The person behind the camera asked, “Hey Jeff, do you feel bad when your Amazon workers die in the warehouse?”
Bezos is seen in the video briefly making eye contact with the group of hecklers before being whisked away into a vehicle. However, before making his exit another heckler made a remark. “Hey Jeff, nice lazy eye,” a woman in the video says. “I wish money could fix that.”
In a follow up video that was uploaded shortly before the first one was removed earlier this week, the TikTok user defended these remarks. “Hoping this is starting a movement to see more billionaires getting heckled,” they said.
Besides the fact that making fun of someone based on their appearance or some physical abnormality is extremely distasteful, I would strongly argue that “bullying” of billionaires is actually a good thing.
There’s two main reasons for this: first, the rules of society that apply to everyone else simply do not apply to these people. They deserve to be knocked down a peg and be held accountable for their actions by the public if the government won’t do it. Second, normalizing this behavior would help break through the pervasive cultural myth in American society that billionaires are self-made and thus deserve our respect (because of the country’s protestant ethic). It is literally impossible to be a self-made billionaire.
Earlier this month, a ProPublica report revealed that American billionaires pay next to nothing (or sometimes nothing) in income tax while the rest of the country usually does pay something. For example, the piece, citing Internal Revenue Service (IRS) data, claims that Jeff Bezos didn’t pay anything in federal income taxes in 2007 or 2011, and that Tesla CEO Elon Musk, also one of the richest people in the world, paid no federal income taxes in 2018.
These guys have raked in so much cash by exploiting their workers, siphoning taxpayer money from government contracts or subsidies, pressuring governments to grant tax breaks and, in the case of Amazon, aggressively expanding, buying out competition and becoming the world’s largest online marketplace. During the Covid-19 pandemic, both Bezos and Musk have exponentially increased their wealth and entrenched their companies’ footing to the detriment of working class folks and small business owners – and the government either can’t or doesn’t want to do anything about it. This is why the likes of Bezos being challenged by people in public is actually a good thing, drawing additional attention to the state of things.
Take, for example, Amazon. There’s been countless stories through the years of labor abuses at the company, like not providing adequate lunch breaks, missing wages, favoritism, intimidation and even that famous “piss jugs” story. Just a few weeks ago, Amazon announced a ‘ZenBooth’ concept for its centers, which they say will allow employees a small room to watch videos about mindfulness but will probably end up just being a ‘ScreamBox.’
Basically, billionaires are the status quo; they are the actual “powers that be,” so making sure that someone like Bezos can’t go out into public without a sense of shame means that the status quo itself would be challenged.
After all, a huge part of what legitimizes our current economic system and distribution of wealth is the narrative that the average person can be a billionaire if they work hard enough, which is so statistically unlikely it may as well not even be true.
Now, obviously this is all just small ball when compared to what we really need, which is bettering the lives of working people through wealth redistribution. America needs a minimum wage increase and real wage growth; an ambitious infrastructure plan to make life more connected, affordable and ecological for more people; education reform to provide a free and quality education to every citizen; a universal health care system and a laundry list of other redistributive policies, all paid for by the wealthiest people.
But until all that happens, I fully support heckling these people in public to let them know that the time where they could abuse the working class and somehow still be heralded as leaders and innovators is over. It shows that people are waking up and seeing through the carefully curated veneers that these rich and powerful people have crafted for themselves.
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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.
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