…Seriously, there is no excuse for frequent visitors of Shouting Loudly to not also be reading David Meyer’s commentary at Politics Outdoors. He just negated two posts that I was planning to write, because he went ahead and wrote them better.
The second post, “Occupy Wall Street Needs an Exit Strategy” is particularly important. The occupations are currently working phenomenally well, but we should keep in mind that they are symbolic actions. Zuccotti Park isn’t actually Wall Street. The occupiers aren’t shutting anything down; they’re shining a spotlight. And that spotlight, for the moment, is bright.
Eventually, however, the poetry of this symbolic action will fade. On month 6, day 4 of the occupation, there won’t be much media coverage – not because of a “blackout,” but because just about every newsworthy angle will have been explored in exhaustive detail. At that point (well before it, actually), the protests will need to morph into some other form in order to maintain their symbolic resonance. I’m not sure what that form needs to be, and the change doesn’t have to happen particularly soon, but a change surely needs to come eventually if these protests are to continue seizing the national imagination and influencing the national conversation.
Likewise, Jack Goldstone makes a number of smart points in a post at New Population Bomb. He says that, particularly if the institutional left (donors, in particular) lines up behind #OWS and adds resources, then it could be the Tea Party of the left. That left-right symmetry is an interesting puzzle. I certainly think that #OWS is the nearest equivalent available to the tea party. But the network structure of the left and the right is different enough (particularly within donor alliances — the Democracy Alliance has nowhere near the resource coordination of the Kochs and Coorses), and the relationship to major media operations (*cough* Newscorp *cough*) mean that we’re unlikely to see a parallel trajectory.
Finally, Sid Tarrow takes the counter-perspective in a piece at Foreign Affairs, “Why Occupy Wall Street is not the Tea Party of the Left.” I’d offer a variation on Tarrow’s remarks. I think he’s right that #OWS is something new, and that previous social movements are only a weak guide for understanding it. But, as I’ve written before, the same seems to be the case for the Tea Party. The Tea Party is not united around one specific demand. It is (to quote Van Jones) a “meta-brand.” I’ve felt for quite awhile that the Tea Party is an ill-fit for our traditional conceptions of social movements. #OWS is an ill-fit in largely the same ways.
[h/t to Jennifer Hadden for pointing several of these links out to me. You should read her work. And she should start a blog (or join this one).]