#OWS may not have leaders, but it has people who think they are

This Daily Show piece (via Tim Lee via here) picks up on a theme I’ve seen elsewhere, namely, that there is a sort of “professional activist class” that at least feels as if it’s running #OWS. These are probably folks who’ve been involved in the anti-globalization movement for years; I knew some of these types of people in grad school.

In respect of this, a link that Matt Stoller tweeted some time ago shows much the same thing:

A Chill Descends On Occupy Wall Street; “The Leaders of the allegedly Leaderless Movement” By Fritz Tucker

On Sunday, October 23, a meeting was held at 60 Wall Street. Six leaders discussed what to do with the half-million dollars that had been donated to their organization, since, in their estimation, the organization was incapable of making sound financial decisions. The proposed solution was not to spend the money educating their co-workers or stimulating more active participation by improving the organization’s structures and tactics. Instead, those present discussed how they could commandeer the $500,000 for their new, more exclusive organization. No, this was not the meeting of any traditional influence on Wall Street. These were six of the leaders of Occupy Wall Street (OWS).

Occupy Wall Street’s Structure Working Group (WG) has created a new organization called the Spokes Council. ‘Teach-ins’ were held to workshop and promote the Spokes Council throughout the week of October 22-28. I attended the teach-in on Sunday the 23rd.

According to Marisa Holmes, one of the most outspoken and influential leaders of OWS, the NYC-GA started receiving donations from around the world when OWS began on September 17. Because the NYC-GA was not an official organization, and therefore could not legally receive thousands of dollars in donations, the nonprofit Alliance for Global Justice helped OWS create Friends of Liberty Plaza, which receives tax-free donations for OWS. Since then, Friends of Liberty Plaza has received over $500,000. Until October 28, anybody who wanted to receive more than $100 from Friends of Liberty Plaza had to go through the often arduous modified consensus process (90% majority) of the NYC-GA—which, despite its well-documented inefficiencies, granted $25,740 to the Media WG for live-stream equipment on October 12, and $1,400 to the Food and Medical WGs for herbal tonics on October 18.

At the teach-in, Ms. Holmes maintained that while the NYC-GA is the ‘de facto’ mechanism for distributing funds, it has no right to do so, even though she acknowledged that most donors were likely under the impression that the NYC-GA was the only organization with access to these funds. Two other leaders of the teach-in, Daniel and Adash, concurred with Holmes…

One take on this would be that no popular movement can sustain itself for long without a class of people like this providing some coherence and direction. Another would be that intellectuals are always the last to spot a parade, and then they try to get out in front and claim that they’re leading it. I’m not sure which of these takes is my own. Maybe both are.

Interview: Topsy Co-Founder on Twitter, Uprisings, Authority, and Journalism

Cloudline | Blog | Interview: Topsy Co-Founder on Twitter, Uprisings, Authority, and Journalism

Ghosh: Around 2005, people used to do this thing called “Google bombing,” where they would put links. One of the responses from Google was to require that all websites put a “nofollow” tag on links that are not created by the website itself.

So if you had a link that was posted in the comments, or posted by a user — which includes things like Wikipedia or all social media — which has not been created by the website [then you had to add a “nofollow” tag]. So the authority model — where, when a website links to something else, it gives its authority to that thing — that model breaks down because the website is no longer controlling who puts that link on its pages. So for all links of those types, they were forced to add this nofollow tag so that [the links] could be ignored for the purpose of computing authority. What that means, though, is that, while it was breaking the earlier authority model of Google, [Google] did not change their authority model in response to the way the web was changing.

And the web changed so that the authority model of the new web is that people are the sources of authority. This was always really the authority model, but 10 or 15 years ago, a website and a person were pretty much the same thing.

Wired.com: A website was a useful proxy for a person or a collection of people (an institution, say).

Ghosh: Yes. And that changed when you had different people posting on the same website, or the same people posting on different websites — that proxy didn’t work anymore. But Google didn’t change their authority model.

More at Cloudline.

