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Protest is Broken

Posted 1 year ago on June 29, 2015, 10:24 a.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Tags: Activism, Micah White, Protest is Broken

From the co-creator of the Occupy Wall Street movement, a refreshing manifesto that inaugurates the future of social...

Posted by The End of Protest on Friday, July 31, 2015

Advice for the next generation of social movements: “Never protest the same way twice.”

“Protest is Broken.”

Attracting millions of people to the streets no longer guarantees the success of a protest, says Micah White, 33, the cocreator of Occupy Wall Street.

“Occupy was a perfect example of a social movement that should have worked according to the dominant theories of protest and activism. And yet, it failed,” says Micah in an interview with Folha de São Paulo, the largest daily newspaper in Brazil.

Micah White argues that the use of violence in protests is effective, but only in the short term. And he argues that learning to use social networks to benefit social movements is one of the greatest challenges of activism. “The biggest risk is becoming spectators of our own protests” he says.

Living in a rural community on the Oregon coast, with about 300 inhabitants, Micah, and his partner Chiara Ricciardone, now run Boutique Activist Consultancy, an activism think tank specializing in impossible campaigns.

Micah was in São Paulo, Brazil on May 26th to participate in the launch event of GUME (“Knife Edge”), an engagement agency founded by Regina Augusto.

Folha de São Paulo: How would you analyze Occupy Wall Street today? What went wrong?

Micah White: This is the big question and of course I've been thinking about it since the end of Occupy. For me, the Occupy movement was a “constructive failure,” which basically means it was a failure that taught us something about activism.

The real benefit of Occupy Wall Street is that it taught us the contemporary ideas and assumptions we have about protests are false. Occupy was a perfect example of how social movements should work. It accorded with the dominant theories of protest and activism: it was a historical event, joined millions of people across demographics from around the world around a series of demands, there was little violence. And yet, the movement failed. So my main conclusion is that activism has been based on a series of false assumptions about what kind of collective behavior creates social change.

F: What are these assumptions?

MW: First, the central idea of contemporary activism: urban protests, with large numbers of people in the streets, primarily secular, and that revolve around a unified demand. The idea is basically, “Look, if we get a million or ten million or a hundred million people in the streets, finally our demands will be met.” However, if you look at the last ten, fifteen years, we have had the biggest demonstrations in history. And the protests continue to grow in size and frequency, and yet they have not resulted in political change.

F: Now what?

MW: What we learned from Occupy, and also with the Arab Spring, is that revolutions happen when people lose their fear. So I think the main trigger for the next revolutionary movement will be a contagious mood that spreads throughout the world and the human community.

For me, the main thing we need to see is activists abandoning a materialistic explanation of revolution—the idea that we need to put people in the streets—and starting to think about how to spread that kind of mood, how to make people see the world in fundamentally different way. That's about it. The future of activism is not about pressing our politicians through synchronized public spectacles.

F: It's not about pressuring politicians?

MW: No. I think the standard forms of protest have become part of the standard pattern. It’s like they are expected. And the key is to constantly innovate the way we protest because otherwise it is as if protest is part of the script. It is now expected to have people in the streets, and these crowds will behave in a certain way, and then the police will come and some of the people will be beaten up and arrested. Then the rest will go home. Our participation in this script is based on the false story that the more people you have in the streets the higher your chances of getting social change.

F: Can you explain better what you're proposing?

MW: What I am proposing is a type of activism that focuses on creating a mental shift in people. Basically an epiphany. In concrete terms, I think there is much potential in the creation of hybrid social movement-political parties that require more complex behaviors of people like running for political office, seeking votes, participating in the city administration.

F: The use of social networks is quite controversial among contemporary activists. Some say it is a key tool to increase the reach of the protests, others say it exposes the movement to monitoring by the authorities. What's your opinion?

MW: This is one of the key challenges. Social media is one of the tools that activists have, and we need to use it in some way. But in fact, social media has a negative side, which goes beyond police monitoring.

During Occupy, we experienced it: things started to look better on social networks than in real life. Then people started to focus on social media and to feel more comfortable posting on Twitter and Facebook than going to an Occupy event. This to me is the biggest risk: to become spectators of our own protests.

