I think you can safely say this is the “citizens direct democracy” version of when keeping it real goes wrong…
In case you couldn’t be bothered to sit through all the chanting, Lewis, the civil rights legend who is now a congressman from Georgia, showed up at one of the latest “occupy” events — this time in one of the cradles of the civil rights movement: Atlanta. And the crowd — calling itself the #OccupyAtlanta General Assembly (many of the “occupy” organizational groups call themselves “general assemblies” — which apparently only communicates by chanting and repeating, as well as by hand signals (???) wouldn’t let him speak, because no one’s voice is more important than anyone else’s, or something.
The dis got the group called out by none other than Russell Simmons, who supports the Occupy movement, though Lewis was basically cool about it. He is, after all, a politician. But the dis heard round Youtube was a serious error, from an organizational and public relations point of view, regardless of your opinion of the whole occupy thing. The dis handed the right a huge cudgel with which to beat up the grassroots movement — the most popular clip was being distributed by a conservative Youtuber. And frankly, all that chanting and repeating looks just damned silly when you watch it.
Look, I’ve hosted public forums where local pols show up with the express purpose of turning it into an event about them, and the policy at those forums is usually to acknowledge the pols, but not to give them the mic. I get that. But sometimes, the consequences of having a leaderless movement is that there is no one around sensible enough, or with enough authority, to alert the assembled masses to the public relations potential — or the disastrous potential imagery — of not allowing a legend of the civil rights movement to speak at an event that in many ways is emulating the civil rights movement.
Screaming “John Lewis is not better than anyone! Democracy works!” is hellafide ironic, when not giving him, in particular, the mic, when others were allowed to speak, seems to imply that he is, in fact, of lesser value than the people who did get to speak. Hello, is this thing on???
If some local city councilman shows up at your rally, chant away and keep him off the stage. But if, say, John Lewis, or Rev. Joe Lowry, or somebody like that shows up? Just give the man the microphone. And remember, everything you’re doing is on tape.
At best, this shows that the occupy movement really is grassroots, and is in no way organized the way the tea party was — when they held their “grassroots” protests, they showed up with professionally printed signs and wrapped buses, courtesy of corporate funded groups like Americans for Prosperity, and they were quickly taken hold of by seasoned Republican operatives. It remains to be seen if the occupy movement will accept the help of groups like organized labor, and if they’ll grow beyond the silly looking “mic checks” and actually organize themselves to do what the tea party did: influence and ultimately co-opt politicians, so that their ideology could be translated into public policy.
For a succinct 10 point advisory on not making fools of your protest when John Lewis shows up, check the thread of EmoKidsLoveMe. Smart lady.