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Shepard Fairey caught quite a bit of flak recently for making an Occupy Wall Street poster in the image of his famous Obama “Hope” design. That kind of thing is anathema to OWS, a movement that prides itself on not aligning with either political party. Fairey has publicly supported the movement; he told Gallerist NY that “The people from Occupy Wall Street aren’t rabble rousers. They think democracy has failed them and they are using rights that we theoretically have in this country, because they don’t have the power that corporations do, with lobbyists and other kinds of tools. It’s not a level playing field.”
But OWS’ers weren’t happy with the poster, which treads a little too far into the political mainstream for their taste.
A nameless OWS organizer wrote to Fairey:
Unfortunately, as it stands now, I myself and several other organizers cannot in any way be connected to this design. The 99% movement is wholly non-partisan and we have been repeatedly attacked as being a front for Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. Our movement is about uniting people, from all different walks of life and all different political viewpoints, against the global financial elite who have bought control of our government through campaign finance, lobbying and the revolving door.
As Obama has raised more money from Wall Street than any other candidate in history, it would make us naive hypocrites to support him under present circumstances. I have written many investigative reports on our economic crisis, I know the situation very well from a policy perspective. All hope was lost with Obama as soon as he picked Tim Geithner as his Treasury Secretary. He also made Larry Summers his lead economic advisor and Bill Daley his Chief of Staff. He even supported the reconfirmation of the Bush-chosen Fed chairman Ben Bernanke. You cannot have a worse group of people when it comes to the economic destruction of the US. Geithner, Summers and Bernanke have made a career out of exploiting the 99%.
I get everything you are saying. I don’t agree with all of it, but I appreciate it. I get that the Occupy movement is non-partisan. I see a conflict for you and the movement there. However, my poster is not in any way a re-elect Obama poster. I have zero contact with the Obama campaign. I am disappointed with many aspects of Obama’s presidency and I am far from an unconditional Obama supporter. The round logo I made is not Obama’s O logo. His O uses curved stripes and a white sun. The stripes in my 99% logo are straight. I saw my 99% logo as subverting his logo more than amplifying it. I wanted a patriotic frame for the 99% logo to assert that the Occupy movement IS patriotic. The use of the word HOPE is more saying that Occupy is the greatest Hope we now have, but it would be great if Occupy pushed Obama in the right direction. You may find any appeal to Obama to support Occupy as unrealistic, but I have always believed in working EVERY angle. I’ve called it the “inside/outside strategy” for many years. Outsider activism is where I come from, but outsider elitism is incredibly unhealthy because it excludes moderates.
Fairey still tweaked the poster to remove any overtly Obama-referencing stuff. Now it looks…well, pretty much the same, actually.