Political theater *REVAMPED*

One of the hallmarks of a modern totalitarian government is stagecraft.  Leni Riefenstahl made a whole movie dedicated to glorifying a totalitarian government’s meticulously staged extravaganza.  As a child in the 1960s and 1970s, I vividly remember footage of marches in the Soviet Union, with soldiers in perfect goosestep orderChina and North Korea are also much given to elaborate shows and parades, none of which originate with the people, and all of which are aimed at demonstrating the people’s alleged love for their leaders (and for the latter’s policies).

Would you be surprised to learn that Obama’s White House is carefully inching in that direction?  Obama is not doing anything as blatant as mass rallies or inhumanly perfect parades, of course.  In a way, he’s doing something much worse, which is co-opting a fundamentally American democratic institution and, without letting people see, turning it into a carefully staged political show.

The latest example of this propaganda impulse is the President’s “townhall” regarding healthcare.  Americans think of a townhall as a free exchange between a political leader and “ordinary” people.  We’ve learned over the last few years that audience members are more likely than not to be friendly to the candidate or president than not, but we believe that the questions are freely asked and unknown to the politician.  Obama’s changing this game and, worse, hiding that fact from the public.  His upcoming townhall, during which he plans to “sell” his government-controlled health care plan he will take only pre-scripted questions.  This is entirely new and it’s bad — so bad that even Helen Thomas, the liberal doyenne of the White House press corps and the one who never met a Republican she liked, is up in arms.

Obama’s reluctance to expose himself to unscripted moments isn’t surprising, of course.  It was when he went off script that he revealed his belief that the federal government’s purpose is to redistribute wealth.  And even when he’s not redefining the American dream to bring it closer in line with the Soviet dream, his teleprompter-free moments reveal him to be a man of few words, most of which are “uh.”

Thanks to an outraged press corp and the blogosphere, Americans are now learning about the perversion of the traditional townhall concept.  The new administration’s control over content, however, is even worse than staging completely fake question-and-answer sessions with “ordinary” members of the public.  In a move that more closely aligns it with North Korea than with North America, the Obama administration is forcing people to listen to his message, whether they want to or not.  This is the antithesis of the marketplace of ideas.

I have it on very good authority (an employee at US embassy in a major NATO country) that this year, in order to celebrate America’s (not Obama’s, but America’s) Independence day, all embassies have been ordered to install a big screen TV in a prominent location in order to play an endlessly looped Hillary Clinton speech for the duration of the festivities.

My employee contact notes that, at his particular embassy, people are appalled by this requirement.  They see it as “tacky.”  I see it as profoundly un-American.  Indeed, I can think of only two precedents for this kind of thing.  One is found in George Orwell’s 1984. In that book, as you may recall, all party members have in their living quarters TVs that may never go off and that sprout endless party propaganda (not to mention have cameras that watch everyone perpetually).

And lest any readers think to themselves “well, 1984 is just fiction,” think of North Korea’s struggles to ensure that its citizens hear only government-approved propaganda:

Until the mid-1990s, it didn’t make sense to broadcast to North Korea. Authorities since the 1960s had dealt with the “foreign broadcast problem”, which created so much trouble for other communist regimes, by outlawing all radios with free tuning. Radios sold in North Korea had fixed tuning and thus could receive only three or four official channels.

If North Korean citizens purchased a radio in one of the country’s hard-currency shops, which accepted foreign cash and had a wider variety of items, or when overseas, it had to be submitted to police where technicians would “fix” (disable) it, making sure its owners could only listen to ideologically wholesome programs about the deeds of their Dear Leader – Kim Jong-il.

This ban was enforced with remarkable efficiency. It was largely entrusted to the heads of the “people’s groups” or inminban, to which all North Koreans belong. Typically, such group consists of 30 to 50 families living in the same block, and is headed by an official. These low-level officials were required to regularly check all radios in their neighborhoods, making sure that they could not be used to listen to foreign or, more likely, South Korean broadcasts.

The punishment could be harsh. One official said in the 1980s she discovered that a family in the neighborhood under her supervision had a radio that could tune into foreign broadcasts. She duly reported her discovery, and the family was immediately exiled to the countryside.

Ironically, even as that situation has improved slightly in North Korea, Obama’s working on putting it into effect in North America.

I recognize, of course, that an endless loop of Hillary blathering away in the background is not the same as the total content control in either Orwell’s fictional Oceania or Kim Jong Il’s horribly real North Korea.  Nevertheless, the impulse is always the same:  force people to listen to a government message without the opportunity either to avoid the message or to hear alternatives.

Obama’s impulses are totalitarian in nature.  In a fight, although he affects an Olympian detachment, laboring always to position himself in the middle, the straw men he places on either side of himself ensure that his Solomonic cogitations always bring him down on the side of the antidemocratic group, be that Hamas, Chavez, Saudi Arabia, Ahmadinejad, or the American people’s right to tune out from government controlled propaganda.  And on the home front, true to these totalitarian impulses, Obama and his team will constantly search for ways to make his the only voice the American people can hear.

