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Why I Hate Oprah

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This week I’ve begun a new screenplay -- a political thriller. A renowned Congressional progressive is taken for a ride on Air Force One by a relatively new, engaging, corporate-enabling African American president. By the time the plane reaches its destination the progressive has been morally lobotomized.

As for Oprah, up until Obama became President, I couldn’t say enough good things about her. “She’s America’s teacher!” I’d assert whenever she was mentioned. A role model of compassion and humanism. My favorite segments of her show were done with Eckhart Tolle -- conversations about the destructiveness of ego and living a soul-awakened life. If anyone could talk the talk about walking the walk, it was Oprah!

I did recognize that Oprah could also, on occasion, fall victim to “celebrity cronyism”. She would easily promote a fellow celeb’s bad movie to her massive audience. Loyalty to friends is considered an endearing trait, even, or maybe especially, when exposed on national TV. But in this case, it would have consequences. I pitied those naive enough to follow up with time and money on a dog of a movie thanks to her ... well .... let’s call it “codependency-tainted” hype.

Forgivable enough. HOWEVER, I consider sending the American citizens off to elect a celebrity crony, a say-anything-in-talking-the-talk-but-then-walking-the-corporate-and-status-quo-walk president, as UNFORGIVABLE! This hype has more tragic ongoing consequences for millions of Americans than just having to endure a lousy movie.

Did Oprah bother to seriously vet the presidential candidate in her own heart and mind before using her profound marketing might to promote him? Getting Oprah’s seal of approval positively impacted much of the country toward him. The proverbial leg-up. I am sure it factored into the rationale of the 80 million who embraced his AND Oprah’s hope for America and promise of change. Sainted Oprah, the most trusted, coming in to your living room on a daily basis, TV woman in America.

Did Oprah truly believe Obama was strongly committed to enhancing the welfare of the citizenry and reversing the exploitation and oppression of the Bushco regime? Does Oprah seriously care about the welfare of Americans the way her TV persona implies? Does Oprah begin to see her part in all of this. In history?

I considered that maybe she, too, was snookered by the magical rhetoric of Obama. That maybe she is now embarrassed and regretful, since his actions have so contradicted his campaign talk and/or its implications?

But how could she carry guilt, given she did a lively interview with him not long ago. She continues on promoting him with her charismatic and influential marketing. Two strong “brands” sitting on camera good-naturedly talking at each other? Makes Americans feel all warm and fuzzy.

Is Oprah a person so wealthy and remote that she can not feel America’s doomed plight? Can she not see that citizen social entitlements, really civil and human rights, are being removed, even bartered away as I write this today, the eve of the House Obamacare vote, not just by Republicans but by corporate-enabling, desperately lost to pragmatic gamesmanship, legacy Democrats?

Presidential and Congressional betrayal post-TARP, now in the health care arena transferring layers upon layers of gratuitous and pirated wealth to the coffers of the oligarchy, of which Oprah certainly qualifies as a serious member, from our tax dollars. I had convinced myself Oprah was not the “typical” member of the financial elite. But now I ask, does her cronyism and stratospheric economic status blot out the betrayals of Barack to the common folk? The Obama kool-aid is generously flowing these days among a lot of people, poorer and more progressive than she.

Chris Hedges in his article Are Liberals Pathetic? has some strong statements about Obama and his supposedly progressive cronies:

How can an organization with the oxymoronic title Progressives for Obama even exist? Liberal groups like these make political satire obsolete. Obama was and is a brand. He is a product of the Chicago political machine. He has been skillfully packaged as the new face of the corporate state. I don’t dislike Obama -- I would much rather listen to him than his smug and venal predecessor -- though I expected nothing but a continuation of the corporate rape of the country. And that is what he has delivered.

