Februar 21, 2011
In Attendance: Renee, Susan, Justin (Sullivan), Atiq, Paul, Julie, Robin, Josh, Matthew
Note: These notes were taken by Julie, Josh and Susan during the meeting, then edited for clarity by Susan. They represent a variety of note-taking styles and do not represent a verbatim report of what was said.
Susan: The main goal of the meeting is to give everyone a chance to talk, without worrying about reaching conclusions or making decisions.
Julie: The idea is to listen first.
We set some ground rules (no attacks) and went over the topics for discussion listed in the proposal (reflection, goals, vision, projects, creative commons, needs).
Susan: Julie and I got together because we felt things were not working. I feel the group needs to establish roles, structure, and organization.
Renee: I feel like we had it until we lost the office. The office provided one element of structural support, but it didn’t give everything.
Susan: There have been times when the group worked well together. N17, D17, J15 were fun because we worked as a team. But even then there wasn’t a clear process, roles weren’t defined. I think it would be good to have a structure that people can fit into. My feeling is we could be doing so much more…
Josh: I felt that since the early days as well. I felt there was a lot of push-back, so in the end I just gave up. I think that some of us have different perspectives on what this group should be and that’s been a pattern since the start. I’ve always been an advocate of forming a collaborative process. Having a structure in process, but not letting that damage the creative process. I think we need to be realistic about what we can achieve. I feel like there’s been a clashing of different ideas of what the working group means. How do we achieve sustainability? I, like so many people, lived off my savings and I’m glad I did that, but it’s not sustainable and now I need to pull back a little bit. I sort of gave up because I felt like there was too much push-back. But I felt that the people who were producing the most work were working in the model I’m talking about. I suppose I’ve lowered my expectations in an enormous amount.
Paul: Was there some sort of formal structure that you thought might have been a model?
Josh: Yes, that Fix and I did. Some things didn’t quite work. Like, in order to have content hosted on the channel, you should collaborate within the group. Atiq was someone who objected to it and since then I felt like maybe that wasn’t the most useful of requirements. I felt this was a way to encourage in a big way, for people to start working together more. The proposal encouraged people to work within the group without going outside.
Atiq: We were opposing that it was imposed on us. What I proposed instead was that it be proposed as a recommendation.
Renee: There should be some kind of approval process for work going up on OccupyTVNY.
Josh: I’ll just finish by saying I’ve put so much energy because I really value and see the value in creating collectives like this. We have a lot of great work and we should try to form a process in which we can work collectively. I think it’s great that we’re having meeting so we can become open and honest about what we’re doing here. What I think what we’re doing is we’re creating a body of work that reflects a particular perspective and it shouldn’t be this group-think monolithic Orwell-esque factory of propaganda. I’m interested in building a collective for people who want to build work together.
Renee: Which is what I thought these Tuesdays meeting were about and I was very excited when they started happening. I think that one solution could be that Tuesdays could be focused on proposals and projects. I have a filmmaking background, so I know the background of many spokes on the wheel getting things moving, but OWS is tougher and I always wanted to encourage structure but in a more organic way and we were sort of doing that with the big events. I felt the space, even though it wasn’t used that much, its loss did create an internal blow to us. For some reason after that happened things fell apart and there hasn’t been much to cover.
Susan: There have been things that could’ve been covered. For example the recent action on prison reform.
Renee: Well when I joined the group, David and I would email out all the events and nobody would respond but people would show up. You cannot force people to respond to things. I joined the movement because I just wanted to shoot and not to edit, because I edit for a living and then there’s a back log of stuff. If I’m going to be involved I need there to be roles because I can’t carry projects from beginning to end. I’m going to be less in the movement because I’m working full time again and I can’t carry things all the way through. There seems to be a division in the movement between those who want more event reporting and those who want more content-driven pieces. I would rather do content-driven work. I think my role, my stronger contribution to the movement is creating “about ows” pieces. It’s fine if some people want to do the more journalistic pieces, but it’s also important to do the other kind, which would require teams.
Justin: I would agree with that. The reactive pieces have a half-life. There’s a chance of something like the Obama-kettle, but that’s kind of just luck. So I think it’s important for us to proactively create content.
Matthew: Audience members tend to look for something that’s either fresh or entertaining. OWS did really well at first because it was fresh and new. We have really short attention spans. I think if you can get good numbers in the crowd, then it’s good.
Josh: There’s amazing planning that goes on right now. For my part, I don’t think it’s a terrible thing that we’re not on the front page…
Atiq: One of the big contradictions or controversies that I see here is objectivity versus propaganda. Are we going to shed a positive light or simply report? I think the potential to propagandize is very dangerous.
