“‘IN HER MAKESHIFT classroom in lower Manhattan, Lisa Fithian turns to a group of several dozen students, squares her shoulders, and issues a challenge: ‘Does someone want to be a cop and come get me?’ A tall redhead abruptly breaks out and lunges at her, but Fithian, a petite, den-motherish 50-year-old, head fakes and bolts away. Cheers erupt from her pupils, Occupy Wall Street protesters intent on shutting down the New York Stock Exchange the following morning. Another pretend cop moves in, and this time she drops to the ground, flopping like a rag doll as the officer struggles to drag her away. Fithian stands to deliver her lesson. ‘Of the two choices, running away or going limp, what does running away communicate?’ she asks.
“‘Guilt,’ several people say.
“She smiles and nods. “Guilt.'”
—Josh Harkinson profiles Lisa Fithian, professional provocateur, for Mother Jones. Fithian is also a founder of Common Ground Relief, an organization that formed around the work of Malik Rahim in Algiers, New Orleans, after Katrina. I had the privilege of being in the middle of that scene as a reporter for WIRED while it was all coming together, although I don’t recall Fithian. (Which means nothing. There were tons of people doing good work with which I had little or no interaction. But still, small world!)