This week’s reading provided me an opportunity to being to bridge theory with some of the topics surrounding my research. In particular, I found Robert D. Benford and David A. Snow’s Framing and Social Movements to bring to mind a number of observations I made about the Occupy movement while working on my term project last semester.
In their 2000 piece, Benford & Snow recall the former’s observation that the “attributional component of collective action frames [of organizations involved in the 1980s nuclear disarmament movement] was frequently the source of rancorous intramovement conflict.” It makes sense, then, that one of Occupy’s more successful contributions to the discourse surrounding economic and social justice was the concept of “The 99% vs. The 1%.” As a member of the OccupyBoston Media Working Group noted in an interview in October:
“I feel like if we can have a way for people who are outside of sleeping here, but are part of the 99%, which is almost everyone, could put up their own reasons for why they are self identifying as part of the 99% or something so that our message can be clear that it’s a message of individuals and it’s not going to be one specific thing.”
Attempting to be a nearly-all-encompassing concept, the 99% is also rather abstract and vague, leaving much interpretation up to the observer. Thus, the movement was spared “rancorous conflict” related to attribution.
Of greater interest to me, however, was what Benford & Snow had to say about inconsistency, both among beliefs and claims as well as among what a movement says and what it does. In my paper, I cite a number of examples of Occupy’s struggle as a prefigurative movement: in trying to “be the change” they wanted to see, a focus on camp organization, safety considerations, logistical debates, and other problems associated with physical encampment, I argued, Occupy was weakening its position. Further inspection is required now that the movement has continued post-camp for a few months now, but as Benford & Snow put it, “the greater and more transparent the apparent contraditions…the more problematic the mobilization.”
Of course, they also note that “little research has been conducted on this frame resonance factor.” Perhaps this is an opportunity for me to follow up 12 years later and see if that’s still the case.
Finally, on a non-Occupy related note, I took note of their argument that, in terms of the empirical credibility of a collective action frame, “the important point is not that the claimed connection has to be generally believable, but that it must be believable to some segment of the prospective or actual adherents.” I had just finished a piece by Chris Mooney on Salon.com (promoting his new book, The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science—and Reality) which basically calls out this exact point (with, ironically, empirical evidence).