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September 3, 2014 / 8 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Sultan Knish’

The Innocence of Obama

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

Ten years ago most left-thinking liberals were constantly worried about the erosion of civil liberties under the War on Terror though they could rarely name an instance where an American citizen had actually experienced such an erosion.

This was after all before the days when naked scanners and drone strikes had entered the vocabulary and the best they could do was to haul out Jose Padilla, aka Abdullah al-Muhajir, ACLU’s choirboy of the month, a Brooklyn-born convert to Islam who was being held in jail for no reason at all except aiding terrorists and plotting to build a dirty bomb.

Ten years later the lefty civil liberties types were proven right. The War on Terror did erode our civil liberties and America’s first political prisoner in generations has spent a month in jail for making an inconvenient movie at an inconvenient time.

When Charles Woods, the father of Tyrone Woods, one of the Navy SEALS who died fighting in Benghazi, met with Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State assured him that, “We’re going to have that person arrested and prosecuted that did the video.” And they got him, officially on charges of violating parole, unofficially on charges of violently offending violent Muslims.

The woman whose policy had overthrown the Libyan government and then placed a barely defended consulate in the middle of a city of Jihadists, did not promise the grieving father that his son’s killers would pay. She promised him that the man who offended his son’s killers would pay. Not only would his son be the first casualty of that appeasement policy, but the Constitution that his son had sworn to support and defend would be the second casualty.

Mark Basseley Youssef is not the first filmmaker sent to prison by a Democrat in the White House for making the wrong kind of movie and interfering with his foreign policy. That would be Robert Goldstein who made the The Spirit of ’76, a movie about the American Revolution, at a time when Woodrow Wilson was trying to get Americans deeper into World War I.

Wilson’s Justice Department directed Chicago Police Deputy Superintendent Metellus Lucullus Cicero Funkhouser to confiscate The Spirit of ’76 and Goldstein spent three years in prison and eventually died in a Nazi concentration camp. Both Youssef and Goldstein made two bad movies that were politically inconvenient. The Spirit of ’76 was not welcome in 1917 and the origin of Muslim violence is not an appropriate topic for 2012. “History is history and fact is fact”, Judge Bledsoe conceded and went ahead with his ruling anyway.

Goldstein’s Federal trial took place in the Southern District of California. Mark Basseley Youssef’s trial will take place in the Central District of California. Goldstein was convicted of creating a movie was calculated to arouse antagonism and enmity. That is the unofficial charge that has been brought against Youssef. Goldstein was convicted of reminding Americans of the origin of their country and Youssef is guilty of reminding them of the origin of Islam.

The strange confluence of using Chicago politics and California Federal courtrooms to cover up the nakedness of a progressive president’s policies has a certain resonance less than one hundred years later. Youssef and his video trailer made a convenient scapegoat so that progressive politicians could avoid talking about the collapse of Libya into roving bands of Islamist militias and the triumph of Al Qaeda in North Africa.

After Obama had denounced Youssef in every forum from 60 Minutes to the United Nations to Pakistani TV, he was arrested, not to protect the Innocence of Muslims, but to protect the Innocence of Obama.

Blaming the Innocence of Muslims briefly silenced the more dangerous questions about what had gone wrong in Benghazi and the even more dangerous questions about what had gone wrong with the Arab Spring. Youssef, like Goldstein, was a foreigner, and an excellent choice as a scapegoat. And for weeks people focused on Youssef and his many aliases, and not on the question of why Americans died in Benghazi.

Americans died in Benghazi for the same reason that American hostages had been taken in Iran and for the same reason that Leon Klinghoffer had been murdered on the Achille Lauro and US Marines had died in Beirut. They died because their government had appeased Muslims, had given their terrorist groups hope that they could achieve their aims if they killed enough people, had saved them at the moment of their greatest weakness and had elevated them to power.

A Star Falls Over Chicago

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

The Obama Campaign, that strange 4 year marriage of Generation X hipsters, inner city bosses, suburban college educated boomers longing for racial healing, Big Green businessmen and shady Saudis, appears to be finally sinking beneath the waves. It isn’t going out in a blaze of glory, but with mumbles of trending topics.

Obama was always a petty man and his campaign has descended into pointless pettiness, into Team Big Bird, binders full of women and bayonets and horses. Like so much hipster culture, it exists so that the participants can entertain each other with something that no one else thinks is funny or clever. And that elitism is precisely the point. It’s the last resort of losers who hide from their lack of taste behind walls of exclusivity.

Abandoning mass appeal, Obama is getting back to his roots of entertaining upper middle class college kids with his ‘hipness’; both actual  college kids and the overgrown middle aged variety that make up the professional class of the mediacracy who treat the rest of the country the way that they treated the natives on their Peace Corps assignments.

The Obama Campaign was never serious, but it once aspired to an Oprah level of seriousness, to the dignity of the self-help sections where trite observations are recited with great solemnity so that they sound like they must mean more than they do.

For the Northeastern New York Times reader, Obama held out the promise of atonement for the country’s grave racial sins. For the San Francisco wind farm executive, he offered the prospect of a presidency that would be one long endless TED talk with plenty of subsidies for the cunning Greenvestor. And the college student would finally have a president who watched the same shows, listened to the same music and got the same jokes making him the perfect Resident Adviser for the country.

