Thursday, October 13, 2011
I hate the Occupy Wall St movement
Words matter...a lot. They matter a lot more than we usually give them credit for - especially in today's world of PowerPoint, tweets and emails. Words matter the most, as you'd imagine, at the highest level - naming things...or framing things (which I think is a better way of thinking).
I wrote a blog a while back, or I meant to, about 'framing' and the importance of framing issues correctly and how names play a really big role in that.
Think of phrases like pro-life or war on terror or no child left behind, their naming isn't just a name, it's an idea; the name describes the idea or FRAMES the idea perfectly.
So, to the point of all this.
I heard Bill Maher on the Rachel Maddow show last night describe the Tea Party as the best brand the Republicans have come up with in decades; and he's right. It's a great name that frames the issue in the context of the war of independence and shrugging off the dominance of America's oppressor (my people, as it happens). A great brand name that is a lighting rod to deep-seated issues and histories.
He went on to talk about the liberal equivalent - the Occupy Wall Street movement. And it struck me that the Occupy Wall Street has done, in my opinion, a horrible job of naming and framing.
First of all, 'occupy' reeks of student sit ins, hippie movements or G20 anarchists and is easily trivialized by the conservative media - it's child's play for O'Reilly and his mob to paint the protesters as deadbeats or freaks and he's doing it every night.
Secondly, the name is about what they are doing and not WHY they're doing it. Big mistake. The tea party, when it began, could have easily called itself the Occupy Wall Street group because they were essentially anti bank bail outs. But they didn't. They were smarter than that.
Thirdly, to tie the cause so closely to Wall Street is short sighted, limiting and a bit naive. Wall Street is a symptom not the cause. If this is an anti-greed or pro-middle class movement (to be honest I'm still unsure what it really is) then there are broader targets than Gordon Gecko - which they have realized with their millionaire march through manhattan today.
If this is to be the liberal equivalent to the tea party it needs re-framing and fast. The OWS need a much tighter idea if they are going to have the impact the Tea Party has had.
Here's some hastily penned ideas that I think get closer to framing and naming.
BTW if you're interested in understanding the notion of 'framing' you must read George Lakoff's book "don't think of an elephant" - its wonderful, like the text book of the movie Wag the Dog.
I think this is about the fight for the middle class so I would frame it so.
Fighting for our fair share movement
Reclaiming America for the people movement
All for one and one for all - sorry Alexandre...
Work hard, pay hard movement
Mothers for the middle class - that, over time,expands way beyond mums
I would make it more about coming together than breaking things apart. I'd make it more about American pioneering spirit and working together (God knows we need it) than I would about hating fat-cat capitalists - going against rich people is just butting heads against the American Dream.
Clearly these aren't the best ideas, but someone, somewhere is, I hope, thinking along similar lines and going to Marshall this rowdy rabble into a serious movement. If they're not, it will be to Prez Obama's detriment and possible undoing.