Mic Check (verb, transitive)

The human microphone, born out of prohibitions against protestors’ use of technical means of amplification, has been transformed from a simple medium to a message in its own right. And as the Occupy movement (or idea, tendency, effort, etc.) has gone viral, so too has the human microphone, moving from the street to the auditorium, where it serves as a (non-neutral) means for dissenting audiences to speak back. Here, we see Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (above) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (below) getting “mic checked” by Occupy supporters.

Judith Butler at #OccupyWallStreet

I came here to lend my support to you today, to offer my solidarity, for this unprecedented display of democracy and popular will. People have asked, ‘So what are the demands? What are the demands all these people are making?’ Either they say there are no demands and that leaves your critics confused—or they say that the demands for social equality and economic justice are impossible demands. And impossible demands, they say, are just not practical.

If hope is an impossible demand, then we demand the impossible. If the right to shelter, food and employment are impossible demands, then we demand the impossible. If it is impossible to demand that those who profit from the recession redistribute their wealth and cease their greed then yes, we demand the impossible.

But it is true that there are no demands that you can submit to arbitration here because we are not just demanding economic justice and social equality, we are assembling in public, we are coming together as bodies in alliance, in the street and in the square. We’re standing here together making democracy, enacting the phrase ‘We the people!’

(Text from Verso’s blog: here)

Also, see here for John Protevi’s fascinating take on Butler’s speech in the context of an earlier talk she gave in Venice and the embodied, affective dynamics of the so-called “human microphone,” which we’ve now seen Butler, Zizek, Michael Moore, and others utilizing at Occupy Wall Street.