(Reuters) - It all started innocuously enough with a July 13 blog post urging people to #OccupyWallStreet, as though such a thing (Twitter hashtag and all) were possible.
It turns out, with enough momentum and a keen sense of how to use social media, it actually is.
The Occupy movement, decentralized and leaderless, has mobilized thousands of people around the world almost exclusively via the Internet. To a large degree through Twitter, and also with platforms like Facebook and Meetup, crowds have connected and gathered.
As with any movement, a spark is needed to start word spreading. SocialFlow, a social media marketing company, did an analysis for Reuters of the history of the Occupy hashtag on Twitter and the ways it spread and took root.
The first apparent mention was that July 13 blog post by activist group Adbusters (r.reuters.com/suc54s) but the idea was slow to get traction.
The next Twitter mention was on July 20 (r.reuters.com/tuc54s) from a Costa Rican film producer named Francisco Guerrero, linking to a blog post on a site called Wake Up from Your Slumber that reiterated the Adbusters call to action (r.reuters.com/vuc54s).
The site, founded in 2006 “to expose America’s fraudulent monetary system and the evil of charging interest on money loaned,” is a reference to the biblical verse Romans 13:11 that reads in part: “The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”
Guerrero’s post was retweeted once and then there was silence until two July 23 tweets — one from the Spanish user Gurzbo (r.reuters.com/wuc54s) and one from a retired high school chemistry teacher in Long Island, New York named Cindy tweeting as gemswinc. (r.reuters.com/xuc54s)
Gurzbo’s post was not passed along by anyone but Cindy’s was, by eight people, including a Delaware-based opponent of the Federal Reserve, a vegan information rights supporter, a Washington-based environmentalist and an Alabama-based progressive blogger.
Again, there was relative silence for nearly two weeks, until LazyBookworm tweeted the Occupy hashtag again on August 5. (r.reuters.com/zuc54s) That got seven retweets, largely from a crowd of organic food supporters and poets.
The notion of Occupy Wall Street was out there but it was not gaining much attention — until, of course, it did, suddenly and with force.
Social media experts trace the expansion to hyper-local tweeters, people who cover the pulse of communities at a level of detail not even local papers can match.
In New York, credit goes to the Twitter account of Newyorkist, whose more than 11,000 tweets chronicle the city in block-by-block detail. His was one of the first well-followed accounts to mention the protests in mid-September.
Trendistic, which tracks hashtag trends on Twitter, shows that OccupyWallStreet first showed up in any volume around 11 p.m. on September 16, the evening before the occupation of lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park began. Within 24 hours, the tag represented nearly 1 of every 500 uses of a hashtag.
The first two weeks of the movement were slow, media coverage was slim and little happened beyond the taking of the concrete park itself. But then a demonstration on the Brooklyn Bridge prompted hundreds of arrests and the spark was ignited.
On October 1, #OccupyBoston started to show up on Twitter. Within a couple of weeks, #OccupyDenver and #OccupySD and others appeared.
The Occupy Wall Street page on Facebook started on September 19 with a YouTube video of the early protests. By September 22, it reached critical mass.
"Newcomers today, welcome! Feel free to post. Advertise your own pages of resistance. Network until it works," read one posting meant to inspire protests elsewhere.
For young activists around the world, who grew up with the Internet and the smartphone, Facebook and Twitter have become crucial in expanding the movement.
They are pioneering platforms like Vibe that lets people anonymously share text, photos and video over short distances for brief periods of time — perfect for use at rallies.
"No one owns a (Twitter) hashtag, it has no leadership, it has no organization, it has no creed but it’s quite appropriate to the architecture of the net. This is a distributed revolt," said Jeff Jarvis, a journalism professor at City University of New York and author of the well-known blog BuzzMachine.
Some reports say the protesters have raised as much as $300,000 in donations to cover everything from pizza to video equipment but others put the figure much lower.
The Alliance for Global Justice, which calls itself “the fiscal sponsor for Occupy Wall Street,” has raised $23,200 via WePay.com.
