Adbusters Co-Founder Discusses OWS

Robert Siegel talks to Kalle Lasn, a co-founder of Adbusters Magazine. Lasn helped originate the idea for the Occupy Wall Street movement.

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LYNN NEARY, HOST:

It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Lynn Neary.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

In this segment of the program, the Occupy Wall Street movement; some observations on its roots and its future. In a moment, we'll hear from reporter Carrie Kahn on the language of the movement and where it comes from. But first, we're going to hear from one of the people who inspired the movement and effectively branded it.

Kalle Lasn, the editor of the bi-monthly Adbusters. Mr. Lasn joins us from just outside Vancouver, British Columbia. Welcome to the program.

KALLE LASN: Yes, hello.

SIEGEL: As the Occupy movement's urban encampments are rolled up by police, what do you think this protest movement should do now?

LASN: Well, you know, it's - obviously it's winding down now. I think that we should hibernate for the winter. We should brainstorm with each other. We should network with each other and then come out swinging next spring.

SIEGEL: Swinging, as in Occupy cities and take to the parks again?

LASN: No, I don't think that - no, I think that this occupying the parks phase of the movement is probably over by now. But I think there will be other kinds of perhaps more surprise kind of occupations, where next spring we come out and we occupy a bank for a day or a corporate headquarters for an afternoon. Or we go into an economics department at some university and we take over that department for a day or two.

And I think there will be other things as well, like the people start moving their money away from big banks into their credit unions. And I predict a myriad projects next spring.

SIEGEL: Let me ask you about what you just mentioned, and something else. On the one hand Occupy Wall Street protesters did urge people to move their money out of banks that were increasing their debit cards fees.

LASN: Yes.

SIEGEL: And instantly, people forced a big bank to back down.

LASN: Yeah.

SIEGEL: A success. On the other hand, when it comes to banks, protesters called commonly for the restoration of the New Deal banking reform law, the Glass-Steagall Act. Something much, much weaker than Glass-Steagall, the Volcker Rule barely survived the Dodd-Frank bill, which was all that a very, very Democratic Congress was able to pass.

LASN: Yes.

SIEGEL: A lesson from that is, you know, citizen action, consumerism, you can get results. Legislation, you're a pretty far cry from achieving what you want.

LASN: Yeah. No, I think that this movement, unlike the Tea Party movement, I think it has a lot of power because it's asking for fundamental systemic change within the American system. Most of the Occupiers that I know, they all feel that America is in decline and it's got corruption at the heart of Washington, D.C.

And then the financial people on Wall Street are controlling too much of the way the economy works, and that the whole of America somehow degenerated into a kind of a corporate state, rather than being a vibrant bottoms-up democracy. And I think this Occupy movement will try to pull off some rich systemic change in America and worldwide in the global economy.

SIEGEL: You are identified, obviously with the Occupy Wall Street protests. But before that, with campaigns against commercialism, excessive materialism. You've been very critical of Israel and of neoconservative policies.

LASN: Yeah.

SIEGEL: Some people think you're out of bounds identifying who are Jews among prominent neoconservatives.

LASN: Yes, and some people think I'm way in bounds as well.

SIEGEL: Well, should the Occupy Wall Street movement stand not just for a critique of inequality, but a broad critique of U.S. foreign policy, military interventions, alliance? Is that all coming together? Should it all come together into a single movement?

LASN: Yes. I think up to now the movement has been about the economics and about the global economy. But I think that there is, if the new left transcends the old left and if this movement really turns into this full-fledged movement and doesn't fizzle out, like what happened back in 1968, then I think, yeah, this movement, I think it will start operating on our information delivery systems, on our media, on our culture. I think that this can be a full-fledged, full spectrum movement that operates on all levels.

SIEGEL: You know, I covered things that happened in 1968; some of them done by friends. And one thing that happened after that year was some on what was then called the new left, misread big protests, crackdowns by police, and thought that the United States was in a revolutionary situation.

LASN: Yeah.

SIEGEL: And so a few provocations would bring the house down.

LASN: Yes. Yes.

SIEGEL: Hence, the Weather Underground and things of that sort. How do you judge the weakness or the stability of the U.S. political and economical system today?

LASN: Well, I don't think it's ever been as unstable or as shaky as it is now. I think that in the last just few years, America suddenly caught in these triple crises. And it's quite obvious to many people in this movement that our leaders, they don't really what the hell they're doing. You know, that they're just in crisis management mode. You know, we're in a world where the climate change tipping points are hovering on the horizon, where our political system is thoroughly corrupt with moneyed interests. And on top of that, we have this financial crisis that could well turn into something much more ugly than even 1929 or the 1930s.

SIEGEL: You don't think - I don't know if you were in the U.S. in 1968, but you don't think...

LASN: I was actually, yeah.

SIEGEL: You don't think the summers of riots in those days, the fear that permeated many American cities, the George Wallace campaign for president, the Vietnam War protests - you don't think that that was a shaky time? You don't think that...

LASN: But it was shaky in a different way. I think that it was shaky because maybe you could be drafted into the Vietnam War or - it was shaky in its own way. But I think that, at the risk of sounding a bit grandiose, I think this human experiment of ours on planet Earth is in deep trouble suddenly on a number of fronts. And the young people look into their futures, see a big black hole and they see leaders that don't even understand. So I think the young people today are scared in a way that they never were back in 1968.

SIEGEL: Mr. Lasn, thank you very much for talking with us.

LASN: Oh, delightful talking to you.

SIEGEL: That's Kalle Lasn, the editor of the bi-monthly magazine Adbusters, and one of the people who inspired the Occupy Wall Street movement.

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