Happy birthday, Occupug.
  • Happy birthday, Occupug.
This weekend was the first birthday of the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York. Two Portlanders are there reporting for Occupy and have made a video rounding up the weekend events in New York. The one-year mark fair time to ask the question: How has Occupy changed the way we think about politics, government, and protest?

Of course, plenty of people are going to ask "What the Fuck Has Occupy Done?" And they could come up with a slew of specific answers: Organized Bank Transfer Day, fed thousands of homeless people, illuminated police use-of-force against protesters, alienated mainstream people who joined initial protests but couldn't handle endless meetings and pointless confrontations with cops.

I think the biggest thing Occupy has done is get Americans to talk more about formerly wonky national policy issues and how those issues concretely affect people's lives. In my opinion, the foreclosure crisis, the ways big banks screw over their customers, the power of major corporations over politics, and campaign finance reform were off the dinner-conversation-radar before Occupy. Over the last twelve months, I've found myself talking about these issues a lot more with middle-of-the-road, "not political" friends and family. Occupy's most effective slogan could be "TALK TALK TALK."

People are definitely at least more aware now of some basic problems in society than they were before—right?

Bolstering this idea is a survey published in the New York Times that shows "perceptions of tensions between rich and poor people" have jumped 19 percent since 2009.

But I did some Google trends searches of key issues brought up by the Occupy protests, and what we're Googling, at least, hasn't changed all that much.

We read and Googled a lot about CEO pay for a month or two in the winter of 2011, but now we're talking about it roughly the same amount we were a year ago. We talked way more about credit unions for a couple months, too, but the conversation flatlined. We're talking less about foreclosure now than we have since before the crisis. Campaign finance conversations have stuck around, though, off and on.

As for Occupy itself, well, while they world was watching, it looks like Googling of the movement has really dropped off.


So Americans definitely discussed big Occupy issues broadly for at least a few months this year, but now we're not talking about them so much anymore. Whether or not more conversation actually leads to change—or whether increased awareness is counter-acted by the alienating aspects of the movement—is still unclear.