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The symbols, they are not your friends

Mandos's picture

There are reasons to prefer Clinton to Obama. There are easily arguable reasons to be angry that Clinton is not presently likely to be a Presidential candidate in the general election. You can even make a case for not voting for Barack Obama. You can make an even better case for not voting at all.

But there are a few moderately popular reasons for preferring Clinton to Obama that disturb me. A variant of one of these is present in this post at The Confluence.

One of the most die-hard of these right-wing frames is that liberals “hate America.” Why in the world would conservatives think that, we liberals wonder? We love America. We love America so much that we want her to have the best government possible. Can’t these idiotic conservative buttheads understand the difference between hating America and hating America’s government and policies?

Well, maybe they can’t. And maybe…it’s partially our fault, because we do things like this.

You see, we liberals don’t choose our symbols wisely. If we are upset with the government, we should not burn a flag. The flag is not Democratic, Republican or Rosicrucian. It is simply a symbol of America itself. Why would we burn a symbol of America…if we don’t hate America?

Now, who is the idiot - the one that draws simple conclusions from symbolic acts, or the one that doesn’t understand what conclusions will be drawn from these very same acts?

No one understands the power of framing and symbols better than Hillary Clinton, who was re-elected in 2006 with 67% of the popular vote. Senator Clinton took a lot of flak from self-professed “progressives” because she co-sponsored a bill to make it illegal, in certain circumstances, to burn the flag.

(And later: "Burning the flag is like burning the Constitution." Aren't limits on political expression---and deeds like flag-burning are political deeds---kind of like burning the Constitution? Even a little bit? In theory?)

I'm sure readers here can see that there's lots of objections to be made about that passage. If I had the energy, I could do a sentence-by-sentence deconstruction of it, but you'd all get bored, as would I. But I think that the objection that is most salient to Corrente readers is this:

If anything, the US cultural overvaluation of symbols is why the Reagan Revolution managed to stick.

Why would you celebrate a trait and praise Clinton for---let's face it---pandering like any politician to a characteristic that allows people to be classified by how much they're willing to suck up to the powerful? Because that's what flags ultimately represent: they are symbols of the state. And who presently owns the state?

That is one of the ways by which propaganda allows the Reagan Revolution to have such a lasting effect on American culture.

So why would you (as people regularly do in Confluence comments) blame Michelle Obama for having a "chip" on her shoulder? If truly love and loyalty for the symbols of the powerful is a characteristic of the working class, why would you celebrate that characteristic, and why would you hold Obama's associates to blame for what is by all reasonable lights a responsible reaction?

Yes, yes, national symbol, unifying (???) force, etc, etc, etc. After this campaign I've come to appreciate Hillary more than I used to (but that isn't saying much about US politicians), and I developed no particular love for Obama by comparison. But a flag-burning amendment is pandering, is tantamount to burning the Constitution in its best and most vulnerable parts, and is above all in the service of the right.

This part of PUMAism is by far the most obviously reactionary. It responds to a resentment of the working class by Whole Foods Nation with a celebration of exactly the things that Obama supporters might actually be right about, without contributing to a critique of the parts that are wrong.

While I occasionally like to throw cold water on the idea of Canada as USlib paradise, it's just this sort of thing that makes me glad I'm a Canuck. For all his faults, Pierre Trudeau was right about this one, historically right. I've lately inched over to the point where I am starting to appreciate the hereditary monarchy and their pop icon vice-regents. I'm mean, it's a horrifying anachronism and in terrible taste, but it serves its purpose.

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BoGardiner's picture
Submitted by BoGardiner on

do seem to be the more ancient version of the mindless bumper sticker.

And with this I think the PUMA symbol will have to come off my lunchbox. I enjoyed the Confluence for awhile, but it seems to me it has changed. Over 250 posts, with only one dissenter arguing against the flagburning amendment and several referencing No Quarter.

Love Hillary, hated the flagburning pander, which Obama also supported.

Auntie Meme's picture
Submitted by Auntie Meme on

of Unity, isn't he? (Or at least I thought that was the message of his campaign)

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

rightwing weapons--and it was really Nixon and the 60s that started it all--not Reagan. Millions have grown up and truly believe that the GOP is the patriotic party, and that they're also more Godly--even when they know full well of all their crimes and lies. Also, using patriotism as a weapon automatically labels them as "patriots fighting for America" and labels us as "of questionable loyalty".

The GOP can only use these symbols as bludgeons because us Dems always agree and participate in the use of them--and because we have never clearly owned our own strengths and accomplishments--which have improved America and American lives for real and do so everyday.

Obama's caving on Flag lapel pins and how he always has giant flags behind him all the time now too feed and enable the continuation of those symbols---far more than any dumb and purely symbolic flagburning amendments.

