Are corporations really occupying #OccupyWallStreet?

October 19, 2011

There are two stories about the corporate hijacking of #OccupyWallStreet on One piece talks about how U.S. ice cream maker Ben & Jerry is making a laughing stock of the protestors by issuing a statement in support of the protest:

The directors of the board of ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s released a statement saying they were supporting the protest.

But this corporate alignment doesn’t seem to have had the desired effect. Instead of drumming up support for the protestors it has made them something of a laughing stock. Papers, blogs and TV reports are running competitions for the best flavour ice-cream Ben & Jerry’s could create to honour the protests (ocu-pie is gaining some traction). But all of this is distracting from promoting the protestors’ aims and message.

By the way, here is the link to Ben & Jerry’s official statement. I agree with Kathleen that having corporate support would doom the protest if the corporation were, say, Bank of America, for instance, but Ben & Jerry’s is no Bank of America.

All that Ben & Jerry’s board is saying is this: “We, the Ben & Jerry’s Board of Directors, compelled by our personal convictions and our Company’s mission and values, wish to express our deepest admiration to all of you who have initiated the non-violent Occupy Wall Street Movement.” Besides, Ben & Jerry’s is not donating money to help fund the protests (at least not yet). So how exactly does a company that’s lobbied for a Constitutional amendment that would limit corporate spending in elections hijack a protest that would fight for that mission as well?

Yes, Ben & Jerry’s sold out to Unilever, a Dutch-British corporation with headquarters in Rotterdam, Netherlands. But Ben & Jerry’s was founded with a distinct social mission, which they’ve held on to despite the buy-out. And, despite being part of a global conglomerate now, Ben & Jerry’s is a company that’s long been associated with tie-die loving, beard rebelling, free loving Vermont hippies. The difference in their support is that the company isn’t out to rape people of their money.

Meanwhile, this piece claims the protests are shallow because how can the protestors be against corporations when so many of them love and use products by Apple, a huge U.S. corporation?

While the new movement is undoubtedly counter-cultural, corporate leaders and politicians have learned how to co-opt such incoherent anti-establishment sentiments. Apple, for example, has done brilliantly by combining high tech, high prices and a veneer of counter-culture. Occupy participants use more than their share of Apple products.

Indeed, the grief over the death of Apple’s founder, Steve Jobs, gives a more accurate cultural reading than Occupy. The college dropout who wandered to Asia looking for enlightenment became a hero for many of the 99 percent. They may feel oppressed by the state of the economy, but they sense they have more to lose than to gain from any substantial change in the system that has provided iPhones and iPads. So what does OWS signify? The shallowness of our discontent.

Yes, Apple’s products are relatively expensive, but their products are meant to make the customer’s life better, not worse. Moreover, like Ben & Jerry’s, Apple stands for something good — “Think Different” is their slogan and the recently deceased Apple CEO Steve Jobs made products with the intention to help people and to simplify their life. You can’t say that all the fine writing on bank statements has ever made anyone’s life easier or better.

For the most part, Occupy Wall Street protestors are protesting against corrupt companies, mainly financial service ones, whose “products” — credit default swaps, mortgage-backed securities, collateralized debt obligations — made a few people’s lives richer at the expense of damaging many people’s lives entirely.

To say that “corporate” support of the Occupy Wall Street Protests is actually harming the protests or “co-opt[s] such incoherent anti-establishment sentiments” conflates the issue. The protestors are protesting corporations that knowingly, willingly and deliberately harm people.

The only potential harm from Ben & Jerry’s is that if you constantly eat way too much of their ice cream, it will probably make you gain weight. But the company isn’t out to make people obese. Meanwhile, Apple’s products are used to inform and educate people. So I don’t see how being associated with either of those two companies, particularly one that promotes education, knowledge and thought, can weaken a protest or some other mission for that matter that supports education, equality, general goodness and well-being.

Illustration by Roman Genn.


Corporations are getting bigger and still gaining weight.

Posted by UncleGweedoe | Report as abusive

Two companies don’t make a trend. Nor do they make an article with substance. Especially when only one of the two companies mentioned has issued a statement of support.

Apple wants to bring its money back from overseas without paying taxes. I am an AAPL investor and use Apple stuff all the time, but in that respect they are just as bad as the other tax evaders, and therefore the criticism of protesters using Apple products has some merit.

