True-school underdogs transcend barriers with irresistible narratives of overcoming ludicrous obstacles placed before them by the powers-that-be. This is not to say that they can't come, like Barack Obama, from Harvard University, as the own list below explains. Nor does it mean that they need to bury themselves in suits and ties and slut around with the mainstream media.
In fact, their narratives are often so powerful that the mainstream media comes to them. So let us dispense with the media's hyperreal electives and celebrate the triumphs of real-time underdogs sticking it to the powers-that-be in increasingly persuasive, and reported, ways and means. Starting with an insurrection taking place in the powers-that-be's back yard.
Occupy Wall Street
This much-needed grass-roots pushback against unrestrained high-flying trader graft, bonuses, bailouts and swaps stratagems started on September 17, with a paltry crowd of 1,000 concerned citizens. Originally proposed by the non-profit Adbusters
and enhanced by hacktivist pranksters Anonymous
, Occupy Wall Street
struggled for recognition from a mainstream media more addicted to fake grass-roots demonstrations featuring angry whites bankrolled by Republican vultures like Koch Industries
and like-minded parties. Despite the fact that the protests drew high-profile support from Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Roseanne Barr, Lupe Fiasco, Keith Olbermann and other conscientious cultural figures, it wasn't really until the New York Police Department arrested over 80 individuals ,and its repeat civil-rights offender Anthony Bologna
maced a bunch of penned-in women in the face. that the activist blowback to rampant bankster corruption caught serious fire. Thanks to the mindless militarism of the police, the protests have the media coverage they want to go along with the ideological logic they already had, and Occupy Wall Street promises to go further viral across the United States. Who knows how far it will go? It sure is nice to see Wall Street infested with something else other than its usually predatory hedgers.
Speaking of financial havoc, take the case of the unassuming California painter Alex Schaefer
, who once worked in texture mapping, modeling and lighting in the videogame industry, before turning his attention to painting full-time three years ago. In June, Schaefer began a series of paintings featuring banks on fire
, which soon began to result in visits from police officers and plainclothes detectives trying to ascertain if he was a terrorist. Schaefer, who's never had any run-ins with law enforcement and whose own accounts are held at a local community bank, shrugged it off while setting up shop at branches at various locations in Los Angeles with his easel and brushes, determined to capture bank fallout in his own artful way. In September, he literally took his perceived terrorism all the way to the bank when a German art collector, who wished to remain anonymous, threw down $25,000 to acquire Schaefer's oil painting
of a Chase branch on fire, in the process making him one of California's hottest artists (pardon the pun) to be visited by Homeland Security
. Being an underdog is an art, baby.
While we're on the subject of merciless bloodsuckers, have you heard the one about the vampire that beat Wells Fargo
? It's a timesuck, and goes a little something like this. Philadelphia homeowner and concert promoter Patrick Rodgers paid $180,000 for his house, but the bank wanted more so it calculatedly force-placed a million-dollar insurance policy on the property, which covered the bank but not the homeowner, on Rodgers' dime. That blatant injustice was stymied by what is often the most banal but underutilized institution in the entire United States, otherwise known as small-claims court. Rodgers sought succor in the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act
, which dictates that homeowners of suspicious real-estate schemes are able to demand that loan servicers respond to qualified written requests within 20-60 business days, or possibly face a fine of $1,000 and legal fees. After Wells Fargo repeatedly blew him off, Rodgers -- who, by the way, had fangs</em> permanently installed in his teeth and considers himself a pranic vampire
feeding off the life force of others -- took the bank to the court of small claims. After the fatcats didn't even show up, the court ruled for Rodgers, who summarily placed a sheriff's levy on his local branch's office furniture, computers, machines and more. Shortly thereafter, Rodgers got his $1,000 check
, plus most of his legal fees, and Stephen Colbert
nailed one of his most hilarious segments of all time. Cue the laugh track.
