Dwight D. Eisenhower – “Cross of Iron” Speech 1956


The worst to be feared and the best to be expected can be simply stated.
The worst is atomic war.
The best would be this: a life of perpetual fear and tension; a burden of arms draining the wealth
and the labor of all peoples; a wasting of strength that defies the American system or the Soviet
system or any system to achieve true abundance and happiness for the peoples of this earth.
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a
theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world
in arms is not spending money alone.
It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.
The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.
It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population.
It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway.
We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat.
We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.
This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking.
This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is
humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

Announcements – Updated & New for Tues 2/28 & Wed 3/1 (from Adrienne Fong)

Update on Ms. Canada, As of this weekend she was still hospitalized. It is still unknown where the landlords lawyers have her belongings stored.

Send items for posting by Wednesday at 12 Noon to: afong@jps.net

ANNOUNCEMENTS

New and Updated for Tuesday & Wednesday

Tuesday, February 28

Tuesday, 3:00pm – 5:00pm. SF Board of Supervisors Meeting: Divest from DAPL!  #Mni Wiconi  (Time change)

SF City Hall, Room 250
1 Dr. Carleton B. Goodlett Pl.
SF

As of December 31 2016, San Francisco’s Pooled Fund had about $823 million invested with financiers of DAPL, and more than $10 billion in City funds managed by Bank of America.

In mid-February, the indigenous-led San Francisco Defund DAPL Coalition asked a couple of the more progressive San Francisco Board of Supervisor members to work with the Coalition on a divestment ordinance. While supportive, they have expressed to the Coalition that they are at capacity and cannot sponsor the ordinance.

The Army Corps of Engineer set February 22nd as the deadline for Water Protectors to evacuate Oceti Sakowin camp, a camp completely within the boundaries of the Great Sioux Nation as defined by the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty. As we speak, Water Protectors are deep in prayer, preparing their minds and bodies for a violent law enforcement raid as the Army Corps, North Dakota Law Enforcement, the National Guard, the BIA Indian Police, and DAPL mercenaries surround the prayerful camp.

Join us in asking the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to work with the SF Defund DAPL Coalition to pass an ordinance divesting city funds from the DAPL.

Info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1833602800190162/

Tuesday, 5:00pm – 7:00pm, SF Resists Muslim Registry! (Time Change)

SF City Hall
1 Dr. Carleton B. Goodlett Place
SF

Agenda for SF BoS Meeting: http://sfbos.org/sites/default/files/bag022817_agenda.pdf

Item is #45 on the agenda

On Tuesday the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will finally vote on an ordinance against any potential Muslim registry based on religion or country of origin.

For weeks, Arab and Muslim community and allies have packed SF BOS committee meetings and spoke out demanding more than a symbolic ordinance, but for one that is actually enforceable, and relevant.

With the leadership of Supervisors Cohen, Ronen and Fewer, the Public Safety committee has passed all the community backed amendments to include language that ensures that the city of SF will enforce this ordinance, and to remove language glorifying the colonial history of the US against the indigenous people of the Americas.

Let’s join together on Tuesday to stand together in resistance in San Francisco and beyond.

Info: https://www.facebook.com/events/158564654652195/

Wednesday, March 1

Wednesday, 8:00am – 11:00am, Court Support for Michael Brewster (Time change)

Hall of Justice
850 Bryant St, First Floor, Courtroom 11
SF

Michael Brewster, was brutally attacked by police on February 8th.

His mother, Trina Peters, flagged down the police, explained Michael was having a mental health problem and asked them to call an ambulance for him. They said they would. Instead, the officers rushed him threw him on the ground and began to detain him. They called for back up and police swarmed the area. 

Michael was unarmed and posed no threat to the officers, yet, they had him face down on the ground. Despite telling him he couldn’t breathe, several officers were on top of him. They beat him up and attempted to assault him with a billy club. Police told the people recording the incident to get back because it was a crime scene.

They beat him so badly that he was at SF General Hospital for 4 days before transferring him to the jail at 850 Bryant St, SF. The police denied his mother visitation and refused to release information regarding his wellbeing

Host: Open Circle

Info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1277223689030774/

Wednesday, 9:15am – 10:00am, Speakout At BA Air Quality Control District – Rehire Whistleblowers & Prosecute BAAQMD Bosses!

BAAQMD Office
375 Beale St.
SF

9:15am – Press Conference

SF Press Conference & Speakout at Bay Area Quality Control District-Rehire Whistleblowers Bachmann and Steele and

California Attorney General Becerra Investigate and Prosecute BAAQMD Bosses

The BAAQMD which is run by politicians from throughout Northern California is in charge of protecting our air quality. This is a life and death health issue for people in the Bay Area, yet managers of this agency have blatantly and criminally retaliated against two staff members who were opposed to the destruction of thousands of documents of violations by some the biggest polluters in the region – including refineries like Shell, Chevron and Tosco along with companies like Pacific Steel Casting.

Sponsor: United Public Workers for Action

Info: https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2017/02/25/18796813.php

Wednesday, 11:45am – 1:00pm, Interfaith Procession: Solidarity with Immigrants & Refugees

11:45 am Gather at 16th St. BART Station
12:00 noon Ceremony of Repentance
12:15 pm Procession of Witness & Solidarity
12:45 pm Blessing and Rededication of Sanctuary Congregations at St John Evangelist Church, 1661 15th St. at Julian, SF

March 1st, is Ash Wednesday, a symbolic day in the Christian tradition for the repentance of our personal and corporate sin and a conscious turning towards love and reconciliation. This year, we publicly renounce the hateful and demonizing executive orders and policies that seek to harm and separate us from our neighbors. Join us on this procession that uplifts our common humanity culminating in a closing ceremony outside the sanctuary doors of St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church, one of San Francisco’s Sanctuary Congregations.

Sponsor: Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity

Info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1512843372079712/

Wednesday, 5:30pm – 6:30pm, PEACE VIGIL

One Post St.
(On the steps facing Market St. – below Feinstein’s office)
Above Montgomery BART
SF

All are welcomed to join Codepink, World Can’t Wait, OccupySF and Others.

Look for the bright pink PEACE banner

Theme this week: EARLY WARNING SIGNS OF FASCISM

Wednesday, 6:00pm – 7:00pm, Vigil for Amilcar Perez Lopez

Mission Police Station
Valencia & 17th St.
SF

Nearly 50 vigils for Amilcar have been held.

February 26, was the second anniversary of Amilcar’s murder by SFPD, we can’t let them forget. DA Gascon has not charged any police officer with the murder of Amilcar who was shot 6 times in the back!

DA Gascon, let us have our day in court!

~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~ ~

ACTION ALERT

STOP URBAN SHIELD

CALL / EMAIL NOW!

Tell SF Supervisors to stand against Urban Shield.

Urban Shield will be VOTED on at the SF Board of Supervisors meeting today, Tuesday, February 28th.

With Trump taking actions to strengthen policing and militarization, it is now more important than ever that we dismantle programs like Urban Shield that we know will be bolstered and used against our communities.

Email the SupervisorsBoard.of.Supervisors@sfgov.org

Info to contact each of them directly:: http://sfbos.org/roster-members

Sample script:

“Dear Supervisors,

I am writing to urge you to take leadership in standing against Urban Shield, which advances the militarization of police and the militarization of disaster preparedness. We call on you to stand with the communities you represent against such a harmful program, particularly as Trump is committed to further expansion of policing power. Opposing Urban Shield and withdrawing San Francisco’s participation from it is a clear way to show your support.

Regards,

_______”

Info: https://www.facebook.com/StopUrbanShield/posts/845943995582832?comment_id=846027935574438&reply_comment_id=846109478899617¬if_t=share_reply¬if_id=1488261299907514

Berkeley’s New Ideology: A critique of the “Strategic Plan” by Steve Martinot

Abstract: The city staff has proposed a Strategic Plan for Berkeley. The Plan occurs in the midst of severe crises besetting Berkeley, distracting from their resolution. It promotes the interests of the staff as a seemingly autonomous “organization” within city government, rather than an instrument of local democracy. Reducing the people to political consumers, and limiting them to non-participant “input,” it enlarges the structural chasm between the people and the government that is one of the sources of the present crises.

