The Washington Post

The one thing the Occupy Wall Street protesters don’t want


Standing on a street corner with a sign? Not an optimal way to get a job, we Employed People scoff.

Increasingly, that’s the image of Occupy Wall Street. But it’s not fair.

A former pollster, out to show that the movement consisted of the lunatic fringe, actually provided a counterweight to the image of Occupants Wall Street as jobless layabouts who are hoping that if they sit in the park long enough with sufficiently creative signs, someone will turn up and start distributing jobs and redistributing wealth.

“The vast majority of demonstrators are actually employed, and the proportion of protesters unemployed (15%) is within single digits of the national unemployment rate (9.1%),” Douglas Schoen noted in the Wall Street Journal.

That’s worth highlighting.

Much of the backlash to the movement revolves around this stereotype. Consider the 53 Percenters Who Pay Income Tax With Pride and have a tumblr of their own, who say things like, “Yesterday, while I was working, I got distracted by an Occupy march down the block from me. That really annoyed me. Because I was WORKING.”

At this rate, we’ll have all kinds of percenters. “We are the 7 percent who don’t pay income taxes correctly but haven’t been audited!” “We are the 16 percent who said earlier we’d be willing to vote for Donald Trump!” Next someone will be starting a movement called We Are The Rounding Error.

It’s because of this image — overprivileged English Majors sitting in a park wondering why they aren’t Masters of the Universe Yet, whose protest boils down to the complaint that Dream Jobs do not fall out of the sky — that some people seek to be excluded from the movement.

“You have to work hard for what you want!” they say.

“That is not not what we’re saying,” the Occupants of Wall Street shout back, somewhat confusingly.

But based on Schoen’s survey, their unemployment rate is actually lower than the average unemployment rate among young people.

Of course, it doesn’t help that the people who don’t have jobs often seem not to have jobs because an employer would require them to do something about that full-face tattoo of Andy Warhol defecating.

George Orwell, writing about something else, noted that “the mere words Socialism' and 'Communism' draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, 'Nature Cure' quack, pacifist, and feminist in England.”

The 99 percenters don’t include either of these words in their slogan, but their opposition to corporate greed and corruption seems to have sent out a similar subliminal summons, like those ads for presidential candidates that briefly flash images of red meat when you aren’t looking.

But in general, it’s not that they are sitting on their duffs rather than trying to get jobs. These are people who, like Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition, want two things and two things only: to keep money out of politics and politics out of money, and also maybe a Third Party. Three things. Money out of politics, politics out of money, a third party, and more of a social safety net. Four things. Money out of politics, politics out of money, a third party, a social safety net, and they would like corporate pay to be more transparent. My point is: They want many things. One thing they don’t want?


Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day. She is the author of "A Field Guide to Awkward Silences".


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