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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that attracted celebrities such as Electronica artist Moby (Richard Melville Hall). With a red, white, and blue piggy bank as their logo, the Billionaires for Bush cultivated high production values—protest with polish. They produced music CDs,7 a tongue-in-cheek book,8 T-shirts, bumper Irony, Humor, Spectacle 25 stickers, and an infomercial (among other products). Their modest funding came from sales of such products and from individual donations: “Billionaire production values on a

knowledge and the tendentiousness of categorical understanding.”92 Anthropologists therefore have tussled over “realist” versus self-critical or ironic modes of ethnographic description.93 What George Marcus terms our contemporary “predicament of irony” concerns the “indeterminacy of interpretation”; it entails recognition of an “existential doubleness, deriving from a sense of being here with major present transformations ongoing that are intimately tied to things happening simultaneously

inequality were not going to simply wither away” and that there might be “fundamental mistakes in the theory of laissez-faire.”141 Bichlbaum/Sprat announced that “the World Trade Organization in its present form will cease to exist [gasps from the audience]. . . . Over the next two years, we of the WTO will endeavor to launch . . . [a] new [organization that] will have as its foundation . . . the United Nations Charter of Human Rights . . . [to] insur[e] that we will have human rather than

inequality.107 His response: I think there is a rising concern but I don’t think it is dramatic. I think it’s modest. It’s certainly not at the point where anybody is going to really do anything 72 “Times Are Good!” about it. It may get there; I hope it does. The perfect reading on all this is what the Congress is doing with the tax structure; it’s a perfect description of a society that doesn’t care about who has the money. Public advocacy for more progressive taxation was overshadowed in

“approve or ‘greenlight’ an action before they [could] take the Billionaire brand and run with it—or they’re frustrated about not being able to get things green-lighted when going through official channels,” Boyd remarked to those assembled for a mid2005 Billionaire “strategery” meeting in a public building not far from Times Square. Some chapter heads with whom I spoke complained about local initiatives delayed because they were told to wait for input from New York in coordinating logistics,

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