Saturday, October 15, 2011

What "Occupy Wall Street" does for Social Media

Occupy Wall Street Turns 1984 Upside Down - Thanks to Social Media

We always knew that Social Media was the enabler of the "Occupy Wall Street" movement - that's what got the word out in the first place. We just didn't know what direction it would take: what could possibly be the Wall Street version of the Arab Spring?

The answer may involve a tectonic shift in government.
When the first punch was thrown by police white shirts - management - you knew whose bull was really being gored. It wasn't Wall Street that was threatened as much as the administrators traditional power relationships. That's why the police brass instinctively brought out the pepper sprays and clubs then made the rank and file follow suit.

On their own, the regular cops spent little time worrying about the protestors. Most of the time they did what protestors did - stand around checking their iPhones and 'Droids.

Police management may have been taking heat from Wall Street execs just a few blocks from 1 Police Plaza - but this is more that territorial.  It could be the first time hierarchical order has had to confront social media managed organized chaos - and they instinctively hate it.

Social Media has turned the traditional patrol relationship upside down. It is now the world watching the cops and not the other way round. It is enough to make George Orwell rise up and wonder!

You'd think Police Management would have known that the first act of violence would go international. Yet they clearly didn't understand the force they were confronting or they would have been better off house all those protesters at the downtown Marriott. No overtime, no brutality no worldwide public sympathy.

Wall Street is good for 25% of the State's economy and it likes to hire ex-offers for their own extensive security needs. But once the NYPD leadership lashed out they turned what looked like a joke into an International Phenomenon. Now they have attracted a level of attention to Wall Street and government that will change how they operate forever. It will cost them more than money - it will cost them their way of life.

We still haven't taken stock of the fact that government used our money to save the banks and yet, did almost nothing to save the public with mortgage relief. Now the banks are foreclosing those houses and you can probably forget about getting loan. I recently served on federal jury duty where a small time mortgage hustler was indicted by the FBI for a few thousand dollars while the bank that made millions by enabling him - got to testify against him. And boy, were they outraged.

When the crowd is the watchdog and they are empowered that kind of think is not likely to happen - at least not without a fight. This is the battle that has been waiting to happen.

Like Hemingway said, things change gradually and then suddenly.

Crowds have already been taking control in gradual ways. Ask Microsoft what they think about open source - as they lose market everywhere. Ask McCain or Hilary Clinton what they think about the people who microfinanced Obama's election. They haven't exactly gone away.

3 years later, mobile has accelerated the social media that bought "change" and now everyone with a smartphone is probably using it. "Occupy Wall Street" and the opposition it engendered only seems to amplify it's reach. It is already teaching people how to take charge of the political system in entirely new ways.

In countries like Greece, with severly troubled economies people are already taking control of their banks and their currency. In South Korea, they are even taking on some of the police enforcement burden.

How long before we vote by cellphone? Or "buy" politicians with Facebook Likes. Policing is already subject to who has the cell phone video. Almost everyone has one and now they are posting them on on the web taking the presumed authority away from those in charge. Political and business watchdogs are popping up in South Korea which now relies on citizens with cameras and videos for a large part of its prosecutions of corrupt businessmen and politicians.

As Wall Street loses it ability to generate jobs we might wind up doing what the Greeks are did, start using barter with homegrown markets and local currency. With mobile internet and open source software, the tools are available for the taking, free of charge. When governments print worthless money or taxes become unsustainable, smart communication may be a better way to store value. Many Africans now put more value in their cell phone minutes than their local currencies. Ask any Zimbabwean with a $100 billion note.

The triumph for the "Occupy Wall Street" movement is simply to stay on long enough - as they attract eyeballs all of the above cascades down naturally. It was just waiting to happen. Control has begun to shift to the aggregators of social media-connected communities - essentially, the new political parties.
It just needed a nudge, the NYPD brass gave it and the media fanned it. For this, they should probably be thanked.
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