F: What do you think of the Black Lives Matter protests that are happening in the United States since last year, the result of racial tension in the country?

MW: Of course I fully support this movement. I am black, I have experienced the discrimination that they are protesting. But thinking strategically, I believe it is very important never to protest directly against the police. Because the police are actually made to absorb protest—the objective of the police is to dissipate your energy in protesting them so you'll let alone the most sensitive parts of the repressive regime in which we live: politicians and big corporations. We must protest more deeply.

F: What do you think of the use of violence in protests?

MW: Studies suggest that protesters who use violence are more effective than those that do not. I think violence is effective, but only in the short term, because you end up developing a kind of organized structure that is easy for police to infiltrate. In the long run, it is much better to develop nonviolent tactics that allow you to create a stable and lasting social movement.

F: But doesn’t violence exclude the public from the movement?

MW: People become alienated and become frightened when they see the black bloc tactic because they do not understand and can not imagine doing it. And movements work when they inspire people, when they are positive, affirmative and make people lose their fear.

It's a difficult balance, because you also do not want to be on the other side and only support forms of activism that are tepid and tedious—you have to find a middle ground that excites people and also leaves them with a little fear. No one really has a remedy to resolve the issue.

F: Your book THE END OF PROTEST decrees the end of the protest as we know it. Can we reinvent protest?

MW: Protest is reinvented all the time. Every generation experiences its own moments of revolution. The main thing is that we are now living through a time when tactical innovations are happening much more often because people can see what others are doing around the world and innovate in real time.

I think the future of revolution starts with people promising themselves that they will never protest the same way twice. This is very difficult for activists because they like to follow patterns. But when we are committed to innovation, we will invent totally new forms of protest. People did not expect to see something like Occupy when it emerged. And now we do not expect the next big movement... but it will come.

Micah White's first book—THE END OF PROTEST—will be published by Random House of Canada on March 15, 2016.

Interview Source: Folha de São Paulo

20 Comments

20 Comments


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[-] 1 points by lugano (1221) 1 year ago

Go say, ''Protest Is Broken'' To The Greeks and watch their reaction to such specious, bourgeois, nonsense! And MW, FYI - consider ... http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article42308.htm

[-] 1 points by DebtNEUTRALITYpetition (647) 1 year ago

The one quote I pulled from the article that I agree with 100% is MW: "What we learned from Occupy, and also with the Arab Spring, is that revolutions happen when people lose their fear". end quote. So what happens when people protest in the U.S.? They lose stuff. lots of stuff, lots of wealth they spent years building up. and, what makes it even worse is there somebody waiting to pounce once their home goes to foreclosure or their car is repossessed. There are too many layers of wealth in the U.S. to allow for a real protest to move forward. I believe the next best step is to WORK ON YOUR EMPATHY SKILLS, most millennials have VERY LITTLE empathy for their own parents or those older then themselves and so their protests don't work.

[-] 2 points by gsw (2982) 1 year ago

Good comments, on people loosing their wealth, making me angered. Occupy wins, Sanders' channeling social momentum and movement to people's, ...we can get behind a candidate, change tactics,, .... And grow the movement.

[-] 1 points by DebtNEUTRALITYpetition (647) 6 months ago

Where was Bernie Sanders from 2008 to 2011 when over a million homeowners were being parallel foreclosed upon? Hillary Clinton lost the 2008 nomination because she was against Parallel Foreclosure, Barack Obama capitulated and allowed Parallel Foreclosures to occur, Bernie Sanders was mysteriously quiet about Parallel Foreclosures.

[-] 1 points by gsw (2982) 6 months ago

Agree it's a huge problem

[-] 0 points by DKAtoday (32821) from Coon Rapids, MN 1 year ago

gsw!!!! You do realize that the rethuglicans infesting this site who are pretending to be protestors of the system - are gonna tear into you now - don't ya?

