What to Make of New Polling on Support for the Occupy Movement?
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The other significant bit of context is that the Occupy movement is very poorly understood. On its face, it is certainly a protest movement about rising inequality and the pernicious influence of money in politics, but it's also much more than that. It's also a social experiment of sorts – or maybe “cultural revolution” is a better phrase. Having spent many hours speaking to occupiers and attending maybe 20 general assemblies at various locations in California, I still don't have a firm grasp on what the movement is all about.
The occupiers have no concrete demands. They defy analysis based on our existing ideological framework. Sure, the movement's animosity towards Wall Street and focus on corporate influence over politics may warm the hearts of liberals, but there's also a significant element of anti-governmentalism that is more traditionally associated with the right. A lot of Ron Paul fans are involved in OWS.
There's also the Occupy movement's healthy dose of anarchy, with its near-obsession with personal autonomy. A big part of this Occupy thing is the process itself – the general assemblies are often frustrating, annoying and bizarre to those on the outside, but direct democracy is also a beautiful thing to behold in action. None of that complexity is captured in media reports.
In that sense, gauging public opinion about the movement is like polling on string theory – asking people their opinions of something the vast majority don't fully understand.
One thing that is clear, is that most of the occupiers see themselves not as "protesters," but as Americans engaged in a nonviolent revolution, with the ultimate goal of upending a deeply entrenched status quo. In that sense, perhaps a better question to ask is how public opinion about the Occupy movement compares to that of revolutions in the past, at their onset. There can be no denying that these people camped out in public spaces across the country have been an inconvenience for locals at times, and that may well be reflected in the polling, but revolutions aren't known for their convenience.
Joshua Holland is an editor and senior writer at AlterNet. He is the author of The 15 Biggest Lies About the Economy: And Everything else the Right Doesn't Want You to Know About Taxes, Jobs and Corporate America . Drop him an email or follow him on Twitter.