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The only theory I can come up with? Is that the New York Times is trying to single-handedly launch a recreation of the Russian Revolution on American soil.

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Jay Rosen, last August:

Whereas I believe that the real—and undeclared—ideology of American journalism is savviness, and this is what made the press so vulnerable to the likes of Karl Rove.

Savviness! Deep down, that’s what reporters want to believe in and actually do believe in— their own savviness and the savviness of certain others (including operators like Karl Rove.) In politics, they believe, it’s better to be savvy than it is to be honest or correct on the facts. It’s better to be savvy than it is to be just, good, fair, decent, strictly lawful, civilized, sincere or humane.

Savviness is what journalists admire in others. Savvy is what they themselves dearly wish to be. (And to be unsavvy is far worse than being wrong.) Savviness—that quality of being shrewd, practical, well-informed, perceptive, ironic, “with it,” and unsentimental in all things political—is, in a sense, their professional religion. They make a cult of it. And it was this cult that Karl Rove understood and exploited for political gain.

What is the truest mark of savviness? Winning, of course! Everyone knows that the press admires an unprincipled winner.

But the thing is, it’s not just the press. Matt Taibi, in Rolling Stone, again regarding Rove:

Rove is not a genius, or even very clever: He’s totally and completely immoral… It doesn’t take brains to compare a triple-amputee war veteran to Osama bin Laden; you just have to be a mean, rotten cocksucker.

The reason Rove continues to survive is the same reason that Johnnie Cochran was called a genius for keeping a double-murderer on the golf course — because this generation of Americans has become so steeped in greed and social Darwinism that it can no longer distinguish between cheating and achieving, between enterprise and crime, and can’t bring itself to criticize winners any more than it knows how to be nice to losers. He survives because an increasing number of Americans secretly agree with Rove’s vision of rules, laws and “the truth” as quaint, faintly embarrassing rituals that only a sucker would let hold him back.

Rove’s comeback is evidence that the attack on our civic institutions in the Bush years wasn’t an isolated incident, something we can pin on a specific group of now-deposed politicians. It’s a trend, a thing that grows in direct proportion to our greed and ignorance.

All throughout the primaries, especially after the cries of WWTSBQ? started up, I kept reading comments about how Hillary lost the campaign because she failed to appreciate the importance of the caucuses. Obama was declared a “superior” candidate because he’d “gamed the caucuses” – an argument which sounded, to my ear, exactly as convincing as “his branding iz rilly cool! omg widgits!“, which is to say that it was shallow and vapid and barely an “argument” at all. Game strategy does not automatically make one a superior candidate. For one thing, the kind of strategy that’s involved in creating, passing and implementing beneficial legislation is an entirely different animal than the kind of strategy one needs to implement in an campaign. They both take a level of sophistication and finesse, but the similarities are actually rather limited. Stripping away all the extras, campaigns are about (or are supposed to be about) gaining political support for your ideas and platform and the direction you want to take your constituency. Each person who votes for you gives you power, sure, but I think it’s reasonable to say that a vote won on persuasive argument is a tad more valuable and dependable in the long run than one won by manipulation. Which brings us to today’s post at Reclusive Leftist:

It’s an eerie experience reading through the thousands of incident reports from caucus participants all over the country. Eerie because almost everyone assumed that the problems they were reporting were unique to their own caucus, merely the result of local miscreants. No one grasped — how could they? — that what they were experiencing was part of a nation-wide pattern.

The pattern is the same, from Washington to Texas, from Iowa to Nevada, from Maine to Minnesota: Obama workers arrive early at each caucus place and take control of the premises and the process. Hillary supporters are intimidated, told their names aren’t registered, even physically barred from the site. Busloads of mysterious strangers arrive and cast votes for Obama. Sign-in sheets disappear; voter tallies are falsified. Over and over and over again, the pattern is the same.

How did this happen? Simple. The Obama campaign spent the entire year prior to the election planning the whole thing out. They saw an opportunity to game the system and they took it. At “Camp Obama” training centers, Obama campaign officials schooled volunteers in the fine art of stealing caucuses. And I have to hand it to them: they did a great job. When Obama points to his campaign as evidence of his executive experience, I’m inclined to agree. He’s definitely proven himself to be an executive-level criminal.

So, to recap: being shrewd, practical, well-informed, perceptive, ironic, ‘with it,’ and unsentimental in all things political” does not only describe journalists, but could be easily applied to the base of the Obamacan movement, the so-called “creative class.” The American public, in general, has become “so steeped in greed and social Darwinism that it can no longer distinguish between cheating and achieving, between enterprise and crime, and can’t bring itself to criticize winners any more than it knows how to be nice to losers” and “increasing number of Americans secretly agree with Rove’s vision of rules, laws and “the truth” as quaint, faintly embarrassing rituals that only a sucker would let hold him back.” And Obama, the Hopey Changey Saviour Candidate, proves his “worthiness” by gaming the system… and the crowds roar.

