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Home / Articles / Opinion / 5 Spot /  Jesse Fruhwirth: OccupySLC
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Jesse Fruhwirth: OccupySLC

Journalist/activist on the movement

By Jerre Wroble
 Jesse Fruhwirth
Posted // November 8,2011 -

Journalist Jesse Fruhwirth left City Weekly this spring to operate a vegan hot-dog stand in downtown Salt Lake City. Fruhwirth previously reported for the Tooele Transcript Bulletin and Ogden’s Standard-Examiner and was twice a finalist in the local Society of Professional Journalists competition for best reporter. He lately has embraced Occupy Salt Lake and has co-written the serialized street play Why Isn’t Anyone Helping Her that will be performed free Nov. 14-18 at noon at various Main Street locations.

Did your time as a journalist prepare you for this new activist role?
I saw my journalism as a form of activism, as a way of creating a more perfect world. But some of the cultural conventions of journalism—where you have to play the middle man, the referee—were constraining. All those years, I always wanted to play the game rather than just referee. So I am really happy to be in the position where I can now. All my career, I tried to expose people who were working hard and playing by the rules and still getting screwed. Those make for compelling stories, as well they should. Largely, the Occupy movement embodies so many different humanitarian goals that so many disparate activist groups are fighting for. So maybe it is my journalism background that makes me value this movement so much because I’ve seen this sort of broad spectrum of inequality and unfairness. This is one of the rare movements that’s bringing them all together.

Have you thrown away a promising career?
As a member of the 99 percent, I was dealing with pretty significant burnout issues in my career. A lot of American workers are working harder than ever but not earning any more real wages than they did decades ago. It wasn’t so much a choice to leave journalism as a survival mechanism. Frankly, I’m angry about the state of my industry and that’s what prompts me to stand up and fight back.

Why angry?
This ridiculous myth that any service that can’t sustain itself in a competitive, for-profit capitalist system is basically worthless and should be allowed to die. We should recognize that news and information is the absolutely required “grease” to keep the wheels of democracy turning and those wheels have largely already shut down and the state of news in journalism is a contributing factor to that.

What do you say to those who sympathize with the Occupy movement from the sidelines?
I would ask them to think about what financial state they would be in if they or someone in their family all of a sudden had a very serious medical emergency. Most American families are one illness away from poverty. While the economic contraction for the American middle class has been going on for decades, it’s worse than ever and more and more Americans are more likely to slip and fall to bottom of the economic heap than pull themselves from their bootstraps and climb the ladder.

What’s surprised you most about the Occupy movement?
That people are ready for revolution [laughs]. I don’t know whether the Occupy Movement is the roots of a revolution, or when the revolution comes, we’ll trace it back to this moment. But I know that the system we have right now is headed for collapse, the American empire will implode, and the question is what will step in to replace it? Will it be something more egalitarian and beautiful or will it be something even more fascist and ugly? I see it as the 99 percent mission right now to establish an alternative route away from the fascist direction we’re currently heading.

 
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REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // November 12,2011 at 14:00 I think its interesting that Jesse and his Occupy cohorts think that they are part of the 99%. They're more like the 1% of the 99% and their ideals are hardly representative of the "99%". Am I a millionaire? No. Did I quit my job to become an "entrepreneur" because I was dissatisfied with the state of my profession? Not yet. But Im not going to blame the government or "fascists", im going to do something about it and its not going to be blogging from some tent. If the "Occupiers" reallly want to make a change, you gotta fight on the battlefield, not from the sidelines. Get yourself organized, market yourselves other than as a bunch of bratty hipsters with a false sense of entitlement, and do something. Form a nationally recognized organization, fund and support independent candidates across OUR nation and get your voice heard where it matters most. Get somebody in the building without breaking the windows, break the glass ceiling. Until people like Jesse wake up and realize its less about "the movement" and more about change, nothing will change.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // November 8,2011 at 22:03 So Jesse, if you're so mad about the state of your industry, go out and start an independent paper. Work 80 hours per week building it up, devote your life to it and in many years when it becomes highly successful and you start making a lot of money from all of your hard work and sacrifice, people will protest on the street and claim you don't deserve to be wealthy because they are not. As if they have some God given right to some of your fortune. There is a difference between ambition and greed. Just because someone is super rich doesn't mean they are a criminal; I believe Occupy needs to stop muddling this line. Direct the anger/passion towards those who have committed crimes, not simply everyone in the 1%

 

