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Ever wonder why the Occupy protester became the Occupy protester?

“….upon waking each morning in the Tent City, he was struck by an overwhelming feeling of being part of a family.” 

If you see their signs and hear their chants, you might conclude that they are more than displeased with corporate fascism, bank bailouts, and special-interest favors paid by politicians in return for hefty political contributions. However, The Frontier Lab, a marketing research nonprofit in Chicago, has just completed a study that applies science to that question. Their report, “Short-Selling America,” finds that while the messages on their signs might convey an anger with cronyism in the financial sector, this isn’t the whole story and, in fact, is only true at the surface level. There are deeper values, ones The Frontier Lab mapped through a series of research in-depth interviews, that must be examined for a more comprehensive understanding of their movement.

“While their rhetoric might decry crony capitalism or bank bailouts, their values reveal self-centered and fear-based motivations.”

The Frontier Lab’s report, “Short-Selling America” uses Means-End Value Chain research (a technique applied most often in private-sector marketing research) to uncover real insights into the minds of the some of the most passionate Occupiers. Beyond the surface layer of slogans and “social-justice” banter, these methods show that while there are commonalities between the protesters, when you look at their values, they fall into two different segments–the “communitarian” and the “professional.”

“By remaining at the surface-level you are subject to almost complete swindle, as the core Occupiers’ essence hinges less on the political ends than on emotional, self-directed fulfillment.”

The communitarians are younger protesters, mainly in their twenties, and make up the majority of the voices heard chanting and waving signs. The professionals are the career protesters and organizers, drawing the playbooks and solidifying their careers.

“Their concerns were based on their individual needs, interests, and fears—not for the needs, interests, and fears of a larger community or future generation.”

The report finds that while the communitarians voice concerns for social and economic issues, it is a sense of community and filling a void of purpose in their lives which is at the root of their connection to Occupy. And while claiming to promote the greater good for the community, at the source of these feelings is are desires that focus on their own self interest and solutions to their personal problems, such as repaying student loans and finding a job. Different from other activist groups such as the Tea Party, these protesters do not have an interest in their own responsibility or future generations. They seek an easy answer, and look to others to solve their problems.

“….when pressed they revealed that it was more so a sense of their own, individual self-worth—not concern for the other—that motivated their action than concern for the other. The Occupy movement, in this way, fulfills a lack of meaning and purpose in their own lives.”

The professionals’ value set is different from the communitarians. Driving them is prestige, validation, and control. They take pride in the achievement of producing mass protests and attracting the attention of the media. These are victories that bring them closer to achieving certain political ends, further validating their own importance to the movement.

The one goal these two sub-groups share is to convert the power of the individual into the power of the commune.

While some claim the need to find common ground between freedom loving Americans and the Occupiers, sadly, The Frontier Lab comes to the conclusion that any similarities, such as voicing an opposition to cronyism, are only present on the surface and fall short of being able to predict what they’ll do next. And selling them the principles of freedom of liberty is like “selling a medium-rare rib-eye to a vegan.”

The values that underlie the Occupiers oppose the deep-values that support American freedom. In a sense, the Occupiers “win” when America loses—they are truly going “short” on America. 

In conclusion the report indicates if their is any ground to gain, the communitarians provide the best opportunity, but they would need to be sold on a feeling of community and purpose that currently exists in a realm with which is unknown to them. Then perhaps, there could be hope for them to understand American principles.

 Read The Frontier Lab’s “Short Selling America.”

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