The way we lap up Obama’s soft soap makes me fear for our liberties.

Is anyone wise enough any more to resist the soft blandishments of The Strong One?

I wonder if, like me, you watched the audience in front of President Obama as he addressed Parliament the other day. All of them were staring up adoringly, as if watching a political colossus – rather than a shallow, idea-free politician who has used his Presidency unwisely…..and to little effect.

An American friend much younger than me said – when I first spotted Obama’s star quality in 2007 – “this guy can charm the ass off a Goddamned elephant”, and he was right. Barack Obama had and has star quality thanks to his looks, build, immaculate dress-sense, and amazing gift for oratory. But I have always seen him as the black Blair – perfect in form, and devoid of content. He told us towards the end of his stay that we were the best and closest of America’s allies. He said the same thing to the French last year. And tonight (Saturday) he has said the same thing to the Poles.

Somebody else was trying to tell me earlier this year that US Presidents had been forever thus, naming JFK as “the example par excellence”. I am not a Kennedy revisionist: I don’t think it matters that JFK was hopeless as a Congressional persuader, and had the sort of sexual appetite to make Strauss-Kahn look like a monk. He gave people hope – and had the guts to back it up with something solid. He got elected through his father’s contacts and money, but told Joe Kennedy he wouldn’t pay any ‘debts’ (in the form of favours) the old man owed bosses and gangsters in key areas like Chicago. These two things almost certainly got him killed, but for my generation, JFK was, truly, an inspiration.

Barack Obama is simply a politician’s politician –  a minnow compared to Kennedy.

Just as advertising men are suckers for their own craft, so too are politicians. Our political class will never learn that first of all, US politicos are nothing like ordinary Americans…who are, outside corporate life, much nicer; and second – with specific reference to Obama – US diplomacy is riddled with mendacity and double-cross.
We fall for this ‘unique bond’ drivel about the Special Relationship every time; but on this occasion it was all the more pernicious for having been ‘moved on’ by the message controllers beforehand: the word ‘essential’ instead of ‘special’ (as yet another idiotic description of something mythical) was mentioned 37 times in 18 minutes on the BBCNews station live coverage…further proof again, I’m afraid, that the arm-biter at the top of that organisation has no spine – and precious little insight.
There never was any beef in Obama’s sandwich; and this is one of two things he shares with Cameron. The other is a completely unfeeling cynicism about the truth. Dave’s dealings with Newscorp, and his obvious bias towards all things Murdoch, are the same in essence as Obama’s use of the Bin Laden raid: devious, constantly searching for personal advantage, and peppered with carefully manufactured lies.

All that said, for the British, President Obama is a relatively benign influence, in that he doesn’t care a fig about us. Also I see no sign at all of any pathological need to retain power in the way that I always did with Dick Nixon. But some dubious, authoritarian people are going to come along over the next few years, and it’s becoming increasingly obvious to me that not only would a large proportion of the UK electorate welcome them with open arms – purely because they say, “I have the answer” – an awful lot of lobby fodder and Whitehall pond life would also be more than delighted to help make the New Order work.

It’s an obvious thing to say I know, but people of our age-group are dying off. Sure, a larger minority than usual are going to live into their late eighties and nineties, but few if any will have the energy, interest, credibility, bravery or memory by then to explain why The Strong One is nearly always a very bad idea. Our teachers were far too busy organising Under Twelve Progressive Rockers Against Heightism to bother teaching them much in the way of modern history – let alone the lessons that accrue from it. To be blunt, kids today know Hitler killed a lot of people in the Holocaust, but they have almost no idea how easily Adolf came to power, and how he created a totalitarian State without bending a single law in the Weimar Constitution. In Britain, we don’t even have a Constitution. I think it is a condemnation of contemporary culture that we need one – but boy, do we ever need one.

“A majority would never support such a person,” people tell me all the time; but this too betrays their ignorance. The highest vote in a proper multi-Party election the Nazis ever got in Germany was 32.7%. If you control a huge army of thugs, build a shiny new infrastructure, solve inflation, and get rid of an unpopular minority, that two-thirds who never supported you soon come around to your way of thinking. Reverse a heinous Treaty and get most of the Reich’s land back, and you’re the hero-Fuhrer. Start humiliating your enemies, and you’re a God. So people disappear during the night – who cares? Life is good….don’t make trouble.