Two biographies and four years later those same people have learned that like that party guest who mentions that he’s a nuclear physicist, a poet and an explorer of supernatural phenomena, Obama wasn’t actually interesting, he just seemed interesting in a cursory sort of way. Obama’s biography made him an interesting party guest, but not past a 5 minute chat, and it in no way qualified him to hold the country’ top job during an economic crisis and two wars.

Obama’s seriously intent tone, the one that signals you to pay attention, no longer works on even the faithful. Like Pavlov’s dogs, they have stopped coming once they realized that just because the bell rings doesn’t mean that dinner or a functional economy will be served. The weighty tone that he once used to deploy to great effect, borrowing the tricks of the preachers that he encountered in his huckstering days, has come to seem as empty as Oprah’s smile or Bill Clinton’s sincere head nod, just another of the tricks of hollow public personalities signifying nothing.

For years and years, he has talked and said nothing of any import. All the talk, the endless speeches and addresses, the verbal and facial tics that indicated seriousness of purpose, have never led to one single thing. Not one problem solved, not one crisis resolved and not one plan laid out and completed in four years with something to show for it.

Somewhere along the way, Obama became boring. He became that one man at a party that you don’t want to talk to because he will go on forever and all his chatter leads nowhere, because for all his conversational skills, he is capable of nothing but talk. And after talking to him for ten hours, you don’t know him any better than you did after ten minutes.

Voting for Obama was never the right choice objectively, but it was the right cultural choice, it was the trend, the impulse that everyone seemed to be following, the style that everyone was wearing and the book that everyone was reading. But trends like that don’t last. How many people will have Lady Gaga songs in their players or Fifty Shades of Grey on their bookshelves ten years from now? This too is the fate of the president of the trending topic, the commander-in-chief of the pet rock and the mood ring with his binders full of women and t-shirts with pictures of horses and bayonets on them. A joke that like Snakes on a Plane or All Your Base Are Belong To Us never gets old until 5 minutes later.

When times are bad, people have a well-known escapist streak. During the Great Depression, lavish musicals were popular. After September 11, Zoolander topped the box office. Facing two wars and a failed economy, the American people followed their own escapist streak to a smooth talking trickster with a soothing bag of promises that were too good to be true. Who wanted to listen to McCain, a man who looked like a walking war injury and kept talking about sacrifice, when you could get big bags of free stuff from a man who offered a post-racial society as a free gift with every vote.

Americans escaped to Obama and now they’re escaping from Obama. The vacation was already being cut short in 2012 and now it’s approaching its blackout date. Instead of taking Americans away from everything, Obama took everything away from them, and now they’re gearing up to take it all back and put him on a back shelf next to last summer’s beach reads and last decade’s pop hits.

Obama is over. And confronting his ‘overness’, that deadliest of fates for a hipster, he is crawling back to pander to his original audience, the graphic designers who put together posters of him on their free time, the celebrities who were eager to form his Jack Pack, to be his Joey Bishop or his Marylin Monroe, the musicians singing about him, the netroots bloggers cranking out their sensations of euphoric immediacy at being in his presence and the professional leftists cheering for him to take down the American Empire like Godzilla took down Tokyo.

But all the trending memes with hashtags and Tumblr pages, the calculatingly overexposed Instagram photos and the celebrities scribbling things on their hands and Twitpiccing the results, can’t bring back the thing that’s over. And even if they could, it won’t make a difference to the election. Hipsters like things that are different before they become popular, because it makes them seem like interesting people. Once something is popular then liking it no longer means that you’re interesting, instead it comes with the ego-deflating revelation that you are just like everyone else, except more so.

There’s no point to liking Obama anymore. Not when Obama is everywhere, more overexposed than Instagram, grinning from every corner, from every screen and magazine cover, selling out to get ahead and making the old faithfuls wonder if he ever stood for anything at all. Theirs is the sad burden of knowing that they will never have their own JFK who died, tragically and horrifyingly, before he could dive all the way into Vietnam, before stories of his carousing hit the papers forcing him to go on television and insist that he never had sex with any of those women.

Obama will not be immortalized by a Communist with a rifle. Instead he is doomed to be mortal, his hair turning white and his musical tastes turning worse. Any day now he will admit to a fondness for Kenny G and after that there will be no saving him from the dread ravages of time. And so he is over because the alternative to him being over is the tastemakers having to confront their own overness. Their own mortality.

If Obama were cannier than he seems, then he would embrace his own fakeness, becoming a self-constructed celebrity, glorifying in his own artificiality, until like Lady Gaga or Lana Del Rey and every third hip hop star with a pulse, his very fakeness would serve as proof of his inventiveness and his media savvy. Such an Obama would present a birth certificate showing that he was born in Kenya to challenge our notions of identity, admit to squandering all the country’s money for its own good and keep us entertained with his latest antics. It might not win him the election, but considering the example of Zoolander, it might, because then instead of being over, he would be a new escape all over again.

But Obama is determined to be a hipster to the very end, instead of embracing the shamelessness of his own media manipulations, he veers erratically between an insincere sincerity and the sneer of the spitefully superior. It’s the performance we saw in the third debate, the antics of every college kid you ever argued with, that combination of smugness and insecurity that marks the hipster as an impossible conversationalist.

The only thing sadder than a hipster is a wannabe hipster and that’s what Obama is now, a man in search of a meme, a one-man band in search of an artfully touching documentary about its travails in the wilds of Portland and a flat line in search of its trend.

