Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Occupy the Macarena? (part one of four)

Continuing from this post, Occupy Vancouver needs to make it explicit who exactly is authorized to speak in the name of Occupy Vancouver.  Why?

Early one morning, a flashmob of people appears outside city hall.  They proclaim that the Macarena is the official dance of Occupy Vancouver.  For those too young to have lived through the Macarena craze or lucky enough to have forgotten it, the flashmobbers offer a demonstration.  eh-oh-eh-oh...ahAH.  They dance and dance until onlookers turn away in disgust.  People in the media blame Occupy Vancouver for this atrocity.  Well, is OV to blame?  What could OV say in its own defense?  What should OV be able to say in its own defense?

First and foremost, OV needs to be able to show reporters quickly and incontrovertibly that it never passed a proposal proclaiming an official dance.  It's not enough to point reporters to the minutes of the General Assembly, because the minutes are incomplete and because no one reads the minutes anyhow.  All of the proposals ever passed by the GA could be listed on just a few sheets of paper.  It would be very nice if someone who isn't me would comb through the minutes and make that list.

The more difficult question is whether the flashmob has any right to speak for Occupy Vancouver.  Certainly the Press Committee has the authority to issue statements on behalf of OV -- why not the flashmob?  The details of specific cases matter, so I'd like to look at several different variants of this scenario.

Scenario Variant #1: False Flag

The dancers are from an organization calling themselves Occupy the Macarena.  None of their members are associated with Occupy Vancouver.  They declare that the MAcarena is what Occupy is all about.  

OV's Press Committee should be able to immediately deny that the General Assembly has ever endorsed Occupy the Macarena.  If the GA really wanted to make itself clear, it could pass a proposal explicitly denying any connection to them, or outright condemning them.

This Variant #1 is not hypothetical, as I know from personal experience.  On Saturday Oct. 29, the Occupy Vancouver General Assembly had to speak out against an organization calling itself Occupy the Vatican which was threatening to invade a Catholic Church on Sunday and disrupt their services.  The media was calling that planned attack an Occupy Vancouver initiative, and reporter Bill Good was asking whether all downtown churches of all denominations needed police protection.  When I heard this I flipped out.  I honestly wasn't sure if it was true that Occupy Vancouver was planning to interfere with other people's freedom of assembly.  I'd been with OV for almost a week at that point -- if I didn't know, how could Bill Good have been expected to know?

It was 5PM, when I heard this.  By 8PM I was co-sponsoring a proposal reiterating that the Occupy VancouverGA has never endorsed interrupting religious services.  (Yann, if you're reading this, thanks for being the laid-back point man)  There was instant consensus.  I haven't done much for Occupy Vancouver, but I'm glad to have done that.  What happened next was a big surprise: the First Nations elders charged onstage.  Their anger at Occupy the Vatican shifted consensus to outright condemnation of Occupy the Vatican, but that's a story for another time.

Conclusion: we need to make it clear that Occupy Vancouver is not connected to any group with Occupy in its name unless the General Assembly has decided to establish a connection.  Even where we are in solidarity with another group (e.g. Occupy Oakland) we cannot take credit or responsibility for what they do  if our General Assembly was not aware of it and in consensus support of it.

Scenario Variant #2

Some of the dancers are associated with Occupy Vancouver, and they claim to be members of the Occupy the Macarena Committee

to be continued...

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