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Naomi's Q&A at Occupy Wall Street

Published in The Village Voice.

Naomi Klein, the Canadian journalist famous for her anti-corporatist books No Logo and The Shock Doctrine, spoke to the protesters at Occupy Wall Street yesterday evening, telling them their movement can follow through on the promises of the global trade protests she participated in a decade ago.

Speaking through cycles of call-and-response because the protesters have been denied a sound permit, Klein urged the protesters not to lapse into structureless disorganization.

"Being horizontal and deeply democratic is wonderful," she told them. "But these principles are compatible with the hard work of building structures and institutions that are sturdy enough to weather the storms ahead. I have great faith that this will happen."

The complete text of Klein's speech can be found here.

Klein's prepared remarks clearly rallied the occupiers, but some of her most interesting comments came as answers to questions posed to her afterwards. Asked how the movement can withstand the supposed sympathies of establishment politicians with questionable motives, Klein said "Don't worry about it. What will make this movement vulnerable is if it doesn't develop its own democratic mechanisms to speak for itself. Then it's vulnerable to people using your energy to fight for limited small changes. It's in your power to not let this happen. You are not cannon fodder for Washington policy wonks."

And when another protester asked: "Some Democrat leaders say this is the answer to the Tea Party. Why do you disagree with that?", Klein's answer was terse: "I think this is the answer to the Democratic party.

"We can have allies who are elected representatives," she said. "But I don't think that's what this movement is about.

What's the most powerful thing we can do as individuals to spread the movement?, Klein was asked.

"Tell your friends how fun it is," she said. "That's the most dangerous thing about it."

Another protester asked Klein a version of a question on many occupier's lips: "How do we transform the energy of the movement into something that is actually happening?"

"Something is happening," she said. "You're giving the people courage. You're telling them they're not alone and they're not crazy. You're giving them a space to find one another. But this is not group therapy -- we also want to change the world. This movement has to create democratic structures. It just can't happen overnight, but I beg you not to fetishize not having a structure. We made that mistake, and it destroyed our movement."

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