The point of the Twitter account Facebook’s Top 10 is to document the best-performing links on what has, over the past five years, become the biggest cesspool of boomer memes masquerading as fact on the entire internet. Often the lists are dominated by the Facebook pages of conservative outlets and media figures like Ben Shapiro, Dan Bongino, and Breitbart. Other times it’s more mainstream outlets like the New York Times and CNN.
On Tuesday, the fourth-best performing link of the day was from a page called Occupy Democrats.
Occupy Democrats is technically a website, but where it really thrives is on social media. It’s liked by more than 10 million people on Facebook. It has nearly 170,000 Twitter followers. And on Instagram, it has more than 356,000 followers, humbly describing itself as “the most active and influential political Facebook page and news website in the world! ” What the fuck is it?
Whether or not Occupy Wall Street succeeded or failed is still the subject of intense debate in American left of center. But regardless of where you fall on that side of the debate, it was a moment of genuine left-wing energy that helped introduce an entire generation to socialist and progressive politics and mainstreamed the problem of inequality in America. Occupy played as big a role in both of those political developments as the presidential campaigns of Bernie Sanders did; arguably the Sanders campaigns wouldn’t have happened, or at least been as prominent, without the seeds planted in Zuccotti Park.
Occupy Democrats was started by twin brothers Rafael and Omar Rivero. The Riveros had joined the Occupy Wall Street protest in 2011, but decided quickly that their efforts would be focused on “providing a counterbalance to the Republican Tea Party,” as their website says, as well as courting the Democratic Party and Democratic voters, according to a 2017 LA Weekly profile. So they launched Ocuppy Democrats in 2012. From the site:
The Occupy Movement changed the national conversation around the issue of class and inequality, but unlike the Tea Party, it unfortunately failed to achieve major legislative victories. Inspired by the Occupy Movement’s revolutionary energy and ideals, we aim to create a more equal society for ALL by working with progressives, labor unions, and the Democratic Party to beat back the wealthy oligarchs and their servants in Congress.
Within four years Occupy was absolutely killing Facebook’s algorithm, and has kept it going even as the platform made it more and more difficult for news outlets to build and maintain an audience. By 2017, Omar Rivero was living in a million-dollar home in Los Angeles and five writers were being “paid generously” working for the site full-time, as LA Weekly put it.
These days, apart from the name, the only resemblance Occupy Democrats bears to the original Occupy movement is the fact that some people who were at Occupy have since voted for Democrats. That’s basically it. And more recently, it’s effectively morphed into a slightly more liberal and annoying version of the Lincoln Project.
Consider this obvious play for engagement which encouraged people to applaud a Florida landlord who began threatening evictions against tenants who weren’t vaccinated:
Or this one from Monday, encouraging followers effectively to 1 retweet = 1 prayer for Liz Cheney’s re-election to Congress.
They’re basically all like this. RT if you’re a proud vaccinated Biden voter. RT if you agree with something Ana Navarro said on The View. RT if you’re happy about a minor movement in an Omarosa lawsuit against Donald Trump. Rinse, repeat.
The obvious point of comparison for Occupy Democrats is the right-wing Facebook pages they’re meant to counter. But some intraparty criticisms nonwithstanding—the outlet frequently goes after Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema— they can also be seen as a much more effective social media wing of the Democratic Party than the Democratic Party itself is.
The content is brazenly aimed directly at the liberal echo chamber and exists solely to pump retweets and get more followers; essentially the Subway business model transplanted onto Twitter. And credit where credit’s due: Occupy Democrats is remarkably good at this, racking up thousands and tens of thousands of shares and retweets with every post.
But beyond a full-throated promotion of whatever the Democratic agenda happens to be at the time, Occupy Democrats’ political philosophy is a lot muddier. You cannot, for example, both care about inequality and applaud landlords who throw people out on the street, regardless of vaccination status. Nor can you be anti-war and actively hope that the scion of American neoconservatism’s first family continues to be a force in American politics. You cannot, under any circumstances, hand it to George W. Bush.
And so just as the purpose of the Democratic Party appears to be not to pass liberal or progressive policy but to serve as a jobs program for former Hill aides and the children of donors, it’s difficult to figure out what exactly the point of Occupy Democrats is other than to perpetuate its own existence. RT if you agree.