It seems like every day more news emerges about Occupy Wall Street’s plans to expand the movement. New chapters spring up across the country, more citizens join the cause, and now OWS even has its very own commercial.
As David Dayen reports, the commercial is set to run on national television thanks to LoudSauce, a crowd-funding group. Dayen applauds the commercial as an “innovative way to get the message out for a new kind of protest movement, one that refuses to let other people tell their story.”
David Graeber calls this a movement of “horizontals,” meaning people who don’t require traditional hierarchical structures to lead the movement, who believe in direct action and don’t rely on a messiah-like figure to guide them. Basically, OWS is the opposite of the traditional political party structure and, as such, neither political parties nor the establishment media devoted to covering those parties understand it.
But OWS is also interesting in the sense that it’s a return to a simpler, more profound sense of community. Though the Internet has in many ways bolstered the movement, and tools like Twitter have been invaluable allies used to promote the cause, OWS is remarkably traditional in terms of its village-like structure.
Many protesters have expressed how much they enjoy meeting face-to-face with other activist allies as opposed to forwarding online petitions and retweeting political messages online. In this sense, OWS is the opposite of clicktivism. It’s real people using their bodies to obtain direct action by simply getting in the way of the establishment’s everyday business, which is the heart of any peaceful civil disobedience revolution.
First, activists must disrupt the flow of things. You can’t do that by tweeting.
Michael Levitin is one of four individuals responsible for the Occupy Wall Street Journal, the official newspaper of the resistance. Levitin is the managing editor, alongside the production manager, Jed Brandt, another editor who shares Levitin’s responsibilities named Ryan Wood, and product manager Priscilla Grim.
The OWSJ is another good example of the duality of the movement. It’s undeniable that the group utilizes cutting-edge technology to promote itself. Any visitor to Liberty Park should check out the media center to understand how tech-savvy they are. That’s why I found it so curious that this forward-thinking movement found it important, and indeed necessary, to publish a newspaper, especially at a time when the newspaper industry flounders.
Of course, OWSJ has a leg up on traditional papers because it doesn’t exist to churn a profit. Additionally, the costs are relatively inexpensive. In order to run 50,000 copies, the staff needs to raise $4,000–$5,000. All the paper’s workers are volunteers who work for free and the newspaper is funded entirely through Kickstarter, another online funding platform.
Within the first day of fundraising, OWSJ raised $12,000. By the end of the week, they had raised $75,000. Levitin says there’s also been interest expressed by unions to support the newspaper in the future.
Levitin talks about how the first edition of the OWSJ gave the movement a new boost. “All of a sudden, this official-looking document hit people’s hands—a living document—speaking for the occupation,” he says.
As for the somewhat old-fashioned approach to disseminating a message through print media (though there is also an online version), Levitin says the two approaches (print and online) are actually complimentary.
“The paper is invaluable,” he says. “It goes back to moments of upheaval and revolutionary moments in our history when it’s essential that people share ideas. It’s courage—to have something physically on paper. It’s the ultimate bold representation that something is happening, and it’s important enough to print.”
Tweeting is an almost instantaneous event. It enters the ether, and is almost always quickly forgotten. A print edition of a newspaper takes a long time to organize and run, and physically touching the news does have a profound effect on an individual. It’s sort of a way to express: somewhere cared enough to do this. This news must matter. We matter.
The first run was 50,000 copies. In two days, all 50,000 copies had been handed out, so they ran an additional 20,000 copies, which also quickly went. They then translated the first issue into Spanish and distributed another 20,000 prints.
For the second issue, they ran another 50,000, which the public promptly gobbled up, so they ran yet another 50,000, and also issued a Spanish version.
It is not uncommon to now be sitting on the subway, or walking through a city park, and see people—young and old, tattooed and suit-clad—reading a copy.
Now, the staff is planning a national edition of the newspaper, set to roll out sometime next week. They’ll be printing somewhere in the six digits—something like a quarter-million copies—which will be distributed in at least six different cities.
OWSJ has inspired other cities to print their own versions. In Boston, the Occupy Boston Globe officially hit the streets. Levitin was pleased to hear about the new franchise, but said they had not personally consulted with the OBG’s staff.
What is happening in Liberty Park is very much a return to village simplicity. The inhabitants directly vote on every proposed action, the medical team cares for sick activists without asking to see their health insurance cards and people eat for free simply because they’re hungry and the food is plentiful.
An old-fashioned newspaper circulates among the crowd, written and published by the people, without the presence of corporate backers that would risk skewing the message.