“All protest is theater, so you better think about your protest as theater, and you better make it good theater.”
—Andrew Boyd (aka Phil T. Rich)
In the midst of the 2004 presidential race, an alliteratively titled protest franchise, one part guerilla theater and one part political demonstration, masqueraded its way into local and national headlines.
Nearly a decade later, and Billionaires for Bush, though mostly dormant, still finds itself on the tip of the media’s tongue (or on the keypads of the blogosphere) from time to time. In 2011, the group even made a brief renaissance during the Occupy protests—a movement that is, arguably, an inheritor to the Billionaires’ audacious precedent.
If you’re unfamiliar with the group, here’s a quick sketch: Billionaires for Bush, née Billionaires for Bush (and Gore), started at the turn of the millennium as a response to what some cultural commentators have described as “The New Gilded Age.” The Billionaires protested the increasing income inequality and the role of money in politics, among other things—all while gnawing on gigantic phony cigars, and sporting cubic zirconia-encrusted tiaras.
The distinctive angle that the Billionaires brought to their demonstrations was performance: protesters assumed the roles (and garb) of bogus billionaire personalities, each taking a unique nom de parodie, all of which read like thinly-veiled Mad Gab cards: Phil T. Rich, Lucinda Regulations, Monet Oliver de Place, and so on. Throughout the course of their demonstrations, protesters committed themselves with Colbert-like fortitude to their respective and rapaciously wealthy characters, even while bantering with journalists and passersby.
What began as a month-long peek into the group’s inner workings became a decade-long study for Angelique Haugerud, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Rutgers University and Editor of American Ethnologist. Her recently launched book, No Billionaire Left Behind provides a political and socio-economic context for the group’s messaging and, perhaps most importantly, their chosen medium: satire.
In conjunction with Director Joe Locarro and Suspension Productions, Angelique Haugerud gathered some of the most visible and active faux billionaires to produce a 28-minute documentary offering a rare earnest look at the Billionaires’ political enterprise (which you can view in full below):
"Fans of Stephen Colbert's satirical comedy [will be charmed], while grassroots organizations from any political bent will appreciate Haugerud's analysis of the efficacy of parody and image marketing."
You can read Haugerud's full Introducion to No Billionaire Left Behind online. Also, as part of our Holiday Sale, No Billionaire Left Behind is 30% off the list price through the end of the year ($24.95, now $17.46). Use promo code HOLIDAYS13 when you order online to redeem the offer.