Michael Parenti on Occupy America!

Occupy America by Michael Parenti
November 8, 2011

Beginning with Occupy Wall Street in September 2011, a protest movement spread across the United States to 70 major cities and hundreds of other communities. Similar actions emerged in scores of other nations.

For the first two weeks, the corporate-owned mainstream media along with NPR did what they usually do with progressive protests: they ignored them. These were the same media that had given the Tea Party supporters saturation coverage for weeks on end, ordaining them “a major political force.”

The most common and effective mode of news repression is omission. By saying nothing or next to nothing about dissenting events, movements, candidates, or incidents, the media consign them to oblivion. When the Occupy movement spread across the country and could no longer be ignored, the media moved to the second manipulative method: trivialization and marginalization.

So we heard that the protestors were unclear about what they were protesting and they were “far removed from the mainstream.” Media cameras focused on the clown who danced on Wall Street in full-blown circus costume, and the youths who pounded bongo drums: “a carnival atmosphere” “yongsters out on a spree,” with “no connection to the millions of middle Americans” who supposedly watched with puzzlement and alarm.

Such coverage, again, was in sharp contrast to the respectful reportage accorded the Tea Party. House Majority Leader, the reactionary Republican Eric Cantor, described the Occupy movement as “growing mobs.” This is the same Cantor who hailed the Tea Party as an unexcelled affirmation of democracy.

The big November 2 demonstration in Oakland that succeeded in closing the port was reported by many media outlets, almost all of whom focused on the violence against property committed by a few small groups. Many of those perpetrators were appearing for the first time at the Oakland site. Some were suspected of being undercover police provocateurs. Their actions seemed timed to overshadow the successful shutdown of the nation’s fourth largest port.

Time and again, the media made the protestors the issue rather than the things they were protesting. The occupiers were falsely described as hippie holdovers and mindless youthful activists. In fact, there was a wide range of ages, socio-ethnic backgrounds, and lifestyles, from homeless to well-paid professionals, along with substantial numbers of labor union members. Far from being a jumble of confused loudmouths prone to violence, they held general assemblies, organized themselves into committees, and systematically took care of encampment questions, food, security, and sanitation.

One unnoticed community protest was Occupy Walnut Creek. For those who don’t know, Walnut Creek is a comfortable conservative suburb in northern California (with no known record of revolutionary insurrections). Only one local TV station gave Occupy Walnut Creek brief attention, noting that about 400 people were participating, average age between 40 and 50, no clowns, no bongos. Participants admitted that they lived fairly prosperous lives but still felt a kinship with the millions of Americans who were enduring an economic battering. Here was a contingent of affluent but rebellious “middle Americans” yet Walnut Creek never got mentioned in the national media, as far as I know.

The Occupy movement has promulgated a variety of messages. With a daring plunge into class realities, the occupiers talk of the 1% who are exploiting the 99%, a brilliant propaganda formula, simple to use, yet saying so much, now widely embraced even by some media commentators. The protestors carried signs condemning the republic’s terrible underemployment and the empire’s endless wars, the environmental abuses perpetrated by giant corporations, the tax loopholes enjoyed by oil companies, the growing inequality of incomes, and the banksters and other gangsters who feed so lavishly from the public trough.

Some occupiers even denounced capitalism as a system and hailed socialism as a humane alternative. In all, the Occupy movement revealed an awareness of systemic politico-economic injustices not usually seen in U.S. protests. Remember, the initial and prime target was Wall Street, finance capital’s home base.

The mainstream news outlets not only control opinions but even more so opinion visibility, which in turn allows them to limit the parameters of public discourse. This makes it all the more imperative for ordinary people to join together in demonstrations, hoping thereby to maximize the visibility and impact of their opinions. The goal is to break through the near monopoly of conservative orthodoxy maintained by the “liberal” media.