BAC's picture
Submitted by BAC on

That said, the mere reality that we CAN burn a flag, and not go to jail for it, is testiment to our Constitution.

I can understand why Clinton, for political reasons, took this action ... but it is counter to what our Constitution stands for.

Most Americans don't understand this because in most public schools they don't teach civics.

BAC

Mandos's picture
Submitted by Mandos on

...that Obama panders. He is a politician capable of running a national campaign. Of course he panders.

And it is precisely the Unity Pony that most turns me off him. An irony of this Confluence post is that it contains an implicit appeal to a Unity Pony that has been dangling around, as you point out, far longer than Obama's has.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

the symbols -- Is it a good thing or a bad thing that Obama's camp is acting like the GOP?

Obama’s Campaign Tightens Control of Image and Access-- "...emphasizing his patriotism and American story, with flags in abundance. In Washington on Wednesday, he invited photographers to his meeting with new members of his national security team and retired military officers supporting his candidacy.

The campaign on Monday barred cameras from a large gathering of African-American civic leaders Mr. Obama attended. It recently refused to provide names of religious figures with whom Mr. Obama met in Chicago and directed some of them to avoid reporters by using a special exit. And on Wednesday, the campaign orchestrated Michelle Obama’s appearance on the friendly set of “The View” and a flattering spread in the pages of Us Weekly. ..."

bearded librarian's picture
Submitted by bearded librarian on

of madamab's Confluence post was to expose the emptiness of symbolic gestures as a substitute for fighting against injustice. You burn a flag and what do you get? a dead piece of fabric. You actually stand up and say no to immorality, and you support a chorus of people who have suffered real loss at the whim of those in power.

Mandos's picture
Submitted by Mandos on

Any Julian May/Galactic Milieu fans around here? Speaking of Unity...

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

very interesting books, but it was still a small group of powerful people running the world, and everyone else (human) wasn't even consulted--very Authoritarian and dictatorial and even Randian, i thought, and that key family was so so so very messed up, too--made the Kennedys look ok by comparison.

Mandos's picture
Submitted by Mandos on

of madamab’s Confluence post was to expose the emptiness of symbolic gestures as a substitute for fighting against injustice. You burn a flag and what do you get? a dead piece of fabric. You actually stand up and say no to immorality, and you support a chorus of people who have suffered real loss at the whim of those in power.

Well it was a rather interestingly indirect way of making that point, and certainly not many of the respondants actually seemed to see it that way. Maybe they missed the Deeper Meaning, like I did.

I'm sorry, but for whatever her merits over Obama may be, you gotta have some perspective about Hillary. Standing up for her, her campaign, and her supporters in the US political environment is STILL LESS RISKY than burning a flag. Seriously. The same can be applied to Hillary Clinton herself.

bearded librarian's picture
Submitted by bearded librarian on

has been bothering me for awhile. Since the 60s. Yes, it's a dramatic act, really gets people's attention, and, yes, no one should be put in jail for burning a piece of cloth. But, but -- if that's all you do, stand there bravely in the spotlight, Defiant Against the Oppressor, while all around you there are constructive, positive actions you could take to actually change the ugly status quo, things that go undone because you're out demonstrating, then the flag burning, itself, is just theater.

My take on this post is, cut the empty gesturing, don't waste time on symbols (which, of course, dems and repubs, alike, respond to with such misplaced emotional energy, i.e., exhaltation or fury). Instead, spend your time on things that matter in the long run. Our institutions, let alone our symbols, need some serious repair. And this election cycle has just about exposed them all.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

you can call everything she's done theater too--but she accomplished an enormous amount.

getting attention for a cause is not easy--especially nowadays--millions marched against Iraq and were ignored.

(and if the code pink people dressed like others in the audience they'd never get on tv--but their interruptions matter--business-as-usual shouldn't be the way it is in DC--especially when cameras are rolling in Congress)

Mandos's picture
Submitted by Mandos on

The books were amazingly clever, and May must have planned the final books (the Jack trilogy) before she actually wrote the first ones 15 years earlier (Exile saga), because the only way the Exile saga makes sense is if the Jack trilogy had been planned in detail...

But yes, they were very disturbing as they were good, as the Simbiari Proctorship and everything that followed it and all the terrible restrictions on human freedom are unquestioned, and Rebellion---mere psychological resistance to the inevitable force of Unity---has its ultimate end in mass murder.

Note the sheer number of symbolic crucifixions and the panoply of their outcomes througout the series. From Felice's foul crucifixion that causes the Great Flood to Jack's infant suffering (crucified even as he was in the mechanical "manger", no crib for a bed) that leads to transcendence.

