The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight


October 31, 2011

I’ve been a very bad (lame) duck of late, but for good reason. On top of many other duties, I am teaching a new graduate seminar this semester on Global Economic Governance with some very smart and fun students at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas. Each week we start the class by digging into the current news, which lately has been a veritable feast for IPE junkies. We’ve had particular fun with the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) coverage, and more recently the “Occupy Occupy Wall Street” (OOWS) retort from the very proud and indignant 1%.

Last week, I asked my students to react to claims that the OWS movement needed to articulate some clear demands in order to capture the rhetorical advantage and be taken seriously. My students took to this task with gusto on their own internal class blogsite, while pushing back a bit with intelligent arguments for why the OWS movement should NOT have a clear message. Nonetheless, they did come up with a clever blurb for OWS and I promised to blog on this in hopes of attracting some smart (and undoubtedly snarky) feedback from Duck readers.

Here’s the message my students crafted:

For too long the 1% in our society has controlled the economic fate of the 99%. The financial elite are responsible for co-opting our democratic principles, capturing government institutions, and undermining the social contract of society. We bailed them out and they bailed on us. We need to throw out the policies that left them with the fruit and left us with the rinds; its time for change. We need to reform out tax policies, close corporate loopholes and increase transparency. The elite, the 1%, convinced us that they were too big to fail. We are the 99% and we are too big to fail.

(Note the very clever reference to the Tom Waits song, “Talking at the Same Time”)

For this week, I turned the tables and ask the students to try to craft a counter-response from the 1%. They clearly had a harder time with this task. This is certainly understandable if you consider that I am asking poor graduate students facing bleak employment prospects to defend the position of the wealthiest 1% in our nation. A few clever students did find some golden satire and a real OOWS response that are worth sharing:

First, a link to the Borowitz Report, “A Special Offer from America’s Corporations.”

Second, marketing advice for the Bank of America:

An ad could start with a Bank of America investment adviser (on-screen label tells viewer the employee’s job title) who says, “This is Joe (in walks a regular dude). For the past 10 years, I’ve helped Joe save so he could send his daughter to college this fall.” (see cute picture of a young woman setting up her dorm room)

Then another Bank of America employee (with an on-screen label that says “loan officer”) says: “Meet my friend Mary (enter Mary). Last year, I helped Mary open her own pet shop.”

Last BofA employee says: “And with my help, Louis bought his family’s first home.” (show picture of cute family with new baby in new home.)

And then the ad could wrap up with something, perhaps just words on the screen: “At Bank of America, we are 250,000 people whose job is to help make your dreams come true.

Finally, a REAL message from OOWS:

For 20 days, only one side of this story was told.

On October 5th, members of the 1% broke their silence.

Comprised of investment bankers in the wealthiest 1%, Occupy Occupy Wall Street’s displays of solidarity will continue to occur periodically in Liberty Square to protest “Occupy Wall Street.” Since their movement began on October 5th , #OOWS has gained the support of thousands of investment bankers across the country. “To be angry at the wealthiest Americans for their success is simply childish jealousy from those who have failed to create the same opportunities themselves,” representative John Selvig states. “America is not kindergarten; there are winners and losers. This is a country where if you work hard in the right field you can become extremely wealthy. We are proud of that wealth and will not sit back and watch a group slander it in our own backyard. We will not stop until #OOWS out-occupies the occupiers.” This movement believes that “The system is not broken and we will fight, at all costs, to maintain the status quo. We are the 1% and we are 100% proud!” For interview requests, or to be alerted to upcoming #oows events, email:

Note that on the OOWS website, you can buy a t-shirt proclaiming your 1% pride. (And it’s only $40 plus shipping and handling. Now that’s the capitalist spirit!)

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Catherine (Kate) Weaver is associate dean for students and associate professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. She is a distinguished scholar at the Strauss Center for International Security & Law, where she is the founding director of Next Generation Scholars Program. She also chairs the university’s Graduate Assembly Academic Committee, the President’s Award for Global Learning steering committee, and the Truman Scholarship committee. Weaver’s research focuses on transparency in international development aid, reforming global economic governance, and the politics of data in the world economy. She has developed methods to track and dynamically geomap aid and climate adaptation, and writes about the shifting power, players and paradigms in governing the global economy. Her latest project, the Global Indices Network (GIN), examines the interdependent power and pathologies of global indices.