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Monday, March 24, 2014

A Tale of Two Centuries

It's unfair to expect Obama to do anything about Ukraine when his biggest priority is convincing twenty-somethings to buy worthless health insurance policies by appearing on online comedy shows and deploying his March Madness bracket.

The Obama Twitter feeds are filled with desperate pleas to buy ObamaCare; harnessing every memeworthy bit of internet detritus from cat pictures to twerking in the hopes of convincing  healthy young people who don't want health insurance to buy it anyway.

On March 17th, Obama's Twitter linked to a statement on Ukraine and then it was back to "There's only 14 days to get coverage." It's currently down to 12 days. It's like holiday shopping, but with a $6,000 deductible.

Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn) went to Ukraine, called Russia's invasion a "weak" and "panicky" reaction to Obama's strength, and then announced plans to speak about the "Between Two Ferns Effect". The "effect" is the sheer awesomeness of Obama's appearance on an internet comedy show to promote ObamaCare.

It's that kind of 21st century thinking that sets Barack apart from Vladimir's quaint 19th century hunger for territory. While a former KGB agent wastes time conquering countries, a former community organizer focuses on selling nationalized health care to young invincibles through a website that works about as well as a Soviet Yugo.

Putin's power rests on a shaky energy industry, but Obama's power rests on ObamaCare. Kerry scoffed at Russia's invasion as so 19th century. In the 21st century, power doesn't come from land or armies, but from online popularity. Online popularity took a radical Illinois State Senator and turned him into a world leader. Online popularity is the WMD that the State Senator is convinced will save ObamaCare.

Putin has a weakness for staged photo ops circulated over the internet, but they are more like Kaiser Wilhelm II chopping pre-cut logs while yearning for the return of the German monarchy than Obama's self-deprecating attempts to be all things to all people. The Russian government has no use for irony; it leaves such things to the opposition. In the post-modern America, leaders claim absolute power while making self-deprecating jokes. They discard the rule of law and then hawk nationalized healthcare in infomercials for an effect more surreal than a crony capitalist KGB man with a law degree taking off his tailored suit and $500,000 Tourbograph watch to play Great White Hunter.

Putin poses on horseback, in a wetsuit, in a hang glider, finding ancient urns in the sea or shooting tigers. Obama poses playing with a lightsaber, makes an unimpressed face with McKayla Maroney and unveils his March Madness picks. The Russian dictator strikes heroic poses straight out of the 19th century, while Obama struggles to hold the unstable attention span of 21st century millennials . Obama's poses are no less absurd than Putin's, but they are self-consciously absurd. Putin is playing the part of the great leader, while Obama disguises the enormous power he wields by acting more like Ellen; a talk show host endlessly cracking jokes and posing for goofy selfies.

It's easy to laugh at Putin's posturing, but Obama's public image is no less cynical. Both men are instinctive totalitarians with backgrounds in Marxism and little respect for the rule of law. Obama is a creature of a more modern media age catering to a demographic which prides itself on skepticism, at least where Western religion or nationalism are concerned, while being as gullible as any of the old ladies clutching red portraits of Stalin in Simferopol when it comes to the progressive agenda.

The difference between the two centuries and the two men is a matter of misdirection. Putin enhances the public perception of his power while Obama downplays it. Putin's base likes their red meat raw while Obama's base prefers a soy burger that looks and tastes exactly like meat so that they can have an ersatz imitation of the real thing that preserves their moral superiority. Putin's base values strength while Obama's base waters down their abuses of power with the appearance of cleverness and humor.

Obama delivers Putin's totalitarianism in soy form. It looks a lot like a burger, but it's really just an Asian legume. It looks a lot like tyranny, but it falls apart when confronting an actual tyrant. It's easy to raid guitar factories, lock up anti-Muslim filmmakers and send the IRS after political opponents, but that sort of pettiness is an ordinary day in Russia which just banned lacy underwear. The EPA, USDA and even the IRS are no match for Russian teenagers packing those dreaded assault rifles.

Obama's Mean Girls strategy for Putin is to make him unpopular. The various White House responses talk of isolating Russia. But Obama needs Russia to isolate Iran. He needs China to isolate Russia which will become inconvenient when China starts a shooting war with Japan. Obama can't isolate everyone. He can't isolate anyone. He has just now gotten around to kicking Syria out of the US after Russia and China prevented him from isolating Assad.

The Hills and Big Brother are poor models for international diplomacy. While Obama is figuring out how to convince Russia to stop talking to Iran and China to stop talking to Russia and everyone to stop talking to North Korea, these countries are moving their own agendas forward by doing things, instead of by tweeting them. 