Posted // November 9,2011 at 18:19 - Lesser Bill,
Actually, I'm getting tired of paying taxes for the 40% of people that pay ZERO income tax and then get access to more of MY tax money to pay for their laziness. If you want "fairness" then that's a good place to start, not stealing money from somebody that has more than you. They have more than you because they either worked for it or inherited it, not steal it like you guys want to do.
The owner of the company I work for makes a lot more money than I do but I wouldn't change places with him in a million years. He lives in a multi-million dollar house and has a multi-million dollar vacation home. I know that he has mortgaged his house multiple times to keep business going in the early years. Some months when business is slow he doesn't take a income. He works 7 days a week. He has all the stress of being a business owner. His taxes have gone up more in the last few years than I make. You want to take more money out of his pocket? You do that and then I and many more employees of his lose their jobs. How does that help anybody? Think!

 

Posted // November 9,2011 at 13:49 - First I’ll respond to the other “Bill”, I’ll call him “Lesser Bill” so nobody gets confused. Lesser Bill, when you ask how do I think most of the 1% made their money, and you go on to seethingly say “More than I care to think about inherited it and have no plans to use it to lift up their communities or country.” WHO ARE YOU TO SAY THERE IS ANYTHING WRONG WITH INHERITING MONEY? It’s none of your business. It’s also none of your business if people use their money to “lift up their communities or country” or buy 10 yachts or do both. If your grandma dies and leaves you money, do I also deserve some? I mean, you don’t deserve it you’re just inheriting it right? You should be forced to give some of it away to a cause that I choose. I don’t trust you as an individual to make the moral choice on your own, so I will take some of the money and force you to give it away to something I see fit. Here’s a news flash for you, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and anyone else deemed acceptably super rich by YOUR standards, give their money away on their own accord, not because you force them to. Stop trying to police how people spend THEIR money, if Bill Gates someday chooses to stop giving, you have no right to step in and make them. I’m not saying that every uber rich person is a “good” person, I’m saying I have no right to make that judgment, and neither do you, especially based solely on the size of their salary.

Jesse,
I find it VERY VERY ironic that in this article you say
“As a member of the 99 percent, I was dealing with pretty significant burnout issues in my career. A lot of American workers are working harder than ever but not earning any more real wages than they did decades ago.” You left City Weekly to start your own business running a hot dog stand as a “survival mechanism”? Hmmm sounds to me like you were working really hard and not making as much money as you thought you deserved so you left for greener pastures. Sounds very capitalistic of you. “Survival” is a relative term. Maybe your idea of survival is a hot dog stand, a quaint duplex near 9th and 9th, a dependable car and enough money to raise a family with enough left over to help out your community. Maybe a CEO in New York worked hard all through high school to get a scholarship to a good college, stayed up late studying instead of partying and graduated top of their class so they could get into a good grad school, then put in 80 hours per week until someone finally realized they have what nobody else has, the skills to run a fortune 500 company. Now say they want to spend their money on 10 jets and 5 cars and 2 houses. Who are you to tell them that is immoral? If you’re so against the salaries given to the CEOs of these companies don’t support the companies. It’s as simple as that.
I’m glad you brought democracy into this discussion. Generally, a CEO’s salary is determined by a board of directors elected by the shareholders, these members of the board generally do not make “exuberant” salaries (under 80 thousand dollars if that makes a difference to you). If you have a problem with a CEO’s salary blame the shareholders and their democratic process.
I agree there are problems associated with wealth disparity that is not the argument. The point I’m trying to make is nobody has the right to determine how much money is too much money. If a CEO is paid 437 times more than a bottom line worker, it is possible that they are worth 437 times more TO THE COMPANY than a bottom line worker. Maybe they are doing a job that a bottom line worker cannot do. Just because I want to play in the NBA and I’m willing to work for 437 times less than Andrei kirilenko doesn’t mean the Utah Jazz should be forced to call me in for an interview. They get to decide what’s best for THEIR team and if there’s only one 6’ 9” Russian in town, guess what, he is worth more than 437 times the salary of a 5’ 6” kid from Salt Lake. This is a sad realization I’ve come to terms with, but, instead of rallying my friends to invade the plaza of energy solutions arena with tents and signs. I have opted to take a proactive route. Just like you I’ve started my own business, and I work very very hard every day for zero salary. If I ever make it big and I want to buy a jet, I don’t think you or anyone else has the right to try and stop me… even if I want 2 jets.
What’s your solution, Jesse? Once the wealth disparity reaches the magic 50:1 ratio or whatever ratio you decide is fair, we forcefully go into these companies and take the excess money away then redistribute it to the bottom line employees? Sorry, if you want to live in a society like that you’ll have to call up Doc Brown and see if his Deloran can take you back to 1990 when the Soviet Union was thriving.

