“The revolution will not be televised.” This phrase—belonging to spoken-word performer Gil Scott-Heron, who passed away May 27—has recently resurfaced as something of an internet meme. “‘The revolution will not be televised,’” one author writes on hipster microblogging platform Tumblr—to which I’d love to be able to say I’m not a member (note: I totally am). “It will be on the internet.”
Here’s what the internet is not: It’s not corporate media. Corporate media has a presence on the internet, to be sure, but so do goofing-off-cats-accompanied-by-terrible-grammar site Lolcats and anonymous imageboard 4chan, which Fox News calls “The Rude, Raunchy Underbelly of the Internet.”
Interestingly, “The Rude, Raunchy Underbelly of the Internet,” which frankly sounds a little like Star Wars’ Mos Eisley Spaceport, is also credited with the rise of the amorphous, radical hacker-activist collective, Anonymous.
You know Anonymous, don’t you? If not, you’re not alone. Protests at Orlando, Fla.’s Church of Scientology; disruption of Sony’s PlayStation Network in retaliation for the prosecution of coder George Hotz; distributed denial-of-service attacks that crippled Visa, MasterCard and other services in response to anti-WikiLeaks behavior—although mainstream media has reported conservatively on some of the collective’s activities in the last few years, the web of secrecy surrounding both Anonymous and the corporations it targets is so complete that whatever truths might come to light on either side are almost immediately invalidated under the burdens of doubt and bureaucratic hyperbole.
By the way, there’s a revolution happening in New York. You might not have heard about it. Six weeks ago, on the tail of Anonymous’ Bay Area Rapid Transit protests in San Francisco, if you happen to use Twitter and if you happened to have been following the right feeds, you might have noticed a few early calls for nonprofit magazine Adbusters’ protest on Wall Street.
Certainly, Anonymous and Adbusters aren’t the only forces responsible for the ensuing rally, which began Sept. 17, but the collective’s members are part of the crowd, creeping out stockbrokers with iconic V for Vendetta Guy Fawkes masks and pickets bearing the phrase, “We are the 99%.” Now, nearly a month in, Occupy Wall Street has attracted the support of local unions, with unconfirmed reports estimating the number of attendees at tens of thousands.
For the most part, this movement has not been televised. Support for Occupy Wall Street has spread across the nation. As of press time, sympathetic groups in more than 1,300 cities, including Santa Fe, have organized or scheduled their own rallies, coordinated partially through umbrella site occupytogether.org.
But whether due to the media blackout that has fallen over New York City (go to hell, Patriot Act), the fact that the same corporations the rallies are meant to fight against control the mainstream media, or the inherent difficulty of accurately reporting on a leaderless movement without clear end goals, coverage has been scarce.
Moreover, the issue of whether or not the New York Police Department is exercising undue force and violating the First Amendment is no longer a question of whether or not you trust Anonymous and the other people on the ground. (Two weeks ago, JP Morgan Chase announced it had donated an unprecedented $4.6 million to the NYPD. Anonymous and other pro-occupation groups have attacked JPMC for attempted bribery, though a Huffington Post article claims the donation was actually made in June of this year, months before the occupation started.)
Ironically, corporate technologies—video streaming, iPhones—provide the means for end users to instantly follow events as they unfold. It’s a brave new world of information gratification, in which the intellectual right criticizes the dissidents for using corporate products to further an agenda against those same corporations, and the intellectual left praises the dissidents for their ability to turn the weapons of corporate America on itself. The truth, as ’90s television would have us believe, is out there—if you know where to look.
The revolution is happening. Whether or not it will succeed has yet to be seen, but in some ways, I think that success is beside the point. Success—when one considers the sheer scale of the movement, its decentralized nature and the fact that the wants and needs of those it represents are as many and varied as they themselves—is largely subjective.
This is not a “traditional” revolution. It is a revolution of perspective, necessitating its supporters’ active investigation of the truth. Because of that, the revolution doesn’t need to be televised. When you ask about the revolution, when you search the web for information about the revolution, whenever you discuss the revolution, you are the 99 percent.