Why Occupy Wall Street won’t die

At first, Occupy Wall Street seemed clunky and eccentric. It seemed to
lack focus and clear objectives. It was inconsistent in its message, and
was led by a young and quirky cast of characters. Some labeled the effort naive and sophomoric, even hypocritical and self-entitled.

It’s ironic that the movement is being criticized for not having clear
objectives. In today’s socially fragmented, sub-cultural world, a
successful meta-narrative has to be incomplete if it hopes to gain mass
appeal. It is precisely the incomplete story that can draw in the most
voices, and thereby gain it’s identity from multiple constituencies.

But things are picking up steam, and the movement is growing fast. The
Teamsters have been outspoken in their support, and a host of other
organizations are planning protests next week, including The United
Federation of Teachers, 32BJ SEIU, 1199 SEIU, Works United and Transport
Workers Union Local 100, and more. Moveon.org is expected to mobilize
its online networks. Social justice advocates are watching with
interest, and are increasingly getting behind the movement. Media coverage is picking up.

So what’s going on here, and why the pile-on? I’m reminded of this music festival video.

In this video, the first dancer is a bit eccentric, and maybe you don’t
identity with him at all. The second dancer is probably only marginally
less eccentric than the first, but at least now there are two people,
and your interest is piqued. Then suddenly there are 3,4,5 people -- a
veritable crowd -- and you’re not sure what to make of it.

Before you know it, you’re in there dancing too.

This is how successful social movements work. They start with a small group  of dissonant voices whom the mainstream doesn’t, and in fact may never, identify with. This group creates the platform, and others, sensing an
opportunity, are attracted by the chance to use the platform to advance
their own agenda, or simply to avoid experiencing FOMO (the fear of
missing out).

That’s what’s happening now with Occupy Wall Street. Various loosely aligned interest groups are co-opting the platform for their own purposes, and in doing so are  growing the audience. Wall Street is a powerful symbol for inequality, and any individual or group that sympathizes with inequality as one of America’s core maladies is going to be listening. Stay tuned.

Follow Jeremy's tweets at www.twitter.com/jeremyosborn

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