Inequality Video: What You Never Knew

Abstract

So much of what we have been taught to think about poverty and inequality is back to front. In 2014 we created a video that pulled back the veil and showed how mass poverty and ever-increasing inequality are inevitable outcomes of the economic system dominating the planet. To our mild shock, it went viral. We were onto something . . .

Context

When we launched The Rules in 2012, we recognized that one of the central pillars of neoliberal mythology was the notion that global capitalism is making the world better.  The dominant narrative promoted by the development industry is that rich countries are giving generously in the form of aid to poor countries, and therefore assisting poor countries to “catch up” to rich ones.  

In 2011, a video about inequality in the US went viral on YouTube. Despite being relatively long and complicated, it attracted millions of views – clearly hitting a nerve.  We decided to mimic the style of the video to tell a more global story about inequality and “development”.

Narrative Intention

Our narrative intention was simple: to challenge the dominant narrative about development, while highlighting the structural drivers that actively create inequality (e.g. trade rules, corporate tax evasion, etc.).

Method and Execution

 

We drew on data from the UN and World Bank, sources that are widely trusted by mainstream audiences. We made a very simple video with a tiny budget ($1K that largely went to the animator). We distributed the video through the small list and a growing Facebook community we had developed from our previous work around tax justice, and then promoted it directly in personal emails to our contacts in the development sector. We found that the content resonated widely with both mainstream audiences as well as with conscientious objectors within big NGOs and foundations. Within a short period of time the video had attracted over 1 million views.

 

Please note that the figures used in this video are out of date and incomplete.  Updated figures are available here: http://therules.org/update-global-inequality-video/  For more details and data, see Chapter 1 of The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and its Solutions, by Jason Hickel.

 

     

    Million Views

    Links and Resources:

    Aid in reverse: how poor countries develop rich countries

    Hickel, The Guardian

    How bad is global inequality, really?

    Hickel, Global Policy

    Global inequality: do we really live in a one-hump world?

    Article in Occupy.com

    Lessons

    • Mimicking the style of the US inequality video allowed us to ride an existing cultural wave, building on things that people were already learning.  This approach, mimicking existing memes, can serve as a “pre-distribution vehicle” for content. 
    • Appealing to trusted data sources (like the UN) can grant an argument the moral authority it needs to reach across ideological divides. 
    • Finding voices of discontent within opposition organizations can be an important leverage point for disseminating counter-memes.

    By The Rules

    The Rules (TR) was an activist collective that existed from 2012 to 2019. In its eight years of existence it focused on addressing the root causes of inequality, poverty and ecological break down through narrative and cultural interventions. TR worked directly with social movements to inform the nature of interventions, and worked with journalists, think tanks, independent researchers and others to reframe and amplify alternatives to help midwife post-capitalist realities.

    Creative Commons License

    All The Rules content is Creative Commons Share Alike 4.0

    You are Free to:

    • Adapt — remix, transform, and build upon the material for any purpose, even commercially.

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