ETA: And Fury had every right to be Furious. "Love failed." Well, it did.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

bothered me about The Incredibles too (and lots of other lit/media that does the same thing --inborn/genetic traits are what counts, and everyone else is just a bystander or acted upon or beneath notice. It's eugenics and Randian and Hitlerish to me--as if Bilderberg is entitled to run the world or Skull-and-Bones people, or WASPs alone, etc...

I rebel at the reinforcement of that sort of thinking, i guess.

(I find i can't relate as well to the principals in books like the Milieu--i need the principal characters--even if connected and more knowledgable and more privileged, etc-- not to be so obviously selfish and powerful and godlike -- in China Mieville's stuff for instance, all are actors and acted upon and even the lowest have power of some sort or another and exercise it--i love his precisely because of the wide variety of actors and the power of all individuals no matter what or who.)

Mandos's picture
Submitted by Mandos on

I'm not convinced that theatre and theatrics aren't a necessary part of social change.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

if simply reinforcing existing power imbalances and status quo stuff tho, they're not helping, social change-wise.

(Telling Muslim women to remove their headscarves if they want to serve as living backdrops for Obama on TV is not at all helping socially. Nor is surrounding yourself with flags after trashing them as empty symbols, etc...)

tnjen's picture
Submitted by tnjen on

...to use than Reagan if you're talking about mastering symbolism. Go to his website and notice the "O" logo (it's presence everywhere in multiple locations on the same page) and how it is uniquely altered for each group -- branded uniqueness. Reagan could only dream of such complete marketing and branding in politics. At the risk of violating Godwin's Law, Obama's use of his "O" logo to brand his 'movement' is as omnipresent within his campaign and paraphernalia as Hitler's usage of the swastika.

Today, millions upon millions of people worldwide can instantly identify the "O" of a freaking primary candidate that was unknown in his own country a few months ago. That is the power of endowing a symbol with "meaning" and using marketing techniques to sell it to the masses.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

For conflating the "O" symbol being used to brand, if you will, the Obama campaign (and yes, Obama himself, but then he will be the only Democratic candidate for president so actually they are one and the same) with - well - here are the exact words:

...Obama’s use of his “O” logo to brand his ’movement’ is as omnipresent within his campaign and paraphernalia as Hitler’s usage of the swastika.

Grammatical imprecision aside, very nice indeed. Well done, actually. Best always to get out in front of the VRWC, gut the Democrat's presumed nominee with every possible conjured brutalization before they get to him with it. Approximate Obama with Hitler. Brilliant. What could possibly go wrong?

tnjen's picture
Submitted by tnjen on

...I did mention Godwin's Law. Isn't that a big enough caveat to indicate I didn't have another example to draw upon that comes close to the omnipresent logo/branding usage? As for grammar, Egads it's late -- GRAMMAR NAZI! lol.

ETA: Besides, one would have to be really retarded to take the mutual use of ubiquitous symbols and branding all the way into Obama = Hitler territory. And if someone from the VRWC does show up to lay claim to that equation then they'll be fun to mock incessantly.

tnjen's picture
Submitted by tnjen on

...are good parallels to Obama branding and emphasis on symbolism over message. I mentioned (the Godwin example) only for the widespread adoption and usage of a single symbol. Reagan, OTOH, didn't have a logo that parallels Obama but they are very similar in terms of overall image control. There was a great story (I think it's told in the book Brand Wars) about a reporter in one of the major magazines (I can't remember which one) who was terrified of the Reagan campaign's response to an article he'd written -- up until that point Reagan had pretty much gotten the Obama-treatment from this reporter. Well apparently he started to apologize to the campaign with the usual "I'm sorry but we had to..." when Reagan's guy stops him and says something to the effect of, "Are you kidding me? This is great! We don't care about what you wrote -- no one will read it. Did you look at the pictures you ran?"

basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

amendment to ban flag-burning. She sponsored a bill to make flag burning illegal in some circumstances which had the impact of preventing a bill to amend the constitution to make flag-burning illegal from passing. it allowed southern pols who were getting beat up on the flag burning issue to say that they were voting for the bill and not the amendment. Neither the bill or the amendment passed.

We whine about Dem politicians not being as Machiavellian as their Republican counterparts and then fall for bullshit rhetoric when one of our own actually manuevers to prevent a regressive law from passing.

What's clear is that you know what Obama did is unacceptable, and you know he's an inappropriate candidate.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

"... Can one imagine Obama or any other presidential aspirant repeatedly hectoring any other ethnic group on moral issues? Singling out Jews for excessive materialism? The Irish for excessive drinking? Of course not; that would be unfair and politically suicidal. But there are large regions of the white body politic in which it is not only acceptable, but damn near required, that politicians demonstrate their impatience with the alleged moral shortcomings of Black people. Barack Obama trolls for votes in those foul waters, at the cost of Black people's dignity.

