The bus tour was arranged by a crypto-socialist organization called Connecticut Working Families, a group with deep ties to the notorious ACORN group, the bogeyman of the Fox News bitter-cracker mob. That was all the plutocrats had to hear-a busload of commies and ACORN panthers were heading into their neighborhood, like Mugabe’s goons, to burn down their mansions. For about 36 tense hours, suburban-New York’s plutocrats felt like the Byzantine Christians in 1453, with the barbarians just hours away from slaughtering and raping anything that moved in Fairfield, Connecticut. In a panic, nine AIG execs announced that they were handing back their million-dollar bonuses to the American taxpayers. It was incredible. For the first time in living memory, “the people” were starting to win. They had the power to instill fear and claw back some of their wealth.
And all because of the Magic Class-War Bus and its Angry Pranksters. It wasn’t easy getting a seat on the bus, and if I hadn’t tracked down the cell phone number for Joe Dinkin, the communications director for the Connecticut Working Families Party which organized the bus tour, I probably wouldn’t have made it on board. “I’ve been getting all kinds of death threats and crazy calls today!” Dinkin told me, laughing nervously. “Rush Limbaugh attacked us on his show today, and that got all his crazy fans after me. They posted my cell phone number on Limbaugh’s site, and ever since then it’s just been crazy, the things these people said to me on the phone. Death threats… Man, the hatred in their voices is just crazy!”
Dinkin was laughing, but I don’t think he knew just how ferocious a monster he’d pissed off with his bus tour idea.
The next morning, I drove out to the AIG Bus Tour meeting point, which was the local ACORN office in the depressed center of Bridgeport, Connecticut–one of those decaying mid-sized cities that America quietly abandoned a few decades ago. By the time I arrived that morning, the parking lot next to the Domino’s pizza outlet was already crawling with media figures: reporters, cameramen and TV semi-celebrities. There was no way we’d all fit. So when the chartered bus pulled up across the street from the Domino’s outlet, the reporters bum-rushed it like the South Vietnamese trying to get into the last helicopter out of Saigon.
It was an aggressively ugly bus: a belching, decrepit hulk with dented corrugated aluminum siding. The perfect Country Club Assault Vehicle for terrorizing the upper-class plutocrats we were going to visit.
Poor Joe Dinkin was put in charge of the seating arrangement-the minute he stepped off the bus, the reporters nearly tore him limb from limb. He dragged himself away from the bus door and down the street; the reporters clung to him like lions pulling down a struggling wildebeest. Joe tried to impose order as the reporters yelled out their organizations and why they had to be on the bus-New York Times, CNN, New York Post, NBC. Poor Joe trembled so badly that all he could manage was to jot down a few chicken scratches on a piece of paper. He quickly lost control, as the reporters turned back to the bus and tried storming it again. Chaos ensued, and eventually the organizers realized that it was between the protesters being on the bus, or the media being on the bus. So one by one, they started pulling protesters off the bus to make room for the media. Eventually we-media types- all got our seats.
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