Occupy! At CPAC
by Jo Freeman
Occupy! was a pervasive presence at the 39th annual Conservative Political Action Conference, held in Washington, D.C. on February 9-11.
In his kick-off speech on Thursday, Al Cardenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union which sponsors CPAC, gave the movement five paragraphs. [see sidebar] Seven minutes into Sarah Palin’s closing speech on Saturday she was interrupted by a dozen Occupiers yelling "mic check." They were escorted from the ballroom while the audience yelled "USA, USA, USA" — a standard response at Republican rallies to drown out verbal disruptions. Once off the hotel grounds they read the statement they had not been able to read inside.
In between there were three demonstrations outside the conference hotel, zap actions inside, repeated referrals to Occupy by conference speakers, and a couple of panels inspired by five months of occupations all over the country.
Thursday morning, Vinnie Vernuccio of the Competitive Enterprise Institute told a hundred people who had come to hear about "The Return of Big Labor" that "Occupy is targeting this panel because they are afraid of you." He made a reference to what was going on outside, as he attacked unions for spending dues on politics rather than representation. That day, nothing was going on outside. The unions were marching on Friday and OccupyDC was marching on Saturday.
Two hours later Citizens United Productions hosted a "Blogger Briefing" on its upcoming films. The only one promoted in the two-hour "briefing" was Occupy Unmasked, which is still in production.
CUP is the documentary film production and marketing arm of Citizens United, which promotes conservative causes. CU sued the Federal Election Commission after the FEC deemed a 2007 film critical of Hillary Clinton to be an election communication which could not be publicly distributed within 30 days of the 2008 Democratic primaries.
When CU v. FEC was decided by Supreme Court a year ago, five Justices said there could be no limits on election expenditures by corporations and unions as long as they were made independently of candidates’ campaigns. This led to the formation of "superPACs" which have poured millions of dollars into the 2012 election. A different CPAC panel celebrated this decision.
The audience gawked as three men wearing Guy Fawkes masks and black capes marched up the aisle to the front of the room. They weren’t Occupiers but the producer, director, and one narrator of the film. The Guy Fawkes mask is worn in demonstrations by some Occupiers and has become symbolic of the movement.
Between two showings of the movie trailer, panelists described Occupy as "dangerous" and the movie as "scary." "This is a war movie" they said repeatedly. Occupy is portrayed as "Obama’s shock troops," whose job is to promote the idea that "income inequality" is bad. In order to tell "the true story of the radicals behind the Occupy movement" two of the panelists went undercover to get footage and quotes. CUP is looking for more, providing an e-mail address for it on the film’s webpage.
What they didn’t say but was obvious from the trailer, is that Occupy Unmasked is a campaign film, as was the 2007 Hillary: The Movie. The movie makers juxtapose scenes of violent property destruction next to footage of President Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi seeming to make positive statements about Occupiers. The trailer also manages a dig at Michael Moore and the "liberal media."
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