How does the Occupy Wall Street movement move from “the outrage phase” to the “hope phase,” and imagine a new economic model? In a Democracy Now! special broadcast, we bring you excerpts from a recent event that examined this question and much more. “Occupy Everywhere: On the New Politics and Possibilities of the Movement Against Corporate Power,” a panel discussion hosted by The Nation magazine and The New School in New York City, features Oscar-winning filmmaker and author Michael Moore; Naomi Klein, best-selling author of the “Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism”; Rinku Sen of the Applied Research Center and publisher of ColorLines; Occupy Wall Street organizer Patrick Bruner; and veteran journalist William Greider, author of “Come Home, America: The Rise and Fall (and Redeeming Promise) of Our Country.”
Naomi Klein, award-winning journalist and author. Her latest book is called The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.
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Michael Moore, Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker and activist. His new memoir is called Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life.
William Greider, national affairs correspondent for The Nation magazine and the author of several books including The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy and One World, Ready or Not: The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism. His most recent book is Come Home, America: The Rise and Fall (and Redeeming Promise) of Our Country.
Rinku Sen, publisher of ColorLines, and author of The Accidental American.
Patrick Bruner, Occupy Wall Street organizer.
Amy Goodman: Today, a Democracy Now! special broadcast. We spend the hour bringing you the voices of “Occupy Everywhere,” a panel hosted by The Nation magazine, “On the New Politics and Possibilities of the Movement Against Corporate Power.” You’ll hear from the Oscar-winning filmmaker and author Michael Moore; Rinku Sen of Applied Research Center, publisher of ColorLines; we also hear from Occupy Wall Street organizer Patrick Bruner; William Greider, among his books, Who Will Tell the People: The Betrayal of American Democracy; and Naomi Klein, the best-selling author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. The Nation magazine’s executive editor, Richard Kim, moderated the event, which was held at New School University in New York City. Richard Kim spoke first.
Richard Kim: So, how many of you have been down to Occupy Wall Street? All right. So, you know, we’ve been asked to actually—to not call it Zuccotti Plaza, because that’s its slave name, and we’re going to call it Liberty Square, because it’s been reclaimed by the people. As those of you who have been down there know, there’s just simply no substitute for participating in the direct democratic discussions and actions that take place there. And so I really encourage you to experience it for yourself firsthand. This event is not a substitute for Occupy Wall Street. It doesn’t speak for Occupy Wall Street. Nobody can. What we do want to do here, tonight, though, is to shed some light on the political and economic context for the Occupy movements and to reflect a bit on what the possibilities Occupy has opened up.
So, Michael, I want to start with you. You’ve been going around the country making documentaries for decades now, and about the disappearance of work, about the uninsured, about, you know, the capture of government by Wall Street. And millions of Americans have agreed with you. You won an Oscar. But I could imagine sometimes it was a little lonely out there. And then this comes along.
Michael Moore: Just when you’re winning an Oscar. That’s the only time it was lonely.
Richard Kim: You know, a couple dozen anarchist types organized the occupation of Wall Street, and then, within a few weeks, we have a global movement. So, I just wanted to ask you, why this? Why now? You know, what’s the sort of secret behind Occupy Wall Street’s success? And what have you seen as you’ve traveled across the country?
Michael Moore: Well, thank you, and thanks to The Nation and the New School for putting this on tonight.
This is one of the most remarkable movements that I’ve seen in my lifetime, precisely because it really isn’t a movement in the traditional sense. And I think that it has succeeded because it hasn’t followed the old motifs that we’re used to, in terms of organizing. But it has its roots in all the good works that so many people have done for so many years, especially in the last 30 years since Reagan took office and the decline and destruction of the country, and essentially the world, began its modern-day disaster. I think that, you know, so many people have done so many good things, and we’ve always had different groups and different constituencies of people that have been able to rally behind different causes. But this, from what I’ve seen—and I’ve—like you said, I’ve been maybe a half a dozen or more of the different Occupy things. This thing has spread like wildfire. I mean, it is—I wish you could have been traveling with me the last few weeks. It has been the most uplifting, heartening thing to see: so many Americans of all stripes deciding that they’re just going to occupy. And they don’t have to call in to central command for permission. There are no dues to pay. There’s no leader to get permission from. There’s no meetings, subcommittee meetings, you know, all these things you have to go through. It literally is something as simple as some people in Fayetteville, Arkansas, just decide to create Occupy Fayetteville, and then 400 people show up. I was in Grass Valley, California, Nevada City, 400 people there. You don’t hear about any of these, because, well, the media either won’t or can’t cover it, because they’ve been so decimated themselves, in terms of reporters and bureaus that don’t exist anymore. So it would be impossible to kind of show the breadth and the scope of this movement. But it is—it is massive. It is building each week. And everybody feels that they have permission to be their own leader.
