Occupy Wall Street may fade as quickly as it rose

The movement is facing winter, an increasingly crowded news environment and an inability to directly affect the high-paid CEOs and bankers it's targeting.

By MSN Money Partner Nov 11, 2011 12:14PM

By Peter Leeds, guest columnist


The faster anything rises, generally the faster it falls. Occupy Wall Street may be another example of this, as media coverage, social media activity, and activist numbers have all started dropping off. This is only expected to continue, especially with the onset of winter.

According to Google Trends, searches for Occupy Wall Street have fallen by 66% from their October 15th peak to November 11th. This is reinforced further by the Pew Research Center's weekly news index, which shows "Occupy Wall Street" dropping from 10% of total news coverage across their network on October 1st, to where it sits currently at less than 4%. 

Trendistic, which tracks total Twitter activity, showed "Occupy" related tweets peaking at 0.30% on October 1st.  Since then, the same metric has fallen to a fraction of that peak, to levels of 0.01% on November 11th.


Media interest is cooling

Add to this the "luke warm" interest that media has been giving to Occupy's recent "March to D.C.," with protesters making the 240 mile trek to the White House before the meeting of the Congressional Super-Committee on November 23rd. A quick Google Trends search states that there is not enough related search volume to display any data or graphs.

With several other major events arising, such as the death of Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, the pending resignation of Italy's Silvio Berlusconi, and European debt struggles, Occupy Wall Street may be facing an increasingly crowded media coverage environment. When Greece teeters on the brink of financial collapse, or another multi-billion Euro bailout is announced, or Herman Cain faces sexual misconduct allegations, "old" news like Occupy Wall Street gets bumped.

Even a casual observer passing the protest sites would note that the presence of media crews has fallen off significantly, while the number of protesters also seems to be waning. Now, the toughest test of their will is about to arrive. That test is the winter, and it could chase away all but the most resolute.

This is not to imply that the protesters have lost any of their resolve, or the issues have gotten any less serious.  Rather, Occupy Wall Street could use these obstacles as an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment, and separate the die hards from the "tourists."

Keep in mind that any large-scale movement will have a lot of marginal players among its masses, people who are boosting the numbers by being involved, but who aren't adamant enough to remain for the long haul. This type of supporter will be the first to fade away, able to say they were part of the movement, but eventually being pulled back into their former life.

Remember that all peaceful uprisings end in one of two ways -- either they disperse and are forgotten (even by their activists in some cases), or they stop once they achieved their goal(s).


Do bankers and CEOs care?
The problem with this, however, is that Occupy Wall Street's goals may not ever be accomplished. The targets of much of the activism are not being hurt or in any significant way affected by the protests. 


Until that happens, Manhattan and global bankers are more than happy to watch the crowds from a safe distance, with a mildly curious eye, while they close their latest ultra-risky $20 million credit default swap deal with the European Union (taking home another massive commission in the process).

I think that just about everyone would agree -- a CEO being fired, but walking away with $10 million (as did Hewlett-Packard's Leo Apotheker) is nearly preposterous. This is especially true considering that during his time at the helm, the company's share price fell over 40%.  Perhaps that's why he got fired.

The scope and activities of the Occupy Wall Street movement, in their current form, will almost certainly not be enough to change the way Hewlett-Packard competes for top CEO talent. They won't impact what contractual decisions the corporation must make to get the contract signed by the leader they want.

What about protesting for change on the steps of Washington? It's also difficult for the government to regulate how a company decides to spend its money in the course of doing business, and how it pays out salaries, bonuses, and severances. 

This would be a different situation if there were two dozen protesters in each corporate board room as deals were closed, but to the members of the board of the major corporations, the activists are a world away. Even if they are just a few floors down, on the other side of the glass.


The movement needs a strong leader
Without a clear end result that can be understood by even a disinterested party, Occupy Wall Street is coming across to some observers as being about "complaining" rather than offering solutions. I certainly do not agree that the activists are complaining, and I do think they are offering solutions, but as it stands you may get six different answers from six different activists about what specific outcomes they are working towards.

Being a leaderless organization has served them well up to this point. However, they may really benefit in the future by having a spokesperson at least, if not a central leadership group. A leader could clarify goals, generate endless media coverage, and stand as a representation of the movement. He or she could also rally and organize the supporters and help maintain morale for what's about to come. Specifically, a further drop off in media coverage, third-party interest, and activist numbers. And, of course, winter.

While the world is currently being "Occupied," it remains to be seen how much longer this will play out. Trends are going against the protesters now. However, if Occupy Wall Street does endure throughout the toughest months to come, perhaps with a strong leader, or refined goals, it will be a very hard movement to ignore.


Investment analyst Peter Leeds is the owner and founder of Peter Leeds Penny Stocks, and author of the new book Invest in Penny Stocks: A Guide to Profitable Trading (Wiley – March 2011).

