Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Understanding Obama: The Making of a Fuhrer
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By Ali Sina
I must confess that I did not like Senator Barack Hussein Obama from the first time I saw him. At first I was excited to see a black candidate. He looked youthful, spoke well, appeared to be confident – a wholesome presidential package. It is so instinctive for most people to want to see blacks succeed. It is as if all humanity is carrying a collective guilt for what the ancestors of blacks endured. However, despite my initial interest in him, I was put off soon, not just because of his shallowness but also because there was an air of haughtiness in his demeanor that was unsettling. His posture and his body language were louder than his empty words.
It is surreal to see the level of hysteria of his admirers. This phenomenon is unprecedented in American politics. Women scream and swoon during his speeches . They yell and shout to Obama, “I love you.” Never George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt. Martin Luther King Jr. or Ronald Reagan aroused so much raw emotions. Despite their achievements, none of them was raised to the rank of Messiah. The Illinois senator has no history of service to the country. He has done nothing outstanding except giving promises of change and hyping his audience with hope. It’s only his words, not his achievements that is causing this much uproar.
When cheering for someone turns into adulation, something is wrong. Eexcessive adulation in personality cult. The cult of personality is often created when the general population is discontent. A charismatic leader can seize the opportunity and project himself as an agent of change and a revolutionary leader. Often, people, tired of the status quo, do not have the patience to examine the nature of the proposed change. All they want is change. During 1979, when the Iranians were tired of the dictatorial regime of the late Shah, they embraced Khomeini, not because they wanted Islam, but because he promised them change. The word in the street was, “anything is better than the Shah.” They found their error when it was too late.
Khomeini promised there would be separation between religion and state. He lied and they did not care to look into his past to see whether he actually meant what he said. Had they done that they would have seen that he had always believed in caliphate and the rule of Islam. People gobbled everything he told them uncritically. They wanted to believe and therefore closed their eyes so they don't see what they did not want to see. Eyes welled when he spoke. Masses poured into the streets by millions, screamed and shouted to greet him. People kissed his pictures. Some saw his portrait reflected on the Moon.
Listening to Obama ... it harkens back to when I was younger and I used to watch those deals with Khomeini, how he would excite the crowd and they'd come to their feet and scream and yell.
I was amused to here a listener calling Fox News Radio's Tom Sullivan Show, (Feb 11) and saying: "Listening to Obama ... it harkens back to when I was younger and I used to watch those deals with Hitler, how he would excite the crowd and they'd come to their feet and scream and yell." ( Videos of Hitler’s speeches are available on YouTube. They are worth a look.)
Equating anyone to Hitler by highlighting the similarities between the two is a logical fallacy. This fallacy, known as reduction ad Hitler um is a variety of both questionable cause and association fallacy. I believe it is wrong to trivialize the holocaust and the horrors of Nazism by comparing our opponents to Hitler.
However, Hitler prior to coming to power had not killed anyone. He was insane, but few could see that. Far from it, he was seen as a gifted man and hailed as the savior of Germany. He was admired throughout the world. He appealed to the masses of people – the working class and particularly to women, and did not just inspire them, he “elevated” them. Thousands rallied to listen to his passionate speeches. He gave them promises of change and instilled in them hope. They shed tears when he spoke. Women fainted during his speeches. To Germans, he was not a politician, but a demigod, a messiah. They envisioned him as truly a magical figure of majestic wisdom and glory. They worshiped him. They surrendered their wills to him. He restored their national pride. He projected himself as their savior. He ran on the platform of change and hope. Change he delivered all right, but hopes he shattered.
I think it is fair to say that the Illinois senator puts the same passion in his speeches that Hitler used to put in his, and he evokes similar raw emotions in his audience. This much we can agree. Okay, we can also agree that both Hitler and Charlie Chaplin wore square moustaches. So what?
There are other disturbing similarities. Like Hitler and Khomeini, Obama also likes to create a cult of personality around himself. Wherever a large number of a population is discontent, a charismatic leader can seize the opportunity and present himself as the agent of change. He can create a cult of personality by associating himself with the idea of change. He convinces everyone that things are terrible and a drastic change is needed. He then casts himself as the only person who can deliver this revolutionary transformation that everyone is waiting for. He portrays himself as a benevolent guide; the only one who cares about people and their needs and can pull them out of their alleged misery. In reality, they have no clue about how to address the problem - have no experience, no track record. But they are convincing because they are self assured.
These revolutionary leaders need foes. They exaggerate the problems. Make everything look gloomy, lie, cheat and slander their opponents, while casting themselves as the saviors of the nation. Hitler chose the Jews to blame for everything that was wrong in Germany. Khomeini made the Shah and his westernization plans his escape goats. Obama has chosen President George W. Bush to smear. He can rally people around himself, as long as he can instill in them the dislike of Bush and equate his rival, McCain to him. Sigmund Freud wrote, "It is always possible to bind together a considerable number of people in love, so long as there are other people left over to receive the manifestations of their aggressiveness" (Civilization and Its Discontents).
A cult of personality is excessive adulation, admiration and exaltation of a charismatic leader, often with unproven merits or achievements. It is similar to hero worship except that it is created specifically for political leaders.
An unequivocal expression of delusional grandiosity
Let us read a few of the comments Obama’s fans have made about him. Their unbounded adulation of this totally unknown figure is proof of my claim.
