Laughing Stock

Paige K. Bradley on “Re-Occupy Wall Street” and the stonks market

One of the New York Young Republicans gathered at Zuccotti Park on January 31, 2021 for “Re-Occupy Wall Street.” Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

WELL, THAT ESCALATED QUICKLY! In the deluge of recent stock market coverage—hard to ignore even for the most financially illiterate digital soldiers—this new arc of the obnoxious reality show we call the US of A has fast developed along antique narrative lines such as the “Jacobite day traders versus the powdered wig hedgefunders.” Elon Musk busted into the fray mid-last week like some crypto Kool-Aid Man to incite the razing and pillaging of the hermetic fortress of finance and his loathed enemies, the short sellers, who were betting on a video game retailer to fail much as they had bet against his empire. Reddit and 4chan loved their unofficial cheerleader so much they supposedly fabricated a tweet from him declaring he’d send a rocket into space with a GameStop logo if its share price hit $1000. 

As denizens of the subreddit r/wallstreetbets (their slogan: “Like 4chan found a bloomberg terminal”) pumped up GameStop’s shorted stock with rabid devotion—following the model of one “Roaring Kitty” aka “DeepFuckingValue”—its share price started rocketing, to borrow a phrase from the forums, to the MOOOON. Then, early last Thursday, tempers of workaday and out-of-work retail investors were majorly inflamed by the brief shutdown of buying (but not selling) in the gamified trading app Robinhood. Highly recommend getting a brokerage trader who can actually do both.

Long story short: The 2008 financial crisis is still a plot point; people are pissed off, and as we’ve seen over the past year, housebound rage often hits the streets in spite or because of municipal orders to stay inside and away from others in a pandemic. Radical solitude has its burdens, and so the New York Young Republicans Club sought to rally the troops IRL on Sunday afternoon with a “Re-Occupy Wall Street” event in Zuccotti Park. These nostalgia cycles just keep getting shorter and shorter, like a squeeze on time itself.

Stonks meme.

Unfortunately, unlike the motley coalition of left, liberal, and miscellaneous sansculottes—including the 4chan-born collective Anonymous—who launched Occupy Wall Street in the amenable late-spring of 2011, the conservatives chose a day with projected snowfall and mid-twenties Fahrenheit temperatures. It’s hard to focus on diamond hands tactics when you can feel your appendages numbing in real time. And no drum circles, or percussion, at all! Sad. How can you have a protest without rhythm? But the LARP must go on: Maybe Robin Hood cosplay can be a fun new outlet for the shipwrecked QAnon crowd. The Club’s president, one Gavin Mario Wax, addressed the limited gathering—perhaps half of whom had TV station camera rigs—with a festive forest green pointed cap, feather and all, atop his chestnut locks. Other men drifting around the periphery had caramel waves for crowns. Republicans have this kind of hair—that swept-up-and-to-the-back-of-the-skull drift that also looks firmly lodged in place, like a legacy. Waxy. The left simply does not have this look.

Anyway, Wax gave a speech railing against Wall Street that, to anyone none the wiser, could easily have hailed from a decade ago on the same Liberty Plaza steps. “It’s an us-versus-them issue.” Rhetoric volleyed through time, evergreen, as the content farms would say. More period-specific comments came an hour later: “Don’t become a doomer,” and “I’d love to see a bailout of small pizzerias.” My God! Please, I wanted to scream, do NOT bring pizza into this, too. Leave that trigger for the neurologically underdeveloped TikTok crowd. The club’s vice president, Vish Burra, chose a streetwear classic, the “COMME des FUCKDOWN” beanie, for his address look. On Twitter, Burra goes by the moniker “Destroyer of Worlds Vish,” and a recent profile of him on the website American Greatness offers the following insights about his nom de guerre: “The joke is not without a touch of truth. His approach to politics could be called restorative ruination—like ‘renaissance,’ only far more combative, and there is a great deal at home and abroad to combat.” Since my mind has been utterly destroyed by reading such a sentence, I’ll just have to trust, and keep moving on through life with my new smoking crater of a skull.

A “Re-Occupy Wall Street” sign maker. All photos by author unless noted.

Curtis Sliwa, current NYC mayoral candidate and founder and CEO of the anti-mugging patrol and vigilante ring the Guardian Angels, stepped up to rail against Bernie Madoff and taxpayer bailouts of banks from 2008. Evergreen content, again. So yes, it did sound like 2011’s Occupy Wall Street, but without the live culture and momentum, including a winter Reoccupy on my birthday that year, as covered for this publication by my now-boyfriend. It’s all a rich tapestry. My best friend braved the cold to see me on duty, bearing the incredible gift of Tokyo 2020 Olympics merch—I won’t sell, will hold until I die—and we watched New York Senate candidate Diane Sare—a challenger to Chuck Schumer in 2022—megaphone her platform. It was psychedelic in its leaps from subject to subject—pro-Glass-Steagall Act, anti–solar panels on Long Island, the late Lyndon LaRouche, who was perhaps the human embodiment of horseshoe theory—but I appreciated her ambition. As an aside, I noticed, in addition to the local PIX11, another camera crew from NTD covering the scene, which is, like the Trump-favoring Epoch Times, affiliated with Falun Gong. Agendas were surely afoot, but it’ll come out in the wash later.

All this speculation going on is exciting to me, though mostly for conceptual reasons. Did you know Bas Jan Ader briefly speculated on commodities as part of his artistic practice? For an in-depth account, please consult Alexander Dumbadze’s monograph Death Is Everywhere. Speculation goes before a fall, but what if it also comes after, and in every millisecond in between as well? Or, if 2011 is back, then 2012—like a riff on 2021—is next. The clock is both ticking and broken, it’s 100 seconds to midnight, so, personally speaking, I’m trading on 13 shifting to 31 in a futures bet; there’s still time for the fire and the rose to become one. And you know Isa Genzken’s rose is right there. This is not financial advice.


An attendee at the “Re-Occupy Wall Street” rally on January 31, 2020.

An attendee at the “Re-Occupy Wall Street” rally on January 31, 2020.

Chicken tendie sandwich from $SHAK.

“Fearless Girl” statue with GameStop and AMC stonks chalk graffiti.

Stonks meme.

A street performer at Zuccotti Park.

Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa.

Times Square billboard.