Same Problems, Different Responses: Occupy Wall Street, the Tea Party, Social Media, and Ideological Translations
AuthorWelch, Levin Elias
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This thesis research project is an attempt to understand the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements as mass responses to the consequences of neoliberal policy over the past thirty years that culminated into the U.S. financial collapse in 2008. I illustrate how both movements are guided by class-specific ideologies by employing content analysis of four Facebook (FB) group pages. Following and expanding upon a coding scheme of rhetorical "word clouds" developed by NVivo, I determine that, on FB, movements have remained ideologically consistent--i.e., movements use their publically held ideologies for analyzing social problems in particular and predictable ways. After consideration, the Tea Party is ultimately classified as a "movement" in name only: it is top-down, or a "social movement from above" (Nilsen, 2009: 115). The Tea Party romanticizes the history of America, the "shining city upon the hill," and the American Dream of individual freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all hard working citizens. To the Tea Party, this Dream is under attack by the new tyrannical government of the "socialist" Obama administration and their "parasitic" constituents. Occupy, on the other hand, is a classified as a genuine social movement, or a "social movement from below" (Nilsen, 2009: 123). Occupy also tells a romantic story of America and the Dream of individual freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness promised for all citizens. To Occupy, this Dream is under attack by economic elites dubbed the 1% who have hijacked and corrupted our government and democracy. The ways in which these movements articulate their cause and how they understand themselves is consistently translated through divergent, class-specific ideologies on FB--ideologies transmitted top-down from the capitalist class in the case of the Tea Party, and bottom-up from the working class with the Occupy Movement. Although each group is pointing to similar structural and institutional problems and are calling upon citizens to "wake up" and become civically and politically engaged, they are doing so from very different perspectives.