The Malady Lingers On…
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. —Matthew 7:15, King James Version
I daresay most of you are familiar with the so-called Kuleshov Effect. To refresh your memories, the Kuleshov Effect is a film editing (montage) effect demonstrated by Russian filmmaker Lev Kuleshov in the 1920s.
“Kuleshov edited together a short film in which a shot of the expressionless face of Tsarist matinee idol Ivan Mozzhukhin was alternated with various other shots (a plate of soup, a girl, an old woman’s coffin). The film was shown to an audience who believed that the expression on Mozzhukhin’s face was different each time he appeared, depending on whether he was “looking at” the plate of soup, the girl, or the coffin, showing an expression of hunger, desire or grief respectively.
Actually the footage of Mozzhukhin was the same shot repeated over and over again. Vsevolod Pudovkin (who later claimed to have been the co-creator of the experiment) described in 1929 how the audience: ‘raved about the acting…. the heavy pensiveness of his mood over the forgotten soup, were touched and moved by the deep sorrow with which he looked on the dead woman, and admired the light, happy smile with which he surveyed the girl at play. But we knew that in all three cases the face was exactly the same.’
Kuleshov used the experiment to indicate the usefulness and effectiveness of film editing. The implication is that viewers brought their own emotional reactions to this sequence of images, and then moreover attributed those reactions to the actor, investing his impassive face with their own feelings.”–wiki
Reduced to its essence, what Kuleshov demonstrated is that context is everything.
Which leads me to Barack Obama. I’ve been hugely entertained by the tsunami of gush that’s greeted his election victory. The numbers of people trying to blow sunshine up my undies is both amusing and alarming. Amusing because fatuous, alarming because of the manifest ignorance of both history and politics.
Reading the starry-eyed drooling over Obama, one might be forgiven for thinking he had spent 40 days and nights in the desert, feeding on locusts and honey before returning with a God-given vision.
Recognizing this otherness his fellow Americans annointed him and unanimously elevated him to the White House.
The truth is rather more mundane. Obama won %52 of the popular vote, hardly a resounding mandate. More disturbing is the willingness on the part of Obama’s groupies to abandon their critical faculties. They project their hopes and dreams onto a politician. They’ve made their hopes and dreams the context. Big mistake. Obama is a politician. He will disappoint. He didn’t get to the White House by practicing yogic breathing and turning the other cheek.
Obama fought his way up the slippery slope of Chicago machine politics, developing very sharp elbows and a ruthless streak. Take the story of his first election, which some have called The Political Execution of Alice Palmer. Palmer was a friend and early mentor to Obama when he was working as a grassroots organizer after law school. She was a longtime and popular state senator on Chicago’s South Side.
Then in 1996, Palmer decided to make a run for Congress. According to the Chicago Tribune:
Obama was the chosen successor for her seat in the state Senate, says Alan Dobry, a longtime political activist who lived in Palmer’s district. Dobry says Palmer called Obama a “fine young man” when she talked about who would replace her.
But Palmer lost in the primary for that congressional seat and decided that she wanted her old Senate seat after all. Her protege Obama would have to step aside.
It was a test, a Darwinian dilemma. In order to fulfill his own ambitions, Obama would have to kill his friend’s political career.
Obama stood his ground and went one step further. Using an aggressive procedural move, he challenged the signatures on Palmer’s nominating petitions. And he even went beyond that: He challenged the petitions for all three of the opponents.
It’s not unusual for politicians to muscle rivals off the ballot, especially in Chicago, says longtime Chicago Alderman Toni Preckwinkle.
“My view is that you’re not ready for prime time if you can’t get your petitions in order and file them according to the requirements of the law,” Preckwinkle says. “If you fail to do that, then it’s your problem.”
And there was a problem. It turned out all the opponents had faulty signatures.
Back in that ’96 race, Dobry was one of the people trying to verify signatures for Obama’s campaign — and they found that Palmer’s petitions were circulated by people named “Pookie.”