Obama's two young daughters were seated in the church, upfront, to hear their father call other Black men "boys" with no sense of responsibility. Ironically, a key Black rationale for supporting Obama is that he is a great "role model" for Black children. Imagine that: an ethnic role model, whose ostensible purpose is to make The Race proud, yet who with great fanfare periodically sneers at the supposedly debased morality of his own people. That's close to the definition of sick. ..."

Submitted by lambert on

Clinton sponsors legislation that has the happy effect of acing out the far worse Amendment, and then....

Oh, well, it's useless, isn't it? It's the narrative.

Does the Obama website have a big timeline for current events?

Maybe I should just be checking there and writing long posts expressing my concens based on truthiness. Why not? All the cool kids are.

[x] Very tepidly voting for Obama [ ] ?????. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

CMike's picture
Submitted by CMike on

Mandos writes:

Why would you celebrate a trait and praise Clinton for—-let’s face it—-pandering like any politician to a characteristic that allows people to be classified by how much they’re willing to suck up to the powerful? Because that’s what flags ultimately represent: they are symbols of the state. And who presently owns the state?...

Yes, yes, national symbol, unifying (???) force, etc, etc, etc. After this campaign I’ve come to appreciate Hillary more than I used to (but that isn’t saying much about US politicians), and I developed no particular love for Obama by comparison. But a flag-burning amendment is pandering, is tantamount to burning the Constitution in its best and most vulnerable parts, and is above all in the service of the right.

Wow. There's quite a bit to unpack here. Our Republic was established and ordained by "we the people." Spare me the lecture about how those people were only the class of propertied white men. They achieved a revolution - that's about all your most dynamic generations ever achieve here on planet Earth.

Undeniably our Constitution is a living document and the class of the people who have rights has been expanded more in the last 220 years in this country than it was anywhere in the previous millenniums dating back to Hammurabi. Who owns the state today? As it was in the beginning, "we the people" are the proprietors though a whole lot of us have become preoccupied with getting and spending at the expense of being the responsible citizens of a democracy.

Though the Stars and Stripes antedates the Constitution it most certainly is the symbol of our Republic.

Why is there such an emotional attachment to the flag - especially in the south? Battlefield tactics through much of the nineteenth century were devoted to actually defending and advancing a literal flag. Again, men in combat used to rally around a flag, literally; be it a regimental banner, a battle flag, or Old Glory herself. Soldiers died in an effort to keep their flag aloft. That devotion is part of what some believe to be their American Heritage.

Now in these modern times all this defending the flag stuff may seem like anachronistic rubbish to the highly sophisticated. These sophisticates tend to think only dumb hicks and fascists would have an attachment to a flag or to the ritual of showing respect for a flag. And granted clutching to one's flag fetish does seem a bit quaint when compared to the display of heroism by those who argue that the local Blockbuster should be allowed to stock a copy of Pink Flamingos (or whatever is this era's film equivalent to that classic 1972 celebration of free speech).

Basement Angel beat me to it but let's go over the misunderstood purpose of Sen. Clinton's anti-flag burning bill. Here's a summary of that controversy based on a Daily Howler three-part Special Report. (Part 1 can be found here.)

In 2005 the House of Representatives passed a proposed anti-flag burning amendment to the Constitution. It seemed destined to sail through the Senate. As a reminder, a Constitutional amendment banning flag burning passed by two-thirds of both houses of congress, sent on to the legislatures of each state and ratified by three-quarters of them would have made anti-flag burning laws unchallengeable in court.

When the bill to amend the constitution passed the House it seemed there was no way thirty-four senators were going to vote against it. However, Sen. Clinton joined with Sen. Bennett (R-UT) to sponsor a statute as a way to head off passage of the proposed amendment. If senators could vote for an anti-flag burning statute then perhaps thirty-four would feel they had enough cover to vote against the Constitutional amendment that banned flag burning.

Far be it from me to explain to those more sophisticated than I that such is the way democratically elected legislative bodies sometimes work.

In the end the Clinton-Bennett bill was rewritten and went down to defeat by a vote of 64 to 36. Those 64 Senators voting against the bill would not settle for anything short of a constitutional amendment banning flag burning. The vote on the House passed constitutional amendment immediately followed the defeat of the proposed anti-flag burning statute. Here, let this Somerby cite of Anne Kornblut, writing in the New York Times (6/28/06), explain it:

Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, gave Mrs. Clinton credit for trying to give Democrats a viable alternative to amending the Constitution to ban flag desecration.

