The Co-opted Message of Occupy Wall Street

Emily Matthews is currently applying to masters degree programs across the U.S., and loves to read about new research into health care, gender issues, and literature. She lives and writes in Seattle, Washington. Emily also edits a blog on applying for Master’s Degrees.
The Occupy Wall Street movement, which started in late July and has since spread to almost every major city in the Western hemisphere, has hardly been out of the news since it came to fruition. The movement has no leader and is instead directed by its members; its services and facilities are entirely volunteer-based and intended to help the protesters focus on spreading their message to the world. This message has multiple parts, but is fairly straightforward.
“We want freedom for all, without regards for identity, because we are all people, and because no other reason should be needed,” states the movement’s website. “A system based on the existence of have and have nots, where inequality is inherent to the system, will inevitably lead to a situation where the haves find a way to rule, whether by the sword or by the dollar.”The conservative news media has much to say about the Occupy Wall Street movement, in particular, expressing their distaste for selfish protesters who merely want everything for free. Numerous anti-OWS blogs have appeared, countering the popular “99%” signs with their own “1%” and “It is your choice to be the 99%” signs.
Conservative critics miss the point of the movement, but part of this can be attributed to the protesters who have also missed the point. Whether they just wanted to jump on the bandwagon or are simply ignorant, many protesters seem more focused on getting to wave signs and feel rebellious than actually accomplishing Occupy Wall Street’s goals.
As the movement gains popularity, more and more protesters are missing its point, and are instead displaying the same selfishness that the movement’s founders intended to fight against. Recently, two US entrepreneurs have made news for their line of Occupy Wall Street merchandise, including shirts and coffee mugs, and there have been numerous attempts to patent and trademark the Occupy Wall Street name and its slogans. Members of the movement have criticized this for co-opting other people’s beliefs and hardships in order to turn a profit, cheapening the movement.

An MTV special called “True Life: I’m Occupying Wall Street” commercializes the movement and sends out the message that people are only protesting to get noticed and benefit for themselves, rather than the rest of the world. Critics have also called out the movement for discrimination against women and minority groups, adding fuel to the “self-serving” fire. As word of sexual assault at numerous camps break out, added to the “Hot Chicks of Occupy Wall Street” video put out by Steven Greenstreet, the Occupy movement is progressively becoming more of a boys-club, causing the movement to splinter, which is exactly what the 1% wants.

Occupy Wall Street’s messages and missions still stand as admirable ones, but the negative impressions given by uneducated protesters and received by critics could ultimately bring it down. Occupy Wall Street has never been about selfishness, discrimination, and getting everything for free; it is about equality, ethical treatment, and allowing every citizen a higher quality of life. Both the movement’s members and its naysayers seem to be forgetting this all too often. It’s imperative that the 99% get back to their roots and remember what they’re fighting for before they lose public awareness and sympathy altogether.

3 responses to “The Co-opted Message of Occupy Wall Street”

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