In yet another Hedges article entitled Zero Point of Systemic Collapse, Hedges continues about the media's grand marketing of Obama:

... The election of Barack Obama was yet another triumph of propaganda over substance and a skillful manipulation and betrayal of the public by the mass media. We mistook style and ethnicity – an advertising tactic pioneered by the United Colors of Benetton and Calvin Klein – for progressive politics and genuine change. We confused how we were made to feel with knowledge. But the goal, as with all brands, was to make passive consumers mistake a brand for an experience. Obama, now a global celebrity, is a brand. He had almost no experience besides two years in the senate, lacked any moral core and was sold as all things to all people. The Obama campaign was named Advertising Age’s marketer of the year for 2008 and edged out runners-up Apple and Zappos.com. Take it from the professionals. Brand Obama is a marketer’s dream. President Obama does one thing and Brand Obama gets you to believe another. This is the essence of successful advertising. You buy or do what the advertisers want because of how they can make you feel.

We live in a culture characterized by what Benjamin DeMott called “junk politics.” Junk politics does not demand justice or the reparation of rights. It always personalizes issues rather than clarifying them. It eschews real debate for manufactured scandals, celebrity gossip and spectacles. It trumpets eternal optimism, endlessly praises our moral strength and character, and communicates in a feel-your-pain language. The result of junk politics is that nothing changes, “meaning zero interruption in the processes and practices that strengthen existing, interlocking systems of socioeconomic advantage.”

Glenn Greenwald again and again in his columns calls out Obama for anti-constitutional behavior. How ironic, given Obama’s legal background in constitutional law.

Yet from the start, he takes a half-step forward in that direction followed by two fearful steps back. He grants civilian trials to a handful of detainees while ordering military commissions and indefinite detention for most. He trumpets new transparency guidelines while invoking "secrecy" to block courts from reviewing Bush crimes and re-writing FOIA to allow the suppression of torture photos. He vows to close GITMO and then plans to re-locate its defining injustices to Illinois. He praises habeas review for GITMO detainees while seeking to deny it to those shipped from around the world to Bagram. He lauds the beauty of due process while compiling hit lists of American citizens to be murdered with no due process, far from any battlefield. He hails the centrality of the Rule of Law while demanding that Bush crimes be suppressed in the name of Looking Forward, etc. etc.

As I detailed the other day, this muddled, inconsistent, completely unprincipled approach makes it impossible to offer any coherent defense of the few instances where Obama deviates from the Bush/Cheney template. He's bound himself in exactly the same self-created knots as Democrats who tried to defend their ever-shifting, confused national security beliefs during the Bush era ...

Philip Giraldi in The Rogue Nation illuminates a profound lack of criminal accountability under Obama for the torture human rights crimes. In fact, the perpetrators and enablers of the illegal and unethical torture program seem to be living out rewarded lives.

The United States is a signatory to the international agreement on torture and there are also both federal and state laws that prohibit either carrying out or enabling the practice, so the ruling by Holder is essentially a decision to ignore serious crimes that were committed against individuals who, in many cases, were both helpless and completely innocent. It also ignores the participation of Justice Department lawyers and CIA doctors in the process, involvement that most would consider both immoral and unethical. Worst of all, it lets off the hook the real war criminals, people like George Tenet and those in the White House who approved the practice. Tenet, one recalls, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and a $4 million book deal. He still teaches at Georgetown University. Justice Department lawyers John Yoo and Jay Bybee, who made the legal arguments for torture are now respectively a tenured professor at Berkeley and a federal appeals court justice. One assumes that the actual CIA torturers continue to be employed by the federal government or are enjoying a comfortable retirement. So much for accountability for war crimes under President Obama.

Finally there is assassination. On February 3rd Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair commented during a congressional briefing that the United States reserves the right to kill American citizens overseas who are actively "involved" with groups regarded as terrorist. Involvement is, of course, a very slippery expression providing maximum latitude for those seeking to make a case for summary execution. The death list involves a due process of sorts in that a government official makes the decision who shall be on it based on guidelines but it does not allow the accused to challenge or dispute evidence. It should also be noted that no one in Congress objected to the Blair statement and the media hardly reported the story, suggesting that tolerance of illegal and immoral activity now pervades the system.

