If I were to say the words ‘Occupy (insert location here)’ to you, what would first spring to mind? Is it the rows of tents in public places, the mini villages of protest or a hashtag?
I’ve been mulling over this question, especially in light of finishing teaching our Communications and Campaigns course where we’ve been exploring the use of communication in union campaign work.
To me, ‘Occupy’ is as just as much about the use of social media, using it to get out its messages and news (I knew about NYC through ReTweets on Twitter) as much as it is about the physical presence of the tents, kitchen, and libraries. But is it the social media that is changing the way we are talking about our economic struggle or is it that physical presence?
before the Occupy movement… there were not page one stories about so much of the nation’s income, wealth and political power going to the very top. There was not very much discussion on the consequences on this for our democracy and economy…
One of the discussions in the course focused on framing messages around issues within a set of values that resonates with the public. What we can see in Occupy is a framing its concerns around equality and equity which the public are sympathetic too. In its continuing highlighting of the largess and reckless behaviour of the financial sector, Occupy has almost captured and created the language of how we are talking about the economic crisis.
Now Richard is of course speaking within a US perspective and we have had voices of dissent on the Government’s economic plans, but I think he makes a good point. We’re back to talking about bankers and now the 99% which is making it harder for the Government when they try to spin against public sector workers and pensions.
Undoubtedly social media has had a key part in building and engaging the movement, as has the tents but what has really made a difference is how the movement has been able to create a message that resonates.
On the Leading Change programme, Marshall Ganz said to the participants:
Social media is the tool, we are the carpenters
And what Occupy is showing us is that the carpenter needs to select the right material too.
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