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Just a Punk Hippy Freak

Greg posted a picture from the Occupy demonstrations this morning that made him angry, and he’s been roundly criticized in the comments for getting angry over it.

Not Me

It’s a coincidence that I reposted “Taking It Downhill” this morning, but if you read that post, you may have a sense of why this sign pissed me off too. In case it doesn’t, I’ll spell it out.

I am a hippy, if by hippy you mean someone who thinks living outside of consumer culture is a good thing, that the number of pages of “news” devoted to business relative to those devoted to human welfare is appalling, that the costs of war are too high to justify almost any of them. It is the hippies who have kept the spirit of protest alive over these last few decades as everyone else has been calling participatory democracy “un-American.” Without the hippies, no one would have much idea how to put these protests together.

I am a freak. I have stood outside the averages much of my life. I have supported the art and the politics of the counterculture and of minority culture. Many other freaks, far more than me, have acted as the canary in the coal mine for the last 30 years. They have told you what was coming, because it has been happening to them. They have given you the words to describe these events. Without the freaks, people would still be struggling to understand what was happening to them now.

I am an anarchist, if by anarchist you mean those people who have had to develop rules for living with each other in arrangements that are not sanctioned by the government. Anarchists have kept alive the traditions of self-organization that decades of fear-driven conformity have tried to destroy. Without the anarchists, these protests would be taken over by the first strong-voiced person who came along.

I am part of a mob, although it is a contained mob–for the moment. If you don’t understand that part of a protest is the threat of numbers, perhaps you should be listening to the old-timers more. Without a mob, these protests would have no power.

I am a punk. I do not recognize authority that is not earned. I do not recognize authority that oversteps its mandate, either in time or in action. I do not recognize corrupt authority that has been bought and paid for. Without the punks, these protests would wither up the first time a group of police officers wandered by and told everyone to go home.

I am vague. Or rather, I am concerned about a great many things, although they generally fall under the umbrella of oligarchy. There is a lot of work to be done, as this has been coming for decades. We must address the problem of being able to purchase power at the same time that we undo much of the harm that has been done. And yes, I’m better at identifying the problems than the solutions; identifying the solutions is not my job (via Mike). Without this sort of “vagueness,” these protests would be caught up in fighting over whose particular issue was going to be resolved first, which is how we’ve been distracted this long.

I am a left-wing nut job. Crazy is defined by the culture that measures it. Our pundit class thinks idealism is crazy. They think attempts to change the system are crazy. They think attention to anything but the minutiae of politics–political gossip–is crazy. Given that they’re part of the problem, I want them to be calling me crazy. It says I’m doing something right. So are these protests.

I am not a mother, but I want a better world for everyone’s kids: the hippies’, the freaks’, the anarchists’, the mobs’, the punks’, the vague and inarticulates’, and all those left-wing nut jobs. This isn’t about me. It’s about us.

Comments

  1. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    You are all those things the woman holding the sign says she’s not. You make an excellent case for the labels applying to you

    I agree with the Occupy Wall Street folks. I’ve written extensively and for years in several outlets about how many of the wealthy and wealthy-wannabees have been ensuring that the rich get richer at the expense of everyone else. Some of the woman’s labels apply to me. Others do not.

    The woman (damn, I wish I could think of a better name for her) honestly, sincerely believes she is not described by any of those labels. Considering how Faux News, CNN and the assholes at MSNBC portray the Occupy Wall Street people, it’s reasonable for her to disclaim those labels. She’s telling other Americans “Faux, CNN and MSNBC are lying to you, we’re not like that, in fact, we’re more like you.”

    The labels are pejorative. For most people “hippy” means a dirty, drug-using, non-conformist with unattainable utopian aspirations. You (and I) see the good side of hippies, belief in peace, love and happiness for instance. But for many Americans hippies are not people they wish to emulate. The woman’s sign is for those people, not people like you.

    I understand your complaints about the sign. I also understand why the woman made it and holds it towards the camera.

  2. Undefined says

    I agree ‘Tis Himself, Om. If someone sees it in their own hard pedantic way that is how they may find her sign enraging.

    The terms she uses in the sign mean a lot of different things to different people but they have all come up in the MSM’s portrayal of the Occupy Wall Street protests.

    Shall we give the article poster our own definitions?

    Hippy: Idealistic but not always well grounded, drug smoking, dirty, kid.

    Mob: Angry group of people which can be dangerously single-minded.

    Left-wing Nutjob: Think eco-terrorists, raw food vegans, and any other type of left-defined person who takes their particular ideology well beyond rational thought and action.

    There’s a sample of what comes to my mind when those words are brought up. Lets not start a pedantic holy war against this woman. The fact that Americans are finally really protesting in large groups is a good thing.

  3. says

    So, Undefined, she’s agreeing with her oppressors about the people who have been fighting her fight all along…and I’m starting a holy war? Interesting.

  4. martha says

    You’re very eloquent and I do see why the sign upsets you. But are you asserting that the woman should have had these definitions when she made the sign? Are you defending Greg’s original post as a reasonable and proportional response? Does it make sense to you at all that the language he used upset people?

  5. julian says

    It’s annoying, yeah, but given her situation I’m not to pissed at this protester for echoing the stereotypes FOX News and the like spread. She’s an ignorant (from what I can see) mom who thinks she’s making a clever point or putting a less ‘partisan’ face on this struggle. Maybe once the hippy labels start getting hurled she’ll learn.

  6. Undefined says

    Stephanie, you’re taking this far too personally.

    This woman is clearly with the 99s. You know it and you know we all know it.