 

Posted // November 9,2011 at 11:37 - Bill, capitalism has its virtues, I'll give you that. But democracy is more fair because it treats people as equals, as our founding documents clearly state as an intention. You asked, "Who are you to police what they do..." I'll tell you: I'm a small-d democrat. If the undemocratic capitalist system--which reinforces inequality--gets out of whack and produces undesirable results like wage disparity of 473 to 1 for CEOs to bottom-line workers, then the superior democratic system should step in to correct the failures of the capitalist one. It's just that simple. It's not punishing rich people because they are rich, it's merely saving all of us--even the rich people--from a system that has gone astray. For more data on why wealth disparity is bad not just for the poor, but even for the rich, read The Spirit Level by epidemiologists Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson.

 

Posted // November 9,2011 at 10:13 - BZ, you make me sick. You are part of the problem with this country these days. He who has the gold makes the rules, right, Bill?

Such utter utopian bullshit! How do you think most of the 1% made "their" money, Bill? More than I care to think about inherited it and have no plans to use it to lift up their communities or country.

Those that own companies, the faux-'job-creators," off-shored most of that labor force years ago and made sure that the idiot they own in Congress covered their tracks AND asked for more concessions in tax breaks and regulatory exceptions. Who paid for the roads and sidewalks and sewers and power lines that are created when a company builds a plant or a mall? Do you even know why people think the richest Americans need to start paying their fair share instead of buying-off the sociopathic idiots in legislatures and Congress so that they can buy even more homes and boats and planes?

And here's newsflash for people like you: Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, John Huntsman and others have formed a group that is dedicated to gifting their money for the greater good of mankind before they die. What's wrong with these people, Bill? Why aren't they like you?

 

Posted // November 9,2011 at 01:48 - Jesse, don't Christians also believe God gave man freewill? It is an individuals choice to be corrupt or not, you have no place making the decision for them. 50 to 1 or 1,000,000 to one, you have no place dictating what others do or do not deserve or what is fair or what is moral. Those are YOUR opinions. Who are you to police what they do with their hundreds of millions of dollars? It is their money, not yours. Who are you to say there is something wrong with a CEO making 437 times as much money as their bottom line employee? You probably make 437 times the amount of money as some people in this world, does that give them right to call you corrupt? Especially having never met you. Have you ever met one of these EVIL, CORRUPT, NON-CHRISTIAN CEOS that you speak of? It is irrelevant how much a CEO earns and most importantly, not you or anybody else deserves one penny of their salary. It is theirs! How greedy of you to think you have the right to take any amount of it away and use it for your purposes. Let me ask you a question, do you think Bill and Melinda Gates are corrupt people? Did you set up a tent and camp out to protest Steve Jobs' funeral? Or, are you typing your response on a mac computer, sipping a Pumpkin spice latte using free wi-fi at one of the largest multi national companies in the world?

 

Posted // November 9,2011 at 00:43 - Hey Bill. I don't know if you're a Christian, but I firmly believe in Matthew 19:24, "Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." The way I see it, power corrupts. It's not an option, It's not something one can avoid; you can't order a Super-sized portion of wealth, hold the corruption--they go together. I'm not blurring anything: I'm being very clear. The top 1 percent of wealth holders have a problem they have to take care of that is every bit as offensive and problematic as alcoholism or cancer. In a way, I pity them, because they are so blind to it, like an addict. But like addiction, wealth and power is a disease that has a personal responsibility component to it. Lastly, I don't condemn success, I don't even condemn all inequality. I condemn our system of gross inequality in which American CEOs on average make something like 473 times as much wage as their bottom-line worker. I'd rather have a system in which that ratio is something like 30 to 1, 50 to 1, or even--Jesus save us all from my pinko commie ways!!!--100 to 1.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // November 8,2011 at 10:03 Hope his hot dog stand doesn't end up like the 2 in San Diego by the hands of the idiots of Occupy SD. What a useless bunch of crybabies!

 

Posted // November 8,2011 at 10:33 - Agreed. Too many of these "protesters" are fools using any opportunity to be violent and destructive. What a surprise, never saw that coming.

Jesse serves up a pretty good vegan dog, if you're into vegan dogs. Plus his customer service is outstanding. It's funny but I didn't even realize it was Jesse at the stand until now.

 

 
 
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