Vlad Teichberg, former derivatives trader who gave up a life in the financial world to work on video activism, including the Global Revolution Live Stream.
For the past two months, a website called Global Revolution TV has become the main video hub for the Occupy Wall Street movement. Featuring live video feeds from New York and dozens of other cities hosting Occupy protests, the site has transformed how protests are covered and observed. When OWS protesters hold a general assembly in Zuccotti Park, the gathering is usually live-streamed across the world. When police raided the park early on Tuesday, it was caught on live stream, as well. We speak to one of the site’s co-founders, Vlad Teichberg. He is a former derivatives trader who gave up a life in the financial world to work on video activism. "This project started officially with the beginning of the New York occupation, although similar versions of this project have been done in the past for other actions and revolts," Teichberg says. "People think of Occupy Wall Street as like an American revolution. It has its roots, though, in the Arab Spring. Obviously it inspired a lot of things. And it has very direct roots in the Spanish revolution." [includes rush transcript]
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: A Democracy Now! exclusive, "Wall Street Part of Town," a new song by legendary musician Ry Cooder about the Wall Street protests. He recorded the song Tuesday. His manager sent it to us yesterday. He was once ranked by Rolling Stone magazine as the eighth-greatest guitar player of all time. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan Gonzalez, as we continue our Democracy Now! special, "Voices of the 99 Percent."
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, during Thursday’s day of action marking the second month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, hundreds of videographers across the country captured the sights and sounds of the protest. Using the latest internet technology, many were able to stream their footage live on the internet as it happened.
For the past two months, a website called Global Revolution TV has become the main video hub for the Occupy Wall Street movement. Featuring live video feeds from New York and other cities, the site has transformed how protests are covered and observed. When protesters held a general assembly in Zuccotti Park, the gathering is usually live-streamed across the world. When police raided the park early on Tuesday, the raid was caught on live stream, as well.
AMY GOODMAN: One of the co-founders of Global Revolution TV joins us now via, well, what else but video stream. His name is Vlad Teichberg. He is a former derivatives trader who gave up a life in the financial world to work on video activism.
Vlad, it’s great to have you with us. Talk about Global Revolution TV and why you left Wall Street to occupy Wall Street.
VLAD TEICHBERG: Well, I guess, in some ways, occupation is a state of mind. So, a lot of people ask me about the Wall Street experience. People should keep in mind that I was working on Wall Street and developing a lot of this stuff for years, since 2001, basically.
But getting to Global Revolution TV, this project started officially with the beginning of the New York occupation, although similar versions of this project have been done in the past for other actions and revolts and so on. The way it basically works is that, at this point, actually, there’s probably close to 200 Occupies which are broadcasting what’s happening at the general assemblies and the camps, basically the direct democracy process in the local communities. What Global Revolution basically does, it’s an aggregated channel. It basically restreams stuff coming out of all these different Occupies, in a sense focusing the world’s eyes on specific issues coming up in specific locations.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Vlad, talk about your decision to leave Wall Street and to take this course that you’ve been taking now in terms of helping the people’s movements get out their word.
VLAD TEICHBERG: Well, basically, for me, personally, that decision came in late 2001, early 2002—late—yeah, late 2001, early 2002, after 9/11, when the country started going very far to the right, so to speak, when all this—there was a group of people—I was one of them—we formed the first version of this, which was the Glass Bead Collective. We basically started using culture [inaudible], or modern culture, to start challenging the framework under which we were moving to the right, to [inaudible] the population at large.
AMY GOODMAN: Vlad, you were born where?
VLAD TEICHBERG: I was born in Russia, Moscow.
AMY GOODMAN: And talk about how you ended up in the United States and how your family influenced what you’re doing today.
VLAD TEICHBERG: Well, we came to the United States actually in the early ’80s, in ’82. And basically, for all practical purposes, my parents were thrown out of Russia. And the reason they were thrown out of Russia is because my dad got entangled in an affair where he basically exposed that on the Soviet—the entrance exams for students entering the universities in Soviet Union were rigged against Jews, in the sense that Jews were getting special exams on the oral sections. And the reason my dad got involved is because he was tutoring kids, in general, for entrance, these exams, and he noticed all his Jewish students were being flunked, and put out the questions. It got up to some other people, and they got up to some other people, and that ended up in the New York Times. And then, at that point, the Soviet Union was not kidnapping any more martyrs, per se, so they basically gave him an option to leave, versus going to the gulag.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Now you—talk to us a little bit about the international dimension of this movement. You traveled to Spain and were there as the movement, the people’s movement in Spain, developed. And you were inspired by the Arab Spring. What about this international dimension?
VLAD TEICHBERG: Well, I think it’s very important for people to understand—people think of Occupy Wall Street as like an American revolution. It has its roots, though, in the Arab Spring. Obviously it inspired a lot of things. And it has very direct roots in the Spanish revolution. So just in terms of chronology, the Spanish revolution started in May in this year, about five months after the Egyptian revolution started. And it involved very much similar—it was in some ways very similar to what we have in the States right now. Spain also has a pseudo-democracy. Spain doesn’t have like an [inaudible] dictatorship the way Egypt did. And Spain had a much less violent revolution than Egypt did. Nobody died in the streets as things went on. But a lot of things were similar in terms of like to push towards direct democracy, setting up of general assemblies, making culture of consensus. All of those things were present in the Spanish revolution. I happened to be there right before it started. I got to Spain three weeks before the Spanish revolution started, so I got to participate in the whole process from the very beginning.
