Obama’s deeds don’t always match his words. Thus, he is a hypocrite and worse: a corporate stooge, the commander and chief of the prison industrial complex, and a war criminal. This is the sort of judgment one hears from the left. It seems this was the ground of Cornel West’s recent expression of self-righteous anger. And this, I believe, is all the result of a lack of understanding about the relationship between politics as a vocation and the art of protest.
In my last post, I expressed my indignation, my criticism of West and this sort of criticism (not for the first time, and certainly not the last). It is with the same concern that I have regretted the lost opportunities of Occupy Wall Street, which had real prospects to expand its influence, but fled instead, for the most part, into utopian fantasies and irrelevance. In Weber’s terms OWS activists chose completely the ethics of ultimate ends and fled responsibility, the articulation of the dreams over consequential actions. For me personally, the saddest manifestation of this was in the events of Occupy New School and its aftermath. Students and colleagues posturing to express themselves, to reveal their sober judgment of the realistic or their credentials as true radicals had little or nothing to do with the important ideas and actions of OWS, centered on the concerns of the 99% and the call for equality and a decent life for the 99%.
But my hope springs eternal. Perhaps with Obama’s new inauguration the protesters will get it.
A friend on my Facebook page summed up the problem. “It’s really difficult to be on the left of the current White House in the US nowadays.” Apparently hard, I think, because both easy full-throated opposition and full-throated support don’t make sense. Binary opposition is off the table. Struggles for public visibility of political concerns and consequential action are the order of the day. It’s difficult but far from impossible. Politicians will do their jobs, well or poorly, but so will social . . .
Read more: Guns and the Art of Protest: Thinking about What is to be Done on the Left
In Reinventing Political Culture, I argue that there are four components to Barack Obama’s project in reinventing American political culture: (1) the politics of small things, using new media to capture the power of interpersonal political engagement and persuasion, (2) the revival of classical eloquence, (3) the redefinition of American identity and (4) the pursuit of good governance, rejecting across the board condemnations of big government, understanding the importance of the democratic state. I think that there is significant evidence for advances on all four fronts. The most difficult in the context of the Great Recession was the struggle for good governance, but now the full Obama Transformation, responding the Reagan Revolution, is gaining broad public acceptance.
The election was won using precise mobilization techniques. Key fully developed speeches by the President and his supporters, most significantly Bill Clinton, defined the accomplishments of the past for years and the promise of the next four. Obama’s elevation of the Great Seal motto E pluribus unum (in diversity union), defining the special social character and political strength of America, has won the day. And now, the era of blind antipathy to government is over.
The pendulum has finally swung back. The long conservative ascendancy has ended. A new commonsense has emerged. Obama’s reinvention of American political culture is rapidly advancing. The full effects of the 2012 elections are coming into view. The promise of 2008 is being realized. The counterattack of 2010 has been repelled. The evidence is everywhere to be seen, right in front of our eyes, and we should take note that it is adding up. Here is some evidence taken from reading the news of the past couple of days.
It is becoming clear that Obama’s tough stance in the fiscal cliff negotiations is yielding results. The Republicans now are accepting tax increases. Signs are good that this includes tax rates. A headline in the Times Friday afternoon: “Boehner Doesn’t Rule Out Raising Tax Rates.” A striking shift in economic policy is apparent: tax the rich before benefit cuts for the poor, government support for economic . . .
Read more: The Reagan Revolution Ends! Obama’s Proceeds!
To skip this introduction and go directly to the full In-Depth Analysis of “Fake vs. Fox News: OWS and Beyond,” click here.
In December of 2011, I took part in a very interesting conference in Sofia, Bulgaria. The conference participants were asked to respond to the work of the media theorist, Daniel Dayan (my dear friend and colleague and Deliberately Considered contributor) and to answer a straightforward question – “Is democracy sick of its own media?”
I presented a mixed answer: yes, when in comes to troubling developments in television news; no, when it comes to the effervescence of television satire and the social media. I closed with a proposal to Daniel to co-author a book, linking his ideas about “monstration” with mine about the politics of small things. While a book may or may not be forthcoming, a dialogue here at Deliberately Considered will appear in the near future.
In my paper, which I present here as an “in-depth” post, focused on the American case, I argued that we live in both the best of times and the worst of times concerning the relationship between media and democracy. Fox Cable News is relentlessly confusing fact with fiction with partisan intention, and serves as a model of media success, both financial and political, while responses to Fox including by the TV satirists, the famous “fake news” journalists, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, on Comedy Central, who also have interesting imitators around the world, present important challenges to Fox and its influence on common sense.
These media developments, I sought to demonstrate, are connected to significant new American social movements: the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street. In the case of OWS, and other new “new social movements,” social media is of crucial importance. They are providing new health to democracy globally in many different political contexts.
I maintained in my Sofia paper, that the relationship between social media and OWS is a significant manifestation of the way the politics of small things have become large in our world. I see in this . . .
Read more: Fake vs. Fox News: OWS and Beyond (Introduction)