Occupy #OccupyWallStreet

It is time for Twitter and its citizens to take back #OccupyWallStreet.

I say that with no disrespect to the efforts and sacrifices of the people who have taken the hashtag literally and moved into Wall Street and cities around the world, confronting the institutions — financial, government, and media — they blame for our crisis.

To the contrary, I say it’s time to carry their work back to our virtual society, where it began, to expand the movement so Michael Bloomberg and his downtown goombas and mayors and cops cannot think that they are able throw it away in a garbage truck; so banks cannot hope to return to their old ways; so media cannot think that it can dismiss #OWS as fringe (see the BBC and the FT each calling the movement “anti-capitalist” when many of us say the real goal is to reclaim capitalism from its crooks).

It is much bigger than the scores of occupants in each city. But that still raises the question of what “it” is.

That is where I believe Twitter can grow and give shape to the movement. There we can answer the question, What are we mad as hell about (should that be a hashtag debate: #why…)? There we can organize no end of irritants for institutions (we can play whack-a-mole with the banks’ rip-off fees and leave them as customers). There we can hold politicians to account.

Some have argued that #OWS will not grow up as a movement until it becomes an institution and has leadership and spokesmen and unified goals and messages and even candidates for office.

Heaven forbid.

#OccupyWallStreet, in my view, is anti-institutional in that it is fighting institutional power and corruption and in that it is not an institution itself. I believe the value of #OWS is that it enables us to say how and why we’re angry and to make the powerful come to us and beg us for forgiveness, not to join their games.

#OccupyWallStreet, the hashtag revolution, establishes us, the public, as an entity to be reckoned with. It is a tool of publicness.

So I support #OWS becoming less literal — let Michael J Bloomberg tear down the tents — and more amorphous, more difficult to define and dismiss and shut down.

#OccupyWallStreet started on Twitter and spread to the streets. Now it’s time come back online and spread further.

Why are you mad as hell? And what are you going to do about it? That is #OWS’ challenge to us all.

  • Adam

    Can you speak to the censorship of #occupywallstreet or #ows on twitter? Do you think twitter is blocking #ows from becoming a trending topic? Why hasn’t it appeared on the trend topics page?

    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      I have no idea.

      • Till

        I have my trends set to New York, and I see “Day of Action” but not #ows, Occupy, or any other related phrase. Pretty damning – looks like selective blacklisting to me.

    • http://www.susannaspeier.com susanna speier

      Twitter algorithms are designed to highlight short lived hashtag trends. If it wasn’t, set up this way Gaga would rule it all the time.

    • http://www.michaelsaunders.com Sarasota Real Estate

      Susanna is right – it is for short lived trends (i.e. why “good morning” and “rise and grind” are so prevalent on my sidebar every morning)

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  • Lluis

    I agree with you, Jeff. Niether Bloomberg nor any other politician can clear Twitter of the voices of the people. I live in Barcelona, where our “Freedom Square” was also cleared out for “health and safety reasons”. The story seems to be replicating itself. But it’s in our hands to build up a different future. The web will be our “Freedom Square”.

  • Andy Freeman

    Occupy seems to be a Rorschach test.

    > confronting the institutions — financial, government, and media — they blame for our crisis.

    Tea Party – compare and contrast.

    Both blame, but they differ wrt what they’d do.

    Also, compare the reaction by media. Both attracted “nutjobs”, but whose nutjobs got played up and whose got played down? Same for crime reports. Same for “what’s left after they’ve gone”, aka damages.

  • http://www.BusySignals.net/ Max Leibman

    I think this is spot-on. I’m not always super sympathetic to all that’s come of OWS, but I definitely think the main thrust of the movement isn’t anti-capitalist–it just wants capitalism to work for all, not just for the top. The vibe I get isn’t that the protesters think nobody should have a cool job and make more money than others–just that everybody should have a chance at a decent job and no small group should make ALL of the money.

    That said, I think where the most impact can be had is back where it was born–on the Internet. While truly over-the-line incidents are few and far between, I don’t think disruptions to the normal lives of non-OWS citizens are winning hearts and minds. (Which is not to say I don’t think meatspace demonstrations has a place or don’t respect the rights of people I disagree with to organize in public.)

