Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Josh Carples: Why I have been silent so far on the “Occupy” movements

  As the managing editor of the Capital City Free Press, I have written news stories, editorials and political pieces and appeared as a political analyst on radio talk shows, yet I have been silent so far on the “Occupy Wall Street” movements.

  Yes, I use the plural “movements” purposefully, as there are many protests occurring in various cities across the country. On top of that, they all don’t have the same message. That is the cause of my silence.

  There are many messages I see and hear from news reports – people being interviewed and signage – that I can hold in agreement, but there are also things I may not, or at minimum, that I think could be worded more clearly.

  Of course, I suppose that comes with being part of a movement that doesn’t have a clear leader – it also may not have a clearly defined message.

  A Rolling Stone article by Matt Taibbi brought some good points – mainly, to summarize, that it should not be allowed to become the typical left versus right fight that we’ve become accustomed to. And yes, when it comes to our government and our political leaders being bought and paid for in the guise of political donations, that should be an issue that transcends party lines and political views.

  So if the message is to stop buying politicians, I am on board.

  The other side of that message would be to quit voting for people who allow themselves to be purchased. The cynical retort is that good people refrain from seeking public office so that their reputations do not get tarnished or destroyed by the politicians who “play to win.”

  If the message is to say that it is not OK to use the public coffers to bail out huge corporations – especially when they have gambled themselves into financial insecurity with eloquent words like “derivatives,” “mortgage-backed securities” and “sub-prime lending” – then yes, I think most of us would be on board.

  But without a clearly-defined message, or a series of messages that may be too broad, some may be hesitant to get involved in what may be an otherwise good thing. For example, what if someone was truly concerned with the debt this country has been building up for the past decade, but was hesitant to attend tea party events because they did not want to be lumped in with some of the racist rhetoric and signage that has been used by some members? In that sense, it does cut both ways.

  There is a forum post on the website titled “Proposed List of Demands” for the movement. Before even getting into the 13 items on the list, it is helpful to read the note from the admin: “This is not an official list of demands.”

  The admin explains that the list was submitted by a single user and “hyped by irresponsible news/commentary agencies like Fox News and” The note ends by saying, “There is NO official list of demands.”

  In my opinion, that’s the problem. If there is no official list of demands, then you are left with multitudes of people protesting for different causes under the same “occupy” banner. Without a clear message, or a clear list of demands, what could be a great, unified movement to press our leaders to make changes for the better is reduced to a group of individuals with differing goals and varying messages.

  So my advice to those in the occupy movement is this: narrowly define your message; keep it focused; and make it about the negative affects of government being run by a corporate elite instead of being, as Lincoln said in his Gettysburg Address, “of the people, by the people, for the people.” That’s a clearly defined message that we – the 99 percent – can get behind.

  About the author: Josh Carples is the managing editor of the Capital City Free Press.

Copyright © Capital City Free Press


  1. Although I think you make a good point about unification, please remember that our recent history does not show that we are capable of quickly organizing and unifying with such a diverse topic as the government. Maybe in five or ten years we can look at this as the anti-corporate lobbying movement, but right now it is just getting started.

    The anti-Vietnam war protests started in 1965 and did not end until the troops came home in 1974. They had nine years to get a concise message together. However, there were other issues the protesters were concerned with such as social progress, sexual freedom, and anti-draft. Those issues were evident and fought for at the same time.

    My point is that it is going to take time for all of us that oppose the buying of politicians to have one clear stance but in the meantime we have gotten major attention from all news outlets; even Al-Jazeera was streaming live from Zuccotti Park Tuesday morning. The fact that young people are unifying for what may be a temporarily blurry cause is making the nation pause to think and that is what we need in this country.

  2. I agree with you that the movement is young, but I think leadership is needed sooner than later. A friend from Montgomery now lives in DC. In her Twitter feed today, she's down there watching people march behind a guy with an anarchist flag. That kind of stuff isn't helping. In fact, I would argue that it's hurting what could otherwise be a positive movement.