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Abacus at Occupy Wall Street

Safari 4

Conor Friedersdorf:

How Occupy Wall Street Is Like the Internet: If you're raging against the symbol of Wall Street, your message is going to resonate with a lot of people. But it's so abstract that it's going to provoke a backlash too -- after all, for some people Wall Street remains a symbol of free enterprise  and meritocracy. The case against symbolic Wall Street turns out to be weaker than the one against actual Wall Street, I wrote, since actual Wall Street's firms did specific unethical and illegal things.

To practice the kind of grounded-in-the-real-world critique I was preaching, I even offered a specific criticism of actual Wall Street.

I wrote:

Figuring out precisely how to feel about Occupy Wall Street or "We are the 53 Percent" is difficult for many. Much easier to decide that it's wrong to create a mortgage-backed security filled with loans you know are going to fail so that you can sell it to a client who isn't aware that you sabotaged it by intentionally picking the misleadingly rated loans most likely to be defaulted upon; or that it actually doesn't make sense to blame Wall Street for inflation in college costs, the student loan market they spurred, and the culture that sent a message to too many young people that borrowing for education is always a good investment. The allusion is to the SEC case against Goldman Sachs that Planet Money made intelligible to me in this podcast -- when I listened to it, back in April of 2010, is another place this story could have begun….

My words on a sign in New York City, where they were photographed by Ben Furnas, who I bizarrely happen to know, and who presumably didn't know I was their author; he posted the image on his Twitter feed, where it was discovered by Xeni Jardin, a writer at BoingBoing, who then posted the photograph under the headline "#OccupyWallStreet Sign of the Day: It's Wrong."…

I now understand a little better what it means for a protest movement to be without "a traditional narrative arc," to be "the product of the decentralized networked-era culture," to be about "inclusion and groping toward consensus." I now see how Occupy Wall Street is like the Internet -- and that parts of this protest movement would be impossible without it…