Before the moral lobotomy of Dennis Kucinich – that is, that pre-invasion-of-the-soul-snatching time on Air Force One, before he began glowing on about the “transformational potential of this presidency”, an angry Kucinich on CSpan called out the health care bill as a “license to steal” for the insurance companies. That version of Dennis accused Obama of "marketing" a profoundly flawed health care bill.

Davide Sirota in What’s the Matter with Democrats? refers to the present health care bill Congress is now assembling as “a robbery in progress.” I would go so far as to tack on the additional charge to our Congress as being “an accessory to commit mass and serial murder” since the non-universal nature of the health care coverage will doom over 12 million Americans immediately to struggle on without coverage, and approximately 24 million by 2019 according to Jane Hamsher’s research. Double digit thousands of Americans will continue to die prematurely each year, even after this so-called historic legislation. One FDL commenter alluded to a quote by Upton Sinclair, “Fascism is capitalism plus murder.” If that is the definition, then I think, considering these imminent and continual deaths, we sadly are there.

In the past two weeks, TV and radio have delivered sound bytes of Obama, in all his “recycled campaign styling” glory, declaring how every idea about health care reform has been sought out and explored this past year. My heart literally constricts when I hear his voice and its boast. I am sickened with rage -- a sound byte that cruelly bites any of us who are a part of the massive and non-“pragmatic” yet unacknowledged Medicare for all movement. Obama’s faux round table excluded every leader of the Medicare for all movement – clear evidence of his continuing loyalty to bribing corporate cronies. If I recall correctly, he received approximately two and one half million dollars while still a senator from the medical industrial complex.

Dave Lindorf in Kill Bill: Death to Obamacare!:

President Obama began this whole obscene nightmare with a lie, when he said that even though single-payer systems clearly work to open access to all and keep costs down while providing better overall health results in places like Canada and some European countries, they cannot be applied in America "because that would mean starting over from scratch." He knew when he said it that this was a lie. America already has a well-run and successful single-payer healthcare program in place that is bigger than the entire Canadian health care system, and that's Medicare, which was established in 1965, and which currently finances the care of 45 million Americans. You just have to be 65 or disabled to be eligible for it.

[snip]

Obama continued this lie when he claimed, in his last mention of the issue during his State of the Union address to Congress, that he and Congress had considered every idea. In fact, he and Congress have for the last year, carefully prevented any consideration of the idea of single-payer, or of expanding Medicare to cover every American. Bills that would do that, authored by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) in the House and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in the Senate, were in fact blocked from hearings or votes in both Houses by Democratic leaders, at the White House's urging, while the White House itself barred single-payer advocates from any of its discussions.

We must not use up all our frustration on Obama and a corrupt Congress. It is the media that slyly but with awesome power disinforms and misinforms, minimizes and ignores reality, for a lazy, distracted, desperate, confused, and/or sluggish citizenry. Withholds what citizens should know to sustain a healthy democracy or, rather, constitutional republic. Instead, the media, as corporate operatives, get out the fog machines and protect the corporate and political classes at the expense of the rest of us. The House overwhelmingly endorses massive war funding to continue on and even escalate in Afghanistan? Supposedly the majority of us are against the Afghan war. And yet ... crickets .... from our fourth estate and, consequently, most of us.

Timo Cerantola in I'd Kill For a Peace Prize:

In the name of corporate fascism and its moneyed interests, your mainstream news media now routinely filters, suppresses and/or distorts uncomfortable truths and, applies the prescribed corporate approved spin, bias and propaganda. In other words, today’s news media routinely filters reality and replaces it with corporate approved truth. All the news, all the time, all wrapped up in pretty packages for mindless couch potatoes too lazy or incapable of critical thinking.