Introduction

On January 31, 2017, the city manager presented a report to City Council on a Strategic Plan for Berkeley that staff is developing. The motivation for this Plan (as the city manager puts it) is a need to “have an idea of what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and how we’re going to accomplish it.” In other words, it is a plan to make city government more effective and more efficient. Its purpose is to “articulate the long-term goals” of the city and “short-term projects designed to advance those goals.”

The odd thing about it is its appearance right in the middle of a number of crises besetting the city. These crises (concerning homelessness and affordable housing) have been the context for a change in City Council itself, and would seem to call for very focused administrative attention, rather than a diversion to a number of other “long-term” goals. It is as if (by analogy), while the Oroville Dam was coming apart under torrential rains, California engineers spent their time proposing different engineering princples for building dams. In the midst of crisis, that might be beside the point.

This is not a capricious analogy. Rent levels are so high in Berkeley that low income families, if they lose their lease or succomb to exorbitant rent increases, will be “washed out” of town. Homelessness is increasing precisely because fewer and fewer people can afford the rent. Whole neighborhoods are being displaced and dislocated. The African American population of Berkeley has dropped from 25% to 8%. Five homeless people have died of exposure during the autumn and winter of 2016. Four people have died from carbon monoxide poisoning in the area because of faulty (unmaintained) heaters. And there has been a forceful (police) repression of a homeless political movement, an intentional community demanding humane resolution of the entire homeless situation.

These crises and their attendant tragedies are not the result of government inefficiency. They result from governmental refusal to confront the impact of economic forces that, if left unchecked, will eventually destroy the economic infrastructure of low income neighborhoods. The implication of the “Strategic Plan,” that “we don’t have an idea of what we’re doing,” is belied by the many neighborhood gatherings that have proposed real resolutions to the crises. So what is the real “strategy” here?

The thrust of the plan

The Plan’s development has a structure as well as a pragmatic dimension. To initiate the Plan, staff first polled and surveyed itself (during 2016), generating discussions that produced the Plan’s categories and goals. After that was done, the City Council was brought into the process. And after that, residents and constituents are given a chance for “input” (via a webpage). That is, Council and constituents are presented with the option to add, subtract, or provide feedback on what has been created by the staff. This creates a procedural hierarchy in which staff holds hegemony. The people come last, and councilmembers are upstaged concerning their own job.

The pragmatic dimension of the plan is what one would expect. It enumerates governmental responsibilities such as city maintenance, preservation of infrastructure, community amenities, safety and health, and economic stability. These are listed as “goals,” a category that includes efficiency, inclusivity and constituent participation.

And here, a red flag goes up. Why would the responsibilities that constitute the very purpose of government in the first place be listed as “goals”? What might that mean?

For instance, to list “inclusivity” as a goal admits there is an extant degree of exclusion. Does that refer to a prior deafness to neighborhood needs? Or is the Plan initiating a different kind of inclusivity? It offers no critique of any old exclusionism, nor the many forms it took. One encounters an “old form” of exclusion in Council meetings. People would line up to speak for a minute without effect, and developers would call neighborhood meetings that were strictly pro forma. This new plan only gives people a webpage on which to have “input.” Without dialogic engagement in policy-making, there is no real participation. “Participation” becomes an empty rhetorical term, as does “efficiency.” A councilmember once said (last year), “If fewer people would come to speak at these hearings, maybe we could get some work done.”

The Plan’s “effectivity” is focused on who benefits from the achieved goals. In “effectively” accomplishing goals, the city seeks to become the provider of a product. “Benefit” signifies the successful operation of a service organization. But that in turn reduces those who benefit to the level of “consumers,” rather than participants – that is, the Plan implicitly equates “participation” with “consumption.” Has government just become another corporate structure?

Real participation would involve people in policy-making, fostering togetherness in dialogues by which people discuss with each other what needs to be done, and from which policy would emerge. One does not create participation by exchanging an amorphous “inclusion” for a previous “exclusion.” One includes by transforming a structure based on monologue into one based on dialogue.

The plan does not speak of dialogue, but rather of inclusion and input.

In her report to Council, the manager announced that webpage responses had already pointed to the issues of homelessness and affordable housing. But that only means they have been reduced to input. That which is destroying people’s lives gets reduced to “issues.”

Born of hierarchy, the Plan neglects to include the democratizing of city processes (hearings, development, planning, police comportment, etc.) which should form a basis for resolving the city’s crises. Instead, one detects a form of fetishist narcissism insofar as the Plan includes itself as one of its own goals.

Equity

Some special attention must be given to one of the Plan’s goals. It is called “equity.” The goal is “to promote and demonstrate racial and social equity.” What does equity mean?

The term is originally economic. It refers to corporate stocks, to securities representing ownership interests, and to funds that give owners a claim on profits or earnings. A shareholder’s claim to capital proceeds would seem to be fairly far afield from racial equality. But the term can also refer to a body of legal and procedural rules – i.e. doctrines by which people are treated in an equitable manner. Thus, it can signify a certain freedom from bias, favoritism, or hierarchy. It implies that a person has a claim on a situation, and a claim on being respected, as well as on an ability or right to participate. In that sense, “equity” marks an antipole to exclusion, standing in opposition to inequality, by which it becomes a synonym for “equality.”

But we have to be careful here. Equity does not refer to anyone’s claim on another individual. One can claim treatment equal to other individuals with respect to institutional operations (such as government or the court system). But that is not a claim on an individual. It is a claim on an institution with respect to others. In short, equity refers to a relation between individuals and institutions.

“Equality,” however, is bigger than that. Equality is assumed in treating people equitably. It is one’s social equality that is recognized when an institution does so. And it is equality that is suppressed when it doesn’t. For instance, when the police racially profile people on the street, it marks a refusal to treat people equitably, and thus withholds recognition of equality. Equality becomes an issue when it is a question of an institution approaching an individual.

In short, equity and equality are not the same. Individuals can claim equity (that is, equitable treatment) when they approach institutions. When institutions approach individuals, they can either recognize their equality by treating them equitably or not. Where equity refers to what people can claim, equality refers to what people must defend in the way institutions approach them. Equity is relational and pragmatic, and equality is inherent and fundamental. They move in different ethical directions.

Against slavery, for instance (whether chattel or wage slavery or debt slavery or sex slavery), the desire for freedom expressed in running away or in organizing rebellion is an affirmation of equality against its withholding by the enslaving institution. The bond-laborer seeking freedom is not opting for equity in the institution but expressing equality with it in moving against it. Equity will reappear, perhaps, with the issue of reparations.

In council hearings, constituents come forth and offer input or commentary. They have equity insofar as they are granted equal time in which to speak, as a recognition of their equality with each other. But insofar as the institution (council hearings) only allows them to have a minute or two to speak, and deprives them of the ability to dialogue with councilmembers, they are denied equity with respect to it. They have no claim to have the council listen to them, or to take their concerns to heart. Insofar as this locks them out of the policy making process, it renders the councilmembers an elite.

(To democratize the council’s hearings would require shifting its meeting structure whenever a significantly large group of people showed up on an issue, opening the meeting to a form that would enable dialogue between the people and the council, rather than only monologic “input.”)

When an institution withholds equity from persons, it is in effect imposing inequality on them. In other words, inequality is something that is done to people through social institutions (and those social institutions can include cultural structures, such as patriarchy or white supremacy).

Equality gives power to humans, to be assumed in the face of institutions, and equity gives power to institutions, against which humans can only make claims and applications. For a democracy, equality of personhood must be an assumption, not an issue. It does not need to be promoted or demonstrated, since it is already the foundation on which people make political decisions about their collective needs. To reduce democracy to a service organization is to reduce equality to equity.

When the Strategic Plan states that one of its goals is to “promote and demonstrate racial and social equity,” it is adopting an institutional perspective, that of granting equity. This “granting” then expresses another form of hierarchy, the assumption of the power to withhold equality that already characterizes city government. To foster racial equity, what is needed is the cessation of withholding of equity by institutions, an end to the creation of inequality.

