Submitted to #OccupyWallStreet For Consideration: New And Improved Messaging

I love the #occupywallstreet protests. You’re on the right side of a historic moment.

But because it’s early in the movement, the protest’s messaging is a mess right now. As a group, your dedication and resolve are so great, I realize it’s a challenge to produce focused communications to match.

I can’t be there with you to participate in a General Assembly. So I tried to help refine, sharpen and prioritize protest appeals from here in Chicago.

The following is my draft declaration for #occupywallstreet. It was built to be short, sharp, focused, repeatable, and of most importance, unassailable. I submit it in solidarity for consideration by the group. Use any of it, or none of it, whatever.

No matter the outcome, I urge that we work on refining the protest’s messaging, because last week’s media blackout is coming to an end. Even Megyn Kelly, Fox News’s perkiest cheerleader for poverty, couldn’t pass up running the NYPD-macing-protesters video this afternoon.

It’s time.



The bloated and reckless financial sector harms the real economy. 40 years ago, the financial sector commanded 2% of all the economy’s profits. Today, it commands over 40%. We, in the real economy, demand a 1% tax on all securities transactions. We call for the nationalization and breakup of all “too big to fail” financial institutions. We call for the nationalization and de-privatization of the Federal Reserve Bank. WE WANT OUR ECONOMY BACK.


We will no longer pretend we are well-represented by a government corrupted by runaway financial and commercial interests. We demand public service. We demand an end to the normalized corruption of our democracy by 1) instituting public financing of elections, 2) ending all lobbying for changes to the tax code, 3) the end of audit-less electronic balloting systems. WE WANT OUR DEMOCRACY BACK.


Wall Street’s political power has far exceeded Washington’s. The economy’s biggest players have the biggest say in its outcomes. Now, we want our say. Corporate profits and cash reserves are near all-time highs. Yet, unemployment is effectively well over 15% while “job creators” create only excuses. WE WANT OUR JOBS BACK.

WE WANT OUR HOMES BACK We signed on the dotted line. But Wall Street banks didn’t. We didn’t want a housing bubble. Wall Street’s banks and derivatives traders created one. We are not in default, we are victims of massive financial fraud. We demand an immediate cessation of foreclosures. WE WANT OUR HOMES BACK.


Too big to fail is too big to jail. We demand immediate indictments on charges of securities fraud for Lloyd Blankfein (Goldman Sachs), Vikram Pandit (Citi), John Stumpf (Wells Fargo). Jamie Dimon (JPM/Chase), Ken Lewis (BoA), Martin J. Sullivan (AIG). WE WANT ARRESTS AND PROSECUTIONS OF FINANCIAL TERRORISTS.


25 Responses to “Submitted to #OccupyWallStreet For Consideration: New And Improved Messaging”

  1. September 26, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    so as we talked about on the twitter there, if i were looking to make a change here, it would be around the portion of your comments that deal with lobbying.

    lobbying around the tax code is a huge problem, but it’s a subset of a larger problem: the revolving door between federal service and lobbying.

    baucus is a perfect example: more than 30 of his former staffers are now lobbyists – and surprise, surprise, they’re now his biggest funders.

    so if it was me, i would make it much harder for any federal employee to jump ship and move right into lobbying; some might suggest a five-year ban might be in order, still others would say that lobbyists shouldn’t be allowed to jump directly in to federal employment.

    but to fill in both sides of that argument, that could work against reformers who would love to see an elizabeth warren or a russ feingold or a ben jealous able to move immediately into or out of a “non-profit public service” lobbying position, without that five year loss of “presence”.

    beyond that…if you were looking to carve out a “non-profit public service lobbyist” exemption, the definition of public service is going to be a problem; groups such as the us chamber of commerce and freedomworks are certainly going to claim they’re non-profit, public service entities, and, despite the corporate funding and the evil plans for world domination, they stand a good chance of successfully making that case in a legal, legislative or lobbying forum.

    • September 26, 2011 at 10:53 pm

      Completely true: the revolving door needs to be slowed way down. I’d be generally in favor of a five-year jump-ship ban such as you suggest, though tailored and focused to prevent the movement between for-profit firms (and their proxies) and federal or state service.

      Of course, that’s a policy matter. As a communications matter, the messaging for this movement could promote/demand many greatly desirable and correct things, but I think the draft declaration should be strictly limited to a small footprint of smaller, less complex, less abstract items. Conceptual compression techniques are called for generally and in specific to meet the current urgent need, since the movement, a week and half into the occupation, is effectively presenting a rhetorical vacuum. For example, right now, there is an impression that the movement has not enunciated a coherent position, and that’s a valid critique that has to be countered. As such, we really are forced to triage the universe of desired policies into workable communications of high impact, repeatable memes.

