On Occupying Things

I’m not going to be anywhere near as well spoken on this issue as the great @iboudreau on Twitter and his post, which in theory I’ll link here at some point, but I’ve been pondering this whole “Occupy [insert location]” protest concept. I tend to ponder these things at odd times, like in the shower, or during conference calls I’m not really interested in, but I’m trying to let this gel into something worth writing.

I see the same problem as the Tea Party had for them. Yes, them. Spare me the trip on the outrage bus, but there’s more similarities than differences. Of course, Occupy movements aren’t media darlings getting the push that Tea Partiers did, but to the observer who’s not made up their mind what to think of a movement, they’ve got a pretty clear problem. They have ideas, demands, etc – but their message isn’t clear, and the signal-to-noise ratio is unbearably low. It’s not enough to have a clear message, you have to also curb all the off-message messaging. There’s been a lot of that, and it’s no wonder that the media is able to lambaste them constantly. When you mix in a lot of pointless babble (or downright contemptible fringe opinion) with a big movement, then the whole thing is so muddied that you’re going to have a hard time winning anyone over.

Of course, I think that’s the curse of any big movement, particularly when you want it to appear as organic and formless as OWS type protests. And I don’t have any answers on how to fix that without undermining that apparently desirable characteristic.

What’s therefore more important is to channel the energy into something that’s meaningful and productive – which really means getting people interested in issues, educated enough to be able to make an informed decision, and most importantly, into voting booths. The reason that insidious agendas make progress is that people don’t pay enough attention, and frankly, as an outsider looking in on the US, it’s pretty terrifying the kind of ideas that get traction. It happens because of voter apathy, manipulation of messaging, and so on. That’s what these sorts of movements can do that is of value – put out a strong counter message that resonates.

So there’s room for the movement to get somewhere, but it means that everyone who wants to see things change needs to get involved in some form – even if it’s just helping get people informed and interested in the political process. That, and not drum circles, will actually effect change. But then the question becomes, how to really do that…?


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