David Hume said many centuries ago that reason is the slave of passions. It’s a dictum that has been used ruthlessly by many a political regime since, not the least the Warlord’s here in the States 2001-06. George Orwell, watching some of the most horrific uses of this technique added: ” . . . human beings don’t only want comfort, safety, short working hours . . . and in general common sense; they also, at least intermittently, want struggle and self-sacrfrice . . .”
We saw American mass psychology manipulated post 9/11 and the discard of reason. Gerson’s speeches, “mushroom clouds” contributed as much — not more — than video of the two towers. The result? Christian Socialist Authoritarianism and within the Beltway, great Fear. Many small imitators try to peddle that worn card. Some wonder how a country decades ago with trillions in dollars in debt, defeated and under foreign occupation, massive unemployment could fall for rhetorical seduction.
Why not? We did. A prosperous, wealthy, unspeakably powerful superpower willing fell under the spell with collapse of a mere two buildings, a crashed plane and a concrete Pentagon wing. (God rest the souls of all those fallen).
Interestingly, Obama — the media’s Crown Prince — is the mirror image of this technique, albeit (and importantly) without the discernible, glinting malice. (We’d go so far to say he’s (we hope) malice free beyond the venal political sort). We watched his speech today and examined 5 or 6 of his last. Playing the Mad Lib game of switching out adjectives and nouns reveals his speeches, like the Warlord’s, are almost 100% content free.
He offers instead psychological manipulation of the savior sort. He envelops listeners with emotion, overwhelms logic, promises change as an end in of itself. He’s the fresh broom to clear out “them” (special interests, the Senate club he so desperately wanted to join), etc. With gentle humor, the Crown Prince also hints at and mobilizes resentment against the “Establishment”. The Crowned One is careful to avoid a full throated, specific Bryan-esque Cross of Gold way (which at least is overt and honest).
The Crown Prince so far mounts a campaign based on rhetorically seducing rationality. It’s not longer we doubt “audacity”. We doubt now his basic approach to politics and his suitablity for our times.
To cure the Warlord we don’t need a successor regime similarly empty of content and able (or forced by inexperience or lack of competence) to bludgeon the mass American mind with rhetoric. In colloquial terms, imagine a night closing saloons with shots of [insert potent alchohol of choice here -- as a Warlord stand in], waking up the next day and doing it again with a slightly lower “proof” label; it’s both insanity and no real change. The Crown Prince thus fits with fear peddlers relying on the GWOT ™, 9/11, Iraq, Iran, etc. from a different direction.
Media across history are usually the first to fall in love with a Movement or individual who psychologically manipulates through the spoken word (or are penetrated by said Movement/individual). No wonder. It’s their trade; it gives good copy, entertains them and for today is anti-Clinton. (See McCain 2000 for another recent example). McCain’s seduction, however, was all about access. The media’s infatuation with the Crown Prince misses the point that liberal small “d” democracy is about deliberation, it requires logic, reason and rejection of the siren song of the irrational and unreason. Our bi-cameral Congress is designed to structurally embody the point — House more prone to passion, the longer-serving Senate as the speed break to heated debates of the day. One must excuse the Crown Prince a bit. As of today he’s served there a mere one year.
Post Warlord, it’s perverse to dismiss a platform offering “programs” as “boring specifics”. And folly to favor soaring oratory; let’s call it for what is — embrace of and surrender to propaganda. To deal with immigration, recession, the budget, global warming, energy issues, the challenge of the Pacific Rim, not to mention the Middle East, concrete specifics are the *precise* antidote to the Warlords’ calamitous tenure. Not hollow sloganeering.
America can not afford another empty campaign election installing an incompetent Administration sustained in a permanent campaign by sheer emotional rhetoric (or is near brother, symbolism). From either party, but especially at this point, from the crown prince. We must all reject the tempting eduction of emotional and psychological manipulation. Stand your ground and think. Color us beyond unimpressed.