Occupy Wall Street began as a small movement, relying mostly on social media to spread both ideas and information — the modern day word-of-mouth. The movement gained momentum quickly and bore no signs of losing it. In just a matter of weeks, it became clear that the movement was not going to fade anytime soon. Major news coverage lasted for months, and as each new development broke, the movement only grew. But now, just 60 days after the Zucotti Park eviction, and less than a month after the eviction at City Hall in Los Angeles, the Occupy movement has lost its captive audience. We now find ourselves wading through the GOP debates, caucuses and primaries all without a breath about the significance of Occupy Wall Street and its affiliate movement.
It’s no secret that the public is fickle. As much as we would love to deny it, our political attention span is only slightly better than that of the average Tweeter. That which is deemed “breaking news” today may be forgotten within a week. Coverage only lasts as long as the topic remains relevant and current, and it is becoming clear that the Occupy movement has lost the currency of relevance.
The movement’s significance is fast disappearing, and it is now considered yesteryear’s news. While the high-flown ideals are still intact, the revolutionary “force” is now gone. The media momentum that bolstered the movement so quickly back in September has vanished without so much as a parting wave. It is not that people have jumped off the bandwagon; the bandwagon has been derailed. Those not core to the movement have either lost interest, become disillusioned or lost track of the movement as a whole. Occupy was never the most unified of movements, and now that its national voice has disappeared, so has the simulacrum of national unity. Originally, the movement’s strength was found in the fact that its message appealed to the masses — the 99 percent that it claimed to represent. Now that the coverage is gone, so is the movement’s potency. The movement continues, but the attention of the country has moved on.
A quick look at Occupy’s online content confirms the sneaking suspicion that the movement itself is under the misguided impression that it remains significant. An inspirational video on occupyla.org asserts with confidence, “The end of the physical occupation was the beginning of the next phase of the people’s movement.” According to this ideal, the physical action of occupying sidewalks and squares was just the beginning of a much larger ideological movement — the “people’s movement.”
In reality, the protestors occupying public space defined the movement. Now that they no longer have this option, protestors are left without an outlet for their ideologies. The video goes on to declare, “Occupy exists in the conscious awareness of the world, and in the global heart of the 99 percent.”
Despite these bold claims, it requires no politically trained mind or miraculous foresight to predict that the Occupy movement has for the most part run its course. Talking heads are no longer discussing it, political candidates have never really addressed it and most protestors have returned to their regular lives. Occupy has proven to be a fad; an illegitimate way of expressing legitimate political dissatisfaction.
For better or for worse, the Occupy movement is dead. The death of a movement may not be as sensational as the birth, but the end is just as definitive as the beginning. We can now move on, shaking the dust from our proverbial political sandals. Our only consolation, and really the only thing the Occupy movement proved, is that free speech remains intact provided you don’t pitch a tent or build a tree house in front of City Hall.