As of Monday afternoon, Facebook listed no fewer than 125 Occupy-related pages, from New York to Tulsa and all points in between. Roughly 1 in every 500 hashtags used on Twitter on Monday, all around the world, was the movement’s own #OWS.
The websites keep proliferating — We Are the 99 Percent, Parents for Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Together, even the parody Occupy Sesame Street (concerned mostly with the plight of monsters living in garbage cans).
Online streaming video has also been a huge resource for the protesters, using cheap cameras and high-speed wireless Internet access.
Supporters, opponents and the merely curious got the chance last Saturday to watch the Occupy Wall Street protesters decide whether to occupy a major public park, Washington Square Park, in the Greenwich Village area.
They saw warnings the police were about to arrive in riot gear and with horses, vans and buses to take away protesters if there were mass arrests. Local media reported about 10 arrests among the 3,000 or so people in the park.
As the seconds to a possible confrontation ticked down, the tension led to various reactions from those watching online.
"Anyone arrested is a political prisoner," said one.
"Here comes Czar Bloomberg’s Cossacks," said another, in reference to New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg and the appearance of the mounted police.
There were “we are watching” messages of support from cities across the United States and some who found it the best entertainment going on a Saturday night.
"So much more exciting than a TV show" was one comment.
Of those who had an opinion on the occupation, 54% were favourable to the movement, with only 23% against (25% very favourable and 29% somewhat favourable, compared to 10% somewhat unfavourable and 13% very unfavourable)
86% agree that Wall Street has too much influence in Washington.
79% agree that the income gap in the United States is too large.
An amazing 71% agree that financial executives who had a hand in the 2008 crisis should be prosecuted!
68% agree that the rich should pay more in taxes, and 73% agree that we should raise taxes on those who make $1 million or more a year. 74% agree that raising taxes on millionaires would NOT ‘hurt the economic recovery,’ contrary to the Republican panic.
Unfortunately, 56% believe that the protest will have little impact on the overall situation, but 30% believe it will have a positive impact.
While we should always be careful not to put too much stock in these polls, this one at least has some good news for those who support #OWS.
How Kevin O'Leary's exchange with Chris Hedges over Occupy Wall Street violates CBC Journalistic Standards (Part 2)
The following post is a slightly reworked version of the complaint I submitted to CBC concerning the behaviour of Kevin O’Leary during a an interview with Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges on October 6, 2011 on the Lang & O’Leary Exchange.
The complaint is premised on the assumption that as the Lang & O’Leary Exchange runs on CBC News, it is subject to the CBC’s Journalistic Standards. If this assumption is incorrect, I would still argue that Mr O’Leary fails to treat his interviewee with a sufficient degree of respect.
For those who do not know the show, The Lang & O’Leary Exchange presents itself as business television show which aims to bring the ‘biggest names’ of the financial world to debate topical issues and generate ‘thought-provoking coverage. In the show’s description it alludes to the fact that the show’s hosts (Amanda Lang & Kevin O’Leary) both have their own opinions and may indeed clash over topics. This format is obviously intended to adds the drama of reporting news and some producers may also justify this ‘colourful’ approach show as a means to generate controversy, discussion and, most importantly, an audience!
Despite the format, the manner in which Kevin O’Leary treated his guest Chris Hedges was not becoming of the high standards set by the CBC, is a direct violation of the CBC’s Journalistic Codes and ultimately damaged the CBC’s reputation.
Early in the exchange between O’Leary and Hedges, Hedges was allowed to make his point unimpeded (for a full transcript of see the Creekside blog). However, half way into the interview O’Leary initiates name calling and replies to Hedges’ arguments by saying, “You sound like a left wing ‘nut bar’…”. Understandably, Hedges takes offence to O’Leary’s bullying tactics and rightfully calls him out on it. The interview concludes on a low point with Mr Hedges asserting that he will no longer be willing to do interviews with the CBC.
