The Anonymous And Occupy Movement Revolutionising Society
The activist groups set to make changes worldwide
The Occupy and Anonymous Movement's and its many branches worldwide have gained much media attention for uniting against key issues and making changes in economic and political discourse.
Occupy received widespread attention in September 2011, during the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York’s Zuccotti Park and has spread to over 80 other nations including the UK, Australia, Brazil and Hong Kong. Occupiers have also received supporter from 'hacktivists' Anonymous, the Guy Fawkes mask-wearing organization awakening society also calling for reform. Trying to take back Parliament Square during their 'Million Mask March' where Russell Brand made an appearance.
The organizations have formed an alliance, campaigning against economic and political problems that affect millions of people all over the globe. But what are they fighting against? Here is a list of issues the groups to eradicate.
Economic Inequality And Corporate Greed
Occupy point out the several issues in economic discourse, whether it’s the gap between the rich and the poor, distribution of wealth, income inequality and many other problems with how government economical policies don’t often cater to the 99 per cent, but instead to the wealthy one per cent involving bankers and large corporations. This capitalist system is implemented not only in the West, but globally, undermining democracy and affecting the living standards of millions.
Student Tuition Fee Increases
Hikes in tuition fees saw numerous protests not only in America, but Canada and the UK also. Many of these demonstrations have been described as a precursor to the Occupy Movement we know today and the fight against tuition increases continues. 2009 saw the California protests after the board approved a 32 per cent increase in tuition costs. And in the UK, thousands of students marched through London in response to government educational funding cuts and tripling tuition fees. Michael Chessum, socialist and organiser of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts explained, “Fee waivers – a ploy to plug the funding gap caused by the policy of £9,000 fees – will raid bursary pots, pushing more students into scarce part-time work, or poverty”.
“We are determined to block the cuts and privatisation agenda before it becomes a reality, and build a sustainable movement to defeat the government”.
The Impact Student Loan Debt
University is pegged as a life-changing experience, providing young adults with qualifications and knowledge in order to embark on their desired career path. But with the university path, comes crippling loan debts, creating a great burden for graduates who have finished university only to find themselves faced with the high levels of unemployment due to stagnant job market. The price of a well-educated workforce is a high one; in England, the average student leaves university in debt by over £20,000 according to statistics from the Student Loans Company – a figure which has risen from £14,680 in 2010. And according to Wall Street Journal, ‘class of 2014’ students are now the most indebted, with the average graduate having to pay back $33,000 of student loan debt.
Universities and colleges are more like businesses, competing for consumers (students in this case) to buy their product. Peter Thiel, co-founder of Paypal, says of student loans: “It’s like a subprime mortgage broker that ripped you off and talked you into buying a house you couldn’t afford”.
Tax Dodging By Big Businesses
It seems tax evasion is still at the heart of corporate agenda and at a massive cost to us all. Major banks, retailers and other businesses have been shifting profits to offshore low-tax havens such as Luxembourg, Switzerland and Ireland and the Occupy Movement isn’t having any of it. In June, protestors gathered outside Westminster as it was revealed that Boots had been dodging tax since 2007, and successfully managed to evade £1.3billion worth of taxes. American coffee company Starbucks, technology manufacturer Dyson, telecommunications company Vodafone and pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, Google and Amazon have all been named as businesses that exploit the tax ‘inversion’ schemes.
Institutional Racism And The Militarisation Of Police
Police brutality and institutional racism, particularly in the United States, has been an ongoing issue in communities with a black and ethnic minority majority. The violence spurred by racial profiling has only recently gained mainstream media attention in recent years after the 2011 shooting of Mark Duggan and the riots in Tottenham, London; and most recently the shooting Michael Brown in Ferguson, a city in Missouri’s St Louis County, and the resulting riots and military police deployment. But the Occupy Movement believe that not enough is being done about police misconduct against ethnic communities.
