Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sleep Deprivation and Independent Media and The Dawning

Tim Pool, video streamer for OWS during the recent eviction and its aftermath


During the ongoing saga that is the Occupy Wall Street Movement (becoming a Revolution -- aka: "Occupy") the video streams have been the main way to gain on-the-spot visual news of what's really going on in the Movement.

I became an early devotee to OWS's Livestreams through Global Revolution out of New York. They were the main means I had of touching base, as it were, with the General Assemblies and the formation of Working Groups and the sights and sounds -- if not exactly the smells -- of the scene on the Plaza and the marches.

And, as soon as other Occupies got going, I tuned in to whatever video streaming they were able to manage, which put me front and center with some of the more astonishing developments -- and struggles -- within the movement. I won't detail all of them here, because that's not the point of this post, but I'll just say that without the video streaming from the Occupations themselves, I would know next to nothing about any of them. As it is, I've become familiar with quite a few and have come to recognize participants all over the country, which is part of what has clued me to the fact that this is a very profound and ultimately can be a very productive Movement that really IS 'Teh Revolution' I have been blathering about one day coming. It's here. It's real. It's now.

But I pretty much abandoned NYC's video stream weeks and weeks ago -- ages in Revolution time -- because it was completely unreliable; when it was on at all, it was usually extremely choppy, and often it was simply useless. This struck me as strange, since Livestreaming and other video streams were crucial for the public's understanding of what it was like during the North African and some of the European uprisings, and -- except when the Governments interfered -- they seemed to work fine with little or no choppiness, pixelation, or irrelevance. But New York's Livestream channels were almost always fraught with extraordinary bad luck. Sometimes they would only work for seconds at a time and then be down for hours. And then when a stream was up again, it would run re-runs or other feeds or whatever was available but nothing live. I saw from some of their records that they spent tens of thousands of dollars on new equipment and they were constantly getting donations of more. But the streams still sucked.

I really did come to believe that there was serious sabotage going on, because none of the other streams I was checking had nearly as many severe problems as NYC's did. Every other city I checked that had a video stream had relatively minor problems that seemed related more to the fact that amateurs were trying to figure out how best to work it, but they did work. Not OWS in New York. There were sometimes alternate NYC channels that seemed to work fine, but they were temporary at best, often just fleeting hit and run or one-off type documentation. But OWS's own streams never worked well for very long.

So it was kind of amazing when I found a link to Wearetheother99.com's videostream from New York on Monday morning after the Raid. According to what I've been able to find out on their website, they've been streaming all along -- since day one? -- but I never knew about it. There was no indication in any of the information I was accumulating that there even was this particular video stream. It was certainly not mentioned in any of the OWS streaming that I was aware of. That doesn't mean there was actually no mention of it; it means that I didn't see it, and given the nature of the operation, it's easy to miss something. There are many places where information is stored and retrieved from; you just have to keep looking -- or in my case, stop looking, and concentrate on those places where I could find information: the OWS Website and the NYCGA Website, along with Occupy Together. Of course, they weren't necessarily reliable either! NYCGA's is particularly dicey because it has gone through repeated redesigns that require constant renavigation and have resulted in the loss of plenty of documentation that once was there.

So, back to my topic; got off track there for a little bit. The image above is a screen grab of Tim Pool from last night. He was just about to sign off after more than 19 hours' video streaming what was going on in New York. As I say, I only found the link to this stream on Monday morning, and that only by chance. The OWS Livestreams were as sucky as ever when they were working at all. Somebody posted a link to Wearetheother99's videostream in some chat, I don't think it was even OWS's, I think I was checking Berkeley at the time, and I clicked the link. Sure enough; Tim Pool was on his way to Zuccotti, having marched to Trinity Church and then when he learned that there was a TRO that allowed demonstrators back in the Plaza, he headed back to Zuccotti (as he called it, he rarely referred to it as Liberty anything) with a large contingent of those who had gone to Trinity as an alternate site. (Visualize Lower Manhattan and you'll get an idea of how these locations relate to each other. Or Google it up... I've been down there a few times in my life, and even though I haven't been there in many years, the layout is still pretty easy to picture in my mind's eye.)

On the march back to Zuccotti, he was explaining what had happened, and this was the first clear reporting of the events of the night before I had heard; there were sketchy "news" reports that the OWS Occupation had been raided, and I'd seen Amy Goodman's "aftermath" report -- which was horrifying -- but I'd heard and seen nothing much from those who had actually been there, nor was it clear at the time what people were going to do about it.