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  • Quisp

    he wants to be judged: “not by promises I’ve made but by the promises that my administration keeps.”

    ??? I was planning on reviewing both, actually.

    Back to your lead-in, it’s a darn shame that Riefenstahl used her prodigious talent for such heinous ends. Olympia is a breathtaking piece of film, even now.

  • Danny Lemieux

    So, what exactly do we make of those promises he makes but doesn’t keep?

  • Danny Lemieux

    Oh come on…let us not go too far down the path of linking the Obama movement to Riefenstahl, fascists and Nazis. We’re not there yet…not by far. We don’t want to be accused of Obama Derangement Syndrome do we.

    Now, if they start throwing in catchy music and neo-classicist pillars…like this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYIU09o1gsI&feature=related …then I’ll really start to get worried. Then again…pillars….Denver…hmmmm!

  • Danny Lemieux

    Mein Deutsch ist nicht so gut. However, I think that the song at the link I posted might have something to do about Acorns growing up to be might trees. Just a guess, of course.

  • Quisp

    Have you seen the video of Chip Reid from CBS and HELEN THOMAS giving Gibberish hell over the pre-screened questions?

  • Quisp

    Sorry, didn’t read closely enough!


    She said almost all White House/Obama events are “prepackaged.”

    A bit like Meals-on-Wheels, but without the good intentions.

    Having said that ….WELCOME BACK BOOK.

    This triple ‘O’ threat channel (the One, the Only, the Obama) a/k/a townhall will soon wear as thin as what’s left in a lot of wallets and 401K’s.

    As a small child my family would take a little mini vacations in Atlantic City. After beach hours, we would wander the Boardwalk, which was filled with wonderful sweets and delights, but it was the hucksters that were the real entertainment for me; they call sell screen doors to a submarine owner. They had their craft down to a ‘t’ and dazzled us with all sorts of knives, choppers and anything else that would mesmerize (suckering) you into buying it….lock, stock and barrel of lies.

    In summing up that little childhood vignette – eventually, the sun sets and eventually most will know, that the ‘huckster’ in the WH and on TV is just that – a Boardwalk BS artist.

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  • highlander

    (with apologies to Percy Bysshe Shelley)

    I met a traveller from an antique land,
    Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
    Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
    Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
    And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command,
    Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
    Which yet survive stamped on these lifeless things,
    The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
    And on the pedestal these words appear:
    ‘My name is Obamandias, King of Kings;
    Look on my works. Ye Mighty, and despair!’
    Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
    Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
    The lone and level sands stretch far away.

    But what of the people whom he ruled? The poet doesn’t say. The One got his just deserts in the end, but it is the people who paid the price.

    Hubris, thy name is Obama.

  • Mike Devx

    I think, in navigating to Brutally Honest from #10, I ended up at this purely delightful piece of comic genius at The Anchoress. All Ye Fruit, Beware!


  • Mike Devx

    Highlander’s inventive recasting of Ozymandias put into my mind the Yeats classic. We’re being vexed to nightmare by the rockin Obamacradle.

    W.B. Yeats

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.
    Surely some revelation is at hand;
    Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
    The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
    When a vast image out of Spritus Mundi
    Troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert.

    A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
    A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
    Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
    Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
    The darkness drops again; but now I know
    That twenty centuries of stony sleep
    were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?



    ‘all ye fruit beware’

    Beware of the fruiture.

    Very amusing post.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ Ymarsakar

    The media has been controlled for a long time now. Starting even with the Nixon Watergate engineered scandal.

    Now it has just become too blatant. They don’t have any more illusions to keep up the BS any longer.

  • Mike Devx

    Ymar #15
    > The media has been controlled for a long time now. Starting even with the Nixon Watergate engineered scandal.

    I’m intrigued by why you say the media was controlled, starting with the engineered Watergate scandal. In that case, who was controlling the media?

    You do have Deep Throat (Mark Felt) feeding information to Woodward and Bernstein, to match what the FBI was investigating in terms of CREEP’s activities, and keeping the pressure on and public. In that way, Felt, an enemy of the FBI Director Gray, ensured that Gray couldn’t cover up the results of the investigation. So Felt could be seen as manipulating the media environment via Woodward and Bernstein.

    You’ve also got a liberal media full of hatred for Nixon and more than willing to slant the coverage to be unfair to him.

    Ymar would you say the engineered scandal is that Nixon did not know about the specifics of CREEP’s activities, yet was brought down anyway, especially due to his “coverup of the coverup” – an action that often gets one into trouble – and the tape gaps?

