October 21, 2009

From the Endless Annals of Intimidation and Delegitimization

Because these issues tie into several of my ongoing themes, it's worth spending some time analyzing the methods and purposes of these recent remarks by Obama. (I use that link solely because it was the first one I encountered that offers a lengthy transcript of what Obama said on this occasion.)

Consult the link for the longer version of Obama's comments. I will focus on several passages in particular. First, in speaking about the alleged necessity to support health care reform -- and Obama means that it is necessary to support whatever legislation might finally come out of Congress (and let us remember that what that legislation will specifically contain remains a mystery in significant part even at this late date), Obama said:
You know, sometimes Democrats can be their own worst enemies. (Applause.) Democrats are an opinionated bunch. (Applause.) You know, the other side, they just kind of -- sometimes -- do what they're told. (Laughter.) Democrats, you all are thinking for yourselves. (Applause.) I like that in you. But it's time for us to make sure that we finish the job here. We are this close. And we've got to be unified. (Applause.)
Several aspects of these comments are noteworthy. I emphasize at the outset that the following mechanisms are regularly used by odious politicians of every variety, and whether they are Republicans or Democrats.

Obama here engages in a fundamental dishonesty, as he simultaneously counts on everyone to ignore the glaring fraud he commits right in front of them. Most people are eager to play along. In the manner of a happily self-deluded crowd gathered around a street-corner hustler, those who seek personal fulfillment and self-gratification in political pursuits are not overly insistent on honesty or integrity. Obama praises his audience and Democrats generally for "thinking for yourselves" -- and then immediately insists that they must recognize that what he himself identifies as a major virtue must not be taken too far. After all, we must "finish the job here." And: "We are this close." Therefore, "we've got to be unified."

As a general rule -- and at the moment, I am unable to think of a single exception -- when a politician engages in a hard sell on the determinative importance of "unity," he's conning you big-time. It's great that you're independent and that you think for yourself -- but don't do any more of that right now. Now, you have to do exactly what I say.

But what if he's rigged the game in advance? And that's exactly what's happened here. This is true not only in a broad sense, in developments now spanning more than a hundred years -- see, "Psst -- While You Were Gibbering, The Ruling Class Rigged the Game and Won Everything" (and I do wish that today's progressives would one day understand that this mechanism got fully underway in the Progressive era of the early twentieth century, as that post discusses in detail: "It was not a coincidence that the results of progressivism were precisely what many major business interests desired." [quoting Gabriel Kolko]) -- but it's also true of the "health care reform" absurdity/obscenity in particular.

I point you again to Chris Floyd's wonderfully brief and entirely accurate summary of what is going on in the health care reform debate. It's no debate at all: whatever happens, certain already immensely powerful and wealthy corporations closely allied with the State will become still more powerful and wealthy. Given the nature of the corporatist system that now throttles every aspect of life in the U.S., that is how the system works. That's how it's set up, and that's its purpose. The fact that insurance companies will reap huge rewards on the backs of "ordinary" taxpaying Americans is not a regrettable byproduct of an allegedly good but imperfect effort at reform, or a flaw that will be fixed at some unspecified future date. And as already powerful and wealthy interests become more powerful and wealthy, the State will also increase its already massive power over all our lives still more. None of that is incidental: it's the point.

But Obama instructs you that all that must be set aside. You need to be unified so that the job will be finished. But the job will only be finished on the terms set by the ruling class and their corporatist system. There are no other terms at all.

Obama is very familiar with this method of intimidation. This is exactly what transpired with the deliberately engineered economic "crisis" of a year ago (there was a genuine crisis, but it wasn't the one the political class was so intent upon, and, as far as "ordinary" Americans are concerned, the real crisis was only worsened by the "solutions"). I wrote about this in October 2008, "Terrorist State, Abroad and At Home":
Just as it is not possible for an individual to restrict what constitutes a fundamental psychological methodology to only one area of his life, so a ruling class will not employ one approach in foreign policy while dealing with matters of domestic politics in a radically different manner. In any case, the U.S. ruling class never had such a desire: in one way or another, other nations would be made to submit to the demands of the U.S. government -- and the same is true for U.S. citizens. The citizens of America will do exactly as the ruling class demands -- or else. As far as the ruling class is concerned, you have as little reason to complain as the murdered Iraqis do: the ruling class only wishes to improve your life. The ruling class acts only on your behalf, and "for your own good."

