You may or may not know that around 2,000 activists descended on Wall Street over the weekend, and that there is still a solid occupation in Zuccotti Park, which has been renamed Liberty Plaza by the protesters. I’ve spent every day since Saturday sort of obsessing over the protest, constantly checking the very busy #occupywallstreet hashtag on Twitter despite the fact that the mainstream media has all but ignored the event (telling, no?). I’ve been to what feels like scores of anti-globalization protests and marches over the years (along what must be literally hundreds of protests for various other causes) and I have to say, there’s something about this protest that feels different.For one thing, the language the protesters use is both brilliant and honest; holding signs that say “We are the 99%” is accessible to anyone in America who is in financial dire straits right now. For another thing, it appears to be a convergence of a myriad of types of malcontents, rather than consisting only of the usual anarchists and aging hippies: frustrated college students who fear imminent unemployment after graduation, the working class, immigrants, and, most interestingly (to me, anyway), good ol’ notorious Anonymous.Questions about the validity and sustainability of the protest, the political context to be found there, and the inner workings of the action are another story for another blog. After all, I am here to write about pop culture. What I’m wondering at The Mystery Diary is, where’s the mass appeal here? What does this mean for the rest of the country, and for the future? Throughout all of my hashtag searching, fruitless Google News quests and Twitter conversations, it all keeps coming back to the same guy: one Lupe Fiasco.
Lupe Fiasco is a rapper who has had a string of minor hits over the years, but nothing that has propelled him into household name status like, say, Jay-Z or Lil’ Wayne. There was “Kick, Push,” the song about skateboarding;”Superstar,” a lamentation on the weirdness of fame; and this year’s “The Show Goes On,” which features a sample of Modest Mouse’s “Float On” and is, accordingly, like catnip for hipsters. He has had three albums that have all sold relatively well, with another set to drop later this year. All of these things point to Lupe Fiasco being a guy who is pretty solid in his status as a successful, renowned rapper.
Lupe Fiasco is also, for whatever reason, squarely behind the Occupy Wall Street protest movement. (I know he likes Howard Zinn and was raised by a Black Panther, but I won’t make any assumptions about the guy’s motives.) Lupe has used his twitter account (which boasts an impressive 845,347 followers as I write this) to propel the #occupywallstreet tag into trending status a few times in the days since September 17th. Rappers usually use their street teams in order to promote their albums; Lupe used his to draw bigger numbers to the initial occupation, and reportedly sent a van full of tents to the protesters’ campsite.
Lupe has been tweeting and retweeting about the protests pretty constantly since September 17th, and reaction among his fans and followers seem mixed. Some people seem annoyed; some people are excited about it. What is most disappointing is that since Lupe is retweeting pretty much anything vaguely #occupywallstreet related, his fans are tweeting meaningless nonsense in order to “get a retweet” from their favorite rapper. Example: a kid from Alabama wants Lupe Fiasco to retweet something he has said, so he will say, “@ LupeFiasco Hey Lupe, can I get a RT? #occupyAlabama #occupyWallStreet”, and Lupe will retweet it, even though the kid probably has no intentions of organizing or even attending a protest. I performed a quick search using the #occupyBoston hashtag in order to see what was going on protest-wise in my own city; all I found was a bunch of Lupe Fiasco fans “trying to get a retweet.”
I guess I don’t really have any huge criticism about how Lupe is responding to September 17th/Wall Street protests. It does seem like something that could be a problem in the long run; the usefulness of hashtags becomes less useful as they are watered down with meaningless drivel, and people who are genuinely looking for actions in their own city will likely be shit out of luck if they go that route. Similarly, could the movement itself become watered down, the physical equivalent a meaningless hashtag? On the other hand, politicization is a tricky thing. I’m willing to guess that plenty of people who never would have known about September 17th otherwise found out about it through Lupe Fiasco’s Twitter.
I’m excited to see how this protest plays out. Similarly, I’m always excited to learn that a famous person is a lot more interesting than I initially thought they were. I can’t wait to see what happens next on all fronts.