    The current popular thread against the 99s in the mainstream media is that they’re a bunch of hippies/left-wing nutjubs/whatever and they’re being portrayed in the negative context of those names.

    Her sign, quite clearly, says that she is trying to show that the average person is out there and not just the cherry picked “weirdos” that the MSM has chosen to air footage of.

    So you’ve been in the trenches of progressive/left-wing/whatever activism for decades.

    So she appears to have just started.

    I’m surprised you found her sign so repellent but to rail against her so is very unproductive when she’s on your side.

    There are MUCH better targets of progressive vitriol. How about we send some well deserved vitriol towards Fox “News” or the current GOP lineup? Those short-sited, closed-minded, uninformed, irrational, greedy, heartless,…

    pedant: A person who is excessively concerned with MINOR details and rules or with displaying academic learning. (Google definition)

  7. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    So, Undefined, she’s agreeing with her oppressors about the people who have been fighting her fight all along…and I’m starting a holy war? Interesting.

    Where do you get the idea she’s “agreeing with her oppressors”? The propaganda mill is labeling her and people like her as lazy, drug-dependent, free-loading, radical leftist, ignorant wastrels who have never worked a day in their lives. She’s rejecting that description. The propaganda mill are the folks using labels like hippy, freak, anarchist, punk, left-wing nutjob, etc. Just because YOU have no problem with those labels doesn’t mean everyone else doesn’t care about them.

    Some months ago I posted a lengthy essay at the MSNBC website about how the folks in the financial industry are ripping everyone else off. In the comments I was called a hippy. Tomorrow I’ll be wearing my three-piece, pin-striped suit to work. Hippy I ain’t. What’s more, hippy she ain’t.

  8. julian says

    Her sign, quite clearly, says that she is trying to show that the average person is out there and not just the cherry picked “weirdos” that the MSM has chosen to air footage of.

    By agreeing with everything they have to say about hippies, left wingnuts, ect and their activism. Really all that shocking someone would be annoyed?

    It’s like showing up at a pro-choice rally with a sign saying ‘Not a feminist/ not a man hater. just a mom looking out for her daughter.’ It’s an insult even if she doesn’t mean it as one.

  9. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    It’s an insult even if she doesn’t mean it as one.

    If you want to be insulted then you’ll be insulted. If you don’t think what she wrote is insulting then you won’t be insulted.

  10. Stacy Kennedy says

    By agreeing with everything they have to say about hippies, left wingnuts, ect and their activism. Really all that shocking someone would be annoyed?

    How do you know that she agrees with how the right characterized hippies? Sounds to me like a pretty big assumption there being made without evidence. She’s just pointing out that she’s not one.

    It’s a perfectly valid point to make. Even if you like hippies, respect anarchists, etc., it’s worth pointing out that this protest in fact involves both “hippies” and people who are more mainstream–especially since Faux News and the like would rather not acknowledge the mainstream, “ordinary” ones.

    “Left-wing nutjob” is more problematic, I grant you. But I wouldn’t suppose she assumes all left-wingers are nutjobs. Doubtless a few are–there are nutjobs everywhere. But that’s one of the stereotypes about the people making up OWS–and she’s pointing out that she doesn’t fit any of the stereotypes.

  11. says

    Personally, Undefined? You’re the one who suggested I was starting a holy war when I was providing some education.

    ‘Tis Himself, Stacy, the media has been saying the same sorts of things about the people who have been protesting this stuff all along. None of those people were “lazy, drug-dependent, free-loading, radical leftist, ignorant wastrels who have never worked a day in their lives” either. But they were hippies and punks and everything else here. Everything but actual nut jobs.

  12. savage.spheniscus. says

    Given that this photo is from a Canadian protest rather than an American one, it is obvious that her phrasing in her sign is a specific response to this story, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQzq_WbH4E0, where Kevin O’Leary asserts all of these things to Chris Hodges in an interview about the Occupy Wall Street movement.

    This interview was met by widespread criticism from the Canadian public, with CBC receiving thousands of complaints and O’Leary had to apologize for his remarks as CBC deemed they “…violated the public broadcaster’s journalistic standards.”

    This story and the public outrage/backlash about O’Leary’s remarks has been all over our media. The other Canadian’s I’ve shown this picture to have known exactly what/who she is responding to because O’Leary’s unprofessional comments/tone are news here. Journalists on CBC doesn’t descend to those kind of attacks, or at least they don’t without some public outrage.

    While Greg suggested over on his blog that she should then have had edited her sign to include this so that international viewers would understand, I maintain that her sign, her presence and her protest is about her experience here in this country, which though it has many similarities to yours, is not exactly the same. It is unlikely that it was misunderstood by anyone who saw it that day in the streets of what is probably Toronto.

    It is not a sign saying “ew I’m not a hippy just a normal person” nor is it a sign saying “thank-god some regular people like me are finally showing up-it’s not just the hippies and the freaks anymore!” It is a refutation of the right-wing’s stereotyping of the Occupy movement protesters. The vast majority of the response I have seen to this photo is positive rather than negative, even from Americans who don’t perhaps know the specifics, but “get it” regardless.

  13. julian says

    If you want to be insulted then you’ll be insulted. -Tis Himself, OM

    Is that why you prefer not to be called a hippy? ;)

    How do you know that she agrees with how the right characterized hippies? – Stacy Kennedy

    Because (at least in my experience) most people do, she’s signalling that she isn’t one alongside several other ‘groups’ frowned up in a similar light and by the same people, and she’s holding her separateness from those groups as a reason to be taken more seriously.

  14. Undefined says

    What in “Lets not start a pedantic holy war against this woman.” was a suggestion?