Institutionality

In prioritizing institutionality (fostering equity rather than equality), the Strategic Plan reveals an ideology of organization, and a consciousness of that ideology. The staff refers to itself as “the organization.” This is a strange mode of self-reference for city employees. Those in a political party, for instance, may refer to it as “the party,” and those in corporate management often refer to it as “the company.” In such references, they are recognizing a certain identity and autonomy in which to locate themselves – a sense of social belonging (“our thing,” which translates in Italian as “la cosa nostra.”) What autonomy is the city manager and staff recognizing when they refer to “our organization” or “the organization,” as they do some seven or eight times in their report? We are speaking about a city government here.

Such reference does not appear in the Plan itself, but in the thinking of the staff, as a sense of identity. And this conforms with the staff’s proviously mentioned self-prioritization. The staff’s goals and priorities initiate the Plan’s central values, to which the rest of the city is subordinated as “input.” Overall, it betrays a recognition of boundaries, a status constituted by those borders, and a sense of identification with them. The identity of “the organization” constitutes a presence that lurks behind walls, a flaunted independence toward the practical work of political implementation, and thus a political distance between government and people.

This is not farfetched. After last November, with a new council elected, the city manager was entreated to stop the police raids on the homeless community – as a temporary measure while the new council articulated a better policy. The manager refused, and the police continued their assaults, as a direct repression of this community’s political statement.

It was gratuitous repression. The manager and the police chief knew about executive discretion. They could have chosen to leave enforcement in abeyance for a while. In choosing not to, they expressed their organizational autonomy as a priority over both the council and the people.

Conclusion

To the extent this Strategic Plan is based on hierarchy, a boundary between an autonomous “organization” and the constituencies of Berkeley (now represented by the locked doors requiring access procedures in City Hall), it constitutes a disservice in three ways. It disrupts the urgent social responsibility of city government to resolve the crises the city faces now. It reduces people to consuming objects, rather than presenting itself as an instrument for facilitating greater popular self-governance and self-determination. And it widens the chasm between the people (relegated to monologic “input”) and dialogic participation in policy and decision making that is the hallmark of democracy.

The city staff may think of the plan in a problem solving manner, for which a service organization may be most efficient. But the political purpose of defending the people against dislocation and displacement, and against the miseries attendant upon gentrifying development, is not “problem-solving.” And the staff might euphemize the organizational distance between governance and the people as leadership. But it reduces leadership to an elitist rule-governed exclusion from democratic governance. To arrest the current corrosion of communities requires political will, and involvement of the communities themselves that are affected by that corrosion in making decisions in their own interest.

UNDERSTANDING “NEW POWER” by JEREMY HEIMANS and HENRY TIMMS (HBR.ORG)

We all sense that power is shifting in the world. We see increasing political protest, a crisis in representation and governance, and upstart businesses upending traditional industries. But the nature of this shift tends to be either wildly romanticized or dangerously underestimated.

There are those who cherish giddy visions of a new techno-utopia in which increased connectivity yields instant democratization and prosperity. The corporate and bureaucratic giants will be felled and the crowds coronated, each of us wearing our own 3D-printed crown. There are also those who have seen this all before. Things aren’t really changing that much, they say. Twitter supposedly toppled a dictator in Egypt, but another simply popped up in his place. We gush over the latest sharing-economy start-up, but the most powerful companies and people seem only to get more powerful.

Both views are wrong. They confine us to a narrow debate about technology in which either everything is changing or nothing is. In reality, a much more interesting and complex transformation is just beginning, one driven by a growing tension between two distinct forces: old power and new power.

Old power works like a currency. It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.

New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.

The battle and the balancing between old and new power will be a defining feature of society and business in the coming years. In this article, we lay out a simple framework for understanding the underlying dynamics at work and how power is really shifting: who has it, how it is distributed, and where it is heading.

New Power Models

Power, as British philosopher Bertrand Russell defined it, is simply “the ability to produce intended effects.” Old power and new power produce these effects differently. New power models are enabled by peer coordination and the agency of the crowd—without participation, they are just empty vessels. Old power is enabled by what people or organizations own, know, or control that nobody else does—once old power models lose that, they lose their advantage.

Old power models tend to require little more than consumption. A magazine asks readers to renew their subscriptions, a manufacturer asks customers to buy its shoes. But new power taps into people’s growing capacity—and desire—to participate in ways that go beyond consumption. These behaviors, laid out in the exhibit “The Participation Scale,” include sharing (taking other people’s content and sharing it with audiences), shaping (remixing or adapting existing content or assets with a new message or flavor), funding (endorsing with money), producing (creating content or delivering products and services within a peer community such as YouTube, Etsy, or Airbnb), and co-owning (as seen in models like Wikipedia and open source software).

Sharing and shaping.

Facebook is the classic example of a new power model based on sharing and shaping. Some 500 million people now share and shape 30 billion pieces of content each month on the platform, a truly astonishing level of participation upon which Facebook’s survival depends. Many organizations, even old power players, are relying on these behaviors to grow the strength of their brands. For example, NikeID, an initiative in which consumers become the designers of their own shoes, now makes up a significant part of Nike’s online revenues.

Funding.

Funding behaviors typically represent a higher level of commitment than sharing and shaping. Millions of people now use new power models to put their money where their mouth is. The crowdfunding poster child Kiva, for example, reports that some 1.3 million borrowers living in 76 countries have collectively received more than half a billion dollars in loans.

Peer-to-peer giving, lending, and investing models effectively reduce dependence on traditional institutions. Instead of donating via a big institution like United Way that parcels out money on donors’ behalf, people can support a specific family in a specific place affected by a specific problem. Platforms like Wefunder allow start-ups to access funding from thousands of small investors rather than rely on a handful of very big ones. One inventor just set a new record on Kickstarter, raising more than $13 million from 62,000 investors. To be sure, new power funding models are not without their downside: The campaigns, projects, or start-ups that are most rewarded by the crowd may not be the smartest investments or those that benefit the most people. Indeed, crowdfunding puts on steroids the human tendency to favor the immediate, visceral, and emotional rather than the strategic, impactful, or long-term.

Producing.

In the next level of behaviors, participants go beyond supporting or sharing other people’s efforts and contribute their own. YouTube creators, Etsy artisans, and TaskRabbit errand-runners are all examples of people who participate by producing. When enough people produce, these platforms wield serious power. Take Airbnb, the online service that matches travelers who need a place to stay with local residents who have a room to spare. As of 2014, some 350,000 hosts had welcomed 15 million people to stay in their homes. That’s enough to put real pressure on the incumbent hotel industry.

Co-ownership.

Wikipedia and Linux, the open source software operating system, are both driven by co-ownership behaviors and have had a huge impact on their sectors. Many of the decentralized peer-directed systems Harvard Law professor Yochai Benkler calls “peer mutualism” belong in this category. Consider also an initiative that grew not out of Silicon Valley but out of a church in London. The Alpha Course is a template for introducing people to Christian beliefs. Anyone wishing to host a course can freely use its materials and basic format—10 meetings devoted to the central questions of life—with no need to gather in a church. Catalyzed by a model that empowers local leaders, the course has reached 24 million people in living rooms and cafés in almost every country in the world.

What’s distinctive about these participatory behaviors is that they effectively “upload” power from a source that is diffuse but enormous—the passions and energies of the many. Technology underpins these models, but what drives them is a heightened sense of human agency.

New Power Values

As new power models become integrated into the daily lives of people and the operating systems of communities and societies, a new set of values and beliefs is being forged. Power is not just flowing differently; people are feeling and thinking differently about it. A teenager with her own YouTube channel engages as a content creator rather than as a passive recipient of someone else’s ideas. A borrower on the peer-to-peer finance platform Lending Club can disintermediate that oldest of old power institutions, the bank. A Lyft user experiences consumption as a kind of sharing and subtly shifts his view of asset ownership.

These feedback loops—or maybe we should call them “feed-in” loops, given that they’re based on participation—make visible the payoffs of peer-based collective action and endow people with a sense of power. In doing so, they strengthen norms around collaboration and make the case that we can do just fine without the old power middlemen that dominated the 20th century. Public polls reflect the shifting attitudes toward established institutions. For example, the 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer shows the largest deficit in trust in business and government since the survey began in 2001.