So demonstrations are important. They have an energizing effect on would-be protestors, bringing together many who previously had thought themselves alone and voiceless. Demonstrations bring democracy into the streets. They highlight issues that have too long been buried. They mobilize numbers, giving a show of strength, reminding the plutocracy perched at the apex that the pyramid is rumbling.

But demonstrations should evolve into other forms of action. This has already been happening with the Occupy movement. It is more than a demonstration because its protestors did not go home at the end of the day. In substantial numbers they remained downtown, putting their bodies on the line, imposing a discomfort on officialdom just by their numbers and presence.

At a number of Occupy sites there have been civil disobedience actions, followed by arrests. In various cities the police have been unleashed with violent results that sometimes have backfired. In Oakland ex-Marine Scott Olsen was hit by a police teargas canister that busted his skull and left him hospitalized and unable to speak for a week. At best, he faces a long slow recovery. The day after Olsen was hit, hundreds of indignant new protestors joined the Occupy Oakland site. Police brutality incites a public reaction, often bringing more people out, just the opposite of what officials want.

Where does this movement go? What is to be done? The answers are already arising from the actions of the 99%:

--Discourage military recruitment and support conscientious objectors. Starve the empire of its legions. Organize massive tax resistance in protest of corrupt, wasteful, unlawful, and destructive Pentagon spending.

--Transfer funds from corporate banks to credit unions and community banks. Support programs that assist the unemployed and the dispossessed. It was Giulio Tremonti, Italy’s embattled finance minister who declared: “Salvate il popolo, non le banche” (“Save the people, not the banks”). It would be nice to hear such sentiments emanating from the U.S. Treasury Department or the White House.

--Coordinate actions with organized labor. Unions still are the 99%’s largest and best financed groups. Consider what was done in Oakland: occupiers joined with longshoremen, truckers, and other workers to close the port. Already there are plans for a general strike in various communities. Such actions improve greatly if organized labor is playing a role.

--We need new electoral strategies, a viable third party, proportional representation, and even a new Constitution, one that establishes firm rules for an egalitarian democracy and is not a rigmarole designed to protect the moneyed class. The call for a constitutional convention (a perfectly legitimate procedure under the present U.S. Constitution) seems long overdo.

--Perhaps most of all, we need ideological education regarding the relationship between wealth and power, the nature of capitalism, and the crimes of an unbridled profit-driven financial system. And again the occupiers seem to be moving in that direction: in early November 2011, people nationwide began gathering to join teach-ins on “How the 1% Crashed the Economy.”

We need to explicitly invite the African-American, Latino, and Asian communities into the fight, reminding everyone that the Great Recession victimizes everyone but comes down especially hard on the ethnic poor.

We need to educate ourselves regarding the beneficial realities of publicly owned nonprofit utilities, publicly directed environmental protections, public nonprofit medical services and hospitals, public libraries, schools, colleges, housing, and transportation--all those things that work so well in better known in some quarters as socialism.

There is much to do. Still it is rather impressive how the battle is already being waged on so many fronts. Meanwhile the corporate media ignore the content of our protest while continuing to fulminate about the occupiers’ violent ways and lack of a precise agenda.

Do not for one moment think that the top policymakers and plutocrats don’t care what you think. That is the only thing about you that wins their concern. They don’t care about the quality of the air you breathe or the water you drink, or how happy or unhappy or stressed and unhealthy or poor you might be. But they do want to know your thoughts about public affairs, if only to get a handle on your mind. Every day they launch waves of disinformation to bloat your brains, from the Pentagon to Fox News without stint.

When the people liberate their own minds and take a hard clear look at what the 1% is doing and what the 99% should be doing, then serious stuff begins to happen. It is already happening. It may eventually fade away or it may create a new chapter in our history. Even if it does not achieve its major goals, the Occupy movement has already registered upon our rulers the anger and unhappiness of a populace betrayed.

Michael Parenti’s most recent book is The Face of Imperialism. Go here for further information about him.

Buy his AT release on iTunes!



Alternative Tentacles will be closed on Wednesday, November 2nd to show solidarity with the General Strike recently proposed by the Occupy Oakland movement!