    It’s the manner and tone of this post which have the feeling of the start of some “elevator-gate” style holy war of skeptics vs skeptics.

    You seem to be stretching ‘Tis Himself’s words as well.

    ‘Tis Himself: “The propaganda mill is labeling her and people like her as lazy, drug-dependent, …”

    Notice “The propaganda mill”. He agrees with you. I agree with you. The issue I (we?) am taking with you is in the severity of your vitriol to this woman. Sure, I can vaguely see why you may take issue but do so in a productive manner. Show those of us who may not have been in the trenches all our lives what you take fault with.

    There’s not need to be a jerk about it.

    “When you have to kill a man it costs nothing to be polite.”
    -Winston Churchill

  15. julian says

    After reading savage.spheniscus’s comment, I take back my last. For the most part anyway. Still don’t like the ‘Just a mom…’ portion. It sounds to much like arguing not being a hippy or punk makes what she has to say more legitimate.

  16. says

    Undefined, would you like to defend the status quo just a little more? Tell me to keep a polite tongue in my mouth when I’m talking about this lovely middle class mama? Seriously, I said a sign pissed me off. Really. Read the post again. Now I’m a jerk pedant who might just start a holy war.

    Do you maybe have a protest to go join?

  17. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    Is that why you prefer not to be called a hippy? ;)

    I prefer not to be called a hippy because I’m not a hippy. I’m a senior executive in a large company. That makes me almost the antithesis of a hippy.

  18. says

    julian, the fact that she’s reacting to a specific instance doesn’t actually invalidate any of your points. What pundits are doing? These are division tactics, specifically used to pull movements apart because these “respectable” people aren’t willing to be seen with the “weirdos” who are doing a lot of the work. Whatever this protester meant to do, she’s perpetuating that meme. She probably didn’t mean to, did it without thinking. Unchallenged, however, the effect is still there.

  19. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    savage.spheniscus. #14

    It is a refutation of the right-wing’s stereotyping of the Occupy movement protesters. The vast majority of the response I have seen to this photo is positive rather than negative, even from Americans who don’t perhaps know the specifics, but “get it” regardless.

    Thank you for the background.

    I think I get it, even though I didn’t know the specifics.

  20. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    Whatever this protester meant to do, she’s perpetuating that meme. She probably didn’t mean to, did it without thinking. Unchallenged, however, the effect is still there.

    As I said, if your intention is to be insulted then you’ll be insulted. You are Exhibit A in the “I want to be insulted by the sign” argument.

  21. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    Since all too early in the morning comes all too early in the morning, I’m dropping out of this discussion. I’ll be back tomorrow afternoon.

  22. says

    ‘Tis Himself, this isn’t about me. It isn’t about feeling insulted. If it were, you and Undefined have done a far better job than this woman.

    This is about keeping those memes from dividing the left, telling the people who are part of the backlash to grow up a bit, and making sure that more than just the top 50% of the bottom 99% are heard. This is about making changes more fundamental than some bandages for the middle class, because the problems have been mounting for far longer than the middle class has been feeling this.

  23. julian says

    But for many Americans hippies are not people they wish to emulate. The woman’s sign is for those people, not people like you.

    You should not, in the course of doing a good deed, demean another group or echo the talking points of the Right. Like I said, you’re conceding that they’re right about hippies and liberals by doing so.

    I’m not offended by the woman’s sign. I find it irritating the same way I find ‘I’m not religious but…’ people. After reading about the background, I get why she phrased it the way she did. I appreciate, and applaud, her willingness to take a stand and join others in protest. I still don’t appreciate, like or see any value in her implication that those groups are bad and her own voice is more relevant because she doesn’t belong to them.

  24. mark says

    Life’s too short and events are moving too fast to argue with fundies, so I’ll just copy my response that I posted on Greg’s site.

    Glad to find a blog that demonstrates atheists can be just as clueless and judgemental as right-wing, fundamentalists wing-nuts (my worldview has just been blown). Holy shit, Stephanie, get a fucking clue. Since you’re too dense to understand “nuance” OR “context” OR logic, maybe you’ll understand all caps: HER SIGN IS A RESPONSE TO THE FUCKING CORPORATE CONTROLLED MEDIA PORTRAYAL OF THE PROTESTORS AS JUST A FRINGE GROUP OF LOSERS, NOT THAT SHE BELIEVES THERE IS ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT. YOU’D HAVE TO LIVE IN A CAVE TO MISS THOSE CONTEXT CLUES.

    From a Punk,Hippy, Far-Left Freak who’s actually spent time camping out for the Movement. At least my RSS feed just got lighter.

  25. savage.spheniscus. says

    Larianlequella,

    Why should she have put a “Hey Fox” on there? For you? Though the movement started on Wall St. it has become international. Her sign isn’t directed to “Fox” but is in response to the words of a Canadian journalist -> words that have received a lot of backlash from the public here. She didn’t even need to write “Hey O’Leary” or “Hey CBC” because her sign was understood to be a response to that here because it was in the news. It’s unfortunate that some people even after being pointed to this continue to try and take the sarcasm on her sign offensive.

    From here -> http://thetyee.ca/News/2011/10/15/OccupyVancouver/

    “Inspired by the Wall Street protests, Pond’s reasons for attending the protests are personal and local.

    “In my home and in my community, income has been going down while the costs of everything else keeps going up. Meanwhile, social programs are being cut and the largest corporations are posting unprecedented profits,” said Pond. “Anyone who dismisses these protests as vague isn’t paying attention. There’s nothing vague about standing up for what you believe in.”” Yep, she sounds like a hater for sure! Perhaps if you’re so sure she is distancing herself from these labels and the literal interpretation is the correct one, some effort should be made to contact her and… ask.

