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New ABC show promotes wealth accumulation disguised as charity

March 8, 2011

On Sunday, ABC showcased one of its newest TV shows called Secret Millionaire. The basic premise of the show is that millionaires go and live clandestinely in poor communities and then give money to people who are “deserving.”

On the surface the show is designed to tug on people’s heartstrings and make you feel good about what some people are doing in the world. However, what the show is really about is to communicate the message that anyone can be successful if you just work hard enough. In many ways Secret Millionaire is just a new manifestation of the Horatio Alger story, sort of a rags to riches myth.

Not surprising the first millionaire on the show was Dani Johnson who claims to be a self-made millionaire. Johnson does entrepreneur workshops, Finance consulting, spiritual equipping, which is the theme of her national radio show.

Johnson, who is a tall, busty, White woman, goes from one local program to another in Knoxville in search of people who are worthy of her money. In the process we see Johnson mostly interacting with programs that serve poor black kids. Johnson at one point in the show says that what is so cool about these programs is that they are “grooming these kids for success.”

Secret Millionaire is a glitzy program that is designed to serve two purposes. First, the show gets us to think about individual acts of charity and programs that serve the “poor.” This means that we never are confronted with basic questions about why so many people are poor and why people like Dani Johnson are so rich. We are led to believe that some people are successful because they work hard while others are lazy and worthless.

Secondly, the show promotes what some writers are calling philanthro-capitalism, which is essentially the idea that social change will come about when rich people “share” some of their wealth. In other words, we don’t need to build movements for social change, we just need to find rich people who will give us some of their wealth so we can design more feel good programs that might allow a few people to become “successful.”

Such programming is an insult to working class people of any generation, but it is particularly insulting as some many people are becoming victims of an economic restructuring program that is transferring more and more of the country’s wealth into the hand of the already disgustingly rich.

From the Wall Street Bailout, to tax breaks for the rich to an assault on working class wages, benefits and pensions, we are seeing the application of what Naomi Klein calls an economic Shock Doctrine. ABC’s Secret Millionaire is just one of the tools being used by the capitalist class to wage war on working people and in this case it is psychological warfare.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Rick permalink
    March 5, 2012 6:35 pm

    “We are led to believe that some people are successful because they work hard while others are lazy and worthless.”

    I personally did not see the identification of “lazy and worthless” in the show. I do believe that a person’s “wealth” whether physically, spiritually, or financially is based upon the amount work or effort they put in to it, and that depending on the government will not get you ahead.

    Am I wrong?

    Will a movement for social change help me to get ahead?

    Can I become wealthy by relying on the “system”?

    Good topic!



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