Pierre Sauvage, whom literary editor David Samuels interviewed for Tablet Magazine, makes documentaries such as Weapons of the Spirit and Not Idly By, about people who saved Jews during the Holocaust. While his son David would never claim to have the equivalent subject, he argued that Occupy.com, the Website he founded which launched today, as well as the larger message of Occupy Wall Street are consonant with his father’s themes.
“His running theme in life is people who save people in crisis,” Sauvage told me. “The evil in his movies is never the Nazis, it’s always the people who stood ‘idly by’—who let it happen. The real evil guys are almost not the point.”
He added that the point of Occupy is to turn the system’s bystanders into activists. “Occupy Wall Street,” he explained, “is a bunch of people saying, ‘We’re not going to stand by anymore.’ There’s a whole host of systemic injustices that people have been letting stand by for years.”
Occupy.com aims to be ground zero for Internet media—words, photographs, videos, music, even games—for the Occupy movement as it aims a spring rebirth, most notably perhaps with the general strike called for May 1. It is not a “working group,” not officially sanctioned via general assembly and consensus and the other arcane procedures by which OWS is governed; it is calling itself an “affinity group.” “As editors, we’re just giving a place where all the content that’s being produced will be curated, and putting it up there,” said Michael Levitin, a veteran of the Occupy Wall Street Journal.
Levitin also noted that most of Occupy.com’s staffers, including himself and Sauvage, are Jewish. Even the site’s prime funder, whose name was not given, is apparently a left-leaning, Jewish philanthropist.
Sauvage’s trajectory feels typical of many young people who got involved in the Occupy movement. Grew up in L.A.; majored in English at Columbia; wrote and directed some plays; worked in television; went to business school (the founder of Occupy.com has an MBA!); made a well-received documentary short. Two friends (who, he noted, knowing his audience, also happen to be Jewish) took him down to Zuccotti Park, and he was hooked.
Putting together an organized, slick Website is in many ways at odds with Occupy’s DIY, anti-corporate ethos. “I understand the fear of NGO-ization: they become accountable to where the money’s coming from, which makes them more conservative,” explained Levitin, defending the site. “This is a movement about changing our whole relationship to money, and yet how can you battle the one percent with a bunch of people who have nothing? If you’re playing around with a couple hundred thousand dollars to launch a site and support a dozen people that will create a site to get more people to join the movement, that’s a legitimate use of money.”
Sauvage expressed a similar two-minds about working within the system to change the system. “Media is ridiculous, it’s driven by power and money and status almost exclusively—yet that’s really important, because the narrative is almost everything,” he said.
Sauvage also seemed excited to be discussing this with a Jewish outlet, given the well-known charges that Occupy is anti-Semitic. “There was the slightest, slightest, slightest strain of anti-Semitism,” he said, “but then I got so many emails from friends of mine, saying, ‘How can you be in this anti-Semitic organization?’ I saw that as evidence of people’s desperation to find any ways to disengage. Everyone’s looking for that excuse.” The issues Occupy actually does touch on, he added, “are so close to home.”
Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.