My friend and Tumblr’s very own Political Prof asked this compelling question a few hours ago and wrote the following by way of an answer:
A little Christmas; a little electoral politics; a little winter break on various college campuses … it has seemingly disappeared. At least in the media.
We are the least capable multi-taskers in the world: easily distracted by “next,” and easily forgetting that which seemed to be end-of-the-world vital just moments before.
No wonder the powers-that-be never fear real challenge.
Of course, we all know that the occupation continues in various places, like the Parade of Roses or the Iowa caucuses or in some park that you passed by the other day on your way to get groceries. Some of it even still manages to garner a little media attention. But, as noted above, the OWS movement has largely been erased from the public consciousness by other things like the GOP political circus, holidays, Iran, Iowa, recess appointments, and whatever has happened while I was typing this.
That’s why, over the course of about two weeks back in November, I wrote a series of posts that stressed the need for OWS participants to come up with a coherent set of goals and policy proposals behind which people — who mostly can’t or don’t want to sit outside for weeks or months at a time — could organize.
A whole lot of people were paying attention at one point, and they were asking what this whole thing was about … but they didn’t really get an answer that made sense to them. They were told that occupation was the point, or that no one was in charge so it was about whatever you wanted it to be about, or that it was too soon to formulate any goals, or that working within the system would only mean legitimation of the system. And so a whole lot of people found something else to look at and to think about.
As I wrote in my first piece on the OWS movement:
[A] group of people camped out in order to raise awareness about a whole host of issues and they raised some awareness about those issues. But they didn’t really have any policy goals or at least none that could be conveyed to all the people who weren’t camped out but who might be sympathetic to the protest. So that would have really been the end of that. Except that they were then evicted from their encampments in many cities. And now, really, they seem to be protesting the evictions and getting arrested (and injured) in the process. And then they’ll protest those arrests (and injuries).
None of this is to say that I agree with the way that protesters have been treated. I’ve been shocked and saddened by the brutalization I’ve seen. But what’s the endgame? What’s it all about? How can anyone who wants to be supportive of people on the streets really get behind a movement that isn’t actually a movement but is, instead, a motley collection of disaffected individuals?
Now maybe the whole phenomenon isn’t finished. Maybe a new semester will mean more college students in tents and maybe the Spring will see a bunch of people finding ways to restore the encampments that city governments tore apart. If so, I hope that some of these people will have spent some time thinking about ways in which the democratic system can respond to some of the very legitimate complaints at the heart of the Occupy protests.
The organizers really seem to have punted on this the first time around, perhaps purposely. But if they get a second fifteen minutes of fame, I hope that some of the protesters will have learned a little bit about how to get their core message out to a country with a very short attention span.