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Magda Hassan
04-29-2009, 02:59 AM
The BBC's American television soap Mad Men offers a rare glimpse of the power of corporate advertising. The promotion of smoking half a century ago by the "smart" people of Madison Avenue, who knew the truth, led to countless deaths. Advertising and its twin, public relations, became a way of deceiving dreamt up by those who had read Freud and applied mass psychology to anything from cigarettes to politics. Just as Marlboro Man was virility itself, so politicians could be branded, packaged and sold.
It is more than 100 days since Barack Obama was elected president of the United States. The "Obama brand" has been named "Advertising Age's marketer of the year for 2008", easily beating Apple computers. David Fenton of MoveOn.org describes Obama's election campaign as "an institutionalised mass-level automated technological community organising that has never existed before and is a very, very powerful force". Deploying the internet and a slogan plagiarised from the Latino union organiser C?r Ch?z - "S?se puede!" or "Yes, we can" - the mass-level automated technological community marketed its brand to victory in a country desperate to be rid of George W Bush.
No one knew what the new brand actually stood for. So accomplished was the advertising (a record $75m was spent on television commercials alone) that many Americans actually believed Obama shared their opposition to Bush's wars. In fact, he had repeatedly backed Bush's warmongering and its congressional funding. Many Americans also believed he was the heir to Martin Luther King's legacy of anti-colonialism. Yet if Obama had a theme at all, apart from the vacuous "Change you can believe in", it was the renewal of America as a dominant, avaricious bully. "We will be the most powerful," he often declared.

Perhaps the Obama brand's most effective advertising was supplied free of charge by those journalists who, as courtiers of a rapacious system, promote shining knights. They depoliticised him, spinning his platitudinous speeches as "adroit literary creations, rich, like those Doric columns, with allusion . . ." (Charlotte Higgins in the Guardian). The San Francisco Chronicle columnist Mark Morford wrote: "Many spiritually advanced people I know . . . identify Obama as a Lightworker, that rare kind of attuned being who . . . can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet."
In his first 100 days, Obama has excused torture, opposed habeas corpus and demanded more secret government. He has kept Bush's gulag intact and at least 17,000 prisoners beyond the reach of justice. On 24 April, his lawyers won an appeal that ruled Guantanamo Bay prisoners were not "persons", and therefore had no right not to be tortured. His national intelligence director, Admiral Dennis Blair, says he believes torture works. One of his senior US intelligence officials in Latin America is accused of covering up the torture of an American nun in Guatemala in 1989; another is a Pinochet apologist. As Daniel Ellsberg has pointed out, the US experienced a military coup under Bush, whose secretary of "defence", Robert Gates, along with the same warmaking officials, has been retained by Obama.
All over the world, America's violent assault on innocent people, directly or by agents, has been stepped up. During the recent massacre in Gaza, reports Seymour Hersh, "the Obama team let it be known that it would not object to the planned resupply of 'smart bombs' and other hi-tech ordnance that was already flowing to Israel" and being used to slaughter mostly women and children. In Pakistan, the number of civilians killed by US missiles called drones has more than doubled since Obama took office.
In Afghanistan, the US "strategy" of killing Pashtun tribespeople (the "Taliban") has been extended by Obama to give the Pentagon time to build a series of permanent bases right across the devastated country where, says Secretary Gates, the US military will remain indefinitely. Obama's policy, one unchanged since the Cold War, is to intimidate Russia and China, now an imperial rival. He is proceeding with Bush's provocation of placing missiles on Russia's western border, justifying it as a counter to Iran, which he accuses, absurdly, of posing "a real threat" to Europe and the US. On 5 April in Prague, he made a speech reported as "anti-nuclear". It was nothing of the kind. Under the Pentagon's Reliable Replacement Warhead programme, the US is building new "tactical" nuclear weapons designed to blur the distinction between nuclear and conventional war.
Perhaps the biggest lie - the equivalent of smoking is good for you - is Obama's announcement that the US is leaving Iraq, the country it has reduced to a river of blood. According to unabashed US army planners, as many as 70,000 troops will remain "for the next 15 to 20 years". On 25 April, his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, alluded to this. It is not surprising that the polls are showing that a growing number of Americans believe they have been suckered - especially as the nation's economy has been entrusted to the same fraudsters who destroyed it. Lawrence Summers, Obama's principal economic adviser, is throwing $3trn at the same banks that paid him more than $8m last year, including $135,000 for one speech. Change you can believe in.
Much of the American establishment loathed Bush and Cheney for exposing, and threatening, the onward march of America's "grand design", as Henry Kissinger, war criminal and now Obama adviser, calls it. In advertising terms, Bush was a "brand collapse" whereas Obama, with his toothpaste advertisement smile and righteous clich? is a godsend. At a stroke, he has seen off serious domestic dissent to war, and he brings tears to the eyes, from Washington to Whitehall. He is the BBC's man, and CNN's man, and Murdoch's man, and Wall Street's man, and the CIA's man. The Madmen did well.


