Saturday, September 06, 2008

Obama's crowd kind of want him to die...

When I talk about the victimary culture positively needing and wanting victims to make sense of the world, what follows is the kind of thing I'm talking about. Thankfully even some on the left are revolted by this: Brendan O'Neill, Please kill this ‘Obama assassination porn’ | spiked
From the moment he entered the primary race to become the Democratic candidate for president, Obama, his team, his security detail and his backers in the media and literary worlds have been positively obsessed by the possibility that he will be bumped off. Caniadian newspaper columnist and unapologetic neocon, Mark Steyn, refers to it as ‘Obama assassination porn’, part of a self-flattering, ersatz ‘determination to appropriate Camelot and [its] mythic narrative’ (4).

The palpable fear of assassination is certainly revealing. In the past, it was aristocrats – isolated princes, kings and dukes – who were consumed by assassinophobia, whereas democrats, from Abraham Lincoln to Bobby Kennedy, tended to make a public display of their lack of fear of the lone gunman (5). The Obama crew’s fear, even fantasy, that America harbours a killer who wants to take down their candidate reveals much about Obama’s aloofness, and about political crisis in the Democratic camp.
assassinophobia has been a continual undercurrent in the discussion about Obama, frequently revealing a broad-ranging fear of Americans rather than a specific fear for Obama’s life.

Supporters of Obama often talk about the wonderful things he will do ‘if he survives…’ The UK Sun hopes Obama ‘lives long enough to bring in the reforms that could rehabilitate America’ (6). Doris Lessing, the British Nobel Laureate, caused a stink in February when she declared that Obama would not survive in the White House: ‘He would probably not last long. They would kill him.’ (7) She didn’t specify who ‘they’ were, but she didn’t need to: ‘they’, in the words of one newspaper, are those ‘pockets of the US, and they are deep and large, that simply will not vote for a black man and where racism is ingrained’ (8). Earlier this year, the Daily Telegraph reported that some Democrats are ‘reluctant to vote for Mr Obama because a Southern racist might shoot him’ (9). Darkly ironically, their desire to save Obama from a bloody fate by not electing him is given sanction by the Obama camp itself. From day one, his circle has organised around the possibility of assassination. He was given Security Service protection in May 2007, ‘far earlier than previous presidential candidates’, and since then his security detail has been ‘stepped up amid fears he could be an assassination target’ (10).

Some Obama supporters have been rattled by the suspicion and heavy-handedness of his security detail. It is reported that ‘tensions have flared’ at some of the crowded pro-Obama rallies, where chanting and passionate crowds have ‘caused major headaches for his Secret Service bodyguards’ (11). At the Iowa caucus in January, Obama’s bodyguards drew their weapons when a man ran towards Obama shouting ‘Obama, Obama!’ The man only wanted to shake Obama’s hand. Later, an Obama aide said to the man: ‘Hey, you can’t do that man. Be careful.’ (12) It seems that while the Obama camp publicly heralded these mass displays of support as a ‘new kind of politics’, privately it viewed them as ‘security nightmares’ where every passionate supporter was a potential killer (13).

Some Obama-backers have seemed almost to fantasise that he will be killed. Writing in the Ottawa Sun, Earl McRae said: ‘Barack Obama is waving his arms. The crowd is cheering… I see Barack Obama, one minute smiling, the people crying his name. I see Barack Obama grab his chest and his eyes widen and his mouth opens, and the crowd screams as Barack Obama, black candidate for the presidency of the United States of America, falls to the ground, dead, an assassin’s bullet inside him.’ (14)

This is what Mark Steyn labels ‘Obama assassination porn’. Steyn points out that where it was the opponents of George W Bush who fantasised about his possible assassination – remember the Channel 4 made-for-TV-movie Death of a President? – it is Obama’s supporters who talk endlessly about his possibly being killed. ‘Obama assassination porn is written by his worshippers and testifies to one of the most palpable features of the senator’s campaign’, said Steyn: its desire to ‘appropriate Camelot’ (the figurative name for JFK’s administraton from 1961 to 1963) (15).

