Occupy — the New Tea Party?

By Felicia Cravens, Contributor, US Daily Review.

The Occupy crowd has been at it for some weeks now, and has had time to hone their message, clear up misconceptions, and develop an action plan.  At this point in the development of the Tea Party phenomenon, two nationwide rallies had been planned and executed, a short list of principles adopted, and the beginnings of an electoral strategy developed.  So how does the Occupy movement stack up?

Not very well.

The list of demands that were initially widely circulated was later disclaimed as merely one poster’s opinion on the Occupy Wall Street forum.  The latest version of the demands attempts to focus the message more on actions the protesters would like Congress to take, which is at least some improvement over “free college education” and “guaranteed living wage income regardless of employment.”  But even as they offer proposed legislation, they dilute the message with this disclaimer, reproduced exactly as it appears:

First of all. There are no Official Demands of the Occupy Movement.  that being said, multiple factions of the movement have been assembling to discuss and vote on the output and message for the movement.  Below is a LIST OF PROPOSED “DEMANDS FOR CONGRESS” proposed by the website (occupywallstreet.org) which does not entirely represent  the Occupy Wall Street General Assembly. 

So OWS is ostensibly still fighting for clarity.  However, in order to be seen as a cohesive, sensible movement, Occupy should be getting their rhetorical house in order.  The fact that they’re not tells us something: they see no need to do so.

A huge difference between OWS and the tea party is the coverage around both.  The mainstream media has covered the Occupy protest movement completely differently from the way they covered the tea parties.  Word has gone around on Twitter, the BIG sites and the blogosphere that a rash of sexual assaults have been reported at the Occupy encampments.  A quick Google search on “occupy” and “rapes” returns a large number of postings, but it isn’t until page 4 that the search returns a local Fox news affiliate in Baltimore and their coverage of a sexual assault that happened in that city’s Occupy community.  And I gave up looking for national news coverage after page 8 of the search.  All the entries were from bloggers, proving once again that the national media is shaping public perception not only by what they chose to cover, but also by what they do not show.

Compare that with the entirely fictional story of tea party protesters spitting on black congressman.  Googling “tea party” “spit” “black” “congress” returns an immediate top-of-search article by the Washington Post.  Andrew Breitbart has famously offered to donate $100,000 to the United Negro College Fund for proof that the incident ever occurred (given the huge number of personal recording devices, chances are if it happened, someone filmed it) but the proof never materializes, and the story is left effectively without challenge in the mainstream media.

The mainstream media handles Occupy with kid gloves even as they push the notion that Occupy is just Tea Party for the Left.  Well, that’s easily debunked:

Occupy Wall Street                                                         Tea Party

                40                           Days of Protest                    989

           2,511                                 Arrests                                  0

                4                                      Rapes                                    0

     $2,400,000                         Cost                                   $0

And while that graphic is fascinating, this one is even more to the point.  Still, I’m not a fan of simplistic graphical representations of real, complex problems; so follow those examples with this analysis by Nick Gillespie at Reason.com.  Any way you look at it, the Occupiers are finding their coverage to be more favorable, even while having a less focused and less realistic response to the political landscape.

The other huge difference between the movements is in the effects each has had on the political process and the country.  As tea parties sprang up across the nation, they focused frustration with the political process, and with politicians on both sides of the aisle, into a plan for action during elections.  As a result, the landslide in 2010 is directly attributable to the actions of the various groups around the nation who took aim at incumbent politicians and replaced them with people they thought would better champion their values.  During their rally phase, tea parties secured permits, paid for off-duty police to act as security, and generally followed the laws regarding signage and location.

By contrast, the Occupy forces have spent time as squatters in mostly public places, effectively erecting small villages and vowing not to leave until their aforementioned vague demands are met.  Clashes with police over the places they’ve occupied have been reported in Denver and Oakland, in New York, in Austin and San Diego.  That isn’t unexpected, given the language of the Occupiers.  What’s stunning is that the aforementioned rapes have been alleged in New York, Dallas, Baltimore and Cleveland, among other cities, and most tellingly, the victims are being discouraged from reporting them to the police.

And for all their talk about being about jobs and opportunity, the collateral damage inflicted by Occupy has been devastating.  Already cities are finding their budgets strained to deal with the extra costs of managing the protests.  And as the Occupiers bang their drums and march merrily around like children ditching school for a parade, real people are losing real jobs because of them.  For instance, one new financial district café situated near Zucotti Park has been forced to let twenty-one workers go.  The reason?  The police barricades needed to corral the protesters, and the attendant difficulties to customers of navigating scheduled marches and police checkpoints and closed subway entrances.  Business is down 30% since the Occupation began, and the café may be forced to close altogether if this goes on much longer.  These aren’t statistics on paper, these are real people who passed the Occupy crowd every day on their way to jobs they no longer have.

The New Media is playing an increasingly important role in covering the “occupation”, from serious coverage from citizen journalists to exquisite mockery.  Those newcomers have the potential to change the way news is reported just as the country launches into another presidential election cycle.  Stay tuned: Occupy coverage is likely a harbinger of how the 2012 news cycle will be different.

All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.

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