We’ve watched protests around the world all year, but where were the 24/7 television cameras when a little sit-in began in my neighborhood, right at the site of what many in the U.S. identify as the biggest petri dish of injustice?
Occupy Wall Street (@OccupyWallSt) began two weeks ago and is still raging strong (700-plus arrests came this weekend as protestors blocked the Brooklyn Bridge), and even though a trigger-happy media is more than enthused to report on staggeringly important events such as the number of times Kim Kardashian changed outfits at her nuptials, there was nary a camera capturing our very own Spring.
If I weren’t a Twitter addict, I’m not sure I’d be up to the minute on the developments around Wall Street, because there is nothing on CBS, NBC or ABC, at least, to speak of. I have often wondered why we haven’t seen more protests on our own shores in recent times. We sure have lots to march about.
In many ways, Occupy Wall Street and its denizens need to think like brands and focus on their message; it needs honing to address the crowded field of angry in this country. (When I first heard of it, it reminded me of the early days of tofu at the health-food store: a great idea, but at that time it was called bean curd. Nothing like “curd” to turn off a big, bold marketplace. And speaking of the 70s, where are John and Yoko when you need them? Susan Sarandon and Michael Moore are poor substitutes, though both showed up; and the protest lost merit points when a rumor that Radiohead would perform didn’t materialize.)
But talk about a brand that needs a rethink on messaging: How about Wall Street itself?
In the past few years, we have come to hate the devil in the Italian suit. He’s the Antichrist who did in Main Street. And three or four of them have, in most of our minds, been at the root of the evil resulting in everyday despair. We all know somebody who has lost either a home or a job. The gluttony. The greed. The lack of respect for values. It has always been that way, but as soon as it began to affect how we live our lives, we stopped believing in Wall Street. (I saw a T-shirt two years ago that said “Kill the Rich.” Although I’m not advocating the message, it did resonate with me at that moment, as my house had started losing equity and my investment property went from “retirement asset” to huge personal liability.)
Regardless of whether Occupy Wall Street will have any real impact (though protests are spreading to places as far away as Albuquerque and L.A.), it’s mind-blowing that Wall Street, as a brand, has had no response. No apology. No promise to make things better. As thousands occupy the hallowed ground of green, were the Gordon Gekkos feeling guilty as charged? Or does their lack of response smack of ignorance, symbolize blind hubris?
With social media weighing in on everything, it seems that Wall Street could launch a campaign that acknowledges that greed is not, well, good. And that Wall Streeters are not greedy. Because there was a good deal of dissent on the topic of the protest itself, and the proof was in tweets like this one: “You can occupy wallstreet all you want, I challenge you bottom-feeders to occupying a damn job.” Wall Street had a real opportunity to sound its own bell of change, and I don’t mean the one they ring each morning.
The overwhelming message—not the timing of mainstream media coverage (or lack of it) and the celebrities in attendance (or not)—is the point: People feel that Streeters are no better than common criminals and should be punished for robbing us all of our homes, our dreams, our futures.
What will Wall Street do to not only rebound but also rebrand as more and more protestors take to the streets, cameras watching or not?