We have built our consultancy atop a dynamic for-profit contractor model designed to liberate activism from limitations to innovation. Our antecedents are commercial social change consultancies such as CANVAS, founded by the creative team behind Otpor!—the Serbian social movement that toppled Slobodon Milosovic—and Purpose, whose principals created Avaaz and GetUp!. – Boutique Activist Consultancy (BAC), Founder: Micah White
” And then there’s the boutique activism firm White’s started. The idea is to train activists and galvanize support for causes similar to online social and political movements like Avaaz.org and Purpose.com. But the difference is, his new venture is unabashedly for-profit.’“Occupy Wall Street generated tremendous money,’ says White. ‘This whole idea that activists should do it for free and all that bullshit is over. Like somehow I’m supposed to be a full-time activist and have zero income from it? It’s ridiculous.’” – April 28, 2014, Grist
truthout | Op-Ed
April 1, 2014
By Anthony Scalise,
It’s been three years since the occupation of Zuccotti park and various other parks, city halls, and commons that were physically occupied by activists across the nation and around the globe. The central theme that has now become a part of national dialogue is the chant frequently repeated in street demonstrations, “We are the 99%” that brought to light the idea that a small wealthy elite, an immensely small fraction of the population, holds a share of wealth and power far out of proportion to their numbers. Occupy was seen as a reawaking of a largely immobile and apathetic public that was becoming more aware of the disconnect between public need and corporate political influence. As the camps began to grow and hold their ground for the initial few months, discussions about political endorsement were taking place. At around the same time as the Republican Party began their endorsement of the Tea Party, the idea was largely supported that Occupy should stay away from the “left” wing faction of the Business Party, otherwise known as corporate Democrats and be aware of its attempts to co-opt the movement.
It’s now 2014, the encampments are gone, but the activists’ message still remains, and issues of corruption and inequality are still being discussed. While there was no formal endorsement of the Obama Administration or the Democratic Party a new endorsement seems to have emerged from a small group of so called Occupy “founders.” In February of 2014, one of the few largely followed Occupy Wall St. Twitter accounts was “taken over” by one Justine Tunney – a software engineer for the Google Corporation. Tunney and others lay claim to being founders of Occupy, which one would assume is a bit late and serves little purpose other than to grant herself and her group of self-described “founders” some sort of legitimacy-yielding leadership role.
Revealing tweets also revealed their intentions to redefine the movement, stating that Occupy was not against any corporations, only against Wall Street – a significant departure considering the apparent anti-corporate stance in the “Deceleration of Occupation of New York city,” outlining the stance and positions of the movement.
As days pass and the tweets keep flowing, the spectacle is on continual display of Tunney and co. making themselves known figures to those watching. Tunney further displayed her true pro-corporate colors by setting up a White House petition calling for Google CEO Eric Schmidt to replace the seat of the president to be “CEO of America” and to turn over all authority to the tech industry.
The Occupywallst twitter account also promotes the links to the BAC or Boutique Activist Consultancy agency fronted by former AdBusters editor Micah White, also a fellow claimant to masterminding the Occupy movement. The BAC is self-described as a “social change consulting firm that serves a hand-picked international clientele of people’s parties, political celebrities, and emergent social movements.” They claim to “liberate” activism from limitations to innovation. One may ask how? Well, unsurprisingly, by providing workshops on how to use Google Glass in social movements.
It appears the forward thinking activists at GreenPeace were approached by Micah White to be the first activist group to use Google Glass, but ultimately denied the offer. Their conversation was apparently secretly recorded by White himself and is available to listen to here[https://soundcloud.com/micahwhitephd], although viewers should be aware White was kicked out of a Greenpeace training camp last week for refusing to stop filming private meetings with his GoogleGlass eyewear and this recording without consent could have been edited.
This brings to question the underlying players in this situation. We have now, three years since Occupy’s formation, a small group of people claiming to have founded a movement which was largely addressing the crisis of democracy in regard to immense corporate power and influence. Promoting a technology that will supposedly liberate the mass of the population from the clutches of the corporate elite and their political puppets, while also allowing a downloadable application that provides facial recognition, according to the creators of an upcoming app for Google Glass, “Utilizing some of the most accurate facial recognition software in the world, NameTag can spot a face using Google Glass’ camera, send it wirelessly to a server, compare it to millions of records and in seconds return a match complete with a name, additional photos and social media profiles.” The situation reeks not only of opportunism, but of Google’s long arm now attempting to embed a pro-corporate, pro-capitalist, and positive surveillance state narrative (with a first person point of view) into the Occupy movement – a narrative that suggests that multinational corporations like Google support peoples’ struggles against injustice and that we can have real social change alongside the profit motive of the capitalist system.
What will result if an active resurgence of the movement or one with a similar, hopefully more direct, perspective pours into the streets once again to challenge the powers that be? Will it be captured underneath Google technology? Allowing names and faces of participants and activists to be easily identified? Will it be more sympathetic to large multinational corporations and the endless quest to profit? Or was this a not so clever scheme of the newly claimed pro-corporate “founders” to divide and confuse those sympathetic away from the anti-corporate message the movement spread? The lesson here is to be aware of those who seek to exploit social movements of the future for their own personal gain and attempt to turn attention away from those who hold real wealth and power in society. This display has shown that not only political parties, but also private corporate power will also attempt to co-opt social justice movements, attempt to benefit from the hard work of activists and put profits over people.