Reflections on Censorship, Occupy Wall Street, and the 99%

By now I’m sure we’ve all heard about Union Square, Washington Square Park, the Brooklyn Bridge, and other city sites that have been marched on; we’ve all seen the video clips circulating on the Internet, read about the original July call put out by AdBusters, and the supposedly unintentional or accidental censorship of emails and Tweets with the Occupy Wall Street phrase or hashtag. It does seem ridiculous that with the Occupy movement spreading to Washington D.C., the White House lawn, Los Angeles, Detroit, and banks and other corporate institutions everywhere, Twitter is currently trending #PeopleWhoAreOverrated and #moviebands.

Vibe, on the other hand, is overrrun with messages from Anonymous, the hive mind, bagpiper, and other similarly (un)identified individuals updating each other on Occupy Wall Street and the other Occupy movements springing up around the country and worldwide.

If you haven’t yet heard about it, Vibe is the anonymous alternative to Twitter, available as an app on the iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch. It allows you to “vibe” messages a la tweeting based on location, and enables you to assign a duration for your messages as well as a volume (e.g., within 31 miles or worldwide) at which your message can be heard. As of last night, people were vibing messages at global volume for periods of 7 to 180 days about the Occupy movements springing up outside of NYC, as well as extending support to the Wall Street protestors. Photographs documenting the Wall Street camp have been posted. The feed is remarkably troll-free, for now anyway. Currently Vibe is serving as an alternate platform for activism, as Twitter reportedly came under fire for allowing such rampant activism to take place on its servers (despite being lauded for its usefulness regarding #Cairo, etc.). Rather than persevere under censorship and downplaying, which may have compelled the hashtag change from #OccupyWallStreet to #OWS, Twitter traffic has been split between Twitter and Vibe, with more “breaking news,” it seems, being released on Vibe, then leaked to Twitter.

It was on Vibe that I caught wind of the cell phone jamming set up by the Feds, according to the poster, who insisted that individuals Google it for verification. I did, for hours, and found nothing. Signal jamming isn’t exactly new in protests such as this; it has been employed in the Cairo conflict, China, Iran, Libya, and a slew of other countries I’m forgetting right now. According to the FCC, the sale and use of devices that jam signals of “authorized radio communications” is illegal, and action has been taken against online retailers of jamming devices. Then today I found a couple of mentions on Twitter (click for zoom):

The Vibe post stated, “The Feds are using cell phone jammers. Please google cell phone jammers. Since the jammers are localized, walk 4 blocks and your cellphone, emails, and wifi will start to work. The Feds are doing this to disrupt occupy wall street” (Vibe: 10/07/11, 07:34 PM, 40.82, -73.94). The single article I found, a blog post at Miso Susanowa’s NetPolitik, notes that investigation is being conducted on the apparent information blackout on Twitter and comments on YouTube videos of the Occupy Wall Street protest, presumably as part of psyops and disinformation tactics. The blog post codes “opposition Tweets” data thematically and discusses its agenda, but no mention of signal jamming.

I’ve asked for further verification, but as of now, no one has reconfirmed it on Vibe. For those of you in the New York City area, a Vibe feed will be projected on a wall at the No Comment exhibit, from 6-9 pm tonight at 23 Wall St. I plan to be there. As of 11:50 a.m., the Vibe feed also notes barricades around Washington Square arch plus police guard, barricades by 23rd St and, now at 4:03 pm, increasing police presence at the south entrance of Washington Square Park, likely in preparation for the protestors to occupy it.

Finally, a message from Anonymous to the citizens of the United States:

It is becoming obvious that due to certain technical difficulties the revolution will not be televised. It will not be broadcasted. This is quite all right, media… You no longer control the floodgates. The era of the Internet has arrived, and it will consume you. This movement will be downloaded, it will be streamed, it will be circulated, and it will spread like a wildfire, without direction, unpredictable, vast and devastating… This country has never seen a movement from our generation. They have never seen a movement from the children of the Internet. They haven’t the slightest clue what we are capable of, We masters of information, we conductors of thought. The tipping point has arrived. We have reached critical mass. We have reached the point of no return… We have no bombs. We have no weapons. We have no threats. But behold the power of the quill and ink… We are all the 99%. We are all anonymous. We are all legion. We will never forget. We will not forgive. Expect us.


But what I really want to end with is this:

Among the thousand other things I have to do, for grad school, domestic life, health, etc., this post takes priority for me because I think, perhaps wrongly, that not enough people are seeking out the information as it’s breaking, and I certainly don’t blame anyone: it’s a time-consuming endeavor involving multiple channels of communication, and we have lives to live and jobs to do and chores to take care of. This is primarily what has prevented me from fucking over every last responsibility I have and joining the protestors at Wall Street and Washington Square, limiting myself to sending support, re-tweeting breaking news, skimming articles, and so on. I am elated that the movement is being covered; I am incensed that it doesn’t seem to be covered in its entirety, and that too many of the articles I read seem biased, edited, self-censoring, or just plain poorly written, while Twitter, Vibe, and personal blogs are hotspots for nuanced coverage. Follow @AnonOps, @AnonyOps, and related Anonymous channels; follow @OccupyWallStreet, Chicago, LA, Toronto; check out Vibe; watch the live streams at AnonOps Communications.

The more I follow this movement, the closer I come to reaching my own tipping point. I am $90K in debt and climbing, as I cannot defer my private loans, and I am a writer and an educator, hardly lucrative professions. For years I have deferred to less effective pain management because my $350-premium insurance would not cover certain medication, regular physical therapy, or regular therapy for pain counseling. I live paycheck to paycheck. I worry I can’t pay my rent, my ConEd bill, my commuting fees. I have never had fewer than two jobs, sometimes as many as three, even now as a full-time student in a demanding Ph.D. program. I can’t live on Ramen and oatmeal because of the pain and fatigue, food is expensive, and my credit card bill is climbing. I can’t afford dental care, or a new eyeglasses prescription, and I am skirting legally blind. I ignore pain as long as I can to avoid new medical bills, and I am infinitely grateful to those who have fed me or bought me food or lent me money for medical bills, because there have been months when I cannot do it alone.

I am insured fairly well now due to TA funding, but I am already in fear of the end of my assistantship in two years, at which point I will be scrambling to get back on my old insurance, which will not cover the pain medication I am on now, simply because it is not generic and is well over $500 per monthly refill at list price. I will have to cut back on physical therapy again.

I am the 99%, and I am not alone. I know people with my same condition who are uninsured and unable to get any care at all, or uninsured with cancer and paying for treatments out-of-pocket. I have friends with more than $150K in educational debt, who are going into social work, human rights law, inner-city teaching, and who scrounge to make ends meet and pay off the interest. I know people with debilitating mental health conditions ranging from schizophrenia to PTSD who cannot afford therapy, cannot keep a job, and have difficulty surviving alone. I work with kids whose parents go hungry so they can eat. I don’t know how any of us is doing it. I also, incoherently, want something to change.

Protestors: stay strong.

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