Without direct insider information, we can’t truly know if the Occupied movement is an astroturf operation, but the charge has been made in various places as the noise machine has increased the reach and presence of branches of the Occupy Wall Street movement. This means we’ll have to rely on our powers of observation and reason to determine where the movement came from and where it’s going, what it’s purpose is and who benefits.
When I’m trying to figure something out, I tend to look first for data that can be grouped. This can often flush out an otherwise obscured pattern. When I saw that Indianapolis was in the process of being organized for the Occupied movement and found the website, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities to the Obama 2012 campaign’s Attack Watch website. This led me to investigate other websites devoted to occupying other cities to see if there were further similarities. What follows is a brief but incomplete survey of various occupied websites directed at cities, related to the Occupy Wall Street movement.
I want to stress that this research does not de facto prove that the Occupied movement is an astroturf operation, but certain aspects and collective characteristics do allow for categorization, suggesting few hands are in the pot to create a branded movement. The reasons for the similarities could be as simple as e-mail directions going out to various dedicated activists, or could be the design of more coordinated group. Obviously Crawdad Hole readers can and will decide for themselves what conclusions are warranted. As reminder, here’s the definition and history of astroturfing.
There are two kinds of Occupy “Your City Here” Websites. One is a dot org, and with a few exceptions, they seem to related in aesthetic thematics. Dot orgs are not replicas of each other, but they almost all follow a similar aesthetic vein, using a black, white and red visual arrangement. Some sites are accented with grays and pinks as well. Art work tends to be thematic as well, often harkening back to the 1960s activist style of art (large words arranged on top of each other, fists, and peace signs, etc), with some suggestion of modernistic iconography related to the earlier labor movement (which the original 1960s artwork tended to emulate as well). Information is often arranged as a bar at the top of the page, allowing users to access events, blogs, donation services, maps, etc. Most had twitter and facebook links.
The other kind of occupied website is a dot com website, and they are all perfect mirrors of each other, with white backgrounds, black and red text, and six video boxes that show the exact same media messages related to the Occupied movement. Dot com websites include a list of links to all the other replicated occupied movement sites. They also sponsor advertisements. The dot com websites might be the creation of this PR firm, which volunteered its services pro bono to Occupy Wall Street.
List of Dot Orgs
The dot orgs can be categorized a few different ways. Most of them use the tagline “We are the 99%.” Some use a website format very similar to President Obama’s Attack Watch Website, with a black background and red and white text. These websites fall into that category:
Occupy Indianapolis Black background with red and white text.
Occupy Louisville Black background with red and white text. Fleur-de-lis represented, which is the symbol of Louisville.
Others belong thematically to the inverse; a white background with red and black text. There may be a few design differences, but they generally follow a pattern of colors and information arrangement. The sites may be enhanced by iconography that favors the home city and/or is meaningful to its residents. Most of these websites use the “We are the 99%” tagline.
Occupy Together A conglomerate site to allow smaller cities to organize and advertise. White background with red and black text.
Occupy NOLA White background with red-font header and black text. Icon of a fist used.
Occupy St. Louis White background with red-font header and black text. St. Louis Arch represented.
Occupy Austin White background with red and black text.
Occupy Dallas White background with red and black text.
Occupy Houston Tagline: dedicated to ending the corporate corruption of democracy.
Occupy Cincinnati this website is slightly different, using a white background, and shades of pink and gray, instead of the red and white text. Skyline of Cinti represented.
Occupy Ashville Similar white, red, and black visual thematics. An old-fashioned microphone graced with a peace sign and some suggestions of sea gulls complete the effect.
Occupy Salt Lake City This one has the same color thematics, but it also has “We the people” overlay on the photo graphic, giving it a tea party feel. Not sure what the beehive is about. Might be a SLC thing. Like several other sites, the hashtag symbol (#) is incorporated into the text.
A few of the websites I found have a little more diverse layout, all of which are unsurprisingly in progressive/urban hotbeds from which cultural trends tend to emanate.
Occupy Chicago Occupy Chicago uses a white background with a gray Chicago skyline graphic and red accents.
Occupy DC ODC uses a muted set of colors on a white background. Pastel pink, yellow, and blue set it apart from other dot org sites.
Occupy Seattle This website looks more like the old BarackObama.com site (since redesigned for 2012), with the blending of soft blues and the digital equivalent of watermarks on the page. A website going by Occupy Party (also a dot org) looks remarkably similar.
Occupy Atlanta is the occupied website that most strongly suggests unity with Obama. The color scheme is related to Occupy Seattle
Occupy Denver OD has the most unique layout of all, with a green header, white background with gray and black text, and dates in a kind of teal.
All of the dot org websites that have funding options (and not all do, but most do) transact through a company started in 2008 called WePay. Here’s some pertinent information on that company and its founders.
List of Dot Coms
This is just a short sample list of the dot coms. Any of the others can be accessed via any of these pages. Just scroll down to the end of any page for a comprehensive list of sites. As I said earlier, they are all exactly the same, which means they were all created together and are likely linked to be updated simultaneously. This is definitely an astroturf operation. I don’t have any information about who is organizing these sites, but they may be the product of the corporate PR firm Workhouse Publicity, which specializes in publicity and branding.
Occupy Corpus Christi
Occupy Des Moines
Occupy Kansas City
Occupy Las Vegas
Occupy Little Rock
Occupy Oklahoma City
Occupy St Paul
Occupy St Petersburg
Occupy Virginia Beach
Occupy West Virginia
So that’s it. That’s the down-low on my small survey. We report; you decide. Does it look like astroturf to you?