'Occupy' is Passionate, but Not Pragmatic

Occupy identifies plenty of problems, but it doesn’t help protesters clarify their mission, and that's what's really needed.


Publisher: Zuccotti Park
Length: 127 pages
Author: Noam Chomsky
Price: $9.95
Format: Pamphlet
Publication date: 2012-05

There's something pretty refreshing about the Occupy pamphlet series and its publisher, Zuccotti Park Press. Its creators obviously aren't in it for the money or recognition. The project is funded by Adelante Alliance -- a Brooklyn-based nonprofit immigrant advocacy group -- and the work is mostly contributed by unpaid, impassioned scribes like Greg Ruggiero, the pamphleteer who got the ball rolling at the urging of poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

The series was written in response to the Occupy movement -- the protest that began in New York last September and has since spread across the world. The series' first nationally distributed pamphlet, Occupy, is mainly a compilation of speeches, essays, and Q&A sessions with noted MIT linguistics professor Noam Chomsky (another contributor with less to gain than to give by participating). It also includes practical information from the National Lawyers Guild about how protesters can avoid arrest, what to do if they are arrested, and who to contact for legal advice; phone numbers for local NLG hotlines are listed at the back of the pamphlet.

What Chomsky says of Occupy protesters could easily be said of the pamphleteers, too: "The people involved are not in it for themselves. They're in it for one another, for the broader society and for future generations." Everyone involved seems to have donated their time, research, intellect, and passion to make the world a more egalitarian place, and it's hard not to appreciate that.

On a practical level, though, I wonder how much these pamphlets will actually help the movement.

Clearly, protesters are Zuccotti Park Press' intended audience. Occupy preaches the choir with history, praise, and encouragement pointed directly at the civil disobedient. The writing contains a kind of cheerleading that must give quite a kick to the already roused. But Occupy doesn't address much of the criticism that's been lobbed at the protesters, and that, I think, is a failing of the pamphlet.

The book does respond to some snarky jabs at Occupy (like the easy jokes calling protesters "dirty hippies" who should "occupy a shower") with duly confrontational photos from the protest (like the image of a protest sign reading, "How dare they call us dirty! What have they done to our water, air, food?").

What Occupiers really need, though, is to articulate a clear purpose, and Chomsky's insights -- while elegant and wise -- don't boil the issues down to a few essential goals.

The professor identifies plenty of problems: housing evictions, climate change, the threat of nuclear weaponry, lack of worker-owned industries, and the unprecedented sense of hopelessness among the American jobless. He discusses the very real, self-perpetuating problem of the financial sector's influence over American politics, and he rightly speaks against corporate personhood. These are all relevant, important issues, but they add up to a pretty nebulous mission.

The protesters, for their part, know they need clear objectives. During an InterOccupy conference call with Chomsky, Kikal Kamil and Ian Escuela told the professor that in Occupy's second phase, there will be three main goals: "1) occupy the mainstream and transition from the tents and into the hearts and minds of the masses; 2) block the repression of the movement by protecting the right of the 99 percent's freedom of assembly and right to speak without being violently attacked; and 3) end corporate personhood." They asked how Occupy could gain wider support, but Chomsky was reluctant to give specific advice, saying at various points, "A whole range of other things can be done," "There are a bunch of more short-term things that are possible," and "There are lots of ways of going about the same ends...."

Since Chomsky doesn't to want to lead the Occupiers, he's hesitant to give concrete instructions; therefore, Occupy doesn't tell anyone explicitly what to do. That allows protesters' greater freedom to design their own goals and solutions, but to a degree, it almost makes the issues muddier, hence making it harder to recruit more mainstream Americans. "Keep it simple, stupid" may have been a helpful motto for the series.

To enter "the hearts and minds of the masses," Occupiers would need to keep their goals clear and (even tougher) appeal to Republicans as well as Democrats. That's a tricky business in a polarized nation like the United States. It's hard to come across liberal writing -- Occupy included -- that doesn't insinuate that conservatives are just too dumb or crazy to talk with.

For example, according to Occupy's record of a University of Maryland speaking event in January of 2012, Chomsky received this question: "I know I have friends, colleagues, and family members who are staunch supporters of the Republican worldview, and it's hard to have meaningful dialogues with them. Facts no longer seem to matter. That being the case, how do we begin to talk about truth in a meaningful way?"

To his credit, Chomsky doesn't take a hopeless stance. He says, "There are things practically everyone can do, and if you're from a privileged sector of the population, then there are even more opportunities. You can speak, you can write, you can organize, you can reach out to other people. If you keep doing it, you can have an impact." While vague, it's at least positive, and it inspires the kind of persistence required for change.

But are Occupiers speaking, writing, organizing, and reaching out to Republicans? And, more importantly, are they listening in return? I wonder. The Occupy pamphlet was published in May, and its first edition says nothing of the 53% movement (the counter-protest to Occupy) and its emphasis on self-reliance and personal responsibility, or the fact that the political Right views Occupy protesters as lazy, entitled youth. If Occupiers were to talk to conservatives, what would they say that would help and not hurt relations?

On the other hand, it's pretty clear that the kids on the We Are The 53% Tumblr have little interest in hearing what Occupy has to say. They aren't dumb, but they're naive; they don't understand that, as long as politicians buy positions of power with corporate money, the richest 1% is likely to get richer while the rest of Americans work overtime to get by. They don't realize they're being oppressed, and that, Chomsky says, is what protesters need to communicate.

He uses his grandmother's view before the women's movement as an example of this delusion. "If you had asked my grandmother if she was oppressed, she wouldn't have known what you were talking about. Of course, she was hopelessly oppressed, but identifying it is not always easy, especially if no one talks about it."

So, the Occupy movement should talk about oppression -- but when it does, it should speak clearly and simply, and just as importantly, it should listen. It should process the criticism and meet opponents in the middle. As of now, the Occupy pamphlet could use more clarity.


From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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