Tim had been there from just after 1am, and he had stayed with the OWS participants, video-streaming the whole time, from that point. On the march back to the Plaza, he inadvertently gave out his phone number, and since he was using his smart phone as the video-stream camera, the stream got cut off repeatedly every time a call came in. He stopped at a Sprint store on the way back to the Plaza and got his number changed so that he could keep streaming. Then his batteries were dying despite the fact that he had been given a heavy backpack full of equipment by Justin (Wedes -- his interview with Amy Goodman is posted below) and was using Justin's MacBook as a trickle charger for his phone camera. He asked if anyone could get him another battery as he didn't think he would have enough charge to get back to the Plaza. In fact, people did get him batteries, and he did get back to the Plaza and a few minutes downtime while he changed batteries, he was continuously streaming until well after 10:00pm EST Tuesday night.

Because his was the only reliable video stream on the scene, it was picked up by Time.com, Huffington Post, Al Jazeera, and apparently was being mirrored all over the Livestream network. He had over 11,000 viewers on his own channel, but with all these others tagging along, he figured there might have been 100,000 viewers overall. There may have been many more than that.

And he was -- of course -- completely sleep-deprived, hungry, thirsty and exhausted. He was also lugging Justin's heavy bag around with him. He became so tired, he could barely walk, but he kept streaming, kept interviewing people, kept looking for news he could share. This heavy bag of Justin's was an incredible burden however, and it became something of a metaphor for all the "stuff" that had been accumulating at Zuccotti during the Occupation, nearly all of which was swept away by the Raid. Most of it apparently swept away and hauled off to the dump -- after promises were made that personal property could be retrieved at such and such a location after such and such a time.

That was the scene that Amy Goodman had shown -- huge mounds of debris being loaded into garbage trucks for disposal, most of consisting of the personal property of the Occupiers who had been dispossessed and evicted.

Tim lost his tent and everything in it in the Raid, but he had his own video-stream equipment, his innate communications skill and he was Carrying On -- and also carrying Justin's heavy bag. The search for Justin became an integral part of the saga Tim was transmitting. The rumor was that Justin had been arrested, but no one knew for sure. The Bag, though, was becoming an intolerable burden; Tim could not go on any longer carrying it -- he'd been carrying it for 17 hours and it was HEAVY. Finally, he encountered one of Justin's friends; she didn't know where he was. She tried calling him on her phone, but there was no response. I believe they texted him as well, with no luck. She said she would take The Bag, though, and make sure Justin got it since she knew where he lived (in Brooklyn or The Bronx, I don't recall off hand).

Tim was so relieved. EVERYONE watching was so relieved. It was Liberation. And it was a similar sense of Liberation to that of the renewed Occupation of Zuccotti, without all the appurtenances that had built up over the past two months. Many of those who lost some personal property in the Raid seemed to realize they were Liberated from Things now and could concentrate more on Doing.

What the Occupy Movement is in many ways is a Demonstration of how to be and do another world -- as Gandhi said, "Be the change you seek in the world." The Demonstration at Zuccotti was one thing, but much of it could be done anywhere. It didn't have to be solely in the Plaza. In fact, most of that Demonstration -- of another way of being and doing -- didn't have to be in that Plaza at all, it could be anywhere in the city or ultimately anywhere in the world.

Having and holding a space, a place, was important, and despite his exhaustion and sleep deprivation, Tim was documenting the excitement and determination of getting the Space back. But he was also noting and showing the realization among many that the Space and the Demonstration were not necessities for one another.

This is a powerful realization, one that was already being made in Oakland, though not quite as clearly and concretely, after their Raid and dispossession. In Oakland, the Raid that destroyed their camp the second time was greeted with an almost festive -- certainly not a fearful -- air. And that Raid, too, was documented by an outstanding -- and massively sleep deprived -- videostreamer named Spencer, who goes by OakFoSho on Ustream. He then headed off to Berkeley to document their Occupation, which I was watching early this morning.

In Berkeley, too, there seemed to be a growing recognition that having and holding Space was important -- and they were allowed to stay on Sproul Plaza by the very polite police, at least for the night -- but that the Demonstration that Another World Is Possible could happen anywhere.

The Space is Important, but the Demonstration is even more important.

I have nothing but praise for Tim and Spencer and the video-streamers who have been working so hard everywhere to get the real news out rather than the ridiculous "narrative" of the MSM. The contrast couldn't be more startling. And they are all doing it as dedicated amateurs with often very limited or primitive equipment, under difficult and dangerous circumstances with few if any pecuniary rewards.

This is Independent Media. And this is the Future.

The Revolutionary Future. Strap in. The ride is gonna get bumpier...

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