Still Trying to Understand OCW

On CNN, Douglas Rushkoff who believes corporations run the world–tries to make sense of OCW for the media (clueless) and the rest of us (perplexed):

Anyone who says he has no idea what these folks are protesting is not being truthful. Whether we agree with them or not, we all know what they are upset about, and we all know that there are investment bankers working on Wall Street getting richer while things for most of the rest of us are getting tougher. What upsets banking’s defenders and politicians alike is the refusal of this movement to state its terms or set its goals in the traditional language of campaigns.

That’s because, unlike a political campaign designed to get some person in office and then close up shop (as in the election of Obama), this is not a movement with a traditional narrative arc. As the product of the decentralized networked-era culture, it is less about victory than sustainability. It is not about one-pointedness, but inclusion and groping toward consensus. It is not like a book; it is like the Internet.

via Think Occupy Wall St. is a phase? You don’t get it –

  • A left-leaning FAQ and a Fox News opinion piece may help, as well.
  • The Nobel Laureate economist, Joseph Stieglitz, makes the case for OCW as a global movement.

9 thoughts on “Still Trying to Understand OCW”

  1. I cannot say that I support the OWS movement 100%. However, I do feel that some of the grievances protesters have listed are legitimate complaints. Unfortunately, what we see every day is the media and pundits declaring that these protests must have a catchy phrase (like Cain’s “9-9-9” tax plan or Obamacare). The trick they’re trying to play here is one of the times.

    See, we like to make up words and give them all sorts of loaded definitions and meanings. a good example from the beginning of this century are the words “terrorism” and “terrorist”. In the dictionary, you have the regular definition of terrorism: “The use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims” and you have the convoluted western definition: “actions by radical Islamic jihadists trying to destabilize Western democracy”. Once we were able to pass off the latter definition as the real definition, we were able to push a “war on terrorism” and spread this idea across the world. However, if you hearken back to the traditional definition, you may be able to see the irony in declaring a war on “terrorism”.

    This same kind of definition building and branding is what we see all the reporters and pundits grasping at. The popular slogan, “we are the 99%” has not only led politicians to start defaming the class warfare of the OWS movement (see the video here:
    Also, you see counter-movements springing up with catchy titles like “We are the 53% ( referring to the stat that 53% of Americans pay income tax). So, while a clear thesis and topic statements are what our teachers and organized minds train us to form our thoughts into, I think it is important to realize that the moment thoughts are organized like this, the media has a field-day tearing it all apart to exploit the holes in it.

    Is any political movement perfect? No. And I hope nobody has the audacity to suggest there is such. But, just because there are perceived flaws in the rhetoric, does it mean we should completely condemn it? Absolutely not. That’s why I feel any considerate American citizen has the responsibility to educate him/herself on the OWS issue in the most unbiased manner possible (Read: NOT by watching Fox and CNN). There are vast discrepancies between the democracy envisioned by the Founders and the democracy now practiced by us. Some of the changes are good, some are not. There are vast discrepancies between the liberal capitalism that exploded technology and growth in days past and the capitalism the world practices today. Some of the changes are good, some are not. At this point in time, those of us that don’t have private jets and million-dollar bank accounts; those of us who aren’t camping out in state parks living off of donations, need to step up and examine the rift between these two camps and determine where we stand. Those that scoff either side, those that behave indifferently to the matter, do not understand the purpose of this great country nor the responsibility of their being its citizenry.

  2. This article and, ironically, Stephen Colbert’s segment on Occupy Wall Street have begun to change my view of this protest to some degree. I like many others was satisfied with simply writing off the occupy protesters as weirdies without a real cause or organization or perhaps even significant intelligence. However here Rushkoff makes the interesting comparison between internet and social media trends and the way the protest works. Although the protests may seem to have no clearly cut objective, the same could be argued about internet staples such as facebook, twitter, blogging etc. They are both simply a constant conversation that some may argue has no clearly directed end in mind other than the continuance of the conversation itself, and look how they are literally changing the world. Also Stephen Colbert’s interview although extremely comical and mocking of the movement actually did show them in a somewhat different light than many of the other popular media interviews have done (which simply adds to Colbert’s comedic genius in my opinion). Although Colbert certainly dominated the direction of the interview, through the occupiers statements, regardless of their odd quirks at times, showed that these people were not mindless followers of a pointless movement. Their comments were not just coherent but showed significant thought on the subjects. I agree with Rushkoff in his view that although the occupy movement is certainly different, we cannot so quickly discount it as significant or pertinent. In another article by Rushkoff to CNN he expands on his views of the Occupy Wall Street movement and although I think he is somewhat generous in his near praise, he does look at it from a different perspective than most journalists have up to this point.

