Matt Stoller: A Very Political Oscars – “Not a single executive has gone to jail”

By Matt Stoller, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. His Twitter feed is

Obama had a brief appearance on the Oscars, and received no applause from an audience that surely would have treated him differently two years ago. The politics of the night belonged to Charles Ferguson, who won the Oscar for Best Documentary for Inside Job. He said at the end of his acceptance speech:

Forgive me, I must start by pointing out that three years after a horrific financial crisis caused by massive fraud, not a single financial executive has gone to jail and that’s wrong.”

Ferguson has a very mild manner, but he is utterly fearless. He wants prosecutions, and he used one of the biggest stages in the world to ask for them. Ferguson has gone after the Obama administration and spares no one, as when he called Eric Holder and Andrew Cuomo “partners in crime.

Ouch. There were several shout-outs to unions tonight, including the one by “Inception” cinematographer Wally Pfister. Backstage, he said:

“I think that what is going on in Wisconsin is kind of madness right now,” Pfister says. “I have been a union member for 30 years and what the union has given to me is security for my family. They have given me health care in a country that doesn’t provide health care and I think unions are a very important part of the middle class in America all we are trying to do is get a decent wage and have medical care.”

Hollywood was torn apart by a strike a few years ago, so this is not surprising.

Ferguson really stood up and made his case. It would be interesting if people started asking President Obama, Attorney General Holder, current New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, former Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, and others in power where they think he’s gone wrong.

Update (by Yves) 3:00 AM: Curious, no mention of Inside Job in the New York Times’ story on the Oscars, when they did mention the foreign language film, makeup and best score recipients.

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  1. paper mac

    “It would be interesting if people started asking President Obama, Attorney General Holder, current New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, former Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, and others in power where they think he’s gone wrong.”

    Do it up, chief. You’re the Roosevelt Institute fellow. How many of us have more a voice than you?

  2. John

    The Department of Justice should be closed since it’s obvious to all they are not doing their jobs.

    Let’s save the money in the federal budget. Holder can get his 99 weeks of unemployment then it’s out on the the streets baby.

  3. Paul Tioxon

    Sean Hannity, Limbaugh and O’reilly are all members of AFl-CIO union for tv and radio. Perhaps they need a right to work state to broadcast from so they won’t be oppressed by the union gulag masters.

  4. Dennis

    This was great, especially since JP Morgan ‘sponsored’ the Oscars and had a pretty disgusting “We are helping America by loaning it 10b this year and helping families stay in homes” ad.

  5. Jimbo

    Truly, it is a shame. The corporate CEO’s continue to give themselves bonuses that are larger than the GDP of many African countries. Goldman Sachs executives claim they are making money and deserve the raise, but it is because all the worthless paper they owned was bought by our government.

    I had great hopes for Obama, but the “Change” that he brought about is the same “Change” that we have had for years. He has shown that he doesn’t have the courage to stand up to business for the incredible crimes they have perpetrated against the people.

    1. Strata

      Jimbo, Obama has plenty of courage, backbone, spine, guts, etc. He is absolutely fearless in standing up for his constituents (Banksters, against the people of this country. He reserves a special vehemence for the lefty crowd that helped put him in office.

  6. psychohistorian

    I keep hoping someone can take us past the tipping point on this issue. As Pyschoanalytus in an comment to another posting, America has 3+ million in jail, more than any other country.

    It speaks volumes that 2+ years after the TBTF heist of trillions from the American public that none are in jail. I can understand not wanting to open the flood gates but the longer justice is delayed the bigger the adjustment period and process.

    What will it take to force capitulation at the top to end the moral and ethical hubris that challenges characterization at this point? The emperor and all associated haven’t had clothes on for years, so many sharks have been jumped that they may become an endangered species and so many people are spinning in their graves that there is thought of tapping them as an alternative energy source.

    Think of all the pain and suffering that continues to go on and on and on in the world because these sociopaths are in charge. We need to find a way to stop the madness.

    1. Paul Repstok

      Every day in Wisconsin is one more stone in the ship of state. That was one dumb arrogant play. Did they really forget that the police were union members and that the reserves are made up of working people as well??

      1. ex-PFC Chuck

        I’m still looking for a confirming link, but IIRC the police, fire fighter and prison guard unions were not included in the union-busting bill, Walker apparently thinking he could divide and conquer. It seems that didn’t work out so well.

        1. Francois T

          It didn’t work because police and firefighters know darn well that they would be next once the other public sector employees would be crushed.

          They can see who the Reichpubliscums are: a bunch a fanatical zealots who gladly slave for the ultra wealthy.

      2. Paul Tioxon

        The national security apparatus has been removed from domestic soil, is deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq, in great numbers and deployed in 669 bases throughout the world and at sea. When there were natural disasters, such as the Katrina hurricane, many states had understaffed national guard units, if any at all, because they were federalized and removed from America. It is hard to make power plays while the world is under armed insurrections in geo-politcally critical places like the OPEC Arab nations, you are fighting a foreign war, your economy has collapsed, and your tenuous hold is based control of a media to get people to see things your way, while that media is fragmenting and being trivialized and de-legitimated by new media of the smart phone and internet. The republicans do not have the support that their press clippings have led them to believe. You need more than astro turf for a political base.

