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Slouching Toward Washington

Posted on Apr 12, 2012

By Ebony Utley

“Branding Obamessiah: The Rise of an American Idol”
A book by Mark Edward Taylor

Mark Edward Taylor, in “Branding Obamessiah: The Rise of an American Idol,” carefully reconstructs how six sacred branding strategies turned a mere mortal into an American savior. Taylor clearly believes that Barack Obama was too politically inexperienced to become president of the United States. Our current president was, however, very skilled at branding. Obama’s strategies were composing a creation story, chanting sacred words, venerating sacred images, observing sacred rituals, bringing in believers and coloring the messiah.

Although the sacred six are an unoriginal appropriation from the world of advertising, Taylor neatly grafts them onto the 2008 presidential campaign by beginning with Obama’s creation story of racial angst during his childhood in Hawaii. Taylor goes to great pains to argue that Obama’s memories within “Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance” were manipulated to create a racial consciousness that Obama most likely did not experience and furthermore did not even write. He critiques the text for having “so little real evidence of abject, institutional racism,” and suggests that “Obama understood the power of race to open doors, and so he created a story that would make his skin’s color more vivid.”

As evenhanded as Taylor is throughout the book, his dismissal of Obama is rarely as stark as when he claims being a black boy in Hawaii couldn’t have been that bad. Irrespective of who crafted Obama’s memoir and why, Taylor is wrong to dismiss Obama’s account of racial trauma. An outsider has no right to estimate the psychological impact of racism, especially if the outsider has never lived as a person of color.

In the same way that race is a key word in “Dreams from My Father,” hope and change were the sacred words of Obama’s campaign. Whether used individually or combined as hope for change, Obama’s words addressed Americans’ desperate need for anything other than the George W. Bush legacy. So desperate were his constituents that no one ever queried the actual meaning of the terms. Taylor points out that “ ‘change’ doesn’t indicate direction, ‘hope’ isn’t a strategy and ‘believe’ doesn’t refer to an object beyond itself.” Taylor historicizes the consistency of “change” as a presidential campaign motif, but explains how Obama embodied change as a young, handsome, part-black political novice who starkly contrasted his opponents’ stagnant “experience.” He continues:

A troubled and anxious people are susceptible to promises of an easy fix. Obama was careful to utter just enough for many Americans to hear what they wanted to hear in his sacred words—words that motivated but did not explain. Words that moved voters to act but not to reflect. Words that triggered emotion but not critical understanding. People translated Obama’s words into their own image and in turn projected that image onto him. And by creating images of a utopian future that went far beyond dull, policy-driven reality, they unwittingly became a band of prophets proclaiming the coming of a messiah who was promising everything—and promising nothing.

Similarly, the sacred images of the campaign asked audiences to project positive messages onto Obama’s visual representations. Not only was Obama depicted with halos of light above his head, but visual incorporations of Obama imagery with figures such as Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. “made him into an historical figure before he even had a chance to make history,” according to Ron English, an artist quoted by Taylor. Lest he get too wrapped up in history, Taylor explores Obama’s rock star appeal by analyzing his appearances in Rolling Stone, Vibe and other popular magazines. Because an unflattering picture of the presidential candidate never emerged, each handsome, virile image made Obama increasingly attractive to voters. Additionally, Taylor describes how “Team Obama” masterminded “logobama”—a logo that would appeal to everyone at once. The open O of the campaign logo allowed various communities to accommodate their individual priorities into Obama’s message.

book cover


Branding Obamessiah: The Rise of an American Idol


By Mark Edward Taylor


Edenridge Press, 386 pages


Buy the book

Throughout the book, Taylor assures readers that nothing was left to chance during the Obama campaign. And although he never says that the 10 rallies where women attendees passed out and were sympathetically acknowledged by Obama were staged, one wonders about the regularity of the ritual and begins to view Team Obama with an aura of suspicion. Taylor describes Team Obama’s uncanny knack for maximizing social media, and how some sectors of the ailing economy profited from Obama paraphernalia and tours of his Hyde Park, Chicago haunts.

