Impressions From Occupy Wall Street

While in New York City, I reserved some time in my schedule to head down to Zuccotti Park and speak to people at Occupy Wall Street, sort of just to sync views of the world and see if we would connect on some level. That was interesting.

I’ve said for a long time that I think that the Pirate Parties, Anonymous and Occupy Wall Street have fundamental connections and share a significant overlap — the most recent time being in the elaborate Business Insider interview with Nick Jardine.

So after walking around Wall Street and Zuccotti for a while in my suit (just to test if social prejudices worked the other way around too), I walked up to a guy who had been taking a photo in my classic five-year pose and introduced myself. Apparently, he was there with three other friends, and I asked them if they would share their story and view of the world with me if I offered to buy coffee?

Works almost every time.

So I sat down with four activists from Zuccotti named Callum, Amena, Messiah, and C.J. at a nearby Prêt à Manger — with some uncertainty as to the spelling of their names, as I never saw them in writing — to see if we would connect over some common values.

We chatted for a short while before I introduced myself and described how media frequently asks what the relationship is between the Pirate Parties and Occupy Wall Street. I went on to describe the fundamentals of the Pirate Party: how we were founded on the premise that everybody having a voice (thanks to the net) is the greatest equalizer humankind has ever invented, and how that is worth fighting for; and how we, using a variety of methods, are fighting the current privileges for some corporations to buy legislation that benefit their bottom line at the expense of our liberties.

When I asked the activists for their reflections on this in relation to OWS, and what they here at Occupy Wall Street carry as their fundamental values, they responded noddingly;

— Yeah. That.

Apparently, there is more overlap than I first thought. Much more. But we were also in agreement that nobody had the right to speak for a movement; all our individual opinions meld with those of others to form a cohesive movement. Nobody can speak for anybody else (which, again, is part of the point). Therefore, while our connect at the individual activist level was an interesting and strong observation, it does not make an agreement between organizations.

We went on to chat for way longer than I had first intended, I just lost track of time and had to rush to the airport afterwards. If you’re reading this, guys: thanks. I really enjoyed our chat.

UPDATE: Some people have pointed out in the comments that the particular response quoted above may be indicative of people who are wishywashy and latch onto whatever somebody’s saying. This is not my impression from being in situ at all. Rather, I chose to quote that line as it had such a stark contrast to the rest of the conversation; I would not have stayed for well over an hour if I had not perceived these activists as highly intelligent, passionate, and thoughtful.

Rick Falkvinge

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. He lives on Alexanderplatz in Berlin, Germany, roasts his own coffee, and as of right now (2019-2020) is taking a little break.


  1. LennStar

    I am also convinved there is a lot of common roots in Pirate Partys, Occupy and (less but much) Anonymous.
    That could also be a reason why Occupy is not strong in Germany (because of the strong PP).
    But I am not able to put it down in words. I have a list of similarities, but that doesn’t help much.

    – asking the “Systemfrage” = question the political-economical system
    – lack of “hard” goals, organisations are in a process of asking and learning
    – mostly young people
    – using webtools in great extend
    – existing and even organising across borders and even continents
    – have a message on the line of “everone has a voice, no one more or less than another, whatever their poltical rank or bank account”

  2. Micke Kuwahara

    And all groups/organisations mentioned above have a lot in common and overlaps with The Zeitgeist Movement as well!

    1. Wut???

      Well, not really that much. You see, PP’s are trying to put criticism at the top of the value ladder, while the ZM ignores all criticism. We strive towards an open, license free, decentralised society, but the ZM wants to put one computer in charge of everything. The PP’s are trying to make this system work, and Fresco proposes building a new one from scratch.

  3. X

    A devil’s advocate might argue that the OWS’ers simply have no agenda of their own except a vague sense of injustice and unease, and that a handful of random participants are easily swayed by whatever anti-authoritarian belief which comes along.

    Since you are now a professional (award-winning, even) political thinker and rhetoric, you should be more wary of your own reality distortion field if you want to actually listen to other people’s thoughts and opinions as opposed to simply projecting your own opinions onto others.

    1. Børge / forteller

      I love both the Occupy movement, PP and Rick Falkvinge and what they are doing. So I must say that you make an excellent point, X. It’s hard to always be aware of things like this, so we must always be careful and keep it in mind.

      1. Fatih Toprak

        right 😉

    2. Anonymous

      +1 on “X”. It seems just too easy to respond “Yeah. That.”

      As far as I can see it, the OWS-movement is frequently being bashed for:

      * No consistent agenda; demonstrators without a cause; a mish-mash of left-wing socialists (wanting more social benefits and a stronger government) and anarchists (wanting less government). I believe most OWS’ers can stand by “less corruption in government”.

      * The average protester being less than average intelligent; “dope-heads”.

      * The protest movement mostly consisting of “whiners”, claiming to represent the 99%, but in reality representing a far smaller fraction.

      I won’t doubt that you had an interesting chat with intelligent people, but summarizing the conversation with “Yeah. That.” seems to confirm the view of the OWS-movement as “demonstrating dope-heads without a cause”.

  4. Jixtreme

    I have to side with “X” on this one. Of my acquaintences with OWS tendencies, they don’t really have any reasonable conception of what they want their government to look like. They just think there’s a giant pile of money somewhere that businesses and fat-cats are squatting on and the OWS-ers want a piece of the pie.

    The have little idea that their own elected officials (most of them are liberal) are just as bad at favoring the rich as their political opponents.

    I’d be interested in hearing a version of this where you simply ask an OWS-er what their opinion on copyright policy is, and hearing how far off it is from your own. Or perhaps non-existant altogether.


    1. Zacqary Adam Green

      Having occupied Wall Street myself, I gotta say, that’s probably true. A well-publicized sign from OWS, which reads “Shit is fucked up and bullshit”, perfectly encapsulates what the movement is about.

      But for a group of people calling itself the 99% of humanity, is that really surprising? 99% of people often don’t come up with solutions themselves, but they’re certainly quick to notice the problems. And there’s nothing wrong with that. After all, we were under the impression that it was our elected officials’ jobs to solve problems. They haven’t.

      So if one charismatic individual shows up and articulates an intelligent solution to these problems, what’s wrong with everybody copy-pasting that into their own brains? Isn’t that what happened to you and me? I know I’ve long had a vague sense of injustice surrounding culture, privacy, and information freedom, but couldn’t crystallize it into a coherent worldview until Rick came along. Isn’t that why we, or at least most of us, are here reading this blog today?

  5. Spitz

    I don’t agree with Jixtreme, that OWS people have no clear message or they have no solutions. Those, who try to underestimate that global movement say that.

    Here are couple of videos with a strong message from OWS:

  6. […] post: Impressions From Occupy Wall Street – Falkvinge on Infopolicy This entry was posted in New York City, News and tagged connect-on-some, head-down, new […]

  7. Putte

    Don’t underestimate or dismiss the OWS protests or the protesters – even though US corporate media and the paid corporate PR thugs tries to spinn it that way.

    The US political system is fundamentally broken with rampant institutional corruption on all levels. The 99-percenters don’t need a clear cut agenda. They can summarize it with “end corruption” and win every debate with that argument.

    I assume that OWS-ers have watched the Oscar winning documentary INSIDE JOB, the documentary The Corporation, Russia Today, Democracy Now or read Lawrence Lessig’s book Republic Lost.

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