The social network strategy for Russia will work about as well as it did for Syria or for ObamaCare. In the postmodern 21st century, Twitter mobs can destroy the lives of individuals who make racist jokes, but they're no match for a conquering army. The Facebook nerds who steal elections, the Twitter social justice activists who spread privilege checking hashtags, the Tumblr diarists who churn out memes about microaggressions are as useless as their leader.

Progressive nerd bullies are as vicious online as they are impotent in real life. Obama's plan to make Putin unpopular while he gobbles up countries isn't a brilliant show of strength; it's a passive aggressive display from the cyclist-in-chief who excels at putdowns, not at takedowns.

The left has been getting its own way for so long that it has forgotten that the Colbert Report isn't real life, that snide remarks are no substitute for strength and that there are some men who are not afraid of being mocked by Saturday Night Live.

The 21st century post-modern power that the left puts so much into isn't an evolution, but a devolution. It's a collapsing civilization's response to its own decline. The ironic poses of our post-modern dictators are a distancing effect for a culture that suspects sincerity but takes humorous denials at face value. The more indirect the path between motive, assertion and action, the more self-aware the modern totalitarian politician must be. And it is this show of self-awareness that is prized above all else including integrity, ethics and truth.

Romney was so despised because he was monotone, a black and white figure who said what he meant instead of layering it through infinite levels of irony. The age of the counterculture would have considered him a square. The grandchildren of that age saw him as equally unhip for his sincerity. The post-modern politician is serious by being unserious, he navigates deftly between jokes, personal narrative and the core message. He sells a brand, rather than a policy. An identity rather than an idea.

21st century branding is obsessed with the deft positioning of images and causes, but its practitioners are unable to apply the deft hijacking of memes to sell health insurance to the equally deft maneuverings of armored vehicles and armed men in Crimea. They have become social media shut ins, expert at navigating the narrow bubbles of online and offline elitist social networks, but blink in confusion when they are pulled away from the computer long enough to see lines of troops moving into another country.

The men and women in charge of our countries understand how to smear and to demean, how to build Twitter followers and tell self-deprecating jokes. They can't build a website, but they consider actually making things beneath them. They are critics of the culture, social justice commentators, public intellectuals who can make anything into propaganda, but can't hammer a nail into a board.

They treat every problem like an online debate. They assemble allies, pile on enemies, troll the opposition and then declare victory. But winning a debate doesn't make the tanks go away.

"The world has seen through Russia’s actions and has rejected the flawed logic behind those actions,” Joe Biden declared. That might be a winning line in a Facebook debate, but it doesn't do anything to move Russian forces out of Ukrainian cities.

Accusations of flawed logic, spell checks and saying, "You said literally when you meant figuratively" will not move a single piece of Russian armor out of Crimea.

Making Putin unpopular, a task already accomplished when he joined the organizers of the St. Patrick's Day parade and the Boy Scouts in refusing to jump on the gay rights bandwagon, is an impotent display of postmodern soft power. Meanwhile the failure to stop Putin will make him more popular in the places that truly matter, where no one buys ObamaCare and no one is impressed by accusations of flawed logic.

Putin has demonstrated to Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, Syria and China that America is weak, that it has become a nation living inside its own imagination, and he has shown Eastern Europe and the rest of the world that America is a bad friend while Russia is a dangerous enemy.

Obama's 21st century world is an imaginary place whose virtual territories depend on real infrastructure and energy. Underneath the glittering cities in the sky where everyone is part of a virtual community are the real roads and cities of stone and steel that can be taken by anyone with enough men and determination to capture them.

The Facebook strategy can sell health insurance, but it can't make ObamaCare financially viable. It can sneer at Putin, but it can't do anything to change the real world equations. The left has confused the overlay, its commentaries and memes, for reality. It has come to believe that The Daily Show is real news, that Obama is a real leader and that a Twitter hashtag is real power.

The Russian soldiers in Crimea are a reminder that, as Mao said, "Every Communist must grasp the truth: Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun." The Western left has forgotten the simple truth that no Eastern leftist has ever become decadent enough to forget. Power does not come from the "Two Ferns Effect" of self-deprecating irony, but from the Russian guns in Crimea.

18 comments:

Johnny said...

Not a Soviet Yugo but a Yugoslav Yugo, and I used to own one. However bad you might guess they were, they were about that bad. But unlike ObamaCare they were a price leader, and they did sort of work at first if expectations were low enough.

meema said...

1. Of all the twenty somethings, and some thirty somethings, I know, they aren’t buying insurance because they can’t afford it - period - no matter how ‘affordable’ it claims to be. Just more $$$ wasted for lack of understanding the targeted demographic.

2. Not sure how I’ll ever get the comparison pics of Obama in a bike helmet and Putin half naked on a horse out of my mind. I may have to resort to strong drink.

Anonymous said...

Excellent piece, Daniel. You are able to pull it all together and to articulate what the rest of us are thinking, but unable to express.

Anonymous said...

