I don’t know how Occupy Wall Street will impact the 2012 election, but one thing seems pretty clear: it’s changed the national conversation.
A few short months ago, the corporate media and inside-the-Beltway chatter was all debt and deficits, all the time.
Occupy changed that. It reset the media narrative so it’s more aligned with the true crises of our times—income inequality, downward mobility and economic fairness. It’s also renewed attention to corporate accountability and the corrosive role of corporate money in politics.
Just look at the media’s use of the words “inequality” and “greed” post-Occupy. As Peter Dreier notes, a Lexis/Nexis search shows that US newspapers published 409 stories with the word “inequality” in October 2010. Through September 2011, the number of stories about “inequality” remained roughly the same. But in October 2011, when OWS erupted across the country and overseas, the frequency skyrocketed to 1,269 stories.
You can see a similar pattern with stories on “greed.” Between October 2010 and September 2011, “greed” stories fluctuated between 452 and 728. But in October of that year newspapers stories on greed jumped to 2,285.
And the “Occupy Effect” continues. As of mid-January there were 455 mentions of “inequality” in US newspaper articles, and 549 mentions of “greed.” So just halfway through the month, the figures had already reached the total monthly usage pre-Occupy.
As New York Times columnist Charles Blow puts it, “On this point, we must applaud the efforts of the Occupy Wall Street movement. It took income inequality and corporate responsibility out of the shadows and into the streets.”
Here are just some of the articles that reflect the impact of Occupy:
In November, Time magazine ran a cover story, “What Ever Happened To Upward Mobility?” Just this month, the New York Times ran a “dialogue” on “Mobility and Inequality in Today’s America,” as well as a front page story “Harder for Americans to Rise From Lower Rungs.” The Washington Post ran this terrific and humorous piece by Nation contributor Barbara Ehrenreich exploring the disconnect between the über-wealthy and the rest of us. Even Town & Country—the quintessential magazine of the 1 percent—ran “The Millionaires of Occupy Wall Street” this month, which worked hard to portray its crowd as sympathetic to Occupy.