The past month has seen a startling growth in creative means to improve “communication” with the 1%. We’ll showcase three of the latest educational tactics. On November 3rd, for example, members of Occupy Chicago introduced Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin to the mic check. An elite, obviously well dressed audience was saved from a potentially dreadful speech and disabused of any notion that “business as usual” can still occur, even in the elegant setting of the Urban League Club, without the participation of the rest of us.
Do note how seamlessly the protesters were embedded in the crowd. They had not only paid to attend, but had enjoyed a sumptuous breakfast and politely listened to speakers preceding the governor, apparently without raising the suspicions of security. Successful infiltration requires a detailed attention to current fashions, a quality sadly lacking in many Occupy circles. Fortunately, the Urban League Club had posted their dress code online. For those of you anticipating attending future corporate meetings, let me suggest perusing the fashion section of Billionaires for Wealthcare, or you might want to read this excellent posting on “How to Dress Like a Republican.”
The mic check intervention within “sacred” corporate space was preceded by a wave of flash choir performances (sometimes with dance routines) across the nation, highlighted by a very brave and moving musical occupation of a home foreclosure hearing in a Brooklyn court (reported on by Frida Berrigan). Some experts in the field believe the two forms can be fruitfully combined, a fact to remember for the upcoming season of corporate shareholders meetings. I’m told the timely purchase of just one share of a corporation’s stock will allow you to forgo burdensome fashion considerations when attending a shareholders meeting.
In Washington DC, organizers took a venerable American tradition, the outdoor movie drive-in, and on November 4th brought it to a gala reception of a Koch Brothers front group known as Americans for Prosperity. Projecting videos onto the walls of the Washington Convention Center, participants were treated to a “Guerrilla Drive-in” with free popcorn, lemonade and award-deserving videos. For those interested in hosting their own drive-in movies or flash billboards using the walls of their favorite banks, Esquire magazine recommends three digital projectors for outdoor use: the Epson Moviemate 72, the Optima HD 71 and the Panasonic PT-AX200U.
The video below catches the high spirits of the drive-in theater.
Finally, a group called Occupy the Board Room is circulating a brilliant idea for those who can’t attend corporate events or prefer the comfort of their own occupation zone. OTBR proposes adopting a corporate CEO or board member as a pen-pal and writing or e-mailing him or her. Their website notes that “Life gets awfully lonely for those at the top. What can we do to let them know someone’s thinking of them? Maybe they need some new friends!” It’s the spirit of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. The site allows people a choice of over 200 actual executives whose e-mail boxes you can choose to flood with helpful advice.
Carrying this concept a step further, a group of OTBR activists in New York decided that as long as they had written physical letters to executives, they might as well deliver them to save the U.S. Post Office unnecessary work. So with open hearts they set off together on October 28th to deliver their mail to Goldman Sachs, Chase and Citibank CEOs. They deserve credit for introducing the promising new chant “You have mail.” See the entertaining results in this next video.
What I really admire in each of these examples is their childlike simplicity. Not allowed to use an amplified microphone — ok, we’ll be the microphone. See that tall building’s blank wall — wouldn’t it make a great movie screen? We’ve written all these great letters, why don’t we go deliver them? It brings to mind Gandhi’s choice in 1930, when handed the task of launching India’s campaign for independence, of marching 200 miles to the sea and just picking up a pinch of “illegal” salt.
The innocent openness (on the surface) of adopting corporate pen pals suggests some tactics for the more confrontational mic speak engagements of the future. Elite audiences can be expected to adapt to unwanted interventions as was witnessed in a recent mic speak “discussion” with Michelle Bachman. Her supporters responded by loudly chanting “Sit down” and then “U-S-A, U-S-A.” Now ask yourself, using your eight year-old-mind, what is the job of a microphone when a speaker says “U-S-A”? Yes, join right in. Or we can improve the chant by preceding each “U-S-A” with an “It’s our…” and let the other side complete the sentence.
Mic speak presents wonderful openings for “turning” the negativity of the 1%. For example, if a main speaker finds fault with an educational intervention, they’re likely to shout something like “You’re interfering with my right to speak.” Mic speak effortlessly turns those words right back on the speaker. But I suspect it takes preparation by the infiltrating agents, much like a football team prepares for different defenses.
Opportunities abound. The 1% appears to be on the verge of learning that when the call “mic speak” goes out, their event has become the site of a General Assembly.
Humor in Native culture has never been simply about entertainment. Comedy is also used to fight cultural invisibility and structural oppression.
Waging Nonviolence is hiring a writer to interview leading movement figures and analysts and produce one Q&A-style article per week. The writer will work with our small editorial team to identify the interview subject each week. For the most part, we’ll be looking to hear from activists, organizers and scholars who can shed light on… More
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Governor Walker of Wisconsin, not Ohio.
I appreciate the work of this site and this movement.
Watching this video, I wonder how the tactics used here help. Do we not want to convert Gov. walker and his friends? The nonverbals from the audience indicate further alienation.
What is the hoped for response? Blasting people does not seem effective to me. Are there ways to demonstrate firm, powerful, peaceful transformative love? I need hope that there are nonviolent ways forward
Good point Tim, you’re making me rethink that tactic, something my brain cells were not designed to do. What I’ve liked about the flash singing interventions I’ve seen, for example, is the positive audience response, barely concealed smiles and begrudging respect for the creativity. You see that in the “You have mail” video, and that tactic is saying “we want to initiate dialogue” not “We’re going to drown out your speech.” I agree, we need to be about undercutting the normal polarizing that occurs in the public arena.
Yes, Wayne! Humor, smiles, invitation to talk, humility, creativity, imagination, joy, fun bringing about transformation through nonviolence
Where is the “you have mail” video?
That’s the last of the three videos posted, labeled “OTBR march…”
Thanks, I must have clicked the first video and then missed the rest of the article and the other videos.
Conversion assumes one’s opponent is “open” to the possibility of seeing life differently. Walker clearly isn’t. So take it to him and the rest of those who simply don’t get it.
The time of speaking calmly and amicably is over. Obama has tried that and only met with scorn. Now they reap what they’ve sown
I think these Occupy Board Room Mic Checks, Dance Ins, sing ins, like at the ASEAN Summit the Hawaiian singer serenaded Obama and the other South East Asian and Pacific Leaders on the Occupy Movement, not once but twice. Creativity and humor are critical in overcoming fear of the power of the 1% and their police state. Sarcasm and mockery are important to show that the emperors have no clothes, we don’t fear them anymore and that they have no power over us without our consent.
For more ideas read, “The Politics of Nonviolent Action” by Gene Sharp, who has documented 198 different methods of nonviolent action and check out “Doing Democracy: The MAP Model of Nonviolent Direct Action Campaigns and Movements” by William Moyer(not the PBS guy) or “Powerful:Peacemaking: A Strategy for a Living Revolution” by George Lakey, or read two papers by these people on http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/moyermap.html or http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/lakeylivrev.html
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