There is an old joke about an optimistic kid that is left in a room full to the brim with horse shit. The people who left him there return about an hour later, and to their surprise, they find the boy happily digging through the shit and ask "Hey Boy! What are you doing?," to which the boy responds: "With all this shit I figured there's got to be a pony in here somewhere."
I recently took a tour of the Occupy Wall Street demonstration in Zuccoti Park, trying to find the pony.
Walking into the demonstration was like peeling layers of an onion. There was an outer layer of police, followed by a layer of observers, next came sign holders, then campers, and intermixed between them were pods of organized committees (media, law, art, tech, etc.). I spoke to many people, trying to get an idea of the main goal and purpose (pony) they were working toward.
The pony I hoped to find would've come in the form of clear policy changes Occupy Wall Street wanted to see. For example, campaign finance reform, Wall Street compensation regulation or Congress term limits. There are still no 'official demands' from the collective, but there has been a lot of press around individuals claiming to make Occupy Wall Street demands. (See the first set of user-submitted demands the media ran with.)
I continued to make rounds inside the camp, and stayed for the 8 p.m. general assembly (which started at 8:30 p.m.). The human microphone system that used people repeating three words of a speech at a time was awesome to be a part of, but the topics -- like whether the group could purchase non eco-friendly storage bins -- were hard to get excited about. The assembly also became incredibly hard to hear, as a poorly timed sacred drum circle started 30 feet away.
It was at that moment it became clearer to me what was going on. This truly democratic group was trying to do things in a new way, trying to hear and act on everyone's voice in the 99 percent. Unfortunately the result of this can turn into a decentralized cacophony of noise, signs, and demands. Aligned but not organized, loud but not focused. (See the conversation tag cloud.)
At the simplest level Occupy Wall Street is the have-nots's response to the haves. Occupy Wall Street has become an open platform for talking and demonstrating about the negative externalities that come from having the "1 percent" guide the direction of the country. Despite some media covering fringe cases of protester demands, there have yet to be any concrete positions taken by Occupy Wall Street.
In 2009 another movement was created that focused on new political discourse and on-the-ground meet ups. In their first two months, the Tea Party garnered millions of impressions and occupied the country's media and political discourse, but this spike didn't last and neither will the Occupy Wall Street attention.
Occupy Wall Street Vs. Tea party
Google Trend Analysis
There are many differences between the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street, including the fact that the Tea Party was willing to let politicians carry their torch as a formal political party. This has given them a few additional attention bumps after their initial month-long spike of attention in April 2009 due to the political cycle.
Occupy Wall Street has openly rejected any one person speaking for or representing the group -- which has helped it keep it populous and inclusive. Unfortunately a non-Occupy Wall Street affiliated group has purchased OccupyParty.org (and over 40 other Occupy[state] domains) and may end up causing even more confusion for Occupy Wall Street come election time.
The clock is now running for Occupy Wall Street since the 'media silence' was broken in early October, which means media buzz will be dying out by mid-November. Occupy Wall Street has spread across over 50 cities, gathered 500k Facebook fans across 40+ pages, and organized multiple marches.
Now that the silence has been broken, Occupy Wall Street has a limited window of attention and momentum, regardless of how long they intend to physically occupy. So with the clock counting down, I am holding out hope that Occupy Wall Street can find their pony in this room full of drum circles, media hype and message hijacking.