    Or are you saying he knew what CREEP was up to, but the breakin, and the subsequent “coverup of the coverup” weren’t sufficient reasons to create the media storm that led to his impending impeachment – and thus the media frenzy, liberal in nature, is what led to the resignation?

    Either way, I see the media complicity with the Obama administration as the first time in our history where nearly the entire MSM is functioning, not as a free speech entity, but as THE propaganda mouthpiece for the administration. That seems new and unique in American history.

  • http://photoncourier.blogspot.com David Foster

    Related: It’s been reported the name of Lt George W Bush was removed from the F-102 that he used to fly.

    Most unlikely that this was personally ordered or requested by Obama, but it’s certainly consistent with the tone he has set–ie. government as a personality cult rather than as an institution with continuity over time.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ Ymarsakar

    That seems new and unique in American history.

    No, it’s not unique. The entire country, for many reasons, did it for FDR.

    While many people are interested in portraying this as a spontaneous outburst of patriotism amongst Hollywood’s communists and real American patriots, this was only spontaneous for some. For most, it was because FDr ordered it. He told Hollywood what to produce in terms of war propaganda. He told the reporters what they should or should not say (war time censorship).

    This is not unprecedented. FDR, like Obama, was a Democrat. Not unprecedented at all. It would only be unprecedented had Obama been a Republican or a third party.

    You do have Deep Throat (Mark Felt) feeding information to Woodward and Bernstein, to match what the FBI was investigating in terms of CREEP’s activities, and keeping the pressure on and public.

    Nixon appointed Gray over the FBI. Mark Felt seemed to think that that should have been his promotion instead. So Mark Felt chose two naive and guillible fools, Woodward and Berstein, and fed them some glop about “maintaining” law and order and holding the Presidency accountable.

    In reality, Mark Felt was the one who gave orders for the FBI to illegally search the homes of Weatherunderground members, or suspected members. This resulted in the trial of Bernandine Dohl, a true blued sociopath, and Bill Ayers to be rendered null. Not a mistrial, it was not guilty. They cannot be tried again.

    That’s your Mark Felt, who Woodward and Bernstein told us was a loyal and righteous American seeking to right the wrongs of the Nixon administration.

    If the FBI was corrupt, it was because of Felt and his allies in it. If the FBI was conducting an investigation and details of it was being leaked to the press, it was done so by Felt, who still held a pretty high position, especially given his internal network of allies, which Gray had not yet had time to root out or replace with his own loyalists.

    Ask yourself who was the last head of the FBI. How many people did he spy on? How many people did he recommend that the FBi spy on? Does it really matter what Nixon knew or didn’t know, given what Felt knew and did?

  • addison

    Some observations on various media outlets’ take on the “Town Hall”.

    It may surprise you.

    The president called randomly on three audience members. Each turned out to be members of groups with close ties to his administration: the SEIU union, Health Care for America Now, and Organizing for America, which is a part of the Democratic National Committee. White House officials said that was a coincidence.

  • March Hare

    Remember way back during the Presidential campaign, someone made a You Tube video mocking Ms. Clinton using the imagery from “Brave New World”? I believe the original video was an ad for Macintosh computers.

    Wouldn’t it be kind of cool if someone could slip in the Hillary video into the loop?

    Yeah, only if the person who did it wanted to commit career suicide…

    I wonder if each Embassy is receiving a tape or if the loop will be fed via satellite. Hmmm….

  • Mike Devx

    Surely the State Department could have constructed a loop of America’s Greatest Hits, to honor this country on its day of Independence. You know, something like this:

    Reenactments of famous quotes by Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison.

    A scene where Betsy Ross quietly knits together her American Flag, holds it up to the light streaming in her window, and nods proudly.

    Cut to Paul Revere, furiously galloping along his famous ride.

    Fade in to an extended scene of Washington’s troops crossing the Delaware and marching through the furious, sub-zero snowstorm to surprise the Hessian soldiers in their sleep, achieving that major victory.

    Cut to the Suffragette’s of the 20’s marching for the right of women to vote.

    Cut to Martin Luther King’s civil disobedience campaign in the south for civil rights for Blacks.

    Back to Lewis and Clark’s incredible expedition through the vast Western Wilderness across the other side of the Mississippi, with glorious shot after shot after shot of the beautiful American landscape.

    But no…

    Instead the State Department employees will be treated to a head shot of Their Great Leader, mouthing the same phrases over and over in a loop, staring out at them from the TV screen as the lips in the face move. The Orwellian imagery of fascism is undeniable. (Remember that the key element of fascism is always devotion to The Great Leader. I’m surprised it’s not Obama on the taped loop, but I suppose even *they* were smart enough to avoid being that obvious.)

    The Obama Administration simply can’t seem to help itself. By its actions ye shall know it.


    The president called randomly on three audience members…

    Let me guess .. they all randomly asked the right questions.

    Mike summed it up – By its actions ye shall know it.