''This is an effort to try to take into account the people on the left by narrowing'' the proposal, Mr. Frank said. ''I still disagree with it. But it's clearly a move away from the constitutional amendment, rather than toward it.''

Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts and a former presidential nominee, voted for the measure, which closely resembled past efforts to preempt an amendment to the Constitution. Democrats who voted for the measure in effect bought themselves the right to claim that they had voted against flag desecration, potentially inoculating themselves against possible charges of lacking patriotism in a general election campaign. The broader measure to amend the Constitution failed by a single vote, 66 to 34.


Sen. Clinton voted against the anti-flag burning amendment as did Sen. Obama. Now how do you think Sen. Obama voted on the proposed anti-flag burning statute? Here's what he, who would never pander unlike the vile Clinton, had to say on the matter:

There is, in fact, another way. There is a way to balance our respect for the flag with reverence for the Constitution. Senators CLINTON and BENNETT are proposing an amendment to this proposal that would protect the flag without amending the Constitution. Their statutory approach is a new one that doesn't fall into the same constitutional traps that doomed previous flag protection bills. The Clinton-Bennett amendment is narrowly drawn to meet the first amendment tests the Supreme Court has laid out in previous court decisions. It makes it illegal to burn a flag in a threatening way or to incite violence. I believe this statute will pass constitutional muster and be upheld by the Supreme Court.

I will vote for the Clinton-Bennett amendment in an effort to find a way to balance our respect for the flag and our protection of the Constitution. I urge my colleagues to do the same.

Oh, and these days proposing an excess profits tax for oil companies is no longer pandering, it's now an exciting new idea put forward by a courageous reformer.

BoGardiner's picture
Submitted by BoGardiner on

Cmike and basement angel. It is a relief to understand that Clinton was trying to head off a constitutional amendment. This has bothered me for some time; glad this came up. That said, the Confluence post and comments still seem to me to come to this issue from somewhere other than cherishing the First Amendment.

Mandos's picture
Submitted by Mandos on

0.5. Thank you for correcting everyone on this point if indeed Clinton was attempting to do an end-run around the Constitutional amendment issue rather than supporting an actual amendment.

1.5. I *still* don't like attempts to "narrowly fit" something to the Supreme Court's first-amendment tests. It should be expansively fit. Broadly, loosely fit. I guess I take Barney Frank's side in this.

2.5. This still doesn't relate to the attitude in the Confluence post, and furthermore I totally disagree with your reinforcement of it:

Why is there such an emotional attachment to the flag - especially in the south? Battlefield tactics through much of the nineteenth century were devoted to actually defending and advancing a literal flag. Again, men in combat used to rally around a flag, literally; be it a regimental banner, a battle flag, or Old Glory herself. Soldiers died in an effort to keep their flag aloft. That devotion is part of what some believe to be their American Heritage.

Now in these modern times all this defending the flag stuff may seem like anachronistic rubbish to the highly sophisticated. These sophisticates tend to think only dumb hicks and fascists would have an attachment to a flag or to the ritual of showing respect for a flag. And granted clutching to one’s flag fetish does seem a bit quaint when compared to the display of heroism by those who argue that the local Blockbuster should be allowed to stock a copy of Pink Flamingos (or whatever is this era’s film equivalent to that classic 1972 celebration of free speech).

It is not that I think that only "dumb hicks and fascists" have an attachment to these symbols. It is that the attachment to these symbols have actual negative consequences. You and the Confluence post are attempting, sarcastically or otherwise, to eviscerate the meaning of the objection to one of mere reverse class-resentment as opposed to a principled political objection. No matter how you cut it, that IS a right-wing frame that can ONLY enable the right by its very nature.

And I find that somewhat intellectually and politically dishonest. Given that: my objection to the Confluence post still wholly stands. Why would you want to enable that encourage that tendency?

3.5. As I said, I have no doubt that Obama is an opportunist and willing to sell out on these points.

4.5.

Undeniably our Constitution is a living document and the class of the people who have rights has been expanded more in the last 220 years in this country than it was anywhere in the previous millenniums dating back to Hammurabi. Who owns the state today? As it was in the beginning, “we the people” are the proprietors though a whole lot of us have become preoccupied with getting and spending at the expense of being the responsible citizens of a democracy.

How sad that you believe so. It belongs on a Hallmark card. It spreads the blame equally---do you not realize this? It never was the case, but I will spare you the (valid) objection to the propertied white men.

But if there's anything that might make me want to become a US citizen at some point, it's the First Amendmenty stuff.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

To me, is the established framework we can work in. Would it be nice if everyone, left and right, got that the symbol isn't important? Yes, but that's not the country we live in.

We live in a country that believes symbols are important. The best we can do, is create the conditions on the ground, that allow the symbol to become unimportant. Until then, if we as Dems want to win, we have to play within that framework.

