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By technician (Tue Oct 04, 2011 at 03:28:49 PM EST) (all tags)
Thinking out loud. I'll organize this better, later.


My initial reaction is, why is everyone so interested in the protests having a unified point? I understand that past protests have had a very unified message, but the current data environment doesn't allow for focus. There's simply too much data, and at the moment the majority of it is perceived as bad by whomever is reading it in whatever bias they read it from. If you're on the right or far right (both are pretty much the same these days) you're under attack by a million little leftist and scientist things. If you're on the near-right (ie you're a staunch Democrat), then you're constantly being attacked by the folks to your right and the folks to your far left.

If you're on the left, everyone hates you.

And the reasons they hate you (and each other) is as varied as the source of the data that tells them to hate you. For the longest time in the united states it was talk radio that engaged and silo'd the right. Between talk radio and church, they had all the info they needed. Now there's social media (with each person having an equal weight of data authority) traditional media, and disparate non-social websites, as well as the traditional controlled media (talk radio and Fox News).

My father is a recent convert to far right mythology. He's on his computer 18 hours a day (he's the caretaker of both his folks so he is always home). His entire truth used to come from eight different sources, including family. Now it comes from a million little ones, all with the same weight, all of them rising and falling in a wave-like progression of memetic imagery. Every forwarded email, every link on facebook, every comment on the link, every comment in the link, all the comments on headlines at Fox or CNN, comments and comments on comments down to a fractal level...each point of data is weighed the same, and the underlying response seems to be: if I can think of it, someone has data to support it.

So, ten thousand people out there think I'm right, and ten thousand people think Obama is Hitler, and ten thousand people think Hitler didn't have anything to do with the Jews, and ten thousand people think the climate is fine, and ten thousand people think Michael Moore is the devil, literally.

This spreads on the left in a different way, since the left is deeply ideologically fractured between newleft (who tend to be following the Republicans of the early 80s), centerleft ("progressives" socially and right-of-center politically) and fringeleft (IWW and the like, far left socially and left politically). There's not an artificial division like the Tea Party vs the GOP, it's an actual set of divisions that are as deeply fractured as any. Someone in the fringeleft is shocked by Obama's continuation of war, the expansion of the Patriot Act, the killing of American citizens, and inability to address social issues, and they're very upset by the bankers and CEOs who own him. They're annoyed by how little the current administration has done in environmental, equality, and healthcare, and see much in the way of capitulating to lobbyists and special interests. The fringeleft is probably angrier with Obama than the right; he represented so much potential and has failed in every way. But without the fine detail, both sides are said to be dissatisfied. Generalizations are not allowed in our current data model. Specifics are required; we crave granularity.

So Obama is a failed leader. Then the economy, a thing already badly crippled by a complete lack of regulation in a greed-driven community, failed to produce for 99 percent of the people who work and live in it. In the years that have followed thr failed policies of Bush (and where nothing has been done by the current administration to attempt to apply punitive action), the People on the left-ish side of the spectrum have found a common enemy: the one percent of the population that controls the wealth, oddly well represented by the current administration's cabinet. With that common enemy (defined well by both right and left) they have yet to find a common cause or a common voice; enemy is enough, as they've learned. What they have now is a target with no way to engage the target; there's no surface area.

Think of it as a wordcloud defining both the target and the weapon. You've seen word clouds where a given word is presented in a larger font the more that it is represented in the data set being sampled. For the protests, the word cloud would be a giant cloud of emotional language used to describe the target and the protests, each based on some fine datapoint made somewhere authoritative to the person making the point, each equal.

Try finding purchase on a cloud. Try finding the lever point, the thing with which you control the action and focus the activity.

Now, instead of trying to do that...since it's a stupid (or zen, maybe!) exercise...try instead to imagine what happens when a large group of people get together and are not told what to do. The informational anarchy that created them is given a crowd-mangled memetic network that operates like a large game of telephone. From here it looks like chaos, a ball of twine so tangled that there isn't any point.

But from any point along that line of twine, the directions and intent are as obvious to you as they are obfuscated to the observer. You're in a wildly different universe there, fueled by the energy of the people around you and though you have no idea why or what, you know two things: there's a common fractal enemy, and a common fractal solution: the Big Picture is allowed and known. Sure the data changes, ebbs and flows, carries things into and out of it without much care. That doesn't matter on the ground. People disappear and reappear, they move through the system unnoticed, single data points in the cloud. Nothing important there; the Cause carries Momentum regardless. It isn't a cloud, it's an avalanche.

What is the goal of any large chaotic wave of data? Without a single will, without a defined goal, what is the entropy horizon? Where does the chaos start to spread? Where does it focus into order? How does it move?

The goal isn't, in any classic sense. The data is the goal. The group is the goal. The outcome is unimportant. The goal isn't a line or a thing. There is no goal, there is just momentum.

< Even after reading the lists of demands floating around... | I Did Not Wish To Tempt The Wrath... >
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that is a good point. by gzt (4.00 / 1) #1 Tue Oct 04, 2011 at 04:16:34 PM EST
thousands of sans culottes with bad ideas can somehow get the fat cats to act on some of the liberalist elite's good ideas.

Or not. by technician (2.00 / 0) #2 Tue Oct 04, 2011 at 04:18:14 PM EST
They could just be ripped asunder by the tide.

[ Parent ]
Yes, also possible. by gzt (4.00 / 1) #3 Tue Oct 04, 2011 at 04:50:41 PM EST
But I think the former is more likely with the sans culotte taking the streets (specifically, Wall Street) than it was when they were completely anonymous and silent.

[ Parent ]
I dunno. by technician (4.00 / 1) #4 Tue Oct 04, 2011 at 04:55:03 PM EST
The Guys In Charge are pretty well blinded by their ownership of the things that keep peace.