And the statistics tell the reality loud and clear. According to Equality Human Rights, black people are seven times more likely to be stopped and searched by police than white individuals, and Asians are twice more likely. Furthermore, Think Ethnic reports that ethnic minorities are more likely to experience “persistent foot or vehicle stops, racially abusive questioning, arbitrary arrest, violence on arrest, indiscriminate attacks, victimisation on reporting crime, forced entry and violence, unnecessary armed raids, harassment and use of riot-squad paramilitary equipment against them”. When it comes to officer-involved-shootings, many believe ethnic minorities are targeted more often and an officer is more likely to use fatal force.
New York Times reports that in St Louis, researchers analysed the 230 incidents where police fired their weapons over 10 years and found that in half of the incidents, targets were hit and one sixth of those targets died. But the shocking figures are that of the 360 suspects whose race could be identified – some fled the scene before they could be properly identified – over 90 per cent were black.
Fracking And The Gas Pipeline
Anti-fracking movements are growing, and Occupy has played a major part in activism against the hydraulic drilling projects. Environmentalists argue that the process can be highly damaging to the environment, with the fracking fluid contaminating waters and soil, as well as projects generally being unpleasant for locals who live within close proximity to the sites. Many believe gas production has been revolutionised by fracking, prompting governments to adopt the measures to extract gas.
But Occupy Wall Street Environmental Solidarity organiser Peter Rugh disagrees. “Gas companies and pro-fracking politicians, including the presidential candidates of both dominant political parties, tout fracking as a job creator. They expect the 99% to sacrifice the life of their local ecosystems and the biosphere as a whole in order to earn a livelihood”, he said in a press release.
“My question is, where are the jobs? And what will the effect of fracking be in the long term? Once you've destroyed a region's agriculture, industrialized whole swaths of land and the wells dry up, people are left with nothing. Goodbye tourism, wine, farming, fishing, hiking, camping”.
Obama also proposed a huge underground pipeline natural gas pipeline called Keystone XL, which although pegged to lower gas prices, it is reported that it will actually raise them. Protestors gathered in Washington DC, putting political pressure on Obama which resulted in the plans being postponed for the time being.
Undemocratic Voting Rights
Undemocratic electoral systems are present in many countries, failing to reflect the voices and choices of the public. The Occupy branch in Hong Kong, known as Occupy Central, has garnered media attention for protests and civil disobedience after the government have refused to implement universal suffrage. And in USA, Occupy protestors in Washington D.C. and have called for more voting rights, as disenfranchisement in the District of Columbia still continues to be a problem, and something that the activists resonate with.
One local D.C. resident summarised it very well. "Our men go abroad and fight for foreign governments for their democracy, but yet we are denied democracy here at home”, said Glenda Richmond who was protesting in Freedom Square. "This is a plantation. It's the last colony, why do we not have representation on the Hill?"
Wrongful Foreclosures And Evictions
The Occupy Movement is fighting against wrongful foreclosures and evictions caused by bankers and corporate companies gambling with our homes and money. CNN reports that banks have been foreclosing on homes at rates far faster than they can sell them and according to research, more and more homes remained unused because of foreclosure and unemployment, sitting unoccupied and neglected.
In USA, millions have lost their homes and it is reported that in 2010, banks filed a staggering 3.8 million foreclosures. Occupy hopes to help struggling civilians keep their homes out of the foreclosure radar, as well as help the millions of homeless move into the vacant properties that have already been foreclosed.
The Profit Of Private Healthcare And Pharmaceuticals
Occupy Wall Street has highlighted flaws in the American healthcare system, slamming privatisation and profiteering in pharmaceuticals and medicine, hoping to change attitudes and legislation for patients and make sure that the ’99 per cent’ receive the treatments they need.
Mark Ryan, MD, at MedPage Today’s Kevin MD, deems the current healthcare system ‘dysfunctional’. “Americans pay much more per person, to support a health care system that does not function very well at all, that provides inadequate and unequal care for far too many people , and that leaves nearly 50 million Americans without health insurance”, he wrote. “These are all indicators of a system with significant, fundamental dysfunction”.