And the reason why I think this works—I know a lot of people that say, “Well, you know, it’s got to get more organized. It’s got to have a plan. Or it’s got to—what’s the agenda? What’s the way forward here? What’s the next step?” You know, it’s enough right now that this movement just—first of all, it’s already had some important victories. It has alleviated despair in this country. It has—it has killed apathy. It has changed the conversation in a profound way. Seven, eight weeks ago, all we were listening to was about the debt ceiling and the deficit crisis, and [inaudible] nobody’s talking about that distraction any longer. They’re talking about the real issues now that are facing the majority of Americans: jobs, the fact that millions of homes are underwater, that 50 million people don’t have health insurance, we have 49 million living in poverty now, we have 40 million adults who cannot read and write above a fourth grade level, that are functional illiterates. That’s the nation that corporate America and the banks and Wall Street have created. And when somebody asked me the other day, “Well, who organized this? Who organized this movement?” I said, “Well, actually, Goldman Sachs organized it. Citibank organized it. BP organized it. They did—they did the organization.”
And I think that, you know, it’s—if you want to trace the current roots to this, somebody—I was being interviewed the other day. “Well, you know, at the end of your last movie, you were wrapping the crime scene tape around the Stock Exchange, and you called for this uprising.” I said, “No. Yes, I did, but, you know, it’s not that. It’s not a magazine from Vancouver. It’s not—if you want to—if you really want to pin it down to somebody, I would thank Bradley Manning.” And here’s why. A young man with a fruit stand in Tunis became very upset because he couldn’t figure out why he was just getting screwed and why he couldn’t make it. And he read a story, put out by WikiLeaks, that exposed how corrupt his government was. And he just couldn’t take it anymore, and he set himself on fire. That event, by giving his life to this, created the Arab Spring movement that went across the Middle East and then boomeranged back here to what has been going on in the fall here in North America. But if one courageous soldier hadn’t—allegedly—done what he had done, if he hadn’t done this, it—who knows? But it was already boiling just beneath the surface, and it just needed somebody to get it going.
And thank God for you and your friends, who went down there on that first day, who endured the ridicule first, then the attacks, and then the attempts to co-opt. But they have held strong. And it’s not now—it’s not just the people who can camp out overnight. It’s 72 percent of the American public who say they want taxes raised on the rich. That’s never happened before in this country. It’s people taking their money out of Chase and Citibank and Wells Fargo and putting it in their credit unions. And it’s taken so many forms that—and it can’t be stopped. And it’s so great to watch Fox News and the others try to wrap their heads around it, because they can’t get their brain quite—like it can’t grab onto it, which is great. That’s what’s great. So, I’m a big supporter of it staying leaderless, with a lack of a certain amount of organization, that it remain in its free and open state. And thank God for all the young people who are willing to not take it anymore. And I’ve just been inspired by it, and I’m glad that I got to live to see what I believe, or hope, will be the beginning of the end of a very evil system that is unfair, and it’s unjust, and it’s not democratic. So, thank you.
Richard Kim: Patrick. Patrick, you were one of the organizers who has been there from the first day, one of the people that lit this incredible spark, and we’re just all, I think, incredibly grateful to you. But you’ve been there for a long time now, and you’ve seen a lot of struggles inside the movement, and you’ve endured first the ridicule and name calling, as Michael said, and there’s always the threat of police, and now the threat of winter. So, if you could give some advice, you know, to other occupations, who are maybe starting off a little later, or to students of grassroots movements, who will be studying you and your movement, you know, in generations to come, what would you say? What advice would you give about why this has worked so well?
Patrick Bruner: OK. Well, I think there are many reasons why this has worked. You know, obviously, we have a great history behind us. Tahrir Square, the indignados in Spain—these are movements that are, you know, very, very similar to our movement, you know, the way that we are organized: direct democracy, egalitarian values. These are things that we think deserve to be central in every movement, and we think that’s a big reason why we have been successful, is that our tactics and our values and our goals, they’re all the same.
