In about a third of the amount of time it has taken Kim Kardashian to get married and file for divorce, the Occupy Wall Street movement spread from New York City on September 17th to, according to Wikipedia.org, seventy major cities and six-hundred communities in the US by October 9th. Here we are a month later and the effort is still going and has spread to cities around the world. Fascinated by the rapid birth and growth of OWS, I did a little research to find how it all began, how it spread so fast and how it keeps going.
The Occupy Wall Street movement began by a message sent to 90,000 email subscribers of the magazine Adbusters, an ad-free publication that challenges consumerism. The email suggested a peaceful occupation of Wall St. –tents and all- to demand an end to the influence that money has on government; “#OccupyWallStreet, Democracy not Corporatocracy” was the main message. A crowd gathered and grew largely by people, especially the younger generation, finding out about the movement on Facebook and Twitter. Reading the tweets and posts of the early weeks of the movement, it seems the mainstream media was missing from the early demonstrations, even with crowds as large as 50,000. So it was by user-generated social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Youtube, and others like Livestream.com and Reddit.com, that news, videos and information about the movement spread. OWS also has its own website which offers daily schedules of upcoming events, along with other news and information. So, digital methods like email blasts, websites and social media tools can be credited for sparking and quickly fueling the fire for America’s current social movement. But that still doesn’t answer the last part of my question about how it keeeps going. Why hasn’t the flame burned out yet?
Over the weekend I finally went to Zuccotti Park in my hometown of NYC to see for myself what this Occupy movement was all about. I saw the wall-to-wall tents (or should I say concrete to concrete?), listened to the drumming, talked to some of the protesters, and watched a crowd of people that look like you and me organize and head out to Foley Square for yet another demonstration (this time to urge Obama not to go through with a “cash-for-immunity” deal with the big banks). Besides the cry for justice for the “99%” others at the park, representing all races and ages, had their own agendas to promote such as: benefits of composting, dangers of “fracking”(drilling for natural gas while potentially polluting the environment and water supplies), threat of budget cuts for senior benefits, and more. While there were a variety of messages and people making them, the common vibe was loud and clear to me:
PEOPLE ARE ANGRY AND FRUSTRATED AND ARE TAKING MATTERS INTO THEIR OWN HANDS TO CREATE CHANGE
The Occupy Wall Street movement spread so fast and so wide because it hit a nerve among all types of people, all over the place. So while digital communication helps start and quickly advance modern social revolutions, it is the people who keep them alive. If the issues like corrupt big bank and corporate business practices, massive job loss, foreclosures, wars, and health insurance did not affect so many lives so deeply, with little hope in sight, all the tweets, Facebook fan pages and video uploads in the world wouldn’t have saved the OWS protest from being more than just a one-city, flash-in-the-pan demonstration.
We’ve come a long way since the days of the American Revolution when riding a horse was the fastest way to spread a message. But, the people’s ability to mobilize and will to demand justice, equality, and fair government representation has not changed.