  3. Finally, someone is defending these people. As of yet, I have heard the protestors referred to as nothing but “whiners.” I think the main reason for this is because people are confused by what this movement really is.
    Rushkaff’s explanation behind people’s lack of understanding is that we have moved on to “America’s first true Internet-era movement, which — unlike civil rights protests, labor marches, or even the Obama campaign — does not take its cue from a charismatic leader, express itself in bumper-sticker-length goals and understand itself as having a particular endpoint.” In other words, with changing times come new forms of protest and innovative ways of making the world a better place.
    Another aspect of occupy Wall Street that Rushkaff elaborates is the movement’s said absence of coherency. Of this Rushkaff said, “Yes, there are a wide array of complaints, demands, and goals from the Wall Street protesters: the collapsing environment, labor standards, housing policy, government corruption, World Bank lending practices, unemployment, increasing wealth disparity and so on. Different people have been affected by different aspects of the same system — and they believe they are symptoms of the same core problem” (Rushkaff). I could not agree more. There is too much going on in the U.S. today to address only one issue at a time.
    What these people want is for politics and economics in the U.S. to progress with the advancement of time. In my opinion, Rushkaff hits the nail on the head with his assertions.

  4. I have seen the protests, read the blogs, heard the chants and am still baffled by the Occupy movement. I understand the grievances. I know why the are frustrated,and what put them in the streets. What I don’t understand is how a movement with strong anti-war aims could possibly make an “occupation successful” I think,the lack of “a traditional narrative arc” is what will end the movement. With no goal in mind, how will anyone know when the movement has reached it’s aims? When is the country well-off enough for the protesters to go home? When will the problems be sufficiently resolved to roll up the sleeping bags, put up the tents and call it a success? Never. They will never be satisfied. They will never protest the world into perfect order, and energy behind the movement will either peter out or build and explode in violent anarchy. Like any Occupation, it cannot be a sustained and it cannot be successful. The name of the movement speaks VOLUMES about it’s future. Like all occupations, it will consume resources but produce no tangible victories, someone will find a way to profit from it, the sacrifice, sweat and blood of those on the ground level will grease the machinery of it’s operations and it will end with a bang that fades out to a whimper.

  5. I just talked to one of my friends who is part of this movement in Washington DC. He has participated in the protest In CitiBank and other places making shouts such as “Show me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!””Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!” I have many other friends who make statements like this one “Dear Occupiers, I gave you a chance and listened to your radio show for 20 minutes today. I learned 2 things. 1 – You are naive and greedy. 2 – It’s time that you be thrown out of the park and back to your Mom’s basement.” Because of the way media portrays this occupation many believe that it is a purposeless movement. Rushkoff argues this point making the following comment: “To be fair, the reason why some mainstream news journalists and many of the audiences they serve see the Occupy Wall Street protests as incoherent is because the press and the public are themselves. It is difficult to comprehend a 21st century movement from the perspective of the 20th century politics, media, and economics in which we are still steeped.” I agree with the later statement. Many of us have been judging this movements based on politics, media and economic principles from the 20th century. Even though it is not clear, this movements is helping bring a sense of awareness of the way businesses make profit. Rushkoff’s brings out this purpose in his article saying “Occupy Wall Street is meant more as a way of life that spreads through contagion, creates as many questions as it answers, aims to force a reconsideration of the way the nation does business and offers hope to those of us who previously felt alone in our belief that the current economic system is broken.” This statement is reinforced by Jeanette Winterson’s, English author, opinion about this movement. She affirms that “somebody has to take responsability of the way the world is. Things do not happen by chance. It is becaue people usually men take great risk with the lives and well being of the rest of us”

    Riots in the Arab Spring and riots in South America, all have the same goal. All seek to affect the way things run in the world. It has been interesting to see the support for OCWs from other parts of the world However, despite bring up a positive point about this movement that could counterbalance the negative opinion around, the reality is that this cannot last forever. The occupation will need to balance somehow the fact that people dislike inequality, and blame it on capitalism. Ironically, capitalism is probably better at making things more equal. But even if it isn’t, it is certainly better at making everyone better off.

  6. cherrington and calebsl I find both your comments a breath of fresh air. I think the vast majority of the US (and from what I have heard around campus) is confused on OWS and the important ideas that are coming out of this movement. While I cannot say that I agree with a lot of the fringe, extreme ideas coming out of Wall St. I do 100% sympathize and agree with many things. One such idea, income inequality, is one of these issues. One would be hard-pressed to argue that income inequality is not a huge problem. History and countless studies have been done to show this. One recent and interesting talk from TED explains this briefly ( There is some possible good to come out of OWS regarding more awareness of this very issue. I do agree, as I mentioned above, however, that some of the anti-capitalist and other fringe ideas that are coming from OWS are asinine.