        1. DownSouth


          I think that’s a pretty good summation.

          I get the feeling like there’s something big going on, kind of like in the late 18th- and early 19th-centuries when a series of revolutions shook both sides of the Atlantic. In a period of less than 100 years, after 300 years of colonial rule, all of the Americas, from Canada to Argentina, threw off the chains of traditional imperialism.

          It could be argued that some of the newly liberated colonies failed to improve the lot of their denizens. But others succeeded.

          It seems like now there’s a similar panatlantic push to throw off the chains of neoliberalism/neoimperialism.

          1. Nathanael

            That’s how it feels to me too, from my amateur studies of history.

            Of course, it’s confounded by the fact that something very, VERY big is happening — global warming and the associated mass extinctions — and so I think this is going to end up spiraling into a bigger series of historical events than anything in human history ever has. If humanity survives, this will be remembered as the most dramatic period of change in human history, ever, bar none.

  7. fresno dan

    I think people should go to jail too, but what is more disturbing to me (except for blogs) is the complete lack of questioning of our financial model.
    The expalnation appears to be somehow, some bizarre, unforseeable event, like a combination tsunami, hurricane, earthquate, landside, martian invasion just somehow happened to all the biggest fianancial institutions simultanerously. Despite overwhelming evidence, and logic that makes any other conclusion other than massive fraud impossible, it is now obvious that the US government believes the best policy is too keep the stupid and corrupt running the financial system of the US.

    “Update (by Yves) 3:00 AM: Curious, no mention of Inside Job in the New York Times’ story on the Oscars, when they did mention the foreign language film, makeup and best score recipients.”

    The problem isn’t the answers – its the questions that cannot be asked.

    1. attempter

      Same for the blackout on Wisconsin. And lots of other things.

      We need to understand that TPTB at the NYT, CNN, etc. are also among the criminals who belong in prison.

      Julius Streicher is the proper Nuremburg analogue.

      1. switch

        blackout on Wisconsin

        Wisconsin is a test for the internet kill switch and an upgrade of the Gulf oil spill media manipulation. Wisconsin protests are over and walker has already won.

        1. ScottS

          This was going on in the 90’s with the WTO protests in Seattle.

          The local news talked about looting and protesting, but never said what the protest was about. I had to find it out what was up using the interwebs.

          The silence was deafening. That’s how I became aware of the abject corruption of the MSM. Very disconcerting, having grown up on Woodward and Bernstein in All The President’s Men.

          Learning to read between the lines lets you know what’s going on. What isn’t said speaks volumes.

    2. Francois T

      “The problem isn’t the answers – its the questions that cannot be asked.”

      Thanks in good part to the Obama Administration that systematically refused to let anyone within their ranks to be interviewed for Inside Job.

      All these speeches, these promises during the 2008 campaign…LOL! The bastard was clever enough to know what and how to spew the best bullshit around, that is for sure.

      And the worse is…we’re gonna get a 2012 sequel of the same no-drama, since the Reichpubliscums have no one who can remotely have a chance to beat Obama.

      Another 8 years lost. I’m beginning to believe Chris Martenson is right; it’ll unravel before 2020 unless we seriously change directions.

  8. kievite

    It might be interesting to know that Charles Ferguson was behind the creation of FrontPage, which he sold to Microsoft.

    See High Stakes, No Prisoners : A Winner’s Tale of Greed and Glory in the Internet Wars – Hardcover (Oct. 13, 1999) by Charles Ferguson

    He was one of the first to got windfall from dot-com bubble :-).

    1. grayslady

      Ferguson did not benefit from the dot com bubble–he benefitted from creating a usable product, not a worthless website. Front Page was revolutionary: FP was to HTML what the first menu programs were to the early computers. Suddenly, with FP, you didn’t have to know HTML to compose a web page.

      1. kievite

        “Ferguson did not benefit from the dot com bubble–he benefitted from creating a usable product, not a worthless website. Front Page was revolutionary: FP was to HTML what the first menu programs were to the early computers. Suddenly, with FP, you didn’t have to know HTML to compose a web page.”

        That’s completly wrong. I admire Ferguson film efforts like anybody, but he sold company that “almost produced” an GUI-based WYSIWYG HTML editor (nothing more, nothing less) for $150 millions, if I remember correctly.

        FP was (and still is) a very good HTML editor. But not qualitativly better then competition like MacroMedia Dreamweaver (version 1.0 was released in Decemeber 1997). Some like Frontpage more, but your milange may vary — most Webmasters prefer Dreamweaver.

        And actually the main development happened in Microsoft without Ferguson (they refused to hire him). Randy Forgaard and, especially, Andrew Schulert were the technical minds behind Frontpage.

  9. DownSouth

    What’s the difference between Mexico’s pay-to-play criminal justice system and that of Mexico?

