The 'We Move' in #Occupy . . .

When I was working on the importance of Twitter in the inception of the revolts in Bahrain, Libya, Syria, and Yemen I found that retweets were unusually numerous. (Boynton, 3/9/2011) Sysomos found that only about six percent of all Twitter messages are retweets. In these countries the percentage of messages that were retweets was in the 60% range. That is an extraordinary difference. I argued that the form of the messages worked to constitute a we who could stand against the armed forces of the tyrant. The form of the message invokes a relationship between the person whose message I believe is important enough to be passing along and with the persons who are following me and therefore receive the message. The content may be about facing down the tyrant. The message may be about organizing the protest. The message may be commemorating a fallen hero. Whatever the message it is we who are participating in the communication. It is we who will act. I wanted to see if the use of retweeting was limited to these revolts so I looked at Wisconsin where another revolt was taking place against a governor and majority in the state legislature that were understood to be acting as tyrants. The use of retweet in those messages was 70%. As a shorthand it seemed 'we move' was an appropriate designation. Retweet is a we move.

While following the #occupy movement I found the same. Retweets dominated Twitter messages. But there is variation. Some messages are retweeted only a few times and others are retweeted many times. I looked at how that could happen in "Retweeting in big numbers" (Boynton, 11/04/2011)

The streams of Twitter messages provided by R-SHIEF let me examine the extent to which retweets are being used broadly in the #occupy movement. The number of tweets per stream varies greatly. The smallest was 9 tweets for OccupyAiIDS. The Largest was OWS with 5.28 million messages. Figures are not much help with such extreme ranges so to summarize I divided them into six approximately equal groups to show how long the tail is.

At the bottom of the distribution there is high variety in retweeting. Of the 805 tweets containing the hashtag occupyTheSubway 97.8 are retweets. And occupySanta was a hashtag with 97 messages and only 15.4% are retweets. Since most of the messages are in segments 4 through 6, 12,374,154 compared to 51,403, those are the messages I will examine.

The figure shows the percentage of Twitter messages that were retweets for the streams.

The range is from 85% to the outlier 18%. Only two streams fall below 50% of the messages in the stream. The average for the collected streams is 67.2%. The outlier is occupyTheInternet with 6155 posted messages and only 18.5% of them are retweets.

The numbers are important because they show the extent of use of retweeting in times of protest/revolt. They are a very high proportion of the messages people are posting. But the numbers indicate very little about the 'we' that is being constituted. I will use retweeted messages from December 11, 2011 to show how they become

A community with a mission

stevelyen 12/11/2011 11:13 PM RT @TheMasonTwins: @OccupyWallStNYC after just one day at Zuccotti Park, the protestors I had met felt like family.Truly unforgettable. love you #ows

art_f2001 12/10/2011 10:55 AM RT @TPB_Stun: +1 "I came here looking for change. I found a movement and a family." A wonderful sign at #OccupyBoston #OWS

Two messages that articulate how individuals become community as they interact. Just one day at Zuccotti Park. I came here looking and I found.

izbliza 12/11/2011 10:38 PM RT @ProtestChaplain: First we were a camp. And we needed that. That experience taught us how to become a movement #occupyboston #ows @Occupy_Boston

bdk4 12/11/2011 11:21 AM RT @Tosfm: #ows is way more then tents! The brightest, most dedicated ppl have awakened and are networking, expect big things! #solidarity

First we were a camp, but we became more than tents. We are awakened and networking. We learned how to be a movement. In these messages you see the connection between sense of family and mission. We are a people with a mission.

And it is a community that is not limited by geography. We are many; we are one.

Pete_TheKiller 12/12/2011 12:41 AM RT @trishkahle: @OccupyMARINES Occupy Greensboro stands in solidarity with the #d12 #portshutdown. Solidarity forever! #occupy #ows

MrNikoG 12/10/2011 12:36 PM Peace & Solidarity to #OccupyBoston. Check out @caulkthewagon timeline for a great overview of last nights #OBRaid. #OWS

Kaskadia 12/10/2011 11:34 AM #RollOn mighty #occupy movement, Roll on! we stand w/ U because U stand 4 us, #the99 :) #solidarity #occupyseattle #ows

It was the day of occupying the ports on the west coast and Greensboro stands in solidarity with you. It was the day after the raid on #OccupyBoston, and MrNikoG extends solidarity to you. Roll on occupy movement we stand with you because you stand for us. The community and mission are not bounded by geography. From across the nation and the world there is reaching out in solidarity.

