The Origin of Occupy Wall Street

A good piece in The New Yorker describes the origin of the Occupy Wall Street movement. It began after conversation between Kalle Lasn, a 69-year old editor of Adbusters magazine, and Micah White, the magazine’s senior editor and Lasn’s closest collaborator.

This is how Occupy Wall Street began: as one of many half-formed plans circulating through conversations between Lasn and White, who lives in Berkeley and has not seen Lasn in person for more than four years. Neither can recall who first had the idea of trying to take over lower Manhattan. In early June, Adbusterssent an e-mail to subscribers stating that “America needs its own Tahrir.” The next day, White wrote to Lasn that he was “very excited about the Occupy Wall Street meme. . . . I think we should make this happen.” He proposed three possible Web sites: OccupyWallStreet.org, AcampadaWallStreet.org, and TakeWallStreet.org.

So what other causes has Adbusters been behind?

This spring, the magazine was pushing boycotts of Starbucks (for driving out local businesses) and the Huffington Post (for exploiting citizen journalists). Then, in early June, the art department designed a poster showing a ballerina poised on the “Charging Bull” sculpture, near Wall Street. Lasn had thought of the image late at night while walking his German shepherd, Taka: “the juxtaposition of the capitalist dynamism of the bull,” he remembers, “with the Zen stillness of the ballerina.” In the background, protesters were emerging from a cloud of tear gas. The violence had a highly aestheticized, dreamlike quality—Adbusters’ signature. “What is our one demand?” the poster asked. “Occupy Wall Street. Bring tent.”

As you may know, the #Occupy movement began on September 17. How was the date picked?

White and Lasn spent a few days in early July debating when the occupation should start. At first, White argued that it should begin on July 4, 2012, so that protesters would have time to prepare. Lasn believed that the political climate could have shifted entirely by then. He proposed late September of this year; then he settled on the seventeenth, his mother’s birthday. White agreed. Lasn instructed the art department to insert “September 17th” beneath the bull and the ballerina, and Adbusters devoted a tactical-briefing e-mail on July 13th exclusively to the proposed occupation.

More here.

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