It’s been a long, strange journey for the Occupy movement. When the Wall Street protests first started, it seemed like no major media outlets would talk about them. Then, as Reddit and the rest of the Internet exploded with viral videos of strong-armed police tactics, a national conversation started about the realities of the 1% vs. the 99%.
Now, almost four months after the first protests started, protestors in Guy Fawkes masks and 99% signs showed up at last week’s Rose Bowl and “Occupy ____” has become a household phrase to the point of comedy (I’ve heard of more than one Occupy Wall Street-themed party). Which all begs the question: Has the Occupy movement overstayed its welcome? Is it time to move on?
Of course it isn’t. Even I, a supporter of most things Occupy-related, have to agree that the Rose Bowl spectacle is a tad ridiculous. It comes off as a little desperate. We shouldn’t be Occupying everything. But we should still be Occupying the important things.
Most of the early criticism of the Occupy protests centered around the lack of a unified, formal message among the protestors. But that’s not what Occupy is about. Decisions, solutions, reforms … that’s what we elect politicians for. Occupy is about telling politicians and policymakers that they were wrong, very wrong, and now it’s time to start turning things around. We understand that “turning things around” will be a long, arduous process. So we’re just going to stay here, where you can’t ignore us, until you fix some of these problems.
The modern media landscape is as unfriendly to long-term anything as the modern economic landscape is to new college graduates. Five minutes after something happens, it’s yesterday’s news.
As horrible as the images of policemen pepper-spraying UC Davis students were, they allowed the Occupy protests to remain in the news cycle and the public consciousness. Now that we’ve gone weeks without such documented police violence, Occupy is in danger of fading out of the news cycle. And so we are left with Occupy the Rose Parade, which is as silly as you think it is.
That doesn’t mean Occupy is silly. It serves an important purpose. In fact, as the presidential election starts ramping up, it would be great to see Occupy protestors at rallies and debates to remind candidates (and everyone else) that we still have a long way to go on economic reform if we’re serious about preserving the American Dream.
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