“We know what that means,” Dobry says. “It means somebody got a bunch of kids from the local high school to circulate the petition, and they put down the name as Pookie.”
The maneuver worked. Obama knocked all of his opponents off the ballot. He cleared the field and sailed on to an easy victory in the heavily Democratic district.
A tough, ruthless, ambitious politician, then. Willing to sacrifice a friend and mentor on the altar of his ambition. The acolytes, however, are viewing Obama through the rather saccharine lens of his autobiography, Dreams From My Father. Wrong context.
Obama needs to be considered in the context of US politics and viewed in that context, Obama is an impressive operator, cunning and pragmatic. However, the notion, much bruited about by the rose-tinted spectacles mob, that Obama is an agent of change, of idealism, that he is, in short, a new broom is unsustainable.
And so it’s proved. His appointment of Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff tells you all you need to know about what Obama’s policy towards the Palestinians will be: more of the same.
Obama has committed a U. S. force of 60,000 to the black hole of futility that is Afghanistan and hired Bush’s defense secretary.
Obama, who promised to keep lobbyists at arm’s length, nominated a top lobbyist for defense contractor Raytheon, William J. Lynn, to be his number two man at the Pentagon.
Obama has appointed the very ideologues and financial strategists who have destroyed the financial system to save it. He is busy throwing even more money at the banks to no-one’s benefit but the bankers.
Obama is refusing to sanction the release of documents relating to the grotesque detention in Guantanamo Bay of men who’d been convicted of no crime, citing national security.
He has refused to state his position on nuclear disarmament by all nations.
He has refused to commit his administration to destroying the US’s stockpile of chemical and biological weapons.
By their fruits shall ye know them.
And you’d better believe the disappointments will keep on coming, surprising those who read politicians autobiographies but not those who read history. I wish it were not so but wishing away the truth is for infants not grown-ups.
Added Feb 20th:
With two missile strikes over the past week, the Obama administration has expanded the covert war run by the Central Intelligence Agency inside Pakistan, attacking a militant network seeking to topple the Pakistani government.
Members of Pakistani tribes offered funeral prayers on Feb. 15 for victims of an American missile attack in the North Waziristan region, near the Afghan border.
The missile strikes on training camps run by Baitullah Mehsud represent a broadening of the American campaign inside Pakistan, which has been largely carried out by drone aircraft. Under President Bush, the United States frequently attacked militants from Al Qaeda and the Taliban involved in cross-border attacks into Afghanistan, but had stopped short of raids aimed at Mr. Mehsud and his followers, who have played less of a direct role in attacks on American troops.–New York Times, Feb.20, 2009
The Blessed Obama…killing brown people far away, not in defence of US troops but to support a repellent foreign regime. Change we can believe in…
Added Feb.22, 2009
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has told a federal judge that military detainees in Afghanistan have no legal right to challenge their imprisonment there, embracing a key argument of former President Bush’s legal team.–New York Times, Feb.22, 2009
…and so it goes. The same old same old.
Added March 4, 2009:
In one of his disturbing spells of passivity, President Obama decided not to fight Congress and live up to his own no-earmark pledge from the campaign.
He’s been lecturing us on the need to prune away frills while the economy fizzles. He was slated to make a speech on “wasteful spending” on Wednesday.
Team Obama sounds hollow, chanting that “the status quo is not acceptable,” even while conceding that the president is accepting the status quo by signing a budget festooned with pork.
It includes $38.4 million of earmarks sponsored or co-sponsored by President Obama’s labor secretary, Hilda Solis; $109 million Hillary Clinton signed on to; and $31.2 million in earmarks sought by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood with colleagues.
(Even Barack Obama was listed as one of the co-sponsors of a $7.7 million pet project for Tribally Controlled Postsecondary Vocational Institutions until he got his name taken off last week.)
And then there are the 16 earmarks worth $8.5 million that Emanuel put into the bill when he was a congressman, including money for streets in Chicago suburbs and a Chicago planetarium.
—Maureen Dowd, The New York Times, March 4, 2009
…even more change we can believe in from St. Barack.