Monday, April 9, 2012

Co-Opting OWS: Hollywood Hotties of the One Percent

Count me among those who consider the new "99% Spring" movement just one one more phony patch of Democratic Party astroturf.

The anonymous blogger "Insider" of Counterpunch recently listed eight smoking guns proving a direct link from the 99% Spring to various and sundry Obama veal pen organizations -- most notably, That DNC front group, you may remember, came under fire from the real OWSers last fall when it ham-handedly attempted to co-opt the movement for its own fundraising and candidate- boosting purposes.

And now, they're back with week-long "training sessions" throughout the country, to instruct participants on how to peacefully protest and emulate Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. No mention of the general national strike planned by the real Occupy for May Day. As a matter of fact, they're pushing a toned-down, sanitized version of the movement, aimed squarely at the same disenchanted young people who catapulted President Obama to victory in 2008, but who have now left him in droves -- disillusioned, unemployed or underemployed and facing mountains of education debt it will take them a lifetime to repay. 

MoveOn must think the recipients of its email blasts are all naive and star-struck and in their 20s. I got yet another unbelievably annoying invite from them today, asking me to attend their peacenik training school for hip young hippies in a nearby town close to hip Woodstock. For inspiration, they included a short film to convince me it was so going to be worth it. Did it feature such powerhouse figures as Noam Chomsky and Chris Hedges? Of course it didn't!

Instead, this glitzily-produced film, its soundtrack a kitschy guitar and flute piece of elevator music, featured three of today's biggest 20-something stars lecturing grizzled old me how to fight corporatism and Wall Street greed. Two of them -- Penn Badgely and Olivia Wilde -- shilled for Obama's 2008 campaign. The third, Zoe Kravitz, was only 20 at that time, but her musician father Lenny is an ardent Obama supporter and once wrote a song in support of the president. 

Badgely actually plays a rich young one percenter on the hit TV series "Gossip Girl". According to Wikipedia, the series "revolves around the lives of socialite young adults growing up on New York's Upper East Side who attend elite academic institutions while dealing with sex, drugs, and other teenage issues." Badgely was voted one of People Magazines's 25 Beauties and Hotties at 25 in 2011. And Badgely has done film work for MoveOn before -- he appeared in one of its Obama campaign commercials in 2008. What a perfect voice for a faux-Occupy ripoff.

Olivia Wilde is another one percent actress who lists among her forebears the colonialist oligarchs of the British Empire. Olivia, whose parents are hegemonic Beltway diplomats, presumes to tell us to get in the streets and put our bodies on the line. She ranked Number One on Maxim's "Hot 100" in 2009. Oh, and she has previously starred in MoveOn ads supporting Obama. Quelle coincidence.

Zoe Kravitz is apparently new to astroturf activism and politics, and as far as I can tell, this is her first MoveOn gig. But her mother was a Cosby Kid (Lisa Bonet). So she has got that elitist minority vanilla cred, too.

These meritocrats do not mention Obama in their 99% Spring film. They don't have to. But they used some of the same rhetoric he did during his last campaign to hypnotize the young and the restless. The word "change" was uttered. "Are You In?" the young millionaires ask. That's the same phrase on all the Obama ads following me all over the Internet. "Are You In?"

This latest ploy is so obvious as to be laughable. The Occupy Movement is not going to be co-opted by Hollywood tinsel and political platitudes. The Occupy Movement got started because its members were fed up with President Sellout. As "The Insider" wrote,

In’s short history, the front group has proven that co-option works, but co-opting Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring has been no easy task for it this time around.
It has been a particularly tough task because the Democratic Party, which it fronts for, is beholden to Wall Street and the Obama Administration dutifully supports, plans on raising hundreds of millions of dollars from the 1-percent during his 2012 election campaign.
Furthermore, the Obama Administration has been largely responsible for supplying weaponry to suppress the Arab Spring, including in places such asEgypt, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia, to name a few. has to tell overt lies in order to paint the Democratic Party and its President, Barack Obama, as a friend of democracy and working class. TheBig Lie, it can be said, is only believable for so long.
When the 99% Spring liberal trust fund babies protest every appearance by Mitt Romney during the upcoming campaign season, and the paramilitary police forces stand benignly by with coffee and donuts for the brave apparatchiks putting their bodies on the line, we'll know for sure how phony they truly are.

Until then, the real OWS is gearing up for the real American Spring, with weekly tactical training sessions in Zuccotti Park. Colin Moynihan, the New York Times reporter who has covered the movement locally from its inception, explains:
To prepare, organizers have held weekly practice sessions, called “spring training,” inside Zuccotti Park, where participants learn about the gong and other tactics, some of them adapted from a British activist group called the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army.
Over the course of an hour on Friday, protesters practiced several tactics, including “hup,” which involves a knot of people jumping up and down (and can be used to coalesce a scattered group) and “melt,” in which protesters drift to the ground (used for a ”die-in” or to de-escalate a confrontation).
One tactic, known as “wall,” involved ranks of protesters locking elbows and trotting forward in close formation, and could be used, organizers said, to move quickly while making it difficult for the police to physically break up the group.
Organizers said the sessions, which have been followed by short marches to the stock exchange for the closing bell, are meant to teach participants to work together and instill a sense of camaraderie.
Moynihan, who has had his own taste of NYPD brutality during various camp evictions, noted that the police were watching. And waiting. Something tells me they won't be handing out goodie bags to the real protesters on May 1.  They will be striking too, and if past performance is any predictor, it won't have anything to do with solidarity with the working class.


Anonymous said...


