What is Occupy Wall Street?


I’m seeing a lot of misunderstanding going around about the Occupy Wall Street movement. Perhaps it’s willful, perhaps it’s not. But anyhow, I decided to share the thoughts of a couple of my favorite Internet Personages to help explain what this movement is about.

First, Holly explains what the movement is, how the movement is being organized, and why this movement is different from Ye Goode Ole Protest:

It struck me as a very different kind of protest than any other I’ve seen.  Because it encompasses so many issues–healthcare, education, war, corporate personhood, national debt, jobs–and yet the central one is clear and emotional and obvious: “99% of us are eating the crumbs of 1%, and fuck that shit.”

It’s a different kind of protest because in many ways, it’s less a protest than a forum.  There was a lot of talking at the Occupy Boston camp.  A lot of disagreement.  A lot of different issues being raised.  The camp was being run as a mini-democracy, not a party headquarters.  This is why the Occupy movements aren’t releasing demands–because their goal isn’t “enact a solution now” but “we need to start working on solutions.”  That’s a confusing, messy cause to be marching for, and also a tremendously humble and important cause.

The Occupy movement is also a different kind of protest because of the strange way it encompasses both the radical and the eminently reasonable.  Or really, how it shows that the reasonable has become radical.

The radical-looking people in the photo–the dirty-hippy types and the scary black-masked folks–most of them weren’t screaming for the downfall of the State or the overthrow of capitalism.  They were shouting things like “fund healthcare and education” and “reduce the deficit.”  I live in a country where people are putting on masks and writing a defense attorney’s phone number on their arm so they can say things like “rich people should pay more taxes.”

Maybe the crystallizing moment came when some doofus yelled “get a job” at us, and the crowd yelled back–not “fuck the system,” but “we want jobs.”

There was another crystallizing moment, though, of a different sort.  We were gathering and preparing to march, and one woman asked timidly, “are we allowed to march here?”  The answer: “we’re always allowed to march.”

Next up, Jay Smooth on the messaging of the movement, and an analysis of the media’s reaction to the movement:

(Note: if you need a transcript of the video, let me know in the comments, and I’ll find one, or transcribe it myself.)

Finally, Holly again, speaking about the selectivity of the media in choosing interviewees:

I’m also infuriated by the persistence of the “dirty hippies and creepy anarchists” image of Occupy Boston.  A lot of media outlets have been selectively interviewing and photographing the weirdest-looking and least coherent people there–ignoring the presence of nurses, ironworkers, veterans, teachers, and other such fringe subversive elements.  (This is a tricky issue because I don’t want to devalue the voices of hippies and anarchists and funny-lookin’ people, but at the same time, I know the public does, and selectively showing those people in the media is definitely encouraging a bias against the movement.)  Most of us either have jobs or want jobs; most of us are intelligent people who know exactly what we’re doing out there; none of us were violent.  And if it makes you feel better, plenty of us were nicely dressed with clean hair and everything.

There’s a lot of media coverage out there–mainstream sources like newspapers and news broadcasts, as well as “new” media coverage like youtube videos and blogs. It’s important to utilize both sets of media, not only so you can see the whole picture, but also so you can see what angle which set is coming from–and ponder why that may be.

If you’re still in doubt, go down to Occupy Louisville, talk to the people there, and see what it’s about for yourself.

If you feel overwhelmed by the multitudes of sources out there, one of my favorite blogs has a daily round-up of articles on the Occupy movement. Today’s round-up is here.