Nov 11, 2011 2:51PM
The energy of Occupy Wall Street now needs to be channeled into action that produces responsible change. That action should include and shift to Occupy Congress. The 2012 election is in count down mode.
The change should include removing the incumbent Dems/Reps and replacing them with non professional politicians who have demonstrated they cannot work together, look beyond partisan politics, or move the country forward. Throw them out. Occupy Congress by sending both a clear message and new life blood into the process of governing our country of-by-and for the people.
Send the school teacher, the border cop, the journalist, the veteran to take a seat in the chamber worn out by suits of ineffectual non performance. Send the message in November and again in 2 years and again in 2 more.  If not now, WHEN?

Nov 11, 2011 3:06PM

I that the point of the Occupy Wall Street movement is the fact that Americans are waking up to the fact that the American dream is in danger.  When getting into college means for many students burying themselves in debt and seniors worrying about losing benefits that they have been paying into for years.  This is a serious problem.  When politicians talk about cutting our Medicare and social security, why don’t they lead by example by cutting their own pension and Medicare plans which are separate (and better) than everyone else’s!  Such hypocrites!  Always willing to make hard decisions about everyone else’s wallet.

Nov 11, 2011 2:53PM

A total waste of time, accomplished nothing but the destruction of a few parks.  Try "voting" next election, that might make a difference. 

We in the US do not live in a democracy. It is time people go back and study their 8th grade civics. We, in the US, live in a republic. In a democracy the majority rules and that is not the case in the US. A republic protects the rights of all including the minorities. That is why in some cases to pass laws or change amendments to our Constitution requires a 2/3's or 3/4's majority. And yes, we do have a constitutional republic in decline because we the people are allowing the politicians to ignore the Constitution and pass laws that are gradually heading toward a democracy. It is time for the people to wake up and vote against those pushing the US toward a democracy. Remember what James Madison said "Democracy will soon degenerate into an anarchy".  
Nov 11, 2011 6:03PM

before goals can be accomplished you need to state what they are.  the wall street occupiers haven't been clear on their goals. 


meanwhile, their effort i believe will reform into another more well stated focus.  the term "1%'er" is a good example.  we know what that is and we know "they" are in control.  i think the WSO's are up in arms over this 1% that rules the world.  and i look forward to little steps occuring that helps to perhaps turn this into the 2%'ers. 

Nov 11, 2011 3:46PM
Democracies like ours with (what used to be ) free market capitalism are relatively short lived, go back however many centuries you like and take a look.  What we have is a constitutional republic on the decline, as are all of the main players in Europe; in fact the Europeans are on life support, it can hardly be disputed.  The value and certainly the efficacy of our "vote" is coming into question,  a great many people including those in academia, business and yes even the SCOUNDRELS who benefit from it are wondering how long the masses will even care about voting or democracy itself.
Nov 11, 2011 6:28PM

3 reasons for drop off maybe... Sites aren't getting as many hits, because contrary to what most media reports. People have found out what we are about. The list of demands has on been on the site since the first week of all this. And other places as well.

Also, since the media doesn't even mention things like this video on youtube.. Occupy cal 11/9/11


But, things like this, get a front page.. A group of young protesters interupted Rep. Michele Bachmann's speech in South Carolina Thursday, chanting and reading from statements in unison

"chanting?" hmm.. why don't they say how her people started "chanting"..


That would explain allot. That could be a few reasons.

Nov 11, 2011 5:52PM



If you care about your Republic please go on youtube and watch "Invisible Empire" a New World Order Defined. I hate to break it to everyone but your political affiliation won't matter in a few years as you controllers will not be elected. Thank you to all of our veterans.

Nov 11, 2011 9:55PM
Great comments!  Very thoughtful and informed, thank you for sharing them with my article.  

This article is not meant to be biased either for or against the Occupy Wall Street movement.  Rather, it is factual observation at the turning point for the movement.  

I happen to agree with the majority of the issues that OWS has been shedding light on.  Many of the activists whom I've spoken with agree with me - there is something terribly wrong with this country.  

It is unfortunate that this has become such a polarizing topic, because at the core we are actually all in agreement.  While the tactics may vary, we all want the same outcome.  Whether that is reached through Occupy Wall Street or by other means, I  would welcome the new day.

Thanks again, and best wishes,

Peter Leeds
Nov 11, 2011 7:09PM


What Wall Street could do is give every protester one share of Exxon stock and then tell them all to go home.



Nov 11, 2011 3:23PM
Without a Constiturional Federal Right to have your vote counted there will be no change to the system. The electoral system in the US is a farce and murky to say the least. In Bush V. Gore the Supreme court said specifically that the votes were controlled by the State and Florida did not have to count the votes. There is no Constitutional right to have the vote counted. It is a states right.. Jamin Raskin (a Constitutional lawyer) spells it out. See Reclaim Democracy.org.
Nov 11, 2011 2:40PM
Its almost like its been a collosal waste of time.  If only someone could have let them know this.
Nov 11, 2011 5:48PM
maybe leeds wishes that the movement fades. of course the main street media doesnt cover it as much as it should. it has nothing to do with competing stories rather than the fact that the mainstream media is part of the wall street system and doesnt want ti to fade. as long as we have democracy now, the nation, the progressive, mother jones, etc it will get publicity. whether the movement stays under the occupy banner or something else it will not fade as long as this country stays as corrupt as it is currently. obama did delay at least for now the keystone xl pipeline due to this revolt. more "victories" like this and we will continue.
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