Not only did Obama believers swoon and faint at rallies, follow him on Facebook and buy merchandise, but his devotees voted for him because the campaign focused on his parasocial relationships with the public. People who didn’t know Obama became convinced that they could have a beer with him, play a game of pickup basketball or have dinner with his beautiful family. People simply loved him. His Hollywood appeal even persuaded celebrities to contribute to the “Barockstar” idolization.

Taylor concludes where he began, discussing the role of race in Obama’s appeal. He writes, “Obama’s skin was a magnet, pulling black voters together in one near-monolithic block, unmovable and resounding with his praises.” All the while absolving white voters of their guilt. Blacks and whites could vote for their first black president and be proud of how far their country had come. And so they did.

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moonraven's avatar

By moonraven, April 16, 2012 at 11:50 am Link to this comment

Yep,  Some days on this site everyone posting but me is either 5 years old and thinks this is the sandbox to pee in, or a piecework troll paid by the US government.

The other internet sites are exactly the same.

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Angel Gabriel's avatar

By Angel Gabriel, April 16, 2012 at 11:38 am Link to this comment

When one lives around Poisonous snakes you learn to keep your eyes open. As you
Moon Raven, I watch this site -“keep my eyes open” and try to educate those who
don’t know any better to see through the grass where the snakes hide in wait to
strike the passerby.  The grass here has grown very high in recent years. It has
become harder to see the Snake’s!  Knowing their hiding places allows an old
walker an advantage.
If you haven’t read Scheer’s speech on “You’re on your own Kid’s” look over the
comments and listen for the rattles old friend!

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moonraven's avatar

By moonraven, April 16, 2012 at 11:04 am Link to this comment

Thanks, Angel.

It’s kind of nice to receive some respect on this site FOR ONCE—instead of the usual racist ageist misogynist personal attacks.

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Angel Gabriel's avatar

By Angel Gabriel, April 15, 2012 at 3:16 pm Link to this comment

Moon Raven, I remember what I said about this guy, when all of YOU suckers
were chanting his praises:”

I remember your comment and have respected your wisdom, it’s very obvious
that the rest of the “Pack of Jackal’s” were too drunk on the electric Coolaid and
missed it!
Unfortunately, we’ve all had to pay the Bar Tab until the next round is ordered
my friend. I don’t think anything is gonna change, but hey, what do I know at
my age? Politician’s all look alike to me! It’s only when their lip’s don’t move
that no lies comes out - the main problem with that though is their lip’s never
stop moving!
Perpetual lip’s sink Ship’s (of State). I’m amazed the perpetual lips are able to
keep moving at the bottom of the Ocean where the “USS Titanical Saurus Rex
Our Mother will stop this madness before they succeed though you can bet your
Feather’s on that, as will I!
Haka Hei

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By stand to reason, April 15, 2012 at 1:38 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Look for o to be even more virulent if he is reelected and his
corporate pay day will come after any term(s) as president just as
slick willie made out like a bandit for virulence in office. Which
proves corporations pay big when they get the right influence
peddler in office.

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moonraven's avatar

By moonraven, April 15, 2012 at 1:15 pm Link to this comment

The kind of president Obomber wants to be is a RICHER one.

Ole Mittensonhishead declared making 30 million last year on his 1040, while Obomber only declared 800 thousand.

