Two and a half months after the fact, Gawker’s Adrian Chen has identified the guy who fooled Occupy Wall Street into thinking that Radiohead was going to play a free show at Zuccotti Park. It’s this guy Malcolm Harris who writes for lit-mag The New Inquiry. He says he and his friends thought up the prank in order to get more people to go to Zuccotti Park, which at that point was still not at max capacity. Or something. It’s all very odd.
It started like this: an autonomous group of Occupy Wall Street activists were sitting around brainstorming ways to get more people out to Zuccotti Park over beer and pizza. This was a little over a week into the occupation, before the mass arrests on the Brooklyn Bridge, and it still wasn’t clear whether the whole thing would catch on. Someone suggested we should get Radiohead to play a free concert – they were in town for a couple small shows and fans were ready to sell pounds of flesh for tickets. The band wouldn’t even have to play the thing, people just had to think they were going to.
He then details how he planted the seed of the rumor on a Jacobin magazine blog and how Gawker’s Chen picked up on it. Then there’s the email sent to OWS protesters that we got our hands on back in October.
Harris writes that “I want to say that it was never the goal to troll the OWS bureaucracy,” but that’s exactly what he did. He also kind of leaves out the part where he sent us and Gothamist the following mean email when we tried to follow up with him:
Yeah, you found me, but I’ll be taking my story to the Times freelancer who got arrested on the bridge yesterday instead. To the gutsy go the spoils. I’m not an “organizer” or a provocateur, I’m an occupier who tried something, like a lot of us are. The whole occupation was a bluff by Canadians in the beginning anyway. If you continue to think of the only acting bodies as the organizers and self-declared spokespeople, you’ll continue to miss what’s happening. The prank was to give folks an excuse to go to Zuccotti, and although I’m sure I’m terribly sorry for all the pain and suffering I’ve caused apolitical Radiohead fans, it worked, and now our numbers are larger and growing. But it was also to illustrate the buffoonery of self-important spokespeople and committees. This is what happens when two people get put in charge of something (the vaguely tyrannical “Arts and Culture committee”) and empower themselves to speak “officially.” Now they’ve put one person in charge of communications. There are left authoritarians too, they’re a vocal minority, but they don’t speak for me or plenty of others.
So this is a call for more humor, more pranks, more of that good old anon shit at Occupy Wall Street and at the other occupations springing up around the country. It’s not that hard, it’s a lot more fun than long meetings, and it’ll work.
NOTE: This email is for publication in its entirety or not at all. None of that out-of-context lamestream media trickery. As a precautionary measure, I’ve CC’ed the comrades at Gothamist, who seem totally prepared to call you out for even the appearance of violating source instructions. You, of course, don’t have to publish this note, but I imagine they probably will.
J. Erin Stubbie
A class act, that Malcolm Harris.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 14, 2011