I guess that’s what years of being bombarded with lies will do to a public – program them to ignore the truly important issues of the day and instead focus them on the peripheral, pointless and generally irrelevant sideshows created by a news media and government full of journalistic shills, political toadies and greedy Wall Street bastards. America has become a circus, a nation of voyeurs and peeping Toms. America has become one with that mindless freak show we see each time we turn on our TV’s.

So, when are the people going to figure it out and, more importantly get angry and vote out their politicians, boycott these corporations and turn off all those shilling corporate media TV monkeys who are so totally full of shi… (er, insert appropriate foul language here)?

Probably never.

[snip]

Of course, the only thing the US government is really afraid of is the truth.

As for Barack “I’d kill for a Nobel Peace Prize” Obama, he is merely typical of recent American presidents. He is a just another political actor. A fraud.

So now that the health care travesty is nearly through, shallowly covered by our manipulative corporate media, what remaining taxpayer revenue is left to be captured by the brazen corporatists with full but ever low-keyed cooperation of our President? Philip Giraldi asserts:

Another Wall Street plot to rob the people of their social safety net programs is the recently renewed attack on the once-sacred entitled programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Having piled up huge sums of national debt and deficit (through bank bailouts, military spending, and tax cuts for the affluent), Wall Street champions, firmly ensconced at the Congress and the White House, are now singing the “fiscal responsibility” song as a prelude to chip away at Social Security and other entitlements. This ominous scheme is clearly reflected in President Obama’s recently appointed “National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform,” a bi-partisan group that is tasked with reviewing the Social Security and other entitlements in an effort to further “trim” social spending in order to pay for the sins of major banks and military contractor.

The bipartisan nature of the attack on Social Security indicates that the plan to undercut economic safety net programs cannot be blamed solely on the blatently [sic] neoliberal Republicans. It shows that, with few exceptions, Democrats are as much indebted and committed to the powerful financial interests as are Republicans. The neoliberal economic policies of the Obama administration, crafted by his economic team of ex-bankers/Wall Street advisors, should dispel any illusions that he is committed to “change” in favor of the people.

The corporate gang raping of the citizenry will continue it would seem. And, media will slip us the "roofies". (Did I really just write that???)

I used a marketing tool to induce people to read this article. The power of Oprah’s name. For those of you still hanging on to read this collection of profoundly troubling assertions I thank you and apologize for the manipulation. Oprah, celebrity extraordinaire – her name and opinion have power. It should underline my point about how her power profoundly enhanced Obama’s chances of winning that election one very long year ago.

America’s group think promoted by government leaders and media leaders is dangerous to us all. It is not bonding us as a community. It is not promoting an awareness of the common good. A spirit of unity among us. Of brother-and sisterhood. Not nationally or globally.

So many Americans, and now politicians, hasten to insist we are primarily a Christian nation. Often these are the very people who promote a sense of American exceptionalism and xenophobia and military blood lust. "What would Jesus do?" Do they ever take that short, values test?

How long have we coexisted with but numbed out to the plight of the homeless? Dear God, if a politician acknowledged publicly even that there were homeless, it would be political suicide. Would it, really? Do so many Americans begrudge survival to their fellow Americans... their fellow humans?

How long have we numbed out to the casualties of war, of our own troops, and those thousands – millions -- having died in other countries for what amoral motives, ever unreported or with disinformation by the corporate press and compromised government leaders? These dead referred to as "collateral damage" – even the rhetoric has been insultingly sterilized of human connotations.

Millions dead, maimed, displaced, traumatized ... paid for by our tax dollars, the violence executed by our passivity to presidential and Congressional questionable and amoral ratifications of unimaginable violence -- perpetrated pre-emptively on people like us, human, trying to survive as best they can in this, as Rachel Maddow once called it, “ethical freak show of a universe.”