    I don’t understand why people are working so hard to try and take this literally and not get it. Do you think Stephen Colbert means what he says too?

  26. julian says

    Perhaps if you’re so sure she is distancing herself from these labels

    Getting pedantic now but, meh.

    Since the point you’re arguing is that she’s specifically trying to refute the idea this is a bunch of hippies pushed by a Canadian journalist, you already agree she is distancing herself from those labels. Otherwise there wouldn’t be a not in there and she wouldn’t have had to say anything but ‘just a mom…?’

    ——

    From a Punk,Hippy, Far-Left Freak who’s actually spent time camping out for the Movement.

    This a dik waggling contest now? Left mine back in the shop.

  27. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    Since Pond isn’t part of this discussion, we can only surmise what her reaction to the attributes of “hippy”, etc. given in the OP are. What we do know is she rejects the labels used. For some people, the labels are important, apparently more important than the attributes. As a result, we’ve been given massive whining* about how mean and thoughtless Pond is, not embracing the labels that others think are so important.

    As I said previously in my post #2: “[Pond] honestly, sincerely believes she is not described by any of those labels. Considering how Faux News, CNN and the assholes at MSNBC portray the Occupy Wall Street people, it’s reasonable for her to disclaim those labels.”

    julian says in #27:

    I still don’t appreciate, like or see any value in her implication that those groups are bad and her own voice is more relevant because she doesn’t belong to them.

    A whole bunch of folks do actually, really, truly believe those groups are bad. If Pond had said she was a “hippy”, etc. then these folks would have further reasons to dismiss the Occupy groups. Sorry if real life doesn’t match your ideals.

    Amazingly enough, there are people who do not hold “hippies”, “freaks”, “anarchists”, “left wing nut jobs”, etc. in high regard. Not all of these people are conservatives.

    *Yes, Stephanie and julian, you’re whining.

  28. says

    Yes, ‘Tis Himself, many people are prejudiced against hippies, etc. The ruling class, as has already been pointed out here, makes significant use of those prejudices to keep the 99% fragmented.

    It’s fascinating, however, to see the reaction when those prejudices are challenged.

  29. says

    The sign is pretty funny because it implies that punks, hippies, freaks, anarchists, etc. are not also moms (or dads) who are there to make a better world for their kids. I’m sure that Pond did not mean to imply any such thing, but still, it made me laugh.

  30. spartan says

    And that certainty of yours comes from which bit of nuance or context or logic?

    With all due respect, doesn’t the comment about certainty apply to you also, or has Mark said something here requiring certainty but you have not? Do you believe the only interpretation is that she has disdain for hippies, freaks, etc? Is Mark’s interpretation really that unlikely? I don’t see anything on the sign that clearly shows disrespect for hippies for example, a group I consider myself part of, and what I think her message is works no matter what her actual feelings are about hippies.

    Don’t get me wrong, I certainly can see how you get to your interpretation. For example, she may be agreeing that those on the left wing are nutjobs, or she may just be using that same term mockingly because it’s used to disregard anything anyone on the left has to say. But as a general rule I try not to assume the worst when confronted with ambiguous messages.

  31. savage.spheniscus. says

    Spartan,

    There is a pretty specific reason why she chose the words on her sign that she did, specifically including nutjob. Go back and read post #14, and watch the video.

  32. spartan says

    Thanks savage. Change my line above to say “..I certainly can see how you get to your interpretation initially.”

  33. says

    spartan, I don’t know that anything I’ve said here does require certainty. I’m not saying she’s a bad person who shouldn’t be part of the protests or anything like that. I’m saying the sign feeds a harmful meme about the activist left. In response, I provided information that counters that meme.

    mark, on the other hand, wants nothing more to do with me ever because I’m just like a right-wing fundamentalist. With all caps thrown in so I know it’s personal.

  34. spartan says

    Fair enough, Stephanie. I guess I personally require more certainty before I get pissed off, but to each his own. My personal reaction to the sign was that it was more mocking harmful memes, but without knowing the context I agree an observer could have interpreted it as divisive also.

  35. Kevin says

    Stephanie,
    I will echo mark’s comment that I am frustrated and extremely disappointed in your (and Greg’s) unwillingness to look at evidence and reason. This is the kind of behaviour one expects from fundamentalists and creationists not rational freethinkers, as this site eponymously claims to harbour.

    The woman in question is Sarah Pond at a protest in Vancouver. The sign is a direct reference to a Canadian news personality, Kevin O’Leary, making condescending and derogatory comments to his guest, Chris Hedges. While Americans have become complacent with this type of pseudo-journalism, Canadians across the country have been outraged.

    Please read this article from a Vancouver news site. They quote Sarah directly.
    http://thetyee.ca/News/2011/10/15/OccupyVancouver/

    Please watch the actual interview with O’Leary and Hedges to understand the full context of the sign.
    http://rabble.ca/rabbletv/program-guide/2011/10/best-net/cbcs-kevin-oleary-gets-schooled-occupy-movement-chris-hedges

    There is absolutely no reason for you or anyone else (or hippies) to take offense at the sign. There is nothing derogatory about the groups listed on the sign, nor is that spirit implied. The sign is simply a reaction to the mischaracterization of the Occupy movement by the news media as a bunch of fringe groups easily dismissed.

    How does anyone not get this?

  36. says

    There is nothing derogatory about the groups listed on the sign, nor is that spirit implied. The sign is simply a reaction to the mischaracterization of the Occupy movement by the news media as a bunch of fringe groups easily dismissed.

    I’m going to assume you don’t see the contradiction there?