[-] 1 points by MattHolck0 (3867) 1 year ago

checks watch

all they can say is "can't be trusted"

[-] 1 points by turbocharger (1756) 1 year ago

One last piece of advice: Don't put a band of very loyal and old Democrat supporters in charge of monitoring the conversations on the main website.

Now that I think of it, that actually makes no sense? Any idea how that happened?

How does an old Democrat supporter from Michigan end up being the moderator on the website of "the largest protests we have ever seen"? based on a movement that was NYC?

Inquiring minds would like to know lol.

[-] 1 points by mdonelly (324) from Mineola, NY 1 year ago

The people who administer this site were bought out, and DK and his corrupt buddies became the moderators. In my opinion the DNC are not necessarily the ones who were the buyers, and I doubt if his locale is really "Coon Rapids" either. In any event, his partisan views are not like the people that I know in Occupy.

[-] -1 points by DKAtoday (32821) from Coon Rapids, MN 1 year ago

2nd track: (Specious aspersions) "When one has nothing and can't defend their position""

We throw specious aspersions as we have nothing else to say.

  • by (mdonelly, turbocharger, lugano, windyacres - harmonizing & the Cronies singing back-up)

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[-] -1 points by DKAtoday (32821) from Coon Rapids, MN 1 year ago

2nd track: (Specious aspersions) "When one has nothing and can't defend their position""

We throw specious aspersions as we have nothing else to say.

  • by (mdonelly, turbocharger, lugano, windyacres - harmonizing & the Cronies singing back-up)
[-] 1 points by turbocharger (1756) 1 year ago

The largest protest was around 10k-20k, and the entire focus was the corporations, not the power structure. It was organized to raise awareness, not create a takeover.

One million people overtaking the power structure would certainly lead to revolution.

Micah might think these were the biggest in histor- they are not. Not even in our own lifetimes (million man march, Vietnam protests, etc etc), but he's leaving out the real demonstrations- revolutionary and civil wars.

But he is kind of correct in that if you put one million people in the streets protesting corporations with no real power structure, and the people are all hipsters with beats on their heads and no intention of doing anything remotely pushy... yes, the power structure on the other side of town will probably be sleeping fine.

[-] -1 points by DKAtoday (32821) from Coon Rapids, MN 1 year ago

6th track: (We are not for the people)

On taking legal action - We so stink - that some might think - that we are quietly buying up fertilizer and plumbing supplies - truth of the matter is - we are just about keeping the public from taking action - cause we are all about supporting the status quo.

  • by (mdonelly, turbocharger, lugano, windyacres - harmonizing & the Cronies singing back-up)
[-] 1 points by turbocharger (1756) 1 year ago

Two things I'd add to this:

  1. To determine something a failure, you have to know what "success" is. Its been much harder to determine what that would be with OWS than deciding on if it was a failure or not.

2., Get enough people in the street and you just take over the power structure. Thats how its suppose to go. Its how most real revolutions take place. Huge masses of people, something insane happens, and then its one. And then you fight and see who wins. Personally Im not looking forward to fighting the state, but traditionally, thats the point of putting people in the streets- to create fear.

[-] 1 points by MattHolck0 (3867) 1 year ago

to create fear ? no, coordination and awareness of cause

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (32821) from Coon Rapids, MN 1 year ago

MW: First, the central idea of contemporary activism: urban protests, with large numbers of people in the streets, primarily secular, and that revolve around a unified demand. The idea is basically, “Look, if we get a million or ten million or a hundred million people in the streets, finally our demands will be met.” However, if you look at the last ten, fifteen years, we have had the biggest demonstrations in history. And the protests continue to grow in size and frequency, and yet they have not resulted in political change.

[-] 1 points by MattHolck0 (3867) 1 year ago

"Have you heard the news?

The dogs are dead!

You better stay home

And do as you're told."

SHEEP - PINK FLOYD - ANIMALS ALBUM

Get out of the road if you want to grow old.

[-] 1 points by MattHolck0 (3867) 1 year ago

hold signs up the public cannot pretends aren't there

don't let the DOD get away murder

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[-] 0 points by DKAtoday (32821) from Coon Rapids, MN 1 year ago

MW: What I am proposing is a type of activism that focuses on creating a mental shift in people. Basically an epiphany. In concrete terms, I think there is much potential in the creation of hybrid social movement-political parties that require more complex behaviors of people like running for political office, seeking votes, participating in the city administration.