Just like it would be nice to have an athiest candidate, it won't happen here as our country exists right now. It could happen later, as we continue to express the opinion that religion in our candidates is unimportant, but for the time being we all accept that we have to have a politician that plays lip service to faith(or worse).

That is the lens I view Clinton's(and Obama's) actions through. I think madamab is saying that Clinton understands we have to work in this framework, and was probably the candidate best suited to do it in the general and as president.

Bill Clinton for First Dude!!!

CMike's picture
Submitted by CMike on

I have read a little Plato, Aristotle, Marx and Chomsky.

I'll put you down with Gore Vidal who believes the only positive legacies of the United States will be The Bill of Rights and Hollywood movies. (I take it, like me, Vidal is not too taken with Jazz.)

You and Vidal are more of the Philosopher King types - very cerebral. Of course the last time your crowd was in charge it took the invention of the printing press, Ninety-Five Theses, and a series of religious wars and coups for Europe to find its way out of a dead end.

Look I get it, those who are ruthlessly in control of the means of production are always pressing their advantage against those who are not in control of the means of production. But if you're living in a democratic republic and you're on the "have not" team, by circumstance or choice, you do have the opportunity to build a coalition to demand a new deal or a fair deal or a great society.

The problem is when you have a democracy a lot of folks, who are not philosopher kings, have a say...and they don't have the same values as their betters. So, if cerebral types want to get their hands on the reins, they have to try to make some accommodation with unwashed.

In the meantime you can bet that, until they can dispense with democracy altogether, the aspiring plutocrats are going to work to cobble together a voter coalition majority of 50% plus 1 and they'll be charming about it.

Auntie Meme's picture
Submitted by Auntie Meme on

Auntie Meme's Corollary to Godwin's Law: If the thread about U.S. government and politics goes on long enough, someone will invoke Orwell.

Obama's symbol is strong and resonates with me at some deep, disturbing and yes--unconscious--level. It strikes me as a more powerful candidate brand than I've seen before. It's simple and does not require reading O-B-A-M-A in this era of IM, texting and microblogging. Thus appealing to the youth vote they are furiously courting.

So...why does this symbol and the adoption of the corporate branding strategy by the candidate bug me so much? I'm not quite sure. There's something 1984-ish about it that I can't quite pinpoint. (I'm obviously suffering from Boomer Brain Syndrome--you know, not smart enough to know my own mind so I need to be led by the hand.)

There's some symbol that the Big O reminds me of. Help me out here: Is it a familiar corporate product or from a film clip of 1984?

tnjen's picture
Submitted by tnjen on

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

That's where I think the design (ironically) came from. That said, the Obama version is indeed powerful -- too powerful. :)

Mandos's picture
Submitted by Mandos on

The "great unwashed" American labour movements were NOT comprised of ill-educated and foolish worshippers of power and the symbols of power. They just weren't. This meme---of an Archie Bunkeresque working class, pitted against condescending plutocratic (???) Philosopher Kings like Gore Vidal (?!?!?!)---the meme that *some* anti-Obama people like simultaneously to criticize and yet deploy, well, it's a fabrication that took on its own reality.

The question is the same. Why do you want to perpetrate this fabrication? Why do you feel the need to direct resentment against Gore freaking Vidal? Speaking of past symbols, the Ghost of American Labour Past would not recognize what you are saying.

It was and is a fabrication, and one which you are oddly willing to serve. This has nothing to do with Obama or not-Obama.

CMike's picture
Submitted by CMike on

Mandos writes in response:

...plutocratic (???) Philosopher Kings like Gore Vidal (?!?!?!)

Obviously, here you mixed in the apples with the oranges.

(And no, I don't resent Gore Vidal. I make it a point to read what he writes. He's just not a practical politician.)

Mandos's picture
Submitted by Mandos on

I have been linked to by The Confluence. If I were riverdaughter, I would have just ignored me, but I'm not. Apparently my writing is that of a "first year grad student attempting to impress his professor." (Commenter, not riverdaughter, should clarify.)

Reiteration of the same meme, pit the "working class" against the "intellectuals."

herb the verb's picture
Submitted by herb the verb on

We could first start that you begrudgingly give 1/2 point to someome pointing out that one of your basic premises is factually WRONG. You glibly assert that doesn't matter through failing to realize that what Clinton and Bennett did was THE OPPOSITE of a pander, it was THWARTING a pander. An ANTI-PANDER, but a devilishly smart one since it also SEEMED to pander. Indeed, it had truthiness and I like it.

