Saturday, August 21, 2010

Puck the Magic Dragon or Willie the Woolly Mammoth?

The swirl of speculation, invective and silliness reached truly epic proportions this week, hence my title.

The idea is this: Can President Obama magically instill the fear of a dragon in Republicans bent on destroying the republic, or will a credulous, untutored America, like the Woolly Mammoth that required grasslands when climate change brought forest, lumber into extinction?

The back cover of the September issue of In These Times presents a tale that everyone should read: “The Manchurian President: Chicago’s Commie Liberal Puppet” by Chip Berlet. The title evokes McCarthyism for good reason. As Berlet says for openers: “America is in the midst of a 21st century witch hunt. A loose-knit network of right-wing ideological strategists, Republican Party operatives and media demagogues generate the odious smears. Their goal is to stymie the Obama administration’s policy initiatives, capture Congress in November and unseat President Barack Obama in 2012. This propagandizing echoes the scapegoating of liberals, union and community organizers, peace activists, gay people, Jews and people of color during the anti-Communist witch-hunts of the McCarthy era.”

Berlet recalls that flyers claiming Martin Luther King Jr. was the dupe of a communist conspiracy were distributed nationwide, depicting liberals as either tools or agents of a plot to build collectivism and global governance. FDR had been labeled a fascist, now Obama is tagged as both Hitler and Stalin. Yet Kennedy, who famously exhorted “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” was never accused of submitting the individual to the state.

A new book entitled: The Manchurian President accuses Obama of ties to communists, socialists “and other anti-American extremists”. According to its right-wing authors, Obama was “groomed for office by a nest of socialists, communists and other dangerous radicals based in Hyde Park, the South Side neighborhood that includes the University of Chicago.”

According to a public relations consultant quoted by Berlet, Obama’s opponents cannot attack him openly on race or on his qualifications, so they “map out ‘who-knows-who’”(known as guilt by association).

In these efforts, the conspirators stumble all over the fateful combination of “socialist” and “democratic”, boastfully condemning the idea of “social democratic organization based on the idea of local autonomy”.

The right-wing version of local autonomy is ‘it’s every man for himself’, while the social-democratic idea favors the basic notion of the solidarity of the group toward the individual. The two political currents criticizing Obama are like two careening bumper cars in a theme park, and we can’t foresee whether the left’s magic dragon will win out over the fate of the right’s woolly mammoth, the danger being that some in the public will confuse the two.

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