Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Obama is not a Candidate but a Performance

Sunday's Oscar night awards handed out its awards to movies that hardly anyone saw and to obscure actors and actresses, none of them Americans. Americans responded by not watching the Oscars which are estimated to have received the lowest ratings in history, down 21 percent from last year when identifiable actors and movies were featured there.

The Oscars represent the fundamental culture gap between ordinary Americans and the cultural elites. Following the usual pattern, the more the cultural elites take something over, the less relevant it becomes to ordinary Americans. We have seen that pattern in modern art and poetry, in literature and now we are seeing it in movies. Increasingly the foreign box office has become more definitive than domestic ticket sales, as Americans continue to ignore movies that don't meet their interests.

Call it Blue State vs Red State or John Edwards' Two Americas, but it could just as easily be Two Englands, Two Irelands or Two Israels, it's the split between the worldview of the cultural elite and that of ordinary people.

The worldview of the cultural elites is based on destroying boundaries while that of ordinary people is based on preserving them. The worldview of the cultural elites embraces the gruesome, the shocking and the taboo, while that of ordinary people prefers the life-affirming, entertaining and exciting. Entertainment is where the two sides meet, as the elites try to subvert the tastes and morals of the public. Yet doing so requires understanding public tastes and repackaging their subversive agenda in a populist package.

Sunday's Oscars demonstrate what happens when Hollywood stops bothering to posture as populists and embraces its natural affinities. The Obama campaign demonstrates what happens when the cultural elites understand the need to package a subversive agenda in a populist package.

The core of Obama's support came from Hollywood all along and that is no surprise because Obama exemplifies everything that Hollywood stands for, a blank empty package dressed up in rhetoric and crowd manipulation bordering on that exhibited by the propaganda of totalitarian regimes.

At times manic and yet showcasing that phony humility which was once a staple of Hollywood leading men and still remains on display at just about any awards show, Obama is a leading man, a candidate running on an entertainment rather than a political platform.

As Hillary Clinton flails about trying to attack Obama, she repeatedly fails because while she is running a political campaign, he is running an entertainment campaign, complete with dancing Obama girls, shadowboxing displays, acting performances and hollow policy positions read from cue cards.

Obama's backers have not even bothered running a true political campaign, instead they've packaged a radical left wing and pro-Muslim politician in a saccharine Hollywood image of America. You can't debate Obama anymore than you can debate Harrison Ford's, Bill Pullman's or Michael Douglas' portrayals of Presidents in movies. There is nothing to debate. You can only applaud or boo and the people behind the cameras have already decided that only the applause will be heard, except where the boos will make their candidate more sympathetic.

Consider Spengler's ominous depiction of Obama in his own Asia Times piece, while I don't agree with much of it, it partakes of a nightmarish vision.

Barack Obama is a clever fellow who imbibed hatred of America with his mother's milk, but worked his way up the elite ladder of education and career. He shares the resentment of Muslims against the encroachment of American culture, although not their religion. He has the empathetic skill set of an anthropologist who lives with his subjects, learns their language, and elicits their hopes and fears while remaining at emotional distance. That is, he is the political equivalent of a sociopath. The difference is that he is practicing not on a primitive tribe but on the population of the United States.

There is nothing mysterious about Obama's methods. "A demagogue tries to sound as stupid as his audience so that they will think they are as clever as he is," wrote Karl Krauss. Americans are the world's biggest suckers, and laugh at this weakness in their popular culture. Listening to Obama speak, Sinclair Lewis' cynical tent-revivalist Elmer Gantry comes to mind, or, even better, Tyrone Power's portrayal of a carnival mentalist in the 1947 film noire Nightmare Alley. The latter is available for instant viewing at Netflix, and highly recommended as an antidote to having felt uplifted by an Obama speech.

America has the great misfortune to have encountered Obama at the peak of his powers at its worst moment of vulnerability in a generation. With malice of forethought, he has sought out their sore point. Be afraid - be very afraid. America is at a low point in its fortunes, and feeling sorry for itself.

Spengler of course speaks in terms of entertainment and that is what Obama is but that does not mean that he can be underestimated. Those politicians who have run against him as politicians continue to lose, because while they play by tangible rules, Obama plays by intangible ones. He is not out to win an argument, but to charm the crowd. He offers uplifting rhetoric devoid of content but inside the empty box of his own rhetoric is a man with an agenda and it isn't the one he speaks out loud.

To defeat Obama, we must understand the rules he plays by and defeat him on those terms. Rather than a platform Obama has a plot, that of the plucky underdog, the idealistic candidate who speaks for youth, the reformer bringing back hope and change in line with American values. That is the movie plot that has been laid out for him, but in committing himself to that script, Obama and his handlers have failed to realize the plot twists that can occur in such a script.

And plot twists come from the revelation of the secrets that the hero is hiding, the lines of cocaine on the toilet lid that give him the manic grinning energy before every performance, the past he is hiding, the naked hypocrisy of his political involvements, the real agenda behind the charming smile. And in the end there's nothing more than an audience loves than a good plot twist when it is convincingly delivered and once the plot twist changes the story, there is no going back.

Both the likely candidates in the race, Barack Hussein Obama and John McCain, won not on their records, but on their personalities and their personal stories. This is far from unprecedented in American politics, but it is troubling nonetheless and candidates who win based on their personalities can only be defeated by destroying their public image. And that is what the election will truly come down to once it is fullly underway.


Yobeeone said...

It's hard to destroy someone's public image, when the public itself is so depraved they can't recognise right from wrong.

Keli Ata said...

Barack Obama sure does have the charisma, manipulation and deception of an Elmer Gantry and will no doubt spiral downward (bringing the US with him) as another cult leader did--Jim Jones.

Jim Jones had idealism and charisma and offered hope of races uniting and dreams of a utopian society. That is, until the drugs, paranoia and delusion of grandeur set in.

Granted Jones moved his entire congregation to Ghana and made himself king of his own society. Obama is staying in the US and wants to become king of the US.

I attribute much of Obama's success to his training with the Gamaliel Foundation. The Gamaliel Foundation is all about controlling people in influence and the average public (different tactics for each) through a two-week "leadership" conference.

Check out Gamaliel and you'll understand why Obama is achieving the success he has.

Keli Ata said...

Obama presents himself as the paragon of unity and multiculturism to his general audiences but at the core he is most definitely a racist who slips up at times.

Anonymous said...

Obama is a divider, not a uniter. His voting record is MIA and he only won in IL as part of the Chicago machine.

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