Occupy Wall Street: Effective Use of Freedom of Speech?

Occupy Wall Street:  Effective Use of Freedom of Speech? By JoJo Tabares I have to admit that, for the longest time, I really didn't understand this movement.  I remember when it first came to my attention, I began searching the internet to see what they were about.  The media equated them with the Tea Party, others  denounced them as an unruly mob, but I couldn't seem to get a handle on what they believed or their mission.  Never one to report on an issue I simply didn't understand or take one man's opinion as Gospel, I simply didn't comment. After some research and watching the effect on the cities they occupy, I have come to a number of conclusions I'd like to share at this time.  In point of fact, the Occupy Wall Street movement can teach us a great deal about the nature and effectiveness of communication. 1. Occupy Wall Street Has No Clear Purpose One of the reasons I had such a difficult time understanding this movement is because they do not have a clear discernible purpose or underlying beliefs.  Looking through their website and listening to the protesters, the only purpose I can glean is that they wish to shut down Wall Street.  They don't like big business, but there is no reasoning behind it, underlying beliefs or plan for the future.  They mostly complain that big business has everything and they have nothing.  They seem an increasingly large mob who lacks focus and, although the website declares it a peaceful demonstration, is increasingly violent.  In fact, their own logo depicts three tanks. 2. Compare and contrast with Tea Party Both claim to be a grass roots movement formed as a result of poor economic times.  However the similarity seems to end there.  I, frankly, didn't see the resemblance to the Tea Party who call themselves Patriots, depict a peaceful, organized and patriotic red, white and powder blue website. The Tea Party beliefs are clear. The website (and signs by those attending the events) states that they support "fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government, and free market economic policies."  In addition, the Tea Party events have been non violent. 3. Freedom of Speech isn't a license for violence There is a huge difference between our constitutional right to peaceably assemble in order to exercise our freedom to speak against the government and a license to commit violence.  The constitution guarantees us the right to speak out, not the right to destroy, and not the right to be agreed with or even the right to be taken seriously!  And it is difficult to take seriously the speech of a group of people who are violent.  So, not only do they not have a clear purpose and plan, but they are hurting their own cause by acting in a violent manner. 4.Contrast with Martin Luther King Jr’s non violent civil disobedience Many have equated the Occupy Wall Street movement with the civil disobedience of the 60s under Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  I cannot disagree more! Dr King's events were peaceful and within the rule of law.  His speech was about peace and unity.  He had a clear purpose and a high moral standard. 5. Contradictory Messages One of the things that detracts from effective communication is a contradictory message.  It's hard to be taken seriously if you send a mixed message.  If you say you are a Christian, but do not follow the Bible, if you advocate peace at all costs and then attack your neighbor for disagreeing with you, you destroy the strength of your argument.  The Occupy Wall Street protesters do similar things.  Their website says society could get along without big business, yet they are seen using and wearing products that these businesses provide.  They don't advocate violence yet these events are quite violent.  Here's a quote from one of the articles I read, “One protester says it’s worth getting beat and arrested for justice, peace and freedom."  They blame big banks for their influence over politicians and govt, but they don't call out the current administration for it. Freedom of Speech is guaranteed under the first amendment of the constitution, but nowhere in that amendment does it guarantee you will be heard or have your ideas accepted.  In order for that to happen, your communication needs to be effective.   In order for your message to be effective, it needs a clear purpose and plan.  Further, it needs to work within the legal and moral system of society or it is simply intimidation and violence.  Lastly, it needs to be free of contradictory messages that weaken it's effectiveness. This month is Thanksgiving and we should be thankful for our system of government that allows us freedom of speech, but with that freedom goes responsibility and the rule of law. ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~ JoJo Tabares holds a degree in Speech Communication, but it is her humorous approach to communication skills which has made her a highly sought-after Christian speaker and writer.  Her articles appear in homeschool publications, such as Homeschool Enrichment Magazine and The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, which also endorses her Say What You Mean curricula.  You can also find JoJo on web sites such as Crosswalk.com and Dr.Laura.com.  For more information on communication FUNdamentals and Christian-based communication skills for the whole family, please visit http://www.ArtofEloquence.com  


  • JoJo

    You’re quite welcome, Carol.

  • Carol Blakeman

    Thank you, Jo-Jo! I was just trying to do some research myself and I couldn’t figure out a clear purpose or agenda even from their website as you said. I just needed to hear a more objective presentation—neither swayed by the sob-stories nor swayed by the other end of things—sorry, I can’t put a name on it.

  • JoJo

    Thanks, Cindy!

  • Cindy Holman

    AGREED! Great article, JoJo!

  • JoJo

    Thanks, Carla!

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