The Guilty Pleasure of Brand Obama


| 5/6/2009 10:43:25 AM


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.

Elana W
5/13/2009 4:22:15 PM

oops, sorry for the double comment post.


Elana W
5/13/2009 4:21:45 PM

Wow, I really disagree. It wasn't Obama (or his genius brand machine) that made him the left's poster child for salvation. Obama picks very careful positions, often maddening both sides by articulating a vision in the language of values while still hedging his bets. I believe this is calculated, but not in a way to manipulate, but to strategically keep more options on the table. You may not love that he's not living up to the hype, but for the most part Obama did not create the hype himself. But the part I mostly take issue with here is lumping the Obama campaign brand and identity in with all the other empty efforts of previous campaigns. The brand isn't about manipulating voters into feeling warm and fuzzy, but about making them feel *a part of it*. That's what made this campaign stand apart - the accessibility of the brand and the ability for each person to see their hopes and futures in it. It's what good design should be. This was paired with an aggressive, field-based campaign strategy that beautifully merged message, medium, and audience.


Elana W
5/13/2009 4:20:47 PM

Wow, I really disagree. It wasn't Obama (or his genius brand machine) that made him the left's poster child for salvation. Obama picks very careful positions, often maddening both sides by articulating a vision in the language of values while still hedging his bets. I believe this is calculated, but not in a way to manipulate, but to strategically keep more options on the table. You may not love that he's not living up to the hype, but for the most part Obama did not create the hype himself. But the part I mostly take issue with here is lumping the Obama campaign brand and identity in with all the other empty efforts of previous campaigns. The brand isn't about manipulating voters into feeling warm and fuzzy, but about making them feel *a part of it*. That's what made this campaign stand apart - the accessibility of the brand and the ability for each person to see their hopes and futures in it. It's what good design should be. This was paired with an aggressive, field-based campaign strategy that beautifully merged message, medium, and audience.


gman
5/6/2009 5:09:38 PM

I cannot really disagree with what Hedges is saying, though I do think that all politicians are branding themselves in order to get elected and stay elected. Hopefully Brand Obama will begin to cater more towards noble causes as his tenure continues.