No Billionaire Left Behind: Satirical Activism in America

No Billionaire Left Behind: Satirical Activism in America

Angelique Haugerud

Language: English

Pages: 288

ISBN: 0804781532

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Growing economic inequality, corporate influence in politics, an eroding middle class. Many Americans leave it to politicians and the media to debate these topics in the public sphere. Yet other seemingly ordinary Americans have decided to enter the conversation of wealth in America by donning ball gowns, tiaras, tuxedos, and top hats and taking on the imagined roles of wealthy, powerful, and completely fictional characters. Why? In No Billionaire Left Behind, Angelique Haugerud, who embedded herself within the "Billionaires" and was granted the name "Ivana Itall," explores the inner workings of these faux billionaires and mines the depths of democracy's relationship to political humor, satire, and irony.

No Billionaire Left Behind is a compelling investigation into how satirical activists tackle two of the most contentious topics in contemporary American political culture: the increasingly profound division of wealth in America, and the role of big money in electoral politics. Anthropologist and author Angelique Haugerud deftly charts the evolution of a group named the Billionaires—a prominent network of satirists and activists who make a mockery of wealth in America—along with other satirical groups and figures to puzzle out their impact on politics and public opinion. In the spirit of popular programs like The Colbert Report and The Daily Show, the Billionaires demonstrate a sophisticated knowledge of economics and public affairs through the lens of satire and humor. Through participant observation, interviews, and archival research, Haugerud provides the first ethnographic study of the power and limitations of this evolving form of political organizing in this witty exploration of one group's efforts to raise hope and inspire action in America's current political climate.

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did they all get along? How did they not chase each other’s boyfriends? How did that happen? Think of all the things that have screwed up activism in the past.” He celebrated the ideal of a “unified force field” in activism, overcoming common divisions. The Lincoln Center flashmob to protest the growing political influence of the conservative Koch brothers153 had a Seattle 1999 direct-action feel, though many participants were too young to have been part of the anti-WTO protests in Seattle, said

the opposite.13 Parental income in the early 2000s was a “better predictor of whether someone would be rich or poor in America than in Canada or much of Europe.”14 Furthermore, in contrast to the myth of the self-made multimillionaire, in the late 1990s, as Gates and Collins observed, “[a]lmost a third of the Forbes 400 were born onto the list.”15 Although corporate profits and worker productivity increased in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, in the United States, the real

found in all industrial societies.28 Furthermore, a popular assumption that however large the gap between rich and poor, the impoverished in the United States are much better off than the poor in many other parts of the world is sharply contradicted by indicators such as infant mortality and life expectancy.29 These historic transformations are not trumpeted by mainstream news media, and they are not even statistics some Americans believe if told. For example, when I mentioned to a

Americans before the 1970s “were born into their money, which usually flowed from oil, chemicals, steel, real estate and commodities.”120 The rich of the early twenty-first century were younger than their counterparts of earlier generations, more divided politically, and more polarized economically as the gap between the haves and the have-mores widened,121 thanks in part to a series of economic bubbles since the 1980s, and especially the explosive growth in unregulated markets in exotic

population and escalating numbers of unemployed citizens—if plotted as comedy—turns out not to be a conflict after all, but rather the outcome of putatively natural market processes, or simply phases in what some economists and others interpret as the market’s Darwinian processes of self-correction. Free-market cheerleaders would argue that inequality can become temporary and put to good use by arbitrageurs and that economic justice is to be found 12 Introduction in the market.48 Such

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