TheDC’s Jamie Weinstein: Occupy Wall Street’s greedy celebrity hypocrites

Jamie Weinstein Senior Writer
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Amid the public defecators, the American haters, the exhibitionist masturbators, the serial sexual predators, the outspoken anti-Semites, the socialists and the misguided do-gooders of Occupy Wall Street are the Hollywood hypocrites.

You have Susan Sarandon, Michael Moore, Princeton professor Cornel West, Russell Simmons, Rosanne Barr, and the list goes on.

They have all joined the “occupiers” in support of fighting greed. But by any definition, they epitomize it.

Not that there is necessarily a problem with greed. Greed, if defined as acting in one’s self interest in the pursuit of material goods, can be enormously important and beneficial. It makes our economy work. It motivates entrepreneurs to create inventions and innovations that make our lives easier and more enjoyable.

But the rank hypocrisy of these celebrities is a bit much to bear. Take Cornel West, for instance.

I like West. He is willing to debate people he disagrees with, which is a sign of intellectual engagement, and he does so with flair. But his histrionics over “corporate greed” seem a little over the top considering he commands between $30,000 to $50,000 for a speech, according to the International Speakers Bureau.

That’s an astounding figure. I hardly begrudge him for demanding such an exorbitant fee, of course. If people are willing to pay it, God bless him. But to go around lambasting others for greed when you are demanding $1,000 a minute to speak takes some gall.

Susan Sarandon and Rosanne Barr have lent their support by visiting Occupy Wall Street’s protests and speaking out for its cause, while George Clooney and others have more passively backed the protests in interviews. (RELATED: Moore won’t admit he’s part of the ‘1 percent’)

While it is difficult to glean exactly what Occupy Wall Street’s main gripes are — after all, many of their supporters tend to be preliterate — one clear point of contention is the high rate of compensation CEOs earn, compared to the average worker. But I have never heard Clooney or Sarandon complain about the high rate of compensation top-market actors receive compared to garden-variety struggling thespians.

According to one recent report from the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies, the income gap between an average CEO and an average worker is about 325 to 1. George Clooney has made as much as $15 million for a single film. Maybe more. That is more than 325 times the wage of an average American and probably even a greater multiple over the the average working actor’s wages.

And I remind you, that is for a single movie.

I wonder when Clooney will begin to start spreading the wealth around to reduce income inequality among actors? Can anyone say Occupy the Clooney Lake Como villa?

Kanye West visited Occupy Wall Street for a day, wearing a $300 t-shirt and numerous gold chains. If we can agree on one thing, we can agree that nothing represents the 99 percent quite like the singer of “Gold Digger.” But in fairness, he was brought to the protest by hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, so perhaps he was just tagging along and not there to lend his own endorsement.

Simmons, who is one of the movement’s loudest celebrity supporters and is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, owns a debit card company. In other words, he is a part of the very Wall Street the protesters have supposedly come out against. But somehow he doesn’t see any conflict between his public position and his private profit.

Let me be clear: I am not a particularly big fan of Wall Street. The financial industry has made many mistakes and there are many reforms that probably should be implemented — including the re-imposition of the Glass–Steagall Act. But the protesters aren’t ordinary Americans enraged by a sudden onslaught of corporate greed. They are more often than not political radicals. I know their kind: I used to see them on my college campus trying to live our their parents’ 1960s.

Yet celebrity activists prance to their protests in their finest clothes, undeterred by the radicalism of the movement. They declare their solidarity and their rage at the villainous one percent before hopping into their limos or on their private jets, en route to their next cocktail party or foreign movie festival. Fine with me, but let’s at least acknowledge the bad optics and the hypocrisy.

Between the recurring rapes and regular violence, I suppose celebrity hypocrisy is, in the end, the least of the “occupy” movement’s image problems.

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