NEW YORK—Writers and editors for Adbusters, the Canadian social activist-oriented magazine, sat around a table earlier this year and brainstormed ideas for the coming year based on online feedback from 90,000 readers.
On the West Coast of Canada, in Vancouver, Occupy Wall Street was born.
Adbusters decided to overthrow the reigning paradigm of “corporatocracy”—what the magazine describes as corporate power overshadowing the power of individual voters. The regime change in Egypt provided inspiration, according to Adbusters Editor-in-Chief Kalle Lasn.
A poster of a ballerina on top of a Wall Street Bull slipped through the printing press and into the magazine—a typical abstract call to action for the arts-oriented magazine. On July 13, Adbusters posted a detailed and explicit call to occupy Wall Street on its blog.
“On September 17, we want to see 20,000 people flood into Lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades, and occupy Wall Street for a few months. Once there, we shall incessantly repeat one simple demand in a plurality of voices,” read the blog.
Adbusters suggested as the one demand, “that Barack Obama ordain a presidential commission tasked with ending the influence money has over our representatives in Washington.”
Though the voices never did unite with a singular demand, Lasn thinks the direction the movement took is perfect for its “first phase.”
“They decided they are going to do it without leaders, without demands, and be an all-inclusive, horizontal movement,” said Lasn. He expects the second phase of the movement to be more focused.
A YouTube video on Aug. 23 made the call to action viral. Anonymous posted it, a loosely organized hacker collective. Anonymous hackers spread the message across the Web through various social media forums.
After letting loose the idea, Lasn says it was “like riding a tiger.” It took on a life of its own, and Adbusters played a supporting, rather than a guiding role as the movement progressed. The magazine may, however, play a role in guiding the movement into the future.
The next phase of Occupy Wall Street
Another Adbusters brainstorming session again yielded a call to action: occupy college economic and business studies departments.
“They are the keepers of the theoretical foundations of our whole economic system,” said Lasn. The occupations will take the form of multiple daylong actions, rather than extended stays.
In January, Adbusters will lead protesters to occupy the University of British Columbia economics and business departments. Lasn hopes this action will serve as a model for others around the world.
“We’ve prepped the ground, and now I think in this second phase of the movement that will start next spring, we will have had our debates, and we will be ready to talk specifically about what is our positive program of political and social change.”
Starting a political party
Lasn dreams of establishing a Robin Hood tax, or establishing a third party in America to provide an alternative to the Republican and Democrat lines.
The party could start on the Internet, says Lasn. Millions could join and an online debate could establish “a nice tight little six or seven major items” for the party’s platform. He doesn’t expect the party to win the 2013 election if it is formed, but it could play a “spoiler’s role” and maybe win in 2016.
From what Lasn has heard, the idea of establishing a third political party is quite popular among the Occupy crowd. “Nobody knows quite how to do it, but everybody loves the idea.”