12 June 2012

Brand Obama

Have we?
Because political debate has become so debased in our media monoculture ... race, gender and class can be used as seductive tools of propaganda and diversion. In Obama's case, what matters, as Fanon pointed out in an earlier era, is not the intermediary's "historic" elevation, but the class he serves. After all, Bush's inner circle was probably the most multiracial in presidential history. There was Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Clarence Thomas, all dutifully serving an extreme and dangerous power. - John Pilger

A few years ago in the children's section of a bookshop I came across a familiar figure, Brand Obama, making us all believe in a change that never happened, being marketed to children. Brand Obama appropriated the semiotic language of King and X and delivered nothing. Almost like a storybook character who never existed. Cynthia McKinney powerfully said that Obama signified the loss of "innocence" of African-Americans who were now part of a corrupt system. I think that is partly correct, for there are African-Americans opposed to Obama on moral grounds and have not been seduced by ethnocentrism. The preoccupation with white privilege, from the standpoint of a coloured person, can obscure our own power at times. Obama illustrates that. The excuse-making and defence of Obama has gone on too long. Rather than addressing racist attacks against Obama as racism, people ignore that and react with homage to another kind of power, that of position rather. It is better to argue as a coloured person on the right to position and status as an equal member of humanity rather than climb that false, foolish Renaissance ladder of "the chain of being".

Obama, who has become a global celebrity, was molded easily into a brand. He had almost no experience, other than two years in the Senate, lacked any moral core and could be painted as all things to all people....Celebrity culture has leeched into every aspect of our culture, including politics, to bequeath to us what Benjamin DeMott called “junk politics.” Junk politics does not demand justice or the reparation of rights. Junk politics personalizes and moralizes issues rather than clarifying them. “It’s impatient with articulated conflict, enthusiastic about America’s optimism and moral character, and heavily dependent on feel-your-pain language and gesture,” DeMott noted. The result of junk politics is that nothing changes – “meaning zero interruption in the processes and practices that strengthen existing, interlocking systems of socioeconomic advantage.” It redefines traditional values, tilting “courage toward braggadocio, sympathy toward mawkishness, humility toward self-disrespect, identification with ordinary citizens toward distrust of brains.” Junk politics “miniaturizes large, complex problems at home while maximizing threats from abroad. It’s also given to abrupt unexplained reversals of its own public stances, often spectacularly bloating problems previously miniaturized.” And finally, it “seeks at every turn to obliterate voters’ consciousness of socioeconomic and other differences in their midst.” - Chris Hedges

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