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Angel Gabriel's avatar

By Angel Gabriel, April 15, 2012 at 12:54 pm Link to this comment

Brand - Obama has worked over the past 4 years as planned by Wall Street and
the military Industrial Complex.
Brand Obama has successfully made up the difference in the Senate imbalance
and allowed the Tea Partier’s to party and obstruct any Legislation that the
Strength (or supposed strength) of a Democratic White House should have
carried to “even-up” the odds to be equal with the opposition.
Brand Obama has been, in some eye’s on both sides of the Ideological fence, a
Wimp of a leader. Some people say he has been willing to compromise
whenever necessary to pass such important Legislation as the Obamacare
Health Law.
Brand Obama has bailed out the Bank’s, made life easier for Wall Street, the Big
Oil Company’s, and turned a blind eye to the corruption and insider trading
methods that are shared between Lobbyist’s and Law Maker’s. Compromised,
compromised and still compromised with the Republican’s on Balancing the
Budget and cutting the Deficit.
Brand Obama will win again in November to insure that the left and the right
continue to walk in lock-step and drag 2/3rds of the Democratic Party into the
NWO “right world”.
A Good Lookin, Smooth Talkin Black Man in a White House just can’t be beat
when it comes to business as usual in Washington, New York, London, Berlin
and TelAviv.
If you can’t beat em, join em is NOT what’s going on here folks. What’s going on
is the White House goes to whichever World Capital (Reserve Bank) is calling the
shot’s on the progress of PNAC. Welcome to the Neo-Zionist New World!
If you truly want change, put on your Best Dress White Knicker’s, Blue Jacket
and Funny 3 cornered hat. Buy a new Musket, load up, and hang the Lantern in
the Window of the highest spot in town, but probably not a good idea to use a
Church this time around!!
Brand Obama has sold you all up the Creek and now the Paddles are gonna cost
It would be great to see some truly Statesman or Stateswoman compete and win
the November’s “American Idol for President Show”, but you’ve a better chance
of Space Ship’s filled with all the Angel’s in Heaven landing on your lawn than
you do of getting someone elected that would bring back any sense of Power in
the hand’s of the People, and a share in the true wealth of this potentially great
Brand Mitt is a no Brainer - it would be far too obvious with someone that Asset
Strips and Offshores for a living. Brand Obama is good for the next 4. Sorry, but
“That’s just the way it is” -(Bruce Hornsby acknowledged for the last Lyrical

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By gerard, April 15, 2012 at 11:57 am Link to this comment

thom dela hunt:  Your comment of helping Obama to be “the kind of president he wants to be” hit my particular sore spot.  I distinctly remember him
saying in his inauguration speech: “I want you to make me do it” referring to a number of good things.
Then the Party deliberately ignored the trememdous popular support (which it could easily have mobilized on a issue basis, and directed toward basic improvements, one by one, and tens of thousands of people would have responded.  They were that enthusiastic.)  But zilch!  Why?  Would any sincere political “operatives” have been that stupid?
  I contend that even before the first months of his Presidency he was defeated by powers in both parties that simply did not really, really want to make changes. They were doing okay as it was, and the people, according to their behavior, figured in as no more than “votes”, not living human beings.
  That was the tip-off.  So everybody went home and grabbed a bottle of beer, turned on the TV and went to sleep.  All wasted, every bit of that public spirit and political enthusiasm that had brought him into the White House—proud of themselves because they had elected a “black man” for the first time in American history.
  Obama was hamstrung from the get-go.  That made it all too apparent. Since then, tens of thousands of letters have been written, petitions signed, committees organized—to no avail.  Contact between the elites and the commons has been completely severed—and it’s not the people’s fault. Now there’s nothing left to try but protest, and half the public doesn’t “like” protest. The elites employ the police to stop it.  Laws are passed to suppress it. So there we are. Between a rock and a very hard place.

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moonraven's avatar

By moonraven, April 15, 2012 at 11:26 am Link to this comment

I remember what I said about this guy, when all of YOU suckers were chanting his praises:

1.  Capuccino out of a plastic jar.

2.  Bush in blackface in the same 5000 dollar suit.

3.  Totally bogus ventriloquist dummy who would not deliver on a single one of his promises.

YOU plastic progressive peons SWORE at me, and I was banned from several sites because I would not drink the koolaid.

You starting to feel foolish yet?

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prisnersdilema's avatar

By prisnersdilema, April 15, 2012 at 10:16 am Link to this comment

Yes, Obama ran on hope and change, but then took away hope, so now years later
American’s are feeling more desperate than ever before.

Instead of being different than Bush, he was worse. Doing his best to end America as a
free country, and spitting on the constitution.

Yes, he experienced suffering as a child but apparently learned the wrong lessons. He
cynically used his mothers death from cancer, to run against the insurance companies
then turned around and betrayed those that voted for him.