And, you know, we—obviously this has to do with a break in the way that we view the world. Eighty-five percent of the class of 2011 move back in with their parents. That’s something that, you know, has never happened before. We have youth who are aware that their future has been stolen, because that’s true. That’s true. And we have everyone else who’s watching that and who sees that the youth’s future has been stolen and believes that their future has been stolen, as well. You know, the Tea Party comes from the same mindset as we do, you know, although we have many differences. You know, those are people who had legitimate grievances against this system that they had tried to work for their entire lives, and then it ended up screwing them. And, you know, that’s what’s going on with my generation. We have kids who have massive amounts of student debt, and they’re, you know, going to carry that for the rest of their lives, possibly—you know, not if we have anything to do with it, but…
You know, and so, my biggest advice would be to, you know, realize that we are a part of something new, but that we come from a long tradition of resistance against this system, resistance against systems of oppression in all forms, because that’s what we’re really doing. This isn’t, in many ways—you know, like you said, this isn’t a movement like other movements have been. This isn’t a protest. This is a way of making a new space. We have taken Liberty Square. We have renamed it, and we have rebuilt it into something that we believe is a better model. Maybe it’s not perfect. Maybe it’s not what we’ll come out of this with. But it’s a way to at least start a discussion, a real discussion, about all of the things that ail us on a daily basis, the things that are never really discussed. Like you said, before this, you know, the biggest discussion in American politics was whether or not to raise the debt ceiling for the 103rd time. You know, now we don’t talk about things like that. Now we’re starting to talk about wealth inequality. We’re starting to talk about greed. You know, we’ve had fun looking at Google trends and seeing that words like that have gone up, you know, in usage a thousand times. So, you know, these are things that—there’s a real shift in terms of the mentality of people. There’s a psychic break that’s going on that we’re riding, because of—you know, because of what they did to us.
You know, 47 percent of the wealth is owned by the top 1 percent. And that number has gone up since the “Great Recession,” or whatever they want to call it, has begun, since this new depression has begun, this new global depression that’s affecting everyone. You know, and this idea that we’re broke, I think that that’s one of the things that really pisses everyone off, because we know that’s not true. You know, this is the richest country that’s ever existed, with the richest people that’s ever existed—or that have ever existed. And none of them pay anything. And the idea is that we have to pay for their mistakes, for things that they don’t even consider to be mistakes. They think they’re winning. And I don’t think any of us think that anymore.
Richard Kim: So, I want to get back later to that question of austerity, right? Because that is one of the things that Occupy Wall Street has really managed to put on the table. And yet, Washington and the eurozone are still having that conversation. So, maybe we’ll get back to that in a bit. But Rinku, to you, Patrick has talked about how this has sort of been built on the shoulders of other movements, and you’ve been there in other movements, fighting for immigration rights, anti-racist movements—
Rinku Sen: I was wondering how far back you were going to go.
Richard Kim: —movements around homelessness and poverty. You know, in the early days, Occupy Wall Street was criticized by some people for being a sort of white, middle-class, college thing. There was a sort of infamous incident when civil rights activist and congressman John Lewis was prevented from speaking at a Occupy meeting in Atlanta. But since then, you know, I have seen a lot of great collaborations. Occupy Wall Street has gone up to protest many times “stop and frisk” policies in Harlem, putting their bodies on the line. What do you think, you know, is here, in terms of the potential for collaboration? And what are the tensions, right, between this new force in American politics and, you know, those organizations that have been really working for decades in the trenches?
Rinku Sen: So, you know, you know that saying and that thing that people do in families when they want to say how much they love each other, they say, “I love you this much,” and they make their arms really big to indicate that there’s a lot of love there? There’s—a friend of mine has done something different with that, where she says to her—the kids that she takes care of, she says to them, “I love you this much.” Can you all see my gesture? And so, instead of putting her arms out, she puts two fingers together, because nothing can come between us. “I love you this much, because nothing can come between us.” And contradictorily, I think that the relationship between existing movement—existing organizations and the Occupy movement has to be both. It has to be about love that’s this much and has some distance and love that’s like this and has no distance, where nobody can come between us. And that’s because I think that the Occupy movement has—needs to have some autonomy. It does. And I really think it was very, very smart not to have demands, you know, right out the gate. It’s not a campaign. So, organizations do campaigns, and movements do something else. They shift the public will. And so, the Occupy movement has to retain its ability to do its primary job, as I understand it, which is to keep shifting the public will and making that psychic break happen and supporting that psychic break. And at the very same time, it has to be like this, with all the people in communities—working people, unions, homeless people, tenants, immigrants—who have been struggling for so long to make particular things happen and to get back some of the stuff that was stolen from us. So, at the very same time, you have to have this kind of distance and autonomy and be operating like in this way, where nothing can get in between occupiers and all of the people who have been fighting for a long time.
On race and diversity, the main thing I want to say is that diversity, by itself, is not enough. It’s not actually enough for the Occupy movement to be racially diverse, which it is. I know many, many people of color who are very invested in their local occupations, who have shown up, who have slept on site, who are bringing food and supplies and water and leading marches and so on. So the people of color, from my perception, whether it started that way or not, we are there now, and we are part of the movement, and we claim the movement. And yet, it isn’t enough that there are simply bodies of color and faces of color in the park, in the plaza, in any plaza. The real question is, are those people who are there able to influence the agendas of local occupations? In particular, are they able to help people who are attracted to Occupy Wall Street get moved back out to all of the organizations and campaigns and efforts to really win things? Because I know you’re attracting a ton of people, and they’re going to do work. They, you know, can’t hang out at a park all day long; there must be other things that need to happen. Well, maybe you can all day long. But the next day, it seems like maybe there might be room to make something happen.