We could further point out that you are having your symbolism and wanting to eat it too. In other words, clutching to the symbolism of a flag bothers you, yet clutching to the symbolism of BURNING a flag does not. Fair enough, but don't pretend that there is a substantive difference. That is merely a judgement call on your part based on different valuation. In that sense, your argument is tautological.

Clutching to the symbolism of BURNING the flag is the actual point of the Confluence post as I read it (a post, by the way, which (may) also had Clinton's actual actions wrong). Point being that "certain people" don't UNDERSTAND that symbolism's power to offend, and instead embrace it, which dimishes our larger efforts. Not that the symbolism is right or wrong, just understanding its power is a good starting point.

Oh, and not eating our own, I think that was also a point in there, that's a good point too.

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Around these parts we call cucumber slices circle bites

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

Symbols are for the "symbol"minded.

You won't find many "simple" minded people among the "intellectual" class. But you will find a lot among the "working" class, especially those who are too busy concentrating on putting food on the table to ponder the importance of symbols.

My mother is not a stupid person, she is very intelligent. At the same time, the flag is important to her. She recalls witnessing flag burnings with tears in her eyes to this day. I argue that the symbol isn't important, she should use more tangible things to demonstrate her love of her country, and she has started to come around.

That is what it will take, one person convincing another, over and over again, before we create the conditions to where this pander is unneccessary.

Bemoaning this fact doesn't change it.

Bill Clinton for First Dude!!!

Mandos's picture
Submitted by Mandos on

We could first start that you begrudgingly give 1/2 point to someome pointing out that one of your basic premises is factually WRONG. You glibly assert that doesn’t matter through failing to realize that what Clinton and Bennett did was THE OPPOSITE of a pander, it was THWARTING a pander. An ANTI-PANDER, but a devilishly smart one since it also SEEMED to pander. Indeed, it had truthiness and I like it.

It was not an anti-pander. An anti-pander would have been an act that actually changed the meme, not fed it. The meme being, "Flag-burning is a bad symbol and must be discouraged by state power." My point is that this is a bad meme, no matter the clever trick Hillary Clinton may or may not have tried to defuse the actual amendment. (And of course Obama panders to it too. I don't really care about Obama. Obama, Nobama, Schnobama...)

So half a point for correcting me and the Confluence poster and the whole chain of posts thereafter...

We could further point out that you are having your symbolism and wanting to eat it too. In other words, clutching to the symbolism of a flag bothers you, yet clutching to the symbolism of BURNING a flag does not. Fair enough, but don’t pretend that there is a substantive difference. That is merely a judgement call on your part based on different valuation. In that sense, your argument is tautological.

Clutching to the symbolism of BURNING the flag is the actual point of the Confluence post as I read it (a post, by the way, which (may) also had Clinton’s actual actions wrong). Point being that “certain people” don’t UNDERSTAND that symbolism’s power to offend, and instead embrace it, which dimishes our larger efforts. Not that the symbolism is right or wrong, just understanding its power is a good starting point.

But that is THE POINT. Of *course* flag-burning is symbolic. Otherwise why would anyone do it? So you have two options:

1. Take the offense seriously and hold that the offense has priority over the statement. Then you want to pass laws that ban it.

2. Recognize the reason why the offensive statement is being made.

*I* personally think that whatever the Democratic party stands for, it's supporters should entertain a serious discussion of (2), and completely forego (1).

It sounds to me like a lot of people disagree. I find their reasons disturbing.

willyjsimmons's picture
Submitted by willyjsimmons on

On this posts re:the flag burning bill specifically

Somerby has gone over this.

PART 2—A FEW BASIC FACTS: Oops! It’s not like Richard Cohen hasn’t issued embarrassing corrections in years past. He issued one of the all-time great corrections near the end of Campaign 2000, after he spent an entire column savaging Candidate Lieberman—for a statement made by Candidate Bush! Now, that’s what we call an awkward “correction” (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/5/04). But a similar groaner graced his column back on February 12 (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/5/08). Ouch! Once again, this is embarrassing. This is dead-dog dumb:

COHEN (2/12/08): My Feb. 5 column was critical of Hillary Clinton for supporting a bill to make flag burning illegal. I have since learned from a reader that Barack Obama also supported that bill.

Simply put, you can’t get dumber. In that February 5 column, Cohen had savaged Clinton for supporting that flag-burning bill; he said it showed that she couldn’t match Obama’s character. But Obama had supported the flag bill too! Cohen had done it again.

Continuing...

Let’s make sure we understand why bills of this type get proposed. Before we see Bob Kerrey explain it, let’s read a bit more Kornblut:

KORNBLUT: Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, gave Mrs. Clinton credit for trying to give Democrats a viable alternative to amending the Constitution to ban flag desecration.

