Or, why the Institute for Policy Studies can eat shit.
I’ve often groused about how the activist millieu in DC is domesticated, low key and dead. Every event inevitably follows this formula: BORING SPEECH followed by THREE WORD CHANT, with ANNOYINGLY SERPENTINE MARCH that passes by OUTSIDE BORING OFFICE BUILDING, OUTSIDE BORING OFFICE BUILDING, OUTSIDE BORING OFFICE BUILDING, OUTSIDE BORING OFFICE BUILDING, winding up OUTSIDE BORING OFFICE BUILDING, with BORING SPEECH, THREE WORD CHANT, THREE WORD CHANT and BORING SPEECH. Sometimes, BORING SPEECH is interspersed with BORING FOLK MUSIC.
It’s almost as if all of these events are planned by the same central committee. We’ve long been frustrated and irritated by the presence of 501c(3) non-profit groups– they latch on to every movement and suck the life out of it. Suddenly, every event –no matter how grass-roots its origins– is handled like a goddamned rock concert, with backstage passes and VERY BUSY STAFFERS who are VERY IMPORTANT AND CANT TALK WITH YOU RIGHT NOW WOULD YOU KINDLY STEP AWAY FROM THE SPEAKERS. You have to butter these little shits up, too, or else they’ll do everything in their power to keep you from taking pictures or interviewing people.
So it comes to pass that every activist event ends up following the same fucking script, with people on the street becoming so accustomed to the routine that they block it all out. The people of DC have acquired ninja-like prowess in dodging and brushing off bright, shiny-faced youth with pamphlets, and shitty, squawking bullhorns just blend into the white noise of the city. I know, you’re getting less than minimum wage to hand out fliers for an hour or two and it looks good on your curriculum vitae when you apply to another 501(c)3, but the people who told you to do this have no connection with the worker you’re slowing down who needs to catch the subway or else she’ll lose her minimum wage job.
This is why no one who lives in DC gives two shits about activism anymore, and why no one bothers to start anything. You’d think DC would be alive with political discourse on every corner, but it’s not. Everything has been domesticated. Tamed. Broken. Every movement, no matter what it is, will inevitably be co-opted by a large, well-funded nonprofit who will then move its own people into leadership positions in the original, grass-roots group. Or– as with the case of Occupy DC, where there is no leadership position– the nonprofits will create leadership positions with their own people already in the position; namely, the Institute for Policy Studies’ involvement with Occupy DC. We were looking up info about tomorrow’s May Day event at Malcolm X park, and saw this press release. “That’s odd”, we thought. “Occupy is just supposed to DO THINGS, not have press agents and people who live in very expensive apartments in Alexandria.”
“Who ARE these people?” “Hmm… they work for something… Institute for Policy Studies?” “INSTITUTE FOR POLICY STUDIES?! A FUCKING NON-PROF?!” “Yeah, fuck that shit, I’m not wasting my time on that crap.”
What DOES MayDay DC have planned, anyway? A carnival? A family friendly outing of happy, puffy, safe pablum that completely undercuts the serious nature of the entire goddamned 99% message? The right wing and corporatists are waging a very literal war on working people, dissidents and anyone who doesn’t fit into their narrow “God-Money-Empire” worldview, and the best way to demonstrate this is by having nonprofit staffers dress up in CLOWN COSTUMES for a goddamned PARADE?
The common line of apologist bullshit from non-profits is that without the power of a nonprofit, they wouldn’t be able to pull in notable speakers or professional sound systems– which is probably they’ve had their sights set on Occupy since it first appeared. Think about it– a legitimately grass-roots movement that doesn’t want or need your fucking Genelec monitors that you can’t mix properly, and where speakers like Slavoj Zizek spent their own money to travel to and attend. Hell, DC may actually by a perfect example where right wing media may have had its baseless propaganda finally hit a mark: a rich, well-funded group of flatulent, old “establishment leftists” really have taken over the activist scene in DC.
The major difference between what Institute for Policy Studies does and what Americans for Prosperity does is AFP has the backing of the Koch brothers’ billions, and IPS only has donations from a few well-off people from left-of-center. Either way, both of these abominations are the very definition of astro-turf political movements. Nothing of any journalistic importance will happen at Malcolm X park today, and I’m certainly not going to risk my brand new camera and lenses to cover a fucking astro-turf event that’s already being photographed by talentless hacks working for a fucking non-profit. Fuck that shit.