And it’s like, you know, when you go to a party. You get invited to a party, and maybe you like the person pretty well and respect the person who invited you to the party. You go to the party, and you don’t like the music, but you have no ability to change it, and it makes your head pound. So the DJ doesn’t take requests, and the iPod is like glued into the system, and you can’t get it out. If that’s the case, you don’t like the music, and you have no ability to change it, you’re not going to hang out at that party very long. You’re going to leave and either make your own party or go home, I guess. So, the question is not really, can you get the people of color to the party? It’s, can they change the music in a way that helps them stay at the party?
And I think that if Occupy Wall Street is going to cause this public shift, a really significant part of that shift has to be the ability to recognize the role that racial discrimination, racial exploitation, racial hierarchy played in getting us to this very depression, not just historically, but 10, 15, five years ago, last month, the ways in which redlining and mortgage theft and predatory lending and long-term employment discrimination and housing discrimination got us to the place where our economic systems do not work for anybody, including struggling white people. That didn’t—struggling white people weren’t—many have always been struggling, but there’s—you know, I was saying in the green room that the 99 percent used to be the 98 percent, and somewhere in that 1 percent are some white people, you know? And they would not have—they wouldn’t be moving into the 99 percent if in fact there had not been a whole set of mechanisms and structures that were actually designed to take stuff from people of color and to disenfranchise people of color, that then ultimately always, always, always bleed out to affect everybody else.
Richard Kim: Thank you.
Amy Goodman: That was Rinku Sen of Applied Research Center and publisher of ColorLines. Before that, Patrick Bruner, one of the organizers of Occupy Wall Street, and Michael Moore, Oscar-winning filmmaker, as well as author of Here Comes Trouble. Coming up, William Greider and Naomi Klein. Stay with us.
Amy Goodman: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with this special broadcast. “Occupy Everywhere: On the New Politics and Possibilities of the Movement Against Corporate Power.” Today we bring you highlights of a panel hosted by The Nation magazine here in New York City at New School. We continue with William Greider. He is a contributor to The Nation magazine, author of Who Will Tell the People: The Betrayal of American Democracy, and most recently, Come Home, America: The Rise and Fall (and Redeeming Promise) of Our Country. William Greider.
William Greider: The American pulse for democracy, the thirst for equality, for freedom, is a little like an underground river that has run underneath the surfaces of American history from the beginning. And it rarely is visible, at least to the established powers. It gets misled, deflected, stymied in different ways. But it continues these ideals, the original promise of what this country could be. And I told myself, “OK, I don’t know if anything changes now. It doesn’t seem to be happening. But I’m going to—I’m going to be in that stream with the others, the historic stream, and do what I can and at least keep the candle lit and aloft.” And that’s a good thing to do with your life. Then, sometime, often unpredictably, this underground river gathers force, and it breaks through to the surface, and everything is changed. And you can read American history and find those moments, which changed everything and opened a vista of a different country. I think that’s what we’re experiencing right now. I literally mean that. And I think it’s—we know it’s a high-risk enterprise to try to build an authentic social movement. Many arise and fail, or get crushed. And the ideas are literally pushed back out of the public square. But they go back—they continue somehow and maybe come back a generation or two generations later. So we have to—I think we have to take that sort of long view of what we’re doing.
