"Transparency Essay" by John Seal

Transparency Essay 
by John Seal

"For the record, I don't hate livestreamers. I just don't trust transparency."
--Comrade Kalamity on Twitter, March 27th 2012.

This could just as easily have been an off the record statement attributed to an anonymous Obama administration flunky, but this is where we are now: some Occupy supporters are now eagerly mimicking the high-security, everything-is-classified government they supposedly hold in such contempt. Remember when the future President promised his would be "the most transparent administration ever"? Well, welcome to Occupy Oakland 2012: the populist movement so terrified of its own shadow that everything must be negotiated in a windowless room with the lights off.

How did we get to the point where someone filming a picnic can be threatened with bodily harm? It's been a slow, but inexorable process set in motion, I believe, when the Occupy Oakland GA failed to endorse non-violence back in November, thus setting the stage for the entire movement to serve as a shield for the tiny sub-set of black bloc practitioners and fuck-shit-uppers now in control. I've written before about how this presented a massive challenge for OO, but I was naive and optimistic at the time and thought that cooler heads would prevail. As the disastrous March 31st FTP walkabout proved, however, the seeds planted on that November night have now come into full bloom.

Quite simply and obviously, it is transparency and livestreaming that gave birth to Occupy in 2011, and it is opacity and embedded journalism that will be its death in 2012. Many livestreamers have already accepted the narrative and will no longer film revolutionary actions that could be misconstrued as vandalism. Others have been neutered to the point of ineffectiveness by filming only those who give consent--an impossible standard that results in endless shots of marching feet and little else. (A blessed few have been anointed as the chosen ones by the OO hierarchy, but quite how such decisions are made is another deep mystery. I’m sure smoke-filled rooms must be involved.)

Before Occupy, I had never supported any political movement or party in my life; it was the livestreaming of October 25th that convinced me, and many others, that this was a movement worthy of support. To discover that this movement has now forsaken two of the attributes that made it so attractive in the first place--transparency and non-violence--has been deeply disappointing.

Let me conclude with a personal statement for the sake of both clarity and transparency. I plead guilty to the following charges: I am a 49-year old white middle-class male with a full-time job, three writing gigs, three cats, a blog, a spouse highly skeptical of Occupy, and a son in high school. I am a pacifist. I am also a socialist who believes that one of government's greatest responsibilities and duties is the redistribution of wealth. I am not opposed to direct actions; I supported the General Strike, the Port shutdowns, and Move-In Day (I marched to the Kaiser Center and beyond). I am not opposed to flag burning, as long as you're burning a flag you bought or made yourself. I still consider myself a community ally of Occupy Oakland and I will be out on the street on May 1st. Keep the faith, baby, and Occupy Everything—but keep the cameras turned on!

Bio: John Seal is an official at a consortium of religious colleges.  

photo by Aaron Kuehn, Occupy LA raid night.

1 comment:

  1. This is a very valuable perspective. I hope that transparency prevails. Perhaps it would be good for occupiers to start individually signing some sort of non-violence pledge?