Protests Stir Up Voices on the Web
Ozier Muhammad/The New York TimesDemonstrators and police officers in Lower Manhattan on Friday, about noon.
As the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York cycled through their 14th day, with a surge of attention and confusion over a Radiohead show that wasn't, an overwhelming amount of information continued to flood the Internet, from snarky Tweets to informational Web sites to blogs representing individual experiences during the economic crisis.
The protests were in many ways born on the Web, with calls to action on multiple organizing sites, including Adbusters and NYC General Assembly. Anonymous, an Internet hacking group that has taken a leadership role in the movement, continues to spread information through its blog and Twitter feeds.
The organization Occupy Wall Street has been using its Web site to spread news to supporters and the news media. As controversy over the Police Department’s use of pepper spray intensified, Occupy Wall Street posted videos of the episode and published the name of the deputy inspector involved, Anthony Bologna. Inspector Bologna was later taken to task on "The Daily Show" by its host, Jon Stewart, and the actor Christopher Meloni, a former star of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit."
Criticism of the demonstrations has a home on the Web as well. A regular contributor to the conservative site Redstate.com, the blogger Teresa Koch, described the protests as “a lovely little temper tantrum being thrown by a bunch of well-fed white kids who fancy themselves as some sort of modern-day, new age revolutionaries,” and called on the protesters to forgo products from companies like Google and Apple, and the makers of Ivory soap.
The smart-mouthed Wall Street blog Dealbreaker showed a video of a distraught law student on his knees, shouting, “That’s the bank that took my parent’s home!” The blog asked, “How long must a child of parents with multiple degrees beg to be arrested before someone listens?” (“A prettay, prettay, prettay long time,” Dealbreaker reckoned, in a Larry David imitation). Commenters there piled on. “Hey, Sean Penn called and asked you to dial it down a notch, “ one wrote.
But sharp criticism did not belong to detractors alone. A video that was widely reposted, and republished, by, among others, the site Daily Kos, showed well-dressed individuals said to be Wall Street executives drinking cocktails on an elegant balcony, laughing and taking pictures of the protesters below. “Marie Antoinette did something like that — didn’t work out so well for her,” said a Twitter contributor using the name Zoocritter.
Others offered a range of expressions, including curiosity and constructive criticism.
On a blog hosted by Forbes magazine, an accountant, Peter J. Reilly wrote of being a runner on Wall Street at age 16. “With occasional side jobs like getting lunch for partners, we spent the morning delivering paper stock certificates and the afternoon picking up checks,” he said. “No question I would be dropping in at the park if I had the chance.”
Echoing a frequent chant at the protests, a Tumblr blog, “We Are the 99%” collected images of handwritten messages from individuals hard-hit by the economic crisis, often held by the writers. “I am a single working mother of two toddlers,” one message read. “I eat one meal per day to ensure my children can eat three.”
John Farley, a Web editor for the online magazine Metro Focus, blogged about being arrested while covering the protests.
An article on the site of Mother Jones magazine, “Why #occupywallstreet Isn’t Working,” gained popularity on Facebook. The article criticized the movement’s strategy, saying, “It's hard to be taken seriously as accountability-seeking populists when you're donning Guy Fawkes masks.”
On Twitter, celebrities including Russell Simmons pledged their support for the movement. Others on Twitter painted pictures of the situation on Wall Street.
Husky in Georgia wrote: “At #occupywallstreet, u will find hippies, true. Also, unions, libertarians, children seniors, ppl with good jobs, and more.”
Henry Blodget, a former research analyst who is a founder of the online publication Business Insider, used Twitter to link to a piece from the Web site by Julia La Roche describing protesters' going without showers for days, smoking marijuana and piling up trash.
Some on Twitter asserted that there was barely any coverage at all, while others noted coverage that they felt was fair. While news of the protests was largely absent from the home pages of major international newspapers like Le Monde and The Times of India, organizers said they were receiving messages of solidarity from Spain and from Greece, where economic protests are currently under way.
“Anyone organizing out in the west coast?” a commenter on NYC General Assembly named Janessa asked last Thursday. “I’d love to join the fight!!” As it turned out, the protest spread to San Francisco a week later.