The Occupy Wall Street backlash: A sign of success?

Originally written off as a disorganized group of radicals, the movement is now being taken seriously enough to become a target of conservatives

The conservative media's recent mockery of the Occupy Wall Street protesters may be a sign that the movement is picking up speed.
(Image credit: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis)

After weeks of being (mostly) dismissed and ignored, the Occupy Wall Street protest movement in lower Manhattan is finally starting to be taken seriously. But not all of the attention is positive. Conservative pundits and news outlets have started gunning for the liberal protesters, aiming to discredit their mission. National Review editor Rich Lowry called the movement "pathetic." Conservative commentator Ann Coulter called it "the beginning of totalitarianism." The backlash, in other words, has begun. Is that the biggest sign yet that Occupy Wall Street is for real?

When Fox News is scared, it's real: "I started to take it seriously when the right-wing media started sounding a little scared," says Kevin Drum at Mother Jones. It's hard to point to a specific moment when that happened, but there's been a decided shift in tone. Originally, "Fox and its allies" treated Occupy Wall Street with "lighthearted mockery." But now their coverage of the movement has turned into "something a little more serious, as if OWS was a real threat that needed to be put in its place."

"Time to take #OccupyWallStreet seriously?"

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Forget the backlash. The Tea Party comparisons are what's really helping OWS: Yes, the media initially scoffed at the presumed silliness of Occupy Wall Street, says Mark Schmit at The New Republic. Now it's being taken seriously — and it's a shift we've seen before. "Goofy costumes? Hand-scrawled signs making incoherent points? It's the Tea Party!" As liberals and the media fixate more and more on "the thing that looks and feels most like the early days of the Tea Party," expect everyone to start taking this movement more and more seriously.

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Plus, OWS still isn't a success — yet: The real mark of a successful movement is whether it can stay organized long enough to have an effect on policy, says Ezra Klein at The Washington Post. That's what makes the Tea Party movement so striking. Two years in, grassroots chapters nationwide still meet "to implement their pressure campaign on the Republican Party." With its battle cry "We are the 99 Percent," Occupy Wall Street has the potential to be a movement with "democratic extension." The timing is right for its message; if the demonstrators can make sustained, realistic policy proposals that will resonate with Americans, "they will heighten the potential of developing a movement which can leverage political change."

"The four habits of highly successful social movements"

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