  2. September 27, 2011 at 5:13 am

    Rob, I have no critique of your declaration for substantive content. Just wanted to say that this is smart. I’ve been ambivalent about these protests and searching for the past week for some cohesive message so I know—do I get behind these folks or not? Via another one of your tweets, I saw a “manifesto” of sorts (Principles of Solidarity) released by their General Assembly as posted by Firedoglake last week http://bit.ly/ovi4Db and still just shook my head. But what you’ve got here actually makes sense. I still don’t know for sure that I would agree with some of the methods I imagine would be proposed to achieve these goals, but the goals are solid.

    • September 27, 2011 at 7:39 am

      Thanks – yeah, I too found the “Principles of Solidarity” to be way too diffuse and in need of replacement with a much more concrete message. No serious criticism of the organizers is intended, though – they showed up and I didn’t!

  3. 7 DBrown
    September 27, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    Is everyone nutz? Concentrate real hard now and read carefully: We want the corporations out of our politics!

    That’s it. That’s the message. Did you get that? That’s a message that has been all over the @Occupywallstreet material. OK, now everyone is happy.


  4. 9 GandhiKingMindset
    September 28, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    Thanks for putting the above list together. I definitely agree we need a digestible spreadable message. Crystal clear. I respectfully submit this alternative list for review. I think debate on this is really healthy and it is in that spirit that I submit. I think it will make the final product stronger. This particular list was drawn from input from all around the Occupy Wall St. forum. It would of course get edited down to something shorter. But check it out and see what you think about the TACTICS and the DEMANDS: https://occupywallst.org/forum/proposed-list-of-demands-please-help-editadd-so-th/

  5. October 1, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    Does OWS have hot-lines for whistle blowers from inside Wall street? There are a lot of staffers within the institutions that are sick of working for a bunch of thieves. They know stuff and if OWS can collect and distribute information, either to the Justice Department or as publicity. Publicly ask for informants, on picket signs and press releases with a contact web-sites and phone numbers. Does OWS know what the Justice Department is doing on prosecutions and on what grounds?

  6. 12 James
    October 2, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    This is fantastic.
    HOWEVER, the big problem with the Occupy wall street is that they organizing against injustice while perpetrating another form of it. No where have I seen any acknowledgement that the very land they are occupying is already occupied. The native tribes in New York and across the continent have had their lands and rights brutally stripped from them systematically time and time again. If we ignore that, we ignore the real structures of power that exploit and kill at the margins. If we ignore that, we risk becoming the same. We need to recognize the depth of this struggle, which capitalism began a long time ago, and work to really build an inclusive and anti-oppressive movement.
    I don’t agree with most in this article, but the author does raise very salient points:

    • 13 Akalo11
      October 3, 2011 at 12:44 am

      Hi, great proposal, it sounds concise, specific enough, and I think most Americans would generally agree with most of the demands.

      My one suggestion is that you tighten up the section labeled “WE WANT OUR JOBS BACK.” Though everything in the paragraph is true, this is the one section that doesn’t make a specific “call to action” like the other sections. Give this section a demand, ideally one that suggests a way to reduce the political power of corporations.

      Otherwise this is a great list, and I support it. Though I’d love to see something on here having to do with removing corporate personhood, I still think your list is pretty strong. I hope this gets a lot of exposure, I’ll share it wherever possible. Good luck

      • October 3, 2011 at 11:35 am

        Akalo, That criticism is 100% correct. I found the problem with placing a concrete call to action directed at the alleged “job creators” is the presence of the huge gulf separating private and public spheres. I decided that any crossing of the gulf *in the context of the declaration* was better left on the cutting room floor. Here’s why:

        Each other call maps to legislation in Congress or to action by DOJ or electoral officials – e.g. public servants. But the jobs paragraph terminates without a call to action because, basically, as Alan Greenspan recently said of the high unemployment, the heightened efficiency and productivity of workers is the rational excuse for failing to hire, failing to invest domestically and failing to grow the economy domestically. The balances of factors for large corps are at a kind of optimum. I take that as an admission that the nature of underregulated, undertaxed corporate capitalism is wider societal ruin and that taxation and regulation is the only means we have to protect ourselves as “externalities” to the big corporations. So what I did there (admittedly elsewhere in the declatarion) was call for the end to lobbying for all changes to the tax code, which overwhelmingly favor big business.

