Zombies on Wall Street

There are so many metaphors to be found in pop culture’s monsters-of-the-moment—vampires ruthlessly suck the life out of their victims, zombies walk around mindless, killing without bias or reason, witches corrupt our children with their evil ways and then run for congress.

The demonstrators with Occupy Wall Street were encouraged to dress up like “corporate zombies” today while participating in a march in New York’s Financial District.

And zombies aren’t the only pop culture entities making appearances; the usual suspects are all present as well—Michael Moore and Susan Sarandon have both visited along with Russell Simmons, Roseanne Barr and hip-hop artist Lupe Fiasco.

In a piece by Entertainment Weekly today, Kate Ward points out that while of course, “a vague protest isn’t a protest until Hollywood jumps on board,” she also asks the question, “at what point does the Hollywood and culture link weaken the cause?”

I’ve posted on this point before in reference to George Clooney and South Sudan’s successful secession—Hollywood’s ability to draw attention to a cause is a tricky line to walk.  While it certainly pulls headlines, one must consider (as Ward does) when we start seeing more headlines about the costumes or who attends, than about the protest itself, is Hollywood helping or harming the cause?

Though the occupation is gaining steam, especially after 700 protestors were arrested Saturday on the Brooklyn Bridge, the press has generally looked upon the demonstration negatively, portraying the mostly-young protesters as unorganized and without cause.  Something that is, at least in part, true.

Betsy Reed, Executive editor at The Nation, wrote today that the biggest criticism of Occupy Wall Street is in their failure to present demands: “What do these wan, angry young people want, anyway?” But Reed makes a larger point, why is it so important that they ask for demands in the first place?

“Of course, we need policy ideas… But sometimes, you also need a spark. ‘Occupy Wall Street,’ as an idea and an action, is a stroke a brilliance. It’s not poll-tested or focus-grouped, but it expresses perfectly the outrage that is the appropriate response to the maddening political situation we find ourselves in today. It succeeds as symbolic politics: taking back the square is just what we need to do.”

Despite Glenn Beck raving at the fact that Frances Fox Piven and Russell Simmons showed up to “incite the crowd,” warning readers to “prepare to vomit when watching”—”So what are they doing? The neoliberals.” Beck asks, “This is all becoming so very clear. Do you know why they’ve hated us so much? Look at what we have exposed. We have exposed a social justice. We exposed where they are in your churches.”How is Beck not sending out podcasts from a bomb shelter yet?—Occupy Wall Street represents a greater idea.  The gesture is indeed symbolic; there’s so much wrong but most people couldn’t tell you why or who is causing it.  Rather than going to Washington, protesters went to where they believed the real power was held: Wall Street.

Celebrities, zombies, Robert Pattenson literally turning into a bat and flying down Wall Street—these would all make headlines, but the reason for the occupation itself is clear: America is largely controlled not by the White House or Congress but by those who control the almighty dollar.

(Image credit CNN)

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And we’re back! What did we miss?

PolitiPop has returned!

Yes indeed, after a few solid weeks of rest and relaxation, travel, and a slew general summer activities, PolitiPop is back and ready to bring you the best in politics and pop culture.   Looking back at the news from our time apart its pretty clear — the apocalypse may very well be upon us.

Ok, I’m exaggerating, I don’t believe in Revelation’s, but here’s a few stories from the last couple of weeks that could make one think (wish?) it were the end-of-days:

– Congress and President Obama finally came to a deal on raising the debt ceiling… by leaving the “job creators” (a.k.a the wealthy folks) alone with their cash and slashing federal spending, with the promise that more cuts are to come at the discretion of a Super Committee, where entitlement programs, like Medicare and Social Security, and the defense budget are all on the table.

– Following up the debt deal the U.S. loses its AAA rating from S&P; it’s unfortunate for Obama that this happened on his watch, but with outrage set firmly against the ratings firms (who are said to have botched calculations) and Congress’ petty bickering along party lines, it seems like the blame is being pretty well spread around.

London’s burning; this is not a reference to The Clash.

– Texas Gov. Rick Perry throws his ten gallon hat into the ring for 2012.  Back in June, The Texas Tribune ran a very informative piece detailing why the Republican and frequent First Amendment violator, should not run for president.  Why God, why?

Newsweek ran this extremely horrifying cover featuring Michele Bachmann. No, seriously God, why?

On the upside, if you want to call it that (and I do, I loved the movie), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, grossed over $1.2 billion worldwide, making it the 3rd highest grossing film of all time.  Moviegoers flocked to the theaters to watch the wizarding world finally break free from He Who Must Not Be Named, briefly escaping the endlessly depressing news reports inundating every facet of our lives, but our Muggle troubles are nothing compared to what the Ministry of Magic is now facing post-Voldamort.  Foreign Policy ran a fascinating piece looking at the long road ahead for the wizarding community.

