The Occupy movement’s aversion to formal leadership spurred a debate during a panel discussion March 1, with faculty and students sorting through the pros and cons of a protest style with such a strategy.
As media coverage dwindles, Linfield is still paying attention: the sociology and anthropology departments held an open forum led by a faculty panel to explore the thoughts and actions behind the Occupy movements.
Michael Huntsberger, assistant professor of Mass Communication, Dawn Nowacki, professor of Political Science, and Rob Gardner, assistant professor of Sociology, were the faculty panelists, along with Linfield senior Ariel Martindale.
Huntsberger discussed the Occupy movement in terms of the type of mass messages it sends, identifying the movement’s lack of a leader as one of its downfalls.
“The power of movements is often tied to the ability of an individual to gain attention from a larger audience,” Huntsberger said, using Martin Luther King Jr. as an example. “Without a small group or a leader to be the specific face of a campaign, it’s hard to articulate and communicate a clear motive and mission.”
Huntsberger also said that while the movement originally began as a protest against financial inequality, the protests evolved into critical reviews a range of other subjects, from labor unions and corporations to education.
“What started as a protest against Wall Street, became a critique on many different issues, but all those issues don’t fit comfortably under one umbrella,” he said.
Martindale said that the Occupy movement had to encompass a wide variety of issues because so many aspects of capitalism and Wall Street leak into other aspects of life.
She referenced the documentary, “Miss Representation,” a film about the role media plays in furthering gender inequality.
“Just like how capitalism influences the images put in media, other aspects of the Occupy movement can be linked together,” Martindale said. “Its one big thing that impacts everything else.”
Martindale added that the movement’s anti-hierarchical tendencies are simply an illustration of what the group is trying to regain: direct democracy.
Nowacki also addressed Huntsberger’s assertion, saying that although the Occupy movement’s non-traditional protest style was exciting because of the chance it provided for multiple voices to be heard, the result was a fragmented message that addresses an overwhelming amount of issues.
Gardner said that although the Occupy movement doesn’t have a presidential-type leader, there are still organizers for most of the groups.
“Leadership is emergent,” Gardner said. “Community leaders are taking charge of local groups. And while the lack of one leader can be viewed as a weakness, it’s also a strength, because while single leaders can be eliminated, entire groups can live on.”
Joanna Peterson/Managing editor
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