October 25th, 2011
Occupy Wall Street and its spin-offs haven’t just taken over public squares across the world, they’re also getting really creative online. Here are a couple of examples for your consideration, one of which is brand new:
Occupy the Boardroom
OccupyTheBoardroom.org’s premise is based on stripping away the anonymity behind which our corporate overlords hide, by targeting executives and board members directly for advocacy actions. So what if corporations are faceless, deathless entities to whose puppeteer’s strings we all dance — they’re still run by human beings. And as humans, corporate managers can feel embarrassment, shame, horror and all the other emotions that beset puny mortals like us (at least, we hope they still can).
The OTB site is quite straightforward: go the front page and you can choose from a long list of top employees and board members of companies such as Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo. Once you’ve selected your new “friend,” you can send him or her a message (which over 6000 people have done so far), the more heartbreaking or outraged the better, which the OTB folks will deliver to the company in person and publish online.
Or, they suggest ways you might “connect” with this person in meatspace, being careful in the process to say “Please contact and interact with [name] in ways that are peaceful, non-violent, and in no way cause any impairment to the integrity or availability of [company] data, programs, systems, or information.” In particular, dig the online-offline connection inherent in the hand-delivery angle, which gives plenty of opportunities for promotion via photo, video, live-tweeting, etc., of the drop-offs. As you can imagine, not everyone’s so happy about this little project.
Occupy the Internet
Boardroom not enough for your occupying ambitions? Try OccupyTheURL.com, which I heard about today and which basically lets you “take over” the front page of any website you want. Well, not really of course, but it scoops the HTML code and graphics of any site whose address you enter, then displays it with an overlay of images protesters expressing the feelings of the 99% (see the beginning of this article for a representative screenshot).
In itself, fine but only amusing to the person who launches the “occupation” — until a screen appears that lets you Tweet or Facebook Share your improved version of the original site. Ah, now we’re having REAL fun, since we can take over the website of our choice and share the results with friends, allies and (even better) employees of the company. Of course, a regular target might decide to block requests coming in from OccupyTheURL’s domain or IP number, but that would be even better — the press release about how XYZ Corp is so afraid of a little ridicule that they’ll hide behind a moat and castle walls pretty much writes itself.
Enter the Strategists, and the Rest of Us
Hmmm, so far the techies have had all the fun — let’s get the communications people involved. But how? They’re not exactly set up for code-a-thons like the ones that sprang up last week. Never fear, since past Epolitics.com contributor Charles Lenchner has some suggestions for online activists who live far away from Wall Street (and who might have day jobs that preclude long-term park living) who want to get involved. Looking for protests across the country? Try Occupy Together. Looking for more of a strategic role? Try signing up for the various Working Groups and listservs — it sounds like they have plenty of programmers on the case, but perhaps not enough of those of us who work with words, pictures and communications plans rather than ones and zeroes. And of course, even if you don’t have time for a working group, you can always turn to Twitter, Facebook and all the other online channels to spread the word.
An Explosion of Creativity
Like a lot of folks on the Left, I was skeptical of the OWS protests at first, but I have definitely come around. One thing that continues to impress me is the sheer creativity we’re seeing, and I bet it has something to do with the Occupy movement’s very disorganization. Absent hierarchical structures and traditional leadership, people with good ideas are free to run with them, finding help and support along the way. Of course, bad ideas can ALSO spring up in the process, but the community seems to be doing a pretty good job of pointing them out and offering appropriate remedies. I can’t wait to see what happens next.