Even confronted with champagne and sausages, free massages, a thick wad of cash, and the prospect of personal power, the young Occupiers couldn’t be bought or even frazzled by Stephen Colbert’s celebrity, wit, or SuperPAC. Collected and media-savvy, these kids in some respects resembled the hippies of old, but in others couldn’t be more different: though idealistic and love-the-one-you’re-with-y (“We need to start from the ground up, from a basis of sharing…”), they’re also neatly groomed, media-savvy, and camera-ready.
For a while we even suspected they were actors, hired by (or sent to fool) the Colbert team. Ketchup’s hyper-P.C. description of herself as a “female-bodied person,” for example, seemed like something only a TV writer could dream up. It still does, in fact, and Justin’s apparent embarrassment at being forced to then refer to himself, in turn, as a “male-bodied person” could, after all, have been merely a clever facet of the pair’s awesome act.
But both of these young heroes of the movement can be spotted in real Occupy Wall Street footage leading – sorry, facilitating – the action. So if they are impostors, they’ve gone seriously undercover. No, it seems they are the real thing: activists at the forefront of OWS, savvy and confident enough to face Stephen Colbert’s pseudo-right-wing spotlight but honest protestors all the same.
Which leads to today’s point. Protest against official corruption and the excesses of big business is as old as the nation, but the era of social networking and instant mass communication is new. Vietnam War protesters were able to get their message out via coverage on TV, radio, and in newspapers, media that lacked immediacy and bi-directionality, media controlled by a small number of private corporations with their own agendas and procedures. Yet the antiwar movement had its effect, nudging the ponderous government towards ending that misbegotten conflict.
How much more (and faster) might the relatively small but tenacious Occupy groups, now spread all over the country, move the new century’s powers-that-be? With the rise of “Wall Street” rather than “the government” as a fixed target, with accusations against the big banks that “crashed our economy” gaining purchase, and with so many of “the 99%” suffering through economic stagnation and unemployment, it should be no surprise that the protesters despite their relatively small numbers are elbowing their way into news cycle after news cycle.
Because the economy is much worse today than it was in the ’60s, circumstances feed both passive and active support for OWS among the general population – witness the poll the other day which found that 60% of respondents think the federal government ought to “pursue policies that try to reduce the gap between wealthy and less well-off Americans.” Imagine that! In this day and age, six in ten of us think the federal government, instead of shriveling up and dying, should do something.
“I’m offering you my show,” Colbert said, “to pump the message.” (A message tweaked, of course – it’s Comedy Central, after all – from “Corporations Are Not People” to “Corporations Are Now People”). “Why not level the playing field by getting some money of your own? You gotta fight fire with fire.”
Justin and Ketchup were unmoved. Occupy Wall Street, after all, has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars anyway, without any help from Stephen Colbert.