Steyn has a point: fears of an assassination attempt have left the realm of practical policing and become part of a political drama, part of a story about Obama being the heir to the slain Kennedys and Dr King who is risking everything to save America. In lieu of a clear-cut political programme or radically new vision, the ‘assassination story’ has unofficially, but stealthily, been co-opted as evidence of Obama’s dual vulnerability and bravery, and of the sacrifices he is willing to make to ‘rescue American values’ (16).

Yet the widespread assassinophobia also reveals Obama’s and the Democratic Party’s increasing dislocation from the masses. It captures the continual decline of the Democrats from a mass political party with sometimes passionate grassroots support into a kind of court outfit bereft of democratic vision and essentially fearful of the populace.
The return of assassinophobia in the American presidential campaign shines a light on the current state of the Democratic Party. It reveals their disdain for large sections of the American populace and the new class snobbery that infects liberal sections of the US; as one pro-Obama assassination fantasist says, some Americans just cannot accept that Obama is ‘a better American than they are’ and so they turn ‘zealously’ to trying to ‘protect and perpetuate Roy Rogers, John Wayne, Mom’s apple pie and the cross of Jesus in every home’ (23). It also reveals the inexorable transformation of the Democrats into a kind of feudal outfit, essentially cut off from the people and suspicious of their beliefs and motivations. The end result of this ‘assassination porn’ could well be that an assassination attempt becomes more likely. The Duke of Wellington lived in fear of assassination while posted in Paris in the 1810s, but he refused to change his behaviour because ‘I say the danger increases with the appearance of apprehension of it’ (24). In continually advertising their apprehension of death, and even volunteering the kind of ‘rednecks with rifles’ who might make it a reality, the Obama camp may unwittingly be issuing an invitation to some racist nutjob to make their fanatasies come true. Their fears might be one kind of ‘porn’ that really does give rise to violence in the real world.
O'Neill sees "assassinophobia" as the mark of feudal aristocracy. However, one might see in it something yet more primitive. In the Golden Bough, James G. Frazer recounted many stories of primitive, early agrarian-age, kingdoms in which the king enjoys only temporary reign before he must become the victim of a human sacrifice, and thus made, or confirmed, divine.

A general anthropological rule is that humans model themselves on their understanding of the gods, and not vice versa (Frazer was confused on this point). Men first invoke a God before they learn to discuss themselves. At the origin of culture, men signified the presence of a common God, via the things S/he had (apparently) made sacred, untouchable. The first men then went on to begin a process to understand their own humanity by reference to the sacred they had figured/been given, and, over millennia, by the transformation of the sacred understanding into the secular understanding of human nature.

Thus, a primitive king must model himself on the gods. And to the extent his culture is not sufficiently secularized as to allow for a king who is seen as merely or largely human, the pressure to become godly, to justify to the rest of the human crowd this one lucky "man"'s centrality (his access to wealth, women, ritual power), will positively require a day when the king is sacrificed to the sacred image of his divinity. In the primitive world, according to Rene Girard, gods are nothing but the mythologically-disguised memory, or re-presentation, of sacrificial victims. What Girard does not make clear is that before you can have a sacrifice, men first have to have come up peacefully with the idea of a god to whom to sacrifice. The peace that comes with agreeing to share a god comes before the secular decline into resentment, the decline that seems, to primitive thinkers, to require a human sacrifice to stop. Human sacrifice is merely the primitive attempt to re-new a remembered, or original, peace, that lost "Camelot", that Garden of Eden.

If that's what we're seeing with Obama, it is another sign of the reversion of American political culture to something unworthy of a self-ruling Republic.

1 comment:

Dag said...

Obama's litany of "hope and change and ya-ya" can only be meaningful, ultimately, when he is prevented from accomplishing his mythological role as saviour. As soon as he is martyred, then the factories can begin the rolling out of iconography of the new messiah. Then the creation of the demi-god can really begin. The Vegetable God will have returned to the Earth to fertilize the land and will lay dormant till his return next cycle. But if he's not sacrificed, then he'll simply go to seed, no fertilization at all, falling on barren ground; and in that Obama will be seen as the one who didn't really do anything good at all, his promises held up to reality, and the result nothing much at all. So he must die to prove to the believers that he could have if only only. They must kill himself if no one else will volunteer. He cannot live long enough to be seen as he is. It would really wreck the myth-building. What good is a religion if the founding figure is a dud? He must die, must be sacrificed by the Devil, to be the Hero.