According to Herman Cain, the Occupy Wall Street movement isn't just a conspiracy to distract voters from President Obama's policies -- it isn't a movement at all.

He criticized the protests, which have spread across the country and even overseas, on Friday in an interview with Fred Dicker on Talk 1300 AM, a radio station in the Washington, D.C., area.

At first, his complaints were logical enough, if politically controversial. I don't know what they're looking for and I don't think they know what they're looking for, Cain said. Secondly, my impression is that they are directing their frustration at the wrong source. The source of their frustration -- and I do believe that they share some frustration with a lot of other people -- it should be directed at this failed presidency, at this administration. Wall Street isn't the source of whatever problems that they perceive there to be.

That's a reasonable argument. There has been a lot of debate over what the Occupy Wall Street protesters' goals are and whether they should identify them more specifically, and even more debate over whether Wall Street or the Obama administration is to blame for the bad economy.

The trouble came when Cain tried to be a sociologist and define the term movement.

The fact of the matter is, Fred, it's not a movement. It's not a movement, he said. They try to legitimize what they're doing by paralleling it to the Tea Party. The Tea Party movement and the citizens' movement, as I call it, they very clearly have stated from the beginning they were about fiscal responsibility, the free market system, getting government out of the way and enforcing the Constitution, and not trying to rewrite the Constitution. This 'On Wall Street' stuff is not a movement.

Wait, so it's only a movement if Cain agrees with its goals? It's only a movement if it promotes capitalism? I'm no sociologist myself, but that's just patently ridiculous.

Let's take a look at a few definitions of the term social movement.

Encyclopedia Britannica: A loosely organized but sustained campaign in support of a social goal, typically either the implementation or the prevention of a change in society's structure or values. Although social movements differ in size, they are all essentially collective. That is, they result from the more or less spontaneous coming together of people whose relationships are not defined by rules and procedures but who merely share a common outlook on society.

John D. McCarthy and Mayer N. Zald, 1977: A set of opinions and beliefs in a population which represents preferences for changing some elements of the social structure and/or reward distribution of a society.

T.K. Oommen, 1990: Conscious collective actions informed of an ideology, aided by an organizational weapon and initiated by a core person/group to bring about change in any direction (past/future) using any means (violent/non-violent). That is, movements are deliberately initiated and guided collective mobilizations to bring about relatively rapid social transformations.

So basically, a social movement is any sort of sustained, collective action in pursuit of a change in social structure. Nowhere in those definitions, nor in any other definition, does it specify what kind of change a social movement must promote. Nowhere does it say that the movement's goals have to be constitutional or even good.

When not thrown around as a political epithet, social movement is a neutral academic term. All it is is a group of people working to change society, for better or for worse.

Cain can talk all he wants about whether the kind of change the Occupy Wall Street protesters envision is constitutional or right, but when he tries to say Occupy Wall Street isn't a movement because he doesn't like it, he just looks foolish.

He made a reasonable argument for opposing Occupy Wall Street, but it has nothing at all to do with whether it's a movement or not.

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