See flaws in protestors’ methods
The Tuning Fork
The occupation of Wall Street is going substantially uncovered by major media outlets, causing some understandable outrage in protestors. More than 700 arrests were made on Sunday, as the protest made its way to the Brooklyn Bridge, and activists were arrested for blocking streets and disorderly conduct. The protest has only become larger as the days wear on and gained celebrity support from liberal voices like Roseanne Barr, Michael Moore and Lupe Fiasco. However, outlets like Yahoo News and The New York Times remain cautious to report on it, and it has drawn the literary ire of more conservative news sources like Fox News and the Wall Street Journal. There are a few reasons why the protest has received harsh criticisms and limited media coverage, and frankly, most of them are justified.
To start, the movement has little unity, political affiliation or specified goals. This is not seen as a problem by the protestors, though. To the protestors, the movement’s lack of specificity is a plus. The plurality of goals and gripes with big banking and the federal government’s legislation and lack of punishment for corporate frauds is seen as a collection of American views that represents the “99 percent” of Americans who have a variety of problems with the “1 percent.” While it is an innovative take on conventional protesting, it presents a few problems regarding its public relations. Sure, the amount of opinions and voices expressed on Wall Street represent a multitude of takes on what should be done to correct our income inequality and distribution of wealth, but the fact remains that there is no unifying cause behind the protests beyond the idea that something is wrong with the way money is spread out across income levels.
Ignoring the mass disharmony rampant in the trenches of the Wall Street occupation, there is a fundamental problem in public relations regarding physical appearance. While some professionals like airline pilots and some members of the armed forces showed up in uniform representing a crisp, professional contingent, the masses in New York City are dressed in what has come to be the traditional garb of today’s activists — ill-fitting T-shirts, jeans, cargo shorts and the like, either bought from thrift stores for trendiness or from stores like American Apparel and Urban Outfitters. For some reason, I feel that the irony of both supporting large corporations by wearing this clothing to a protest on Wall Street, and supporting a company — Urban Outfitters — that is owned by an ultra-conservative billionaire is completely lost on them. Frankly, it’s hard to take it seriously.
Look at old pictures from the marches and sit-ins of the Civil Rights Movement. When people took to the streets to demand civil rights, they didn’t just go out in whatever they were wearing — they got dressed up in their Sunday best. It seems like a silly distinction, to assert that the level of dress was any indicator of the seriousness and impact of the event, but it’s true. A Wall Street CEO or hedge fund manager in a $5,000 suit is likely to ignore thousands of people in civilian clothes on the way to their office, much like they’d normally do on a normal work day. This is especially true when that person is walking past people he sees as liberals, hippies or college students with finely tuned senses of entitlement. When that same millionaire or billionaire is exposed to thousands of people with a unified message and a level of seriousness about their movement, which they demonstrate by wearing business attire, the message becomes sharper and more lasting.
What pains me the most is that in abstract, I support the movement. I do believe that CEOs of banks and large corporations have gotten off too easily under President Barack Obama’s administration, but I also understand that part of the blame for the economic crisis also lies on the shoulders of people who took out mortgages they couldn’t rightfully pay. I too, believe that income inequality in the United States is horrifying, and that the upper 1 percent has done little by way of creating jobs to justify the tax breaks and incentives that legislation has provided them. I, too, know that corporate personhood and intense corporate lobbying are harmful for the country. This protest is just a poorly executed expression of those ideas. Disregarding the fact that all Americans are “the 1 percent” to the citizens of impoverished third-world countries ravaged by war, tyranny and famine, I know that there is daunting inequality in this country. Spending days in front of Wall Street with no sense of direction or purpose will not remedy those ailments — it will only anger and draw ridicule from those with the power to make changes. Learn from the successes of the Civil Rights Movement — have a unified front, an expressed goal, dress well and demand equality from your fellow Americans.
Cody Gorman is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in political science and Middle Eastern studies with a minor in history. His column, “The Tuning Fork,” runs on alternate Wednesdays.