“It’s better to be savvy than it is to be just, good, fair, decent, strictly lawful, civilized, sincere or humane.” Not to repeat myself or anything, but we’re all doomed.

New computer still hasn’t arrived. Combined with a sudden burst of work craziness and my quadrennial Olympic Fever, not been posting much – though I am thrilled (though wary) with the news of Hillary’s name being put in nomination. Hurray!

I’m also fighting off a cold, so I’m feeling too fuzzy-headed to post anything of substance, but I’m amused to find that, in my semi-absence, I’ve attracted myself a libertarian troll who has a hard-on for my Chill Down the Spine post (my most linked-to entry to date, but I think he found it through the ‘corpocracy’ tag.)

There’s a couple of comments waiting in moderation, but I thought I’d share the more hilarious of the two:

Liberty is Freedom
http://adoxography | anitshallbedone@****.com | 207.200.116.131

There are only Two guarantees in America. Life and Liberty. One has to be willing to die to keep theseTwo Freedoms.
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As the citizens of America bow, on bended knee. To Powers of “CORPORACACY”. Its minions rally together with faith of their master’s power and authority. Dividing monetary gains of fortune and control. Drawing funds directly from individual citizens. By use of “Deception” “Deceit” and out rite lies. This is the representation of “Corporacacy” of the new world order. Power and control over the weakest element combined with acceptance.
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The guarantees of Life and Liberty have been breached! What are you going to do about that? Manipulation instigated thru selective enforcement excusing all violators living in the honored grace of authorities. Stripping citizens of their basic right to LIBERTY. States failing to honor federal lease agreements and the federal government is letting states get away with it. What is up with that? Is our government asleep?
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What has happened to independent self supporting America. This whole country, (it appears has jumped on the welfare wagon). We do not need this crap… Round em up ship em out. Shut down this socialist’s communist agenda. We do not need this crap… Congress and every politician have caused this debt. Every city should pay its own way. Every family should earn and pay their own way. A human’s labor is the most valuable asset they possess. Congress has stolen that. Give it back!

2008/08/10 at 1:54 PM

Hear that? Jump off the Welfare Wagon and bow down to the ‘Corporacacy’, bitchez! Oh, the lollerskates.

Really, after the FISA flop, is this really in good taste? At best, IMO, it’s tacky; at worst, it’s politically shtupid.

That concern aside, what’s really been troubling me is the outright corporatization of the democratic process this primary season. No, I’m not talking about the behind-the-scenes by lobbyists and favour-trading and back-scratching and “free speech donations” between corporations and politicians to gain influence in Washington (though I hate that, too), but the growing trend to speak of politics in business-speak terms.

The first time I noticed this was back in March, when Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) was quoted as saying, “You have a very unhappy electorate, which is no surprise, with oil at $108 a barrel, stocks down a few thousand points, a war in Iraq with no end in sight and a president who is still very, very unpopular. He’s just killed the Republican brand.

“Oh, Rep. Davis,” I giggled. “Only Republicans would see civics and politics in such a manner, and talk in such blatant marketing-speak!”

I was so young, then, and naive.

Not long after, I came across a friend’s blog (a personal one, which is why I’m not linking), who – while simultaneously admitting he wasn’t qualified to comment on the quality of either candidate, and was leaving it up to his political-junkie friends to duke it out – complimented Barack Obama, and his branding:

Barack Obama’s branding is really really good. Specifically, his website branding. It’s clean, very uncluttered, and visually pleasing. Hillary’s is quite good, about what you would expect, but Barack has definitely got some sugary web 2.0 (are we at 3.0 yet? I can’t keep track) goodness going on. Note the logo – the big O. Very simple, but nice. Note the my.barackobama.com, which smacks of .mac account level fandom. I don’t really have the interest to sign up and see what it’s all about, but from the outside, it’s genius: a barack dashboard. He has created his own social network! What’s next – a widget for vista/OSX of an “obameter” or a “barameter”?

Again, the political-junkie and civics nerd in me sneered – great marketing and graphic design does not a great leader make. The thing about Barack Obama’s website that jumped out at me the most was that, (at that time) he had no section on women and women’s issues, and the kind of blind spot that overlooked the needs of about 52% of the population.  That, to me, indicated far more about Barack’s candidacy that the “clean, uncluttered” nature of the site. “What about his policies,” I cried (internally). “What is he going to do?”

