy by Andrew Dobbs,

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