Thursday, December 08, 2011

Re: #OccupyNightlife

Producer, promoter, and denizen of downtown NYC nightlife Earl Dax has just announced an upcoming event at the Parkside Lounge that he's calling #OccupyNightlife. The event announcement claims the following:

"Nightlife and club culture is arguably superfluous when contrasted with issues at the heart of the Occupy movement(s) and the thousands of protestors who have put their lives and bodies on the line.

That said, the majority of promoters, DJs, bartenders, door staff, gogo dancers, and performers are themselves part of the 99% economically. Moreover, not only are nightlife workers are just likely to suffer from the austerity measures and social spending cuts proposed by political and banking interests, but conservative forces historically have worked to place significant limitation on various aspects of nightlife as threats to civic quality of life and moral order. Furthermore, in the growing Occupy movements domestically and internationally, those involved in the cultural production of nightlife have many skills and resources that can aid these movements… extensive email lists; wide social networks; creative approaches to messaging; experience with event production, etc.

Join us in the back room of the Parkside Lounge for this preliminary forum highlighting the ways in which denizens of the night are already involved with Occupy movements and ways in which others can engage with these movements.

I have submitted to Earl a number of questions and comments about how messed-up these assumptions are and have asked him to explain how anyone can take such an event seriously when there are so many inherent conflicts of interest. My letter to Earl:

Earl, do you not see the implicit conflict in holding an "awareness building" event for the so-called Occupy movement within a bar/nightlife venue? Will any products from Anheuser-Busch InBev (NYSE:BUD), Molson Coors (TAP), Coca Cola (KO), Pepsi Co (PEP), or other multinational beverage giants be served, for profit, at this event? Who will profit and how will those profits be used?

What about the utterly non-democratic way in which nightlife social structures directly emulate the classic capitalist models for stratification of wealth. Cover-charges, drink minimums, VIP access, etc. Let's also not forget the blatant, egregious discrimination against people with disabilities, physical trauma and dis-figuration, and non-normative body types that is so commonplace in both gay and straight nightlife venues.

Will you be processing how small businesses like bars and clubs constitute quasi-public spaces subject to various laws and regulations, but which are also ultimately privately controlled? And how will you be processing these things? Is there an organizational and/or procedural model you will follow wherein everyone will have a voice and will be heard? What about age restrictions... will they be lifted? Or is the event only for people 21+?

By co-opting the nomenclature of the "Occupy" movement for a nightlife event in a nightlife venue, you immediately open the door to such kinds of questions, which you haven't yet addressed in your initial announcement of the event. HOW is it justifiable to do so, in the face of so many inherent conflicts of interest? WHY ISN'T this just an opportunistic marketing ploy to put money into the registers at Parkside?

Sorry if I am coming off as a skeptical arrogant prick. I guess I do support the notion that a critical political and social lens ought to be applied to the nightlife phenomenon both locally and on the largest scales. But for that to happen, I think you should be promoting your event as something DISTINCTLY different from just another downtown nightclub event. Perhaps that's what you have in mind. But it just isn't clear how it will be different, and how you can justify calling it an "Occupy" event when on the surface it just looks like it doesn't amount to much more than a blatant pastiche of anarchist, anti-capitalist trendiness."

I sincerely look forward to his response.

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