Obama does not know how to govern. He does not know how to address the economy or war. The one thing he knows how to do is be popular. That is the one and only skill that he has cultivated in his life. And it is a good skill for a politician, but a politician whose only skill is popularity had better avoid taking responsibility for anything that might make him unpopular.

Popularity is a trend, and like every reality show star still pounding away on Twitter five years later, trying to move their latest CD or comedy club appearance, Oprah’s most popular boy toy since Dr. Oz has failed to realize that he is no longer popular, his moment has passed, his relevance is through and no one wants a man whose only skills are on-camera skills to be the one standing between them and economic oblivion.

The country doesn’t hate him, but it is tired of him. It wakes up every morning, remembers the time everyone got drunk and decided to vote for the cool black dude who talked a lot about hope, winces and then forgets about him all over again until it looks at the latest economic news. It’s over him and it wishes that he would show some dignity and walk away from a job that he isn’t qualified for on his own.

Obama has gotten desperate. His fundraising emails walk the thin line between emotional blackmail and hysteria. Increasingly they read like Cousin Larry phoning for bail money from Tijuana. Shrilly needy they demand that we pay attention to him, that we love him, adore him and spend money on him. They are the missives of a man who cannot conceive of a life outside the spotlight, the vapid fear of a celebrity who cannot confront the real world and cannot understand why their public is walking away.

In the last stages of his career, Obama has become Norma Desmond, waving around a social media gun and shouting, “No one leaves a star. That’s what makes one a star.” But the country has left and what they leave behind is a star falling from the sky over Chicago.

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

Obama’s Greatest Foreign Policy Error

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Obama’s greatest Foreign Policy error was the same one that had been made by Bush and by numerous past administrations. The error was that the problem was not Islam, but Islamic violence. It was Obama however who took that error to its logical conclusion by pursuing a foreign policy meant to part Islamists from their violent tendencies by allowing them to win without the need for terrorism.

Violence, the thinking in diplomatic circles went, was inherently alarming and destabilizing. When Islamists don’t take over, they move to the West, preach radical theology, gather up followers and begin blowing things up. But let them take over their own home countries and they’ll no longer have any reason to draw up maps of London and New York, not when they’re beheading adulterers and burning churches back home.

The Arab Spring was to the Middle East what the betrayal of Czechoslovakia to the Nazis and the betrayal of the rest of Eastern Europe to the Communists was to 20th Century European history. It was the moment when all the diplomatic folly that had come before it came together in one great historical instant of national and international betrayal.

The diplomatic wunderkinds had never taken Islamist theology seriously, just as their predecessors had not considered the possibility that the Bolsheviks might be serious about their world revolution. And they had also failed to recognize that Islamic terrorism was not only a means to power, but also an end in and of itself, a way of harnessing the endless violence and instability in desert societies and turning them into power and profit.

What every Middle Eastern leader has always understood is that the violence, call it raids, terrorism, guerrilla warfare, gang activity, sectarian militias, military coups, desert banditry, was never going away. It was the tiger and the clever leader rides the tiger, rather than ending up inside it, harnessing and directing the violence, to remain in power.

Islam is a religion built around that violence, sanctifying it as a religious principle, and thus taking it out of the realm of Fitna and into the realm of Jihad. The difference between the two is a matter of theology and that theology is a matter of perspective. What is banditry and what is a holy war is a matter of where you’re standing and which way the bullets are flying.

The Islamists might be able to direct the violence, but they could no more shut it down than any of their secular predecessors could. They could kill their enemies, but only by unleashing the tiger on them and when the killing was done, they would still be left with a hungry tiger looking around for his next meal. So the Islamists, like the Saudis, were bound to fuse religion with realpolitik by making sure that the tigers were pointed our way.

Even if their violence were only a means to an end, the end would not come when every Middle Eastern country was run by Islamist governments. For one thing there would never be a means of agreeing on what a truly Islamist government was. The reactionary impetus of Wahhabism leads to an endless series of reforms meant to recreate a lost 7th Century theological paradise by purging those damnable 8th Century theological innovators.

To many Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood is just Mubarak with a beard. To other Salafists, those Salafists are just the Muslim Brotherhood with an untrimmed beard. After overthrowing Mubarak to end the perception that the United States supports UnIslamic dictators, maintaining ties with the Muslim Brotherhood would invite attacks from those Salafists in the hopes of ending US support for the Brotherhood, resetting that foreign policy accomplishment to zero. And the Brotherhood would wink and nod at those attacks to maintain its Islamist street cred and keep the violence going in the other direction.

As the attacks of September 11, 2012 showed us, the effect of putting the Islamists in charge of the Arab Spring countries was not to relieve tensions or improve America’s image, but to make it easier for Jihadists to launch attacks on America. And the argument advanced by Obma and so many others, that it was our support for dictators that inspired terrorists, had come to nothing. As Carter had done in Iran, Obama had stood behind the Islamists and against the “dictators”, only to have the newly Islamist dictators kick him in the face, first through mobs carrying out attacks against American diplomatic facilities under the guise of plausible deniability, and then through bolder confrontations.

But finally, the seizure of one Muslim country or two of them or a dozen of them is not the end of the Islamists. Islamists don’t recognize borders or national identities, no more than the Communists did. Their objective is not a flag of their own, but the territorial expansion of their ideology. This expansion is not measured in miles, but in populations. It persists regardless of lines on a map or country names. It measures its power in people, because people are the region’s only resource.

