Propaganda From President Obama

For some reason, I’m on the emailing list of politicians [their machinery, that is] from across the political spectrum. I’m either paying for old sins, or I bought a pair of socks online once and had my information absorbed by the Borg, or both. At any rate, I received the following email today from “President Obama,” and if you need a ready example of post-Modern and post-structuralist political language, then you may merely observe that, essentially, people don’t communicate with people anymore; names in quotation marks communicate with names in quotation marks. “President Obama” didn’t compose or send or perhaps even know about this email, and “I” did not receive it; an electronic portal received it. Consider the language of the email, please, and leave the issue aside. I will annotate in brackets.

Hans –– [my president called me by my first name–gosh! Ellul would note that “Hans” has been turned into an individual and a pixel among the mass of pixels both at once: a key to propaganda after 1932 or so]

As we head into the final stretch on health reform, big insurance company lobbyists and their partisan allies hope that their relentless attacks and millions of dollars can intimidate us into accepting the status quo.

[Please note a characteristic of journalism and fund-raising emails: the two-line paragraph. We’re not writing WAR AND PEACE, folks. Please also note the “we,” to which, some decades ago, the standard response would have been, “What do you mean ‘we’? You got a frog in your pocket?” Note also that “we” are fighting a common enemy, the Four Lobbyists of the Apocalypse.]

So I have a message for them, from all of us: Not this time. We have come too far. We will not turn back. We will not back down.

[Great plain rhetoric! Please note that the composer is being extremely clear and not using “big words.” The composer is following Orwell’s rules. But it’s still propaganda. Response: If you have a message for them, why not send it to them instead of me? “Not this time.” Line in the sand. Wild Bill and I have commented on that impractical cliche. The wind tends to blow lines in the sand away. “We have come too far.” I’m sorry, but I have the job I’ve had for a long time, whereas as you, President Obama, have come very far–and I congratulate you, by the way. An African American who gets elected president in a land still dominated by Orville Faubuses has done a “good job of work.” Also, in health-care, “we” have come exactly nowhere. There isn’t even a bill ready. Moreover, “we” have already “turned back.” The process has gone from single-payer to public option to some kind of thin broth from the kitchen of Rube Goldberg. The lobbyists won; what a surprise! “We” will not back down? Frog in pocket? The Democrats only back down. When do Democrats ever advance? They are the defensive backs of American politics, and they can’t even play bump-and-run.]

But do not doubt — the opponents of reform will not rest. So I need you, the members of Organizing for America, to fight alongside me.

[I am not a member of Organizing for America. Details, details! Moreover, if I am to fight alongside the president, then I am going to need an invitation to Washington, D.C., for I am NOT a gate-crasher! I am Old School. Also, I think the opponents of reform have earned a rest, as they have already won.]

We must continue to build out our campaign — to spread the facts on the air and on the ground, and to bring in more volunteers and train them to join the fight. I urgently need your help to keep Organizing for America’s 50-state movement for reform going strong.

[Again with the “we”–frog in the pocket? Yes, let us spread facts in the air–like confetti! Let us spread facts on the ground–like fertilizer! Train volunteers = hire out-of-work persons to work for minimum wage in basement-boiler-room operations. “Urgently” is redundant.]

Can you donate $25 or whatever you can afford today?

[I can. But I will not. I propose donating the money to a local food bank.] [note the sports metaphor]

Let’s win this together, [Win what, and “together”? Frog in the pocket. I tell my students that, for precision, “this” should always be followed by a noun, a guideline I often forget myself.]

President Barack Obama [Aw, come on, you didn’t write this!]

If you are a big fan of the President, don’t be offended. This annotation concerned the letter, not him. If you are not a fan of the President, don’t get too excited. Instead, apply the same analysis to any email or correspondence “you” have received from [insert “name” here] you’ve received lately. If you are a fan of no politician, then you are in an appropriate mental space.


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