As part of my research for an independent history of Occupy Oakland, I recently Googled “Occupy Oakland” site:youtube.com/ looking for interviews with campers during the occupation of Oscar Grant Plaza. After sampling hundreds of videos, I’m frankly stumped.
What puzzles me most is the similarity between the YouTube archives and mainstream media. Occupiers have of course slammed MSM for focusing on fracas and vandalism to the exclusion of #OO’s positive achievements.
Yet a large proportion of YouTube clips devoted to Occupy Oakland show street skirmishes and smashy just like MSM—indeed, often incorporating MSM footage.
Admittedly, many videos are redundant, uploaded by multiple users. And more than a few have been posted by conservatives committed to portraying Occupy as destructive.
But the fact remains, #OO-friendly contributors have uploaded far more riot porn than have Occupy’s rightwing enemies.
In particular, there’s a glut of October 25, November 3, January 28 and May 1 coverage—almost all violent. Perhaps this reflects the desire of #OO supporters to show that OPD was responsible for the hostilities.
The overall impression, though—especially visually—reinforces #OO’s reputation as fundamentally out of control.
This makes no sense. YouTube is an open platform, free and accessible to all. Uploading is easy. So why aren’t there more videos showing Occupiers as individuals instead of interchangeable moving targets for riot cops?
At the very least, you’d think there’d be interviews with campers at OGP from October 10 through November 14. Yet almost all such clips involve attendees at rallies and marches—special events that drew protestors from throughout the Bay Area and beyond.
Where are the interviews with everyday campers? Not seasoned organizers like Barucha Peller and Leo Ritz-Barr; not living legends like Angela Davis and Elaine Brown; not unionists pushing their own agenda; not Interfaith clergy pushing their own agenda; not Marxist intellectuals from comfortable homes in Berkeley; not earnest middleclass sympathizers who BART in from the burbs. But actual butts-on-the-ground campers at the Oakland Commune!
I realize why Occupiers often refuse to be interviewed. Campers were technically breaking the law; being shown on video could’ve exposed them to prosecution. Or maybe they’re camera shy for personal reasons.
But surely a fearless few could’ve been found. It defies probability that practically no one would speak on camera about such an important experience in their lives. Humans love to talk, to share their stories. Where are those clips? Where are those stories?
Until we find them, there’s a hole in #OO’s history.