[DOA's "General Strike" set to 2011 Wisconsin protest footage!]

The occupiers' proposal follows:

"We as fellow occupiers of Oscar Grant Plaza propose that on Wednesday November 2, 2011, we liberate Oakland and shut down the 1%.

"We propose a city wide general strike and we propose we invite all students to walk out of school. Instead of workers going to work and students going to school, the people will converge on downtown Oakland to shut down the city.

"All banks and corporations should close down for the day or we will march on them.

"While we are calling for a general strike, we are also calling for much more. People who organize out of their neighborhoods, schools, community organizations, affinity groups, workplaces and families are encouraged to self organize in a way that allows them to participate in shutting down the city in whatever manner they are comfortable with and capable of.

"The whole world is watching Oakland. Let's show them what is possible."
General Strike

One of the most well known U.$. general strikes occurred over a five day period in Seattle, 1919, with 60,000 union members and 40,000 non-union sympathizers walking out and taking to the streets. The city all but stopped functioning, with exceptions made for essential services (firefighters, hospital staff, and the like). Crime plummeted, neighborhood kitchens were set up to feed the populace, and a staunch anti-authoritarian spirit permeated the city.

That peaceful strike ended with National Guard interference and the subsequent anarchist / socialist / IWW witch hunt that followed. Let's hope this one ends on a better note!

(info taken from chapter 15 of Howard Zinn's classic "A People's History Of The U.S.", available in its entirety online): http://www.historyisaweapon.com/zinnapeopleshistory.html

For up-to-date Oakland Occupation information:

We Are The 99%!


Jello shoots awful flooding in Vermont

Here is footage shot by Jello on his phone of some of the horrible flooding in Vermont last month due to Hurricane Irene.


Back to the Old School Sale!

Back to school- that is, the OLD SCHOOL!

16 of our favorite 1980s punk records on AT are on sale for $4.99 each only on iTunes for the month of SEPTEMBER 2011. Here's a sampling!

1980s Hardcore Punk Sale by AlternativeTentacles


Nardwuar vs. Jello Biafra, with Ani Kyd and more!

Straight outta Vancouver from the set of "I Love You, I Am the Porn Queen," written and directed by Ani Kyd of Fuel Injected .45!


Mumia Abu Jamal's death sentence overturned!

Here's the latest news on Mumia Abu Jamal's case- a Pennsylvania Appeals Court unanimously said his death sentence was unconstitutional.

Here's the 15-minute Democracy Now story & interview from April 27, 2011:


JB & GSM cancelling this weekend's Las Vegas shows

‎"Two band members have been called back to New Jersey due to an urgent family emergency." - Jello Biafra

Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine have had to cancel their Las Vegas appearances this Friday & Saturday. As soon as we know more information about current show/rescheduling we'll post an update.

Our deepest, best thoughts go out to our GSM friends who are grappling with this family crisis.


How to help the victims of today's 8.9 Japanese quake

For all of our friends & colleagues in Japan and around the Pacific rim. Stay safe and- if you can- pitch in and help. Beneath all of the musical/political/whatever differences, we're all flesh & blood.

Here some links showing you how YOU can help!


Charity Navigator


Jean Smith (Mecca Normal) on her involvement in making Terminal City Ricochet

  My name is Jean Smith. I'm the singer in the Vancouver punk duo Mecca Normal. I got involved with the film Terminal City Ricochet as a graphic designer, to create visual components - credits, signage etc. I knew one of the film's writers, Ken Lester. He'd been talking about the film for eons before it went into production. In the eighties, Ken managed D.O.A. and I believe he did some management stuff with Jello Biafra.
  In 1986, Mecca Normal and a bunch of minimalist musicians and anti-authoritarian poets - including Ken - formed the Black Wedge.