I feel—because I know a lot of that history, I see an ironic resemblance between what’s happening right now and the Populist movement of the late 19th century—1870s, 1880s, 1890s. And I’ll tell you some of why I feel that. These were farmers, in the South and Midwest mostly, who were being crushed. I mean, literally stripped of their property and turned into peasants by pretty much the same interests we’re up against today: the rise of industrial capitalism, the money trust, the bankers, and just the hard prejudices of American society. And yet they rose among themselves. They knew—they knew this about their situation: nobody was on their side, certainly not the moneyed classes and the economic system, and not the government either. So if they were going to change anything, it had to come out of themselves. And they started having meetings, first in Texas, and the idea spread. And it’s a long, wonderful story. I urge you to check out Lawrence Goodwyn’s history, called The Populist Moment. I promise you will be inspired about the capacity of American potential, and you will also understand how hard it is to do what we’re trying to do. And Larry Goodwyn is a student, a stern student, of social movements. Nothing sentimental about the man. And he understands how hard it is to make this happen. And he’s described in great detail—I won’t go through here—the stages of development that keep a movement centered on what it really wants to be and in fighting off the opposing forces. Think about what we’re hearing from these folks in the Occupy zones. It’s very similar. We have to do this for ourselves. In fact, we intend to do it for ourselves. Very old American virtue, self-reliance. And it should be the core of what we are building here now. I think the Populist failed in concrete terms, but they set out to solve the problems for themselves, and they built a series of ingenious co-operatives, agricultural co-operatives mostly, but also credit and so forth, which were ultimately destroyed by the moneyed classes, bankers. But out of that, they developed bigger ideas—I mean, really bigger ideas—about how to change this country, and then lost politically. But I would ask—we should ask ourselves—what are we building? What is it we can build that’s parallel to that co-operative movement? And I think the—I think we’re already seeing the answer to that in McPherson Square in Washington and on Wall Street and dozens of other places. The paper I worked for many years ago has got a competitor now in Washington called The Occupied Washington Post, and it pleases me greatly to see that. But now—and they had a — The Occupied Washington Post has a poster-type headline: “We Stand with the Majority, For Human Needs, Not Corporate Greed.” That’s a pretty good start on a program, I think. And—but I think the—I think what we’re seeing now, in our construction, is beginning, believe it or not, to convince even the Washington Post. They have—if you check it out, in the style section today, they have a marvelous map of the McPherson Square encampment, done by hand with a kind of artist’s style and little labels of this and that and so forth. It’s quite beautiful. And accompanying it is one of their critics, an architecture critic, with can only be called a sincere appreciation of what he sees in McPherson Square. And it’s the model of how this society could be organized. That’s—it’s—people are going to all say this: “What a powerful teacher! Takes my breath away.” Now, in my last book, Come Home, America, oddly titled, I sort of playfully fantasized that what America needs is what we could call clubs for America, lots of them, millions of them, really, people just coming together and having conversations. And one of my young friends, who’s a labor organizer, said, “Well, who’s going to organize this?” And I kind of shrugged and said, “The people will.” And he looked at me and rolled his eyes, like, you know, that’s nice. And we moved on to other subjects. But guess what. That’s who’s organizing this thing: the people.
Richard Kim: Yeah.
William Greider: And isn’t there—I mean—
Richard Kim: So, Bill?
William Greider: There’s something miraculous about that. And Larry Goodwyn, who’s taught me so much, says this is hard to do. Movements fail. Most do not reach their goals. But they begin in what he likes to call democratic conversation. And I don’t even ask him what he means by that, because he has said to me—not always, but on a couple of occasions — “We have just had a democratic conversation.” And I think, “Goddamn” —
Richard Kim: So, Bill, I want to ask—I want to ask Naomi about building that different future. And, you know, in your Nation story, you argue that how we respond to climate change is fundamentally an economic issue, it’s not just an environmental one. And you write that, quote, “the real solutions to the climate crisis are also our best hope [of] building a much more enlightened economic system—one that closes deep inequalities, strengthens and transforms the public sphere, generates plentiful, dignified work and radically reins in corporate power.” And you end with quite a, you know, beautiful section about how the occupiers themselves are already modeling that kind of work. What do you see here as some of the potentials? Because it’s one thing—we were discussing this the other day. It’s one thing to sort of stop something or to overthrow a dictator. It’s quite another to build an alternative to neoliberal capitalism, also one that’s going to be a solution to climate change. So what do you see here as the tools to build, right, this new economy and new society?
Naomi Klein: OK. I will answer that question, Richard, but first I just want to say how wonderful it is to be here and just what a fantastic panel this has been so far. There’s such just incredible richness of experience here. And, you know, for me, there is a real mix of emotions in it. I mean, it’s so incredible to hear this—to hear Michael Moore say he’s never seen anything like this in his lifetime, or to have Bill Greider draw these parallels with transformative movements of the past. But at the same time—I don’t know if you feel this, too—it’s also frightening, because it—I mean, it is—it underlines the awesome responsibility of this political moment, that this is the “no kidding around” moment. So much is riding on it, and we have to succeed. And that is thrilling, as well as terrifying. But I think these are wonderful emotions.
I think we are winning. We are starting to win. And I feel that particularly keenly today. And this relates to Richard’s question about climate change, because I’ve been processing this thing that’s happened, and I don’t quite recognize it. It’s a strange feeling for me. But we actually won something today. And I’m really not used to that. Just a few hours ago, the White House announced that it is going to have a new environmental review for the Keystone XL pipeline. That review is going to take at least a year. And the company that wants to build the Keystone XL pipeline, TransCanada, has said that it can’t handle another delay, that their investors will lose faith. You know, investors don’t like economic uncertainty. And they’ve already dealt with a lot. The review is going to be looking at rerouting the pipeline around the Ogallala Aquifer. And TransCanada has also said that they can’t reroute it around the aquifer and still have this project be economically feasible. So, OK, it’s the victory that we wanted. We wanted Obama to kill the pipeline, because of what the pipeline is carrying, which is tar sands dirty oil, which is catastrophic, no matter how you pipe it, for the planet, for the climate. But we knew we weren’t going to get that. We knew we weren’t going to get that in an election year, because the right would have gone to town on Obama as a job killer. But we believe that this delay will kill the pipeline. And if it doesn’t, if this pipeline re-emerges after the election, people have signed pledges saying they will put their bodies on the line to stop it and that civil disobedience that I and 1,200 others engaged in outside the White House with the arrests in this fall, that this will become actions in front of bulldozers. I mean, people are ready to take that type of action. And so, we put them on notice.
