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Studies in iconography

By Michael J. Smith on Monday August 4, 2008 11:14 AM

A helpful correspondent writes:
Have you seen the MoveOn ad on Comedy Central: various talking heads (in front of a white Apple-style background) confess to what would initially appear to be a major peccadillo (e.g., drug use) but then it turns out they are confessing to "hope." It ends with a "your mind on hope" chick (literal chick cheeping--I forget the name of the comedian actor holding the chick).
"Apple-style background" is well-observed, I think. Obama marketing and Apple marketing do seem to have a lot in common stylistically. There's an essay somebody with a better visual sense than mine ought to write.

Being more word-oriented myself, I noticed the usual Obamacult rhetorical style, with its hypnotically rhythmic repetition of a floating signifier -- "hope", of course, in this case. One senses that it would be very uncool to ask "hope for what, exactly?"

But that's the kind of dreary literal-minded pedantic guy I am; and for the same reason my attention was particularly arrested by this line:

For eight years we all thought it was gone. But now it's back. Hope.
Leaving aside the fact that these characters were children eight years ago: The implication is that the "hope" shortage is a quite recent development, due entirely to the terrible Bush & Co.

Here we see beautifully illustrated the systematic historical amnesia that's both a prerequisite and a core product of Democratic Party cultists like MoveOn. The ghastly Clinton years are retrospectively re-imagined as a rosy time when the very rivers ran with "hope."

But MoveOn has unintentionally told an important truth in this line. "Now it's back" -- after eight years. Let's see -- what went away eight years ago, and will be coming back now, besides "hope"? Why, Clintonism: which can be crisply defined as Bushism wearing, like Bottom in the play, a donkey's head. Bushism is frank about the goals of corporate hegemony, global empire, and the Third-Worldization of the home front; the difference from Clintonism is that Clintonism is less candid about the same goals.

So thanks, MoveOn, for letting the cat out of the bag, and telling us what we can really "hope" for: a slimmer, hipper, iPod-savvy Bill Clinton.

Comments (13)

Smith, I'd congratulate you for being on a roll the last couple of weeks, if it weren't for the blizzard of ripe fruit the Obama camp keeps dropping like its going out of style. Truly an embarrassment of riches all around.

I'd like my wedge of Hope Pie with Ben & Jerry's YesWeCan Chip Swirl Ripple Chunk Explosion, Please. Two scoops. I'll just have a salad for dinner, I swear.

The theme for August at Words Without Borders is The Influence of Anxiety. Political illiteracy expressed in the intensity of feeling for hope candidates illustrates the state of infantility achieved through visual media. Lloyd de Mause is probably too heavy reading for Bamababies, but the emotional life of nations is an apropos subject. I expect the Visual Epidemic blog to tackle this topic in the near future.

Well, I wouldn't be so hard on myself, Sir Smith, nor cede so much ground to the pomos.

Corporate marketing, commercial and political, is not nearly so "visual" as some say. The deus in the machina isn't magic eye ops; it's good old conceptual trickery of a rather ancient sort.

Flattery is in the Top Ten, and is, yes, Number One w/ Many Bullets in the Apple/Obama campaigns. Apple, cased in white rather than black and shining its back-lit logo (at the buyer's expense) from every laptop cover, is for fit, attractive, smart people who see the humor in life and love to stick it to The Man. As is Obama, except he's packaged in black, not white.

And therein lies the secret to his brand-building success.

Apple: white (different!) on the outside, black (corporate) on the inside

Obama: black on the outside, white on the inside

Fake is as fake does...


"Political illiteracy expressed in the intensity of feeling for hope candidates illustrates the state of infantility ..."

trashing the hopey tribe
in the bama-base ....jay ???

backers i'll trash

bases..asshole innocent fucking bases
well maybe i'll just
turn the other cheek

help me here friends
i've never found seriously useful meaning
in suggesting
adults any adults
are feeling their way thru life
like infants

Responsibility is a two-way street. Pretending that democracy can be achieved through consumerism is flattery unbecoming citizenship. Politicians couldn't get away with murder if their constituents weren't both lazy and willfully ignorant.


"Here we see beautifully illustrated the systematic historical amnesia that's both a prerequisite and a core product of Democratic Party cultists like MoveOn.."

st paul krugman blog-viating
over at
the old gotham tinkler
goes one up
on the movers

he's demanding the OB one
lay down a false memory pattern

"Obama’s big economy speech, last week:
Back in the 1990s, your incomes grew by $6,000, and over the last several years, they’ve actually fallen by nearly $1,000.
“Back in the 90s?” Why not, “When a Democrat was president?” “Over the last several years?” Why not, “under Bush?”"



"willfully ignorant"

now that jay
that ...
sound like my amerika

As this article http://mondediplo.com/2008/07/02usgas makes clear, every gallon kills. We need to move environmental discussions into the realm of human rights. Maybe then our neighbors will talk about BTU consumption as a moral choice. Mother Jones currently has an article about the nuclear disasters in France, created in part by the company hoping to cash in on a nuclear energy boom in the US backed by both our presidential candidates.


Ms X -- You are so right. It's better than I could ever have imagined. An embarras de richesse.

Peter Ward:

But the whole point of Clinton-esque hypocrisy is to enable thinking liberals to sleep easier at night--the same liberals are quite content to continue to profit from the plunder (hence the liberal preference for the CIA, e.g.).

Jay Walker: What is "consumerism"? Unpack that, please.

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