Can Black Lives Matter Succeed Where Occupy Wall Street Failed?

by William Skink

The front page of the Missoulian today carries the message YOU NEED TO CARE! Here is how the article begins:

Now is the time to make Missoula a safe, equitable and welcoming community for black people, indigenous people and people of color, but it’s going to take action and accountability. That was the message from the organizers of a Black Lives Matter rally held Sunday afternoon in Caras Park.

“We want our community to commit to dismantling white supremacy in all of the ways it shows up,” said Meshayla Cox. “We want freedom from all forms of organized violence, whether that’s from the police, from white vigilantism or from an unjust criminal system.”

While strong emotions and a sense of urgency have people demanding change NOW, I emphasized the word “accountability” because EVERYONE needs to be more accountable in how they are approaching what is happening in our country and in our world.

Once a movement spawns organizations, how do individuals within the movement ensure these organizations remain accountable to the movements that created them?

In trying to answer this question, let me make an important distinction: criticizing an organization is not the same thing as criticizing the individuals who believe in the organization’s mission. It is possible to both believe in the need for creating a more equitable world, while at the same time being skeptical that organizations like Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter are actually going to help us get there.

In 2008, in the wake of the economic crisis that is still with us today, the movement that started in Zucotti Park, Occupy Wall Street, quickly spread across the country. The legacy of OWS should be a cautionary tale for anyone serious about enacting systemic change on a system that is quite skilled at co-opting the momentum of grassroots discontent.

For those taking a hard, honest look at OWS, the question isn’t WHEN it was co-opted, but whether or not its origins were tainted from the get-go.

Micah White is an activist who claims to be the co-creator of OWS. This claim to fame is because White was then-editor of Adbusters, an anti-capitalist magazine that did help inspire OWS.

OWS played an important role in the Obama regime’s growth of the police state, a fact BLM activists need to understand. The “fusion centers” that emerged allowed Federal, state and local authorities to more effectively coordinate their response to any threat to state power.

And what did Micah White do, post-OWS? Would you believe he tried to monetize his activism by peddling Google Glass and even showed up at places like Davos? From the link:

Davos is the culmination of White’s journey over the last decade of peddling one weird trick after another for system change. After Glass, White extolled the “revolutionary scenario” of rural America, the “revolutionary potential” of cryptocurrency, and the “revolutionary activism” of the Boutique Activist Consultancy. His book, The End of Protest, is subtitled “A Playbook for Revolution,” and his 2016 run for mayor in Nehalem, Oregon, was a testing ground for that revolution.

White abandoned the revolution schtick for an Activist Graduate School, which charges $180 a year to watch online videos.

Another interesting character who appeared at Zucotti Park is a Serbian by the name of Srdja Popovic. This dude has some disturbing connections to Stratfor:

Serbia’s Srdja Popovic is known by many as a leading architect of regime changes in Eastern Europe and elsewhere since the late-1990s, and as one of the co-founders of Otpor!, the U.S.-funded Serbian activist group which overthrew Slobodan Milošević in 2000.

Lesser known, an exclusive investigation reveals that Popovic and the Otpor! offshoot CANVAS (Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies) have also maintained close ties with a Goldman Sachs executive and the private intelligence firm Stratfor (Strategic Forecasting, Inc.), as well as the U.S. government. Popovic’s wife also worked at Stratfor for a year.

These revelations come in the aftermath of thousands of new emails released by Wikileaks’ “Global Intelligence Files.” The emails reveal Popovic worked closely with Stratfor, an Austin, Texas-based private firm that gathers intelligence on geopolitical events and activists for clients ranging from the American Petroleum Institute and Archer Daniels Midland to Dow Chemical, Duke Energy, Northrop Grumman, Intel and Coca-Cola.

