October 31, 2006

Plutocrats Are Different

I saw the story about Oprah's latest gimcrackery, and was variously astonished, amazed at the complete absence of any ability to perceive herself and her actions as others do, and repulsed. I decided it wasn't worth writing about.

Now I don't need to. This captures much of my own reaction:
Oprah Winfrey, who likes to lavish gifts on her studio audience -- diamond-encrusted watches, Sony camcorders, Burberry coats, BlackBerrys, cashmere sweaters, iPods, wide-screen LCD televisions, washer-dryers, Pontiac G6s -- yesterday gave approximately 300 audience members each $1,000.

"I really do think that it's the best gift I can give this audience, so thanks to our friends at Bank of America -- they thought this was a good idea, too . . . you will each go home with $1,000! . . . One thousand dollars! Okay?" Oprah asked, rhetorically.

Wildly enthusiastic audience response -- though, in truth, nowhere near the level of studio hysteria achieved when she gave audience members those Pontiacs. Still, a pretty happy crowd.

Then came the Trick.

The $1,000, she told them, will be doled out in the form of debit cards, and recipients must spend all of their money on a charity of choice. What she was actually giving them, Oprah said with all the patronization of a woman whose financial worth has been put at $1.5 billion, is "the best feeling in the world."

Definite dimming of enthusiasm in studio to level now far below car giveaway, which has become the gold standard of audience giveaway hysteria.

Or the diamond watches. Even iPods got a bigger response than this.

"I can honestly say that every gift I've ever given has brought at least as much happiness to me as it has to the person I've given it to," Oprah added, with all the complacency of a woman who owns three homes, including a $50 million estate in California.

"That's the feeling I want to pass on to you. I want you to have that feeling this season," she said.

But wait, there's more.

"To document your good deeds, because I want to make sure you document your good deeds," Oprah said, working hard to keep up their spirits, "we are lending everybody in this audience our favorite Sony DVD Handycam.

"Okay? . . . Okay? Okay?" Oprah said.
Just...God, I dunno.

But this thought occurs to me: with this kind of patronizing condescension and arrogance, Oprah is wasted on teevee. She oughta be in gummint. I think foreign policy would be the perfect fit. And never mind how the audience members react: it makes her feel soooo good, and about herself -- which is, after all, the most important thing of all. Why, it's her "favorite giveaway ever." So she has the narcissism down, too.

As Roving Ambassador for Pointless but Endlessly Self-Satisfying, Empty Gestures, she can offer even bigger "gifts" -- to entire nations. "Here's $20 billion, just for you miserable, downtrodden stumblebums. Now you be sure to spend it just the way we want! And keep good records! Here, film it for me! Then I won't have to write those annoying reports. Now you just be goddamned sure to return the camera! Okay? Okay, okay?!"

Yeah, she'd work out just fine.