Sunday, February 12, 2012


The trouble with brand management is that it's very easy to move from always putting your best foot forward to attempting to censor reality to project the image that you understand you need to project. Like so many businesses, people and movements that have gone before, Occupy Wall Street seems to be having some difficulties in this area. Tim Poole, once heralded as a chronicler of a movement that couldn't rely on the "mainstream media" to tell the public about what was happening has now become a thorn in the side of those who feel that success demands unaccountability to the authorities and controlling the information that gets out about them.

In the end, it's a simple enough issue - There are members of Occupy Wall Street for whom "civil disobedience" means "not having to obey laws that get in the way." Or, perhaps more simply, anarchy. And there is something to the idea that it's hard to be an anarchist if the authorities know what you look like, and that documentation of what happened destroys plausible dependability. But it's also a question of what's really at stake. Having an open and transparent society is a different goal than exposing the crimes of those you see as villains. People who see themselves as "the good guys" always have a reason for wanting to keep certain information under wraps. And sometimes, their reasons are perfectly valid.

The flip side of that, of course, is the pseudo-Machiavellian idea that one's ends justify one's means, and that being on of "the good guys" is a prima facie justification for one's actions. Whether they see it that way, or not, that's one of the primary things that Occupy Wall Street is fighting against. They may see the current system as the root of all evil, but its backers don't see it that way. They understand themselves to be working to uphold a free and civil society, even one that comes with some drawbacks. And in the name of preserving public support for themselves, they hide the ugly parts from view. That's a function of human nature. We think of ourselves as above it at our peril.

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