Finally, I spent last weekend in Chicago, attending the city’s yearly music festival Lollapalooza.  Despite the torrential rain and the ankle-deep mud, acts like the Foo Fighters, DeadMau5 and Cold War Kids played on for the dirty-yet-enthusiastic crowds.  One performance that stood out was Damien Marley and Nas; their plea for unification was moving especially in the song, “Leaders,” when they asked for all to stand up and lead, not just in politics but in life, singing, “Oh leaders, let’s all change the world.”

And then, I kid you not, a rainbow appeared.


Way to go George—I mean, South Sudan!

Today, South Sudan celebrates its independence.  After decades of bloody internal strife, the Republic of South Sudan officially splits from the north to become Africa’s 54th country.  There are great videos on Youtube showing the celebrations and parades taking place, of the South Sudanese trying to put into words the joy and emotion they’re feeling today, but the mainstream media can’t help themselves and are dedicating a lot of column space to talking about who gets a gold star for having saved another country in Africa.

George Clooney, God love him, is the real hero today.  Oh and the Christian groups, they get an honorable mention as well.  But it’s no secret that the Academy award-winning actor and former ER doc has spent perhaps the most time and money in his efforts to call attention to the struggles of the Sudanese—he even caught malaria during a January trip to the region!

The New York Times and the BBC ran stories discussing Clooney’s role in South Sudan’s independence; the NYT piece even quotes R. Barrie Walkley, the American consul general in Juba, as saying “Once you got someone like George Clooney, for example….George packs power.”  Mr. Walkley later questions whether the South Sudanese would have been able to achieve independence on their own without the aid of Clooney and others, saying, “I think the celebrities had a lot to do with it.”

It’s the crux of the Celebrity Advocate; how much is too much?  There are ups and downs to a celebrity—especially a high profile A-lister like Clooney—becoming heavily involved in a cause; Washington Post reporter Rebecca Hamilton writes on her blog today, “Clooneyization of the South Sudan story,” that there are two ways a story like this can go, one positive and one negative.  She writes:

I tried reporting from Abyei before anyone mainstream was doing it and my pitches kept being rejected by editors who thought, of everything going on in Sudan, Abyei was not “newsworthy” enough (At the time it was a prevention story – no one had died yet). Then George Clooney turned up late last year. And suddenly, Abyei was on the mainstream map. Now you can bitch all you like about the state of American culture that we need a movie star to direct our attention to worthwhile issues all you like, but that’s the reality we are living in. So unless you are working on a project to change that, then you should probably just be grateful that rather than chosing to spend his time on a yacht in the Caribbean, he was investing his time in Sudan knowing full well the press would follow. Good George Clooney story. The counter-story comes from the January referendum for which the worldwide media descended on Juba. And then so did Clooney. Far from Abyei a year ago, there was no way the January vote was going to go unnoticed. All adding Clooney into the mix did was to ensure that half the press pool spent their time chasing Clooney, rather than focusing on Sudanese voices.

Hamilton hits the mark with her comment on the state of American culture; diplomatic hardliners may turn up their noses at the sight of Hollywood’s elite ringing the doorbell at the White House but there’s no denying that it get’s peoples attention.  But when major international news organizations chatter on about how the West came in and saved yet another third-world country from itself, it always seems a little bit like fluff piece aimed at making us living in the so-called developed nations feel good about ourselves.  What could be better than hearing that George Clooney AND the Christians helped South Sudan become it’s own country?

So congrats Mr. Clooney, on your success today.  I mean no disrespect and still promise to pay $13 to see your next film, but maybe, just occasionally, try and keep your good deeds on the DL, make sure no one is hacking your voicemail, and avoid anyone from the BBC or the NYT (I know you and Kristof are BF’s) and then maybe they’ll get back to reporting the news in those regions.


Jon Stewart steps down?

After being “too lazy to write jokes after 5” on Monday evening, Jon Stewart went easy on his friend Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) on The Daily Show, following the congressman’s confirmation that it was in fact his (insert penis euphemism here) in a photograph posted on Twitter last week.  The Comedy Central host chose instead to lay into John Edwards most recent legal troubles as it was originally scripted prior to Rep. Weiner’s press conference.  Some in the media had criticized the faux-news host’s choice, citing Stewart’s friendship with Rep. Weiner for his laxness on the story, despite the show’s thorough coverage of the scandal last week, which included the congressman’s penis squashing Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign announcement and an R. Kelly impersonator suggesting the Rep. photograph his junk in soy sauce.

Stewart returned full force Tuesday evening with a press conference “live” from a Motel 6 in Hackensack, NJ, where he apologized to his staff, his “beautiful and exotic family,” and to the intern who had to count the number of cock jokes, for his choices and announced that he would be stepping down as host of The Daily Show.  Over the course of the nearly six minute bit, Stewart gargled water, poured himself a Cosmo — “a drink popularized by the HBO series ‘Sex and the City'” —  revealing that he considers himself a “Samantha,” blended a strawberry margarita, cut his hand on a broken glass (for which he later received stitches for), and got reamed out by his faux-successor John Oliver while trying to hide the fact that blood was dripping down his arm.  You can watch the clip below: