Fearless Girl and the Woke Oligarchs of “1984”

It is a sign of the times when people get this excited over a publicity stunt orchestrated by a transnational advertising corporation for a multi-trillion-dollar Wall Street behemoth.

The Fearless Girl, a bronze statue that mysteriously appeared in front of Wall Street’s famous Charging Bull, is being hailed as a wonderful work of political art in celebration of International Women’s Day. Behind this piece of creative activism is the advertising giant McCann-Erickson, a company that boasts of “award-winning work” for other enlightened superbrands, such as Camel, Nestlé, Bacardi, Mastercard, and Coca Cola. Their client, State Street Global Advisors, is one of the world’s biggest investment management companies, known for multiple lawsuits for its mishandling of pension funds, including a class-action for investing in mortgage-backed securities and other shady debt instruments in the lead-up to the financial crisis. They also have billions invested in the Dakota Access Pipeline.

This is the essence of present-day liberalism: We don’t need to bring an end to a plutocracy that raids people’s savings, kicks families out of their homes, and gets rewarded for bringing the global economy to a screeching halt. Nor do we need to worry about a government that solely represent that class, exporting violence abroad and imposing austerity at home. No, what we need is a more inclusive, diverse oligarchy. This is the same ethos that’s exemplified in the movement spearheaded by female aristocrats in Britain for their right to an obscene inheritance of wealth, land, title, and status that currently goes to their equally undeserving male siblings.

As Shuja Haider of Viewpoint Magazine put it in a recent discussion on Chapo Trap House, while the extent of what the Democratic Party has to offer is simply a diversified ruling elite, this goal has a flip side to it: Liberals would likely be satisfied “if the demographic of poor people was just racially evenly distributed, at the same rate as the general population.” In other words, “Let’s diversify the poor!”

The future world fantasized by centrist Democrats bears an almost comical resemblance to the dystopian class system in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. As the fictional historical account within the story puts it, the totalitarian society of Oceania has a ruling elite that is all the more powerful precisely because its powers and privileges are not explicitly hereditary:

“Nor is there any racial discrimination, or any marked domination of one province by another. Jews, Negroes, South Americans of pure Indian blood are to be found in the highest ranks of the Party, and the administrators of any area are always drawn from the inhabitants of that area. In no part of Oceania do the inhabitants have the feeling that they are a colonial population ruled from a distant capital. – – Its rulers are not held together by blood-ties but by adherence to a common doctrine.”

Rigidly hereditary aristocracies, as the book notes, are often short-lived compared to “adoptive organizations”, like the Catholic Church. This point was not lost on the rulers in Orwell’s novel:

“In the crucial years, the fact that the Party was not a hereditary body did a great deal to neutralize opposition. The older kind of Socialist, who had been trained to fight against something called ‘class privilege’ assumed that what is not hereditary cannot be permanent.”

Like the Inner Party of Oceania, a woke oligarchy will be more acceptable to the masses — as exemplified by our current celebration of Wall Street board rooms that fight for women’s right to raid our pension funds.


[Related article: The Marxists of Goldman Sachs]

(Photo credit: Alex Milan Tracy/Sipa USA)

9 thoughts on “Fearless Girl and the Woke Oligarchs of “1984”

  1. Seems that most works of ART are pretty far removed from the ARTIST. (I’m a musician – 180° different – live music 100% connected to the guy/gal playing the notes in real time).
    Viewing the girl facing the bull – in the context of our new president & his so-called regieme – and in light of the consciousness of Womans’ Month, etc – one takes in the art as a representation of DEFIANCE, David and Goliath.
    Few, besides this author knows (or cares) who PAID the artist. Their sins (real or imagined, depending on your point of view) do not transfer to the art.

    1. I’m a musician too, and I very much disagree with you here. The question is not primarily about where the money comes from — it’s that both the function AND content of this so-called work of art are in its whitewashing of the crimes of Wall Street, which are totally antithetical to its pretense of fighting for equality. We can listen to Palestrina, say, without thinking of him being patronized by the Catholic Church: the music works in its own right regardless. A random, kitschy bronze statue of a little girl would not elicit any reaction whatsoever if the public weren’t so enchanted by what the work is supposedly saying.

