Monday, February 20, 2012

Occupy Nashville: The Drama, Act I

Keeping up with Occupy Nashville news lately is a bit like watching slowed down footage of a really bad train wreck, if you were in The Twilight Zone.  Or, trying to moderate an argument between Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum(b).  A circus as metaphor occurs as appropriate too, as does imagining oneself to be zoo keeper in the monkey house.  While the state of Tennessee proceeds with legislative action that will almost certainly result in the end of 24/7 camping on Legislative Plaza in a matter of days, some persons associated with Occupy Nashville continue to demonstrate, at minimum, questionable judgement in ways that put the future of ON in jeopardy of losing more public support and that's what this blog entry is going to be about.  ON has important decisions to make, critical work to be done if it's to be able to effectively continue operations after the camp on the plaza is gone.  It's time to cut the cancer out before it kills the body that is Occupy Nashville.

Cancer?  That's exactly the analogy that occurred to me after watching the GA of February 14th.  With tears streaming down my face, more than once, I saw women and men of ON speak passionately about the very things that brought me to this movement.  In awe of their dedication, I also experienced disgust knowing that at the same time these brave souls were speaking, there were others in this movement involved in malicious attacks on these same people.  Even in the midst of the darkest hours for Occupy Nashville in terms of its very survival as a physical entity, the people who have been responsible for so much of what's been a problem with ON for months have not been willing (able?) to stop putting more energy into maintaining their own egos than into Occupying anything.

It's past time to mince words, folks.  A major problem continues to be that certain people have positioned themselves to be the public voice and image for Occupy Nashville.  There's a rather extensive cast of characters in this drama, but I want to begin by first looking at the major players, the stars, if you will.


If you go to Occupy Nashville's official web site and click on the "media" tab at the top of the main page, you can choose from two things...both will take you to Matt.  You can go to his Ustream channel or to the station where he does a radio show.  That's it.  End of story for anybody who visits the official site for ON seeking information on ON media.  There's no denying that Matt is represented on their site as a voice for ON.

The problem with that is, well, Matt.  While it's true he's put in more hours in recent months than anybody else to stream ON related events, it's also true that he often conducts himself much like an adolescent who got into his parent's liquor cabinet and now doesn't know what to do with his drunk self.  His lack of self control while in the spotlight for ON does damage to ON's image to the public at a time when it needs all the support it can get.

 (Photo a public post on fb with a "share" button.  I'm sharing.)

Like what, you ask?  Well, after the GA three nights ago, Matt (aka Tangell0/Tangello) was front and center as the stream guy who created an incident in front of a bar on Broadway, in the heart of Nashville's tourist district.  Worse, he then edited footage of what he shot and participated in a call to boycott the small business involved.  Matt's fans and supporters obliged him by slamming the facebook page of the bar owner (most of those posts have now been removed) and making enough annoying phone calls to the bar that they had to change their phone number.  Never mind that Matt repeatedly shouted dumb stuff like "you fucking douche bag" in the middle of this.  Never mind that Matt tried to get some of the ON people to invade the bar with him (thankfully, another ON person talked him down from that, also streamed live).  This became a huge brouhaha with Matt, once again, at the center of it all.  (Some footage of this is still on Matt's Ustream channel.)

That was Thursday, and the last time that he streamed a GA.  Matt tweeted on Saturday that he was not going to be able to stream the GA that day.  However, he was available to stream a jam session on that Ustream channel that links off the ON website.  He was also, apparently, unable to stream the GA today, but that didn't prevent him from tweeting that he was "hammered" by noon two days in a row and being in a video chat talking about it all.

Who cares if Matt is "hammered" at noon (or any other time, for that matter)?  Well, mostly, not me, f'sure.  The problem, again, however, is that everything Matt does seems to have a distinct air of self promotion to it and, again, he's positioned as an "official" representative of ON.  Every time someone from the press or another Occupy comes to a chat or forum or fb page looking for a contact person, Matt is one of the two people whose names (and Twitter, Ustream, and fb info) are given.  That's the problem.