So - you are encouraging people to take advantage of the political process?

Further - are you saying that people should put "their" choices for office into office if they can as an independent political group initiating an individual independent party (?) or as an independent political action group to put good people into office regardless of how they need to get into the election (as a dem or a rep) ?

[-] -1 points by DKAtoday (32821) from Coon Rapids, MN 1 year ago

Addressing BROKEN protest. Please consider what I have been putting out to others as to making protest WORK.


1st an e-mail notice of an issue that needs to be addressed:

from Sierra Rise:

I wanted to make sure you saw this email. It's an important note from our friends at Amazon Watch about a dam project in Brazil that could displace thousands of people, destroy forests and harm wildlife.

They're calling on IBAMA-Brazil's environmental agency-to stop the project before its too late. You've taken action for the Amazon and indigenous communities before, please add your voice to this important effort now!

In it together,

Courtney-Rose Dantus SierraRise

---------- Forwarded message ---------- From: Salazar-López, Leila news@amazonwatch.org Date: Mon, Aug 3, 2015 at 6:10PM Subject: We must prevent devastating flooding - STOP the Belo Monte Dam To: Courtney-Rose Dantus SierraRise.Members@sierraclub.org

Amazon Watch logo

We must prevent devastating flooding -

STOP the Belo Monte Dam!

stop-the-belo-monte-dam

Dear friends,

Thousands of indigenous Brazilians stand on the brink of having their homes and cultures destroyed by flooding from Belo Monte dam operations. Yet, there is still hope to prevent this tragedy as Brazil's environmental agency IBAMA holds the power to stop it. The final license has yet to be approved and IBAMA still has the power to say NO!

ACT TODAY TO STOP THE FINAL BELO MONTE DAM LICENSE!

IBAMA is now considering whether to issue the final environmental permit for the dam project as it has not yet been granted. IBAMA was pressured into issuing the initial licenses despite many violations of social and environmental protections. Now the agency has one last chance to do the right thing: reject rampant government corruption and prevent the flooding of Altamira, which will displace thousands.

Despite the initial construction and the refusal of the government of Brazil to respect the rights of indigenous communities and the environment, the people of the Xingu have not given up hope. Will you continue to stand with indigenous communities in their valiant effort on behalf of their homes, cultures and for the survival of the rainforest vital for all life on Earth?

The people of the Xingu remain defiant, demanding that justice be served and that the project be definitively paralyzed. Stand with them today!

For the Amazon,

Leila Salazar-López Executive Director Amazon Watch

Sierra Club | 85 2nd St, San Francisco, CA 94105 | sierrarise.members@sierraclub.org


I sent the following in reply:

OK - important issue - very important.

Has anyone looked at what Brazil is looking to gain from building the dam?

What needs is it planned to meet?

Just electrical generation/creation or what?

Finding the needs that the dam is meant to address - has anyone forwarded viable alternatives?

If it just a mater of a way to create/generate electricity.

Has anyone forwarded a better way to create/generate that needed electricity?

They could be very well open to implementing something new and different if they were made aware of a better alternative. An alternative that would be less costly to the environment as well as less costly to build and maintain while still meeting the needed power generation requirements.

I forward this idea to you as you have forwarded this issue to my attention.

Protest is not enough - alternatives that are healthy and clean and non-destructive to the environment need to be brought forward so that everyone knows something better can be done than what is being protested.

I urge you to review and consider the following and see if it is something that you could support and or want to support and want to share/network with others: The Thorium Problem (the title is misleading which you will see if you watch the presentation) http://www.democraticunderground.com/1017146059 .

Couple that with = The Liquid Metal Battery http://www.ted.com/speakers/donald_sadoway.html

And you will be looking at something truly extraordinary = cheap clean energy creation as well as in power grid electrical STORAGE.

Protest must evolve to present answers that are good for society as alternatives to what is being protested.

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