Among those heavily engaged with new power—particularly people under 30 (more than half the world’s population)—a common assumption is emerging: We all have an inalienable right to participate. For earlier generations, participation might have meant only the right to vote in elections every few years or maybe to join a union or religious community. Today, people increasingly expect to actively shape or create many aspects of their lives. These expectations are giving rise to a new set of values in a number of realms:

Governance.

New power favors informal, networked approaches to governance and decision making. The new power crowd would not have invented the United Nations, for instance; rather, it gravitates toward the view that big social problems can be solved without state action or bureaucracy. Often encountered in Silicon Valley, this ethos has at its core a deep and sometimes naive faith in the power of innovation and networks to provide public goods traditionally supplied by government or big institutions. Formal representation is deprioritized; new power is more flash mob and less General Assembly.

Collaboration.

New power norms place a special emphasis on collaboration, and not just as a way to get things done or as part of a mandated “consultation process.” New power models, at their best, reinforce the human instinct to cooperate (rather than compete) by rewarding those who share their own ideas, spread those of others, or build on existing ideas to make them better. Sharing-economy models, for example, are driven by the accumulated verdict of the community. They rely on reputation systems that ensure that, say, rude or messy guests on Airbnb have trouble finding their next places to stay.

DIO.

New power is also engendering a “do it ourselves” ethic, as Scott Heiferman, the CEO of Meetup, puts it, and a belief in amateur culture in arenas that used to be characterized by specialization and professionalization. The heroes in new power are “makers” who produce their own content, grow their own food, or build their own gadgets.

Transparency.

New power proponents believe that the more light we shine, the better. Traditional notions of privacy are being replaced by a kind of permanent transparency as young people live their lives on social media. Clearly, the walls between public and private discourse are crumbling, with mixed consequences. And although Facebook profiles, Instagram feeds, and the like are often nothing more than a carefully managed form of self-display, the shift toward increasing transparency is demanding a response in kind from our institutions and leaders, who are challenged to rethink the way they engage with their constituencies. Pope Francis—the leader of an organization known for its secrecy—is surprisingly attuned to the need to engage in new power conversations. His promise to make the Vatican Bank more financially transparent and reform the Vatican’s media practices is an unexpected move in that direction.

Affiliation.

New power loves to affiliate, but affiliation in this new world is much less enduring. People are less likely to be card-carrying members of organizations (just ask groups like the ACLU that are seeing this form of membership threatened) or to forge decades-long relationships with institutions. So while people with a new power mindset are quick to join or share (and thanks to new power models, “joining” is easier than ever), they are reluctant to swear allegiance. This makes new power models vulnerable. New power is fast—but it is also fickle.

New power is also fundamentally changing the way everyday people see themselves in relation to institutions, authority, and one another. These new norms aren’t necessarily better. For instance, new power offers real opportunities to enfranchise and empower, but there’s a fine line between democratizing participation and a mob mentality. This is especially the case for self-organized networks that lack formal protections. New power can easily veer in the direction of a Tea Party or an Occupy Wall Street. (We assume that most people think at least one of these is a bad thing.)

A Framework for Understanding the Players

Putting the two dimensions of models and values together yields a framework that helps organizations think about where they are now and also helps them chart their progress toward a more strategic position.

Castles.

In the bottom-left quadrant are organizations that use old power models and have old power values. By our estimation, this category includes the world’s most valuable company—Apple—as well as some obvious dinosaurs. Apple’s success in the past 15 years can be chalked up to a terrifically executed strategy of cultivated exclusivity and pushing products from the top down. Unlike Google, Apple largely eschews open source approaches, and despite its antiestablishment fan base and the carefully managed “maker culture” of its App Store, it is renowned for secrecy and aggressive protection of IP.

Connectors.

In the top-left quadrant are organizations with a new power model—for example, a network connecting many users or makers—but old power sensibilities. This category includes technology natives like Facebook, whose model depends on participation but whose decisions sometimes seem to ignore the wishes of its community, as well as organizations like the Tea Party, which has a strong, decentralized grassroots network but wields its influence in highly traditional corridors of power. Players in this quadrant tend toward “smoke-filled room” values while relying on a “made by many” model (and many run an increasing risk by doing so).

Cheerleaders.

In the bottom-right quadrant are organizations that use old power models but embrace new power values. Patagonia, for example, has a traditional old power business model, yet it stands out for its embrace of new power values like transparency. Some of these “cheerleader” organizations, such as The Guardiannewspaper, are working to evolve their positions so that they not only espouse new power values but incorporate new power models effectively.

Crowds.

In the top-right quadrant are the “purest” new power actors. Their core operating models are peer-driven, and their values celebrate the power of the crowd. This is where we find established peer-driven players, like Wikipedia, Etsy, and Bitcoin, and newer sharing-economy start-ups, like Lyft and Sidecar. This quadrant also includes distributed activist groups and radically open education models.

Some organizations have moved from one quadrant to another over time. Think of TED, the organization dedicated to “ideas worth spreading.” Ten years ago, the organization talked the talk on collaboration and networks, but in reality it lacked any kind of new power model—it was simply an expensive, exclusive, and carefully curated annual conference. Since then, TED has broadened its model by enabling self-organization and participation via the TEDx franchise and by making its previously closed content open to everyone. Both decisions have had a major impact on the scale and reach of the TED brand, even as the organization has grappled with risks associated with loosening control. TED is now effectively leveraging a complementary old power and new power business model.

Cultivating New Power

Most organizations recognize that the nature of power is changing. But relatively few understand the keys to influence and impact in this new era. Companies see newly powerful entities using social media, so they layer on a bit of technology without changing their underlying models or values. They hire chief innovation officers who serve as “digital beards” for old power leaders. They “reach out” via Twitter. They host the occasional, awkwardly curated, lonely Google hangout with the CEO.

But having a Facebook page is not the same thing as having a new power strategy. If you’re in an industry that is being radically altered by new power, it isn’t enough to add some window dressing. A newspaper business, for example, can’t simply insert a comments section at the bottom of every article online and call that new power—it has to intentionally build reader engagement and a vibrant community, which almost certainly will require shifts in both its model and its values. The New York Times is struggling with exactly this dilemma, as its leaked innovation report last year demonstrated.

Traditional organizations that want to develop new power capacity must engage in three essential tasks: (1) assess their place in a shifting power environment, (2) channel their harshest critic, and (3) develop a mobilization capacity.

Audit your power.

A telling exercise is to plot your organization on the new power compass—both where you are today and where you want to be in five years. Plot your competitors on the same grid. Ask yourself framing questions: How are we/they employing new power models? And how are we/they embracing new power values? To understand how your organization is deploying new power, consider which participation behaviors you are enabling. This process starts a conversation about new realities and how your organization needs to respond. It doesn’t always lead to a resolute determination to deploy new power—in fact, it can help organizations identify the aspects of their core models and values that they don’t want to change.

Occupy yourself.

What if there were an Occupy-style movement directed at you? Imagine a large group of aggrieved people, camped in the heart of your organization, able to observe everything that you do. What would they think of the distribution of power in your organization and its legitimacy? What would they resent and try to subvert? Figure it out, and then Occupy yourself. This level of introspection has to precede any investment in new power mechanisms. (Companies should be especially careful about building engagement platforms without developing engagement cultures, a recipe for failure.)

There’s a good chance that your organization is already being occupied, whether you know it or not. Websites are popping up that provide forums for anonymous employee accounts of what is really going on inside businesses and how leaders are perceived. In our new power world, the private behavior—and core challenges—of every organization is only a leak or a tweet away. This poses a threat to happily opaque old power organizations, which face new levels of scrutiny about performance. Are you really delivering advertising reach for my product? Are you really improving my kid’s reading skills? Today, the wisest organizations will be those engaging in the most painfully honest conversations, inside and outside, about their impact.

Develop a movement mindset.

Old power organizations need to do more than just look inward; they also need to think differently about how they reach out. Organizations that have built their business models on consumption or other minimal participation behaviors will find this challenging but increasingly important.