''This is an effort to try to take into account the people on the left by narrowing'' the proposal, Mr. Frank said. ''I still disagree with it. But it's clearly a move away from the constitutional amendment, rather than toward it.''

Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts and a former presidential nominee, voted for the measure, which closely resembled past efforts to pre-empt an amendment to the Constitution. Democrats who voted for the measure in effect bought themselves the right to claim that they had voted against flag desecration, potentially inoculating themselves against possible charges of lacking patriotism in a general election campaign. The broader measure to amend the Constitution failed by a single vote, 66 to 34.

Duh. Bills like this are brought forward to give cover to red-state Dems—and, perhaps, to Dems who may want to run for the White House. (The public luvs “flag protection.”) But then, Bob Kerrey had already explained this bone-simple matter in the Washington Post. In late 2005, you see, Richard Cohen had written another column, criticizing—who else?—Hillary Clinton for the original 2005 measure. Kerrey sat down, crayon in hand, and tried to explain the facts of life to the world’s dumbest known man:

LETTER TO THE WASHINGTON POST (12/29/05): Richard Cohen's Dec. 15 op-ed, "Star-Spangled Pandering," criticized Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for her support of a federal statute making the burning of the American flag a crime in certain instances. But enactment of a statute may be the only way to prevent Congress from setting in motion a process to amend the Constitution.

Although I oppose both the statute and the amendment, the statute is a more flexible mechanism that can be modified if law enforcement agencies urge Congress to make prosecution of this infrequent event discretionary. If Mrs. Clinton's support leads to a federal law, I consider this to be a victory worth praising, not an act to be condemned...

BOB KERREY
New York

Kerrey explained, rather clearly, in crayon, the basic reason for bills of this type. At any rate, a similar bill was proposed six months later; Clinton and Obama both voted for it. So did Durbin. So did John Kerry. So did more than half of the Senate’s Dems. But so what? Two years later, Cohen wrote another column, savaging Clinton for her vote. He said it proved that she lacked Obama’s character.

More...

Twelve Democrats voted “yes” on the flag-burning amendment. Warning! Some of these folk were in red states. Some others were facing re-election:

Baucus, Montana
Bayh, Indiana
Dayton, Minnesota
Feinstein, California
Johnson, South Dakota
Landrieu, Louisiana
Lincoln, Arkansas
Menendez, New Jersey
Nelson, Florida
Nelson, Nebraska
Reid, Nevada
Rockefeller, West Virginia
Salazar, Colorado
Stabenow, Michigan

On the amendment, those twelve voted yes. Obama and Clinton said no.

Mandos's picture
Submitted by Mandos on

...the maneouver, but I still disagree with the principle and whether it's in the long-term interest of democracy.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

are praising the principle. I think they are just pointing out that Clinton gets it. We may not like the political conditions our candidates have to work within, but it is our job to change those conditions(to a certain extent). Clinton gets that she has to work within those conditions, which is why she is a successful politician and would have been a better option in the GE.

Bill Clinton for First Dude!!!

Submitted by lambert on

Thanks for the Somerby link, Willy J.

A classic example of the proposition that you can't reason by starting with truthiness as a base.

[x] Very tepidly voting for Obama [ ] ?????. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

willyjsimmons's picture
Submitted by willyjsimmons on

You either allow repubs to get their way, or short circuit it.

That's what happened.

Perfect, no.

Mandos's picture
Submitted by Mandos on

...you should never "work with those conditions" in such a way that reinforce those conditions and make it harder for you to get out of the trap to begin with.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

Do you want to be morally superior, or would you rather wield political power?

Bill Clinton for First Dude!!!

Mandos's picture
Submitted by Mandos on

False dichotomy. I'm perfectly aware of the need for compromises. Any major politician has to have a Swift Boat tucked into her/his sock.

I'm saying that it sets your political perspective BACK, and if you want to serve that perspective or you are seen to be serving that perspective...it sets you back too.

Mandos's picture
Submitted by Mandos on

...I misunderstood you. Who are the Philosopher Kings and who are the plutocrats again?

Mandos's picture
Submitted by Mandos on

The point is about the attitude from Confluence people about this issue, not Hillary or Obama themselves. Geesh.

I didn't want to start with the whole "reverse racism" stuff, but it's really all the same thing.

Mandos's picture
Submitted by Mandos on

All right. Uncle! I took the OP on the Confluence to be presenting the situation literally and correctly. Shouldn't have. Shoulda looked it up first. Mea culpa.

The point I was *trying* to make, before someone kindly pointed out that Clinton defused the amendment itself*, is that the whole "sneering elites hate our symbols" thing is bogus on many, many levels, and that the resentment of the alleged sneering elites is also bogus and not a good reason to prefer one candidate over another.

*In a way that didn't deal with its actual bogosity.