However, the criticism doesn’t stand when you consider the argument from this angle: how does anyone live without a computer (or even a cellphone)? It’s not a band of Luddites protesting, they’re networked and using tech to get the word out. And if they’re smart they’ll choose the computer that works versus the competition. I don’t think that Lenovo, Dell, HP, or other also-rans are necessarily better corporate citizens than Apple. So, what do you do. Carrier pigeon? Morse code? Semaphore? No, you get an iPhone. And you remember that Apple’s “Made in China” products end up generating a lot of good design, development, engineering, marketing, and management jobs in America.

Posted by Nullcorp | Report as abusive

The occupy movement is NOT ‘anti-business’.

We LIKE businesses.

It’s about GREED. It’s about the cynic’s ‘golden rule’ (‘them what’s got the gold make the rules’)

It’s about the change in the ratio of ceo-pay:average-worker-pay from 40 to 400.

It’s about the wealthy using their tax cuts and stimulus money to create jobs – in China and Singapore.

And above all this, it’s about the COLLUSION we sense between the wealthy elite and government, to protect and increase this disparity of wealth.

We’re pissed about exactly the same things the TEA party started being pissed off about – corporate welfare. They see the ‘problem’ as government itself. We see the ‘problem’ as corporate MONEY having far too great an impact on government policies.

We don’t see the rationale of giving huge tax breaks and subsidies to benefit already-wealthy folk, while there are folks working two and three jobs, and still not rising above the poverty level.

We don’t see how ‘free trade’ can possibly benefit American workers, when they then have to compete with third world sweatshops that don’t have ANY work-safety, environmental, or labor-negotiation regulations. The answer is NOT ‘free trade’ and a ‘race to the bottom’. I don’t WANT America to be just another third-world hell-hole with rampant pollution, and no right for laborers to peaceably assemble and collectively bargain for reasonable wages and safe working conditions.

THAT’s why these sorts of articles are all wet.

It’s not about ‘corporations’ per se. Again, we’re not anti-business. We’re anti-GREED. No, sorry Mr. Gekko, greed is NOT good. It’s about the current bastardization of what a ‘corporation’ is supposed to be. Originally, ‘corporations’ were created and destroyed solely at the whim of legislatures. Corporations were limited in the time of their duration and scope of their activities. They were NOT allowed to have any political influence whatsoever. They were always intended to perform some public-good (like build a road, or a harbor). A corporation which was found to be acting in any way contrary to the public interest simply had it’s charter canceled – the corporate death penalty.

See countability/history_corporations_us.htm l for more on that.


Posted by netizen_james | Report as abusive

“Yes, Apple’s products are … meant to make the customer’s life better, not worse.”

So are the product Walmart carries and Pfizer or a hundred other companies make. I guess you answered your own question. The Occupy protesters’ convictions ARE SHALLOW…they want more of the same as long as there’s REALLY GOOD product design.

Is it a wonder there is no more left wing in this country? The hue we’re seeing here is Republican-Lite, JUST LIKE OBAMA!

Posted by cmndx | Report as abusive

Well said, netizen_james! In the fairy-tale world of sound-bites, corporate “expectations”, and the media that supports them, there is no room for nuance, subtlety, or the notion of the “greater good.”

As a result they miss the point, the forest, and the trees.

Posted by EQReynolds | Report as abusive

So Apple’s products don’t have any fine-print (at least, I suppose that’s what “fine writing” means)? Tell that to anyone who’s tried to sync an Ipod that contains music originating from a mix CD (made from CDs that, by the way, they bought themselves).

All those evil banks and their mortgages to questionable borrowers (with all their pesky questions and “fine writing”), while certainly not in it for the altruism any more than Apple is, certainly were selling products intended to make their customers’ lives better — as I believe was the intention of the lawmakers who encouraged such loans before the 2008 meltdown. Or has the American dream of owning a home already been forgotten?

This really is pretty comical, as the article goes on praising Apple and Ben & Jerry’s, and demonizing the money-lenders that make it possible for every tiny startup business – including these two angels, at one time in their sainted existence – to start up in the first place.

Posted by DallasWriter | Report as abusive

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