The capacity to mobilize a much wider community of people can be a critical business advantage, as we saw in the defeat of “online piracy” legislation in the United States, in 2012. In that conflict between technology companies and copyright holders, both sides enlisted armies of lobbyists, but only one side was able to mobilize an army of citizens. Google, Wikipedia, and other organizations inspired meaningful action—10 million petition signatories, more than 100,000 calls to Congress, and a “blackout” of the internet—creating a cultural surge when it mattered. The recent standoff between Amazon and Hachette also shows two sides attempting to flex their mobilization muscle, with Amazon rallying “Readers United” against Hachette’s band of “Authors United.”

To succeed, a movement needs much more than ad campaigns or “astroturfing.” Leaders must be able to actually mobilize true believers, not just talk at them. A key new power question for all organizations is “Who will really show up for you?”

The Challenge for New Power

Organizations that rely on new power can be easily intoxicated by the energy of their crowds and fail to recognize that to effect real change, they too might need to adapt. They should bear three essential principles in mind.

Respect your communities (don’t become the Man).

If old power organizations should fear being occupied, new power organizations should fear being deserted. Those who deploy new power models but default to old power values are especially at risk of alienating the communities that sustain them. This isn’t simply a problem of mindset, where organizations lose touch with the crowds that made them prosper. It is also a practical challenge: The expectations of critical stakeholders—investors, regulators, advertisers, and so on—often run counter to the demands of new power communities, and balancing those agendas is not easy.

Facebook, like many organizations with a new power model, is dealing with this tension between two cultures. Facebook’s old power corporate ambition (more data ownership, higher stock values) clashes with the demands of its own crowd. Initial surges of interest in alternative social networks promising to honor new power values may be a sign of things to come. As new power concepts of digital rights evolve, these conflicts will most likely increase.

Go bilingual.

For all new power’s progress, it is not yet making much of a dent in society’s old power superstructure. Khan Academy is the darling of the digerati, but our education systems remain largely unchanged, with school timetables still built around family lifestyles of the 1800s. Lawrence Lessig, a leading new power thinker, wants to overhaul campaign finance laws in the United States, but he has realized that the best way to “end all super PACS” is with a super PAC.

In this context, the right strategy for the moment is often to go “bilingual,” developing both old and new power capacities. Arianna Huffington, for example, has built a platform that comprises a network of 50,000 self-publishing bloggers, but she also skillfully wields an old power Rolodex. Bilingual players like Huffington deploy old power connections to get what they need—capital, legitimacy, access to partnerships, publicity—without being co-opted or slowed down. They use institutional power without being institutionalized.

Get structural.

New power models will always have limited influence and impact unless they are operating within a superstructure designed to play to their strengths. Take the global grassroots movement Avaaz. Even though it has 40 million members, it will only get so far in its efforts to effect change if the decision-making mechanism that it seeks to influence is an entrenched old power structure like the UN climate negotiation process.

The battle ahead, whether you favor old or new power values, will be about who can control and shape society’s essential systems and structures. Will new power forces prove capable of fundamentally reforming existing structures? Will they have the ingenuity to bypass them altogether and create new ones? Or will they ultimately succeed in doing neither, allowing traditional models of governance, law, and capital markets to basically hold firm?

As we revel in moments of promise and see ever more people shaping their destinies and lives, the big question is whether new power can genuinely serve the common good and confront society’s most intractable problems. Strategy and tactics are important, but the ultimate questions are ethical. “For all of its democratizing power, the Internet, in its current form, has simply replaced the old boss with a new boss,” warns Fred Wilson, a partner at Union Square Ventures. “And these new bosses have market power that, in time, will be vastly larger than that of the old boss.”

Too often, new power bosses dream only of a good “exit” from a hot business, but we need new power leaders to make a grand entrance into civil society. Those capable of channeling the power of the crowd must turn their energies to something more fundamental: redesigning society’s systems and structures to meaningfully include and empower more people. The greatest test for the conductors of new power will be their willingness to engage with the challenges of the least powerful.

A version of this article appeared in the December 2014 issue of Harvard Business Review.

Jeremy Heimans is a cofounder and the CEO of Purpose, a social business that builds movements. He is also a cofounder of the online political communities GetUp and Avaaz.


Henry Timms is the executive director of 92nd Street Y, a cultural and community center in New York. He also founded #GivingTuesday, a global philanthropic movement.

Remembrances for Amilcar Perez Lopez & Tuesday 2/28 SF BOS meeting (from Adrienne Fong)

♥Amilcar Perez Lopez♥

Killed by SFPD on February 26, 2015

Remembrances On

Sunday, February 26th & Monday February 27th

See info on graphic

~   ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Reminder

SF Board of Supervisors Meeting

3 important issues will be on the agenda

(See info below)

Tuesday, February 28th

2:00pm – 4:00pm

Tuesday, 1:00pm – 2:00pm, Rally for Trees & Against Pesticides in Our Parks! – Rally & BoS Meeting

Civic Center Plaza
355 McAllister
SF

Hearing:

3:00pm, Board of Supervisors Chamber, Room 250

Join Our City and San Francisco Forest Alliance to demand that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors vote to reject the EIR that allows the Recreation and Park Department to cut down over 18,000 trees and spray toxic herbicides to ‘manage’ our public parks.

Join Our City and San Francisco Forest Alliance to demand that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors vote to reject the EIR that allows the Recreation and Park Department to cut down over 18,000 trees and spray toxic herbicides to ‘manage’ our public parks.

Sponsor: SF Forest Alliance

Info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1880607452154723/

Tuesday, 2:00pm – 4:00pm, SF Resists Muslim Registry!

SF City Hall
1 Dr. Carleton B. Goodlett Place
SF

On Tuesday the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will finally vote on an ordinance against any potential Muslim registry based on religion or country of origin.

For weeks, Arab and Muslim community and allies have packed SF BOS committee meetings and spoke out demanding more than a symbolic ordinance, but for one that is actually enforceable, and relevant.

With the leadership of Supervisors Cohen, Ronen and Fewer, the Public Safety committee has passed all the community backed amendments to include language that ensures that the city of SF will enforce this ordinance, and to remove language glorifying the colonial history of the US against the indigenous people of the Americas.

Let’s join together on Tuesday to stand together in resistance in San Francisco and beyond.

Info: https://www.facebook.com/events/158564654652195/

Tuesday, 2:00pm – 4:00pm. SF Board of Supervisors Meeting: Divest from DAPL!  #MniWiconi

SF City Hall
1 Dr. Carleton B. Goodlett Pl.
SF

As of December 31 2016, San Francisco’s Pooled Fund had about $823 million invested with financiers of DAPL, and more than $10 billion in City funds managed by Bank of America.

In mid-February, the indigenous-led San Francisco Defund DAPL Coalition asked a couple of the more progressive San Francisco Board of Supervisor members to work with the Coalition on a divestment ordinance. While supportive, they have expressed to the Coalition that they are at capacity and cannot sponsor the ordinance.

The Army Corps of Engineer set February 22nd as the deadline for Water Protectors to evacuate Oceti Sakowin camp, a camp completely within the boundaries of the Great Sioux Nation as defined by the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty. As we speak, Water Protectors are deep in prayer, preparing their minds and bodies for a violent law enforcement raid as the Army Corps, North Dakota Law Enforcement, the National Guard, the BIA Indian Police, and DAPL mercenaries surround the prayerful camp.

Join us in asking the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to work with the SF Defund DAPL Coalition to pass an ordinance divesting city funds from the DAPL

Info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1833602800190162/

“The Skeleton Key to the Rise of Trump” by Dale Beran (medium.com)

Trump’s younger supporters know he’s an incompetent joke; in fact, that’s why they support him.

An Italian newspaper reporting on Donald Trump retweeting himself depicted as Pepe the Frog in September of 2016. credit: Serena Danna / Corriere della Serra.

1. Born from Something Awful

Around 2005 or so a strange link started showing up in my old webcomic’s referral logs. This new site I didn’t understand. It was a bulletin board, but its system of navigation was opaque. Counter intuitively, you had to hit “reply” to read a thread. Moreover, the content was bizarre nonsense.

