Les we forget: crackerjack activist, digital detective, radical rabble-rouser and exiled dissident Suzie Dawson cut her teeth in the New Zealand wing of the Occupy Movement circa 2011-2012. Much of her post-partisan, pro-Wikileaks, solidarity-driven politics are indeed informed by that aborted movement and its emphasis on confronting systems over a narrow focus on the highly manipulated realm of electoral politics.
Thus, as we begin the protracted circus of the next election cycle here in the United States, I’ve found it both helpful and grounding to return to a piece she wrote in July 2016 titled “Just As Intended: The U.S. Election is Tearing Us to Shreds”.
It’s lengthy, so for those who don’t have the time to sit down, read and process it, I’ve continued Ghion Journal’s unofficial Suzie Dawson reading series by recording myself commenting on and reading through the entire article.
One of the important warnings Dawson offers in the piece may be painful to both Bernie Sanders supporters and Occupy activists/enthusiasts, but the warning is born of wisdom and experience and should not be run from or rejected. One of the things Dawson examines is the original ethos of Occupy and how quickly the movement was dismantled by the state. She also explores how quickly the movement’s message was co-opted and exploited as a brand by the larger commercial culture, the Sanders campaign and, ultimately, a good portion of the movement itself.
The juxtaposition of these various developments is quite remarkable.
Just look at how immediate Occupy started to show up on the covers of mainstream magazines in 2011-2012.
Yet consider how, at the very same time that Occupy activists were being analyzed and lauded, corporate front groups were working with the Obama administration to shutter Occupy encampments across the country (and world). Back when the Guardian was still a credible media outlet, post-partisan feminist author Naomi Wolf was actually allowed to have a column there and she delved into the extraordinary collusion between public and private organizations that made the dismantling of Occupy so swift and brutal.
And the dismantling of Occupy wasn’t just a “one-and-done” effort. In the immediate aftermath, Obama himself signed legislation that made public protest even more difficult to engage in legally.
Always historically astute and pattern-recognizing in her analysis, Dawson connects this process of co-optation, distraction, authoritarianism and political theater (Reality TV, as she calls it) to the bankruptcy of both 2016 candidates in the U.S. presidential election, as well as the insights from and smears of Julian Assange, Wikileaks, Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald.
I urge you to listen to the recording or spend some time reading Dawson’s piece as we get deeper into the 2020 election process. For lasting change to happen, our collective eggs must be placed in much more than just the electoral basket.
As always, thanks for reading…and listening.
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