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The New Red Scare

February 17, 2009

obama

This picture was forwarded to me over email. Obama as a socialist? If only!

The accusations that he is a socialist or a communist strike me as absurd—there seems to be too much evidence that he’ll follow the neoliberal precedents set by the Clinton administration. Am I wrong about this? (I hope I am wrong; if you have evidence I’d love to see it!)

witchDespite all evidence to the contrary, this propaganda serves the purpose of demonizing Obama in front of a certain conservative audience. It is hardly any more sophisticated than saying “SHE’S A WITCH! BURN HER!,” but it still works to naturalize a set of social antagonisms for the audience.

David Kertzer notes, in Ritual, Politics, & Power, that Americans created a number of rituals after the Declaration of Independence was written in order to create, reinforce, and exacerbate antagonism between the Americans and King George III:

It was only with the Declaration of Independence that the symbolic break with [King George] came. To make such a radical shift in the popular conception of political relations, publication of the document was hardly sufficient. Throughout the colonies, public readings of the Declaration were followed by ritual killings of the king. The sovereignty of George III was destroyed as much by burning him in effigy, burying him in mock burials, and shattering statues showing his likeness as it was by formulation of the written document itself. (161)

According to Kertzer, these rituals served “organizational purposes, to communicate common allegiances and common political antagonisms” (162).

These rituals (and—I would argue—the anti-Obama propaganda above) “creat[e] an emotional state that makes the message uncontestable because it is framed in such a way as to be seen as inherent in the way things are. It presents a picture of the world that is so emotionally compelling that it is beyond debate” (101).

Kertzer thinks that these things are politically useful (maybe even necessary), but that they also “discourag[e] … critical inquiry into what is being asserted” (89).

I guess if you can’t prove he’s a communist, you can use Photoshop to dress him up as one—the effect is probably the same. Or greater.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Egmont permalink
    February 17, 2009 7:22 pm

    To use capitalist terminology, it’s a “branding attack,” like Mac branding Windows as “unhip” through it’s “I’m a PC, I’m a Mac” commercials. Since the communist “brand” has so many negative associations, and compared to its targets, Obama IS more on the left side of the political spectrum, it’s easy to simply associate him with something a lot of people are afraid of (if for no good reason).

  2. larry c wilson permalink
    February 17, 2009 8:22 pm

    What a farce!

  3. February 17, 2009 11:45 pm

    AMERICANS DON’T EVEN CARE ABOUT POLITICS !!

    USA IS DOOMED !!

    All the redneck hillbillies subhumans stupid people of USA care about is eating and binging on: oreos, fig-bars, doritos, tostitos, corn-dogs, pancakes, duncan hines, pillsbury cakes, kraft cheese, Nabisco Ritz cookies, combos, oreos, fig-bars, pancakes, combos, corn dogs, burritos, tostitos, fajitas
    calzonis, Cicis pizzas, Golden Corral, I-hop all u can eat buffets, potatoe salads, twinkies, little debbies, donkin donuts, pop tarts, struddles, apple jax, pecan pies, ice-cream, Hardees supersize burgers, Quiznos, Little Caesars, etc.

  4. February 18, 2009 6:37 am

    mmm… pecan pie… Surely another insidious part of the Obama-is-a-socialist line is to shift political discourse in the USA ever further to the right. If even a liberal hawk and mildly interventionist free market capitalist like Obama can be panned as a radical outsider, then the legitimate wiggle room for politics in the USA is narrowed even further. It also works the other way; you say you’re a socialist and people assume you’re an Obamaite.

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