http://www.zcommunications.org/zspace/commentaries/3848

Peter Presland
05-08-2009, 07:37 AM
As a non-US citizen I hesitate with posts that may appear to lecture/hector/judge - whatever - US citizens on US politics. However, the nature of the US as aggressive world hegemon inevitably invites keen interest in its internal politics from outsiders. I am acutely aware that this can lay one open to patriotic emotional charges of 'anti-Americanism' so, for the record I am NOT 'anti-American'. I have some very good American friends and some of the very best US-critical geo-political and Deep-State research and analysis originates in the US. So, with that out of the way, here is another scathing view of Obama's first 100 days - From an American woman too would you believe. Her style is a sort of RAP-verse and it can ve VERY effective. (http://www.poemhunter.com/vi-ransel/)

Another source of prescient Obama criticism from the American left is Dennis Perrin's Blog (http://dennisperrin.blogspot.com/2009/05/lose-this-skin.html)and I heartily recommend his book 'Savage Mules' for a devastating deconstruction of the Democratic presidential campaign and the incipient Obama presidency well before it got fully under way


By Vi Ransel

5/7/09

Obama’s coterie of courtiers
sings his praises as he picks a fight
with the “formidable” power
of organized labor,
knocking the UAW to its knees.
He was supposed to be
the people’s savior.

The press and the pundits laud his skill
in handling the betrayed expectations
of the “common” people,
as if the people, unionized, or not,
were the power pulling the strings
in Washington and not the Ministers
of MOLOCH and MAMMON dwelling on Wall Street,

and beyond them, the invisible men
behind the Davos, Trilateral,
Bilderberger and CFC curtains.

Obama was elected
to protect and serve state capitalism,
to provide a curtain of legitimacy
for the undemocratic supremacy
of a savage class system
undergirding the privileges of the plutocracy.

Their president took in 38 million.
He set a record for campaign contributions
from F.I.R.E., the finance,
insurance and real estate industries,
since G. Sax and Morgan Stanley
weren’t putting the reins into anyone’s hands
who wasn’t wholly owned
by the Empire of Financial Inequality.

So we have no right
to be disappointed or surprised
(so said Naomi Klein).
Obama telegraphed his perfidy perfectly
from his very first slick and manipulative line.

He fed us “hope” and “change”
which were public relations slogans,
tokens tossed to us. Oh, it was very clear.
And the message was hand-delivered to us
by advertising’s 2008 Marketer of the Year.

Then he recruited the agents
of the people’s economic enemies,
tainted officials who stink to high heaven
of brown-nosing the worst of the plutocracy:

Emanuel, Geithner and Summers.
Schapiro, Vilsack and Duncan.
Salazar, Orszag and Volcker.
Patterson, Locke, Romer and Furman.

They don’t even try to hide it any more.
And if you look carefully
at the White House and Congress at night,
you’ll see the faint, proprietary glow
of a neon sign beginning to glow harshly and brighten.

It says “These institutions
are now fully-owned subsidiaries
of Goldman Sachs, Bank of America,
Citibank and Chase, Morgan Stanley.

Obama’s tepid and tawdry stimulus package
is dwarfed by his homage to the banks,
because the mission of “The Mask”,
as I like to call him,
was, is and always will be
to put a more benevolent smirk
on the brute face of capitalism.

And what passes for The Left
in this country has no backbone,
and demands nothing at all
from their “respresentatives”
than that they are careful
to call themselves Democrats,
because the name is all
that differentiates them from Republicans.
And this allows our corporate owners
to put in place
whatever “conservative solutions
to radical problems” that might please them. (1)

And the anti-war movement in America
has been effectively neutered,
since an “imperialist with charm,
a warmonger with a winning smile,
(in the disguise of progressivism)
Obama has whipped them…good.” (2)

The Left, the pundits and the press
are seriously delusional if they believe
the fairy tales they feed to the rest of us.
We all need a basic lesson about threat,
action and social disruption’s effectiveness,

because that’s the only way working people
ever got any change at all,
by forcing it from the bottom up
and being willing to go over the wall.

The 30s and the 60s were the last time
the plutocracy paid any attention,
because they encountered rebellion from below.
That’s the only way real change ever happens.

Our legislation is written by lobbyists
to the specifications
of corporations that demand it.
And its passage ensured
by our erstwhile “representatives”
that K Street has roped, tied,
bought and branded.

We allow this because
we’ve been socially-engineered
to be obedient peasants,
who’d never take their anger out
on their lords’ and masters’ excesses.

Instead we turn on each other
rather than the Robber Barons on Wall Street,
who are the ones who are fucking us over,
not our neighbors here on Main Street.

And we rant and rave at starving farmers
driven here from Mexico by NAFTA
at the behest of our low wage-seeking,
craven, corporate masters.

Though we need a target for our frustration,
we won’t/can’t take it out on the bankers,
but we need some place to deposit
all our burgeoning, free-floating anger.

So Massa picks a strawman for us,
the “losers” in foreclosure,
greedy Social Security recipients,
“overpaid” auto workers,

Afghan and Iraqi resistance fighters
busy ousting the occupiers of their countries,
anyone but the cause of all our misery,
since we’re submissive, corporate abuse stone junkies.

And when the mass of American peasants
is confronted by the visage of “The Rich”,
the shucking, the bowing and the groveling
rise to an awesome fever pitch,
as we bend over and do all we’re allowed to,
kiss capitalism’s big, black leather whip.


(1) Robert Kuttner
(2) Glen Ford