How #occupy became a social media phenomenon
The #occupywallstreet movement didn’t spring up out of nowhere. It was very deliberately conceived by the creators of a title you may have seen on the newsstand: Adbusters.
After that, the Vancouver-based Adbusters continued to tweet about #occupywallstreet, but received almost no mainstream media coverage. All that changed on Sept. 17, when crowds showed up at New York City’s Zuccotti Park and stayed there for weeks. Despite the lack of press attention leading up to the event, Kalle Lasn, the co-founder of Adbusters Media Foundation, expected #occupywallstreet to be huge, though the fact that it has taken off in other cities has surprised him. Lasn and Adbusters were previously behind another social movement, Buy Nothing Day, on Black Friday in the U.S., but that was nowhere near as big.
Lasn’s next move is a “Robin Hood March” set for Oct. 29 in France coinciding with the G20 meeting. The objective this time is a 1% “Robin Hood” tax on all financial transactions with proceeds going to the poor. Lasn spoke with Mashable about both movements and how Adbusters has used social media to foment dissent.
Check out the #occupy public report – in RiteTag, its available for free, with tags for several networks.
And for businesses that want to put the power of magic hashtags to work for them, be sure to read my What a Business Better Know About #Hashtags.
Q&A With Kalle Lasn, Co-Founder of Adbusters
Was this movement created by social media?
“I wouldn’t quite put it that way. I think that social media played a critical part, but I think it was triggered, it was catalyzed, sparked by creativity, but also people coming up with magical hashtags and posters and above all, having the geopolitical savvy to realize that the moment was right on September 17.”
It all started with a tweet in July, right?
“It started off with a poster in the middle of Adbusters magazine and #occupywallstreet with the hashtag on our cover and then it started off when the Twitter feed started going crazy with that hashtag. Then of course after that it began to have a life of its own.”
Are you surprised at how big it’s gotten?
“I wasn’t surprised that it created a big havoc in New York because we knew this [was an] invitation to occupy the iconic center of global capitalism, Wall Street. I knew that was a very provocative move and if we could get a few thousand people out there that this would be an incredible moment. But when it started to spread to Chicago and Los Angeles and San Francisco and now it’s creeping across the border to Canada, then I just sat there in front of my TV set in wonder.”
I thought it was a bit surprising because you don’t see these kinds of protests in the U.S. very often.
“Well, don’t forget you have the Tea Party. I mean, on the left we haven’t had it that much, but the Tea Party has been a powerful movement with a lot of passion. Their ideas are by and large wrong, but they had a lot of passion going for them and the passion was very similar to our movement because there was a feeling … that there was something fundamentally wrong with the United States of America right now and a bit of stimulus here and a jobs program there doesn’t make a hoot of difference. What’s really needed is a tinkering with the processes of how America works. I kind of feel like I’m in the same boat as the Tea Party guys.”
Yeah, I was going to ask if what you’re doing is the left’s version of the Tea Party. Would you agree?
“Well, I wouldn’t say that because at this moment there are a lot of people walking across the lines. I know a lot of die-hard lefties who have seen some wisdom in right-wing ideas and I know some righty types who have suddenly picked up Adbusters or something and say “You guys have a point.”
I think we’re living in an age where people are crossing the lines. If there’s going to be a rejuvenation of American decline, if there’s going to be a changing of that kind of corruption at the heart of American democracy, then it will have to be some sort of unified movement of people. And who cares if you’re left or right — they just want to have fundamental change.”
The name of your publication is Adbusters. What does #occupywallstreet have to do with advertising?
“Nothing really, but I think there is kind of a link between the “Buy Nothing Day” and what we’re doing now. This is a hard point to get across, but when you look at what’s wrong with the First World and why is America in decline and why everyone is so unhappy and down in the dumps … it really comes down to a rampant consumerism coupled with rampant debt and a society that’s just grown soft and fat. Like so many people in America are fat and can’t pay off their credit card and so many people are living lousy lives. So at the very heart of the problem of American decline is culture. It’s like a rotten apple. It’s rotten at the core. So I think there’s a really powerful link between Adbusters and #occupywallstreet.”