Brave New World
by Andrew Marantz October 31, 2011
On the screen, a protester from Occupy Orlando was requesting in-kind donations. “We have plenty of deodorant,” he said, “but we could use soap.” A second protester, wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, entered the frame to announce breaking news: “We’re global! Seventeen hundred viewers right now!” The crowd outside the Orlando chamber of commerce cheered.
The video feed had been picked up by globalrevolution.tv, the switchboard for live coverage of the populist protests that began with Occupy Wall Street. The channel, hosted by Livestream.com, attracts between a thousand and twenty thousand viewers at any moment. “The revolution will not be televised,” the masked protester told the crowd. “It’ll be . . . on the Internet.”
The revolution is being streamed from a dilapidated second-story office in NoHo. The A. J. Muste Institute, a pacifist organization that bought the building in 1974, is leasing the space to Global Revolution, a nascent media collective, for around four hundred dollars per month. Last Tuesday night, a pensive young man in a T-shirt that read “I AM A REVOLTING CITIZEN” was at the controls, monitoring feeds from around the country. After Orlando, he cut to a video, from earlier in the week, of Naomi Klein, the critic of corporate globalization, addressing a rally in San Francisco: “Occupation is not a place—it is a state of mind.” While the Klein clip aired, someone entered the studio with footage of Naomi Wolf, the feminist writer, who had just been arrested in an evening dress. “Naomi who?” someone said. “Isn’t she on the feed right now?”
Global Revolution brands itself as non-hierarchical, but if anyone is in charge it is Vlad Teichberg, a thirty-nine-year-old former derivatives trader. “The building’s owners should have known this would happen when they invited us, but we have sort of occupied the space,” Teichberg said last week, as he lit a cigarette with an American-flag lighter.
For the first few weeks of the protest, Global Revolution operated from under a tarp in Zuccotti Park, using wireless hot spots. Two weeks ago, the group, frustrated with the amount of equipment they were losing to theft and rain, moved to NoHo. The studio is a riot of wires taped to walls, bins of battery chargers, and laptops everywhere. A to-do list on a whiteboard includes the items “Make info/tutorial primers about live streaming” and “Troubleshoot Teradeks.” In a corner of the whiteboard, someone has written, “These are good problems to have.”
Teichberg was born in Moscow, and moved with his parents to Queens when he was ten. He attended Princeton, where he wrote a thesis on number theory, then headed to Wall Street, where he worked for Deutsche Bank. “I thought globalization was going to create equality around the world,” he said. After 9/11, his views changed. “The politicization of it—using it to start wars, and the Patriot Act and everything—it was obvious we were heading down the wrong path.” He left finance, helped found a grassroots media collective, and poured his savings into the resistance.
The way Teichberg sees it, he is helping to fuel a global revolution that started on December 17th in Tunis. In February, he went to Madrid to put cameras into the hands of protesters there. Then he came back to New York to build what he calls “camera Kalashnikovs,” in preparation for the American occupation. He sees live video as a check against police brutality. “If everyone is watching, the state can’t just crush people. That’s what kept Tahrir Square from turning into Tiananmen—they knew people were paying attention.” Global Revolution subsists on a stream of small donations. Teichberg and his cohorts buy cheap used computers on the Internet, fix them up, and send them to occupations around the country.
Teichberg lives in a squat in Bushwick with his wife, Nikki, who is expecting their first child. They were married seven weeks ago at Burning Man, with the Reverend Billy officiating. “She insists I sleep at home every night, which is causing some friction,” Teichberg said. On the second night of the Zuccotti Park occupation, the couple camped there in a tent. “I assume we conceived then, because the baby is due on June 17th,” Teichberg said. “It must have been then, because we haven’t really had time for that before or since.” Teichberg admitted that a squat is not an ideal home for a baby, but he has no long-term plan. Neither he nor his wife is working, and his savings are gone. “Maybe this video thing will take off,” he said. ♦