The People Should Lead: The Meaning of the Occupy Wall Street Movement

Wall St. protest sign saying "We are the 99%" © Scott Beck

The other day someone working for the mainstream media (MSM) seemed to be undecided about how exactly they should disparage a burgeoning movement. First the hypertext link on MSNBC’s website read, “Protesters want to tame Wall Street’s wild ways, but they’re a little wild themselves.” Later in the day it read, “Wall Street protesters spread murky message.” In both cases, clicking on the link would reveal the title of the article, “Familiar refrain: Wall Street protest lacks leaders, clear message,” with the opening lines, “It’s messy. It’s disorganized. At times, the message is all but incoherent.” With the accompanying photos focusing on the disheveled belongings of the protesters scattered about their home base, Liberty Park, the theme was that the seeming lack of organization and consensus of the “Wall Street Protesters” was analogous to the dysfunctional state of American political discourse. Being unsympathetic, skeptical, or even cynical, reporters do find what they’re looking for. Yet such a jaundiced look at the protests, as is typical of much of the media’s coverage, misses something strikingly obvious: what has largely faded in the rest of the country is still alive in Liberty Park– hope and change.

Last week, a young couple from Virginia Beach paid a visit to the park with their two children, one about five or six years old, the other not older than three. They met a young man who was writing a message on a cardboard to protest corporate malfeasance. The couple asked him to explain to their eldest daughter what it was he was protesting about. The young man smiled, and looked at the girl, who shyly averted his glance.  “So basically, a few people have a lot of power, and they’re using that power to take advantage of everybody else.” At that point, the girl began to give the young man her undivided attention.  “You know, it’s like a bully, we’ve all had plenty of bullies in our lives, and they think of different ways to better their position. And what we have is just that, on a larger . . .

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