No Billionaire Left Behind: Satirical Activism in America

No Billionaire Left Behind: Satirical Activism in America

No Billionaire Left Behind: Satirical Activism in America

No Billionaire Left Behind: Satirical Activism in America


Growing economic inequality, corporate influence in politics, an eroding middle class. Many Americans leave it to politicians and the media to debate these topics in the public sphere. Yet other seemingly ordinary Americans have decided to enter the conversation of wealth in America by donning ball gowns, tiaras, tuxedos, and top hats and taking on the imagined roles of wealthy, powerful, and completely fictional characters. Why? In No Billionaire Left Behind, Angelique Haugerud, who embedded herself within the "Billionaires" and was granted the name "Ivana Itall," explores the inner workings of these faux billionaires and mines the depths of democracy's relationship to political humor, satire, and irony.

No Billionaire Left Behind is a compelling investigation into how satirical activists tackle two of the most contentious topics in contemporary American political culture: the increasingly profound division of wealth in America, and the role of big money in electoral politics. Anthropologist and author Angelique Haugerud deftly charts the evolution of a group named the Billionaires-a prominent network of satirists and activists who make a mockery of wealth in America-along with other satirical groups and figures to puzzle out their impact on politics and public opinion. In the spirit of popular programs like The Colbert Report and The Daily Show, the Billionaires demonstrate a sophisticated knowledge of economics and public affairs through the lens of satire and humor. Through participant observation, interviews, and archival research, Haugerud provides the first ethnographic study of the power and limitations of this evolving form of political organizing in this witty exploration of one group's efforts to raise hope and inspire action in America's current political climate.


Ours is the age of billionaires. From a mere dozen in the early 1980s to more than a thousand today, their numbers have surged along with their influence. the world’s most prosperous individuals earn incomes that exceed those of entire nations. For the rest of us, such riches are a dream. “That’s the state to live and die in! … R-r-rich!,” proclaims Mr. Boffin in Charles Dickens’s novel Our Mutual Friend. the philosopher Seneca, however, thought otherwise, declaring two thousand years ago: “A great fortune is a great slavery.” If he was right, who will free the billionaires?

“Leave No Billionaire Behind!” the placard caught my eye as I scanned the crowd assembled on Central Park’s Great Lawn. That Sunday morning in the park, women carrying parasols and clad in elegant gowns, tiaras, and satin gloves, and men in tuxedoes and top hats or Great Gatsby-like lawn-tennis whites, mingled against the backdrop of New York’s skyline and a blue summer sky. Some played croquet and badminton, while others sipped champagne from fluted glasses (Figures I.1, I.2, I.3). Famous photographers snapped their pictures, journalists interviewed them, tourists and locals ogled them. Were they celebrities? Consider their names: Ivan Aston Martin, Iona Bigga Yacht, Phil T. Rich, Alan Greenspend, Robin Eublind, Meg A. Bucks, Lucinda Regulations, Tex Shelter, and Noah Countability, among others. and their signs:

“Corporations Are People Too”
“Privatize the Park: Keep off the Grass”
“Widen the Income Gap”

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