Ice Cream Occupation

The New Yorker‘s April 23 “The Talk of the Town” feature included a piece on Ben Cohen, from Ben & Jerry’s, and one of his more recent publicity stunts for OWS. An educational-fair-use copy of this article is up on the wiki, under Occupy Wall Street Sources – I’m not linking directly so as to reduce unlawful redistribution. The most relevant parts are quoted below.

Cohen bought a van, called it the Illuminator and attached a Batman-like projector to it that would throw an illuminated Occupy Wall Street “logo” (a circle with “99%” in it) against any surface, and drove it through the streets of New York. He says that he has “this notion that mobile-vehicle promotions are really effective,” and that “you can spend thirty thousand dollars on a less than full-page ad in the Times, or you can spend that on an unusual, eye-catching vehicle.”

He and Marantz also describe how, early in the movement’s history, he visited Zuccotti Park to hand out ice cream and some of the protesters boycotted his visit, denouncing the Ben & Jerry’s corporation as part of the problem against which OWS is fighting. Cohen remarks that “I understand [their] point of view. All I can say is: the line for ice cream did not get any shorter.”

The rest of the piece addresses his efforts to “find one-per-centers for the ninety-nine per cent,” and raise money that is disbursed “like a foundation, funding projects on the strength of written proposals.”

I’m sharing this article because I think it would make good discussion for those focusing on the arts (what visual tactics have really been the most effective? why might that be?) and for those focusing on the contradictions/criticisms of the movement. How does bringing in the “one-per-centers” affect the movement? For example: if Cohen no longer has control over B&J’s – it was sold against his will in 2000 – then why bring B&J’s ice cream to the Park? Why not bring that of an independent vendor instead of banking on corporate brand recognition? Is this mentality a problem unique to wealthier participants or can it be seen on a broader scale? (What can be said of the people who had no problem consuming the ice cream? Can this mentality be seen in any of the international OWS protests? What about the way in which access to funding is controlled?) And so on.



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