The Trivialization of Occupy Wall Street


This past weekend, supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement occupied Wal-Mart’s, Toys “R” Us, and other big companies across the country to protest corporate greed. As the movement continues, the emphasis of “Wall Street” has been lost, and instead has given way to spin-off movements as bizarre as “Occupy the Sidewalk,” “Occupy Christmas,” and “Occupy the Couch” – all of which have diluted the OWS message. As the movement has become viral, encampments have emerged not only nationally and globally, but virtually, as shown in “Occupy Sesame Street.” The question now is: Did OWS become so big that it trivialized itself?

The unfortunate answer is yes.

The OWS movement was born out of social discourse over social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter. Though the web served as the breeding ground for the public discontent and inevitable protests nationwide, it has also served as the playground for many who see the movement as the butt of jokes.

Lt. John Pike of UC Davis, known infamously nationwide for pepper-spraying a line of peaceful protesters, has been recently parodied spraying famous figures throughout history; George Washington crossing the Potomac, Jesus at the Last Supper, and the construction workers of the Brooklyn Bridge, to name a few.  

The OWS movement has essentially become a catch-all for parodies, from the football fans who have been adamant to claim that this Sunday they will be “Occupying their Couch,” to the hilarious Occupy Sesame Street segment, where the Cookie Monster notes: “99% of the world’s cookies are consumed by the 1% of the monsters.”

Occupiers at Zuccotti Park see this as anything but a laughing matter. 

Xiomara, a New York City licensed high school Special Education teacher who declined to give her full name, has been coming down to Zuccotti Park since the second week of the movement. She was also a self-proclaimed educator to the people who pass her by.

“I tell them not to worry about the Kardashians, Kim will be fine, but to think more about the earth that we live on, to think more about deforestation, pipelines, and fracking,” Xiomara said.

One of the many messages lost in the sea of issues that this movement has brought about, the trivialization of the movement has made frivolity paramount in the discussion of OWS, and has rendered any of the messages put forth by the movement null and void.

“It’s a matter of everyone’s ideas and everyone’s discussion and everyone coming to a consensus,” said Robert Griffin, who had been down at Zuccotti Park for over a month before it was raided.

“The more demands there are, the greater it will become.”

While OWS’ end goal seems to be unclear, as the movement grows larger, its message also becomes more and more disjointed, and lends itself to the frivolity that the spoofs have brought about. As the movement‘s core issues expand with their growing opinions, and the message becomes even more diluted than before, it leaves many to wonder what the end goal of OWS actually is.

For many of the occupiers, these adders-on have not been distractions, but rather have served to make the OWS movement stronger, by adding more voices to the civic discourse.

Keeping the national dialogue alive is not contingent upon their ability to “occupy;” it is contingent upon their ability to be heard. However, it is in time like this, when the spark that fostered the voice of a nation is in danger of fizzling out, that the movement needs a clear and definitive direction. Whether it will find one, is a different story entirely.

Photo Credit: Deanna Gillen