And just as Bush used conservative ideology, to further the ends of the Elite, president
Obama has used liberal ideology to hide behind, while abetting the larcenies and
increasing fascism of the one per centers. 

Yes, like that famous orange juice salesman, he had a persona carefully crafted to
appeal to the American public, with a warm endearing smile, and earnest hand shake. 
But then like him,  he turned out to be just a back stabber.

And there are people,  hundreds of thousands of them who still to this day, believe in Mr.
simp son’s innocence. They will go to their grave believing it even if some future day
theres a confession..

Just as there are millions of people who will vote for Obama, no matter what he does,
and thats just what the elite are counting on. 

But always remember this,  perpetrators, try their best to appear normal, in normalcy
they hide, and are accepted, all the while inside live snakes.

Anger can be you facing the truth, use it for good, take the energy and do something
positive, don’t give in to evil, no matter what comes. Sometimes, in dark times, the soul
has the most growth.

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By John Poole, April 14, 2012 at 11:14 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

To BR549.  No harm in admitting we were hoodwinked by buying into the clever
selling of Obama. A few (not me) knew he had been scrupulously vetted and
brilliantly prepped for a presidential run as a shill for the plutarchy.  I think his
handlers knew it had to happen in 2008 because four more years in Chicago
politics would have presented problems.  If he were running today for the first
time I wonder how would he be “branded”?

Maybe a fun topic would be coming up with a “branding” scenario for a neophyte
Obama in 2012.  Hell, he still might be able to fool everybody just as easily.

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BR549's avatar

By BR549, April 14, 2012 at 7:51 am Link to this comment


The PTB are trying their utmost to transition this population into serfdom before we can figure out how to stop it. It’s a stated objective, one that’s been in place for 100 years. ANYTHING that someone does to increase the level of consciousness is for the public good.

During ‘Bush the Idiot’s’ tenure, I had plotted the Blue counties against broadcast areas that transmitted Democracy Now and, with all but about three exceptions across the country, there was a direct correlation; where that message was transmitted, those counties went blue.
People want the truth, the majority anyway, and the present corporate owned media want to deny that to the people. Where the truth is told and people can make some attempt at an intelligent decision, they will. It’s in their best interest. But when the truth is denied to them and they are left in the dark, as Charlotte Iserbyt found out as Reagan’s first term Senior Policy Advisor for Educational Research, the population becomes dumbed down and polarized, and look where we are.

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By MollyJ, April 14, 2012 at 6:30 am Link to this comment

I live in KS and as such don’t really _have_ a vote.  It is the most mindless and red of red states.  But just to be clear, I will vote for either Jill Stein or Rocky Anderson if they are on the ballot.  If they are not, I will probably not vote for either Obama or Romney.

the republicrats (I kinda like that one) continues to hijack the discussion and the electoral process when they persuade us we have no choice but to vote for a main stream party.  Those votes are truly wasted and get us quite simply more of the same. 

The vote has become an empty and elaborate process where we all pretend we have a voice.  By their complete co-option by money, neither party represents a choice. 

As Hedges has said, vote by all means.  It’s not hard to do.  But it is the in the streets activism that must occur to affect change.  The system has sand in the gears—fueled my money.  Change comes from without the system.

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By Mike Burnett, April 13, 2012 at 8:35 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What purpose does this argument serve other than to glorify marketing?

Maybe it appeals to people who didn’t actually pay attention to Obama’s words on the campaign trail or examine his voting record. It feels better to believe you were duped by the magical power of branding rather than your own intellectual laziness.

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By thom delahunt, April 13, 2012 at 6:20 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

we can help obama be the president he wants to be!

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EmileZ's avatar

By EmileZ, April 13, 2012 at 5:08 pm Link to this comment

We’re tired of a feudal society.

Shift power to the people.

End corporate rule!!!

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BR549's avatar

By BR549, April 13, 2012 at 2:36 pm Link to this comment

“The Rise of an American Idol” should have read “The Rise of an American Idiot”, except that this guy was no idiot. What this man has done he has done intentionally and with a lot of backing.