“The internet has made such total control impossible,” is another denialist assertion – but the facts support the opposite view. Yesterday, Iran announced it will build its own internet and shut out all others. China already does this. Google and Verizon have already ensured that strata of ‘performance quality’ will soon be introduced onto the Web. The opportunity for censorship in that context is almost too obvious to point out. The Russians are miles ahead in the race to perfect ways of blagging into and if necessary jamming all forms of internet communication. Every last ISP selling telecoms online already works in cooperation with GCHQ. This isn’t conspiracy paranoia – read Jacqui Smith’s last statement to the House before her husband’s porn penchant brought her down: having first denied that such action in concert was under construction, she later reversed her position entirely.

Far from making totalitarianism impossible, digital technology has made Orwell’s nightmare an easily attainable reality. The East German Stasi kept a whole nation under surveillance without any of this technology; the British State could get it up and running tomorrow – literally. Every site we visit, every email we write is already watched 24/7 by marketing and business. How else do you think that the site ads you see on your browser just happen to reflect the things you’re interested in?

Had such a situation arisen in, say, 1960 – when the Cold War was at its height, people remembered the Gestapo, and Orwell’s 1984 was a famous book being made into TV plays and films – the outcry would have been universal, the demand for the whole edifice to be deconstructed irresistible. In 2011, the response is, “Yeh – whatever”.

I get mail and comment-threads all the time suggesting that New Labour in particular deliberately connived at this situation, but I can’t accept that: we have arrived at this dangerous point (with the coming econo-fiscal disaster an obvious catalyst) because middle-class Labour’s high-IQ/high ignorance/high five idiots were too stupid to grasp the obvious consequences of generous welfare + risible education – and too intolerant to accept that they just might be badly misguided in their patronising views about ‘ordinary hard-working families’. I think there is some anecdotal evidence to support the idea that by keeping immigration up and maintaining dependence poverty, Labour’s more evil strategists really did see themselves as ‘defending and building share’ of the votes market. But the movement as a whole is far too dull, argumentative and pedestrian to accept (let alone put into action) such a clever conspiracy. We are where we are in this hole because of near-ubiquitous incompetence, not planned social engineering.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that The Strong One couldn’t come from Labour’s ranks. Harriet Harman is the most  obvious candidate, if only because she has form when it comes to (a) openly saying she’d change any law at any time to get a post-dated conviction (b) targeting hate-sectors like bankers and white, older males, and (c) being so clearly bigoted and at least part way round the twist in her gender views. But Hattie herself knows she is unelectable – hence her support for Ed Miliband, as the great hope for becoming a sort of surrogate mother, hatching mad schemes and ‘equality’ quotients on Harmperson’s behalf.

To give Ed the only due he’ll ever get from me, he isn’t The Strong One. He’s more what you’d call The Wrong One. But James Purnell (former Labour Welfare reformer) occasionally shows a disturbing combination of belief, limitless ambition, radical ideas and ruthlessness.

The point is – looking at Boris Johnson and others on the Tory side, and even Speaker John Bercow – there are plenty of power freaks in the Commons who would make no bones about their strength in a crisis…..and show no mercy to liberal democracy. The only thing that could stop such a person would be discernment of the threat by voters, the media and the elite. On the basis of Obama’s rapturous reception this week, I am forced to conclude that none of the members of that triumvirate could offer even the semblance of such judgment.

18 thoughts on “The way we lap up Obama’s soft soap makes me fear for our liberties.

  1. Amen to that. And when the Strong One comes and fills our screens with wide smiles and soothing, strong, apparently sensible words, the sheeple will queue up to take their very own mark, on their right hand or forehead because they will be told how great it is that they cannot lose it it or have it fraudulently used against them.

  2. Right on John. An excellent piece about one of my most worrying developments.
    The younger generations cannot see what’s happening, plenty of people would prefer a Strong Man to direct their lives and the pols are lying thru their teeth to sooth us. Meanwhile the dark clouds are gathering.

