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Op Ed

On Information

I was going to write another post for you today. It was going to be solipsistic and not terribly relevant, and maybe this post will be those things, too, but it is a different post than the one I set out to write. The post I set out to write was laid aside and all but forgotten late last night as NYPD forces cleared Occupy Wall Street from Zuccotti Park, threw all their belongings in the garbage, drove the protesters back throughout the night, and hosed the park down in the hours just before dawn, as if somehow the filth of community dwelling was too much for the pristine surfaces of New York City.

Forgive me if I start to tend toward the dramatic. As I type this I haven’t slept for more than twenty-four hours because I spent the entire night last night following the events on various live streams, Tumblr, and Twitter. I spent hours transcribing the content of the feeds, and it wasn’t until people without adequate access or bandwidth for the live streams started thanking me for my efforts that I even realized I was doing something that could possibly be construed as useful. The drive to do something, anything, to document that this was a thing that I saw happen, to make sure it was recorded in as many mediums as possible was immeasurably stronger than any evaluation of, “What would be the most useful thing to do right now?”

Now, having done that evaluation, I reached, what? At most fifty people? And maybe that’s nothing. And maybe that’s not useful. However, when I watched people who were close to outnumbered by police officers chant, “Join arms! Join arms!” and straddle the street, refusing to let the garbage trucks containing the material vestiges of the movement that they had built go past, and when I listened to the man operating the last remaining live stream yell at a group of people with handkerchief-covered faces demanding he put the camera down that there was no way in hell he was going to stop filming when there were ten thousand people viewing his feed who deserved to know what was happening, and when a reader from South Korea messaged me asking if I knew what he could do to help replenish the five thousand plus books of the People’s Library seized and thrown away by the police, I knew that it wasn’t nothing. Or maybe I just stopped caring whether it was nothing or whether it was something.

Last night I watched one man film historical events using his phone and an extended battery pack for more than five hours straight. I saw one camera, witnessing no more than two hundred citizens making a stand, passing the information on to more than twenty thousand, including many of you.

Every link you post, every image you pass on, every time you speak to your friends and family and coworkers about the issues that matter to you, even if you only reach one person the numbers add up.

Many people cannot physically join the Occupy movement, or any other protest, because considerations of distance, physical ability, citizenship, criminal record, or even gender or the color of their skin create difficulties of access, but that does not mean that these people cannot take part. As the number of viewers crept up on the feed last night, messages appeared on the ticker next to the screen: “Binghamton is watching and will help OWS rebuild!” “Houston is watching,” “Solidarity from Australia,” “Solidarity from Seattle,” “The world is watching,” “The whole world is watching.” The people surrounding the cameraman and his feed yelled, “Mic check!” and shared the growing number of global witnesses with the cheering crowd.

The watcher is important; the sharer is important.

Around quarter to six this morning, after nearly five hours of filming, the correspondent on my live feed, Tim Pool of The Other 99% UStream, who cannot be thanked enough for his contribution, surveyed the gathering assembly of protesters, flanked by police, but strengthening and regrouping in Foley Square as the sun broke, and said, “Nothing will make me stop filming. Nothing short of breaking my fingers and smashing my camera.”

This morning, a friend wrote on his Tumblr:

It’s the middle of the night in Hawaii and I’ve been following the OWS eviction from Zucotti park for about three hours now. I’m on my bed in a house in a tree off the grid in a jungle on an island in the most isolated archipelago on the planet watching a live broadcast of thousands of impassioned people a quarter of the way around the globe on a device that would have been the stuff of science fiction up until a few years ago that I’m charging from a car battery powered by the sun.

Solidarity from the Pacific. The world is changing in more ways than one.

Solidarity from the Pacific. Solidarity from Chicago. Solidarity from your camera phone, and her link to your video, and his car battery-powered laptop.

Nothing will make us stop filming, photographing, writing, linking URLs and linking arms.

This is the Information Age. Let’s go out and share ourselves some motherfucking information.

By (e)Kelsium

Kelsium lives in Southern California with her partner and collection of almost (almost!) kill-proof plants. She enjoys the beaches, but finds the lack of acceptable bagels distressing. She considers herself an expert in red lipstick and internet rage.

2 replies on “On Information”

This is such an important point. The mainstream media may control the majority of what people see, but once people have seen things from the point of view of the protestors, the men and women in the street, it can’t be unseen. Witnessing is important because no one can take it away from you. Spreading the word is important because no one can stop you. Just as courageous people in New York are literally standing up for their rights, so are those who watch, who retain what they see, who voice their outrage and make sure the message is passed along. They can take cameras, they can rewrite history, they can censor the media and try to silence people in the street. But they can’t take what we’ve seen with our own two eyes. They can’t take knowledge away from us.

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