First, to establish the base line a bit before I embark on another slight rant, I totally agree that Obama is a terrible leader. He is no leader at all. However, Obama is not America and Obama is not the west. So, I would venture to say that while your critique of Obama is valid, I would not call upon Obama to take any strenuous actions to 'fix' anything. The less he does, the better. Otherwise, it's like asking the three stooges to come and paint your house. Moving right along.

"Putin has demonstrated to Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, Syria and China that America is weak, that it has become a nation living inside its own imagination, and he has shown Eastern Europe and the rest of the world that America is a bad friend while Russia is a dangerous enemy." I like the image this conjures up, but I don't agree with it. As I said, Obama is not America. More significantly, America is not the only or even the most significant player on the stage you set for us. The Iranians need to be more concerned about Israel and Saudi Arabia, et al in terms of national survival and a multitude of powerful trading partners for economic well being. North Korea is an isolated, inconvenient and costly client state of China whose continued survival depends mostly on the good graces of South Korea. Venezuela and Syria are in disarray and wield no influence. China depends on the continued freedom of the seas and peaceful international trade for it's survival and any disruption would mean isolation and economic death. The combined military and economic power of it's neighbors, including India, further check any Chinese dreams of aggression. The easiest, most natural and likely avenue for Chinese expansion would take it north and east into Asia. Right up against Russia. I would say much the same regarding Eastern Europe and it's closer, more important relationships with the rest of Europe. As for Putin, I repeat what I have said before, Putin has overstepped himself in Ukraine and the blowback will harm him. Further aggression will provoke war and that war he will lose. Russian power and western weakness, as described in your well written post, have been overstated. So, as I said, Obama is not America and America is not the only piece on the chessboard. A bit of perspective I hope.

Finally, I would urge some thought about Cuba from which Venezuela and other South and Central American countries are receiving military and political support. Cuba is an active and dangerous exporter of totalitarianism and is a mere 90 miles from American shores. And yet nobody seems to know or care. As an old commie killer from way back, this infuriates me. Cuba would be the only nation on that list that concerns me. Cuba would be the only country on that list. Cuba is primarily an American responsibility and it's way overdue for new management. Alas, anything constructive will need to wait for Obama's replacement. Obama is pretty much useless. On that point, we certainly agree. Cheers, W.C.T.

Johnny said...

To paraphrase Henry Kissinger from the Vietnam war period when we were more into killing leaders than we are now, "America is a dangerous enemy and an even more dangerous friend." The Saudis alluded to that, noting that we do seem to do more damage to our allies then our enemies.

Louis Foxwell said...

The Pussy Willow Brigade currently ensconced in the White House stings but it does not devour. In truth Obama is incapable of making lasting change in this republic. The spirit of its people is not quenched. When we are rid of these pests we will rebuild stronger than we have ever been.

The forces of evil in the world sense weakness in us. They are wrong. We patiently await the return of great leadership and the celebration of our morality and our essential goodness. Those days will come, whether by vote or blood, they will come.

The Putins, Khomeinis and Obamas of our nightmares may have free reign for a time but their days are numbered. We will rid our world of tyrannies foreign and domestic and will, once again, be a shining city on a mountain of might built on right.

Bring it on dilettantes. We are more than a match for your puerile japes.

Anonymous said...

@ Louis Foxwell:

I'm not quite as optimistic as you are but I am CERTAIN that America can once again be great. And, as you say, we are more than a match for the petty tyrants. Even asleep and led by the blind, we are their masters. Cheers to a brighter future. W.C.T.

James Taber said...

Louis, W.C.T from your lips to God's ear. I only hope to live long enough to enjoy morning in America, again.

srdem65 said...

The Russian is smart, clever, and dangerous. From his letter to America printed in the NYT, to the photos depicting himself as a manly-man, he's found a way to align himself with the forgotten American; the White, heterosexual male.
As our President promotes homosexuality as "love", dons a helmet to ride a girl's bike, and joins the distained rank of infomercial salesman, the Russian tells us he's The Man.
The Russian Man; strong in conviction of principle, lover of women, not afraid of physical activity, and fearless of danger is what US Presidents used to be.

Rodger said...

"The Russian is smart, clever, and dangerous. From his letter to America printed in the NYT, to the photos depicting himself as a manly-man, he's found a way to align himself with the forgotten American; the White, heterosexual male. "

Indeed. I often these days wish I was born Russian.

Horace Staccato said...

I agree with everything you said about Obonzo and Putin. Obonzo especially is nothing but an affirmative-action parasite and an overgrown-adolescent homosexual.

But Romney? Saying what he means and meaning what he says? I've never seen a major politician who censored himself so radically out of simple fear of the Left. Romney is a politically-correct coward who, like so much of the Republican leadership, is straining every nerve to flood this country with even more third-world savages than it already has. Romney apparently has no problem with the vast majority of the Leftist agenda. He's just a whining little nitpicker.

