The Hedges / Graeber debate is a tremendous distraction from the current reality of the occupy movement. Hedges argued that black block is a ‘cancer’ in the occupy movement, while Graeber rebutted both in an open letter and on twitter. Graeber insisted that the ‘peace-police’ [peaceful protesters] often react to black block violently by hitting them or getting them arrested, which is more problematic in his opinion. However, I suggest that these two academics adhere to the ‘W.A.I.T: Why Am I Talking?’ policy of many General Assemblies. It would be helpful to the movement if these two men stepped back from the megaphone and their media pulpit so that the rest of Occupy can get some attention for the incredible stop foreclosure and anti-banking actions that took place this week.
Much like the Chomsky-Foucault debate, these academics know patently what they are doing. This back and forth is for their edification in the developing historical narrative on OWS. Both use strong language to polarize the discussion so that one day historians will write of Hedgesians Vs. Graeberians in the dispute on diversity of tactics. If this movement is to remain leaderless, these two are playing a dangerous game of representational politics that speaks for the movement, rather than with it. Debating, defending, or disavowing the tactics of black bloc does nothing to combat the actual symbolic violence currently being perpetrated on the movement by moral entrepreneurs. It merely adds value to the spectacle. All that is left is to schedule the LiveStream confrontation and promote it on twitter. Who will host Oakland or NYC? No matter what is said, we all lose.
As for a diversity of tactics, it is abundantly clear that the strategy of the movement is to generate tiny insurrections city by city, street by street, block by block, and house by house on a distributed and daily basis. What happens during actions is shaped by the local, temporal, and spatial dimensions of bodies moving in concert and follows its own cultural logic specific to the group and the environment. In short, action depends on timing and external conditions, more so than planning and divisive public disputes.
Discussing diversity of tactics using the concepts given by Hedges (Cancer) and Graeber (Violent Peace Police) takes us further away from the importance of realizing a diversity of effectiveness. Worst still, it pushes us into the boxing ring before we have an opportunity to talk about what we agree on. Overwhelmingly, community agreements should not center on the definition/usefulness of violence because that leads to dissension and heel-digging. Rather, every participant in an action should have a plan not to control others or the police, but for their own safety guided by a set of principles. Most importantly, protesters must decide for themselves through discussion with others: “What am I going to do if something happens at an action that I do not agree with? How will I respond? Who can I rely on if I need help?” In doing so, we avoid the symbolic violence inherent in policing others’ thoughts and actions, while remaining mindful that there are many ways to throw our bodies upon the gears.