You now witness these tactics of intimidation and of the most transparently, viciously manipulative fear-mongering deployed by almost every member of the ruling class in connection with the bailout bill.
In that post, I then set forth representative remarks from Bush, Biden, Obama and Hillary Clinton. They all offered the identical message. When shorn of the propaganda and lies told by and for the ruling class, that message reduced to this:
If you don't "recognize" what Clinton demands you recognize -- whether it's true or not, whether the "solution" she proposes is a solution or more of the poison that is killing us -- you're just stupid.

I have several other news articles offering comments from other members of the ruling class, and I could easily find many, many more, all to the same general effect: be terrified and do what they say. Or else. If you don't understand the urgency and necessity of doing exactly what they say, you're just stupid. In that case, you should obviously turn your life and your money over to your betters. Let them dispose of all of it as they see fit. That's why they're your rulers, isn't it? They know what's best for you.

Do what they demand -- or else.
In his recent remarks, Obama went on to broaden the targets of his intimidation, adding two further dishonest elements, delegitimization and a set of false alternatives:
And to all those non-Democrats who may be in the audience -- (laughter) -- or who are watching our webcast, or who will hear about this on cable -- (laughter) -- I want you to know I believe in a strong and loyal opposition. I believe in a two-party system where ideas are tested and assumptions are challenged. That's made this legislation that we're working on better and more durable. That's how our democracy works. That's a good thing.

But what I reject is when some folks decide to sit on the sidelines and root for failure on health care -- (applause) -- or they root for failure on reforming our energy system, or they root for failure on getting the Olympics. I mean, who's against the Olympics? (Laughter and applause.) What's up with that? (Laughter.) You know? That's a sad thing, isn’t it?


OBAMA: I mean, I don't care if you're Democrat or Republican -- you know, it's the Olympics. (Laughter and applause.) Come on! (Applause.) What I reject is when some folks, all they've got to say is, let's go back and do the things that we were doing that got us into this mess in the first place. (Applause.) We understand exactly who and what got us into this mess (emphasis added). That's all -- that's all they've got to say. Like we forgot. (Laughter.) We didn’t forget. It was only nine months ago. (Laughter and applause.)
The remarks about the Olympics are the cheapest form of jingoistic, phony patriotism, barely worthy of refutation. Seizing on Obama's Olympic "failure" may have represented yet another triumph of triviality on the part of certain of Obama's opponents and critics -- especially in light of the ongoing, infinitely more serious problems in foreign policy and on the economic front -- but enthusiastically grabbing "the other side" of the same rotten huckster ploy hardly serves to enhance Obama's own seriousness on these issues. Not that these questions matter to Obama's dedicated partisans; such is the nature of our primitive tribal politics.

Much more significantly, Obama lies about the fundamental problem I identified above. When all that is on offer is the further expansion of the corporatist system that has been killing us in slow motion for over a century, the only honorable choice is to root for failure with every ounce of fervor you can muster. Do I want this effort at "health care reform" to fail? You bet your ass I do. You should bet your ass that it fails for your own sake. Of course, if your primary goal is to have some bill, any bill, that you can distort and lie about incessantly, insisting that it represents some kind of "improvement" and that this is the best we can hope for if we're "realistic" and "pragmatic," you don't care about any of that. Fall in line, we all have to pull together, we have to be "unified." Do what Obama says.

And Obama's predictable recourse to demonization of the Republicans is pathetically transparent. I have criticized the Bush administration and Republicans generally in terms as scathing and comprehensive as most of their critics, in fact, in terms more scathing and comprehensive than most. But the alternatives are not restricted to doing what Obama demands or "go[ing] back and do[ing] the things that we were doing that got us into this mess in the first place." Obama wants you to believe those are the only alternatives simply because he wants you to do what he demands. That's the only reason. That's why he's lying and will continue to lie.

But some of us -- not many, but a few of us -- desperately try to encourage people to consider another possibility altogether: the unwinding of the deadly, strangling alliance between powerful vested, "private" interests and the State. This process of delinking between the purported "private" and public spheres will necessarily take a long time; it required more than a hundred years to get us to this point, and reversing this calamitous course is not going to happen quickly. But if one wishes to see significant change accomplished peacefully, it is the only way such a transformation can happen.

Neither Obama nor any of our other national political leaders wants you to consider these issues. If you did, the ruling class's death grip on all of us would be seriously questioned. That is the one thing that must never be allowed to happen.

Thus the message: Good for you that you're independent and that you think for yourselves! Well done, strong and loyal opposition! But right now, if you're a decent human being who genuinely wants to see change, you have to do what I say.

Will it work? Have you been awake during any of the last ten or twenty years? Have you studied American history, or world history? Did you pay attention last fall, or during the rest of the campaign, or to the actual nature of what Obama represented?

Of course, it will work. Oh, my, yes, it will. Yes, indeed.