    Taking it back to the virtual streets makes the movement harder for institutions to tear down (as Jeff mentions) AND gives the cooler heads a chance to take effective action without scaring ordinary citizens. Or, if you like, without giving entrenched media and government interests any fodder with which to scare ordinary citizens.

    • Andy Freeman

      > I definitely think the main thrust of the movement isn’t anti-capitalist–it just wants capitalism to work for all, not just for the top.

      The tea party said exactly the same thing. However, they differ as to what the failings are.

      The occupy folks want more govt involvement, the tea party wants less.

      The occupy folks think that govt should be more powerful so it won’t give money to Goldman Sachs. The tea party thinks that govt should be less powerful so it won’t give money to Goldman Sachs.

      Given that the Democrat party is owned by Wall Street….

      > The vibe I get isn’t that the protesters think nobody should have a cool job and make more money than others–just that everybody should have a chance at a decent job and no small group should make ALL of the money.

      If that’s what they think, why are they protesting? After all, everybody does have a chance at a decent job and no small group makes all the money right now.

      Yes, it’s true that an MFA in puppetry isn’t likely to lead to riches now but surely we’re not arguing that everyone should get decent pay to do exactly what they want, right? (If so, I’m quitting programming and taking up scuba.)

  • http://gtr-skyline.com/ Martin

    I hope it lays some impact. If it was just thrown away on the garbage truck, that would be whacked, and a bit of a slap in the face to the ‘democratic’ concept we say we are hinged upon.

  • edell

    People are not organizing in an intelligent way. OWS isn’t the right message — it’s take back our country. The truth is people get the government they deserve. By allowing government to economically and geographically distance themselves from the population, we have lost the real ability to hold our government accountable and responsible.

    The corporate-owned and for-profit media does not see it in their best interest to actually report and delve into what ails us — instead almost willingly repackaging what the government tells us. So take that back, occupy that again, and then get off your damn computers and get into the polling places and streets. OWS means so many different things to people. There’s not a cohesive message. This allows those in power to divide the people. You can tell everyone what OWS means Jeff, the hard part is organizing people — and not just on the web.

    • Andy Freeman

      > People are not organizing in an intelligent way. OWS isn’t the right message — it’s take back our country.

      Remind me – what did you say about the tea party? After all, they explicitly said “take back our country”?

      > You can tell everyone what OWS means Jeff, the hard part is organizing people — and not just on the web.

      Again, the tea party did electoral politics. They ran candidates. Some won, some lost.

      So, why all the love for OWS potential when you folks either ignored or hated tea party?

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  • Sarah

    I am reading Public Parts right now (almost done with it). I came onto your blog to see what you were saying about the Occupy movement. I am interested in your thoughts on whether Occupy should be (more) transparent, given the vulnerability of its participants and the high stakes. I mean, really, Occupy is fighting the front of the battle of a global revolution – change America and you change the world you know? And the 1% in charge of the world have a lot of power and obviously intent to fight any changes to their cozy power structure. I would like to see Occupy be more open and for there to be ways (online) for people like you and me to participate – but at the same time I have concerns about Occupy information being exploitable by the 1%. Thoughts?

    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      Not sure what you mean about it being more open. It’s not much of a structure.

  • http://wwwblogdoprofalexandre.blogspot.com/ Alexandre de Freitas

    Hello Jeff Javis! First I apologize for this to be writing a text translator of google. Not master English. But ah, if it were not for google, we would not even communicate.
    I would like to congratulate you for the wonderful book – What Would Google Do? – I just read it here in Brazil and I confess, I learned many things with their ideas completely connected with the future.
    Congratulations!

    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      Alexandre,
      Thanks so much! Your translation (and Google’s) is very good.

  • http://www.mattsky.com Matt Sky

    I think the movement needs that physical component – people need to go to the streets, and the online chatter will continue to flourish as that takes place, and then two will feed into each other. I think the key is for the conversation to keep going, even as the situation changes. Maybe tents and “occupations” aren’t even the best terminology right now, but I think the continuation of globally demonstrating for social justice is a viable method for change.

    • http://www.mattsky.com Matt Sky

      Second note: Vital that a component of the movement stay broad and open for all. I think the movement is entering into a phase 2 of sorts with more specific days of action, but it must be made clear that this “Occupy” concept is a vague idea, not a set organization. So you can endorse the ideals of OWS without necessarily agreeing with every day of action (ie shutting down ports or what not)

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