  37. Kevin says

    I’m going to assume you don’t see the contradiction there?

    I’m afraid I wasn’t absolutely clear. The sign is an attempt to reject the labels used by the right-wing media, labels pejoratively used by them to mean “fringe groups easily dismissed.” I don’t believe it is an attempt to distance herself from those groups. I believe it is an attempt to say “Don’t think of me as a this or that, think of me as someone just like you who wants a better world for the future.” This is what’s implied by the “just a mom…” bit at the bottom.

    It is the fact that the terms listed on the sign directly reference those used by right-wing journalists to attempt to discredit the movement that leads me to this conclusion. In this case, specifically O’Leary’s “nutbar/nutjob” gem.

  38. julian says

    Yes, Stephanie and julian, you’re whining

    Ha! So is she. She;s whining about a label that apparently doesn’t mean anything.

    btw, if the labels don’t matter, why make it such a point to reject them. I understand in this specific case but why in general? If it’s content and not the labels attached to them that matter, why spend so much distancing yourself from certain labels?

  39. says

    Kevin, you want me to take into account the context of the right-wing remarks. How about you take into account the decades during which the comfortable middle class sneered at all the “freaks” working for social justice, challenging government corruption, etc.? The right wing has hardly been alone at using these terms as slurs.

  40. Kevin says

    Yes, of course you have to take into account the sign’s context! It is a specific reaction to a specific comment made by a specific Canadian news host. To not take context into account is to willfully misinterpret its message. This is the frustration I and others are having in answering charges on this and other blogs of people taking offense. We can argue all day and all night about the degree to which the message “I’m just like you” is conveyed, but I maintain that the sign is successful in this regard.

    Thank you for pointing out that it’s not just those on the right that are in the wrong. I’m just as happy to point out when people on the left are in the wrong. After all, I’m doing so here, aren’t I. ;)

    What I find most disheartening is the refusal of some bloggers here at FTB to acknowledge their error in interpreting the context of the sign when they clearly had it wrong and it was pointed out to them multiple times.

    Come on, we’re supposed to be the rational ones!

  41. Kevin says

    Stephanie, will you kindly elaborate on how your middle sentence should alter my understanding of the sign’s message?

  42. spartan says

    do you really not have any idea how that context is important?

    Does that context override the more immediate context or just needs to be accounted for in some way? And I’m curious, would I be correct in saying that the intent of the sign is irrelevant to the objection you have? If this woman was interviewed and clarified that she was mocking these memes, doesn’t disdain ‘hippies’, and is essentially making a comment about the fallacy of argumentum ad labelum, does it make any difference to your objections, or must we also be concerned about those who misinterpret it? ‘Hippie’ has been used by some as a slur, thus if one is going to say ‘I am not a hippie’ in almost any context we must add the Seinfeldian, ‘not that there’s anything wrong with that’ or else they are guilty of reinforcing these harmful memes?

  43. says

    spartan, this is nothing like “almost any context.” This is a protest she is able to join with no cost but a little time because the people being denigrated by the meme she is reinforcing have made that possible. I recommend reading Greg’s comment here if the bulk of my post didn’t make that clear enough for you.

  44. spartan says

    I’m sorry, as much as I respect Greg’s writing his comment is terrible. “‘Get a clue, lady’ is not remotely sexist, by the way” is utterly ridiculous, and sounds like so much ‘mansplainin’; from what I’ve read of your writings I would bet you would object to that statement as sexist if it was said to you by a commenter, but I might be wrong on that.

    When Greg uses ‘lady’, all that matters is what he intended, not how it’s interpreted. Which I think is 100% logical except that it’s a rule that is inconsistently applied (and is one of my objections to the opposition to what some see as ‘gendered insults’). Apparently though, when Greg declares ‘what the sign means’, despite the Canadian-specific context that has been given, it’s the end of story and what the intent of the sign actually was is irrelevant. It’s what he inferred from the message that now matters, (‘the sign is deeply offensive, no matter what she meant by it’), except when he says something that can be inferred in a negative way, when we conveniently switch to what he intended as the deciding factor.

    I don’t know that I’m ever going to get the logic behind, ‘what I inferred is what mattered regardless of your intent’, as it’s a rule that obviously does not apply in most communication and just seems to introduce unneeded chaos.

  45. spartan says

    So, no thoughts on the context of the sign now, just something else to argue with to say Greg is in the wrong?

    Well, there’s only so much that can be packed into a comment, and I don’t consider my comments to be ‘something else to argue with’. As far as the context you and Greg are referring to, you’ve got a lot more work to do to demonstrate that the hippies and freaks made this protest ‘possible’. Without the sacrifices made by previous protests, they would have turned the hoses on her? You can’t possibly know that, and I don’t really trust his opinions on how alternate realities would have unfolded.

    My issue is that you and Greg do not care what she intended, which I think is illogical. It should have been obvious that although she may have been slamming ‘hippies’, she may have instead been slamming the labeling of people just to fallaciously ignore their message, a la the more immediate context of O’Leary. Greg doesn’t care about that; when confronted with ambiguity, which he should have been able to identify despite to his credit his due diligence in checking with other people to see if their interpretations matched his, he feels justified in just ignoring those possible interpretations and blaming her for what he inferred. How he interprets it is what matters, well, except until he has to apply it to other people interpreting what he says and then magically the rule is statements mean what was intended, which is a rule I happen to agree with in almost all situations. I just see no reason not to apply it to this one.

  46. says

    As far as the context you and Greg are referring to, you’ve got a lot more work to do to demonstrate that the hippies and freaks made this protest ‘possible’. Without the sacrifices made by previous protests, they would have turned the hoses on her? You can’t possibly know that, and I don’t really trust his opinions on how alternate realities would have unfolded.

