the one where fabio gets into a twitter argument with david graeber
On Saturday, Liberationtech tweeted the post I wrote about Occupy Wall Street and its organizational tactics. This led to a direct exchange between David “The Debt” Graeber and myself. The thread touched on an number of topics, but we seemed to get stuck on the issue of impression management.
One commenter, Brett Fujioka, pointed out that open structures, like OWS, allow kooks to associate themselves with the movement. He used the extreme (but real) example of when David Duke openly praised Occupy Wall Street. This could damage OWS’ reputation. Even though the example is skewed, one could point less extreme examples of where openness can lead to damaging the brand. For example, there was a series of Occupy events in Oakland that resulted in vandalism at city hall. Due to its open structure, it is not easy to dissociate oneself from such actions.
When I raised the issues of branding, David said that just by using the word he knew all he needed to know about me. I was impressed by his ability to treat a 140 character tweet like a zip file. Then he said he couldn’t believe he was even having this conversation. I said, “yet, here we are.” He then told me that this conversation was over… and then he tweeted me again. The Graebs lives up to his reputation.
Anyway, my overall point is that social movements vary a great deal in their internal organization. Despite what Dave-G said, some “real democratic” movements actually spent a great deal of time making sure they had the right image or brand. The civil rights movement was notoriously obsessed with image. Perhaps OWS is really a movement that eschews any connection at all with the mainstream. But lots of other successful and important movements rely on external help, which is one of the core lessons of modern movement research. And to do that, you have to be careful about how the outside world sees you.
UPDATE: W. Winecoff notes on twitter that “Occupy Wall Street” is a brand and “99%” is a slogan. Man, what we think of after the argument is over!
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