Anonymous said...

Those posters who believe "America" can slough off the despond are dreaming. Obama may not = "Amurica" but he certainly reflects the majority values, else why was he elected for 8 years?

As for Putin, chessboard pieces, etc-- Nature abhors a vacuum. I'm not bothered by the Crimea/Ukraine (loved the 3 stooges painting reference). What is appalling is the hollow response. That speaks volumes. Obama's USG has demonstrated weakness and the world has seen is. He'd have been better off not responding at all. Of course, he'd had been better off not antagonising the Russians in their own neighbourhood to begin with.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, Agreed. Patriotic citizens so want to 'believe' in the country in which they, or more likely, their parents and grandparents came of age.
They themselves, indeed feel or remember America's strength, but they are universalizing their own emotions.
sophie

Anonymous said...

There is another side to the 15 -layers-of-irony-world-view of the Progressives. Its
that, like a onion, there is nothing at the center. Peel away the layers with the intention of getting to core beliefs and you will find there is no there, there. We know this because everyone will chuckle with Obama, everyone will make snarky snickers at all the uncool things. But no one will ever fight for their beliefs. They have so undercut all normal human emotions that they are incapable of feeling much of anything, let alone feeling about anything so strong they will die for it. Die for Jay Leno?Die for Ellen? Die for an ex-homosexual prostitute from the Wakiki gay scene? More ominously the national rot doesnt stop with the Progressives. Who will fight or die for Obama's America at all? The white Christian male, the one time core of the military? The one the establishment has waged near genocidal war against? The one driven to extinction by mass immigration, race quotas, the emasculated by legions of "empowered" feminists cranked off the academic assembly line? , Belittled, isolated, spit upon, impoverished by taxes and minority preferences, that guy? Go to him now and ask him to fight for America.

Anonymous said...

For those posters calling for the return to America to its great self...how can that be? Lets make a point by taking a small news article, one the represents hundreds across the country. "The Governor of Wyoming has agreed to resettle Somalia and Syrian Refugees in Caspar Wyoming" That brings thousands of muslims into the last untouched corner of America. With chain immigration and a high birth rate they will soon be a significant poltical force buiding mosques and electing polticians to advance their causes. Now tell me you rebuilders of America, exactly WHAT coherent identity is going to be left to America to rebuild from? Hmm? A shared religion? A shared language? A shared history? ..Where is the foundation for the "rebuild"going to come from? And whats happening in Wyoming is happening all across whats left of the ex nation state America.. genocidal eradication. At best it will produce a bumper crop of Indonesian-Kenyan-Homosexual Communists as the next ones to "lead America forward". Just dont ask what "forward" or "lead" or "America" means.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the settlement of so many muslims in the U.S. is a huge problem. And, I admit that I have no solution. Besides kicking them out. I also agree that Obama has done a tremendous amount of damage in his time in office and will do more as he winds down. I am disgusted that Americans voted him into office twice. It's enough to shake your faith in Americans. Not that Bush was much better. I have no solution for that either. It may be that America is doomed. However, history does tell tales of resurgent civilisations. We came out of an incredibly destructive civil war and grew stronger over time. Most countries don't recover from conflicts like the civil war. So, since we did it once, maybe we can again. But, it won't be easy or neat. It will take some heavy lifting and that could get rather messy. War changes everything. And if Putin wants to get into it with us, well, it might be just the kick in the pants this country needs. Americans are too soft and they have it too easy. Maybe it's time we got hungry again. And if we have to dismember Russia to get there, so be it. W.C.T.

Anonymous said...

"Putin's power rests on a shaky energy industry"

Indeed, but at least Putin is trying something that could be productive, re: energy from the Russian arctic. Obama seems totally disinterested in that. I'm no Putin fan, still at least he is trying something. The Ukraine situation...definitely trying to expand Russia's borders. Didn't he try to meddle in Ossetia (sp) a few years ago?

Keliata

Anonymous said...

"Obama delivers Putin's totalitarianism in soy form..."

Respectfully disagree somewhat. While the Patriot Act section 215 has been oppressive to all Americans, increasing numbers of innocent Americans have been persecuted and even prosecuted under Obama's administration--photographer, journalists, dissidents on the Right and Left.

Do you remember Obama's push for a strong civilian security force? We pretty much have this courtesy of the DHS. Look into the background of the DHS, in particular Markus Wolfe, a former Stasi general. Also check out former head of the KGB General Yevgeni Primakov also known As Evgenii.

Even the name Homeland, a direct translation of the German word heimet:(

Obama might come across as a weakling with his myriad vacations, golfing, pop TV appearances but his actions are deceptive.

A sad Keliata

True, this all started with Bush post September 11, but Obama is taking the US down a dangerous road.

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