    Your argument from ignorance is noted. Feel free to make a counter-argument that authority has just somehow gotten nicer over time without any sacrifices from the activists Greg and I are talking about.

    Also, do please try to separate our criticism of the sign from your impression that we’re being horribly mean to the person who made it. Whatever her intent, that sign does not actually counter the “ignore the hippy freak” message of O’Leary or anyone else, including the complacent middle class of the last several decades. It has, in fact, the opposite effect, which matters. Effect matters.

  47. Spartan says

    Also, do please try to separate our criticism of the sign from your impression that we’re being horribly mean to the person who made it.

    Really, ‘horribly mean’? Please quote from me a statement where you think I accuse you of that; the closest I come is ‘blaming her for what he inferred’ in a discussion of inference vs intention.

    Whatever her intent, that sign does not actually counter the “ignore the hippy freak” message of O’Leary or anyone else, including the complacent middle class of the last several decades. It has, in fact, the opposite effect, which matters. Effect matters.

    And no matter how you personally interpret it, intent matters. For those who interpret her sign as mocking these memes, it has the opposite effect from what you think, in that it points out the argument ad labelum that is being employed which may have the opposite effect of what you think it has. You just posted fairly recently a defense of you calling Dawkins, ‘Dick’, in your letter where you seemed to make pretty much the same point, that what you intended is paramount, which is fine. What are the consistent principles and rules by which you think it is then okay to disregard what may have been intended? Why isn’t, ‘whatever your intent, you pretty much called Dawkins an asshole’, likewise a rebuttal to your intention? I’m assuming it’s not just that you provided clarification, since we’re talking here about ‘whatever her intent’.

  48. says

    Spartan, “horribly mean” is hyperbole, pointing out that you are focusing on the person who made the sign to the exclusion of talking about the effect of the sign. Intent matters if I’m saying anything about the woman who made it. The most I’ve said about her, rather than the sign, was that she probably wasn’t thinking about whether her sign would perpetuate the meme I’m talking about–which is, by the way, different than the “everybody at the protests is worthless” meme that her sign directly addresses.

    As evidence that her sign doesn’t undercut the “ignore all the hippy freaks” meme, note that your defense of the sign does nothing to make you any readier to accept the role that all these people have played in making protesting accessible to most people. It makes you less likely, in fact, because you’re acting as though that argument is part of me attacking the nice middle-class lady with the baby. You’re still happy to deny their part in the history of protest if it will put you and her in the right.

    The post about the “Dear Dick” letter was addressed to a bunch of people who were actually talking about my intent and using it as an excuse for bad behavior. There’s no parallel with what I’m saying here because I’m talking about her effect, not her intent.

  49. Spartan says

    Spartan, “horribly mean” is hyperbole, pointing out that you are focusing on the person who made the sign to the exclusion of talking about the effect of the sign.

    I understood you were being hyperbolic, but my point still stands that I don’t see myself focusing on the person. Other than the comment I already referred to, I believe I only referred to the person making the sign in my response to Greg’s post @53, and my apologies if it was not clear in that context that I was only bringing up the ‘lady’ issue to note his hypocrisy. And I noted specifically that I agree with his logic that his intent is what mattered. To clarify, I don’t really think that you and Greg made some specific attack against her, and even if, I’m not attempting to use that rebut your point of view; I’m attempting to only bring her up because what she intended is relevant in my view.

    You’re still happy to deny their part in the history of protest if it will put you and her in the right.

    Stephanie, I honestly appreciate the explanation and detail you’ve provided in your comment, but the above quote is kinda obnoxious. I haven’t denied the role of hippies, etc, in the history of protest, I disagreed specifically with the conjecture that it makes this woman’s presence at this protest ‘possible’, which I think is also hyperbole. The suggestion that I’m just willing to disregard counterarguments just so I can be ‘right’ is a pretty weak argument if it can even be called that, and it’s one that I’m sure you’ve objected to yourself in the past.

    There’s no parallel with what I’m saying here because I’m talking about her effect, not her intent.

    An interesting point, and one I need to think more about. But specific to your measurement of ‘effect’, I think this quote is relevant from you: “she probably wasn’t thinking about whether her sign would perpetuate the meme I’m talking about–which is, by the way, different than the “everybody at the protests is worthless” meme that her sign directly addresses.” Are you sure that the effect of addressing the meme the sign directly addresses doesn’t lessen the effect of the meme you believe it perpetuates? If she convinces people to listen to the OWS messages because she doesn’t belong to these stereotypes, doesn’t that have the potential effect of lessening those stereotypes? If observers agree with the OWS messages, doesn’t that also suggest the possibility of, ‘maybe those hippie freak stoners aren’t so bad after all, we certainly agree on this at least’? No, I’m not at all sure how these effects net out, are you?

  50. Kevin says

    Stephanie, your insistence on literal interpretation would make you an excellent fundamentalist! The sign does not reinforce harmful memes for one simple reason: it should not be taken literally. It is called sarcasm. This is evidenced by the fact that the last two items on the list directly reference the O’Leary interview. The sign is a rejection of the labels imposed on the movement by the right-wing media. Maybe she is none of these, maybe she is all of these. The point is she wants what everyone (or 99%) should want.

    You seem to insist that the woman is middle class. I wonder how you know this from a photo. Is it the finest quality cardboard she used for her sign?

    No, the sign does not pay homage to all of those protesters who came before her. So what? It is a simple message for a specific audience. Your persistent effort to be offended is your problem not hers.