Obama’s Last Stand

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Democrats do not have a great track record in the White House. The number of Democratic presidents who have won second terms is small and becomes much smaller with the second half of the 20th Century. Unlike Congressional shifts which reflect regional politics more than a national referendum, the Presidency is a referendum on the usages of the nearly unlimited power of its holder.

The Democratic strategy has been to substitute iconography for competence and their iconic presidents have invariably been men of dubious character. FDR rode to power on the coattails of the Roosevelt name, after conducting a smear campaign against Teddy Roosevelt’s son who would have been the natural candidate.

Once in power, FDR assembled a grab-bag of bad ideas from European Socialists and Fascists and employed a small army of writers and artists as propagandists to lionize his programs. Marginally competent, Roosevelt the Second cultivated an aristocratic paternal air, surrounded himself with experts and programs to create public confidence.

FDR did not fix the economy, but he did lead the country through World War II while preemptively losing World War III, which was enough to give him the iconic status that had made his presidency possible.

The Roosevelt Administration, with an assist from Harry Truman, had largely created the Soviet Empire through its betrayal of Eastern Europe and the Republic of China. The Liberal camp had been thoroughly infiltrated by Communist agents and was full of sympathizers for the Soviet Union.
Before WW2 the USSR had been a regional backwater power with a network of international agents at its beck and call. After WW2, Communists were on the verge of swallowing up Western Europe and had taken China.

Truman’s disastrous China policy led to the Communist takeover of a potential world power and to the bloody Korean War. The aftermath of the FDR Administration was largely preoccupied with covering up the disastrous results of its Communist-friendly program. The campaigns against McArthur and McCarthy were necessary to cover up the consequences of Truman’s China policy and FDR’s USSR policy.

The Democrats lost the White House and the public turned to Eisenhower to clean up the strategic mess left behind by the progressive party. The great national crisis was Communism and the Democrats had not seen the crisis coming and had no credibility in deploying a policy to combat the Soviet Union.

To retake the White House the Democrats needed a new image and a candidate with credibility fighting Communism. That candidate was to be a Kennedy, a member of a family at odds with FDR due to its Nazi sympathies, whose patriarch had taken careful care to burnish the Anti-Communist credentials of his sons.

FDR had been the avuncular figure in the chair; JFK was to be the youth candidate. The new man, a creature of the old Joe Kennedy, with fresh new ideas written for him by ghostwriters. Like FDR, JFK was a manufactured figure. And like him, JFK was a man of ideas with no ideas who disguised that lack with an army of experts and the cultivated illusion of intellectualism.

JFK was not particularly Anti-Communist, but that was a necessary qualification for any candidate looking to carry on FDR’s work. The Democratic Party had adapted to the collapse of its old coalition of New York merchants and Southern plantation owners after the Civil War by embracing Republican Unionism with a vengeance and jettisoning the last of Jefferson to become the party of big government.

FDR had borrowed Lincoln’s ruthless unionism and blended it with Teddy Roosevelt’s anti-monopolism; mixing together the work of two Republican presidents and claiming it for his own. JFK similarly took up elements of a Republican civil rights program and blended it with their aggressive Anti-Communism to create a new Democratic identity.

The underlying program in both administrations had nothing to do with the depression or war; but of building up a national political machine using the same methods of urban political machines. The core ingredient was class warfare. FDR put a genteel patina over class warfare while JFK phrased it as an idealistic ambitious form of American Exceptionalism that made it seem American.
FDR and JFK both borrowed Lincoln’s martyrdom, FDR by acting as a long-serving wartime president, and JFK, posthumously through his assassination. Obama has taken on a crude form of that martyrdom by virtue of race.

JFK’s death left his upgrade of Eisenhower’s “Dime Store New Deal” unfinished. LBJ took up the baton as the consequences of Vietnam tore apart the coalition between Liberals and Leftists leading to a culture war.

FDR died before events would have forced him to block Communist ambitions in Europe and turned the intelligentsia against him, allowing him to retain the services of the progressive propaganda corps. But JFK’s façade of Anti-Communism had committed him to international policies that broke apart the coalition between Liberals and Leftists. As much as the left might have supported JFK’s domestic program, and even forgiven his domestic show of affiliation with the Anti-Communists, by the time he was replaced by LBJ, the stress fractures were just too big and they tore apart the Democratic Party.

After that the Democrats lost the ability to compete on national security. Their attempts at salvaging the white male vote led them to two southern governors. Carter imploded on National Security, but Clinton thrived through two terms in the Post-Soviet period when history no longer seemed to matter. But history did matter.

The Communism menace had risen on FDR’s watch. Muslim terrorism began its ascent under JFK and reached critical levels under Clinton. The Democratic failures on Communism made Eisenhower, Nixon and Reagan possible. Their failures on Islamism made Bush possible.

Obama was the third Democratic bid at an iconographic presidency. Like FDR, he was confronted with an economic crisis, and like JFK he faced a global conflict. And like both men, he proved inept at handling both, relying on armies of experts and making unwise decisions. As with JFK’s first term, the consequences of his foreign policy have not still struck home with a decisive enough emphasis to turn the public against him, but unlike FDR, there is no war to distract from the economic situation.

Obama has been running on his iconography for a while now and like an old beat up car, he never noticed that it gave out on him a while back. The debate was a wakeup call, but it won’t be the last one. He has to run on something, but he can’t run on the economy or race and that just leaves national security. The Benghazi attack emphasized the disastrous consequences of his foreign policy, but they also did him a favor by shifting the debate to the foreign policy arena.

