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We interrupt OWS for these messages

Occupy Wall Street has inspired two controversial TV commercials, one in support of the protest and one against it. Watch both commercials here:

* First, here’s an anti-Occupy commercial created by the Emergency Committee for Israel. It’s a political ad airing on cable news channels that suggests Democratic leaders are ignoring anti-Semetic elements of the protest:

* Second, here’s a pro-Occupy ad created by Glenn Grossman and David Sauvage, showing reasonable-looking Occupy Wall Street participants giving reasonable-sounding opinions. It directs people to Occupywallst.org, the more-or-less official protest website. The filmmakers have a small budget for buying TV time, but it sounds like it’s not technically an “official” video.

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Two ads appear to be showing two different protests. Who’s right?

We can’t outright dismiss the Emergency Committee for Israel. They landed a punch. Without a doubt, the 99 percent includes people with hateful signs. I’ve seen and photographed some rogue elements at Occupy Wall Street with anti-Semitic and conspiracy-theory signs.

That said, confused people with hateful signs show up frequently at public protests and are usually ignored, or else surrounded by louder people with bigger signs. I’d point to this story in the Jewish Daily Forward for some good perspective on that guy with the anti-Semitic Wall Street sign.

What else have I seen at Zuccotti Park? People with good community values and a strong sense of tolerance. Hateful opinions are not in sync with most of the messages at Occupy Wall Street.

I honestly don’t think the charges of anti-Semitism will stick. People aren’t predisposed to see this protest as a place of hate speech. If anything, the right could attack the Occupiers for being too politically correct. But haters? Nobody’s buying that.

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What do we learn from these new ads?

1. TV is king. Even if you love the people’s microphone, it’s got nothing on the megaphone that is television. TV is still the best way to reach a big audience. When you have a TV commercial, even if it only airs in obscure timeslots on cable, people think you’re more legit.

2. The Occupy movement might never have a simple, coherent message. One of the biggest problems with Occupy Wall Street is muddy communications. The group, by design, has no official leadership. It’s run by direct democracy, with working groups and facilitators and General Assembly votes. Agreeing on demands, or even a mission, has been slow and might prove to be impossible. There’s little enthusiasm for message discipline, or for individuals sauntering in and trying to define what the group stands for. Since nobody is the voice of Occupy Wall Street, everyone is the voice of Occupy Wall Street.

3. Occupy Wall Street is easy to exploit. The movement is very vulnerable to having its message co-oped by people and organizations with almost no connection to the Occupiers. Already, we’ve seen Occupy Wall Street used by Democratic fund-raising groups like MoveOn.org and Progressives United, and aggressive self-promoters like Jesse Jackson and Naomi Wolf. The bigger Occupy Wall Street gets, the more outside groups will try to use it for fund-raising and personal publicity.

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Zuccotti Park photos by me: Anti-Semitic sign guy, October 11, 2011. Neocon 9/11 sign guy, October 17. Cleaning volunteer, October 18. Good Neighbor Policy sign, October 19.

Hat-tips: Business Insider, New York Observer, Talking Points Memo, Daily Kos, Jeremy on Facebook.

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— By Daryl Lang. Filed under Advertising, Marketing, Politics

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