Saturday, November 19, 2011

Time for an OWS Reality Check

The following items have deeply disturbed me and have haunted me for the past couple of days. I would like to address them here. For the first item, I will cite the first three paragraphs of an article from Public Policy Polling, (with some added emphasis of my own) and then offer my comments.

Occupy Wall Street Favor Fading 

“The Occupy Wall Street movement is not wearing well with voters across the country. Only 33% now say that they are supportive of its goals, compared to 45% who say they oppose them. That represents an 12 point shift in the wrong direction for the movement's support compared to a month ago when 35% of voters said they supported it and 36% were opposed. Most notably independents have gone from supporting Occupy Wall Street's goals 39/34, to opposing them 34/42.

Voters don't care for the Tea Party either, with 42% saying they support its goals, as compared to 45% who oppose them.  But asked whether they have a higher opinion of the Tea Party or Occupy Wall Street movement the Tea Party wins out 43-37, representing a flip from last month when Occupy Wall Street won out 40-37 on that question. With independents, the difference is even greater, withe a prior 43-34 split favoring the Occupy movement to a 44-40 split favoring the Tea Party.

I don't think the bad poll numbers for Occupy Wall Street reflect Americans being unconcerned with wealth inequality.  Polling we did in some key swing states earlier this year found overwhelming support for raising taxes on people who make over $150,000 a year. In late September we found that 73% of voters supported the 'Buffett rule' with only 16% opposed.  And in October we found that Senators resistant to raising taxes on those who make more than a million dollars a year could pay a price at the polls. I don't think any of that has changed- what the downturn in Occupy Wall Street's image suggests is that voters are seeing the movement as more about the 'Occupy' than the 'Wall Street.'  The controversy over the protests is starting to drown out the actual message.”

If you were to use Google to search on the words “OWS,” “hurts,” “the,” “99,” and “percent,” you would get 264 million. hits That number amounts to almost 85% of our 313 million population. Does it prove anything? From an absolute standpoint, the answer is “no.” Can it be indicative of a public relations problem? For that question, the answer is definitely “yes.”

I acknowledge that many of the messages don't really deal with OWS hurting the 99 percent, but just happen to contain all of those those words somewhere in their text. But an enormous number of them do pertain to the fact that the movement is having a great negative impact on the 99%, and probably many, many times more than they are having on the 1%.

And I also recognize that many of the hits are the same or essentially the same message, just repeated on different sites, but they are still added exposure to the public that does nothing to help the movement's cause, and does a great deal to damage it.


It is time for the movement to address this question: “Are our methods obscuring our message?” Or, even worse: “Are our methods sabotaging our message?”And they also need to ask themselves if further demonstrations will actually help their cause or hurt it.

One thing in the PPP poll that I think is particularly thought-provoking is the comment “...what the downturn in Occupy Wall Street's image suggests is that voters are seeing the movement as more about 'Occupy' and less about 'Wall Street."  The controversy over the protests is starting to drown out the actual message.

With regard to all the press saying that our demonstrations are hurting the the 99%, I also unfortunately have to agree. I constantly ask myself how a very small percentage of the 99% can preach democracy for all, and then perform very undemocratic acts that interfere with the livelihoods of others in the 99% who did not give their consent. For a few, it may be a sacrifice that they are willing to make. However, for the majority, it is another hardship heaped on all the other hardships they face in our country today.

There is an old saying the “Any publicity is good publicity.” However, most of the media coverage deals with the sensational side of the news and not what is behind that news. They show pictures of huge mobs of people occupying the streets, blocking traffic and restricting access to businesses and work sites, thereby fomenting political and social unrest. Fighting between the police ans some demonstrators makes a big splash, regardless of who was right or wrong – which is frequently as much a matter of personal opinion than established fact. In this case, most of the news generated by the protests comes across as bad for the movement. While the movement seems to be gaining in numbers of demonstrators, we may be losing the battle for the rest of the 99%, whose numbers are far greater than the demonstrators and, without whom we cannot succeed in our goals..

When all is said and done, I have to question whether the end justifies the means if it is going to alienate the very people whose interests the Occupy movement claims to represent. I believe that it is time for a reality check, and probably even a change in tactics, if they are going to survive their opposition and achieve their goals.

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