This is Tristan from the Facilitation Working Group. Another Occupier pointed this thread out to me so that we could clarify the purpose of progressive stacking. Feel free to continue debate on this here, or to get involved in the Facilitation Working Group if you'd like to participate in the continuing evolution of our democratic and inclusive decision-making process.
Progressive Stacking basically, as we've outlined it, has two components. One is that people who have already spoken should only speak after others who haven't spoken yet. This is to make sure that in a general assembly like last night's, approaching 150 people, as many people have the chance to participate as possible. There were still many opportunities for many people to speak twice or even 10 or 15 times in the case of last night, but they didn't get to speak before other people who we hadn't heard from yet.
The second element, which seems (in this thread) to have been more controversial, is that we want to make sure not only every individual has the chance to be heard, but that we also make sure that people from a diversity of backgrounds and experiences get to participate. That means we take notice (though, to be fair, it is not always easy to tell from appearances!) if whether men are speaking more than women, if white folks are speaking more than Asians, if people wearing suits get to speak more than people who are barefoot, and so on. This means we try to (sensitively and carefully, and diplomatically) rotate between people who come from different backgrounds on our speakers' stack.
That's the basic nuts and bolts. Of course, we could write entire essays on the theory or the observed sociology of this process. Our impression (like Shire noted earlier) is that this practice has been pretty uncontroversial during our GA's, and a lot of people have felt like it made those who might otherwise not have felt as safe speaking able to participate more freely. And, of course, to put some limits on those who might otherwise have back-and-forth discussions with a passive audience of a hundred people just listening.
Psychojediboy, I'll try to reply a little later to your specific points about the desirability or theoretical and practical concerns with this element of consensus process. I'll just address two here: the idea that progressive stacking is 'far left' and the idea that it will be demonized by the right-wing media.
I've never heard the idea that progressive stacking is 'far left'. I'm not sure what that means, even. Quite a lot of far-left groups actually have very hierarchical structures (counterproductive to their aims, I would argue, but certainly this happens in a lot of Left groups). Progressive stacking is intended to be a method of ensuring inclusive and participatory democracy, and as far as we have been able to tell, it is only "far left" if participatory democracy is also 'far left'. (that of course is a debate in itself).
And I have no doubt that this could be demonized by hostile media- though I sort of doubt they would single that out, since they have in general been much more likely to demonize our practices of direct action (that is, the occupation itself) and our statements about economic inequality and corporate rule, than how we go about running our meetings. That's not to say it won't happen- it very well could- but I'm not sure media hostility to a self-consciously democratic process should influence overmuch our decision of whether to use that practice, especially when it has seemed as useful and uncontroversial as this one has (at least during the GA's).
This doesn't exactly represent the opinions of others on the Facilitation Working Group, necessarily, but I think it basically reflects the spirit of our discussions.
---------- Post added at 02:16 PM ---------- Previous post was at 02:04 PM ----------
Oh, and very quickly, just one other clarification:
Actually, the "Progressive Stack" and the idea y'all are suggesting of "random sorting" are pretty similar in practice. No one really gets to speak 'preferentially' just because of their background- it's more an issue of order of speakers, so that we alternate a bit. Where the stack really alters the situation is in giving preference to people who haven't spoken over people that have- which isn't "random", but does help 'randomize', in a sense, the people who end up speaking at any given assembly, because it increases the number of speakers.