Horizontal Hostility and Occupy Oakland

“Horizontal hostility” is a newish phrase that comes from the fervor of political correctness that liberals are so often up in arms about.  Horizontal hostility is essentially the act of an individual or group directing hostility to other individuals or groups that should theoretically share the majority of values.  I.e. when a vegan starts verbally abusing a vegetarian we can see horizontal hostility.  Other examples could be feminists of a certain quality that look down on other feminists for not being as radical.  The current Republican presidential campaign is also a pretty good example of horizontal hostility.

In case it’s not obvious already, horizontal hostility is completely at odds with the concept and value of solidarity.  To be sure, I believe that if we’re living in an equal society then that would mean that ALL hostility would be horizontal since there would be no hierarchy to make any sort of vertical hostility possible.  But that’s simply an ideal at this point.

The reality is that horizontal hostility has plagued the occupy movement from the start.  Many people understand the absolute necessity of not getting too obsessed with in-fighting and petty bickering.  Most people realize how much of a distraction it is.  But to  have a social movement succumb to horizontal hostility completely would be tragic.  I’m not sure if occupy Oakland is there yet, but the amount of hostility that I see happening on twitter is not encouraging.

I’m tempted not to write about this nor give it any validation what-so-ever.  But we’re all supposed to write what we know, and this is what I know right now.  I’ll leave the details as vague as possible in order to not throw more fuel on the fire.  Any further perspectives are heartily welcomed.

The story as I know it goes like this:  I met an individual at a bank protest around tax day last year.  I’ll just call this individual “X.”  X is also a blogger and seemed to be pretty involved in the Oakland protest scene already.  He actually interviewed me about the protest organizers – which I knew next to nothing about – I just wanted to protest banks – it didn’t matter to me in the least who was organizing.  So I wasn’t really able to tell X anything at that point.  Then when occupy started, I began seeing X all over the place again.  We would talk briefly as the crowds mingled, but never anything deep or meaningful.  I began following X on twitter and we had a few conversations that way.  And then we met for a beer after one of the general assemblies last month.  The conversation was intelligent and respectful.  However, there have been two different occasions when I’ve overheard him calling other people “an asshole.”  This is, of course, the most basic form of horizontal hostility:  name-calling.  Maybe the persons on the receiving end of this verbal abuse had done something to deserve it, I don’t know for sure.  But regardless of someone deserving something or not, I feel that name-calling is always the act of an insecure and desperate person.

And now, in the last week the hostility has escalated.  Apparently X has done more than just call some people an asshole, X has also been attempting to dominate one of the working groups within occupy Oakland.  And so this working group eventually had enough and began some sort of smear campaign against X.  They have “raised concerns” about X’s legitimacy in being involved.  Their accusations are sloppy and they have no meaningful proof so it seems all very speculative to me at this point.  But it also seems like the genie is out of the bottle in one way or another.

People would probably be naive if they assumed that occupy Oakland hasn’t been infiltrated by one or many government groups.  It’s true that a multitude of agenda’s have converged on the movement.  Many of these agendas are actually working towards the common good.  Some only want to work towards economic, and therefore political de-stabilization.  And then there are the feds which will do anything to stagnate the growth of the movement.  I think it is likely that anyone advocating violence is indeed an agent provocateur (or someone completely over the edge) – and it is these violent individuals that bring on the wrath of the state and simultaneously alienate the majority of other people from getting involved.  Either way, they are bad news.

It’s anyone’s guess as to which category X truly falls into.  This is why we need to uphold the value of transparency now more than ever.  It’s because of this that I attempted to intervene and mediate the conflict between X and the working group.  X doesn’t seem to want any intervention.  I guess this is simply because it would be such an attack on his status as a respected member of occupy Oakland.  X blocked me on twitter so my suspicions are further aroused by that by behavior.

Now, I’m a trusting fool and I make no bones about that.  But I’m also a player; which means that if you start heaping bullshit at me, I’m perfectly willing to heap some bullshit back on you.   But I would prefer to just live and let live – I guess it’s only a matter of time until I know what X is really up to.  The truth will set us free!

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