But when we started this campaign, we—and this was just three months ago that the first protests happened outside the White House—we thought we had a very slim chance of winning, like a kind of a 1 percent chance of winning. And when Occupy Wall Street happened, I had a conversation with Bill McKibben, who has just been the powerhouse behind this campaign, just a hero. And I said to Bill, “I think this is helping us. What do you think?” And he said, “I think it’s helping us, too.” And the reason we believe this is because—precisely for what Patrick was talking about. The ground has shifted. The climate has shifted. And what it would mean for Obama to cave in to this corporation, especially after we exposed all the cronyism going on between TransCanada and the State Department and TransCanada and the White House, this kind of corruption is precisely what’s on trial in parks and plazas around the world right now. And now that it’s been exposed, this has become the ultimate example. You know, as Bill said, we’re occupying—we’re occupying Wall Street, because Wall Street is occupying the State Department. So there is a—there’s been a clear connection between and a conversation between these campaigns. I don’t think we would have won without Occupy Wall Street. I really—I can’t imagine how we could have. And this is what it means to change the conversation. And that’s why this whole idea—you know, what are their demands, and, you know, what are they trying to accomplish—there are already victories happening. And this is just one example of it.
So, coming back to your question, Richard, yeah, I think there has been an ecological consciousness woven into these occupations from the start. I mean, you see that in the greywater system, the permaculture training, the composting, the fact that the food is coming from organic farmers. The food movement has been very involved from the beginning. Now—I just learned this today—the—originally, it was traditional generators that was powering Occupy Wall Street. And then, some people had the idea that they don’t actually want fossil fuels to power—to power the laptops and the other energy needs of Liberty Square, so there was a move to bring in bicycle generators. This was starting, and then it got kind of expedited, because the police came in and seized the generators. So when I arrived at the park just on Monday, I went over to the sustainability table and checked in, and they had one functioning bicycle generator. And I just left today. They have 14 functioning bicycle generators.
What’s even more exciting is the way in which—I mean, one of the things—you know, I always compare this moment to Seattle, and this was the last time we were putting corporate capitalism on trial. And as we know, September 11th kind of wiped that movement off the map in this country, and the anti-corporate movement went dormant after 9/11. And we started fighting wars and torture and the whole Bush agenda. But the movement didn’t disappear. A lot of people put their heads down and started building the economic alternatives to that model that we were protesting in Seattle, in Washington, in Genoa and around the world. And so that—so we’ve seen the explosion of farmers’ markets. We’ve seen the explosion of community-supported agriculture. We’ve also seen a lot of cities and towns seriously try to relocalize their economy, so that they were not dependent on a single corporation that could just pull out and do to Flint, Michigan, what Michael documented. And now there’s a track record. So when—and we’ve seen another example of this is the track record of community renewable energy, which is just phenomenal, in creating real jobs, in providing real energy. So, 10 years ago, when they said to us, “What is your alternative?” that was the way they tried to discredit us 10 years ago. It wasn’t “What are your demands?” It was “What are your alternatives?” You know, we didn’t have a great answer to that question. We didn’t really have articulated alternatives with a track record to point to, certainly not close to home. You know, maybe we could talk about Mondragón in Spain or something like that. Now we have 10 years of those experiences. You know, Cleveland’s green co-ops, things like this.
So, what I find exciting is the idea that the solutions to the ecological crisis can be the solutions to the economic crisis, and that we stop seeing these as two problems to be pitted against each other by savvy politicians, but that we see them as a single, single crisis, born of a single root, which is unrestrained corporate greed that can never have enough, and that is that mentality that trashes people and that trashes the planet, and that would shatter the bedrock of the continent to get out the last—the last drops of fuel and natural gas. It’s the same mentality that would shatter the bedrock of societies to maximize profits. And that’s what’s being protested. We need to have a coherent agenda here. We need to have a coherent narrative. And then, we need to—as the discussion moves forward, to what—what do we want to build in the rubble of this failed system? I think that’s the conversation, not “What are your demands?” but “What do we want to build in the rubble of this failed system?” Then, obviously, the solutions have to have the ecological crisis front and center, once we realize that this is—this is the same crisis. And these are where the jobs are. I mean, where else are you going to get millions of jobs but in building massive public transit systems and a smart energy grid and green co-operatives? I mean, where else is this going to happen? So, I’m hoping that this will emerge. And I think it is starting to emerge, and I’m seeing this—you know, there are calls to occupy the food system, to occupy the rooftops for solar energy. So, you know, it’s dispersed right now, but it’s starting to weave together. And I think that will—I think that will take this movement to the next phase beyond outrage, because we’re in the outrage phase, but we need to get into a hope phase of being able to imagine another economic model.