It's been reasonably easy to put protest down in the US without much uproar. I think they'll choose that route, at their peril.

[ Parent ]
Winter is Coming by garlic (2.00 / 0) #12 Mon Oct 10, 2011 at 02:52:24 PM EST
I'd be surprised if the cold doesn't scare away most of the protestors. And if they can't come up with a solution they support, there's no way they can maintain visibility if they aren't occupying something.


[ Parent ]
hmm by MillMan (4.00 / 1) #5 Tue Oct 04, 2011 at 06:13:49 PM EST
the current data environment doesn't allow for focus

Yeah, it's hazy, and I mostly agree with you on the technological points (and a different reply if I get to it), but I think the occupy-whatever movement is calling for a return to the old social contract of "work hard and be rewarded with a middle class lifestyle." For anyone over about age 30 it's nearly impossible to believe that this social contract is no longer in force, and below that age it's still tough as they were raised with it. I think this is why it looks confusing to outsiders and even people within it - the premise itself is almost unthinkable.

We're never going back to the post WW2 social contract, at a minimum because we're bumping up against serious resource constraints. But if it is going to succeed in some way, the following are going to have to happen:

  1. The movement is going to have to reinvent the idea / value of community or at least find common cause (we're too fractured to have much of an effect currently). This will be chaotic since the idea of community has been beaten out of Americans since the 1920s or 30s and nationalism (or nothing) put in its place.
  2. The movement is going to have to invent a new mythology to define why some level of egalitarian resource distribution is valid and desired. I don't think American culture has consciously considered this since WW2 (given that the social contract in place post WW2 was covering it), so it's going to be chaotic and constantly butt up against two generations worth of "but that's socialism / communism" sort of dismissal of any new narratives.
  3. The movement is going to have to get this all codified institutionally.
For what it's worth I don't think the goals of the Tea Party were dramatically different, and if anything they were desperately looking for meaning in their lives, moreso than I've seen from the occupy-whatever movement so far. But it was steeped in so much emotional pain that I don't think it ever had a chance for positive outcomes, even without sociopaths like the Koch brothers getting their tendrils into the movement.

"Just as there are no atheists in foxholes, there are no libertarians in financial crises." -Krugman

Hrm. by technician (2.00 / 0) #6 Tue Oct 04, 2011 at 06:32:26 PM EST
If it is true that the protesters (inasmuch as they can be generalized) want a return to some social contract, I'd think they'd voice it.

And they'd be pushing hard for socialism or communism, where the Tea Party is pushing for corporatism.

I'm not sure that they want a social contract. I am sure that they want the result of your idea, they just don't have a focused path. And they don't need one.

Get it? They don't need a path. They are the path. Whatever happens next, happens like Syria: pain, and more pain.

[ Parent ]
well by MillMan (2.00 / 0) #7 Tue Oct 04, 2011 at 06:49:12 PM EST
I think it's rare for movements to start with a clear narrative or list of demands. My guess is based on what I've seen in articles and pictures.

While living history in real time nothing is clear because it's too complex and chaotic for human minds to process. We make up the digestible story afterwards.

"Just as there are no atheists in foxholes, there are no libertarians in financial crises." -Krugman

[ Parent ]
that 'social contract' has been broken forever by garlic (2.00 / 0) #13 Mon Oct 10, 2011 at 02:55:15 PM EST
look to any minority group to see that. And the occupy-whatever's lack of acknowledgement of that will make it tough to get any minority groups full support.


[ Parent ]
Why the interest in a unified point? by wumpus (4.00 / 1) #8 Tue Oct 04, 2011 at 07:30:48 PM EST
The people want the media to tell them what the protest mean, and the writers in the media want someone to give them a story to follow.

I strongly suspect that any political movement that can't get its goals down to one simple powerpoint slide (not the one that explained Afghanistan) will simply cause the typical US citizen (and likely most other places) to simply change the channel or hit another link. I also suspect that this is an effective defensive mechanism to deal with excessive amounts of propaganda, PR, and media crapflooding.

I have to wonder what those trying to occupy Wall Street think about the decision to frame what they are doing/saying, and how that is being accomplished. Their voice might be heard by a banker or two, although mostly is an effort to avoid them. Those who spin their message will be heard by millions, and they have little choice in the matter. I have to wonder about those few tea baggers from the early days (I was commuting the other way on I270 and saw a few on the original protest day) feel about how "their" movement was framed. They may someday find more in common with the Wall Street occupiers than they ever realized.

Wumpus

the occupy movement's seem to be intentionally by garlic (2.00 / 0) #14 Mon Oct 10, 2011 at 02:59:46 PM EST
not having a list of of demands to be more inclusive, because having demands means you'll lose supporters. But I don't think the complaints of "the economy's unfair!" without a follow up (like "we want a social contract") means anything. So the economy's unfair, and you're mad at bankers. So what? what should I do about it? And why should I come stand with you. Sure you're getting noticed, but So what?


[ Parent ]
Generations by ucblockhead (4.00 / 3) #9 Tue Oct 04, 2011 at 08:09:12 PM EST
I think the short answer is that Generation Y has been cheated.  There are many, many people in that generation who did exactly what their parents/teachers/society told them to do and they've ended up unemployed, in massive debt and with few prospects.

Expecting them to know how to fix it is expecting too much.
---
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

There are many causes, by technician (2.00 / 0) #10 Tue Oct 04, 2011 at 08:10:41 PM EST
I think, but the media wants a message. They want the stated intent in Twitter length or less.

[ Parent ]
I'm gonna make & sell bricks. by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #11 Wed Oct 05, 2011 at 03:03:53 AM EST
Maybe just brick shards. Raise some teriyaki chickens in the backyard. Everything's gonna be cool.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

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