Chris Hedges, again, in Zero Point of Systemic Collapse:

The philosopher Theodor Adorno wrote that the exclusive preoccupation with personal concerns and indifference to the suffering of others beyond the self-identified group is what ultimately made fascism and the Holocaust possible: “The inability to identify with others was unquestionably the most important psychological condition for the fact that something like Auschwitz could have occurred in the midst of more or less civilized and innocent people.”

The indifference to the plight of others and the supreme elevation of the self is what the corporate state seeks to instill in us. It uses fear, as well as hedonism, to thwart human compassion. We will have to continue to battle the mechanisms of the dominant culture, if for no other reason than to preserve through small, even tiny acts, our common humanity. We will have to resist the temptation to fold in on ourselves and to ignore the cruelty outside our door. Hope endures in these often imperceptible acts of defiance. This defiance, this capacity to say no, is what the psychopathic forces in control of our power systems seek to eradicate. As long as we are willing to defy these forces we have a chance, if not for ourselves, then at least for those who follow. As long as we defy these forces we remain alive. And for now this is the only victory possible.

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three wickets's picture
Submitted by three wickets on

And Barack Obama is now officially John Galt.

Submitted by libbyliberal on

I got all literary when I first read your comment. Since I feel I got enthralled by the potboilerness and drama of Rand's writing long ago myself and did not identify it as Republican like.

But I remember back then reading the biography of Ayn Rand and in the middle of it somewhere the female author who was spinning a nice narrative and writing from personal experience suddenly confides that Rand had an affair with her hubby, Nathaniel Branden. SAY WHAT????? Oy vey. Rand was an older mentor and lover of his. And the wife was also a disciple of Rand... how creepy was that? I think there was a movie with Helen Mirren a while back about this triangle.

I hope Barack is more her Galt than her Branden ... but again, an interesting take. Was it Oprah calling the shots?

And power and control and gamesmanship vs. integrity and that codependency or cronyism.

I am finally remembering it was the Oprah Xmas interview where Obama gave himself the B+ iirc! Talk about your denial there. I am sure he thought modesty was preventing him from giving himself a straight A. Sigh. And Oprah swam along with that denial.

Submitted by libbyliberal on

Gotta confess, I grooved on The Fountainhead years and years and years ago, except when Rand inserted the "sexy" rape scene... that chilled me. But Howard Roark I appreciated. But having Rand's novels being used to inspire and rationalize the right also chills me.

And my interpretation of the book, and what a diff drummer I had?, was that Ellsworth Toohey was it was a kind of Karl Rove character. Insidious, manipulating the sheeple. And Roark had the intuitive and moral compass. And Rand described the sheeple very well. Maybe she saw them as lefties... I saw them as righties. Authoritarian followers.

Now Rand's politics and personal issues leave me cold, especially judging from her cult... but I guess I clearly took what I wanted and left the rest.

The individualism ... and iconoclasm ... to do the right thing. To call that out in others. And I think Rand did write about the dangers of codependency and group think in an awesome way.

But I will ponder your take on it and hope to read more about this. I have only been vaguely aware of the Randian stuff going down on the right. Sorry.

Submitted by Elliott Lake on

from the beginning? There never WAS any there, there. Corporate shills, both of them, from the get-go, as obvious as the day is long. If she actually cared as much as it is supposed to look like she does, she'd donate money and time and STFU about it, rather than always tying everything to purchasing options.

Same with BO.

I was at a friend's house the day O had BO on for his intro, and was apalled at how plastic and corporate he was, a living Ken Doll---and that the audience was eating it up. The essential person in him was cold, manipulative, and very enamored with himself. Doesn't anyone really look at politician's faces and eyes anymore?

If you actually listen to what the both of them say, and then watch what they actually do, it's impossible to be fooled. Unless you want to be.

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

no, you weren't.

Here's a post of mine from December 13, 2007 - it's called "Obama + Oprah = ICK."