And, it's not new.  Recall, please, that it was Matt back in November with the open wallet on live stream openly taunting people with "fuck you if you don't like it."  It was Matt who streamed in December about wanting to "fuck with the state police" when he and another ON protester pitched a tent in the middle of the night outside Governor's office on the capitol grounds.  Matt who suggested in an email that members of ON go to the homes of other ON participants they disagreed with to protest.  (I'll gladly forward a copy of that email to anybody who requests it.)  Matt who interviewed the woman beater who lied about his military service and was kicked out of his own party caucus without even asking the perp about it.  Matt in this picture on his Twitter account, captioned:  "who is that masked man stealing power from the lamp post? Its @tangell0 #occupynashville now has power."

If you're happy about the public face "Tangello the Great" (his own sobriquet, btw) gives to Occupy Nashville, perhaps you're also happy to donate to his WePay account that you can find linked to on his Ustream page.  Before you decide to do that, however, allow me to point out a few relevant facts:

  • Occupy Nashville pays for two hot spots to be used for streaming of ON related activities and events.  That is not an out-of-pocket expense for the person streaming.
  • The accounting of funds collected that's presented on the beg page does not jive with what Matt has reported more than once elsewhere.  The total reported donations as of this writing on that page is $100, although Matt streamed while in D.C. about one day getting "a ton" of donations and has stated online elsewhere since then that he's averaging about a hundred dollars per month.
  • Matt is indicating online in more than one place that he's leaving Occupy Nashville when the camp closes to head to Occupy Oakland.
I think it's time for Matt to go to Oakland or anywhere that's not Occupy Nashville.  Oakland may, in fact, be a good fit for him.  If you want to help make it happen, then, by all means, consider donating as much as you can afford to give.  On the other hand, if you want to help Occupy Nashville in a more direct way even than getting rid of Matt Hamill, I'm suggesting that you visit the Occupy Nashville site and donate through the Nashville Peace and Justice Center.

Of one thing we can be sure:  Matt's had a sweet gig here.  Just days out of jail, as noted on his blog, he landed in the bosom of Occupy Nashville and by not long into November, he'd made the decision to quit the job he'd had for a few weeks so he could move to the plaza.  As he explained to me from the backseat of my car one night when I drove to Murfreesboro to pick him up from his job before he quit it, "All my needs are met there.  If I want cigarettes or pizza, all I have to do is tell the people in the stream chat I want it and they send it."  "I can snap my fingers and get anything I want."  I'm not sure, however, that even Matt knew he'd be able to position himself as the voice and face of ON, on their dime, and collect donations to his private WePay account for his trouble.  I don't even care what he was in jail for, though there is online indication that he's telling the truth that he was.  Unfortunately, the face he's put on ON is not one that's contributed to public support for the movement.  There is no regular viewer of Matt's stream who hasn't heard his frequent comments to every new person he meets that he's "the main guy" for ON media contact.  Let's be clear.  He's not worth the trouble.  It's time for him to go.


Jason Steen, aka DrTweeker in a number of places online, is the other star of this Occupy Nashville drama, as the other person besides Matt who streams and is consistently cited as an "official" contact for ON.  In the earliest days of ON, Jason was the person who most often streamed ON occasions, but just because that's now fallen to Matt, it would be a mistake to think Jason is any less a public face for Occupy Nashville.  Again, it's Jason and Matt who are consistently referenced as contact people when people want to contact ON about just about anything.  And, again, check the ON fb page if you think it's happening in any other way.

Unfortunately, laying out the issues with Jason's involvement with ON are a bit more problematic for me because I can't do it without noting some information that's rather messy, but we're going there anyway, because some of it's already public knowledge and has even been discussed in GAs that were live streamed to anybody who wanted to see it.  That can still be viewed in archived footage on Tangello's Ustream channel.  Of course, we're talking about stealing.  Stealing money from Occupy Nashville.  Money intended to buy food and run the camp on for a week.  Occupy Nashville that he's positioned himself as the public face of.