The site, if you hadn’t guessed, was 4chan.org. It was an offshoot of a different message board which I also knew from my referral logs, “Something Awful”, at the time, an online community of a few hundred nerds who liked comics, video games, and well, nerds things. But unlike boards with similar content, Something Awful skewed toward dark jokes. I had an account at Something Awful, which I used sometimes to post in threads about my comic.

4chan had been created by a 15 year old Something Awful user named Christopher Poole (whose 4chan mod name was “m00t”). Poole had adapted a type of Japanese bulletin board software which was difficult to understand at first, but once learned, was far more fun to post in than the traditional American format used by S.A., as a result the site became popular very quickly.

These days, 4chan appears in the news almost weekly. This past week, there were riots at Berkeley in the wake of the scheduled lecture by their most prominent supporter, Milo Yiannopoulos. The week before that neo-Nazi Richard Spencer pointed to his 4chan inspired Pepe the Frog pin, about to explain the significance when an anti-fascist protester punched him in the face. The week before that, 4chan claimed (falsely) it had fabricated the so called Trump “Kompromat”. And the week before that, in the wake of the fire at Ghost Ship, 4chan decided to make war on “liberal safe spaces” and DIY venues across the country.

How did we get here? What is 4chan exactly? And how did a website about anime become the avant garde of the far right? Mixed up with fascist movements, international intrigue, and Trump iconography? How do we interpret it all?

At the very beginning, 4chan met once a year in only one place in the world: Baltimore, Maryland at the anime convention, Otakon. As a nerdy teen growing up in Baltimore in the 90s, I had wandered into Otakon much like I had later wandered into 4chan, just when it was starting. I also attended Otakon in the mid-aughts when 4chan met there, likewise to promote my webcomic.

As someone who has witnessed 4chan grow from a group of adolescent boys who could fit into a single room at my local anime convention to a worldwide coalition of right wing extremists (which is still somehow also a message board about anime), I feel I have some obligation to explain.

This essay is an attempt to untangle the threads of 4chan and the far right.

2. Anon Steps Out to Fight Lord Xenu

In the beginning I didn’t pay all that much attention 4chan. I knew they were a group of teen anime fans who met to party awkwardly like so many other teens at nerd-themed conventions. But around 2008 I realized I wanted to do a story on them. Their user base had grown exponentially and it was obvious they were about to explode into the mainstream. (Much to the dismay of its millions of users, who tried in vain desperation to keep it a secret.)

The key to 4chan’s popularity (and what distinguished it from its progenitor Something Awful) was the Japanese bulletin board Poole had adapted for English use. People had so much fun using it, threads became ephemeral, growing wildly within seconds, then disappearing minutes later, pushed out of the way and into oblivion by new threads and so forth ad infinitum 24/7. Perhaps the most appealing part for users was that you didn’t have to make an account. The software displayed a default name for posters who didn’t sign up — which was everyone. On all those millions upon millions of posts the author’s name was simply, “Anonymous”. Users began referring to each other by that name. “Hi Anon here,” posts would begin. And so Anonymous was born.

Now 4chan is often explained as being responsible for some early popular memes like “rickrolling”. But this is an understatement. 4chan invented the meme as we use it today. At the time, one of the few places you saw memes was there. The white Impact font with the black outlines, that was them (via S.A.). Terms like “win” and “epic” and “fail” were all created or popularized on 4chan, used there for years before they became a ubiquitous part of the culture. The very method of how gifs and images are interspersed with dialogue in Slack or now iMessage or wherever is deeply 4chanian. In other words, the site left a profound impression on how we as a culture behave and interact.

In 2008, I wrote the site’s teenage founder, Poole, whose contact was at the top of the site, asking for an interview. He never wrote back. Then I saw 4chan was meeting, not in Baltimore, but a few blocks from my apartment in New York, in fact, in many cities around the world. They had planned to protest the church of Scientology.

Why this group of nerdy boys had pivoted from meeting at my local anime convention and goofing off to protesting Scientology is an interesting question.

To answer it, we must look a little closer at 4chan’s system of values. To those with a passing knowledge of 4chan it’s strange to think of it having a value system. And indeed it did try its mightiest to be nihilistic, to hate, to deny, to shrug, to laugh off everything as a joke like all teenage boys do (the board was mostly young men). This effort was of course impossible. The attempts to be “random”, like a Rorschach test, painted a portrait of exactly who they were, the voids filled in with their identity, their interests, their tastes. The result was that 4chan had a culture as complex as any other society of millions of people, anonymous or no. There were things it loved, things it hated, ways of being and acting that met with approval and disapproval in the group.

In fact, it codified its value system in a series of “rules”. Like everything it did, these were constructed piecemeal from pop culture. Rule #1 was taken from Fight Club’s Rule # 1, “Don’t talk about 4chan”. All the rules had a Lord of the Flies vibe to them, that is to say, they were very obviously created by a bullying and anarchic society of adolescent boys — or at least, men with the mindset of boys — particularly lonely, sex starved man-boys, who according to their own frequent jokes about the subject, lived in their parents’ basement. (Poole himself lived in his parents’ basement well after the initial success of the the site.) They were obsessed with Japanese culture and, naturally enough, there was already a term for people like them in Japan, hikikomori — — meaning “pulling inward, or being confined” — teens and adults who withdrew from society into fantasy worlds constructed by anime, video games, and now the internet. And of course, it’s relevant to note here the themes of Fight Club itself, a film about a male collective who regains their masculinity through extreme acts after it has been debased by modern corporate culture.

Also like adolescent boys, 4chan users were deeply sensitive and guarded. They disguised their own sensitivity (namely, their fear that they would be, “forever alone”) by extreme insensitivity. The rules, like everything else, were always half in jest. Everything had to be a done with at least a twinkle of winking irony. This was an escape route, a way of never having to admit to your peers that you were in fact expressing something from your heart, in other words — that you were indeed vulnerable. No matter what a user did or said, he could always say it was “for the lulz” (lols). Like (by comparison the tame and sophisticated precursor) “Something Awful” board that spawned it, 4chan defined itself by being insensitive to suffering in that way only people who have never really suffered can — that is to say, young people, mostly young men, protected by a cloak of anonymity. The accepted standard was a sort of libertarian “free speech” banner, in which isolated man-boys asserted their right to do or say anything no matter someone else’s feelings. This meant generally posting pornography, swastikas, racial slurs, and content that reveled in harm to other people.

Before 4chan’s dispute with Scientology it had banded together for practical jokes they had called “raids”. The board would flood particular chat rooms or online networks. Thousands of 4chan users would appear in the virtual child’s world Habbo Hotel to cause chaos, for no other reason than that it was an amusing way to pass their near limitless idle time (or as they would phrase it, “for the lulz”).

During the raids, they would enforce “Rule #1” and conceal the very fact of 4chan. An ongoing joke was to claim they were from a rival site, newgrounds.com. The Scientology “protest” was also in large part a “raid”. Videos were made directed at Scientology pretending “Anonymous” was a shadowy and powerful cabal, something akin to Hydra from Marvel comic books. Since no one knew who Anonymous was at the time, they could pretend they were anything. This meant that there was another more serious component in the protest. The part that wasn’t a joke was an experiment in political power. What could they do with their numbers? Could they actually destroy Scientology? If not, how far could they get? There wasn’t a consensus of course. Many on 4chan expressed indignation and rage at the protests. They were afraid that “Rule #1” would be broken; 4chan would be outed — and as a consequence — the only community in which they had found acceptance would disappear.

The morning of the protest was a brutally cold Saturday. My roommate and I, bleary-eyed, boarded the subway and took it two stops to Times Square. We had a vague feeling we were being trolled.

“No way these nerds are leaving their parents’ basements…” my roommate grumbled as we ascended up the NQR steps. Times Square was abandoned. Not even the tourists were out. All you could see was the trash billowing about on the streets. Then we turned the corner on to 46th street and to our astonishment several hundred people were screaming and shouting, cordoned off in front of the Scientology building. Anonymous. Every one. They all wore masks, mostly Guy Fawkes masks, inspired by the Wachowski sisters’ adaptation of a comic book. This was, in comic book parlance, the mask’s “first appearance” (IRL). I interviewed the perplexed Scientologist standing between the columns of his temple. He was wearing a gleaming silver suit, the threads iridescent. He looked horrified and perplexed.