    Another interesting article to come out of another reputable source, The Economist, addresses another very similar issue arising from OWS–the corporate wealth spread. The OWS view is that “the world is run by increasingly rapacious corporations.” According to the Economist article those proportions have decreased since 2000. “At the very top, the largest 1% of listed companies in America and Western Europe accounted for 53% and 48% of market value in 2000. In 2010, those proportions had declined to 40% and 28% respectively.” ( While these still are massive proportions of wealth, it shows the problem may not be as horrible as many claim it to be. It also shows that maybe many of these problems are being combatted already (however, in my opinion not anywhere near enough).

    Sound arguments for and against OWS are hard-pressed to find. Most of the arguments are all based on strong rhetoric and stereo-typed views of certain peoples. The CBO study (which was cited in a blog post last week, Nov. 1), TED talk, and Economist article are among a small number of articles (at least from what I’ve seen) through which we can learn, make decisions, and form well-founded, educated opinions on the legitimacy of OWS.

  7. I think that this article was so interesting and I really enjoyed it. I feel that my thoughts and impressions were similar to many of those that have been expressed in the way that my respect may have grown with my understanding of this movement.
    I think what really impressed me was not simply the things being fought against by the protestors, but more so the thought of how this protest could be a change in the way that things happen; perhaps it is just as much a protest of traditional protesting as it is a protest of wall street.
    It does baffle my mind that there really are no clear goals and objectives to the movement, but I feel like there may be some good in movements that truly are just there to increase awareness and education. I think that it will be interesting to see if a unique protest leads to a unique ending.
    Here is a very interesting article on the Art of protest and social movements

  8. I agree with the above comments that this article was very interesting and helpful in understanding the magnitude of the Occupy Wall Street movement throughout this country and others. I am glad that middle class citizens are making their voices heard and trying to have that represented, but I think that the Stephen Colbert clip emphasizes the issue with these protests: that protesters aren’t quite sure of the right way to get what they want.

    To me, Occupy Wall Street seems like it should be less of a down with big business movement, and instead focus on gaining adequate representation of middle class views. I know that the movement and its purpose is still fairly fuzzy for most, but I do see it not as much of a protest against elites, but rather that they are able to pay for much more political representation and protection through interest groups and lobbying.

    The truth that Stephen Colbert continued to bring up in his interview is that our society thrives off of the jobs and products produced through corporations. Occupy Wall Street can’t feasibly aim to eliminate the economic power of corporations, but as was discussed by daniela.lopez96 above, these protesters are upset about things like bank bailouts and what they see as unfair privileges granted by the government to corporations.

    I first began to understand the impact of lobbyists and their interest groups, especially in financing campaigns, in this Time article:,9171,2001015-1,00.html

    This highlights lobbyist influence on the 2010 Financial Reform Bill and I think that should upset the middle class. Should citizens who can donate more to politicians have their views represented more than those citizens who can’t? Unfortunately, I also don’t think that most US citizens understand the concepts of party politics and the permanent campaign that drive politician’s increasing desire to gain more campaign contributions, whatever the cost. Ultimately, asserting our value as voters and voting in ways that alleviate those party and financial burdens from politicians (ie voting for more moderate candidates who are willing to cooperate on legislation) may better solve this issue than holding a sign in front of a bank.

  9. I really appreciate the diversity in this thread. I think the key is the comment that keeps being made that not a person does not 100% support every part of the movement. How refreshing! if nothing else occupy Wall Street is teaching Americans to compromise and understand which we need so desperately at the moment. I bet most people involved in the protest do not agree on the ends and the goals, but they have one thing in common, something is not right and they will not give up until they are taken seriously.

    From a policy approach, I am not convinced of many of OWS’s goals, but simply as an American who believes in the vision of a democratic America I love the movement and I feel like it should have exploded 18 months ago. It is so amazing to see American’s caring about their nation enough to try to do something about it, and the article that began this thread does a great job of explaining the use and logistics (or lack thereof) of new media sources and the idea of a uniquely 21st century movement in contradiction to the civil rights movement in the 20th century.

    To talk about seeing no end to this movement is like talking about seeing no end to the civil rights movement (and I know that I just said I agree that they are different, but somethings never change). Can we really say that the civil rights movement is over? There will probably never be a “Dr. King” figure to lead a march on Washington, but that doesn’t mean that racial problems have been extinguished from American culture. In the same way, as steps begin to be taken by policy makers and private firms to appease the masses likely the visual aspect of the movement will disappear, but the problems will persist for generations and every now and then the financial equivalent of a Rodney King riot may spring up. But that is what democracy means, it means a constant tension between the government and the governed as each seeks to control the other in a delicate dance to avoid tyranny on one hand and anarchy on the other.
    If you want to see a visualization of why people would be freaking out right now just look at the unemployment rate in the recovery stage of this recession compared to every other, in particular the recession in the early 80s under President Reagan and you’ll see that things are not being fixed as fast as they have been in the past, compound that with the first fall in aggregate Consumer Price Index which has caused a stagnation in the percent growth in per capita GDP, and it is obvious what people have to complain about, whether or not you think they should complain.

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