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Tumblr becomes platform for Occupy Wall Street debate

John D. Sutter, CNN
  • "We Are the 99 Percent" blog gains popularity on Tumblr
  • People post messages about economic hardship on the site
  • A rival, conservative site called "We are the 53%" launched
  • That Tumblr page says it represents Americans who pay federal income taxes

(CNN) -- The blogging platform Tumblr -- which sits somewhere between Twitter and WordPress on the social media spectrum -- has become one of the more interesting places to watch the debate about the Occupy Wall Street protests unfold.

On the Tumblr site "We Are the 99 Percent," people who sympathize with the New York-based protest movement are telling first-person stories of hardship and unemployment. Each post features a photo of its author holding up a paper sign that tells a bit of the person's story and says "We Are the 99 Percent," a reference to the protestors' concern that the top 1% of Americans command much of the country's wealth and power, leaving the rest to struggle.

"We are getting kicked out of our homes. We are forced to choose between groceries and rent. We are denied quality medical care. We are suffering from environmental pollution. We are working long hours for little pay and no rights, if we're working at all," a blog introduction says. "We are getting nothing while the other 1 percent is getting everything. We are the 99 percent."

Here's one post from Tuesday:

"My mom worked on Wall Street for almost 30 years. In 2008, when the market crashed, the company she worked for shut down. The CEOs were taken care of, but all the loyal workers were left with nothing. My mom still hasn't found work. I am the 99 percent."

And another:

"I'm a small business owner. I just bought new work computers so my colleague and I can do our jobs. Now, I have no money for food for the next 3 days (next paycheck). I'm always one check away from eviction. I'm one of the 'lucky ones.'"

On Tuesday night there were 77 pages filled with similar stories, and about a half-dozen posts on each page.

As attention for that Tumblr page grew, a competing blog with a more conservative ideology came into being.

The conservative "We are the 53%" Tumblr page says it represents the 53% of Americans who must pay federal income tax (Most people who make less than $30,000 per year pay no major federal income taxes, according to a 2009 report from the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, as CNNMoney reports). The assumption is that Occupy Wall Street protestors and sympathizers on the "We Are the 99 Percent" site don't pay taxes.

"I work 3 jobs. I have a house I can't sell. My family insurance costs are outrageous. But I don't blame Wall Street. Shut it up you whiners. I am the 53% subsidizing you so you can hang out on Wall Street and complain," the introductory post on October 5 says.

The 53% blog was created by Erick Erickson, who also is an editor at the conservative site, according to the Washington Post. (Erikson also is an occasional commentator for CNN).

The conservative Tumblr blog has six pages of posts, compared to 77 on the site sympathizing with Occupy Wall Street.

"I would love to hang out in in (sic) the park for a couple of weeks protesting the entitlement generation and radical egalitarianism, but I have a job to go to. Go figure," another post says.

Tumblr has become the site of choice for people organizing the Occupy Wall Street movement, which started in New York and has spread to many other cities in the United States, writes Jesse Emspak for DiscoveryNews.

"The site has been a force behind the Occupy Wall Street protests, growing the number of demonstrations from just dozens of people in late September to thousands," he says.

At The Atlantic, Rebecca Rosen says the "We Are the 99 Percent" Tumblr page is the digital equivalent of bathroom stall graffiti -- "allowing you to bear something private and maybe find someone else carrying around the same weight."

Along with the It Gets Better Project and PostSecret, the Tumblr account is part of an increasingly important medium called the "collaborative confessional," she says.

"This is self-service history, with no curator and no narrator. Some of the stories call out for follow-up questions, but there is no one to ask them," Rosen writes. "The results are raw and rough, but demonstrate that, with or without a Terkel, the power of personal narrative, whether on the radio, in a book, on YouTube, or on a Tumblr, can cut through the noise and cynicism of punditry and give shape and texture to our national story."

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