“These are terrorists,” he insisted, of course having no idea who they were, which was message board users. “This is a terrorist organization. And we are religion protected by the First Amendment.” Then he handed me a packet, surprisingly thick, full of glossy pamphlets about Scientology, like something you might get from a college admissions office.

I interviewed a pimply faced boy, his Guy Fawkes mask pulled up over long, curly, orange locks.

“How was this protest organized?” I asked.

“It was organized on a site called newgrounds.com” he answered.

“Is the protest a joke or serious?”

“It’s serious business.” he replied. Serious business was a meme, a joke on 4chan. And so it went down the line, “anonymous” protestors, all 4chan users, following Rule #1, trying to conceal 4chan from me, and obscure the source of the joke, just like a real life “raid” into a chatroom, hiding their motivations behind a mirrored chamber of repeated memes. Habbo Hotel by way of Lord Xenu. Xenu was Scientology’s ultimate revelatory secret, the intergalactic space ruler who seeded earth in the primeval past. So Anon chanted his name as a meme. It was their only real political statement: all information was free now that we had the internet. Scientology acolytes the same age, handing out copies of Dianetics, stopped up their ears.

When the protest broke up (it was scheduled to end at noon), a nerd dressed like Neo from The Matrix in a long black duster shouted, “Now back to our parents’ basements!” and the whole crowd laughed.

4chan’s first day out. The Scientology protests of 2008 off Broadway.

3. New Horizons

The peculiar thing about the Scientology protest was how little 4chan cared about Scientology. The original cause of the dispute had to do with 4chan’s access to “lulz” on the internet. Scientology had removed a funny video featuring Tom Cruise rambling incoherently about Scientology. 4chan believed this had interfered with their unlimited right to post anything (and keep it) on the internet. There was a moral component to their protest, but it was tangential at best.

When, several years later, Occupy Wall Street came to Zuccotti Park, it too only tangentially touched upon 4chan’s political interests and complaints. 4chan was libertarian. During the 2008 presidential election, it supported Ron Paul (replacing its traditional greeting “sup /b/” with “ron paul /b/”). 4chan wanted the right to do as it pleased and not much else. Where large organized systems like corporations, the government, or Scientology, interfered with that “right”, they opposed them. Anonymous attacked corporations like Paypal and American Express, not because of their corporateness, but because they had frozen the assets of Julian Assange who had similar beliefs about the freedom to distribute information on the internet.

At Occupy Wall Street, 4channers were a distinct minority. Now and again someone in a Guy Fawkes mask would voice libertarian ideas among a group of radical leftists discussing socialism.

However, despite not being on the left, anonymous is often conflated or confused with the leftist Occupy movement. For example, in the T.V. series Mr. Robot, a group of clandestine anonymous hackers (“F Society”) releases a video that is clearly derived from 4chan’s/Anonymous’ video for the Scientology protests. The hackers in Mr. Robot, who wear masks similar to those of 4chan’s Guy Fawkes mask, want to destroy the corporate hegemony and free everyone from their debt, student or otherwise. That is to say, they have the agenda of Occupy Wall Street.

The absurdity here shouldn’t go without note. Emulating fiction from T.V. and comic books, 4chan forum go-ers pretended to be an international cabal of powerful hackers. Then almost a decade later, a T.V. show about a fictional cabal of powerful hackers copies their video, closing the loop.

An image saved off 4chan in February of 2011 by me, the lurking author.

By the end of 2011, 4chan had finally been outed. Subsequently, the group splintered in a sense; anyone could and did pick up the banner of Anonymous. Hackers labeling themselves as such pursued different agendas, some anti-corporate, some truly noble — like helping convict the Steubenville rapists. (This became the distinct leftist “hacktivist” group “Anonymous”.) But philanthropic and anti-corporate hacking was not at the heart of what 4chan was about. It had started and always was in some way about the “lulz”, using the computer for entertainment, for passing the time. Perhaps there was a moment when it could have been something else, a shining possibility that emerged on the horizon in one of those magical revolutionary moments in which all things are possible, like Occupy Wall Street itself. But, it was not to be. At least, not yet.

4chan was now spread along a network of websites and IRC channels of which 4chan.org was one. The press often lamented how, like Occupy Wall Street, they could not define Anonymous. No one person represented it. But this same reasoning could also be used to make the opposite point. If no definition existed for Anonymous, why were millions of people identifying as one of the group? Just because the borders were as amorphous as a cloud, didn’t mean it wasn’t as large or real as one. It was still united by a common culture and set of values, fuzzy around the edges, but solid at the core. And what was this solid core that defined it? The same thing it had always been.

It was still a group of hikikomori — a group of primarily young males who spent a lot of the time at the computer, so much so they had retreated into virtual worlds of games, T.V., and now the networks of the internet. This was where most or all of their interaction, social or otherwise took place. The real world, by contrast, above their mothers’ basements, was a place they did not succeed, perhaps a place they did not fundamentally understand.

An early 4chan meme made from a screenshot of 4chan.

This, of course, did not describe everyone, but it was the bulk of the bell curve. Sometimes, while meeting virtually to commiserate about the problem, 4chan sought to fix it. For example, 4chan created a /fit/ board, teaching “Anons” how to exercise and groom themselves. The advice was so basic, it was endearing. (“You have to shower once a day” etc.) There were professionals and successful people on the board who used it only for amusement. And there were hackers who did indeed use their knowledge of virtual worlds to effect substantive change in the real one. But the core of the culture remained more or less unchanged. It was a culture that celebrated failure — that from the very beginning encouraged anyone who posted to “become an hero” (their term for killing themselves, and sometimes others in the bargain). And 4chan’s next big effort reflected that. In fact, it was such a big deal for them because, after all their groping for a prank that might become a cause 4chan cared about, they finally hit on one that expressed their strange, unique complaints.

4. Gamergate: Anon Defends his Safe Spaces

It’s difficult to recall what started Gamergate because, like much of 4chan-style content, it never made sense on the surface. The mind tends to discard such things as nonsense. Nonetheless, there was a beginning. In 2014, a jilted lover claimed his ex-girlfriend had been unfaithful to him. He tried to prove to the internet that he was wronged in an embarrassing and incoherent blog post. The target of his post, his ex, happened to be a female game developer.

Soon 4chan and other like minded men who felt wronged by women, took up the rallying cry. The effort somehow moved from lurid interest in a particular woman’s sex life to a critique of video games. Gamergaters believed that “SJWs” (Social Justice Warriors) were adding unwanted elements into their video games, namely things which promoted gender equality.

Strangely enough, they believed this was happening not because video game creators and the video game press were interested in making and reviewing games that dealt with these issues, but because there was a grand conspiracy perpetrated by a few activists to change video games.

While this whirling connective tissue of nonsense doesn’t seem to make much sense at first glance (and indeed, much of the game-making community and the press in general struggled to understand it). It makes perfect sense if we look at this New York Times story about how more than 16% percent of men in the nation are unemployed.

Again, here we can understand this group as people who have failed at the real world and have checked out of it and into the fantasy worlds of internet forums and videos games. These are men without jobs, without prospects, and by extension (so they declaimed) without girlfriends. Their only recourse, the only place they feel effective, is the safe, perfectly cultivated worlds of the games they enter. By consequence of their defeat, the distant, abstract concept of women in the flesh makes them feel humiliated and rejected. Yet, in the one space they feel they can escape the realities of this, the world of the video game, here (to them, it seems) women want to assert their presence and power.

If this sounds hard to believe, take for example Milo Yiannopoulos, the “Technology Editor” at Breitbart News, whose scheduled lecture this month at Berkeley spawned massive riots and protests. Yiannopoulos rose to prominence via Gamergate. He is not a “technology” editor because he compares the chip architectures of competing graphics cards. Rather the “tech” here is code for the fact that his audience is the vast population of sad young men who have retreated to internet communities. Likewise the mainstream press sometimes describes him as troll as a way of capturing his vague association with 4chan. This term, too, is inaccurate. He is 4chan at its most earnest, after all these men have finally discovered their issue — the thing that unites them — their failure and powerlessness literally embodied (to them) by women.

