Creating a new label in order to sell an old product has long been a successful marketing technique, and our new president has developed rebranding methods with more finesse and as little substance as past administrators. While he plans to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan and spend billions more for weaponry, he has renamed the “war on global terror”. It is now called “overseas contingency operations”. That changes things, doesn’t it?
As in all cases with the Obama ad campaign, these new strategies are exercised in a nuanced and pragmatic way, to guarantee support from those who desperately need to believe that image is substance. This, although it does little for arch conservatives who suffer panic attacks when they hear about new political labels, thinking they actually represent new political products.
Leadership double-talk that says “revenue enhancement” when it means taxes, and “collateral damage” when it means murder, still fools many into buying rancid old vinegar when it’s sold as newly labeled wine. Our language confusion creates mental dissonance so that we can be focused on something called “war crimes”, and miss the fact that the mass murder of war is the real crime, not how we commit those murders.
Giving an old detergent, toothpaste or politician a new label often works in the market place, but that’s where most of our problems originate, not where they are solved. And new labels can’t create housing, employment or peace for people who are homeless, jobless or suffering war. The implication that rebranding means change in an old product has helped create political economic disasters, many inviting more marketing efforts to profit from them. While capital claims we can end pollution by giving credits to firms that pollute less – while they continue polluting – it also tells us that murder according to legally approved methods is right, but slipping from the civilized techniques of slaughter is wrong. So our attention is on whether we torture prisoners instead of burning them to death in the civilized way rationalized as legal war. Kill them? Of course, they’re the evil enemy; but if you capture them, for god’s sake, don’t hurt them. Makes sense, if you think that having a terminal disease means your in good health.
Corporate America’s new CEO inherited a capitalist crisis which will probably get a little better and eventually get much worse, but he was hired to maintain and not change that system. He can speak, with what some call eloquence, out of both sides of his mouth, enabling many to disregard his sibilant center and believe only what strikes them as reassurance that things are looking up and nothing will change but the way we label those things. While the appealing style still beguiles his supporters, the missing content increases discontent among critics, some of them becoming nearly deranged.
There is great need for a social movement to force him much further than he is willing to go, and while the signs of its development are numerous but still feeble on the left, they are passionate, mindless and growing far more dangerous on the right. Conservative fanatics are hysterical in claims that Obama is a socialist, an Islamic fundamentalist or an alien from outer space, while the majority that voted for him or acquiesced in hopeful silence are left wondering if his promised journey in a new direction is only a different path leading to the same dead end.
While Obama’s rhetoric is often of peace and nuclear disarmament, his military budget has increased by 20 billion dollars. He seems to extend a hand to the Islamic world we have alienated, but patronizes Iraq with lessons on how to recreate what we destroyed. As we increase the death toll in Afghanistan and spread it to Pakistan, he continues demagogic slurs directed at Chavez in Latin America. And regarding the apartheid Jewish state at the core of our problems in the middle east, nothing separates the failed Zionist controlled policy of the past 60 years from the still failing Zionist policy of this regime.
But Obama provides photo ops of a handsome family, a dog, a garden, and quotes repeated by people who don’t know or have forgotten that the same words were used by past presidents who were supposedly opposites in political philosophy. Just as Richard Nixon made things “perfectly clear” as he honestly lied, Barack Obama wants to be “very clear” in his straightforward double speak. George Orwell might laugh, or cry.
Orwell contrasted language with reality in his famous criticism of left or right wing tyranny – depending on a readers’ bias – but whether in politics or real estate , double talk still rules. Our very loud conservatives and very soft liberals are confused by some regime rhetoric, but capital knows that it got exactly what it paid for. The words that say we must bail out corporate finance because it is too big to fail, and the deeds that do it by taking wealth from millions too small to matter, are in perfect balance. It is only the public that is fed rhetoric with little connection to reality, and while that could lead to a right wing explosion of social insanity, it could more hopefully bring about a left wing movement for sensible social change.
Our leadership class understands that actions speak louder than words, while we still need to learn that merely rebranding a mortally dangerous product will not solve our problems but only make them worse. Changing our path from Wall Street back to Main Street is meaningless if we continue heading for the same destination. Sooner or later, we will have to face the fact that to really change direction we don’t need a slick campaign for economic rebranding, but a serious campaign for social revolution.