What is fueling the Occupy Wall Street movement?

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Answered by: Nick, An Expert in the Matters and Views Category
The most important influence that has helped the American people realize the pertinency of Occupy Wall Street's message is the internet. It has been found capable of expressing the mass exasperation being felt toward the unfair distribution of America's wealth. One dilemma that stymies Occupy Wall Street from being taken seriously by intellectuals and politicians is its reliance on commodities provided and regulated by corporations involved with the government---namely their huge reliance on the internet to perpetuate its message. When traditionalists in this country envision a protest, they imagine individuals picketing an symbolically important place, which Occupy Wall Street does. However, besides their reliance on their most important tool, the internet, Occupy Wall Street protests in style and comfort. In my opinion, this is not a bad thing. But it does seem to inhibit them from being taken as devoted antagonists to the 1%.

     Occupiers use the internet in order to orchestrate protests or, more specifically, occupations of public spaces to express their exasperation with the apropos mentioned institutions. Because of this paradox, the Occupy Together movement is not taken seriously by intellectuals and politicians because those within the movement rely on what they're protesting against to portray their message. These quandaries, however, are not new. They were perceived during the 1960's "revolutions" as well. Just look to Theodore Adorno and the Critical Theory movement:

     Theodore Adorno: "The entire sphere of popular music, even where it dresses itself up in Modernist guises is to such a degree inseparable from consumption, from the cross-eyed transfixion with amusement, that attempts to outfit it with a new function yet remain entirely superficial. And I have to say that when somebody sets himself up, and for whatever reason (accompanies) maudlin music by singing something or other about Vietnam being unbearable, I find THIS SONG unbearable in that by taking the horrendous and making it somehow consumable, it ends up wringing something like consumption-qualities out of it."

     What happened in the 1960's "revolutions," according to Adorno, is that the message within the movement got absorbed by the consumerist mentality pervading America at that time. So whenever anyone wished to add to the narrative being established by the revolutionists (through song, poetry, fiction, nonfiction, etc), it became a commodity in the version of LP's, books, magazine articles, etc. Ultimately, the revolution fizzled because the narrative being promoted was seen by pragmatists (both conservatives and liberals) as "hippy" babble.

     Take, for example, Allen Ginsberg's poem "Howl." Part One of this poem encapsulates (however obscurely) the lifestyles, mentalities, and overall narrative of the Beat Generation. This narrative strived to contradict the norm established by the dominance and "success" of 1950's Capitalism at that time. Part two establishes how Ginsberg perceives Capitalism to be operating in America. He is careful, though, to objectify his antagonist as "Moloch" and not as something concrete and understandable, like, say, corporate greed, corrupt government, capitalism, etc. Instead, he addresses all the negative aspects of this "beast". However, this poem became a product of "Moloch" in that it became a salable book, then a poem within a collection (also for sale). Then books were written about the poem. Then, last year, in 2010, a movie was made. An animated scene from this movie made for an appropriately ominous cover of the October 10, 2011 issue.

     Now, this is not to say that the message within "Howl" is completely defunct based on its commoditization. The importance of "Howl" itself as well as what happened to "Howl" cannot be neglected. What is not for sale is the ability of the poem to affect someone on a personal level, but the relationship between written materials and readers has changed. It is now a matter of deciphering content rather than heeding to an authority (or author) telling you "This is how it is." Through the process of commoditization, any content being generated becomes arbitrary and secondary to its distribution. This can be surmised by a specific quote of Ginsberg's regarding technology and communication.

     Allen Ginsberg: "The only immediate historical data that we can know and act on are those fed to our senses through systems of mass communication. These media are exactly the places where the deepest and most personal sensitivities and confessions of reality are most prohibited, mocked, and suppressed."

     Many share in this sentiment. They feel as though technology and mass communication fail to transmit authenticity, and that emotion is impossible within a technological setting. They have an aversion to things like the internet, yet seem to think that their writing somehow transcends and amends this "problem" even though their work is publicly distributed whether in more "authentic" forms (such as books) or through the internet.

     This sentiment is flawed. Yes, it's important that we establish a hierarchy within our information distribution so that reliable authors appear in reliable publications and the only way to currently do this is through a pricing system. But it is now time to embrace the power of mass communication as a means for furthering our knowledge of the world as well as one another. The fact that the internet grants people equal access to express their opinions should only be shunned by elitists. The same goes for the broadening of MFA programs across America. Since when is the development of one's consciousness a bad thing? Anyone who wishes to portray these facts in negative lights operates under the obsolete system of a hierarchical distribution of knowledge. Some argue that though technology allows narratives to permeate into previously untapped markets, it detracts from that message resonating within the human psyche, that somehow being exposed to one narrative alongside an infinite number of other narratives (such is the case with the internet) that readers don't properly digest their message because of a lack of attention or time spent pondering the message within the narrative.

     However, it's important to point out that in 2007, the band Radiohead amended the dilemma Adorno perceived by allowing "consumers" to pay any price they wished for their album "In Rainbows;" thus, audiences were no longer rendered consumers, but participants. Though this music did not specifically address universal dilemmas or political exasperation, the method through which it was made available revolutionized how information and/or art can be accessed. It pointed out the benefits of hyper-dispersion. This is how the relationship between materials and audiences have changed. As I briefly stated above, the commoditization of art and information rendered content arbitrary. In the 21st Century, a piece of information's price no longer indicates its importance; rather, individuals' faculties for decipherment must be attuned to the narrative in which they wish to follow. If you're reading this, the narrative that has you interested stems from the Occupy Together movement. And since a narrative can be accessed without involving oneself in the process of consumerism, the Occupy Together movement can exist outside the---dare I call it this?---system.

     The traditional forms of knowledge distribution cannot be overlooked either. Both Jane Mayer and Hendrik Hertzberg have elucidated the types of things Occupy Together are exasperated with. One need only look at the Occupy Together website, particularly their message-board, and see the headache of hyper-dispersion in action.

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