      You seem to claim that the context doesn’t matter, but your own interpretation is very political, too: defiance in the age of Trump, etc. Trump and these folks — who are projecting a friendly, enlightened image with this statue — belong to the very same class of people, who get away with murder and spread life-destroying neoliberalism around the planet.

      I’m assuming you wouldn’t consider this Coca Cola commercial from the ’70s to be just a song, and its message just one of solidarity?

    2. “Few, besides this author knows (or cares) who PAID the artist. Their sins (real or imagined, depending on your point of view) do not transfer to the art.”

      Bullshit. Context, intent, authorship and history, these matter.

      The fact that most are clueless and careless bolsters his argument. Not yours. That’s how we are played, how you were played.

      “imagined”

      FFS

  2. This country is struggling against many widely varied types of injustice at the present time. A statement regarding one form of injustice does not negate the existence of all others. Gender inequality is real. That doesn’t mean economic injustice, racial injustice, or any other problems don’t exist, aren’t important, or aren’t being addressed with equal (or greater) efforts. This is a statue. It is of a girl. It was placed on International Women’s Day, a time when people would take particular notice of it and the surrounding issues. The girl is not depicted as wealthy or poor. To say, for example, that the presence of this statue indicates that nobody cares about poverty as long is it is equally experienced by both male and female individuals is asinine and shows a level of ignorance that goes beyond willful, begging hyperbole.

    Furthermore, to indicate that liberals simply desire a more diverse oligarchy is an excellent indicator that the author has neither observed the country’s current resistance movement fighting for economic justice, nor discussed the topic with the kinetic liberal population. At least, not without covering his ears and hummmng really loud to keep from inadvertently hearing something that would infringe upon his chosen realty.

    1. At least, not without covering his ears and hummmng really loud to keep from inadvertently hearing something that would infringe upon his chosen realty.

      Funny you should end with that, seeing as you’ve managed to read the entire article and miss every point I make.

      A statement regarding one form of injustice does not negate the existence of all others. Gender inequality is real.

      Agreed. That’s exactly why it is reprehensible to exploit the fight for gender equality in an effort to whitewash crimes that directly contribute to the oppression of women. Wall Street and neoliberalism are not compatible with that struggle in any way — only, as Jillian Steinhauer puts it in this excellent post, with “fake corporate feminism”:
      http://hyperallergic.com/364474/the-sculpture-of-a-fearless-girl-on-wall-street-is-fake-corporate-feminism/

      Here’s a similar example that I’ve written about before: After the Charlie Hebdo massacre, we saw world leaders, arms interlocked, marching through the streets of Paris “in defense of free speech”. Just one problem: they represented countries with appalling records on freedom of expression — France itself being one, actively cracking down on speech the government dislikes even as this public statement was taking place. If you actually care for civil liberties, there is no option but to condemn this kind of fake concern as a cynical effort to divert attention from one’s own crimes. There’s no grey area — it is not a valuable symbolic gesture but the opposite, an active affront to the struggle for free expression and civil liberties.

      Same with the Fearless Girl. To make this media stunt even more offensive, State Street itself has a miserable track record on women in leadership positions. But even if we forget about that, even if we accept their objective at face value — i.e., more women in the boardroom for a more efficiently led company — how is that a worthy objective? This is a corporation that has gambled people’s pension savings and is helping to pollute the planet. I don’t want it to be more efficient.

      Furthermore, to indicate that liberals simply desire a more diverse oligarchy is an excellent indicator that the author has neither observed the country’s current resistance movement fighting for economic justice, nor discussed the topic with the kinetic liberal population.