With FDR fading and the cult of JFK not as strong as it used to be in the twilight of the Boomers, the Democratic Party needed a third icon to further integrate its political machine into the infrastructure of the government.

The Democrats needed to win badly in 2008 because it put them in a position of exploiting a crisis to protect and expand their institutions, both private and public, that might have otherwise been targeted by a Republican on an austerity mission. Defeating McCain, who despite his own reputation for pork had a cost-cutting streak, was a major victory because it avoided the specter of having McCain do to them what Prime Minister Cameron, another non-conservative conservative, had done to the institutions of the liberal state in the UK. Defeating Romney, who is also running as a cost-cutter, is an even bigger priority for the same reason.

The ideological and emotional issues are secondary to this core bureaucratic mandate of protecting the political machine that the post-Civil War Democratic Party had built up. Unlike Bush, Romney is not running as a compassionate conservative looking to reconcile social spending with conservative politics. And Romney’s campaign is not focused on the international politics that might divert him from putting the domestic house in order.

Pushing Romney back into Bush territory, as Benghazi may have done, may neuter him even if he wins, and shifts the focus away from the economy. But the public does not appear prepared to follow that shift with polls still showing the economy as the primary focus. And that focus contains a dangerous trap.

Any shift to foreign policy risks a dangerous discussion about the Islamist rise to power that was aided and abetted by Obama, in the same way that FDR had aided and abetted the rise of Communism. The Democrats did not survive the debate when it broke out during the Truman Administration. Should an honest discussion begin about the defeat in Afghanistan and the Muslim Brotherhood takeover of the Middle East under the guise of the Arab Spring, the result may be as great a blow to Obama’s prospects.

Obama’s last stand is also the Democratic Party’s last stand. A hundred years of foreign policy and economic failures at the hands of a corrupt mafia is about to come home to roost. The Democratic Party has marginalized itself, abandoning mainstream Americans while openly embracing a trillion dollar welfare state.

Iconography elevated Obama as it did FDR and JFK, but it cannot see him through a constellation of crises. And if he falls, then his party falls with him.

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

The Rise of American Mediocracy

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

A nation where governments are elected by the people is most vulnerable at the interface between the politicians and the people. The interface is where the people learn what the politicians stand for and where the politicians learn what the people want. The bigger a country gets, the harder it is to pick up on that consensus by stopping by a coffee shop or an auto repair store. That’s where the Mediacracy steps in to control the consensus.

The media is no longer informative, it is conformative. It is not interested in broadcasting events unless it can also script them. It does not want to know what you think, it wants to tell you what to think. The consensus is the voice of the people and the Mediacrats are cutting its throat, dumping its body in a back alley and turning democracy into their own puppet show.

Media bias was over decades ago. The media isn’t biased anymore, it’s a player, its goal is turn its Fourth Estate into a fourth branch of government, the one that squats below the three branches and blocks their access to the people and blocks the people’s access to them. Under the Mediacracy there will still be elections, they will even be mostly free, they just won’t matter so long as its upper ranks determine the dialogue on both sides of the media wall.

The Mediacracy isn’t playing for peanuts anymore. It’s not out to skew a few stories, it’s out to take control of the country. In military empires, the military can act as a Praetorian Guard. In political empires, it’s the people who control the political conversation who also control the succession.

In 2008, the Mediacracy elevated an Illinois State Senator who had briefly showed up in the Federal Senate to the highest office in the land. They did it even though he had no skills for the job and no serious plan for fixing any of the country’s problems. They did it to show that they could. They did it because they wanted to tell a compelling story and inflict radical change on a country that would have never voted for it, if it had not been lied and guilted into making the single worst decision in its entire history.

Propaganda is a powerful weapon and seizing control of the newspapers, radio and television stations is one of the first things that tyrants do. That wasn’t supposed to be an issue in a country where anyone could open their own newspaper. But that changed with the transformation of journalism into the media. The media, plural, embraces multiple mediums, most of them expensive and requiring a license and often, government approval.

Two hundreds years ago, a few friends could open a printing press and take on the big behemoths and often did. Today the only place they can do that is on the internet. Radio and television are walled cities controlled by a small number of interlinked corporations that keep merging together. Their staffers come out of carefully controlled environments, where with the pyramid of indoctrination, political gurus pass down their wisdom to professors who program students with its doctrines, to create the Mediacracy.

FOX News, for all its faults, is under constant attack by the Mediacracy because it is independent of that same rigid coercion. Wrong or right, it represents a view that is fundamentally different from the same mind-numbing conformity to be found everywhere from the weekly news magazine in your dentist’s office to the talking heads on your cable channel to the honeyed voices of the anchors giving you the news every 5, 10 or 50 minutes over the radio while you’re driving to work.

The real crime of FOX News is not that it’s especially right-wing, it isn’t. It is far less conservative than CNN is liberal. But FOX News’ existence, its patriotic color scheme and attempts at appealing to the heartland while putting a conservative spin on issues, forces viewers to notice how conformist and identical the rest of the media landscape. And that is what makes FOX News truly dangerous. Like a goat among the sheep, it makes you realize the sameness of their generic competitors who all cheer for the same team, shop at the same stores and dream of the day when everyone thinks like them.

