Time to move on? OWS as celebrity sweepstakes?Is dissent politics nothing more than a fashion prototype for the military-entertainment complex? Politics as a series of spectacular satisfactions, like Coca Cola, “within an arm’s reach of desire.” Occupy Wall Street seems to be invaded by pundits and celebrities from a pampered world. Deepak Chopra will raise consciousness, Michael Moore blusters, David Graeber, the guru flavor of the moment for “consensual” decision making, and new shiny for same-same new package, and others, all contributing to the impression of the vanity of white privilege; flogging the repugnant corpse of bourgeois liberalism.
One can question whether although the financial sector should be under siege, and rats like Blankfein et al. should be hiding in sewer pipes, an even more insidious enemy may be the entertainment complex and its seductory tactics of being ingratiating and superficial simultaneously while reinforcing the consumerism and distracting us with mass critiques of society. Included in this is the advertising industry which is even more toxic, much larger than Hollywood and what really drives the consumption engine.
Each time a wealthy protest tourist gloms on with generic protest rant, important aspects of the message get muddled, dissipated and generally compromised. There should be concern and anxiety about the meaning and value of dissent politics at a time it appears to be assimilating itself to mainstream entertainment: conformist culture of popular, easy to recognize stereotypes. Either the OWS protest resists pull of commercial popular culture, which essentially is just an instrument of capitalist ideology, or it raises a white flag, joins and emulates it, aping the tragedy in all its pathos. Dissent that appropriates the skin-deep glamour and mas market appeal of commercial imagery, those politico-banking song and dance men- gives little credit to itself as guardians of a cachet of mindless acceptance. The problem is compounded by the sheer quantity of political commentators who simply bicker over means.
…The movement’s “we are the 99 percent” motto expresses ire over not only the unaccountability of huge financial institutions but also income inequality in America and the concentration of so much wealth and privilege in so few hands The point is justice,” writes self-help guru Deepak Chopra, who visited Zuccotti Park and led meditations to help protesters turn “anger into awareness.” Suze Orman, who has made millions telling feckless consumers how to pay down debt and live on a budget, sounds like she’s channeling Naomi Klein: “To deride the movement because it has yet to formulate a well-delineated platform says plenty more about the critics than the protestors,” she wrote in the Huffington Post.” … The unholy alliance of much of Congress, K Street and Wall Street that has set the agend“a from day one of the financial crisis is simply trying to protect its turf by casting aspersions on the ad hoc nature of the movement to date. I suppose I shouldn’t expect anything less. After all, there’s no way they could stage a substantive rebuttal based on facts.”
Naomi Wolf, the celebrated feminist author and campaigner, has been arrested at an Occupy Wall Street protest outside an awards ceremony held to honour New York’s governor….
Wolf and a companion were led away in handcuffs from the street in front of Skylight Studios in Manhattan.Inside, the New York state governor, Andrew Cuomo, was being presented with the “game changer of the year” award from the Huffington Post website, for which Wolf is a contributor.She was detained after ignoring police warnings to stay off the street in front of the building and where a crowd of about 50 Occupy Wall Street protesters had gathered….
…Wolf had been at the event, hosted by Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington and attended by a number of celebrities, including the reality TV star Kim Kardashian, who was presented with a “busi
leader” award.The protesters arrived at the event in SoHo to demonstrate their support of a “millionaires’ tax”, which Cuomo, a Democrat, opposes. Read More:http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/oct/19/naomi-wolf-arrested-occupy-wall-street
Figures like Wolf , though a bit unhinged- evoking Evita when referring to a female politician- they are ingenious at disguising as feminism their support of the white male power structure. They owe much of their popularity to being personalities who quell popular fear of a genuine feminist revolution preached from the perch of the privileged white woman. A feminism as commodified theory that avoids issues of race and class, sanitized to deny all participation in systems of exploitation, privilege, and oppression,while ignoring a significant population of people whose lived experience does not merit this erasure. Feminism is then stripped of any radical political significance, universalized into vague concept of personal self-worth. Think of OWS then as a looming battle between elites,mainly loud white dudes who will deny race and class differences.
To add to the vulgarity, non-profits like MoveOn and Avvaz are attempting to get protesters to sign petitions which in effect are used to build their own lists and data bank. Somewhat on par for these type of groups who would love to emulate the Adbusters business model.In fact NGO’s and non-profits are also a major problem. In many cases, parasites and vampires:
….Non-profits are a huge part of the problem. Not only do they use corporate top-down undemocratic internal structures but they also always prioritize their own internal goals and membership over larger movements.Nonprofits also filter off activists from grassroots movements and serve to de-radicalize demands and push for minor band-aid solutions while almost always ignoring the larger systemic problem and core issues.
Most wealthy NGOs are financed and patronised by aid and development agencies, funded by western governments, the World Bank, the United Nations and multinational corporations. Though they may not be the same agencies, they are certainly part of the same political formation that oversees the neoliberal project and demands the slash in government spending.
