09 February 2008

Obama & JFK: Raising the Ghosts of Camelot

Barack Obama has reached into the past for a bit of campaign magic--the ghosts of JFK and Camelot. JFK's speechwriter, Ted Sorenson, is still alive, working to build a new Camelot in Washington.
At the age of 24, he joined the staff of the newly elected Sen. John F. Kennedy and later helped him win the presidency, calling on Americans to pass the torch to a new generation...The legendary speechwriter helped Kennedy craft the now-famous 1961 Inaugural address in which the new president proclaimed, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."

...Today, at 79 years old and blind, Sorensen has a new mission: to resurrect Camelot. And it seems the Obama campaign is listening.

"I've given them a phrase or suggestion or two," Sorensen admits...As for all the comparisons that have been drawn between Obama and Kennedy, "I probably started it," he told ABCNEWS.com

This is important. Because if you have read the transcripts of Obama's "Yes We Can" speech, accompanied by the YouTube video, you will get an inkling of the inspirational power of a well written stump speech. If you have not watched the video and read the transcript, you should do so.

Obama is dipping deeply into the well of inspirational political rhetoric. The rhetoric of JFK's Camelot appears as if by magic--a glorious crystal spring oasis in the midst of the oppressive pessimism, propagated and amplified by the mainstream media. What a relief! Obama offers the hope of a wonderful future, divorced from the parched desperation of the present.

Obama's words trigger at least two innate and powerful needs in the hearts of many of his listeners:
  1. The need to be understood.
  2. The need to have the hope of a glorious future.
Any politician who can pluck those heart strings will gather a significant following, in terms of numbers.

Obama's speechwriters, including the aging Sorenson, are clearly reaching into more than one historical source, for inspiration. The speeches of Martin Luther King Jr. are likewise being salvaged, for what they may provide in inspiration. And to be sure, Obama is being lifted up as a multitude of icons.

As the weeks and months go by, it will be interesting to count all the icons that one can find, hidden within Obama's speeches, press releases, and fan columns written by journalists and celebrities. Because it appears that Obama is to be the recipient of a deluge of decades long, previously continent outbursts of adoration, saved for just the right shining object.

"He is the one," gushes Oprah--a woman who tends to excess from time to time. "He is the truth," Oprah adds, incontinently. Apparently, Obama is to be many things, as time goes on--but particularly he is to be the inspiration for a political movement. Call him a political Messiah.

Ted Sorenson's Messiah, perhaps, returned from the dead? Certainly Oprah's Messiah. And most definitely the Messiah of Hollywood's drug saturated, jaded crew.

But is he real? Is there any "there", there? We will see.

Previously published at abu al-fin

More: Is Barack Obama the Messiah?

Use the search terms "Obama cult" or "Obama Messiah" and you will find opinions on this topic from every point on the compass. I have been oblivious to all of this, but as early as 2 years ago and 1 year ago, bloggers and columnists have begun to take note of the Obama quasi-cult.

But the scrutiny is truly being turned up now--I presume because Obama is becoming such a nuisance to Ms. Rodham-Clinton.

Political campaigns need to be timed for maximum effect. US Presidential campaigns have to peak small in time for the candidate to become the nominee, and then peak large in time for the general election in November. If the timing is off--as it was for John Kerry in 2004--the election will slip away.

A cult can be a powerful force in society. A political cult of personality can lead nations to war a la Hitler, to isolationism, political purges, and sponsoring terrorism a la Fidel, to mass genocide of the educated classes a la Pol Pot and Mao.

As I said, my awareness of the growing cult developing around Obama is flickering late in the game. Even so, in terms of election cycle timing, the general blogospheric awareness of the phenomenon appears to be flaming high, uncomfortably early for the more cynical realists among Obama supporters.

It will be entertaining to watch the Obama youth, as they revel in their newfound release from the cynical ennui of the psychological neotenate, the academically lobotomised. Frightening to watch their fragile intellects so easily suspended, of course, but still entertaining in the flashbacks to our own youthful naivete.

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Blogger Michael Anissimov said...

"A very humbug analysis. You managed to connect this presidential candidate to "drug saturated, jaded crew", using only a few paragraphs -- you must be in training to become the next Bill O'Reilly!

Saturday, 09 February, 2008  
Blogger Christopher Blosser said...

Is Obama the Messiah? - Share your conversion story!

Saturday, 09 February, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

A very interesting reaction, Michael.

Christopher, Barack has clearly become a "political Messiah" to a lot of different people.

To me as an atheist, calling Obama a Messiah probably means something different than it would to a religious believer.

I have been there and done that. Obama is nothing new to me because I have been in the middle of secular charismatic movements.

Human emotion--human hope is a powerful thing. When a "modern, ironic" person hopes strongly enough to suspend disbelief, the feeling is quite powerful.

Sunday, 10 February, 2008  
Blogger SwampWoman said...

Maybe I'm just not sufficiently in touch with my emotional side, but I truly don't understand the hype. Perhaps there is just some portion of the electorate who prefers government by platitude.

Sunday, 10 February, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

Which hype are you referring to, S-Woman? Have you seen the video linked above, or better yet--have you been to an Obama rally?

Personally, given the widespread and profound emotional impact of the Obama approach, I could not be more fascinated by what is happening. This is highly skilled, deep psychological motive power.

In the heat of a campaign, emotion trumps rationality every time--unless the person has been through the cycle enough times to understand what is happening.

As I mentioned earlier, the Obama phenomenon is quite new to me, so I am surprised to learn that this Messiah complex has been floating about Obama for a number of years now.

That would explain his decision to run for President so early in his political career--without actually accomplishing anything first. He is still riding the groundswell that brought him to Washington in the first place.

Now, we get to see how the whole schtick performs on the big stage, in prime time.

Sunday, 10 February, 2008  
Blogger SwampWoman said...

I'm one of those Myers-Briggs personality types that not only is immune to emotional appeals but downgrades my estimation of the person's intelligence that engages in them.

Sunday, 10 February, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

It is true that some people are better able to recognise and resist emotional appeals than others.

But the nature of human cognition makes humans extremely vulnerable to emotional appeal--even when they believe otherwise about themselves.

An autistic lacking normal emotional / cognitive loops may be the only type of person truly immune to emotional or inspirational appeals.

Monday, 11 February, 2008  
Blogger MPH said...

That Obama Messiah site is brilliant. Do him a favor and Digg it!


Monday, 11 February, 2008  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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