They are the Mediacracy and they are the Ministry of Propaganda. They are the smirking people who got tired of telling you how many people died in an earthquake in Indonesia and decided to begin explaining to you why the earthquake is your fault because you don’t ride a bike to work. These are the people who longer want to report on a shooting, but want to tell you that it’s time for a firearms ban. They no longer want to report on Washington DC, unless they can control Washington DC.

The Memorandum of Understanding for the Town Hall debate was that the moderator would relay questions from the audience, but would not ask the candidates any questions or comment on what they say. Candy Crowley made it clear before the debate that she would not abide by those rules and liberal organizations piled on, deploying a petition against the silencing of Candy Crowley. And so Candy Crowley wasn’t silenced, in true Mediacrat fashion, she silenced others.

The Mediacracy’s insistence on being the third candidate at every debate, its outrage that anyone would expect it to be silent and let the actual candidates speak, reflects its power and arrogance. Its elites are not interested in the conversation except as a means of controlling its outcome. They are not here to let other people talk, except as vehicles for making their own points.

Candy Crowley, in true Mediacrat style, was not there to facilitate a conversation, but to tell us what to think. Unlike Obama or Romney, Crowley had no legitimate reason for being there. She was not a political candidate and had not passed any of the democratic tests that Obama and Romney had to be able to sit there. Her influence had no basis of any kind in the voice of the people. Instead she was there as a representative of the powerful and unelected Mediacracy which was determined to have its say. She was there to remind the pols that even in a Two Party system, the Third Estate acts as the third candidate, never running for office but always winning by controlling the conversation.

It is not in the public interest for the Mediacracy to have its say, no matter how often the Mediacrats trot out their public good routine. Power is either vested in democratic institutions or undemocratic ones and the media corporations and their talking heads are about as undemocratic an institution as can be conceivably imagined. And when Mediacrats try to control the outcome of a popular election, their actions are an attack by an undemocratic institution on a democratic institution.

Mediacrats fill the airwaves with rantings about corporate influence on politics. The 800 pound gorilla of corporate influence on politics is the media. Candy Crowley’s employer, CNN, is owned by Time Warner, the second largest media conglomerate on the planet. Not the country, the planet. The only media conglomerate bigger than it is the one that owns ABC News. But the Mediacrats never report on their own influence, never turn the camera back into the studio while warning about the danger of corporate lobbyists. But the corporate lobbyists sitting in the CNN studio don’t just want to chat with a few politicians in a closed room, they do their best to dictate the outcome of elections.

Businesses turn to lobbyists when the times are bad. The media is losing the public, so they are turning from being mere media into Mediacracy. Media is subject to the whims of the viewing public, but Mediacracy subjects the public to its whims. And they are dreaming of a country under the enlightened rule of the Mediacrats. One nation under a thousand channels all serving the interests of a dying media state.

The media, with its expensive equipment and its licenses, is confronting an era when everything is being reduced to a single medium, print, voice and visuals falling into the internet singularity and leaving them with some expensive equipment, exclusive rights to broadcast on frequencies that no one watches anymore and the ability to print millions of papers, when they can hardly move a tenth of them. And like all imploding tyrannies, they are confronting the crisis by grasping for power. They know that they will either be a Mediacracy or they will be nothing.

The greatest challenge to the integrity of our democracy may be the coup of the media corporations. Information is the lifeblood of a free society and the consolidation of information outlets in the hands of a small and powerful elite with no ethics and no boundaries is leading us down the road to a virtual tyranny that will maintain the illusory workings of a democratic society without any of the substance.
The old institutions of elections are becoming a charade, a formal routine where the outcome is determined by the employees of a handful of major media corporations that present the public with the inevitable result. And America is falling into the hands of the Government-Media Complex.

The Mediacracy has directed all its efforts into hijacking the public dialogue, turning elections into a cheap sideshow accompanied by sneering commentary. It has insisted on being the third candidate in every election and turned its corporate shills into the pretend voice of the people. It has stomped all over the traditions of this country, its independent institutions and its freedoms with thousand dollar shoes while wrapping itself in any available flag. And it cannot be allowed to get away with it.

A free society does not only become unfree at the point of a gun. It becomes unfree when its mechanisms of freedom are jammed, when the institutions that are meant to provide power to the people are taken over by unelected forces and twisted into the apparatus of a new tyranny. When undemocratic institutions seize control of democratic institutions then democracy dies, strangled by men and women who keep on smiling while they tighten their grip.

America can be a Democracy or a Mediacracy. It cannot and will not be both. And the only way to preserve democracy is to challenge the Mediacrats and force them out of the public space that they have usurped and back into the private sphere of their financial interests where they belong.

Originally published at Sultan Knish under the title “The Rise of Mediocracy.”

The Limits of Government Power

Friday, October 19th, 2012

A country and a people can be measured in its breadth and its depth. A government can either choose breadth of control or depth of control—but it cannot have both.

Breadth of control allows for governing a large area, but with only limited control and influence over those who live there. Depth of control allows for extensive control over the lives of a population, but such control requires government infrastructure of equal depth that is difficult to sustain or project over a large territory. One is a mile wide and an inch deep. The other is a mile deep and an inch wide.

Governments that choose breadth of control are able to govern a large territory with a light touch, but breadth of control depends on a population that governs itself through a national identity rooted in an ethical, religious or tribal code. When a government attempts to replace this code with its own control, then it trades breadth of control for depth of control.