Young Mr. Penn Badgley, for what it's worth, was terrific in "Margin Call", which is to date one of the few films (documentary or dramatic) besides "Inside Job" and Spike Lee's "25th Hour" to portray with any veracity Wall Street culture, such as it is. (I claim to know, having wasted a good part of my youth in said Wall Street culture. And Spike Lee's "25th Hour" deals only marginally with one aspect of the industry.)

All that aside, I'd like to bring to your attention a review by Stephen Holden of an important new documentary about the financial crisis by Donald Goldmacher, called "Heist: Who Stole The American Dream." I can't believe an inherently conservative film critic like Stephen Holden gave "Heist" such a glowing review, but I was thrilled that he did.

I quote from the review:

"...this project, produced and directed by Frances Causey and Donald Goldmacher, has the virtue of taking the long view of a crisis that recent films like “Inside Job” and “Too Big to Fail” have only sketchily explored. It makes a strong case that government regulation of business is essential for democracy to flourish. One of many pertinent observations from a host of experts is that the rich really don’t need the government as much as everybody else.... To say that the ideas in “Heist,” which locates the source of our current troubles in a famous 1971 memorandum, belongs to the paranoid conspiracy school of history is not to suggest that its point of view isn’t fairly persuasive. Conspiracies exist."

I'd seen an early version of "Heist" while Goldmacher was working on it some years back. Definitely want to see the new version. Hope you will, too.

Goldmacher's a former M.D./psychiatrist whose previous documentary was on the machinations of the pharmaceutical industry.

Karen Garcia said...

Hi all,
Wrote a response to Our Mister Brooks and his Two Economies crapfest. Here 'tis:

This column is one more attempt to keep the myth of trickle-down economics alive. It also celebrates Social Darwinism in a very genteel way. Why not just call Economy I the deregulated capitalism that it is? Why not admit that Economy I, in all its unmitigated greed, caused the biggest financial collapse in modern history? Why not come right out and say that Economy II should just get with the austerity program proclaimed by the plutocrats, instead of this nonsense about making "a bumpy transition" away from public schools and decent jobs to banana republic status? Why not just define Economy I as privatized profits at public expense?

Of course, the USA of the 1% is not in decline. The sky is the limit. The ultra rich are doing very well, and our "public" servants, from the president right on down to the ALEC-controlled State Legislatures, ensure they continue to thrive. Neither party really has the interests of the middle class at heart. There is no money in it.

Take fracking, which is nothing more than the rape of the earth by noxious chemicals used by equally noxious oligarchs to add a few more bucks to their endless pile. The irony is that much of the extracted gas will not even be used to heat the homes of those whose water is being poisoned by it. It will be sold abroad, and the profits hoarded overseas instead of being used to give medical care to the victims of the pollution.

Economy I should be euthanized. Support OWS!

Elizabeth Adams said...

I understand your remarks about MoveOn. I went to a "train the trainer" event in San Francisco in order to do a training this Saturday in my small conservative town, and not everyone there was from or in support of MoveOn. There are other groups involved, such as and MoveOn has great web tools, and we 99%ers don't have a lot of money to start from scratch or reinvent the wheel.

Not everyone can be in the big cities like New York and remain "pure" like the OWSers. No one person or group has all the answers, including OWS, so I am choosing to take what I can from where I can, even if it is from MoveOn. As soon as MoveOn starts pushing me to vote for a particular person, I will leave.

Each person going to the training is coming from a different background and level of comfort. People who want to do something are probably encouraged by the "nonviolent direct action" language. This weekend's training doesn't pretend to be more than just a beginner's course in activism, and I am totally new to all this myself. But the way it is around my town, if not me, who?

Anonymous said...

I used to sound just like Ms. Adams a few years back when I was giving 100% to OFA. And the "purists" hated me for it. I didn't understand them at all. Well, now I do. They were right. And in my own small way, so was I.

Elizabeth, I support you. And, I bet, so does Karen. Keep us abreast of your work, we're all in it together.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Hottie A or Hottie B, 99% Spring or May Day, MoveON or OWS, Economy I or Economy II, Romney or Obama, and ultimately Obama ‘08 or Obama ’12? – American politics has become a hall of mirrors. It is good that Sardonicky and others help us keep track of what’s fake and what’s real.

In his regular Monday essay Chris Hedges revisits the TLOTE issue via a hard look at the Affordable Care Act, the one so many among us still consider half a loaf when it is in fact a stone. The following is from the last half of Hedges’ opening paragraph. By nailing the passage to the wall over my desk I hope to eliminate a lot of the confusing make believe in our political house of mirrors.

“[The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act] is a law by which President Barack Obama, and his corporate backers, extinguished the possibilities of both the public option and Medicare for all Americans. There is no substantial difference between Obamacare and Romneycare. There is no substantial difference between Obama and Romney. They are abject servants of the corporate state. And if you vote for one you vote for the other.”

jeffrey butts•nyc said...

Loved your response. Why does the NYT keep paying Brooks to parrot the WSJ!

Denis Neville said...

The attempted exploitation by the Democratic Party and the Obama administration of the Occupy movement is insulting.

James MacLeod’s “What a crumbling oligarchy looks like”:

Ranjeet said...

Hi Karen thanks for expressing what I have suspected about MoveOn and the DNC's attempts. I recently signed on again to MoveOn, having dumped them as hopeless after their cowardly refusal to push Obama in 2009, and receive their "training session" calls. I am also a participant in OccupyOakland, and have to say that they still stand apart from the MoveOn/DNC shimmer, are spreading grass-roots democracy in Amartya Sen's sense, working with and helping the local communities and leadiing action thrice a week. Occupy Oakland heartens me.
PS I liked your multiple choice comment on Gail Collins article on the talking pineapple.