Amy Goodman: Naomi Klein, best-selling author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. When we come back, more Klein and more Moore. That’s Michael Moore. If you’d like a copy of today’s show, you can go to our website at democracynow.org. Back in a minute.
Amy Goodman: Welcome back to Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we bring you this special broadcast, highlights of a Nation magazine event held here in New York at New School University, called “Occupy Everywhere: On the New Politics and Possibilities of the Movement Against Corporate Power.” We hear first from Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine, then Oscar award-winning filmmaker and author, Michael Moore. The event’s moderator was Nation magazine’s Richard Kim.
Richard Kim: Isn’t there some point, right, where this movement makes a demand and engages the state? And so, Naomi, I want to start with you specifically about climate change, but then maybe we could loop it back to Michael and just kind of go down the line on that question of what this movement’s relationship is to the federal government or to the state.
Naomi Klein: Yeah, I mean, I don’t know what this movement’s relationship is, but I certainly—I certainly believe that we do need strong state action and strong state intervention. But at the same time, I think that that—the kinds of action that we want from the state can systematically devolve power to the community level and decentralize it. I mean, that’s what’s exciting about these—all of these examples, whether it’s economic localization, community-based renewable energy, co-operatives, what they share in common is that they decentralize and devolve power, and, I mean, by their very nature. I mean, renewable energy, if you compare it with fossil fuels, you know, it’s everywhere. That’s the point. That’s why it is less profitable, because anybody can put a solar panel on their roof and have energy. And that’s why there’s such momentum against it from corporate America, because they want huge, centralized solutions, because they’re way more profitable, which isn’t to say that you can’t make a profit. You just can’t make a stupid profit. You just can’t—and so, I think, you know, if we look at what there’s so much outrage over, it is that concentration of power, that vertical power. And so, yeah, I do think the solutions have to disperse power, but that we won’t get there without very strong intervention, national, international, local.
And, you know, what I argue in the piece, as you know, is that I think that the right—the reason why the right is denying climate change now in record numbers—there are parts of this country where 20 percent of Republicans don’t believe—20 percent of Republicans believe climate change is a hoax—sorry, 80 percent. Twenty percent believe it’s real. So you have this complete—this complete split, where 70 to 75 percent of Democrats and independents believe climate change is real, and almost no Republicans believe that it’s real. And so, why is there this ideological split? If you listen to the climate change deniers, they believe this because they have looked at what science demands, they’ve looked at the level of emissions cuts that science demands, 80 percent or more by 2050, and they have said, “You can’t do that within our current economic model. This is a socialist plot.” We would have—their entire ideology, which is laissez-faire government, attacks on the public sphere, privatization, cuts to social spending, all of that, none of it can survive actually reckoning with the climate science, because once your reckon with the climate science, you obviously have to do something. You have to intervene strongly in the economy. You have to invest massively in the public sphere, along the lines that I was just talking about, these huge investments in infrastructure. But at the same time, just because you’re investing in infrastructure doesn’t mean that you can’t say that the transit system should be accountable to the people who ride it, right?
Richard Kim: Right.
Naomi Klein: Because I think that, you know, this has been one of the great failures of the left, is not understanding that state power can be just as alienating and just as corrupt as corporate power. And we have to have learned those lessons of the past.
Richard Kim: I mean, a similar question to you, Michael. You’ve made about the most compelling case for single-payer healthcare that I could imagine. You know, why isn’t that a demand that Occupy Wall Street should make? I mean, what is that—you know, what do you see that role of this movement in fighting for these things that will require, you know, federal government, massive federal government intervention?
Michael Moore: I think that’ll happen. I think we’re watching the—we’re in the infancy of this movement, and it will grow, and that will happen. I have no doubts about that. I think the majority of the people in America would like that. And healthcare, in the same way that Naomi was talking about the environmental issues, in terms of how that impacts the economy, I think that that—I think that that’s—I think that’s—I just think this is all going to happen. But I—and you can play this tape back in about two years, because this is going to move very fast. This is one of these things where, you know, part of the discussion we’re having tonight is trying to figure it out. And I think Malcolm Gladwell’s point was well taken in his book, The Tipping Point, that you can’t create a tipping point. It just happens. And people have tried to figure out how to do that, and they put their marketing head together, and it doesn’t work.
