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The One Where Ezra Klein Says Something Interesting About #OccupyWallStreet

BY Nick Judd | Wednesday, October 5 2011

Ezra Klein pours concrete into the mold of the 21st-century-movement-ness of Occupy Wall Street:

But the leaderless, decentralized, consensus-driven nature of the protest makes evolution and adaptation easier. After all, there’s no one in particular who can say, “That’s not what this movement is about.” If MoveOn.org begins organizing under the “We Are The 99 Percent” banner, who will stop them?

That, I think, is one very possible future for the movement: The Occupy Wall Street effort continues, and the “We Are the 99 Percent” movement becomes something broader and more directly engaged with the political process and traditional political actors. Another is that it fizzles: The radical protest in Zucotti Park continues, but the effort to create a more mainstream version fails. Another possibility is that it fractures: Just as there are hundreds of distinct tea party groups organized under separate and competing national coalitions, you could imagine a lot of different efforts organized under one name but representing diverse and contradicting ideas.

"We Are the 99 Percent" isn't a political action committee, it's a meme. More than that, it's an identity that can be worn the same way a handful of people in Zuccotti Park over the past few weeks have worn Anonymous masks. It is a collective identity nuanced enough to be understood but vague enough to be shared by people with differing needs and agendas, many of whom have not met.

I would suggest that, the same way the Anonymous masks gather dust in a closet for a few months only to reappear for more lulz, the "We Are the 99 Percent" cardboard signs might disappear for a bit as Klein suggests — only to be picked up by another, completely unrelated group of people, for another action. It's a third possible outcome Klein is gesturing towards but does not clearly indicate in his post.

Squint at the edges of the early Tea Party and tilt your head a bit, and their tri-cornered hats start to look like an early version of this, too.

Maybe that's what a 21st-century movement looks like?

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