  51. says

    Oh, eek, Kevin. You compared me to a fundamentalist. No one who’s disagreed with me has ever done that before.

    Of course, for it to have teeth, I’d have to be doing what you said, which I’m not. Nice way of dodging the context question, though.

    For the record, there are four thing about that picture that strongly suggest either this woman is middle class or she’s working very hard to signal that she is. What makes you think she isn’t?

    Spartan, who organized the Occupy movement protests?

  52. spartan says

    Spartan, who organized the Occupy movement protests?

    Well, since I’m visiting your blog I guess it’s fair that you are ignoring my questions and instead asking one of your own, so sure, let’s play trivia. The Occupy protests were launched by the Canadian-based Adbusters. Now I’ll take a wild ass guess that wasn’t the real question. Are you really asking how have the organizers of the protests been stereotyped?

  53. Kevin says

    For the record, there are four thing about that picture that strongly suggest either this woman is middle class or she’s working very hard to signal that she is.

    Ok, I’ll bite. Which are…?
    I prefer not to make any presumptions about the woman’s socioeconomic status.

    I admit that it has taken me some time for your broader context argument to sink in. The reason for this, I think, is that fringe groups here in Canada have not been vilified to the same extent as in the US. It may help to realize how different our history of social change is from yours. Our battles were not so epic and many of your ongoing battles have been won here for years.
    Abortion - our conservative prime minister does not wish to open up this debate; every day states are trying to limit women’s reproductive rights
    Gay Rights - Canada was the third nation to officially legalize gay marriage in 2005; contrasted with California’s Prop 8 fiasco
    Health Care - Canada has had universal health care since 1966. Tommy Douglas, who first instituted it in his province in 1946, was recently voted the greatest Canadian; US: Yeah, but is it constitutional?
    Slavery - …well you get my drift.

    I’m am by no means saying I live in a utopian society, simply that our struggles have been different from yours.

    Perhaps the main stream here has always identified more closely with hippies and punks and whoever else. This is the place after all to which many minorities (eg. underground railroad, draft dodgers, etc.) fled to escape persecution. Is this what seemingly facilitated our social change? I don’t know. This is the first time anyone’s ever made me consider this particular question.

    Maybe you can now understand why I did not at first acknowledge your argument.

  54. says

    spartan, I’m trying to stay engaged here with very limited time. Bear with me. Saying, “AdBusters organized the protests,” is only a start in this context. Not only is AdBusters a radical organziation, but they brought people in to do some of the organizing. Who those people are is highly relevant to whether this woman’s ability to protest is dependent on those people she’s distancing herself from.

    Kevin, four signals of middle-class status:

    1) The layered and shaped haircut that will require frequent trimming.
    2) The hand-knit look of the baby hat.
    3) White outdoor baby clothes with a texture that will pick up dirt.
    4) No current or personal needs noted in the sign.

    Yes, I do expect that the context will take some time to sink in. People are trained not to see it. That still doesn’t make me comparable to a fundamentalist because you’re having trouble absorbing what I’m telling you.

  55. savage.spheniscus. says

    He compared you to a fundamentalist because you refuse to read her sign anyway other than literally. This remains true.

    I think you missed the point of his post as well. There is not nearly the ‘ew hippy’ reaction from Canadians that there seems to be from Americans. Where did tens of thousands of Americans flee to escape the draft during Vietnam? Or in some cases, not only to escape it but to protest the war? (the work of hippies, right?)We also have significantly different laws, and much different social acceptance of the use of marijuana for example – also associated with ‘hippies’ according to some, right? His point was that perhaps YOUR reaction is due to YOUR historical context. The fact that the woman in the photo has a DIFFERENT historical context is likely rather significant. Even when I read the sign literally which is NOT how it is meant to be read, the only word that is offensive is the nut-job part of left-wing nut-job, and perhaps word mob. I don’t see any problem identifying or not identifying with any of the other groups on the sign – likely due to a different historical context and association with the words on the sign.

  56. savage.spheniscus. says

    He compared you to a fundamentalist because you refuse to read her sign anyway other than literally. This remains true.

    I think you missed the point of his post as well. There is not nearly the ‘ew hippy’ reaction from Canadians that there seems to be from Americans. Where did tens of thousands of Americans flee to escape the draft during Vietnam? Or in some cases, not only to escape it but to protest the war? (the work of hippies, right?)We also have significantly different laws, and much different social acceptance of the use of marijuana for example – also associated with ‘hippies’ according to some, right? His point was that perhaps YOUR reaction is due to YOUR historical context. The fact that the woman in the photo has a DIFFERENT historical context is likely rather significant. Even when I read the sign literally which is NOT how it is meant to be read, the only word that is offensive is the nut-job part of left-wing nut-job, and perhaps word mob. I don’t see any problem identifying or not identifying with any of the other groups on the sign.

  57. says

    savage, you talk about reading the sign “literally.” Are you suggesting it’s a metaphor? That she doesn’t actually mean that she isn’t any of those things?

    Also, given the reaction to anti-globalization protests in Canada and the embrace of Harper’s authoritarianism, I’m not terribly convinced that the Canadian middle class identifies with protest culture. Being liberal is different than being radical.

  58. spartan says

    spartan, I’m trying to stay engaged here with very limited time. Bear with me.

    No problem of course Stephanie, and I’m tight on time myself. I have no illusions that I’m a clear writer and I think my comments are a little bit all over the board here, but I appreciate again the detail you’ve provided. Your points have been rattling around in my brain the last couple days and I hope I can find time, mostly for my own sake, to try and lay out my points more clearly.

  59. savage.spheniscus. says

    It couldn’t possibly be sarcasm.