The average American who voted for him (I’m one of them) should be livid.

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By Jeromet3, April 13, 2012 at 2:02 pm Link to this comment

The problem with many of these comments, “not voting or none of the above” is Mitt Romney.
How can you not vote for Obama when the alternative is Mitt Romney?
I realize many will say it’s voting for the lesser
of the two evils, but the election of Romney and his Ryan budget is unthinkable!

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By Aquifer, April 13, 2012 at 12:19 pm Link to this comment


good comment


shucks why not vote for Jill Stein instead?


“Was he just a phony back then?”

You say you don’t think so, but then you describe a fellow who “is” what ever he needs to be to further his personal agenda. Isn’t THAT a phony? Actually sounds more like a sociopath - aside from the fact that many think he IS worse than Bush or Romney, given your description of him, how are we to be sure he won’t “become” worse - if he feels he needs to be to get what he wants -

The guy has no principles, IMO, other than the one of self interest - why would you vot for a schmuck like that, when there IS a better candidate - Jill Stein?

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By Mike the Mountain Man, April 13, 2012 at 9:37 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Back in 2008 Sarah Palin attacked Obama for “paling around with terrorists” like Bill Ayers while Limbaugh ranted on about Jeremiah Wright. Those of us who supported Obama hit back and claimed they were wrong. But we may have missed something about Obama’s 20 years in Chicago. True, he was never much of a radical and he has certainly been far from radical in office. (I’d say that his domestic and foreign policy positions are about equal to those of Daddy Bush.)

But if Obama is as conservative as he now seems, how could he have endured sitting every Sunday in Rev. Wright’s church and hanging our with Ayers and all the other ultra-progressive types? Was he just a phony back then?

I don’t think so. He was only a politician and politicans need to hang with whoever has power and influence with the voters. Back then, Obama must have seen such accommodation with the Left as necessary to his local career, just as accommodation with the Right is now necessary to his national career.

I agree with this review that Obama’s race and lack of experience, which earned him hatred on the Right in 2008, was a key to his success. He simply did not appear to be the typically accommodating politician he is. If he were just one more decent white Democratic senator, like Sheldon Whitehouse for instance, how different or transformative would Obama have seemed?

That’s not to make him worse than Bush or Romney. He’s certainly a little better than either in many areas - and I’ll vote for him again - but I am not expecting a messiah this time.

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By jimmmmmy, April 13, 2012 at 8:36 am Link to this comment

I’m glad he wrote this article and I enjoyed reading it. Poking at a legend is risky business. The fact he’s calling O’bama a brand reveals his christo- capitalist roots , but after all he is an American, and in America everything is viewed through the capitalist lens. I lked MollyJs comment , and also will vote none of the above in 2012.

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By MollyJ, April 13, 2012 at 6:55 am Link to this comment

Chris Hedges has written about how Obama is “brand” that will predictably collapse as all brands do and he has covered this rather well.

I was a reluctant voter for Obama in ‘08 and will not vote for him in ‘12.  My hope was that he had internalized the values of the legal profession.  He’s an empty suit so far as I can see; he seems not have internalized any values except winning at all costs.

And as for the denigration of his black struggle, this is just a common effort to dismiss the legitimacy of someone else’s struggle.  While I can believe that both Obama and Clinton struggled, neither one of them seems willing to acknowledge how government and policy helped them in that struggle and they were equally unwilling to make sure that those measures stayed in place for future generation. 

And that is the tragedy.  All they successfully did is internalize the values of elitism (perhaps an oxymoron).

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By John Poole, April 13, 2012 at 5:57 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

In this post Obama autopsy era all I’m looking forward to is a good joke book of
Obamaisms ...Gentlemen (banksters), you might want to remember my
administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks….....

Regardless of whether he wins in 2012, leaves for a comfy Hawaiian ranch or dies
in his second term he’s not worth discussing. Let’s move on to something relevant.

