The protesters of Occupy Wall Street need to be careful because they are very close to having their movement tainted. So far Michael Moore, Cornel West and union members have shown up to these protests, capitalizing on the enthusiasm of people upset with the direction of their country (sound familiar, eh?). For the time being, it seems as though the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations are headed down the same path as the Tea Party.
The Tea Party started out with what seemed to be a grassroots movement, but quickly got out of hand with increasing amounts of media attention, celebrity freeloaders, corporate donors and extreme views of how politics should be fixed. As with anything, humans will grows narcissistic and narrow-minded in their attempt to control people. This was definitely the case for then Tea Party leader and racist Mark Williams. The mainstream media was vying to get inside of the Tea Party’s mission and this one man (along with other political factions) ended up poisoning whatever message the Tea Party was trying to get across. This is the issue with having leaders represent a movement; Leaders can be manipulated by opposing forces and lose sight in the cause all together.
There are some lessons that can be learned by the Wall Street protesters from the Tea Party. For one, be careful of celebrities and other factions that capitalize on something that they really had no hand in creating. I think it’s always a good thing for the media to be aware of what is going on at the protests, but the media can also play a large role in extinguishing the fires of a movement. Once the media sees Michael Moore give a speech to a crowd, he then becomes the spokesperson for the effort and the same goes for Cornel West.
This takes away from the movement because it is the people who should be questioned and given the microphone to speak. When the people who participated in the early Tea Party protests were interviewed by the media, it gave people a better understanding of what these people were about. When Mark Williams was given the microphone, a lot of people were turned off from the movement. When celebrities, politicians, political factions and high-profile persons take part in these protests, it takes away from what the protests are really about: the people. Because the mainstream media is lazy, they will begin to only interview high-profile persons and cast a wide net over the whole movement based on the actions of a few. This is largely what happened to the Tea Party.
When it comes to the Wall Street protesters, not having a definite leader has its drawbacks. It makes it difficult to mobilize people under one message. I say this because of the unions and other political factions taking a part in the Wall Street protests. The protests should be open to all, but participators should let leaders of these political factions know that they do not represent the movement. Yes, it would be easier to push this message with a leader, but this doesn’t mean it is not possible to do so without one. It is up to the protestors and those in the general assemblies to get this point across.