During a demonstration, an Occupy Wall Street Activist dressed as a polar bear to demonstrate against climate change. Why would an Occupy Wall Street activist do that? I would rather expect him to wear a Dick Fuld mask while he tries to land a remote-controlled model helicopter on one of the skyscrapers. Why polar bears? Shouldn’t Occupy Wall Street deal with banks and the financial system and not with polar bears and climate change?
Occupy, …, what exactly?
If polar bears would be Occupy Wall Street’s only passion besides banking and finance, they might still have sufficient time to come up with alternative solutions to the dysfunctional financial system we currently have. But a quick check on their twitter roll makes clear: Occupy Wall Street activists not only deal with ice bears and climate change, they cover countless topics that are not even remotely connected to banking and finance: police violence, racism, fossil fuel, genetically modified organisms, nuclear energy, gender inequality, chemical parks in Mongolia, water supply, gay rights, feminism, surveillance laws, and many more.
The distraction with other topics has become so severe that banking and finance are now deeply unpopular topics for the Occupy Wall Street community. A detailed analysis of Occupy Wall Street (@OccupyWallStNYC) tweets published over one week between the 14th and the 21st of April underscores this claim.
Not even 3% of Occupy Wall Street’s tweets concern banking and finance. They call themselves Occupy Wall Street, but they occupy everything else.
Occupy Wall Street inadvertently supports Wall Street
Every movement can set its own agenda as long as it stays within the boundaries of the law. But Occupy Wall Street branded itself as the main opposition to the Wall Street approach of banking and finance. Yet, they bundle countless radical demands that are largely unrelated to banking and finance into an incoherent program; a bundle an average American voter would never agree to even if she or he is convinced that Wall Street is run entirely by crooks.
Consequently, Occupy Wall Street discourages many Americans who feel that genuine financial reform is required but who do not want to radically change each and every aspect of our society. By demanding change on everything else except banking and finance, Occupy Wall Street sends the implicit message that our financial system is broken because our whole society is broken, and that only a revolution can set things right again.
This message is not only nonsense, it is also unhelpful for people who do care about developing better financial regulation. Wall Street gratefully takes up this message and reverses it. Occupy Wall Street actually allows Wall Street to sell itself as an integral part of the status quo. The implicit message Wall Street sends is that our society would be shaken to its very foundations if we dare to radically change the regulatory framework Wall Street operates in.
This message is the same kind of nonsense, but Occupy Wall Street helps a great deal to add credibility to it.
Occupy Wall Street, surrender your name!
The early days of Occupy Wall Street were promising. They were often unfairly criticized for not having a concrete agenda when their objective was to spark a debate about changing Wall Street. This has been their contribution and they succeeded. But after a while, they stopped talking about banking and finance; the things Wall Street is all about. Consequently, they should give up the “Wall Street” in their name and make way for people and organizations who actually do care about the regulatory issues around our financial system.