The Rich White Kid Behind #OWS’s 1% Meme

The #Occupy Wall Street movement isn’t the spontaneous response it’s purported to be. It has been tactically planned for months but more than that, the specific themes have been developed for years and years. Few of the people showing up to the marches or direct actions are aware of just how much work went on behind the scenes – just as people showing up to a baseball game or concert don’t see what happens backstage, they just show up for event that’s been prepped for them.

Get real for a second, though. Why would people all of a sudden start talking about “the 1%” or “Greed” and putting it on their signs? It’s very specific phrasing. Where did it come from?

Well, blame it on me a little, actually. I helped start the ‘War on Greed’ about three years. I was funded by the institutional left and Big Labor. But more on that some other time.

Meanwhile, I didn’t know the origins of the ‘The 1%’ or ‘99%’ meme until just last night. That dates back to 2006 or so with a documentary called The One Percent that was put together by a rich, white inherited-wealth millionaire named Jamie Johnson. One of the heirs to the Johnson & Johnson fortune, guilty rich boy Johnson currently fights the man by writing a column called The One Percent for the revolutionary periodical Vanity Fair. His first film was called Born Rich and that about sums the Johnson oeuvre.

Here’s the trailer. You’ve also note it’s presented by Cinemax / HBO. Boy, HBO loves attacking ‘The Rich.”

The One Percent is streaming on NetFlix or the whole thing is free on YouTube. It’s worth watching, even though it’s bad because it explains so much. It’s only 80 minutes long and pretty much every theme you’re seeing played out in the streets right now was laid out in Johnson’s film.

His basic premise is that it’s not fair that some people inherited money and some people didn’t. He shows how some rich people use the government to get rich and his vague solution is…more government. Famed free market economist Milton Friedman abruptly ends his interview with Johnson at one point and it’s completely justified.

Jamie Johnson himself is possibly the best case against inherited wealth since Paris Hilton’s sex tape. His film is an obvious attempt to work out issues with his own father, who is shown on camera a number of times asking the younger Johnson to leave him out of the film. But this is an ego project for Johnson, who makes sure to include a lot of pointless shots of himself looking earnest and his clunky narration oozes a need to be taken seriously.

Watching the film, it’s clear that Johnson has no idea at all how wealth is created. He’s created a fictional filmic world of poor people who have no chance to get ahead and rich people for whom money appears magically. And why not? It appeared magically for Johnson and he really really wants you to know how unfair that was.

I doubt many of the protesters at #Occupy events have seen The One Percent but this film is a significant chunk of the intellectual basis of their movement.  Maybe he could hire them all as extras for the HBO version of Occupy Wall Street.


  1. Gee, if he feels that badly about inheriting wealth, why not donate all/most to charity? Or even to the US gubbermint to their “reduce the debt” fund? Or does he want us to believe that somebody is pointing a gun at his head, demanding he “suffer” his unearned inheritence silently? Really, like Buffett, these people are all a bunch of hypocrites.

  2. and one really rich old white man has a hand in it too….three guesses….hint: he was born in hungary.

  3. If he feels so damn guilty then give all his money away and get a friggin’ job. give it to me you schmuck, I promise to give it all away in less than 3 months.

  4. This film is a great argument for the death tax.

  5. I really wish rich people would stop feeling guilty. I’m not losing sleep over their money. I just want an opportunity to have a go at making my own money and then keeping it. Rich losers who want the government to come take their money so that they can atone their sins have issues and I wish they would leave the rest of us out of their “therapy.”

  6. Guilt can only be assuaged by the excoriation of those deemed guilty.

  7. So if he feel’s that guilty, why doesn’t he just give it all away and start over from scratch? I mean what’s wrong with working third shift in a meat packing plant or spending the rest of his life at Wal-Mart? Perhaps he’d actually learn the value of money. He certainly didn’t learn it from his family.

  8. Has he considered giving his money away to make it all really, really fair?

  9. And… if he gives it away – can I have some? I need a new roof.



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