To my great dismay, this sort of talk didn’t abate as the primaries went on; in fact, it got worse. After Barack “won” the primary, a post by zuzu at Shakesville asked Obama’s supporters why Clinton’s supporters should vote for him in the general, and a well-meaning commenter responded:

To all of the substantive points I raised, I will finally add Obama’s brilliance in marketing.

He has managed to associate his brand so indelibly with “hope”, “change” and “inspiration” that his opponents and naysayers are forced to criticize those words and concepts, which rarely works out well. Regardless of whether he actually does represent hope change and inspiration (I personally believe he does), don’t we want our Democratic presidential candidate to be a hella good marketer?

I had a visceral reaction to reading this – I hadn’t been lurking at The Great Orange Cheeto or any other pro-Obama site, and hadn’t actually seen people arguing that this sort of thing was a positive; before I could respond, however, Shaker kidlacan was on it:

“perverse as it probably sounds, for me, the quality of obama that last of your posts highlights is the thing putting me off him the most. i’d give anything to have a break from the marketing. it sets my teeth on edge. i’ve been wishing since january that his website would tell me the sorts of things you’ve told me, in your posts, and shut up with the Hope and Change and Hope and ooh web 2.0 lookit! already. it’s a relief to me to hear reasons for supporting him which haven’t got anything to do with ‘the zeitgeist.’ “

Jerseyboy quickly followed up with:

“I agree…Zoe has enunicated succinctly what we never get on TV from him, from his supporters in general or from his website…the marketing stuff is a monstrous turnoff for me…we dealt with that garbage from Bush and Co. for nearly eight years…I hated it from the right, I don’t want to see it from the left…it’s nauseating from any part of the political spectrum.”

There’s been a lot of pop-psychology running around the media and the ‘net about the tensions between whom supports whom, via age (Boomers vs. Echo-Boomers/”Generation Y“), the “waves” of feminism (second vs. third), and classes (Creative vs. Working), and geography (urban vs. Appalachia).  I’m personally starting to see another thread of preference (which surely intertwines with each and every one of these divisions),  that is,  which kind of “consumer” each voter is: those who enjoy “buying into” concepts, and those who don’t like being “marketed” every. last. thing., especially not democracy.

For example, I’ve often commented that while I’m part of the “demographic” that is supposed to be overwhelmingly pro-Obama (young, educated, urban latte-sipping liberal), I’ve pretty much rejected the entire kit’n’caboodle. This is perhaps in part because I identify more with second-wave feminism, which in turn may partly be because I both get along fabulously with my boomer-generation mother and because I don’t particularly share my generation’s resentment of the boomers.

But I’m also someone who’s reknowned as a “hard-sell.” I hate telemarketers. I hate going into stores and having salespeople flutter at me, because I know what I want, and I resent someone trying to sell me otherwise. I rarely buy something just because the commercial appealed to me, aesthetically or otherwise; I enjoyed the Joe Canada commercial back in 2000, but I never bought Canadian –  because I don’t enjoy the taste of beer.  I really liked the Pepsi/Britney campaigns of the same era, and could appreciate their zip and style, but … I prefer the taste of Coke, and that’s what I buy.   Right now, I’ll fully admit to being addicted to my Starbucks, but it’s not a status/brand thing to me – it’s that their hazelnut/cinnamon dolce/chai lattes are fooking delicious. The only time a commercial speaks to me, like, enough to part with any money, is when it happens to speak to me on a functional level, that the product that’s being sold to me will actually solve a problem I have or I truly enjoy it.

That Generation-Y link says the following about my generation:

They represent more than 70 million consumers in the United States. They earn a total annual income of about $211 billion, spend approximately $172 billion per year, and considerably influence many adult consumer buying choices. They also face a greater degree of direct corporate marketing than any other generation in history….

A 2008 survey by UK recruitment consultancy FreshMinds Talent in partnership with Management Today suggested that Generation Y are generally more ambitious, brand conscious and tend to move jobs more often than ever before.

I think my generation is definitely more brand-conscious than ever before, but I think there’s a bit of a dove-tailing effect: there’s a split between those who are marketing-skeptical (like myself) –  those who can recognize marketing tricks for what they are, and have fused it with the previous generation’s anti-capitalist sentiment – and those who have embraced corporate branding and marketing as an art, and make their judgements based on the brand, the marketing itself, who buy into the “logic” that the person who can manipulate the message the best is, ipso facto, the person who would lead best.

Which, to me is a logical non-sequitur, but it seems to follow to the latter kind of person, and (terrifyingly) that the latter seems to be far more prevalent. But what kind of “consumer” one is seems to both correlate with and explain the cross-section of voters that Clinton and Obama appeal to, respectively, across those urban/rural, generational, and class divides: those who are likely to appreciate and buy into gloss and glitter, and those who are wary about throwing their money and support behind something without there being a little substance to back it up.