Monday, April 14, 2008

Fantasy has taken over

A dissection of today's American journalism doesn't get any better than Sean Wilentz's thoughtful column, "The Delusional Style in American Punditry" (The New Republic, 12/19/07). He zeroes in on the inanity of editorialists and pundits, as demonstrated by their gentle, even romantic treatment of Barack Obama's candidacy. Here is an excerpt:

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The Boston Globe, in an ideal specimen of the delusional style, ran an editorial that endorsed Obama because he is biracial and grew up in "multi-ethnic cultures"--adequate substitutes, by the editorial's lights, for serious background and expertise in foreign affairs. Obama, according to the Globe, has engaged in "a search for identity" and taken "a roots pilgrimage to Kenya," all of which supposedly displays a "level of introspection, honesty, and maturity" that the newspaper longs for in a president. "Obama's story is America's story," the Globe intoned--a sentence that comes as close as any distinguished newspaper ever has to perfect emptiness. Let us hold aside that the book the Globe relied on in discovering these singular Obamaesque virtues, Dreams From My Father, contains composite characters and other fictionalized elements--not exactly a portrait of sterling honesty or authenticity. What is especially delusional is the Globe's confidence that its own projections about Obama's character and personality, as well as the mystical conclusions it draws from his ethnicity, are serious grounds for endorsing any candidate for any office, much less the presidency. . . .

There are many possible explanations for this latest outbreak of the delusional style. An ever-intensifying cult of celebrity personality-worship, the more sentimental the better, may finally have overwhelmed precincts of political commentary. (Obama's sidekick, Oprah Winfrey, is, after all, the reigning master of that cult.) Democrats may simply be so battered after what the Globe calls "seven desolating years" that they are looking for a man on a white horse to deliver them from despair--and so they have invented one.

Complete article here.
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EW Note: Not until I read the dozens of responses to Wilentz's article in The New Republic did I learn the depths of adoration for this man Obama. The angry retorts to Wilentz's very sensible description of the irrational acceptance of Obama's bidding to trust his "intuition" were ludicrous. Where do such loopy people come from? Below is one of the rare, sensible insights offering agreement with Wilentz's thesis:
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Posted by jpwink -- I think that the responses to Prof. Wilentz's post seem to have missed his point. I started to listen to Obama's speech at Oprah's Iowa rally last weekend, and I decided to try an experiment. I shut off my TV and listened to the speech without the video. It would have been better if I had read a transcript.

What I heard was a series of rather tired Democratic Party platitudes, delivered in a religious-revivalist style. Most effective, but when you read or listen to it cold, you know that he is clearly adept at selling the sizzle, not the steak. Prof. Wilentz cuts through the multi-racial, multi-cultural blather that has so infatuated the pundits, all while missing the ultimate irony.

At the end of the day, whatever his "multi-cultural" inner self, we know that Obama was raised by three white midwesterners. As far as I am concerned, he can find his "identity" on his own time.

The pundits need to understand that the next President will come with instincts, knowledge, experience and character, and he/she will undoubtedly be lacking in any or all of them. The pundits do not know them well, and Prof. Wilentz simply points out that they should not fawn all over the candidates when the pundit's track record in this area is clearly lacking.
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If you want to experience genuine sentimentalism, read author Scott Turow's love poem to his friend Obama, where he injects excuses and rationalizations, even for the senior Obama's abandonment of his family. Oh, the pressures of living in an age when miscegenation was still frowned upon! We are to remove from memory what we have learned about Senior's own personal ambitions, which did not include the families he left behind.

Turow, who held fundraisers in his Illinois home for Obama, when he ran for the Senate, speculates over Obama's prospect to become a "pivotal American leader," compares him to "a walking Statue of Liberty, holding up the torch 24 hours a day," and sees him as "the embodiment of one of America's most enduring dreams." Turow writes like Obama talks.

See his complete article here on

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