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 Day 19

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"Some Say I'm Negative, But They're Not Positive..."

Busty Bimbettes, Bombs and Brand Obama

by RICHARD RHAMES

“It’s obvious, the point of advertising is to delude people with the imagery and, you know, tales of a football player, sexy actress, who, you know, drives to the moon in a car or something like that.. The goal of advertising is to create uninformed consumers who will make irrational choices.”

–Professor Noam Chomsky, 11/19/08

In the cold light of late November, as the Clinton redux crew prepares to re-enter the White House, rational people might wonder, “Is this the change people voted for?” Actually, as argued several times in this space, anyone who expected anything different simply wasn’t paying attention.

Still, not paying attention is what we’re all about these days. Historian Gabriel Kolko described it well back in 1976:

“With apathy and infantilism two of the main characteristics of American political campaigns … concern for the ephemeral rather than the candid fundamentals is … a constant in American political dialogue; … It (has) created a nationally underdeveloped politics…. Apathy and infantilism aid political hegemony and the stability of machines… By linking political issues to the extraneous concerns for race, glamour, religion, or experience, and avoiding central questions of power and purpose in society, the real intellectual and ideological questions of the social order have been wholly obscured and the mass capacity to respond to the problems of that order seriously reduced.”

The main work of the American constitutional regime is to keep what the framers called the “majority faction” from ever gaining power. Any casual observer would have to admit that, except for a couple of rude democratic eruptions in the 30s and the 60s, the system has functioned largely as intended. Its most recent poisonous flowering is the selection of Barack Hussein Obama as corporate-guy-in-chief.

His rapid-fire appointments of Rahm ( “He’s no Arab”) Emmanuel, Larry ( “Africa is under-polluted / Women can’t cut it intellectually”) Summers, Hillary ( “Let’s eradicate hopes for single-payer, a sovereign Yugoslavia, Palestine, and Iraq”) Clinton, and the rest of the ghoulish shysters from Team Willy are but the cruel prelude to Four More Years of the same.

BHO’s announced his sales strategy in “The Audacity of Hope”: “I serve as a blank screen, on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.”

If folks wanted to believe that he was “anti-war,” or pro-labor, he didn’t try to disillusion them. He smiled a lot and pushed his wife and kids to the front while sentimental dream consumers teared-up. On the stump he cooed to his fans, “This isn’t about me. This is about you.”

Say what?

Oh, and by the way, he raised more corporate money than the grizzled McCain and marketed himself to a distracted public like so much plastic ware. Even before the election took place, the leading PR trade publication reported that BHO had “won over the nation’s brand builders…(being) named Advertising Age’ s marketer of the year for 2008.”

“Mr. Obama won the vote of hundreds of marketers, agency heads and marketing-services vendors gathered … at the Association of National Advertisers’ annual conference. He edged out runners-up Apple and Zappos.com… (as well as) megabrand Nike, turnaround story Coors, and Mr. Obama’s rival, Sen. John McCain,” the spin mag reported.

Business Week’s Jon Fine enthused , “It’s the f***in’ Web 2.0 thing.”

High f***in’ praise indeed.

But, consider the source, because advertising and the “brand” development of defective products like the president-elect, is a manipulative process, unworthy of a great people and a hindrance to social/political progress. The consumer of advertising images, Neil Postman observed, is a weak and pathetic creature; merely “a patient assured by psycho-dramas.” Ad campaigns encourage distracted people to “feel” good about things that really aren’t good for them. It’s not about logic and rational argument. In his Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985), Postman wrote, “Today, on television commercials, propositions are as scarce as unattractive people. The truth or falsity of an advertiser’s claim is simply not an issue. A McDonald’s commercial, for example, is not a series of testable, logically ordered assertions. It’s a drama — a mythology, if you will — of handsome people selling, buying, and eating hamburgers, and being driven to near ecstasy by their good fortune. No claims are made, except those the viewer projects onto or infers from the drama. One can like or dislike a television commercial of course. But one cannot refute it.”

Despite actual evidence to the contrary, a great many desperate people bought Brand Obama as a new and improved presidential candidate. Some are now getting a bit apprehensive as he surrounds himself with a ghastly retinue of comers, con-men, war criminals, Clintonian creeps, and cudgel wielders.

There’s worse to come — much worse. His VP elect, the heinously corrupt “Senator from Mastercard” Joe Biden, instructed high-roller Ds at a Seattle fundraiser (10/19/08), that Brand Obama was destined to soon seriously distress his fans. Biden began with a biblical metaphor, “ Let’s not be, for those of a different faith remember St. Peter denied Christ thrice, you know? We don’t need anybody denying us, this is gonna be tough. There are gonna be a lot of you who want to go ‘whoa, wait a minute, yo, whoa, whoa, I don’t know about that decision.’ …. (These decisions are) not likely to be as popular as they are sound. Because if they’re popular, they’re probably not sound.” (Matthew Jaffe, ABC News)

The jackals and empire camp-followers in America’s pundit and chattering classes are richly cheered by Brand Obama’s “pragmatism” and his supposed “move to the center.” But anyone who regarded the “Yes-we-can-man” as a lefty or as having any serious beef with the Bush/Clinton/Bush consensus is likely to be badly disappointed.

Maybe Inauguration Day ceremonies will soothe the anxious by retreading the Fleetwood Mac chestnut, “Don’t stop thinkin’ about tomorrow,” again.

More appropriate, would be Public Enemy’s “Don’t Believe the Hype.”

RICHARD RHAMES is a dirt-farmer in Biddeford, Maine (just north of the Kennebunkport town line).