So I think that this—you know, if I remember the Adbusters call, one of the things that they said was that the movement had to have one demand, just come together with—just get together in the park and then come up with one demand. And that was such a crazy idea. It was like—it would have killed the whole thing. It would have absolutely killed it, because they’re so frightened about this movement now—I mean, the Republican debate last night, it was brought up two or three times. The Republican presidential candidate—one of the candidates had to say, “I’m part of the 99 percent. I’m for the” — I mean, they’re even using the language now. They’re so frightened by this, Bank of America had to get rid of their [bleep] $5 debit card fee. They’re like—they’re running so fast, they don’t know—they—you know, because they created this, you know, they created all the pain and suffering, because it’s their boot that’s on the necks of the American people and the Canadian people and most of the people of this world, it’s that they know that—they feel now that people want that boot off of their necks.
And when you say there’s—right, there’s 400 that have more than 150 million, but they only have 400 votes. And that just has got to—every night when they go to bed, go, “Holy [bleep]! This is like—there’s 150 million of them, and there’s only [ 400 ] of us!” “But we can buy candidates. Yes, we can buy candidates.” “I know. But we can’t go in the booth and put our hands on everybody’s lever.” “I know. I know. I know. OK, well, we’ll just—we’ll feed them a lot of nonsense on TV, and that’ll get them afraid. And we’ll make their schools like so crappy that they’ll be ignorant, and they won’t know when we’re trying to manipulate them with fear. And that’s—you know, this is how we’ll do it.” And—I just love—I just wish I could be in their bedrooms tonight. They’re just—many of them are in Connecticut. And they’re not far away. If anybody’s watching—I would just love to just be in one of their bedrooms tonight, just—they just have got to—they’re just so—got to be so frightened by this—
Richard Kim: Occupy Greenwich, right?
Michael Moore: —because it’s—yeah. Well, it’s our—as long—you know, Bill is so right. You know, Bill has been such a warrior for trying to keep the bare threads of our democracy that are still there intact, and there aren’t many left. We are really just hanging on by a few of these threads. And if—one of those threads is one person, one vote, and so they can’t really do anything about that. And we can—you know, you can say, “Oh, they could buy the votes.” But listen, every—to take our lessons—you mentioned all the previous movements and the historical implications of this. I mean, the women’s suffrage movement, that started in this state in the 1840s, I mean, imagine the mountain that they had to climb. You know, people didn’t sit around going, “Oh, how are we going to get this amendment passed, because we can’t vote?” I mean, seriously, no woman was ever going to be able to vote for their right to vote. I mean, that’s just—that must have seemed like the most impossible task. So, we—what’s great about this movement is—what’s great about this movement is, is that we have to get out of our victim role.
You know, this is why the word, the concept of occupy, because “occupy,” until seven weeks ago, was really a dirty word, because we knew what it meant. Those lands that are occupied by us in the Middle East, the West Bank and Gaza by another country, you know, I mean, it’s like that’s occupation. “Occupation” is a dirty word. And you have taken this, and you have just—all of us, everybody who’s part of this, we’ve turned it on its—on completely on its ear. And now we’ve owned the word, and it’s not like—it’s not like, “Oh, what are we going to do?” You know, it’s like, no, we’ve occupied you now. We’ve occupied the Washington Post. We’ve occupied the Wall Street Journal. We’re—and that’s how—that’s how this is going to go.
But I just please want to second what Naomi said, that this is the “no kidding around” moment. My friends, please, the ship has sailed in. The ship will leave. As Bill said, many of these things that have happened in our 200-plus-year history have failed or been crushed. And this is our moment. This is the moment for it to happen. It will only happen if every single person in this room, tonight, when you leave, and you go home, you have to say to yourself, “What am I doing? What can I do to be part of the occupation? What am I going to do to occupy Wall Street?” Everybody watching this at home, on The Nation's website, anybody watching this right now, every one of you—doesn't matter, you’re living in Boise, you’re living in the most faraway reaches of Upper Minnesota, no matter where you are—I’ve seen Occupies that are two-people big. And this is where it’s got to start. And it always starts that way, right? I mean, Marx, he just had Engels. They were just—that’s all he had. I mean, it was like they were just—they were just two old farts, sitting around keeping their hands warm over the fireplace in London, talking to each other. And they—you know, they came up with this idea. And J.C. J.C. had 12 fisher guys. Look what happened with that. Whoa! So, if you’re at home and you’re watching this and you’re in some out-of-the-way place, you already own it. This is already your country. You—you have been occupied by Wall Street. Your homes have been occupied by Wall Street. Your government has been occupied by Wall Street. Your media has been occupied by Wall Street. And it’s OK for you to say, “Not anymore. Those days are over. End of story.”
Amy Goodman: Michael Moore, the Oscar award-winning filmmaker, his latest book is Here Comes Trouble, and Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. The evening’s moderator, Richard Kim of The Nation magazine.