  3. Excellent article!
    It’s not much point talking to young liberals about Obama. They are more critical of Justin Beiber and think Obama is “cool” even if he hasn’t really earned the Nobel Peace Prize, etc.
    My parents generation felt the same way about JFK but today’s Democrats are much further to the left.

  4. Yes another excellent article (or does it just reflect my own views/prejudices?-always a worry that one).
    A couple of points-although I was young at the time, JFK did have the “stardust” which makes people universally attractive, as did Blair and Obama, but what did JFK actually achieve? Got the US deeper into Vietnam, provoked the Cuban missile crisis, didn’t actually get his social reforms through-the deeply unattractive LBJ did that because he was an effective politician,
    Even Nixon achieved more-opened up relations with China, got the US out of Vietnam, kept the Russians out of the Middle East.
    So Obama is doing little, -good! The last thing we need is a leader like him wanting to “do stuff”.
    The worry is Cameron-he wants to do things but cannot hack the grind that is the real politics needed to achieve true reform-so he goes for stunts like Libya to our huge disbenefit. More will come. Oh and he couldn’t win an election even against the great “clunking fist”-what a t***er!

    • Did you ever read the memoirs of Pierre Sallinger (JFK adviser and author of The Thousand Days)?
      He recalls seeing Kennedy off on his plane to Dallas. At the foot of the steps, Sallinger was updating JFK on troop training etc in Vietnam. The President said, “You know what we need to get in Vietnam, Pierre?” and Sallinger shook his head.
      Kennedy said, “The f**k out”.
      Also it’s worth taking a peek at the surviving videos of JFK’s press conferences. He was an extremely witty man, whom Macmillan thought “Wonderful company”. I have never believed the stuff about Kennedy being just a dumb shag-artist.
      But either way, he died young and that is always the right thing to do if you’re a messianic politician.

      • I haven’t read Sallinger but I will now.
        Also I never did believe he was just a shag artist (far too intelligent), but how much he could command events as opposed to the other way round, is, I think, open to question.

  5. You make the obvious assertion that English politicians of all hues seem to be in awe of the JFK in O’Bama* when he’s only a presentably elegant and superior Blair, yet just as full of image, devoid of substance and as mendaciously articulate. Given his inheritance in terms of the balances of political power in Congress and Senate and the effing awful state of affairs after the rape of the economy by Bush’s unregulated bankers, frankly I’d give him a tad more time. He may be as useless as you say (and I too have doubts – his U-turn on Guantanamo I find inexplicable) but even you will have to admit he has had one hell of an uphill climb thus far.
    Yet how do you segue from this assertion to the inevitability of a British Hitler? Simply that we have a useless bunch of supine politicians who can’t identify the shallowness of O’Bama? That we have today unprecedented means of electronic surveillance to degrees unforeseen since ‘1984’?
    From these two thoughts in conjunction we arrive at ‘The Strong One’?
    I think, like all well-educated generals in history, you fight the last war, Sir.
    The kind of totalitarianism that globalised, corporate, electronic surveillance will lead to will be of a very much more subtle, surreptitious and sneaky kind.
    There will be no ‘Strong One’. Just ranks of ‘blah! Blah! Promises, promises! Blah! Blah!’ politicians as inspirational as Millibean, as lacking in veracity as Huhne, as criminally greedy as Morley and as pantomime as Prescott. Leaders, or rather semi-plausible ‘front-men’, will arise from these ranks in the form of TV presentable, well-spoken OE twerps like Dave.
    Just like now but even more so.
    And then more and more we will be manipulated by unelected corporate nerds in ways which will result in Kafkaresque cultures of amazing complexity. We’ll be organised politically like banks are organised and interface with their customers today. When was the last time you were able to speak to a any kind of manager, decision taker or person empowered to do anything more than refer you to their Terms & Conditions? I have recently been dealing with a complaint to the FSA. I now know exactly why Private Eye calls it the Financial Supine Authority. Well this kind of unaccountability and remote manipulation is where we are headed.
    Unlike the Weimar Republic I don’t see the circumstances for the cultivation of a ‘Strong One’. Mind you with the hyper-inflation that’s going to result from the bankruptcy of the USA and collapse of the Euro then anything’s possible.