Depth of control can only be extended over a limited area. When governments invest in depth of control, then they tighten control over a handful of urban centers clotted with massive bureaucracies that carefully regulate the lives of its middle class while the rest of the country begins going its own way unknown to the ruling class. These decadent systems lose touch with the outskirts and with their own lower classes and remain unaware even as their empire crumbles.

Modern government is fixated on depth of control over people. It plots to control every aspect of their lives with the goal of creating a completely harmonious whole. Technology has fed the illusion that such control has become more feasible than ever allowing for the rise of truly scientific government. This illusion is destroying the nation-states of modern civilization by overburdening them with massive governments flailing for control and destroying their economies in order to achieve that control.

Bureaucracy is the sticking point of depth of control. Each level of control requires more staff to implement that control. The more aspects of private life that government seeks to make public, the more men and women sitting behind desks are needed to formulate the rules, promulgate them, process them and enforce them.

The nationalization of private life runs into the same problem of all nationalization and collectivization. Large operations tend toward greater degrees of inefficiency due to the diffusion of responsibility and accountability. Large systems respond to inefficiency by creating more redundant structures which only increase the inefficiency.

Bureaucracies cope with all problems by adding new layers of paperwork without recognizing that paperwork is itself the problem. The world outside comes to be modeled through paper so that rather than interacting with problems, the system interacts with a paperwork model of the real world that is detached from the real world and requires ever increasing resource of paperwork handlers to maintain.

Governments begin by seeking depth of control and end by losing control over the depths of their own bureaucracy which not only becomes incapable of managing an entire control, but develops its own agenda and becomes a political rival of the politicians who serve as the conduit of their rulership and also the void into which all their ideas, both good and bad, fall into and vanish without a trace.

Depth of control is implemented through the proliferation of laws, regulations, mandates and codes, but the proliferation of laws is also the proliferation of lawlessness. The more laws exist, the more they are broken and the more the system must struggle to restore credibility with constant crackdowns or sink into a state of complete lawlessness.

A system that strives for depth of control is always running the Red Queen’s Race, passing more laws and declaring more wars on obstructive social problems just to stay in place without ever solving anything. The problems become institutionalized and unsolvable because the institutionalization of a problem creates a bureaucratic mandate for the survival of the institutions dedicated to solving the problem and the institutions dedicated to solving the problem seek to survive by not solving the problem.

Like a war, depth of control takes on its own momentum and comes to exist for the sake of existing. Even though the various social wars can never be won, the ruling class and the middle class are obligated to believe that victory is at hand. The working class and the lower class, as well as the lower middle class, who are usually the targets of government problem solving, are usually well aware that the problems are unsolvable. Their obstinacy acts as a kind of passive aggressive insurgency against the problem solvers.

The Odd Couple of Barak and Joe

Monday, October 15th, 2012

The presidential and vice-presidential debates provided us with two snapshots of two different and yet very similar men.

The Obama who showed up to debate Mitt Romney and the Biden who showed up to debate Paul Ryan were outwardly different types. One white and one black, one elderly and one middle-aged, one a veteran of the Senate and the other a political tyro rushed through the ranks on the promise of his electability.

But Obama and Biden showed once again at the debates that they have more in common than anyone would give them credit for. Obama was surly while Biden was belligerent, but both men behaved the way they did out of an innate sense of entitlement. With their every word and gesture they made it clear that they were too good to be here.

While Romney and Ryan have often been accused of elitism, both as a personal accusation and as a class accusation, they behaved with dignity and discretion. Obama and Biden on the other hand treated their opponents with contempt beginning with their lack of preparation for the debates and their lack of grace in the debate.

Obama believed that he had won the debate after he lost it and Biden believed that he won the debate before it even began. Biden’s braggadocio and Obama’s disdain both came out of their own exaggerated senses of self-worth that made them feel that they were too good for the forum and too good for their opponents.

Biden and Obama may not have race, religion or age in common, but they both share a common narcissism that leads them to believe that their innate specialness transcends competence and that their rhetorical gifts can overcome their laziness and lack of preparation. Neither man bothered to hide their belief that their opponents are inferior to them in every possible way.

Strip away the years and races, the experience and the capped teeth, and you have two petty egotistical men who believe that they are destined for greater things than whatever thing they happen to be doing at the moment, even if what they happen to be doing at the moment is occupying the two highest offices in the land.

Their thin skins and fake smiles go together, along with their contempt for each other and the whole world. They are men who live oblivious to other men, who occupy a current of their own imagining, who are always certain that life has not rewarded them sufficiently for all that they have done, even though they have done nothing. They are men of ambition, but not talent. Their only gift is one of imagining themselves in greater and greater positions and the accompanying talent of convincing others that their imaginary abilities should be rewarded with real positions.

They are glib, but not smart men. They have a facility for speaking off-the-cuff, but that facility betrays them as often as it rewards them. Like actors they love the sounds of their own voices so much that they never notice when their own song becomes a siren call dooming them to the crash of their own stupidity.

They can tell stories, but they are always the stars of their own stories, the “I’s” of the legends that they build around themselves, the gods who stride from their own temples, the heroes who come to their own rescue and then marry themselves and cheer themselves on.

Both men have come out of political machines where rhetoric was more important than competence. Political machines disguise their mechanisms of corruption with high-flow rhetoric and tribal appeals that convince their audiences that while may be thieves, they are ‘their’ thieves who steal on behalf of their race, their community and their group.

Biden and Obama both excel at the rhetoric of grievance. They summon up displays of fake anger to disguise their own corruption and incompetence, striving to convince slices of the electorate that they are fighting for them, because they know that they have no hope of convincing them that they are competent managers.