Tea Party vs. OWS: The psychology and ideology of responsibility

I think what’s interesting in this Will Wilkinson piece is that all parties—conservatives, libertarians, liberals—are so focused on explaining what causes people to fail or “fall behind.” I’m much more interested in the success outliers, i.e. the top 0.1%, than the bottom 50% or so. This is because I think that the difference between being in the top 5% and being in the top 1%, is mostly luck, and the difference between being in the top 1% and being in the top 0.1% is entirely luck.

This isn’t to say that hard work and individual initiative don’t matter—they’re essential for entry into a new global elite that’s no longer based on inheritance. My point is that these virtues aren’t sufficient in and of themselves to get you into the elite. You also need a large dose of luck. In this respect, I’m in complete agreement with Taleb’s famous quote: “Hard work will get you a professorship or a BMW. You need both work and luck for a Booker, a Nobel or a private jet.”

The main place where I’m in agreement with #OWS is that I do not want to live in a “winner take all” society, where the winners who are taking it all have lucked their way into that winning spot (despite what they tell themselves about how much they deserve their spoils due to their brains and hard work). I’d be happy with something like “hardworking winners take most,” “lucky winners take some extra,” and both types of winners make sure that hardworking and unlucky losers have the basics (healthcare, affordable housing, food, etc.).

Tea Party vs. OWS: The psychology and ideology of responsibility | The Moral Sciences Club | Big Think:

One of the most robust finding in political psychology is that liberals tend to explain both poverty and wealth in terms of luck and the influence of social forces while conservatives tend to explain poverty and wealth in terms of effort and individual initiative…

…But, having lived most of my adult life among them, experience tells me that when it comes to the explanation of poverty and wealth libertarians are close cousins to conservatives. It’s my view that this shared sense of robust agency and individual responsibility for success and failure is the psychological linchpin of “fusionism”–that this commonality in disposition has made the long-time alliance between conservatives and libertarians possible, despite the fact that libertarians are almost identical to liberals in their unconcern for the conservative binding foundations. That’s why controversial “social issues” like abortion and gay marriage are generally pushed to the side when libertarians and conservatives get together. As long as they stick to complaining about handouts for poor people sitting on their asses and praising rich people working hard to make civilization possible, libertarians and conservatives get along fine.

(Via bigthink.com)

Forget the top 1% — Look at the top 0.1%

Forget the top 1% — Look at the top 0.1%:

click for larger chart

(Via The Big Picture)

Occupy Wall Street, Social Unrest and Income Inequality

Occupy Wall Street, Social Unrest and Income Inequality:

By Rick Bookstaber

We are seeing the specter of instability in the growing protests of income inequality, economic distress of the middle class, and economic and political power of the very wealthy. There is Occupy Wall Street in the U.S., and similar protests ranging across the globe. In parts of Europe there is rioting in the streets, in parts of China protests have turned deadly.

A microcosm for these protests can be seen in Israel, which is among the first of the countries to stage such protests. In a one of my recent posts, “Workers of the World, Goodnight!“, I recount my experience in the egalitarian Israel in the early 1980s, and contrast that with the Israel of today, where a handful of families basically have a controlling interest in the economy proper, and where the concentration of wealth at the top that makes the U.S. look like a commune. This transformation over the past few decades tells us something about the roots of social unrest that have spread recently from Occupy Wall Street to other countries. The Israeli society that I saw three decades ago was one that faced the unrelenting specter of war. During times of crisis, of war or natural disaster where there is a randomness to existence that extends beyond wealth to issues of life and death, people choose to be more egalitarian. People know they might end up with the short end of the stick with the next roll of the dice, and that whatever they acquire will likely be transitory. So they first and foremost focus on keeping a social system and its support structure in place.

Unerring stability leads to the opposite course. For example, in the medieval societies where position remained unchanged for decades, even centuries, where land, the key source of wealth, passed inexorably from one generation to the next, where class distinctions dictated the path of your life and that of your children, an egalitarian notion was not even in the realm of consideration. There were the rich and there were the poor. It was as simple as that…

(Via Credit Writedowns)