    (*Obama’s claimed his Irish apostrophe and so will be ever stuck with it.)

    • @Duncan: FWIW, IMV the mistake that many people make when considering the rise of a Strong Man is that they look back in history towards Hitler or whoever, and can’t see us going down that road.
      But it’s been said many times in recent years that the next fascism won’t be a fuhrer who wears military fatigues but a sharp-suited media savvy front man…someone like Blair with links to big money.
      The trigger(s) for such an emergence is difficult to pinpoint but obvious possibilities are further economic collapse, high inflation, widening poverty, growing social unrest, rising law breaking, all coupled to a growing public belief that the pols have lost the plot and have their hands in the till. IOW most of the things that we already have today!

      my 2c worth :-)

    • I’m not for a minute suggesting that the strong one will have a toothbrush moustache and wear jackboots…although that would undoubtedly secure the S&M vote.
      What I had in mind was somebody in the mould of Robert Kiljoy-Slick.

    • Could we not be heading for our own ‘Arab Spring’? Look at Spain. This is a generational thing.

      I agree with you about Obama. He’s far too smart for the present American polity, but he has to play the hand he has been dealt which is considerably more difficult than the one dealt Kennedy – Cuba and Vietnam notwithstanding.

      He wouldn’t be president had not the economy gone south at a critical point in the election process and McCain not been so crass and flat footed.

      Now he’s hidebound by a Congress that is as bent as a nine bob note and an electorate whose collective brain has been addled by Fox News.

      In the American system, the president proposes and the Congress disposes. What hope is there for the US working with the grain of world opinion and thus being a force for stability when the House of Representatives votes 390 to five in FAVOUR of Israel’s invasion of Gaza in 2009?

      Not only is the US working against the grain of world opinion in the way it deals with Israel and the autocrats of the Middle East (unless they’re bad guys) but it is underpinning the nexus of Big Money that controls our destinies and ironically enables it to exert what remaining ‘soft’ power it has.

      The Americans EXPECT their presidents to deliver prosperity. That is what they are elected to do – how it’s done is not the great American public’s business which is why we have been through all the tricks and contortions of the past four decades – ever since the dollar left the gold standard in 1971 – inventing ways to keep bubbles of ever greater dimensions afloat.

      What happens in next year’s presidential elections when the economy is still sputtering along at around 1-2 per cent growth will be quite instructive as to how the US deals with its new circumstances.

      High youth unemployment has proved a catalyst for political change in the Middle East and now in Spain. Will it be in the US and UK? I hold up more hope for the UK where Cameron and Co have had some success in bending the political system to the new realities, thanks to the MPs expenses scandal. The US is a lost cause with its Congress and lobbies beholden to Big Money and, worse still, absolutely no introspection over the possibility they might not have the best (God given) political system since the invention of sliced bread. Pity Obama.

  6. Don’t be too quick to write off all the youngsters. The schools, literature, media, everything has been subjected to dumbing down, but you can’t cover up the truth for very long. There are a lot of very bright young people in this country, despite this. I pray to God for all the people in this country to be able to see the truth.

    • Yes, they see the truth. Many do. And what can we do about it?
      As with the Banks, there is little which can be done. If one of the apparatchiks is picked off, there are ten to fill the vacancy, each as greedy and mendacious as the last.

    • Indeed there are and most of them are privately educated. I note from my own children (two public schools girls in their early 20s with a good university degree) that they don’t buy into the Obama scam, hate what labour have done to this country and do not have much faith in Cameron’s misguided policies and have seen straight through him and the feeble coalition with Clegg. All of their friends feel the same, so there truly is hope.

      • Spot-on Tanya. My privately educated duo are exactly the same.
        My fear about them is, they aren’t activists…and never will be.

  7. John, they aren’t activists….yet. When push comes to shove I am convinced the 20-somethings of today would take action of some sort. Let’s hope so anyway!

  8. You hit the nail on the head – Just read a very thought provoking book that corroborates your thesis, it’s called Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman.

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