    I’d say very little, except in Mexico both white and blue collar criminals can pay-to-play, where in the U.S. it’s limited to white collar criminals, and the entry fee is substantially higher. But on both sides of the border, it’s justice for sale.

    Here’s the links to a video documentary in three parts that has English bylines which gives a pretty good snapshot of the Mexican criminal justice system:

    You might notice that the culture of the Mexican criminal justice system, although more acutely pathological than that of the U.S., is not a whole lot different. But the U.S. is certainly getting there.

    Though there are many common features, the pathology that U.S. criminal justice certainly has in common with Mexico is the grotesque double standard between those with political or economic power and those without. This double standard exists in spades in Mexico, just as it does in the U.S.

    1. DownSouth

      I might add that the result of the shared pathologies of the U.S. and Mexican criminal justice systems is that while untold resources are squandered prosecuting minor offenses, the real criminals go free.

  10. Sam Adams

    Why sould it suprise anyone that there is no mention of “The inside job” in the NYTimes. The paper is beholden to the financial interests and its financials aren’t what they once were. They know which side thier bread is buttered.

  11. Jack Rip

    Since 2000, punishment for acts against society has vanished. Clearly, both Bush and Obama have consciously decided to allow crimes such as war crimes, crimes against society and crimes stemming from excluding unions, the middle class and the poor from protection of the law.

    The main TV networks dropped the whole state of Wisconsin from their radar (I don’t see you therefore you don’t exist; this was done by the Democrats and led by Obama to the poor since 2008.) It has the feeling of Qaddafi and Mubarak leading this country and owning its media. (A Washington DC TV station reported that the protesters have left the WI capitol; never happened.)

    It’s difficult to envision reality change without either the country hitting rock bottom or resort to violence.

    1. Chocolate Covered Cotton

      It’s difficult to envision reality change without either the country hitting rock bottom or resort to violence.

      It does not look to me like an either/or situation. It looks like a cause/effect, which makes it a both/and situation.

  12. Dirk77

    Being a California boy, I have always been ambivalent about the film industry. However, unlike DC, whose sole purpose is to champion themselves as the solution to problems they themselves created, and Wall St., whose purpose is finding ways to rip off other people, people in the film industry actually produce a product that others find beneficial. So, hats off to Hollywood!

  13. Schofield

    There is little point hoping that an utterly corrupt political and economic system is going to do the right thing without a serious challenge to its power. Cudos though to Charles Ferguson for choosing to deflate the Oscars back-scratching love-fest a little bit.

  14. Jerry

    This is because government and the corp are in bed together..….This is really about (the people) versus (politician + lobbyist). In Wisconsin, this was made perfectly clear by Gov Walker’s supposed call with the Koch brothers (billionaires)…..The strategy is to distract people from this real issue……Distraction is almost always used (Remember in Egypt when the authorities tried to distract people into thinking the issue was stability…..) Where you agree with unions or not (which I have some problems with), it is time for the current worker bees and future worker bees to come together….the 1% already have 40% of our countries’ wealth…will we not respond as a cohesive until they have 80%)???????…

  15. Paul Tioxon

    Jeff Lurie, owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, produced inside job and gets front page treatment here. He and his wife are noted for their Hollywood biz credentials and in this city at least, for combining very Progressive Left politics, such as turning the entire Eagles Stadium into a wind and solar energy self sufficient electricity production site.

    For those who are both Eagles fans and Oscars fans, here’s the complete text of the reaction of Christina and Jeffrey Lurie to the Oscar win of Inside Job, the terrific nonfiction film about the financial collapse of 2007, that took the best documentary prize at the Oscars. The Luries are the executive producers:

    “The Academy’s recognition of Inside Job is a distinct honor. We are humbled by winning this Oscar and we are very proud of the outstanding work of Charles Ferguson, Audrey Marrs and the entire team associated with the movie. Our goal was to bring a fair and thoughtful presentation of the actions that led to the financial collapse and show how it has negatively impacted millions of lives across the globe,” said Jeffrey and Christina Lurie, Philadelphia Eagles owners and executive producers of Inside Job. “Many people are still suffering from this economic disaster and it is our hope that by understanding its root causes it can be better prevented in the future.”

    Read more:
    Watch sports videos you won’t find anywhere else

  16. bill

    Neither party can go after their fundraisers. Finance is so big and deep-pocketed, we have, as Simon Johnson pointed out, regulatory and political capture.

    Although better than the Republicans, was Obama really going to go after an industry that he was tapping to fill his administration and to which he will need to fundraise massively from?

    I’d just wish you could, on your ballot, not vote Dem. or Rep. but rather: Fossil Fuel/Banking party vs. Entertainment/Finance party

  17. scott

    Assuming the worker’s struggle in Wisconsin will continue, how about a “Spring Break in Wisconsin” movement among college and high school students to express solidarity and support and to then take the movement and union consciousness back home? Among other benefits, it will provide some preparation for the educating, organizing, agitating and strikes that will be necessary across the US in the near future.

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