Any politician would be remiss to ignore the gathering storm that is the Occupy Wall Street movement.
The traditional news media has been quick to trivialize it as a bunch of angry kids with too much time on their hands. The irony is they fail to see the direct correlation between the Occupy movement and the conditions that existed in the Middle East before revolution took hold.
Many look at the Occupy protests as lacking a central focus; yet in their superficial analysis, they falsely characterize the movement’s main strength as a weakness.
Occupy Wall St. has managed to become a veritable Rorschach test for many forms of lament manifesting as a result of our current political conditions. Some look and see a group that is standing up to corporate control over the legislative process. Some see a group calling for nationalizing the banking system. Others see a group rallying for socialized medicine.
Traditionally, this would have been troublesome for any political movement, as without a bumper sticker slogan it’s hard for the evening news to grasp your cause. But political movements no longer need the validation of the evening news to raise awareness and earn relevance.
Across the Middle East, we saw revolution spread in countries with state controlled media and governments that worked hard to suppress channels of communication to quash uprising. Despite those efforts, citizens were able to successfully use social media to spread the message of the revolution. It’s exactly what we’re seeing with the Occupy protests and it’s where the movement gathers strength.
With social media, the politically motivated have been able to streamline the process and reach their friends and a core of like-minded individuals with a message that is presumably relevant to them. By our nature, we tend to congregate around those with similar socio-economic standing, and therefore have the ability to influence dozens of friends or peers in an instant.
Those same friends spread a targeted message to their group and influence the opinion of dozens of others. The result is a digital contagion effect that if modeled out to show how quickly it spreads would make the Ebola virus blush.
This is where the true genius of the Occupy Wall St movement comes into play. By serving as a vague umbrella, standing up for 99 percent of the population, it allows each individual to put their own spin on the movement and use social media to mobilize peers who agreee. The model is strikingly similar to the way revolution spread in the Middle East.