Obama is the new face of the Democratic Party, the perfect public face of its coalition between the government upper class and their minority voters, while Biden is the face of the old Democratic Party, the one that played on the working class Irish, Italian and Jewish vote in urban centers on behalf of the social planners of the New Deal and the New Frontier.

The Democratic Party is losing its grip on the Reagan Democrats, the loss of manufacturing jobs and the growing conservatism of small business is leaving less and less room for the kind of barstool campaigns that Joseph Robinette Biden was once good for.

The 2012 election is the last hurrah of the Biden class, those grinning senseless storytellers and glib millionaires with hard-luck tales and rolled up sleeves pretending to be working class, shaking hands with union steelworkers, mill workers, factory workers, telling them, “Oh boy that’s tough, but lemme tell you about the time my wife almost caught me with Cindy. Don’t worry the Democrats have your back. Stick with us and we’ll take care of you.”

Those voters are vanishing, falling through the cracks of EPA fascism and globalized outsourcing. If Obama wins another term, there may still be room for a few thousand of them to put together solar panels and windmills from China, but even those jobs will go to the new face of America. To Somali refugees and Mexican immigrants, and those workers will not need Biden to stand outside their bar and shake their hands. Some of them won’t have bars and most of them won’t care about anything but the benefits package they get through their local cultural center.

That’s the new face of America that Obama represents. It’s the same old story of the urban political machine which caters to the revolving door of new immigrants, stocking up front men who speak their language and know all their customs, only to give those front men the boot when the demographics of the alleys of Slumville and Immigrant’s Row change.

Tammany Hall’s leadership went from English to Irish to Italian, Jewish and Black in some 170 years. The process has since accelerated and Joe Biden with his fake working class mannerisms and outdated jokes doing his best to be everyone’s fun crazy uncle is almost done.

Biden’s currency, like Obama’s currency, was his identity. Not a real identity, but an artificial identity. Crazy Uncle Joe is as authentically working class as Barry Hussein is an African-American. Neither of them was chosen for anything but their ability to mimic the identities of others in order to project a lower class sensibility that they have no part of.

Debating Ryan was Biden’s last hurrah, it was the thunder of a dinosaur crashing through the trees, snapping his teeth and roaring at the sky, without understanding that the big fire above is a meteor coming down on top of him. The world in which Biden might have aimed at the top job is long gone. Biden’s function today is to snap his teeth, to roar and remind the youngsters that old time political crooks didn’t need to call themselves community organizers or bolster their credentials with fake teaching gigs. All they needed was a barstool and a great deal of nerve.

Biden has ushered in that new world, and yet he has no apprehension of it. Joseph Robinette Biden imagines that the future still belongs to him and that he can keep hold of it so long as the hair plugs keep hold of his skull. And while he may be an object of fun back at the White House, his boss should carefully consider his fate as an object lesson.

The only thing really separating Obama from Biden is a generational shift and the shift is driven by the political agenda of the left. It is not too difficult, although quite horrifying, to imagine an America in the year 2037 where Barack Hussein is as much of an anachronism as Crazy Joe. The Democratic Party has reinvented itself numerous times and the stresses that it imposes on the country come out of the left’s program.

The smirking fake working class pol was not the endpoint of the Democratic Party, though in his own time the creature seemed every bit as radical as a man with Muslim roots in the White House. There is no reason to think that Barack with his Third Culture image and his fake veneer of culture is going to be the endpoint either. If the left has taught us anything, it is that its narrative of cultural destruction is always able to conceive of more and more horrifying worlds than anything we might behold today.

Obama has already gotten his, and so has Biden, though the corrupt Senator still fantasizes about a White House he cannot have. The difference between political ambition and political success is often timing and luck. As a child, Obama used to tell his classmates that he was an Indonesian prince. That position wasn’t open to him, but he lucked into a political career that coincided with a wave of Muslim terrorism and an accompanying wave of appeasement by his party.

Had that not happened, it’s quite possible that Obama’s exotic bio would have meant nothing and he would be sitting in the Illinois Senate watching Cory Booker making his acceptance speech in the race to unseat President McCain. And conversely, had the Democratic Party not swung so far to the left and stayed focused on the American working class instead of an artificially imported diversity overseen by a college educated upper class. Had it embraced tariffs and protected American manufacturing, then the country might be a very different place and President Joe Biden might be inveighing against Republican elitism while boasting of showing Chinese products the door.

But these worlds are not places that narcissists like Obama or Biden, who believe in their own specialness, rather than the random chance of world events and the influence of ideological movements, can visit or appreciate.

Obama and Biden see themselves as men of destiny, when they’re actually front men for a massive scam that has been going on long before their grandparents got out of diapers. The scam has evolved and become more sophisticated, and that growing sophistication is why Biden is only useful to the scam as a scarecrow shouting at Ryan about anything and everything, while Obama is useful as the healer who will reassure the country of its new moral stature.

But though they play different roles, that does not make them different men. It is the accidents and plans of the machine that made them fit only for these different roles, that left Biden no choice but to play the loud buffoon, while Barack got the star part of the new JFK.

Barry and Joe are the same man because the machine they serve is the same machine and though they imagine that they rule the machine, it is the machine that chose them, it is the machine that uses them and it is the machine that will throw them away when it is done.

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/the-odd-couple-of-barak-and-joe/2012/10/15/

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