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The First 21st-Century Movement: Douglas Rushkoff on Occupy Wall Street and Reclaiming the Internet from Corporations

Media theorist and author Douglas Rushkoff talks to AlterNet's Sarah Jaffe about building a better Internet, the job-free future, and how Occupy Wall Street could save us.

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The one critique I could see making almost part sense, is the question: if Obama suddenly forgave everybody's education loans, what would happen to Occupy Wall Street? I don't think it would make it go away. But it's interesting, I wonder. The way you basically end movements is by paying everybody off in one way or another.

SJ: Do you see this connection to the piece you wrote (and the response that I wrote) about the jobless future? These people in Liberty Plaza are doing hard work on a volunteer basis rather than as a “job”--they're modeling the way we do the work of building society.

DR: And people refuse--I wrote a piece saying that jobs are obsolete, but rather than reading the piece people say, “Oh, Rushkoff said we don't have to work anymore,” and that's not what I'm saying at all, I'm saying we don't want to have what we think of as jobs anymore and if you can't draw the distinction, then--we'll see.

The people who did the original Internet were called idiots, too. I tend to be on the side that always gets laughed out of the room for saying things, whether it's saying “You're going to use email someday, you'll be walking around with a phone all the time.” They don't come back and apologize later when you're right.

But people are not going to embrace the thing that's about to replace them.

SJ: From ContactCon to Occupy Wall Street to Comic-Con—you introduced a new comic book at New York Comic-Con this weekend. It was strange for me being at the con—I kept wanting to yell “mic check” at the crowds.

DR: I wanted to do it too! These people are so wrapped up, mired in entertainment culture.

I'm doing a comic called ADD, the original idea was: what if attention deficit disorder was not a bug but rather a feature, an adaptive strategy to a world where people are trying to program you everywhere you look. 

The theme is exactly what we're talking about. It's about the totality of an entertainment culture, living in Comic-Con, the kids who are living in that total saturation of entertainment culture end up being able to pierce the veil, end up being able to see through the marketing.

How do you make media theorists into heroes? By making them video game players who develop superhuman abilities. 

SJ: It relates right back to Occupy Wall Street--the people who are getting written off by the elites finding and creating the solutions.

DR: You know, I've gotten three calls from publishers to crash-write and they'll crash-publish the “Occupy Wall Street book.” And I've said no. You want to see the manifesto of Occupy Wall Street, read the  Invisible Committee—read my Life, Inc. The manifestos have already been written.

But there's this big thing happening and you and your corporation want to make money off it! They read an article where I say this movement is the Internet, not a book, and they say write the book!

I just hope that [Occupy Everywhere] becomes a normative behavior. I hope it becomes the way we live life rather than just being the way we protest anti-life.

Sarah Jaffe is an associate editor at AlterNet, a rabblerouser and frequent Twitterer. You can follow her at @seasonothebitch.