      The extent to which identity politics have been hijacked by the center-left (i.e., liberals) to divert us from any actual leftist, progressive objectives is a very real problem. We have no real opposition in this country. #TheResistance, which you seem to be excited about, is a sad joke. Pick any metric — how hot the planet is, how poor the poor are, how rich the rich are, you name it — and the trend is the same under all administrations. Democrats already seem hell-bent on losing in 2020 with exactly this type of garbage: no actual policies to help people who suffer, but lots of symbolic gestures to sugarcoat their neoliberal policies of the “GOP light” variety. Even now, even still.

      Here’s another worthwhile read that connects this type of propagandistic obfuscation to the real world, by Margaret Corvid:
      https://theestablishment.co/why-the-fearless-girl-statue-on-wall-street-is-full-of-bullshit-1972ef1f1daf#.sc0vxykpq

      I have to admit, the angry communications I’ve received for refusing to swoon over this piece of corporate PR speaks to how amazingly good at their job the ad agency is.

      1. Ilari, I frequently hear a phrase for what you’re driving at: “virtue signaling”. This statue and the entire campaign around it strikes me as just such virtue signaling. It’s an attempt to say, “I like the idea of the moral in question”, so that people sharing that moral value will perceive you as being “on their side”. This Fearless Girl campaign is designed to fill viewers with a warm fuzzy feeling that is associated with Wall Street. Presumably among younger viewers who have yet to form coherent ideas about Wall Street, this publicity stunt could fill that conceptual void with vague positive feelings. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone behind this is hoping young future voters will see this and build a positive psychological association with Wall Street and thereby be less receptive to any criticism of Wall Street practices upon reaching voting age.

      2. Yes, agreed. I’ve been angrily and repeatedly told that “little girls don’t think of capitalism when they see the statue” — but, as you write, it affects the way they will think of Wall Street as they grow up. It’s not a coincidence that propaganda is so often aimed at, and uses, children.

        Fully agree with your point about virtue signaling, as well. Politics in most people’s everyday lives in the US has devolved almost entirely into this type of symbolism. There’s a point at which even the idea of virtue fades into the background and the sloganeering becomes purely tribal. In a couple of Twitter attacks after this post, in the absence of any coherent argument, I was called not only a “sexist” and “bigot” but eventually also “racist”. Why? Because in tribal signaling, words have barely any meaning left: epithets for bad people are mutually interchangeable, as are those for “Our Gang”.

        I wrote a short comment on this during the primaries, titled “Bullshit as Signaling”:
        https://limitedhangoutblog.com/2016/03/11/bullshit-as-signaling/

        Apropos, another reader quoted this very apt passage, not from “1984”, but from Huxley’s “A Brave New World”:

        All the traditional names, all the hallowed slogans will remain exactly the what they were in the good old days. Democracy and freedom will be the theme of every broadcast and editorial; but democracy and freedom in a strictly Pickwickian sense. Meanwhile the ruling oligarchy and its highly trained elite of soldiers, policemen, thought-manufacturers and mind-manipulators will quietly run the show as they see fit.

  3. I read the Obama the Conservative PDF that tracked Obama’s words and actions through 2013. I have long wanted to see a compilation like yours. Thank you. I’m glad I could connect with your blog. I’m a fan now. This piece fit in well after reading the Obama’s record. It reminded me that the Obama campaign won an advertising award for the best marketing campaign. After the last election season and subsequent protests, Wall Street is getting nervous and this is the result. They are trying to market themselves to the Occupy crowd with this defiant Pippi Longstockings knock off. They think it’s a fashion that can be copied and co-opted. It’s as clueless as it is cynical.

    1. Thank you — I appreciate it! This is a good point. The reason I wrote about the Fearless Girl was because, quite like Obama’s lofty, empty rhetoric, it exemplifies everything that’s wrong with contemporary liberalism. We co-wrote a short parody piece on the same theme during Clinton’s presidential campaign, when Michelle Obama “evolved” from criticizing Hillary Clinton for not being able to keep her husband from cheating on her (2008), to claiming that the Democrats are all about women’s rights (2016):
      https://limitedhangoutblog.com/2016/10/16/michelle-obama-gives-brave-speech-on-saudi-womens-rights/

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