Yesterday the media was too busy drowning the country in the spectacle of the antics of a former Disney starlet at the Video Music Awards for a cable channel that no longer does music videos to report on the antics of a former community organizer who was busy sketching out plans for an illegal war that he had been on record as opposing.
Shamelessness is the quality that Barack Obama's antics in Washington and Miley Cyrus' antics in
Brooklyn have in common. Not merely a shamelessness that emerges out of a humiliating episode, but shamelessness as their fundamental attribute. A shamelessness that aspires to be cool because it appears to achieve the ultimate goal of coolness of not being bound by anything at all.
Miley Cyrus was once a Disney starlet. Obama was once anti-war. In 2007, he told voters that the president does not have the authority under the Constitution to unilaterally go to war unless there is an urgent threat to the United States. Now he's planning a second war in which the only urgent threat is to the military prospects of his Islamist allies for taking over another country.
Obama's shamelessness isn't incidental to his actions; it's their whole point. Like Cyrus, he is celebrating his liberation from any standard or value, triumphing over them through attitude alone. And in a world without morals or values, the only thing that counts is power and the will to use it.
It may be sex in Brooklyn and power in Washington, but both of the tawdry spectacles expose the elemental thing that is left behind when all virtues and values fade away. Without these things, the human animal becomes just that, a repugnant and irredeemable spectacle that attracts the like-minded and repels everyone else.
Without these virtues, why shouldn't Obama break his word and get his war on? Like every moral dilemma that most people face, it's only a dilemma if you have morals. If you don't, then it's no longer a matter of what the right thing to do is, but whether you can do it.
Or as Aleister Crowley put it, in between one of his bouts of Satanism and binging on cocaine, "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law".
That is the cheerful maxim of our Aeon of Horus, our entertainment industry, whose products can be seen on display at the MTV Video Music Awards. MTV long ago dispensed with much of the music, to make way for the drama of reality television. Its real entertainment product is people doing what they wilt and becoming famous for it.
From 8 to 11 AM, it's MTV's 16 and Pregnant, carefully branded in case anyone confuses it with A&E's 16 and Pregnant or PBS's 16 and Pregnant. Then it's Teen Mom. In the evening there's more Teen Mom. And if you make it to 4 AM, tune in to AMTV RISE & GRIND. And at some point, Barack Obama or Michelle Obama will show up to tell everyone to exercise and eat healthy.
Miley Cyrus' performance embodied everything that MTV stands for; tacky, desperate for attention and in the real world, pregnant at 16. But the appeal of this enclosed media world is its cheerful amorality, maintained by invisibly huge amounts of money, that tells viewers that their own amorality will also not have consequences.
Bill Clinton was our first MTV president. Barack Obama is our second. The decline in MTV neatly matches the descent from Clinton to Obama, but what unites them is that cheerful amorality that can triumph over any crime. These are men whose creed is "Do what thou wilt" and like so much of our political and entertainment elites, they have been doing it. They have been getting their wilt on.
Obama has decided to get his war on. Again. Though really, France and then the UK decided that America should get its war on. And to be strictly accurate, Saudi Arabia and Qatar decided again that their financial puppets in the UK and France, licking their lips at a taste of their oil-fed sovereign wealth funds, should get their war on even while cutting their militaries to be the bone.
Formerly anti-war France is on its third war in three years. This will be the second war for its newly elected Socialist government in just this year. That's impressive for a bunch of cheese-eating surrender monkeys who were supposed to be our role models in navigating the subtlety of international diplomacy. But France has always been renowned for its cheerfully amoral politics.
The man whose only calling card was the peace sign, is about to launch his second war. And if bombing Syria goes well, there's always Egypt. And if the Tunisian protesters follow their lead and dare to boot their Islamist masters, they might get a few cruise missiles headed their way in Operation Caliphate.
Obama's premature gift of a Nobel Peace Prize has become one of the more absurd footnotes in his career. Like Cyrus gyrating on stage, he seems to be doing his best to leave behind his old anti-war reputation. Now he can hardly wait for the UN inspectors to finish their job in Syria before squatting at a table and nodding cluelessly while being told where the bombs will fall first.
If hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue, as La Rochefoucauld said, our elites have decided to dispense with the tribute. Not only will there be no more virtue, but the dealers in vice will not even bother with the hypocrisy. If the balance of our society has been tilted forcibly from virtue to vice, as most recent developments suggest, then the former child stars and hope and changers no longer feel that they need to bother even maintaining the appearance of virtue.
Last time around, Obama had already begun the Libyan War before he told the American people. This time, the Syrian War could begin at any time, but will possibly be preceded by the release of a report. Or maybe the report will come out later, as the man who should be president is acting like an emperor, and the emperor is naked enough to be performing at the VMAs.
Alinsky's fourth rule is making the enemy live up to his own codes. But what if the enemy has no rules, only will. What if the enemy has no values and exists only to be seen. That is the unreal space occupied by a former community organizer from Chicago and teenage girl from the Disney Channel. Where there are no values, there can be no hypocrisy. All that is left is the triumph of the will.
The VMAs are a calculated spectacle in the same way that Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will was and in the same way that the latest Obama speech pledging to act unilaterally on his latest plan if Congress does nothing. Their theme is the triumph of the will over morals, the power of the individual to dominate crowds through no special virtue except determination. It is a fascism of the spirit that glorifies the dissolution of the individual in a secular religion of power and privilege.
Miley Cyrus did what she did because she could. The goal was the most priceless commodity of modern culture; attention. In a crowded digital world, the only thing that matters is being seen. Obama's triumph is being noticed. It is the secret of his success. In a crowded digital world, the triumph of the will is not physical or intellectual, let alone spiritual, but that quality of compelling others to become aware of your existence and to incorporate your existence into their reality.
Like Miley, Obama will go to war because he can. It isn't even his idea and it isn't a good idea, but that doesn't matter. If you're a Disney starlet, eventually you have to show everyone that you've grown up by taking your clothes off. It's what the audience expects. If you're an anti-war liberal who makes it into the White House, you have to show everyone that you've grown up by getting out there and getting your war on.
It's what the audience expects.
For months now, the Washington Post and the New York Times have been urging Obama to go to war. France and the UK have been beating the war drums even longer. Qatar and Turkey have been crying for war before the last one wrapped up. Eventually the naked emperor had to go out there and give his international fans what they wanted.
Obama was tentative when it came to his first war, but he's an old pro at it now. He knows that no one who matters will judge him for anything that happens. It's all in fun and it distracts the unemployed people eating soup out of a can from wondering if they're going to be evicted tomorrow or today.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner has grown up. He knows that the public doesn't matter. He knows that Congress doesn't matter. He knows that there is nothing between his will and the might and fortunes of a nation. And he's doing what he will with them.
He might bomb Syria for a few days, as he's claiming and as he falsely claimed of Libya, or a few weeks or a few months. The military has been cut to the bone and retasked to celebrating gay weddings and green energy, but there are enough bombs left over to make for some spectacular fireworks as the Al Nusra Front and their Free Syrian Army allies make it to Damascus to slaughter the last Christians there.
Every show needs a good closing number and the burning of the last churches in Syria while the
There will be criticism, but as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said of Benghazi, "What difference does it make anyway?" What difference does anything make in the absence of morals. Without them, there is only power and the will to use it, whether it is the power to bomb a nation or take your clothes off.
The only way to prove will is through action. The ability to do a thing implies a need to do it. If a thing can be done, it must be done. And so will disproves itself as the ability to do a thing forces you to actually go ahead and do it to prove your will, without regard to whether you want to do it or not.
Our society sleepwalks towards these inevitabilities of power without ever asking who it was that decided on their inevitability. Transformed from a society of virtue into vice, we wonder why we are slipping into tyranny and corruption of every sort. Restraint is a virtue. With only the vice of power, the addiction of will, there is nothing between us and those who would destroy us but the nakedness of their power. And the moment that they can deprive us of our rights and destroys us, they will.
Tomorrow, Obama may fight Syria. But the rest of the time, he's fighting us.