As the community is defined in interaction and mission it is also defined by the other. By those against whom the struggle is being waged.

homegypsy 12/10/2011 4:40 PM RT @submergingmkt: #OWS Robert Fisk nails it: "Bankers are the dictators of the West:" Comparisons w"Arab Spring" are apt -- up to a pt

One messages summarizes the other against whom they define themselves. Bankers are the dictators of the west. Wealth is all that counts. Wealth is used to arrange a world in which the wealthy are in control -- are the dictators. The 1% have used their wealth to reduce the 99% to powerlessness.

We have a right to act.

steppinlotus 12/11/2011 8:26 PM RT @zuccottipark: Why we occupy? We have no other way of being heard. We can't buy media we can't buy politicians. So we camp! #ows #occupy

netminnow 12/10/2011 2:12 PM RT @TamedWolf: #OccupyBoston chants "We have a permit! It's called the Constitution!" #OWS

We occupy because we cannot buy politicians. So we camp. We have a right to act -- it is guaranteed by the constitution.

But governments refuse to recognize the right to act. And on this day they note the irony of the response of local governments in the United States compared with how we lecture Russia.

SangyeH 12/11/2011 7:02 PM RT @sickjew: Irony alert: U.S. calls on Russia to respect peaceful protests | The Raw Story #p2 #tcot #OWS

travelincatdoc 12/11/2011 3:35 PM RT @zuccottipark: Boston breaks up peaceful demo and Russia allows 50k to protest unmolested. Which is the real dictatorship? #ows

The U.S. government calls on the Russians to respect peaceful protests, but in Boston, and many other locations, the police brutally break up peaceful protests. So they ask, which is the real dictatorship?

But the police brutality is counterproductive.

snapneckcarrot 12/12/2011 12:32 AM RT @timeoutcorner: Keep pushing, morons. #Occupy only becomes stronger, and cops become more demoralised. Somethings gonna break, and it won't be Occupy. #OWS

Ashly83 12/11/2011 9:40 PM RT @zaigham8: Evict us, we multiply. Occupy will never die. #occupysf #occupycal #occupyoakland #occupyla #ows #oo #occupywallst #occupyucsf #osf #tahrir

Keep pushing and #Occupy only becomes stronger. We cannot be stopped. We cannot be stopped by police brutality.

And we will win.

chicks0nspeed 12/12/2011 12:11 AM RT @punkboyinsf: "Occupy" makes word of the year. #ows

Pranksterbtch 12/11/2011 1:13 AM RT @RedandBlueAmeri: Too big to fail, meet too big to ignore. The 99% has made quite a difference. #OWS

MistahKurtz98 12/11/2011 11:22 PM RT @The99Percenters: When u think about OWS starting around Sept 17, it is quite amazing what we have done in less than 3 months. #D12 #OWS

Only since September 17 and look at what we have accomplished. We have organized a worldwide movement. We have become too big to ignore.

The we is multifaceted. It is persons becoming a community that reaches beyond local to global inclusion. It is a mission inspired by the evil of the other. It is a confidence that we have the right to act, that when governments oppose us we will only grow stronger, and that we have accomplished much and will win. Each of these facets, and others, are communicated over and over in the Twitter message streams. Each of these facets, and others, could be expanded and explored much more fully than is done here. Here I only want to suggest that the multifacted character is crucial to understanding the we that has emerged as the #occupy movement. And it is largely the retweets that carry the words of we.


Boynton, G. R. ( November 4, 2011) Retweeting in big numbers

Boynton, G.R. (March 14, 2011) RT @bobboynton new media and the revolting middle east

Sysmos (2010) Replies and Retweets on Twitter

© G. R. Boynton, December 12, 2011