Wednesday 6 August 2008

All rise for The Placebo President (in waiting)

Recently, it has become slightly more acceptable to scrutinise Barack Obama and his seemingly assured ascent towards the presidency. This comes as a welcome relief, really, because I'm always made uneasy when I see people, especially journalists, acting like slavish devotees. I've been disconcerted, too, by the faintly fascist nature of Obama's set-piece speeches where the crowds chant “yes we can” at the end of his every sentence - even if he says something like “our dependence on oil has to change”. Yes We Can. What? I wouldn't be surprised if he now secretly hates the fact that people shout this out, you know, not least because it suggests they're not actually listening to what he's saying.

In fairness, some people have, in fact, been only to keen to question him since the moment he first became a “threat”. A terrorist threat, too, if you are minded to pay heed to the vapid fixations of Fox News (which I respectfully suggest you don't do.) A black terrorist threat, no less, if you are persuaded by the learned academy of YouTube historians – which, let's face it, would likely mean you failed very badly at school.

But let's not beat about the bush: what we have here is a black Muslim terrorist threat (Obama Bin Laden, d'you see, d'you see? how we laughed) with a militant, America-hating, practically feminist and openly black wife, for crying out loud. (This according to the Nazi guy in the trailer with the job-repelling mullet and a chip on his shoulder way bigger than his glumly malfunctioning penis, which will never adequately tumefy to reveal the home made tattoo reading “mom”.)

I don't really mean those people, though, I mean the kind of people who should actually know better. So where is the professional detachment, the analytical rigour, the duty to observe and report with impartiality? I'm losing track of the damp love-words that trip arousedly from the mouths of goggle-eyed reporters as they briefly disengage their quivering noses from the messiah's behind to splatter our screens with their sex-noise reportage. Breathless, excited, they ooh and they ahh, shunning real news to exclaim – live! hallelujah! - how His plane just docked safely at terminal blah.

These reporters are clearly seeing the same man that the yes we can crowd are seeing - “do we want a 21st century economy?” Yes We Can. Seriously, what? They've bought into him and their critical faculties have warped. So it's a relief, like I say, to see some (serious) journalists finally breaking cover and subjecting his policies – not the high-flown and virtually meaningless rhetoric of his campaign speeches – to proper, adult scrutiny.

As something of a (recent and grudging) convert - Yes I Can - I'd love to see a president try to wean his North American babies from oil, for example, but that's not really the point. It just felt perfectly horrible to see reporters act like giddy cheerleaders on His recent, rather presumptuous tour of European capitals and beyond. That's all.

I'm not really sure what's going on with the yes we canners, though - are we not all uniquely individual and special? Yes We Can - and must simply assume that they need to believe what Barack Obama is telling them:

February 10, 2007
Springfield, Illinois

“.......Let's set high standards for our schools and give them the resources they need to succeed. Let's recruit a new army of teachers and give them better pay....Let's make college more affordable....let's invest in scientific research....let's lay down broadband lines through the heart of inner cities and rural towns all across America. Let's be the generation that ensures our nation's workers are sharing in our prosperity. Let's protect the hard-earned benefits their companies have promised. Let's make it possible for hardworking Americans to save for retirement.....Let's be the generation that ends poverty in America....”

Yes, hurrah, let's. But wait - how?

I think you need to be either desperate for change (understandable) or Sam Seaborn (desirable) or a member of the British Labour Party circa 1997 (plain weird), to believe that even a fraction of this can or will happen. You need to close your mind to the rampant inconsistencies and to the realities of a viciously out of control national debt. And you need to see Barack Obama as a man of destiny, I suppose, and not as some suspiciously sleek politician who may very well be thinking “I wonder if this pose I'm striking will make me seem like a man of destiny – I'll tilt my head a bit and half close my eyes, just to be safe. There. Now they'll call me a man of destiny, for sure”. It will either ring true, or it won't.

But if it does happen to ring true for a great many people and they honestly believe that everything is about to change for the better.....well, is that so bad? A dose of hope, of happiness, even, however fraudulently attained, may just be better than having no hope at all. And if you can force yourself to believe that this rhetorical medicine is actually a cure for deep-seated societal ills, then you may even find yourself feeling quite bouncy for a little bit longer than might otherwise be reasonably expected.

A complete ignorance of the life and works of one Anthony Charles Lynton Blair would certainly help, in that regard, as would a reliance on homeopathy. Or God.

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