    I don’t blame you for not understanding how our electoral system works. It is quite different than yours. Harper’s party won about 39% of the popular vote in the last federal election, the NDP about 30% the liberals about 19%, the Bloc ~3% and the Green’s about 4%. The unfortunate part of having a multi-party system of government is that it’s not *really* majority rules. So what this means is that the MAJORITY of voters don’t actually approve of Harper, because the MAJORITY of voters actually voted for different parties. I would hardly say that we *embrace* Harper’s authoritarianism and your use of that word also demonstrates what you don’t know about our system. Only 3 out of 13 provinces and territories have Conservative premiers, the rough equivalent of your state governors. Despite much complaining from people who don’t agree with Harper or his political vision of what Canada should be (which as far as I can tell is the USA), he has relatively little power over most things, even though he currently has a majority government (which is determined by the number of seats his party holds, not the number of votes they get).

    While I agree that there is a difference between liberal and radical, I would hesitate to even use the term liberal in conversation with you without first making sure that we even mean the same thing. I would say that having a more liberal society does tend towards a more laissez-faire attitude in general. Take the difference in attitude towards multiculturalism for instance. So while liberal and radical don’t mean the same thing, a more liberal society(in the way that I mean liberal, which I’m not sure is the same as you) is more likely to embrace or perhaps peacefully tolerate those fringe groups. Thus the naming of such groups doesn’t cause the same sort of reaction. Being called a hippy or a radical or a punk here just well… so what, it’s hardly an insult. I would maintain that the middle class for which you have so much disdain has a different level of tolerance here.

    If the reaction to anti-globalization you’re talking about is the police brutality during the G20 protest in Toronto, I would say a few things. The brutality was highly criticized by both the citizens of our country and our media. The city of Toronto and one event do not represent the attitude of our entire country.

  60. Kevin says

    Well, it seems you see the sign as literal and offensive and I see it as sarcastic and contextual. So I guess we’re done.
    I’ve enjoyed our discussion, thank you. It’s kept my brain rattling around my head more than usual the past couple of days.
    Perhaps I’ll feel the need to comment again, maybe even on something I agree with!
    Cheers!

  61. says

    I think if anything, savage, you’re in this case engaging in Cansplaining to Stephanie. Yeah, I’m serious.

    She’s spent a month in the last year in Canada, and watched the election results live with me on Skype and there were aspects of the election that she understood better than I. She’s better informed about Canada’s political system than the vast majority of Canadians.

    I would suggest that she was saying we “embraced” Harper by giving him a majority government when he had only a minority. And it’s sad that, with the votes split between four parties on the left and one party on the right, the right won the election, but it’s simple math, frankly. The real problem, the real “embrace”, came from not enough people voting when it was so critical that we did, and not enough people being politically engaged when it was so critical that we would be. It was an embrace of the status quo.

  62. Adamo says

    Steph, when I first saw the sign, all I saw was someone saying, “Don’t marginalize me/us or this cause. It’s mainstream.” Reading your post, I see why you reacted as you did – both of you. All those labels you put on yourself, and yet how you define them, if that’s not mainstream, it’s where I want mainstream to be heading.

  63. says

    I am the woman in the photo.

    It was taken on October 15 2011, at Occupy Vancouver. To be there that day, I traveled 6 hours by bus and ferry with my baby. I left my older daughter (age 6)at home with her grandparents.

    I live in a rural community (pop. 2000) on the Sunshine Coast of BC, Canada. Since the pic went viral, I have enjoyed participating in several threads about my sign. As it happens, that was only one of my three signs. My other, larger banners stated:
    “rEVOLution!”
    and
    “Stand Together/Advance Together/Occupy Together”.

    The controversial sign under discussion was a response to the labels I had been hearing used by the mainstream media to categorize and invalidate all Occupiers. Yes, the label, “Left Wing Nut Job” was specifically in response to Kevin O’Leary’s shameful interview.

    Ironically and quite amusingly, I have myself been labelled by people who are offended by my use of labels on my sign.

    I am an aging hippy/punk/freak who now participates in building my own community by working part time and volunteering in the area of maternal and child development. Middle class, well perhaps we were back before 2008, but the economic woes have pushed us many steps back financially, and now we struggle as virtually everyone else does, to make ends meet for our family of four.

    I definitely identify as a left-wing nut job; I was proud to be part of that particular mob on that day (and on other days, other demonstrations).

    I happen NOT to be an anarchist; I am straight.

    There. Does that cover it?

    The best laugh I had today came from the post on this thread which cites the 4 clues to my economic status:

    >>>>>>>
    four signals of middle-class status:

    1) The layered and shaped haircut that will require frequent trimming.
    2) The hand-knit look of the baby hat.
    3) White outdoor baby clothes with a texture that will pick up dirt.
    4) No current or personal needs noted in the sign.
    >>>>>>>><

    Whew!
    1) Thank you for noticing my nice haircut. First haircut for ages. My friend did it for me for $20. Looking pretty shaggy these days :)
    2) Grandma knit the hat for my baby girl (not gender-neutral – aaahhhhhhh!!! I should have grabbed her green or yellow hat before we dashed out the door!)
    3) The white baby coat was on sale at Superstore. Yep, gets dirty.
    4) Needs? I have a few…

    Anyway, I thought I'd drop by and contribute to the discussion by letting you all know, that, yes, the "lady" has a clue….

    Peace,
    Sarah Blythe Pond

  64. says

    So, Sarah, what I hear you saying is that your sign said things about you that aren’t true, but that you’re perplexed as to why people are labeling you incorrectly based on that misleading sign?

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