The use of name calling is a rhetorical act of desperation deployed in an attempt to discredit one’s character as opposed to the validity of one’s arguments. I fail to see how the use of such bullying tactics deployed by O’Leary either draw on his ‘expertise’, or provide the audience with a greater understanding of the issues. Moreover, I fail to see how it could be retorted that the name calling was simply the expression of a ‘provocative opinion’ in a moment of ‘passion’. It was an act of bullying and do not understand how it can be justified.
It is appreciated that a retort to this complaint could be that Mr O’Leary is a ‘big personality’ and the comments are part of his ‘nature”. However such a reply would not negate the need to maintain a respectful tone particularly during issues of disagreement. This is made all the more important given the CBC’s role and mandate as a public broadcaster.
Mr O’Leary’s actions are a direct violation of the CBC’s commitment to ‘fairness’ and treating individuals with respect. The remarks of O’Leary also violate the CBC’s commitment to balance. On the issue of balance, the CBC undertakes to “contribute to informed debate on issues that matter to Canadians by reflecting a diversity of opinion” and… “On issues of controversy, we ensure that divergent views are reflected respectfully, taking into account their relevance to the debate and how widely held theses views are”. The issues around the Occupy Wall Street protests both matter to Canadians and are an issue of controversy. While it could be restored that the very act of having Chris Hedges on the show was a means to ‘inform’ Canadians about one perspective on Occupy Wall Street, there was a clear failure to handle the opinions expressed by Chris Hedges respectfully.
By having a show aired on CBC, Mr O’Leary has the duty to act responsibly and respectfully. In this instance, he has not only failed to live up to the standards set by the CBC but has clearly violated them to the detriment of the organization.
Given that the above text captures the thrust of my argument to the CBC, which has now been received by Jennifer McGuire, General Manager and Editor in Chief of CBC News, I look forward to (and will share here) the reply.
The exchange was between one of the show’s hosts Kevin O’Leary, and Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hedges focusing on the Occupy Wall Street (#occupywallstreet, #ows) protests.
While I will write about the show in more detail in another post, the point of this post is to encourage people, if you deem fit, to file a complaint with the CBC for Kevin O’Leary’s manner in the interview as a clear violation of CBC Journalistic standards.
Complaints should be sent to the CBC Ombudsman and should be in writing with your name, address and telephone number. Note that the Ombudsman does not respond to anonymous complaints.
You must including the following information: Program Name: Lang and O’Leary Exchange on CBC Television, CBC News Network or CBCNews.ca. Air Date: October 6, 2011.
Be specific. When you feel a program or report was inaccurate, unfair or biased, please indicate how it was inaccurate, unfair or biased.
Alternatively, complaints can be sent via snail mail to:
Kirk LaPointe Ombudsman CBC P.O. Box 500, Station A Toronto, Ontario M5W 1E6
Via fax to: Fax: (416) 205-2825
Via telephone: (416) 205-2978
Wondering what the CBC Journalistic Standards are? Read them here:
Accuracy We seek out the truth in all matters of public interest. We invest our time and our skills to learn, understand and clearly explain the facts to our audience. The production techniques we use serve to present the content in a clear and accessible manner.
Fairness In our information gathering and reporting, we treat individuals and organizations with openness and respect. We are mindful of their rights. We treat them even-handedly.
Balance We contribute to informed debate on issues that matter to Canadians by reflecting a diversity of opinion. Our content on all platforms presents a wide range of subject matter and views.
On issues of controversy, we ensure that divergent views are reflected respectfully, taking into account their relevance to the debate and how widely held theses views are. We also ensure that they are represented over a reasonable period of time.
Impartiality We provide professional judgment based on facts and expertise. We do not promote any particular point of view on matters of public debate.
Integrity The trust of the public is our most valued asset. We avoid putting ourselves in real or potential conflict of interest. This is essential to our credibility.
Currently working on a book on Protest Camps (for Zed books) with Anna Baum (and Fabian Frenzel) and will be including Occupy Wall Street. This is a great information graph from the New York Times on the Protest Camp there.