19 August 2009

Mocking the Obama-icon

This vid drew my attention as a literary theorist.

One staple of literary criticism is the process of digging out the symbols, signs, icons, and idols of an author/text and subjecting them to "a reading." In my time in grad school, the favored kinds of readings to do were Marxist, feminist, and deconstructive--all of these offered (and still do) perfectly legit methods of getting at an interpretation of a text. No one method is fool-proof or absolute (the $5 academic word is "totalizing"). We were encouraged and sometimes even required to mix it up a bit and produce Marxist-feminist, or feminist-deconstructive, etc. readings that revealed all sorts of literary goodness in the text, or rather, revealed the reader's meta-narrative assumptions about how literary texts are produced and consumed (ahem).

Anyway, this vid does an excellent job of deconstructing the (in)famous Obama-icon we see popping up on all sorts of government propaganda. The critic here makes a simple point: at no other time in American history have we seen a President of the U.S. "branded" in the way that Obama is being branded. He notes that the Obama-icon has replaced the presidential seal in many venues and has even been displayed overlaid on the presidential seal to suggest the dissolution of the presidency and the ascendenacy of The One.

This would be scary if Americans were not so marketing-savvy. We get it. Political icons only work if they manage to sublimate themselves as signs; that is, if they become part of the semiotic landscape, disappearing so as to stand up for something more substantial. Political icons as brand labels fail precisely because they mark out an impermanent personality, a changeable, compromising agenda, and the political ambitions of a narcissist.

The American flag, the presidential seal, the blind-folded statue of justice, "We the People. . ." all stand for enduring principles and ideals. The Obama-icon stands for nothing more than the political ambitions of a Chicago bureaucrat who happens to occupy the White House for a time. Obama is not America. Neither was Bush, Clinton, Bush I, Reagan, Carter, or any of the others. All of these men served a larger agenda, a bigger principle. The Obama-icon and its attached ideology makes one wonder if The One serves the same ideals.

The critic in this vid correctly predicts that the Obama-icon will backfire on The One. Perpetual campaign mode is no way to run a country. Already the "O" icon is being lampooned. And the one thing a serious narcissist* cannot tolerate is ridicule.

*There's nothing special about Obama's narcissism. Anyone entering politics has to be something of a narcissist.


  1. Father Philip:

    Thank you for posting that video. It was SUPERB.

    I only wish the Vatican had seen it before The One visited the Apostolic Palace a few weeks ago.

    The Vatican made a critical error by allowing pictures and video to be released of the meeting of Pope Benedict and The One.

    Again, it's a matter of iconography. Having the two of them in the same image means, symbolically, "The Holy Father supports The One's positions on the Culture of Death."

    I'm not saying the meeting should have been prevented -- Popes have to meet with Presidents, it's in their job descriptions. They just should not have pictures taken of the event.

    They prevented images of the Pope and Pelosi together; it was critical that they prevented images of the Pope and The One together. And they failed.

  2. Hi Father, thank you very much for your continued blogging and all your hard work... and prayers!

    I really enjoyed the video you linked here, especially the ending. It also spurred a few thoughts on the new media (and now I'm thinking of writing on the new media meeting the new evangelisation).

    Begging your blessing,

    Anthony OPL