The Occupy Wall Street folks have put out a commercial. Well, probably not the actual occupiers, but some outfit supporting the protestors and who mean well.
I got an email today from Democracy for America touting Occupy Wall Street bumperstickers. You can get one for free if you voluntarily give them your personal information so they can keep hitting you up later for donations or to assist one of the political parties who've put us in this position with their craven ass-kissing of the bankers and big donors.
You can send them $10 and they'll send you ten bumperstickers to put on your shining symbol of American capitalism and industriousness that was potentially built by one of the large companies deemed "too big to fail" and given a bailout by the government.
So does this undermine the authenticity of OWS? Are they co-opting Occupy Wall Street?
During the planning for the National Equality March, I advocated frequently for the small grassroots group to put together the funding to hire a public relations professional to help them spread the word and get media attention. One firm I found agreed to do it for a large discount, but the organizers still deemed it too high. They ended up hiring a small-time outfit who basically did it for cost; you get what you pay for, however, and the story of the march didn't garner much lasting mainstream media attention.
During the planning for the march it frustrated me to no end when some of the folks would argue that since they were a grassroots group they didn't need any paid professionals doing anything. It didn't just extend to the public relations segment either.
When I first met Kip Williams, one of the main organizers, I kept hammering home how important it was to have the event planned and not just flying on a hope and a dream. I'd ask questions about "How is this or that going to happen?" and get a shrug in response. Granted, it was still early in the process and I'm known for being a little contrary, but it seemed like a given that some of this stuff simply had to happen.
Jerame, Kip, and I met up with a friend of mine in New York who's a veteran organizer and politico. I'll never forget what he said to Kip about planning the event and how it related to the media's coverage.
After dismissing all of the flowery talk about equality and hope and whatnot, my friend asked one question as his opener. "What's your plans for the porta-potties? That's the most important thing."
Kip looked at him and admitted that he didn't know.
"You've got hot bears and twinks who've been marching and drinking water (or more) all day long and don't have a place to go to the bathroom? So how is your march going to look on CNN when you've got all these guys pissing in the wading pool and fountains?"
His point was made. The best of intentions simply aren't enough.
One of the most common memes coming out of Occupy Wall Street has been that the organizers have no cohesive message. They're flailing around like damn liberals proclaiming all of society's ills. Can't they just concentrate and spoon feed it to us like the Tea Party did? What were they upset about? Taxes. "Obamacare." Too much government (except in limited circumstances where it benefited them personally, of course).
The OWS protesters have had varied reasons for participating, but so did Tea Party participants. Sure, several of them have spoken to the media and made idiots of themselves. So did several Tea Party attendees. Your general "man on the street" interview gets you more of the same. Not all people are rocket scientists and even the smart folks don't always sound/look good on TV.
I've seen some overarching solid themes the Occupy Wall Street protesters keep repeating. Wealth distribution. Unemployment. Government collusion with Wall Street. So how do those simple items get lifted up to talking points and repeated non-stop on the nightly news?
You get outfits like the one who made this video to create viral messages that help to reinforce the protesters demands for social justice. With a grassroots base, you'll end up getting some crap but you'll also get some really good stuff like this one. And then you use it to the best extend of your capabilities. You let others do your work for you.
Professionals and grassroots organizers can work together. This isn't an either/or proposition. As with all things, there's shades of grey involved. If you ask me (and if you've read this far in the post, you want to know what I think so I'm gonna call that close enough), this isn't about co-opting the movement; it's about building on it.