Yiannopoulos is depicted as the last on the right in an Instagram image posted by Donald Trump in September of 2016.

Yiannopoulos’ rambling “arguments” against feminism, are not arguments at all, as much as pep talks, ways of making these dis-empowered men feel empowered by discarding the symbol of their failure — women. As an openly gay man, he argues that men no longer need be interested in women, that they can and should walk away from the female sex en masse. For example in a long incoherent set of bullet points on feminism he states:

The rise of feminism has fatally coincided with the rise of video games, internet porn, and, sometime in the near future, sex robots. With all these options available, and the growing perils of real-world relationships, men are simply walking away.

Here Yiannopoulos has inverted what has actually happened to make his audience feel good. Men who have retreated to video games and internet porn can now characterize their helpless flight as an empowered conscious choice to reject women for something else. In other words, it justifies a lifestyle which in their hearts they previously regarded helplessly as a mark of shame.

Gamergate at last (unlike Habbo Hotel, Scientology, Paypal, or Occupy Wall Street) was a “raid” that mattered, that wasn’t just a fun lark to pass the time or a winking joke. Here was another issue (besides “let me do what I want on the internet all the time”) that spoke to the bulk of 4chan users.

Anon was going to get “SJW”s (ie. empowered women) out of their safe spaces — video games — the place from which they retreated from women by indulging in fantasies in which they were in control (that is to say, ones which demeaned women).

However, their efforts failed, not so much for lack of trying (though there’s that, too) but because the campaign itself was a fantasy. Gamergate was, quite poetically, defined by the campaigners poor reality testing. The people carrying it out did not interact with real life all that much, only the virtual escapist worlds of video games, message boards, and anime.

And thus the campaign proceeded like the video game it wasn’t. Menus of “target lists” were drawn up, their enemies (mostly women they wanted to harrass) labelled “warriors”. 4chan users pretended a furious amount of mouse clicking and virtual action would somehow translate into a concrete reward appearing in their computer screens, like it does, say, in World of Warcraft.

Namely, gamergaters believed that online sleuthing would uncover a tangible conspiracy about how game creators colluded to further a “Social Justice Warrior” agenda. Among many others, they hacked the Skype account of the indie game developer I was working for at the time, presumably reading our conversations about the game we were making looking for the moment when we uttered “now to further the secret SJW agenda”. What they found instead was my boss patiently explaining to me the best ways to make a video game. One of the cardinal rules was that every action the user takes must have a carefully calibrated system of escalating rewards. Complete a level, get a cut scene. Video games in this sense, are meticulously constructed to make sure the user is entertained at every moment through a challenge-reward system.

All that work cracking Skype accounts with wordlists did not yield the tangible reward of evidence of a cabal. The real world behaves differently than a video game. There were shades of grey. It disappointed. What you did and what you got for your efforts were muddled. It was more challenging than the safe spaces of a video game, carefully crafted to accommodate gamers and make them feel — well, the exact opposite of how they felt interacting in the real world — effective. In the fantasy world of the game, actions achieved ends.

It was almost as if all these disaffected young men were waiting for a figure to come along who, having achieved nothing in his life, pretended as though he had achieved everything, who by using the tools of fantasy, could transmute their loserdom (in 4chan parlance, their “fail”), into “win”.

5. Trump: the Loser who Won

Another vintage 4chan meme from the author’s personal collection.

In Bukowski’s novel Factotum, the main character, Hank Chinaski, drifts through various demeaning blue-collar jobs until he ends up working the stockroom of an autoparts store. The job is no better than any of the others, except for one important difference: It ends early enough for Chinaski and another worker, Manny, to race to the track for the last bet of the day. Soon the other workers in the warehouse hear of the scheme and ask Hank to put down their bets, too.

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OccupyForum presents . . . “At the River I Stand: The 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike, the Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, and Strike as Strategy” film and discussion with George Wright

OccupyForum presents…

Monday, February 27th, 2017 from 6 – 9 pm

at The Black and Brown Social Club

474 Valencia between 15th and 16th Streets, near 16th/Mission BART

Information, discussion & community! Monday Night Forum!!

Occupy Forum is an opportunity for open and respectful dialogue

on all sides of these critically important issues!

At the River I Stand:

The 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike,

the Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, and Strike as Strategy

Film and Discussion with George Wright

Memphis, Spring 1968 marked the dramatic climax of the Civil Rights movement. At the River I Stand skillfully reconstructs the two eventful months that transformed a strike by Memphis sanitation workers into a national conflagration, and disentangles the complex historical forces that came together with the inevitability of tragedy at the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

This 58-minute documentary brings into sharp relief issues that have only become more urgent in the intervening years: the connection between economic and civil rights, debates over strategies for change, the demand for full inclusion of African Americans in American life, and the fight for dignity for public employees and all working people.

In the 1960s, Memphis’ 1,300 sanitation workers formed the lowest caste of a deeply racist society, earning so little they qualified for welfare. In the film, retired workers recall their fear about taking on the entire white power structure when they struck for higher wages and union recognition.
But local civil rights leaders and the Black community soon realized the strike was part of the struggle for economic justice for all African Americans. Through stirring historical footage we see the community mobilizing behind the strikers, organizing mass demonstrations and an Easter boycott of downtown businesses. The national leadership of AFSCME put the international union’s full resources behind the strike. One day, a placard appeared on the picket lines, which in its radical simplicity summed up the meaning of the strike: “I am a man.”

Endemic inner-city poverty, attempts to roll back gains won by public employees, and the growing gap between the rich and the rest of us make clear that the issues Martin Luther King, Jr. raised in his last days have yet to be addressed. At the River I Stand succeeds in showing that the causes of (and possibly the solutions to) our present racial quandary may well be found in what happened in Memphis.

We are very lucky to have George Wright with us to help disentangle the issues and tease out the strategies applicable to ourselves today.

Time will be allotted for announcements.

Donations to Occupy Forum to cover costs are encouraged; no one turned away!

TED talk: Jeremy Heimans — What new power looks like


We can see the power of distributed, crowd-sourced business models every day — witness Uber, Kickstarter, Airbnb. But veteran online activist Jeremy Heimans asks: When does that kind of “new power” start to work in politics? His surprising answer: Sooner than you think. It’s a bold argument about the future of politics and power; watch and see if you agree.

Biography: Smedley Butler (wikipedia.org)

Smedley Darlington Butler (July 30, 1881 – June 21, 1940) was a United States Marine Corps major general, the highest rank authorized at that time, and at the time of his death the most decorated Marine in U.S. history. During his 34-year career as a Marine, he participated in military actions in the Philippines, China, in Central America and the Caribbean during the Banana Wars, and France in World War I. Butler is well known for having later become an outspoken critic of U.S. wars and their consequences, as well as exposing the Business Plot, an alleged plan to overthrow the U.S. government.

By the end of his career, Butler had received 16 medals, five for heroism. He is one of 19 men to receive the Medal of Honor twice, one of three to be awarded both the Marine Corps Brevet Medal and the Medal of Honor, and the only Marine to be awarded the Brevet Medal and two Medals of Honor, all for separate actions.

In 1933, he became involved in a controversy known as the Business Plot, when he told a congressional committee that a group of wealthy industrialists were planning a military coup to overthrow Franklin D. Roosevelt, with Butler selected to lead a march of veterans to become dictator, similar to other Fascist regimes at that time. The individuals involved all denied the existence of a plot and the media ridiculed the allegations. A final report by a special House of Representatives Committee confirmed some of Butler’s testimony.

In 1935, Butler wrote a book titled War Is a Racket, where he described and criticized the workings of the United States in its foreign actions and wars, such as those he was a part of, including the American corporations and other imperialist motivations behind them. After retiring from service, he became a popular activist, speaking at meetings organized by veterans, pacifists, and church groups in the 1930s.

More at:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smedley_Butler