Jon Robin Baitz is the creator of the ABC series "Brothers & Sisters." He writes:
Today we saw and heard a preview of our brightest possible American future in Senator Barack Obama's glorious speech. This, then, is what it means to be presidential. To be moral. To have a real center. To speak honestly, from the heart, for the benefit of all. If there was any doubt about what we have missed in the anti-intellectual, ruthlessly incurious Bush years, and even the slippery Clinton ones, those doubts were laid to rest by Barack Obama's magisterial speech today. A speech in which he distanced himself from a flawed father figure, Reverend Wright, and did so with almost Shakespearean dignity and honor.
For twenty years Obama was part of Jeremiah Wright’s racist church and listened to all the hate that that man spewed against the Jews and the “rich White America.” Obama did not object to any of those hateful comments and even donated $20,000 dollars to his Trinity United Church of Christ. Baitz is willing to overlook all that and mesmerized by Obama’s speeches, he embraces a man who up until yesterday supported the racist views of his spiritual mentor. He calls Obama’s speech "glorious," and concludes he is honest and moral. How did he come to that hasty conclusion? There is no evidence of that except his "gut feeling." That observation is subjective. We have not seen any evidence of Obama's honesty yet. On the contrary, he has been caught with a litany lies.
Clearly Sen. Obama has a charming effect on his audience, who after listening to him are so moves that they willingly give up their reason and follow their hearts. Let’s see how Baitz adulates Obama to the point of worship.
Barack Obama's speech, perhaps one of the most important in modern political history pushed us as a people to move beyond race and gender, beyond Democrat and Republican, beyond politics and into reviving the spirit of the nation itself. To talk, to talk at home, at work, at the dinner table. To really finally talk. What a great day, and where else in the world but in the United States? Today I am very proud to be an American.
Remembering the reaction of Iranians to Khomeini’s speeches, this is all deja vu for me.
There is an old adage that says, “Tell me who your friends are and I will tell who you are.” Don’t the quality of Obama’s friends and associates tell us about the man? One characteristic of cult of personality is that people become ready to close their eyes. They find excuses and rationalize the sins of their leader.
Another Obama worshipper is Ezra Klein . He is an associate editor at The American Prospect. Klein wrote:
Obama's finest speeches do not excite. They do not inform. They don't even really inspire. They elevate. They enmesh you in a grander moment, as if history has stopped flowing passively by, and, just for an instant, contracted around you, made you aware of its presence and your role in it. He is not the Word made flesh, but the triumph of word over flesh, over color, over despair. The other great leaders I've heard guide us towards a better politics, but Obama is, at his best, able to call us back to our highest selves, to the place where America exists as a glittering ideal, and where we, its honored inhabitants, seem capable of achieving it, and thus of sharing in its meaning and transcendence.
Obama is not seen by his admirers as a politician but as something holy. Klein says “He is not the Word made flesh, but the triumph of word over flesh.” The truth is that Obama is nothing but words! What is scary is that so many smart people are willing to fall for his empty words. Interestingly the same Ezra Klein had earlier said:
Obama is a cipher, an easy repository for the hopes and dreams of liberals everywhere...But if Obama avoided being battle-tested in 2004 by the grace of God, it's his own timidity that has kept his name clean since. Given his national profile and formidable political talents, he could have been a potent spokesman for Democratic causes in the Senate. Instead, he has refused to expend his political or personal capital on a single controversial issue, preferring to offer anodyne pieces of legislation and sign on to the popular efforts of others...Indeed, Obama is that oddest of all creatures: a leader who's never led. There are no courageous, lonely crusades to his name, or supremely unlikely electoral battles beneath his belt. He won election running basically unopposed, and then refused to open himself to attack by making a controversial but correct issue his own."
Quite a shift I would say. What did exactly Obama do, for Klein to change his views so drastically? Nothing! Obama has won this man’s heart only by the power of his mesmerizing words. he is making his conquests, through the sheer power of his oratory. That is how Hitler won the hearts of the Germans. As Obama’s life story show his words don’t have any bearing on reality. Words are powerful, but when they are not backed by any substance they are empty rhetoric.
Todd Gitlin, is professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia University . He is another worshipper of Obama. This is what he says about his leader.
This speech was a triumph on so many levels, does one dare hope it will turn the trick for hordes of parsing skeptics and listeners whose eyes did not water? First, Obama took the high road, which is also the long and demanding road. He refused to "move on" with a cursory acknowledgment that "mistakes were made." He did not acknowledge. He preached and he reasoned.”
Let us pause here and examine what this professor of journalism and sociology says. Obama was a close friend of Rev. Jeremiah Wright and listened to his racist sermons for twenty years. Wright is a man who has intense hatred for the Jews, for the Whites and for America. This clip shows some of his remarks made from the pulpit This clip shows some of his remarks made from the pulpit. Here is a gleaning from his sermons:
We [The White controlled America] have supported state terrorism against Palestinians and Black South Africans … Because of the stuff we have done overseas is now brought back to our own home front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost.
No, no, no! Not God bless America. God damn America. That is in the Bible, for killing innocent people. God damn America.
Government lied about Pearl Harbor. They knew that Japanese are going to attack.
They [Government] purposely infected African-American men with syphilis!
What is going on in White America, U.S. of KKK?
Black men turning on Black men? That is fighting the wrong enemy. You both are primary targets in an oppressive society that sees both of you as a dangerous threat.
What we [America] is doing is the same thing Al Qaeda is doing, under a different flag.
Oh I am so glad, that I got a God who knows what it is to be a poor Black man living in a country and a culture that is controlled by and run by rich White people.
Yes, 911 happened to us, and so did slavery happen to us. Yes the World Trade Center happened to us, and so did White supremacy happen to us.
“Barack knows what it means to be a Black man living in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich White people.”
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