There are lots of problems in the movement right now. We’ve all been misled before. D17 was an example of this. Then we propagandized the story of a foreclosed house and later found out we were mistaken about the status of the house. Then there was the controversy about the New Years Eve video. We showed a policeman having a moment of dignity and that bothered a lot of people.
(Next Atiq brought up his recent conflict with Cari Machet.)
I did my best to have a meeting on the topic of violence, but this was controversial. In the meeting, the only alternative offered up instead of turning violent people over to the police was to publicly shame them by filming them.
What I’m finding is there’s a tremendous resistance to my outing Cari on the list serve but no attention to the message of non-violence
(Atiq references video of Cari Machet “attacking” Tim Pool.)
Renee: If you’re concerned about Cari in the movement you have a right to be. I don’t like the way you call her out on the list serve. If the purpose is to call attention to someone’s behavior, it should be addressed in the spirit of mediation, rather than over email. To clarify, when you proposed the agenda item for the discussion about violence, it wasn’t that people were disagreeing with discussing the topic, it’s just that we didn’t want to have the Tuesday meeting taken over with this subject.
Paul S: It seems to me not coincidental that because there are fewer actions to focus on, people are eating each other up in the list serve. It seems a profoundly inefficient thing to police each other’s actions. We’ll always have disagreements with each other. We have to figure out a way to ignore the bullshit and find the good people.
Justin S: Do you feel threatened by Cari?
Atiq: This is a test case. If this movement doesn’t kill itself, it’s going to be subjected to more and more scrutiny and infiltration and we need to find a way to deal with these issues.
Julie: I found your emails today to be violent. I can’t work in a group where these kinds of dynamics are tolerated.
Renee: We felt you were trying to push your agenda on others with your agenda for the Tues meeting.
Matthew or Paul (not sure who said this): The same thing happened during the Thorin episode. There was a lot of in-fighting on the list serve. If you have an issue with the group, bring it to the group meeting, but don’t air it on the list serve.
Atiq: The attack on Tim Poole smacked of gangland mafia culture.
Robin: This movement is something international. Its membership is anyone who supports us. The organization is the GA and Spokes, though they are kind of sick right now. The weather is partly responsible for that. Right now I need to take some time to make money and prepare for reengaging in the Spring. There are two diverging views of the movement. One, it’s seen as a battle against a common enemy. Two, it’s seen as creating a new model for a utopian society. It’s difficult to reconcile the two.
I got involved to create good propaganda for the movement. I personally wouldn’t want to show things that present the movement in a negative light.
Atiq: spoke about how the NY Post revealed problems with the OWS story of a foreclosed house.
Josh: I agree with Atiq that we need to speak up when others in our group are attacked. But I also think Robyn’s right. It’s important that we don’t feel we can’t speak up about this stuff.
Paul to Atiq: It gets sticky when you talk about legal issues. All of these mortgage cases are complicated. It’s not so easy to cast blame.
Robyn: I’m not saying we should sweep things under the rug, but our job is not to be objective journalists.
Julie: I wanted to have this meeting because I think reflection needs to be integrated into our meetings. We need to be asking each other why things aren’t working, instead of assuming it’s this or the other. I think roles should be created and that they should be flexible and should be based on what people actually want to do and how they see themselves within the group. In order for this movement and this working group to be sustainable for all of us, it needs to be enjoyable and we need to do things we want to do. It’s okay if stuff doesn’t get done because this is all volunteer work. We should also be drinking more beer together. I would love to see group priorities that reflect common interests. Also, I think horizontality means sub-dividing smaller and smaller until all voices can be heard because power works bottom up, not top down.
Susan: Let’s meet at MNN next and clarify what we see as the role of this group in the movement, and what it will take to realize that.
Josh says we did all this already and mentions “Abe’s wheel,” a scheme for collaboration that was proposed at Zucotti Park.
Julie: There’s no point in creating roles that no one wants to fill.
Matthew brought up J15. He said there was so much information about it and we worked together on the shoot and then nothing happened.
Susan explained that Justin S. has been working on an edit, but that this is an example of why we need better organization and clear roles in order to produce products.
Josh spoke about the importance of the website and how it can be a tool that will help clarify roles and give a face to the group. He suggested we might use credits, then later clarified that he didn’t mean credits on the videos themselves.
Susan said that the kind of planning we’re doing now, clarifying the purpose of the working group and how it’s going to function, is really a precursor to creating a website to bring new people in. We need to have a clearer vision of what we’re bringing them into and how we want to do that.
Everyone agreed to meet at MNN next week and headed to Alibi’s for beer.