Why the Arab Spring Is Succeeding and Occupy Wall Street Is Failing: A Culture-Based Approach

Why the Arab Spring Is Succeeding and Occupy Wall Street Is Failing: A Culture-Based Approach 

Ken Seigneurie
Simon Fraser University – Surrey

 

To a limited extent, the “Arab Spring” and the “Occupy Wall Street” social movements can be fruitfully compared. Both movements are opposed to corruption and entrenched, systemic inequalities. Both employ the same preferred methods – peaceful protest and social-media-based cultural mobilization.[i]And both keep their distance from larger-than-life leaders and dogmatic ideologies. Yet the far more extreme inequalities and the far more dangerous circumstances of the Arab Spring movement make the stakes in participating much higher in the Arab world than in the various Occupy sites throughout the west.

There’s another difference as well. The Arab Spring is achieving change; Occupy Wall Street is becoming marginalized. If we accept the hypothesis that both movements express an arguably legitimate desire for change, what makes one succeed despite overwhelming repression from the security apparatuses and the other fail in relative free societies? This talk will compare the iconographies and rhetorics of persuasion in the “Arab Spring” and the “Occupy Wall Street” social movements. The objective of this talk is to determine whether the way the protests present themselves and are marketed in the press has something to do with their respective success or failure.

[i] The Arab movements became increasingly militant largely in response to regime violence.

 

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