Utne Blogs > Politics

The Guilty Pleasure of Brand Obama

by Katie Leo 


Tags: Politics, U.S., Cultural Criticism, pseudo-events, junk politics, President Obama, Chris Hedges, Truthdig,

obama_bwHow much of America's support for Obama results from clever marketing and our desire to just feel good about our president? Chris Hedges’ latest Truthdig column, which explores the gap between President Obama’s brand and his leadership, should give any Obama supporter pause.

“Brand Obama is about being happy consumers,” Hedges writes. “We are entertained. We feel hopeful. We like our president. We believe he is like us. But like all branded products spun out from the manipulative world of corporate advertising, we are being duped into doing and supporting a lot of things that are not in our interest.”

He then details a potent list of the President’s executive actions thus far, which, according to Hedges, prove that “Brand Obama does not threaten the core of the corporate state any more than did Brand George W. Bush.” The evidence includes: $12.8 trillion to Wall Street and insolvent banks; $1 trillion to our “doomed imperial projects” in Iraq; expanding the war in Afghanistan; and refusing to consider single-payer, not-for-profit healthcare.

Hedges goes on to dissect Obama’s Senate voting record, which he calls “a miserable surrender to corporate interests.”

He tags the world of Brand Obama as “junk politics,” which scholar and cultural critic Benjamin DeMott described as “impatient with articulated conflict, enthusiastic about America’s optimism and moral character, and heavily dependent on feel-your-pain language and gesture.” Hedges sees Obama’s junk politics as an extension of his celebrity status, grounded in our image-based culture and the proliferation of “pseudo-events” in the media.

These pseudo-events, “whether they show the president in an auto plant or a soup kitchen or addressing troops in Iraq” are immune to critique, according to Hedges.

“Reporters, especially those on television, no longer ask if the message is true but if the pseudo-event worked or did not work as political theater,” he writes. “Pseudo-events are judged on how effectively we have been manipulated by illusion. Those events that appear real are relished and lauded. Those that fail to create a believable illusion are deemed failures. Truth is irrelevant. Those who succeed in politics, as in most of the culture, are those who create the brands and pseudo-events that offer the most convincing fantasies. And this is the art Obama has mastered.”

Image by Radiospike, licensed under Creative Commons

Source: Truthdig