Defining the Occupy Wall Street movement

If the events in Raleigh this weekend are typical, the Occupy Wall Street movement appears just as difficult to define and characterize as the Tea Party movement. In the beginning the mainstream media ignored the first occupation in New York City, just as they did the first Tea Party protests.

Only after the movement persisted, spread, and participation grew, fueled by bloggers, texting, tweating, YouTube videos and the other techniques of the new media, did the mainstream media finally take notice.

But they reverted to form and began covering the OWS movement in the same shallow, superficial and uninformed way they had covered the Tea Party. They focused on the fringes of the movement, and amplified any real (or in some cases manufactured) conflict to justify sensational headlines and riveting video, all calculated to sell newspapers and boost ratings.

Coverage of the Raleigh demonstration in the local media highlighted the 19 people arrested for trying to remain what is incongruously called public property after the event without a government permit. William Randolph Hearst would be proud.

It appears there are more similarities between the two movements than anyone would admit. Even a few of the signs were similar; there were signs Saturday to “End the Fed” (the Federal Reserve Bank) and that said “Ron Paul for President.”

Most of the people gathered at the old State Capitol grounds Saturday were angry and upset that the government that was supposed to be “of the people, by the people and for the people” is not. The same sentiment was a strong component of the early Tea Party events.

The common theme in both movements is frustration over the fact they have lost control of their lives. Both movements claim to be the “we” in “we the people.” And both movements are facing the challenge of being co-opted by the establishment political parties, special interest groups and the corrupt politicians they abhor.

The primary difference seems to be who the protesters blame for this development. For Tea Partyers the blame lies with corrupt politicians and an overbearing government. For the Occupiers, the culprit is corrupt politicians and corporations. This divergence may be a gap that cannot be bridged, even though politicians represent a common denominator vilified by both sides.

Few of Saturday’s demonstrators agree with this view, however. One person who partially agreed was carrying a sign that read: “Solidarnosc” (Solidarity). This was the Polish independent workers union that helped bring down the Communist government, and the Iron Curtain, in the 1980s. Most of the young people in the protest appeared to have no idea what that sign meant.

The sign bearer said he worked as a volunteer in Poland in the early 1990s, helping companies going through privatization process. He said that if there is any similarity between Poland then and America today it is that in both countries ownership is concentrated in a very small segment of the population and everything is run for their benefit, not the benefit of the majority.

In Poland, it was government ownership which he said meant those who ran the government were the real owners. In the U.S. today it is the one percent, the oligarchy of corporations. Because of that disparity, he said that the Occupy Movement is expressing a level of outrage he hasn’t seen since the 1960s.

Watch a slideshow “Signs of Occupation” at