Whether Jason actually stole the money or not, he, at minimum, behaved recklessly with funds he was entrusted with.  By his own declaration, he left the money unattended in a tent, without telling anybody present at the time he was going to do so, and he did it shortly after a meeting he was part of in which it was clearly stated that nobody was to do that because there had been an earlier problem with missing money.  Then he left town to go to D.C.

Jason being interviewed by local media.  (Photo a public post on fb with a "share" button.  I'm sharing.)

You can, of course, decide for yourself what you think happened there.  You can, also, donate to Jason's personal WePay account.  But, if that's how you're inclined, let me point out a few things relative to this beggar's operation:

  • Jason promises to use any donated money for "bail" or "streaming," but he mostly never streams any more and hasn't for many weeks.  
  • It's unclear how much bail would be even if Jason decided to get arrested.
  • It's unclear whether or not ON will have money to bail anybody out of jail, if needed.  There are, perhaps, a half dozen people who have indicated a willingness to get arrested, certainly no more than that.
  • Getting arrested is a choice, in this instance, not a requirement.
  • Again, Occupy Nashville pays for hot spots and this is not an out-of-pocket expense for Jason.

Frankly, if I had extra bucks to give to somebody right now and Jason was my recipient of choice, I'd give the money I had to donate directly to the woman whose money came up missing when he "left it in a tent,"and I'd give it to her in his name.

Jason, aka Dr.Tweeker, is problematic for another reason and here it gets even more sticky because I have to now talk about what is rumor and not able to be proven by me.  The issue of drug use on the plaza has been a sticking point, but usually when  people talk about it openly, they want to only discuss those "homeless" people on the plaza.  Except that, privately, for months, and from more than one person in a position to know, I keep hearing that Jason is part of a group using bath salts on the plaza.  For the uninitiated, bath salts are a street drug that acts as a central nervous system stimulant.  Think speed.  Crack.  Meth.  Think all the nasty character traits that often manifest themselves in people who do CNS stimulants.  While you're at it, ponder this definition of "tweeker" from the Urban Dictionary:

A methamphetamine user. Tweekers are known for their extreme paranoia, flagrant dishonesty, and lack of non-tweeker friends. A tweeker will steal your stuff and then help you look for it.
You can use Google search for yourself to determine that Jason has been calling himself DrTweeker for a lot longer than he's been associated with Occupy Nashville.  Hear his own words about that here.

In my professional life, I was licensed as a clinician and trainer in the field of addictions, so my perspective on the issue of Jason as DrTweeker and the current problem of him being accused of stealing and using drugs on the plaza is coming necessarily influenced by that perspective.  I will cop to some embarrassment that I had to google "bath salts" myself when I first heard the rumors, but I'll also cop to an "aha" moment when I did, because the classic personality and behavior associated with those who are actively using CNS stimulants is present in the behavior I've seen recently come from Jason.  I've seen him, over and over and over and over again, look straight into the camera and tell one bold faced lie after another, about anything from the number of tents on the plaza, the number of people in those tents, even about whether or not he was streaming events when questioned by a security guard.

Just like Matt, Jason needs to go.  To rehab?  I dunno.  Maybe.  But, like Matt, it needs to be just about anywhere other than Occupy Nashville.


Matt and Jason are the anointed stars in this production, but they could never have maintained their star status without a lot of help from others within Occupy Nashville.  All along, there has been a cast of co-stars, primarily ON tech team members...Spuff, Overkill, Eric, Jon Louis.  There have also been the bit players from the sidelines, the peanut gallery, if you will...Phillip, Grits, Ohio, and others.  The next blog entry will introduce you to more of the cast that produces the drama that is Occupy Nashville.