Exclusively in the new print issue of CounterPunch
PARIS, THE NEW NORMAL? — Diana Johnstone files an in-depth report from Paris on the political reaction to the Charlie Hebdo shootings; The Treachery of the Black Political Class: Margaret Kimberley charts the rise and fall of the Congressional Black Caucus; The New Great Game: Pepe Escobar assays the game-changing new alliance between Russia and Turkey; Will the Frackers Go Bust? Joshua Frank reports on how the collapse of global oil prices might spell the end of the fracking frenzy in the Bakken Shale; The Future of the Giraffe: Ecologist Monica Bond reports from Tanzania on the frantic efforts to save one of the world’s most iconic species. Plus: Jeffrey St. Clair on Satire in the Service of Power; Chris Floyd on the Age of Terrorism and Absurdity; Mike Whitney on the Drop Dead Fed; John Wight on the rampant racism of Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper;” John Walsh on Hillary Clinton and Lee Ballinger on the Gift of Anger.
The New York Times Does Erin Brockovich

The Tits Make the Activist

by Michael Colby

I started to count the number of references to Erin Brockovich1s breasts in Austin Bunn’s biographical essay on her work in the New York Times1 Sunday Magazine ("Erin Brockovich, The Brand," April 28, 2002). Unfortunately, I got distracted and lost count after about a dozen. Brockovich, of course, is the paralegal who helped fight Pacific Power & Gas (PG&E) in the late 1990s and was immortalized by the movie that bears her name and starred the chirpy Julia Roberts.

But if you picked up the article to learn about Brockovich’s methodology and activist philosophy, you were shit out of luck. This was about tits. And Brockovich was all-too-willing to play along. How many activists, for example, would take a journalist on a clothes-shopping spree while being followed for a feature story? Brockovich, for one. In fact, the shopping spree come about after a trip to a bar for a "cranberry and vodka" (their first stop) and well before they got around to visiting "victims."

The smitten Bunn, even donning a name fit for the piece, couldn’t keep his mind of Brockovich’s breasts, bellybutton, and waistline long enough to provide much else about her life. Brockovich, after finding wealth and fame from her successful case against PG&E, is apparently still out there fighting the "bad guys," but Bunn could care a less about such trivial matters.

Here’s Bunn’s third paragraph of his essay, describing their trip to the clothing store:

"When she glides in, nearly an hour late, she heads immediately to the dressing room. She throws on a pair of blatantly age-inappropriate, low-slung denim pants and models them in the mirror. For most, this would be a private moment, but not for Brockovich. She pulls up her shirt and suspiciously eyes her miraculous waistline. She wants to know if the jeans reveal too much skin. ‘I don’t like my bellybutton showing,’ she says. ‘I really don’t.’ She looks magnificent in everything here, which makes choosing hard. ‘When I have vodkas-and-cranberries, I come home with all kinds of stuff,’ she says, twisting her hair into curlers that have been warmed for her. ‘I tell my husband, ‘Don’t let me shop when I’ve been drinking.’"

But then Bunn lets it all hang out when he springs this bit of verbiage on his readers: "We’re used to our crusaders rejecting style and sexuality for high seriousness, as if they were mutually exclusive. But Brockovich demands to be taken seriously with her Armani suits and her breast implants (and in some cases, yes, her bellybutton showing)."

Brockovich, of course, loves it. She even jumps at the chance to describe herself as "Ralph Nader with cleavage."

Welcome to the world of celebrity activists, where we’re all just a tit job away from victory.

Michael Colby is the editor of Wild Matters and welcomes comments at mcolby@wildmatters.org