Warren and Maureen Nyerges
The Colbert Report
was soon matched in hyperreal hilarity by The Daily Show
, whose reporter John Oliver reported the curious case of Warren and Maureen Nyerges
, who like Rodgers were unfairly targeted by banks playing games well out of their league. When the increasingly toxic Bank of America
foreclosed on the Florida-based Nyerges, they were suitably shocked, given they had already paid cash for their house and didn't actually own a mortgage. Despite this glaring accounting error, not a single lawyer would take their case, save for a rookie named Todd Allen, who had been practicing law for a mere eight months. A judge demanded that Bank of America pay the Nyerges' legal fees, to no avail. So together with Allen, the Nyerges hired a two fully stoked repo men to repair to their local Bank of America branch and -- as Oliver so breathlessly shouted in Times Square, and even a Kid Rock concert, during his riotous Daily Show segment "The Forecloser"
-- proceed to "foreclose on a muthafucking bank!" For those who, unlike Bank of America, are good at math, that's three underdogs who got the last laugh. They're probably still laughing: As of this writing, Bank of America's stock price was barely hovering over $6, has lost over 50 percent of its value during this year and well over 85 percent in the last five years. Chances are pretty good that the Nyerges will still be in their paid house by the time Bank of America likely goes bankrupt this decade.
In early September, New York's Rochester police department chief James Sheppard officially came out
and more or less declared what everyone already knew for months: Emily Good should never have been arrested in the first place. For one, it's not remotely illegal in New York to publicly film several police officers searching one black man's car, especially when you're standing in your own front yard. Which is what Good was doing in June
, along with repeatedly restating her legal rights, when officer Mario Masic decided that he was going to arrest her for the labyrinthine charge of obstructing governmental administration. When the obviously doomed arrest blinked into the searching light of the following months, Sheppard's department tried everything they could think of, including ticketing the cars of Good's rallying supporters, before finally relenting and admitting the obvious mere months later: Filming cops enforcing what they consider to be the law is simply not a crime, and in no way endangers them. Good wisely refused to cooperate with the Rochester police department's investigations of its self-created snafu, leaving it instead to dangle and publicly profess its misdeeds while she hatches plans to sue the entire city for allowing Sheppard's officers to interpret the law as they please. Perhaps to preempt that public-relations nightmare, Sheppard replaced the division's head and even voided out his department's targeted ticketing of Good's supporters. But I somehow have the feeling that this particular underdog isn't done biting yet.
Finally one that some may find a cheat. After all, four principals in Sweden's lawsuit-plagued The Pirate Bay
, which describes itself as "the world's most resilient bittorrent site," were charged in 2009 with breaching copyright law
, sentenced to a year in prison and fined 30 million kronor, or about $3.5 million American dollars. Yet the increasingly popular file-sharing
, ahem, magnet-linking
site is still up and running, and celebrated its eighth anniversary
in September. A much-needed middle-finger to last century's dinosaur media ecosystem, The Pirate Bay gives those who can handle the comparatively simple task of learning how to download and view torrents
-- which are basically sliced and diced online text, audio and video files assembled in meshed bits on networks across the globe -- the opportunity to watch what they want, when they want, for free, and almost always with no commercials for crap they probably shouldn't be buying in the first place.
Plenty of artists, officials and other critics crow, but not about the technological innovation itself. Every major media player has outfitted itself with its own internet marketing and file-sharing systems, now that downloads have indisputably become the new century's de facto distribution model. No, what they really want is to control the programming and its delivery. Bit-torrent champions like The Pirate Bay are not only putting the lie to that ecosystem, they're surviving what should be death-blows on the way to a decade in existence. Even better, the Pirate Bay has inspired an actual political faction called the Pirate Party
, which has been racking up election wins and political power since its official founding in 2010. In September, Berlin's Pirate Party
, following up on similar success in Sweden in 2009, won 8.5 percent of the popular vote, seats in state parliament and even ousted Angela Merkel's political partners in government. Goliath, meet David.