"One step easier than punk! The Black Wedge is out to spread the word of how to combine poetry, music and politics and have a fun time doing it. Hardcore poems and shredding guitars, radical voices crushing sexism, militarism, poverty and conformity. The Black Wedge wants to set wild hearts and imaginations free, to release a riot of emotion - opening up a new arena for activist resistance culture." - Black Wedge poster, 1986

  D.O.A. loaned us their school bus to tour on the west coast. Jello was going to speak at the San Francisco event at the Mabuhay Gardens. This, to me, was incredible. I'd seen the Dead Kennedys in Vancouver - I was a fan. I was inspired by Jello's political lyrics, his singing and general exuberance. The tour was in June of 1986. Right at the time, Jello was dealing with the Frankenchrist album poster by H. R. Giger. Basically, the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) took Jello to court to send a message to musicians considering the inclusion of material that might be offensive. Warning shots, as it were.
  To be entirely self-referential, it was very bad news that Jello wouldn't be able to be part of the Black Wedge show in San Francisco. 1989 rolls around and Jello is in Vancouver playing Bruce Coddle in Terminal City Ricochet. He has this Marlon Brando thing going on with a very elastic vocal performance. To me, Terminal City Ricochet was a comic book come to life and it seemed like Jello played it that way.
  At some point in the film, we see the character Beatrice putting up Intens-i-thon posters that David Lester designed, not for the film, but for an actual event that included poets, painters and musicians - something Ken came up with. Mecca Normal played the Intens-i-thon in Vancouver after the second Black Wedge Tour. For me, it was great seeing Ken's ideas in action within the film. Beatrice explains, "That's why I organized the Intens-i-thon. To get people together. Music, art, graffiti. Sort of a resistance culture." When the character Alex asks more about her involvement, Beatrice says, "I give a shit. I know that idealism and activism beat cynicism and apathy any day."

  I was an extra in a rock show scene where D.O.A. was playing on a wharf. There was an all-female band "on the bill" and somehow I ended up getting plucked out of the extras and sent to wardrobe and make-up to be the keyboard player in this band, which was all sort of weird. There were a bunch of people in the audience, so it felt like a show, and I was on stage, which was normal enough, but I don't usually end up on stage, "playing" with people I've never even spoken to, wearing clothes that someone else selected, with a hair "style" I didn't get any say in. Plus, I don't typically wear a dress on stage and we were on this wharf and it must have been winter, because the cold air off the waves beneath us was going right up my skirt. It was fucking freezing. All very surreal. I remember they kept me on the set for hours because they'd had me go through wardrobe, hair and make-up, so they wanted to keep putting me in scenes. The gig scene went on; we were dancing, but there was no music, and then I was supposed to stand and talk to this very serious-looking guy, which was very awkward, because we had to act like we were at a show, leaning in and talking loudly, but there was no music. I thought the guy I was talking to was looking at me like I was nuts. Maybe he wasn't that into the whole "pretending" thing.
  At one point, to warm up, I got on D.O.A.'s bus, which had been driven out onto the wharf. A bunch of us were inside talking, drinking beer, watching the spectacle - the underground rock show "after rock had been banned". It was weird sitting on the bus again, after we'd used it for the Black Wedge Tours, driving it from Vancouver to LA and then the following year, from Vancouver to Montreal. It was like having lived part of what was being made into a film outside the windows of the same bus. Watching the movie version of a comic book that never existed about ideas we'd been living out on tour - getting people together to use culture to create progressive social change.

Mecca Normal has been functioning continuously since 1984. Recent projects include David Lester's books The Gruesome Acts of Capitalism and The Listener - a graphic novel, a classroom event called "How Art & Music Can Change the World" and The Black Dot Museum of Political Art. Jean Smith is the author of two published novels.


Jello on the Giffords shooting

We all wondered what Jello had to say about the Giffords shooting, and here he ties it into gun control and media reform, the tea party, and Sarah Palin.


Teaser from SCAC forthcoming album Unentitled

Thanks to Lord Dwight Pentacost for this video. "Unentitled" will be out on March 1st on Alternative Tentacles. We will have the world wide vinyl rights.