And the movement against controversial healthcare systems is also present in the UK. An Occupy branch known as UK Uncut protested on Westminster Bridge in October 2011 in response to the government’s Health and Social Care Bill. Thousands of health workers and activists united, as the proposal was condemned by doctors for ‘undermining all that is precious about the NHS’. The bill would have meant that private patients would be treated at the expense of NHS patients, many healthcare workers would have been made redundant and potentially produce an ‘underclass of patients with chronic and debilitating diseases’.
Lack Of Freedom Of Expression On The Internet
Freedom of expression is seen as one of the main goals of Anonymous and activists, as questions have been raised about whether there is sufficient protection of the human right to freedom of speech online, particularly on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. The UK Human Rights Blog states that whilst 40 per cent of the world’s population use the internet and despite the initial belief that the possibility to use pseudonyms was enough to hide behind, it is still virtually impossible to remain anonymous – and technology plays a big part in this problem.
President of the Supreme Court Lord David Neuberger summarised, “The irony is of course that while the Internet supports freedom of expression by allowing (relatively) anonymous speech, that very technology has eroded this anonymity. As Guido Fawkes and Night Jack [Orwell Prize-winning anonymous blogger] can attest, today’s anonymous bloggers are less able to protect their identities than was the mysterious eighteenth century Junius [writer]”.
Privacy Invasion And NSA Spying
With the freedom of expression debate comes the privacy debate, as the internet is a hub of spying and invasion. The NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ have notoriously been storing our data for years, supposedly looking for criminal activity but others suggest it is simply to implement a Big Brother society, and activists are fed up of it.
At the march on 5th November, one Anonymous protester told Vice, “I’m here because my rights are being taken away. Data is recorded, and they’re invading my private life”.
Scientology: The ‘Dangerous Cult’
Anonymous received great media attention when it went head to head with the Scientology religion, after the church attempted to suppress internet content that was critical of their practices. The move sparks debate about internet censorship, as well as propaganda and indoctrination, something which Anonymous aim to eradicate.
In a message to Scientology leaders, Anonymous campaigners argued, “Over the years, we have been watching you. Your campaigns of misinformation; your suppression of dissent; your litigious nature, all of these things have caught our eye. With the leakage of your latest propaganda video into mainstream circulation, the extent of your malign influence over those who have come to trust you as leaders has been made clear to us”.
Last year, protestors in Manchester took the streets to as part of the ‘Project Chanology’ campaign against the religion. Anons slammed the Scientology church as a ‘dangerous cult’ that cons people out of money. “They won't tell you about their religion until your cheque has cleared; they weigh your wallet when you go in”, slammed a protestor who goes by the name of ‘White’. “They pass themselves off as a religion but for all intents and purposes they operate as a business”.
ISIS have gained notoriety for the atrocities carried out in Iraq and Syria, and shockingly support for the terrorist organisation has not only earned in the Middle East, but also in the West. Hundreds of foreign fighters from the USA, UK and Europe have flown out to fight with Jihadists and Anonymous In addition, revelations that other nations actually helped fund and train the militants have circulated. Forbes reports that Anonymous are planning to launch a series of cyber attacks on nations suspected of initially supporting ISIS, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey.
North Korea And Kim-Jong Un
Politics in North Korea and the reign of Kim-Jong Un and his ancestors has come under scrutiny for many years. Many have expressed concern about the Korean economic, social and political discourse, as well as the president’s haircut. And now North Korea is in the sights of Anonymous.
According to Washington Post, the activists aim to infiltrate North Korean sites, as well as obtain documents about weapons, expose government officials and help Korean citizens finally connect with the world – something they currently can’t do due to the strictly regulated internet.
But Anonymous may have met their match when it comes to Kim Jong-Un’s tightly-sealed kingdom…
Lack Of Democracy In Our Societies
It is fair to say that the biggest issue is a general lack of democracy in society, not just in the West, but worldwide. Occupy and Anonymous arose because a majority of voices weren’t being heard on key elements of economic, political and social discourse, meaning that billions of people are not enjoying the fair, enjoyable life they were entitled to.
It is becoming more and more evident that a corporate, powerful elite – although a small one per cent – have a great hold over our lives. But with the Occupy Movement and Anonymous campaigns in full swing, their reforms and pressure is set to revolutionise society and the lives of the oppressed 99 per cent.