AMY GOODMAN: And then talk about coming to Zuccotti Park and exactly the system that you have set up, both at Zuccotti but also in training people all over the country, and how Global Revolution TV works.
VLAD TEICHBERG: Well, basically, we believe that one of the fundamental aspects to this protest is setting up a functioning media center out of the protest, because it allows many people to work together to push out the message of what is being done, why it’s being done, and so on. So, in Zuccotti, when we got in, like one of the first things we did was we got a generator to set up some basic power, because they cut off all of the city power from the park. And we’re basically setting up on two tables in the park, which set up a basically media center, which was basically a bunch of people doing video and a bunch of people doing twittering and so-called social media. It involved not just twittering; it involved all kinds of social websites. It involved a lot of writing and a lot of communicating via text. And those two—and all those people basically worked together for the next month or so trying to push out the message. And about a week and a week and a half into the protests, we finally broke through the mainstream media wall. At least the event was no longer boycotted or blocked. And, you know, the rest was history.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Vlad, you talk about that you spent years on Wall Street. What did you do on Wall Street specifically? And could you tell us about this—it must have been obviously a transformation.
VLAD TEICHBERG: Well, yeah, my job was—
JUAN GONZALEZ: At one point you decided, "What the heck am I doing here?" And you’ve embarked on this new course in your life.
VLAD TEICHBERG: Well, my specific job was I was a derivatives trader. I was basically working for large banks, betting basically their money on these derivatives products. And my job was sort understanding how these products worked, really [inaudible] to the level of models, that used to price them, but also figuring out what models didn’t work and so on.
For me, the philosophical transformation was the—basically the whole globalization philosophy that was being pushed in the early mid-'90s, that would ultimately be—ultimate equalizer of the world turned out to be faulty because of the effective multinationals. Towards the late ’90s, I mean, I think a lot of people came to the same conclusion: globalization was actually doing more harm than good, and there was more inequality in the world. And by late—by late ’90s, it was very, very clear that that was the case. And that's pretty much when I started shifting out of being a supporter of this Ayn Rand approach to looking at the world.
AMY GOODMAN: Vlad, I wanted to play for you—I wanted to talk about the issue of what’s happening with journalists and go to this issue of press freedom and Occupy Wall Street. On Thursday, the Washington-based Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights criticized the arrest and assault of journalists during the Occupy Wall Street protests by police in recent weeks. The organization cited the arrests of at least seven journalists this week, including reporters from National Public Radio, the Associated Press, TV New Zealand, New York Daily News. At least 26 journalists have been arrested nationwide since the Occupy protests began, according to a tally by Josh Stearns of the group Free Press.
Earlier in the week, New York Press Club wrote a letter criticizing the New York Police Department’s treatment of journalism covering the protests. On Thursday, we asked Gabe Pressman, who is a veteran New York journalist, president of the New York Press Club Foundation, to read the organization’s letter. Gabe Pressman is a legendary New York journalist who had been a TV reporter in the city for over 50 years.
GABE PRESSMAN: This is the letter that the New York Press Club sent to Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.
“On Tuesday morning, November 15th, as police officers acted to remove Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zuccotti Park, several reporters protested that they were the victims of harassment and that their rights under the First Amendment were violated.
“A few were arrested or detained.
“The actions of some police officers were not consistent with the long-established relationship between the NYPD and the press.
“The brash manner in which officers ordered reporters off the streets and then made them back off until the actions of the police were almost invisible is outrageous.
“We want the department to investigate the incidents involved in this crackdown on Zuccotti Park and we want assurances it won’t happen again.
"Sincerely," and I sign my name, president of the New York Press Club Foundation and chairman of the Freedom of the Press Committee.
AMY GOODMAN: Gabe Pressman, as he said, president of the New York Press Club Foundation, reading the letter of the organization to the Mayor. Vlad Teichberg, your final comment on police moving in and arresting journalists?
VLAD TEICHBERG: Well, there was a most huge attempt made to block out press. They blocked out the map on Google Maps. They ground-roaded choppers, news choppers, the media-restricted air space. And they physically pushed all the press out of the—out of the area. I don’t have much to comment about NYPD behavior. I mean, aside of assaulting press, they assaulted hundreds of people in the park that day. So I think, you know, the record speaks for itself. But what I want to say is that attempts to censor press in the modern day and age are problematic at best. Even though all—they took all the corporate media out, the live-streaming process inside the camp showed the whole world what was going on. And because they censored the press, that actually focused even more attention on division from the inside. So, in a day and age where everybody has a camera, we should be asking ourselves a question: isn’t everyone else a journalist? And if everyone else is journalists, then the rights are given—that supposedly are reserved for the press should probably be reserved for everyone.
AMY GOODMAN: Vlad Teichberg, I want to thank you for being with us. It’s interesting. Yesterday I was down at Occupy Wall Street right after the Wall Street action at Zuccotti Park, and as a police officer was pushing me back, and I said, "I’m press," he said, "Yeah, everyone is press." Vlad Teichberg, co-founder of the Global Revolution TV, a live-streaming website that’s aired live footage from Occupy Wall Street in New York and other sites over the past two months, former derivatives trader on Wall Street, now occupying Wall Street. Thanks so much for being with us.
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