        I’d love to hear what kind of brief, concrete, achievable call to action could substitute in that paragraph.

  7. 15 Akalo11
    October 3, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    I understand your reasoning, it is a tricky area that doesn’t give us much to work with.

    This jobs section might be a perfect area to target the Bush tax cuts. The problem with the cuts, as I see it, is that they are generally described as being meant to help business, as those most benefiting from the tax cuts are the ‘job creators’, but this just isn’t so.

    Here’s a good article by NPR http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2011/10/03/141014240/how-many-small-businesses-would-be-hit-by-new-taxes-on-the-rich?ft=1&f=1001

    It describes that of the 6 million small businesses in the country, only about 10% make more then $175,000 and the rest don’t benefit from the tax cuts at all. Targeting the rich as a way of spurring job growth is a fallacious argument, so a potential call to action here might be “Appeal the Bush tax cuts for the rich and reinstate them for small businesses.”

    This would definitely have a more significant effect on jobs, and would be doubly effective as it would both bring the top 1% down a peg and would help battle unemployment.

    Okay that’s it, hope this was at all helpful, good luck in your endeavors.

  8. 16 Bradley Acopulos
    October 5, 2011 at 12:10 am

    I like your declaration and I think it is a very good initial thrust for a call to action. I would like to add this for your consideration. I believe that the movement must soon be prepared to organize a national forum, a congress of sorts, to begin to get down to the nuts and bolts of what those of us in the movement ultimately want. We get it sponsored and led by able people, broken up into centralized forums around the country, form caucuses that will be represented in a single nationally televised conference before the 2014 election with is mission to set the agenda for the US Congress. While this seems to be the counter to the Tea Party process, and it should be, We need to come up with some creative ideas from the common middle class folk, the poor folk and everyone else. It is a movement of inclusion, of evolution, not revolution, and there is one way to back our demands for chance and improvement up.

    If there is no sign of these demands being met, then there are enough of us in the struggling classes being affected that we could effectively cripple the economy of the rich. With the proper build up of this movement, we can then stage a work stoppage, consumer protest, and that would mean not buying anything for a stated period of time. It includes not paying taxes, not paying fees, not shopping for goods made in China, whatever the congress would decide. The point here is to save all the money you can, not put it in the banks, and expect to hold out for a long enough period of time that those that have hoarded all the money and political power, would have to be ready to concede some power back those that truly represent us.

    while it is so that there seems to be a leaderless and directionless state of affairs, it is not a bad thing. It is the sheer stress and displeasure with the money mongers and power brokers that have taken over our democracy that is what is bringing everyone together. We are unified in that, and once there is enough notice taken of the movement, then we switch gears and get into the nuts and bolts part of this movement, perhaps calling the EVOLUTIONARY MOVEMENT.

    It is also vital that we keep the movement free of violence and those who would be proponents of violence, out of the mix.

    There will be someone to come to the forefront with a great mind, and of good conscience that will be able to organize the process. That is my hope of course, since I don’t see that we are going to last much longer with the way things are now.

    So, in conclusion, our points are spot on, and I think what you have written is a good set of points to rally around, keep the movement focused, and that I would add that it is important to start working behind the scene to be ready to coalesce into a very well organized and focused process in time to be ready to influence who winds up in congress and the White House for one and for another, who ever has been and remains there will know that their old way of thinking has to come back in line with democratic principles.

  9. 17 freelansing
    October 5, 2011 at 5:18 am

    Great statement. Good model that I hoped others adopt or follow. I’ve been sharing it. One question: Where did you get your first statistic about the financial sector going from 2% to 40% of all profits in the last 40 years? I’ve been spouting a lot of statistics myself lately aimed to enrage people, but I had not heard that one. Before I started repeating it (as I was eager to do), I wanted to source it. The best figures I could find were here: This shows a significant rise, but not the dramatic numbers you claim. Do you have a better source?

  10. October 7, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    If the protests were about these points? I’d hop on a bus to NYC.

  11. October 24, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    This is good (I just came here off of your email to the Demands Working Group). I agree with you regarding “goals” versus “demands” after debating the issue: http://www.indypendent.org/2011/09/29/participatory-democracy-engaged/

    We could also make 1 demand: that our grievances be redressed (referring to the official declaration).

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rob [at] warmowski [dot] com

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September 2011

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