Why should these agencies fund NGOs? Could it be missionary zeal? Guilt? It’s more than that. NGOs give the impression that they are filling a vacuum created by a retreating state. And they are, but in a materially inconsequential way. Their real contribution is that they defuse political anger and dole out as aid or benevolence what people ought to have by right. NGOs alter the public psyche. They turn people into dependent victims and blunt political resistance. NGOs form a buffer between the sarkar and public . Between empire and its subjects. They have become the arbitrators, the interpreters, the facilitators.
In the long run NGOs are accountable to their funders, not to the people they work among. They’re what botanists would call an indicator species. The greater the devastation caused by neoliberalism, the greater the outbreak of NGOs. Nothing illustrates this more poignantly than the phenomenon of the US preparing to invade a country while simultaneously readying NGOs to clean up the resultant devastation.
To ensure their funding is not jeopardised and that the governments of the countries they work in will allow them to function, NGOs have to present themselves in a shallow framework, more or less shorn of a political or historical context (an inconvenient historical or political context anyway). Apolitical – therefore extremely political – reports of distress from poor countries and war zones eventually make the (dark) people of those (dark) countries seem like pathological victims. Another malnourished Indian, starving Ethiopian, Afghan refugee camp, maimed Sudanese in need of the white man’s help. They unwittingly reinforce racist stereotypes and reaffirm the achievements, the comforts and the compassion – the tough love – of western civilisation. They’re the secular missionaries of the modern world.
Eventually, on a smaller scale, but more insidiously, the capital available to NGOs plays the same role in alternative politics as the speculative capital that flows in and out of the economies of poor countries. It begins to dictate the agenda. It turns confrontation into negotiation. It depoliticises resistance. It interferes with local peoples’ movements that have traditionally been self-reliant. NGOs have funds to employ local people who could be activists in resistance movements, but instead feel they are doing some immediate, creative good while earning a living. Real political resistance offers no such short cuts.Read More:http://mondediplo.com/2004/11/16roy
Roseanne Barr, for example. The comedian bleeds for them. Or, rather, would have others bleed; inspired by the protests, she recommended the guillotine for the greediest bankers. …The rap mogul Russell Simmons and the rapper Kanye West meandered over to Occupy Wall Street’s cradle, Zuccotti Park. By all accounts West was wearing more bling, though Simmons has bigger bucks: his net worth has been estimated as being between $100 million and $340 million. West’s is below that, and he made only $16 million or so last year. …Susan Sarandon has been. Michael Moore has been. While both may have been propelled there by genuine anger, they have so much of it, are so famous for it and spread it so widely that their appearances can do the opposite of elevating a demonstration, making it seem merely fashionable and giving naysayers an easier way to roll their eyes….
…Entertainers are members of the well-connected economic elite against which Occupy Wall Street ostensibly rages, whether or not they want to see themselves that way. True, they’re not bundling mortgages, and they often have their extravagantly beating hearts in the right place. Many donate generously to charity. Many do remarkable good.
But they nonetheless make oodles of money for themselves and for major corporations with lavishly compensated executives: the corporations that bankroll and distribute their television shows, movies, record albums and concert tours; the corporations that peddle the clothing, electronics and ever-so-important cosmetics and styling products that entertainers are paid so handsomely to model and endorse. …Alec Baldwin dropped by Zuccotti Park….
….Critics noted that he appears in television commercials for Capital One, a banking behemoth. While he responded that he gives his fee away, he’s still promoting the company, and there remain other facets of his work and life that render him, like other stars, a very odd fit for a movement concerned with the sway of big companies and the distribution of wealth.
He has homes in both the Hamptons and Manhattan, a fact widely noted in news reports about a New York City tax inquiry into which is his primary residence. He claims the Hamptons. …Read More:http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/23/opinion/sunday/bruni-occupy-wall-street-and-hollywood.html
Zizek:“Now, what we consider today possible — just follow the media. On the one hand is technology and sexuality — everything seems to be possible. You can travel to the moon, you can become immortal by biogenetics, you can have sex with animals or whatever. But look at the field of society and economy — there, almost everything is considered impossible. You want to raise taxes a little bit for the rich, they tell you it’s impossible. We lose competitivity. You want more money for healthcare, they tell you, ‘Impossible! This means a totalitarian state.’ Is there something wrong with the world where you are promised to be immortal but they cannot spend a little more for healthcare? Maybe we have to set our priorities straight. We don’t want higher standards of living; we want better standards of living. The only sense in which we are Communists is that we care for the commons: the commons of nature, the commons of what is privatized by intellectual property, the commons of biogenetics. For this, and only for this, we should fight. Communism failed absolutely, but the problems of the commons are here. Read More:http://www.continental-philosophy.org/2011/10/10/slavoj-zizek-en-occupy-wall-street/