Wednesday, November 16, 2011
If You Can't Crush it, Commodify it
Looks like the rumors that Jay-Z and Rocawear were pulling their "Occupy All Streets" t-shirts are untrue. Turns out they were just sold out. What a coincidence; so did Jay-Z. The difference is he did it so long ago he's probably forgotten how it feels.
The best summation of Jay-Z's position in all of this was said by a Wall Street occupier a few days ago: "Jay-Z, as talented as he is, has the political sensibility of a hood rat... To attempt to profit off the first important social moment of 50 years with an overpriced piece of cotton is an insult to the fight for economic civil rights known as #occupywallstreet."
Russell Simmons has said that the insistence that none of the shirts' proceeds would go to OWS was "media spin," but there hasn't been much evidence to back up that defense. It's telling of the times we're in that the cache of Occupy has gotten so big that these shirts sell out, but it's even more telling that Jay-Z knows this and is unwilling to give any of it back to the grassroots.
It's somewhat appropriate that all this has taken place in the midst of a possibly coordinated assault on Occupy around the country. Not just the raid on Zuccotti Park in New York City, but in Denver, Portland, Philly and other places. Across the board, though these evictions may have been successful, their attempts at crushing Occupy itself have been failures.
Then there's Jay-Z's approach: market the revolution. Rebellion is always cool, and the response of the upper one percent is to find a way to profit off of it and attempt to sterilize it. He most definitely knows that this is his role.