Boob Jubilee: The Cultural Politics of the New Economy
by Thomas Frank and Dave Mulcahey
A review by Gerry Donaghy
Oh, what a difference a day makes. Ten years ago, folks were heralding the arrival
of the Internet and the fortunes it would create. But, like that great national
round of binge drinking that was the 1920s, the euphoria was impossible to sustain.
This time around, people weren't throwing themselves out of windows; instead,
there were pity pieces on the front page of the Wall Street Journal about
Internet high-rollers whose fortunes had tanked.
These people were being paraded around like the new Tom Joad: nouveau riche
who had staked their futures on the paper wealth of stock options, only to find
that the cashier at Wal-Mart was probably more financially solvent. Out-of-work
web programmers turned to panhandling, holding signs that read "will program
In the aftermath of the New Economy's implosion, nobody seems to be willing
to step up and state the obvious: a lot of bad advice was given and nobody is
willing to say that they messed up. Even the round of corporate scandals that
have recently arisen have been pushed to the back pages of the business section.
Now that the Dow is back up over ten thousand, and pundits are commenting on
the rise of the GDP and the decrease in jobless claims (made without mention
of the fact that much of the reduction has come from people whose benefits have
expired), the time is right to revisit the Chicken Littles who told us the sky
was falling all those years ago. Thomas Frank and his cohorts at the Baffler
have spent the last decade or so telling anybody who would listen that the new
economy was built on some pretty shaky foundations. In Boob Jubilee,
they collected their cleverest, most prescient writings. Like almost every book
on politics and culture, I don't agree with all the sentiments, but there is
a good deal of food for thought contained within. Whether they are discussing
the economic fallacies of the dotcom billions, Republican hypocrisy in the gun-control
debate, the vanishing middle class, or the cultural politics of punk rock, the
authors of these essays state their cases with clarity and a refreshing lack
of what I call the "don't you feel stupid and guilty" factor that
a lot of political writing contains.