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By litlpeep, April 13, 2012 at 5:25 am Link to this comment

Well, we can hope for the change of individual citizen’s hearts, for projecting our individual hopes for change onto others, to looking into the mirrors provided by self-reflection (how much am I worth if not some self reflection that includes how much I expect others to do what only I can do?), some reflection on the things we hear from others in our presence when we say something about out politics (not just things like “Obama-Bush = Coke-Pepsi,” but “the nation’s drifting into a mafia-run fourth world has been banana rot,” and “what can we do to help our neighborhood become friendlier, safer, and more economically cooperative?”).  That’s two of the more important mirrors we can look into daily.  Another is that place beyond any particular place deep inside our being, where the spirit of the universe speaks to every one of us who will just spend the time to listen, look around in the dark until we get our metaphysical eyes back, and wait for those divine signals that inspire the least inspired who ever took up this practice.

Of course, hoping others will change is rather like hoping Obama will again remember he isn’t GWB.

Now that would be a miracle.

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By thecrow, April 13, 2012 at 5:22 am Link to this comment

“I’ve learned an immense amount from Dr. Brzezinski.”

- Barack Obama, 2007

“Never before has a populist democracy attained international supremacy. But the pursuit of power is not a goal that commands popular passion, except in conditions of a sudden threat or challenge to the public’s sense of domestic well-being. The economic self-denial (that is, defense spending) and the human sacrifice (casualties, even among professional soldiers) required in the effort are uncongenial to democratic instincts. Democracy is inimical to imperial mobilization….Moreover, as America becomes an increasingly multi-cultural society, it may find it more difficult to fashion a consensus on foreign policy issues, except in the circumstance of a truly massive and widely perceived direct external threat.”

- Zbigniew Brzezinski, 1997

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Angel Gabriel's avatar

By Angel Gabriel, April 13, 2012 at 4:57 am Link to this comment

Who really gives a flyin f-k? This is rubbish!

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EmileZ's avatar

By EmileZ, April 13, 2012 at 3:35 am Link to this comment

Any book with a foreward by Cal Thomas…

I dunno, maybe it really is good.

I always thought the whole Obama voters think he is a messiah who can walk on water thing was mostly hype.

I mostly saw it used against Obama’s critics, who were accused of being naive and unfamiliar with the Washington inside game and such, when they weren’t called whiners or retards.

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By gerard, April 12, 2012 at 10:52 pm Link to this comment

But, but, but ... we were already sick of dishonest politics and the wheeling and dealing of the Bush self-satisfied and secretive military industrial complex.  Thousands of ordinary people wrote letters, made telephone calls, visited politicians offices, and finally got into the streets in massive numbers to protest the militaristic direction of the country.  But ... to absolutely no avail.  That was perhaps the first signal that, even though Obama’s campaign had ended with an order to the public to “make me do it”, their efforts to influence government had no wise grassroots leadership with help from the Democratic Party, and no support from monied interests. People simply did not, could not reach the centers of power.  Too much money was being made at the top, mainly out of wars. That was not “the people’s fault”. A demand for excessive
“patrotism” shut them up, and that repression was nurtured by the fear of “terrorism.”  Progressively this threat was used to (sometimes forcibly) shut people up. That was a sure sign of broad and intentional political deceit.
  It was followed by more deceit and more efforts to waste more resources on wars (at the expense of public welfare) against a “terrorism” that either never existed or was not worth the gradual but constant loss of both personal financial viability,  and civil rights given up in the interests of a false security.
  Ordinary citizens, if they treated as of little value, and are denied an opportunity to keep in touch with their (democratic!) government, if the media feel no obligation to give them true and necessary information, can do little except gradually give up—or start a revolution and pay the probable price if blood starts to run, as it does unless there is full awareness of bloodless alternatives and/or a change toward institutional openness to criticism and self-correction.
  Much more needs to be said, but let it suffice to note that denying the people access to power demobilizes them and at the same time sets their government against them and eventually destroys democracy in favor of what we might now call dictatorship of the socially irresponsible elites.
Massive public fear and confusion results as the “system” gradually dissolves in a confusion of unsolved problems, thus compounding issues that lack both public understanding and socially responsible leadership.

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