The strange but true story of a forest-dwelling journalist whose words wound up on a protest sign 3,000 miles from his home
Browsing the Web just now, I had a surprising experience that could only occur in this era of political protest. Holed up in a redwood forest on the Northern California coast, the nearest McDonald's two hours away, I clicked through to some photos of Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York City, and saw that one of their signs displayed in big block letters 46 words that I wrote! They're being held aloft by an attractive 20-something blond woman I've never met before.
This is the story of how they got there -- or at least the small part of it I know, which is all that's required to see why it could only happen now, and how political engagement in America is changing.
As you'll soon agree, it is impossible to know when the story begins, but perhaps it started with J.J. Gould, deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. An item he posted Thursday caught my attention. It sought to explain what most media observers don't get about the Occupy Wall Street protests. Gould noted the staggering diversity of messages displayed by the protesters. "Some will be confused, sure, maybe ridiculous; but many have already shown themselves to be, whether ultimately right or wrong, informed, smart, and serious. Why summarily 'oppose' them?" he asked. "Why not, say, engage them in conversation? There's no good reason to suspend criticism about Occupy Wall Street, or necessarily to buy into any one of its zillion messages; but there's no good reason, either, just to pick our favorite things to hate ... and then tell ourselves that the whole multifaceted, rapidly changing movement must be those things writ large."