The Occupy Wall Street movement, and the 'We are the 99%' spinoff it inspired, still remains a bit of an unknown quantity. Its popularity, however, continues to spread around the globe with protests popping up in more than 80 countries. But if your assumptions are that it’s no more than a group of pot-smoking, unemployed lefty hippies with nothing better to do, think again. Fast Company has put together this infographic showing that, in the US at least, participants are mostly apolitical and cover a broad spectrum of incomes. More than half are male and well over half are employed.
(Check out the chart in its entirety at the end of this story)
Social Media as key
With mainstream media initially slow and sparse on coverage uptake, the movement owes a lot of its spread to social media. Twitter and Facebook (check out the Occupy New Zealand Facebook page here) have all been hugely instrumental in sparking new protest spots around the world. One web design company even created a social media aggregation website called occupationalist. The site neatly pools together constant Occupy updates from the likes of Tumblr, Google Video, Bing, Twitter, Meetip.com and Foursqaure.
Business leaders speak up
But is it working? The movement is catching the attention of some of the world’s top business heads. TheNew Zealand Herald reports that on his recent visit to New Zealand, Sir Richard Branson said it was time for business leaders to take a different approach, calling the protests a wake-up call.
"In a sense [it's] slightly like the Wall St protesters are basically saying that we are lucky bastards to have been successful in our professions. An enormous responsibility comes with wealth - they have to get out and use that position to tackle a lot of the outstanding issues," he said.
Branson is no stranger to protesting for change, having marched against the Vietnam War in his younger years.
Laurence Fink, chief executive of BlackRock, one of the world’s largest global investment management firms, said the protests are a statement that the future is "very clouded for a lot of people”.
“These are not lazy people sitting around looking for something to do. We have people losing hope and they’re going into the street, whether it’s justified or not.”
Meanwhile Bloomberg Businessweek reports that chief executive of Citigroup, Vikram Pandit, described the sentiments of protestors as “completely understandable”, adding he’d be happy to meet with them.
Then there’s former Wall Street analyst and now editor-in chief of Business Insider, Henry Blodget. He’s put together four comprehensive charts showing exactly why it is people aren’t happy with the current economic and social landscape.
Among the gripes is the fact that unemployment is sitting at its highest level since the Great Depression. Contrast that with corporate profits being at an all-time high and you start to understand the source of unhappiness. Check out all of Blodget’s charts here.
There are of course the defenders of capitalism who won't have a bar of the protests, like Peter Schiff, chief global strategist of Euro Pacific Capital and Euro Pacific Precious Metals. Schiff spent an afternoon visiting Occupy Wall Street protestors in lower Manhattan. He brought with him a film crew and a sign that read: "I am the 1%, let's talk." It wasn't an entirely pleasant experience for Schiff, who wrote a piece about the protests entitled In Defense of the 1%. In this excerpt, he explains why the 1% shouldn't be vilified.
The problem is that many of these people are under the mistaken impression that Wall Street banks are to blame for this state of affairs. That's like blaming the dogs for getting into the trashcan. Sure, it's bad behavior, but the ultimate responsibility lies with the authority figures - in this case, Washington. After all, it's not the New York metro area that has benefitted the most from this crisis. Rather, the counties around DC are now ranking as the wealthiest in the country. And while wealthy New Yorkers have historically made their living providing essential financial services to the global economy, Washington has always made its living one way: at our expense.
That's why I have trouble sympathising with people calling themselves the "99%", implying they stand in opposition to wealth no matter how it's earned. I own a brokerage firm, but I didn't receive any bailout money. In fact, I have to work twice as hard to compete with bigger financial firms that are propped up by the US government. The least I deserve is the ability to keep what I earn.
We are the 53%
Not content with the 99% movement, a group of right-wing bloggers recently launched the 'We are the 53%' movement as a counter strike to the 99% movement . Conservative filmmaker Mike Wilson and blogger Eric Erickson of RedState.org. launched the Tumblr blog as a voice for the 53 percent of Americans who pay more in federal income taxes. Rightly or wrongly, it assumes the Wall Street protesters represent the 46 percent of the country who don't pay income taxes.