There is a term in geopolitics we need to become more familiar with, and that is the term “color revolution”. I’ll use wikipedia for a basic description of this tactic:

Participants in the colour revolutions have mostly used nonviolent resistance, also called civil resistance[citation needed]. Such methods as demonstrations, strikes and interventions have been intended protest against governments seen as corrupt and/or authoritarian and to advocate democracy and they have also created strong pressure for change. These movements generally adopted a specific colour or flower as their symbol. The colour revolutions are notable for the important role of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and particularly student activists in organising creative non-violent resistance[citation needed].

Such movements have had a measure of success as for example in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia’s Bulldozer Revolution (2000), in Georgia’s Rose Revolution (2003) and in Ukraine’s Orange Revolution (2004). In most but not all cases, massive street protests followed disputed elections or requests for fair elections and led to the resignation or overthrow of leaders considered by their opponents to be authoritarian[citation needed]. Some events have been called “colour revolutions”, but are different from the above cases in certain basic characteristics. Examples include Lebanon’s Cedar Revolution (2005) and Kuwait’s Blue Revolution (2005).

Government figures in Russia, such as Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, have claimed that colour revolutions are externally fuelled acts with a clear goal to influence the internal affairs that destabilise the economy, conflict with the law and represent a new form of warfare.

It’s virtually impossible to distinguish how much of a movement is authentically grassroots, and how much is externally-fueled astroturf manipulation. Right now, to even suggested any part of BLM has been co-opted is to invite accusations of being a racist, or worse.

I’ll take that risk and ask a difficult question: what has BLM actually accomplished in the fours years of its existence? And how is that Black-Led Donor Fund going? From the link:

On the heels of issuing a six-point policy platform to address systemic racial inequity and injustice, the Black Lives Matter movement is ramping up organizational and fundraising work in support of the plan, Fortune writes.

The Black-Led Movement Fund, a donor pool to which the Ford Foundation has already pledged investment, seeks to bring in $100 million in new resources and build up organizational and leadership capacity for the “rapidly growing movement,” according to Borealis Philanthropy, a group that links donors and grantees and is heading up the effort.

I’m not writing this post to cynically shit on the idealistic hope that BLM, as a movement, is going to be successful in creating systemic change. I’m writing this post because, as it stands now, I see BLM going in the same counter-productive direction that OWS did.

I hope I’m wrong.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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4 Responses to Can Black Lives Matter Succeed Where Occupy Wall Street Failed?

  1. JC says:

    Came across this article written a few years ago by Paul Street a few days ago, and it’s quite timely.

    What Would the Black Panthers Think of Black Lives Matter?

    You don’t have to be one of those conspiratorial curmudgeons who reduces every sign of popular protest to “George Soros money” to acknowledge that much of what passes for popular and progressive, grass-roots activism has been co-opted, taken over and/or created by corporate America, the corporate-funded “nonprofit industrial complex,” and Wall Street’s good friend, the Democratic Party, long known to leftists as “the graveyard of social movements.” This “corporatization of activism” (University of British Columbia professor Peter Dauvergne’s term) is ubiquitous across much of what passes for the left in the U.S. today.

    What about the racialist group Black Lives Matter, recipient of a mammoth $100 million grant from the Ford Foundation last year? Sparked by the racist security guard and police killings of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown and Eric Garner, BLM has achieved uncritical support across the progressive spectrum, where it is almost reflexively cited as an example of noble and radical grass-roots activism in the streets. That is a mistake…”

    Yes, the intent and power behind the movement, and the meaning of the phrase needs to be separated from the corporate entity that is “Black Lives Matter.” Otherwise, it will wither away, just another co-opted and sanitized movement like Occupy, and if it doesn’t happen soon enough, the police state will just clamp down on it harder and harder like it did Occupy, until there is nothing left but a memory.

  2. Djinn&Tonic says:

    From “Tommy the Traveler” in the Sixties to “Mo and Nadia” and the NATO 3, among others…

    As arrested people report being asked whether they are members of Antifa, or know any…

    Agents Provocateurs Are Still A Real Threat To Our Movements
    8,240 views•Jun 8, 2020

  3. Sandy says:

    Always interesting to hear a white person’s perspective on Black activism

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