It’s taken me a while to figure out why I am uncomfortable with the fact that Barack Obama has taken Oprah Winfrey with him on the campaign trail. But now, I think I know. It’s called the “ICK” factor.

(snip)

But ICK! Barack Obama is not a product. He is not a book, a movie or a Broadway show. He is a candidate for president, and should be evaluated on the basis of his accomplishments, not on the basis of Oprah Winfrey’s. And the thought that millions of Winfrey fans might vote for Obama simply because she says so, has a very creepy aspect of groupthink to it.

And ICK! Look who Obama chooses to promote his message on the campaign trail. The choice of an anti-gay gospel singer happy to be “cured” of his homosexuality was bad enough; but the fact that Obama picked a TeeVee personality like Oprah Winfrey to campaign with him shows me that he thinks of himself as a product, perhaps a “rock star” as he is so often called, but not as a serious candidate with serious ideas. Aren’t we the people a little over electing preening narcissists with vague “kumbaya” messages (“compassionate conservative,” anyone?) without first screening them through our internal radar?

Oh, yes, ICK! Obama is a narcissist of the first order. His whole campaign is about how wonderful HE is, not how wonderful his ideas are. His book was called “The Audacity of Hope,” for Jeebus’ sake! Every human being on the planet hopes for something, but because the Great Obama, Uniter of Us All, does something absolutely unremarkable, it’s now “audacious.” Could he love himself any more? (And incidentally, could Oprah love herself any more?)

I have read from many different sources that people elect their national leaders based on feelings and instincts, and not on the issues. Well, my gut went ICK! as soon as I saw George W. Bush and his lunatic thousand-yard-stare, and it goes ICK! everytime I see Barack Obama. I hope that America doesn’t fall for Obama’s con game, because everything he does and says proves he is not ready to be President in 2008.

Submitted by libbyliberal on

I suspect both Barack and Oprah have narcissistic wounding and clearly are driven to achieve BIG approval, clearly. As was W. Too bad charisma doesn't guarantee genuine altruism and empathy. Principle over personality!

Submitted by libbyliberal on

Thanks for responding Elliott!

Oprah's contrasting interviews with stiff Gore and amiable GW really gave a big advantage to that relaxed and down to earth nightmare, GW.

Here is some homework I did after my blog.
http://econweb.umd.edu/~garthwaite/celebrityendorsements_garthwaitemoore.pdf

According to the Pew Research Center, 23% of Democrats said that Winfrey’s endorsement would make them more likely to vote for Obama (Pew Research Center, 2007).

[snip]

According to Forbes magazine, Winfrey was the most powerful celebrity in 2007—the year she endorsed Obama—and 2008. This is based on a ranking that “analyzes celebrity earnings, plus media metrics like Google hits, press mentions as compiled by Lexis/Nexis, TV/radio mentions from Factiva and the number of times an A-lister appears on the cover of 32 major consumer magazines” (Goldman, 2007). From June 2006-07, Winfrey made $270 million—making her the highest paid celebrity in the United States. She also ranked first in web presence and TV or radio mentions.

Winfrey is also unique in her ability to translate her star power into influencing the purchasing decisions of her followers. From the establishment of her book club, to the launching of a popular women’s magazine, to creating an “Oprah’s Favorites” list, Winfrey has a commercial reach that eclipses other stars. Her reference can literally mean the success or failure of a variety of products.

[snip]

Every day, 8 million people watch her daily talk show, over 15 million watched her prime-time television show “Oprah’s Big Give,” and it is estimated that 16 million people read each issue of Oprah Magazine.

[snip]

In total, we estimate that the endorsement was responsible for 1,015,559 votes for Obama.

anniethena's picture
Submitted by anniethena on

Have you ever read an article about Oprah that has introduced her as a former beauty pageant winner? It's just one sentence in wiki, part of "early life" and not in the intro ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oprah_Winfrey )

At age 17, Winfrey won the Miss Black Tennessee beauty pageant

It's a very very small part of her life but reading on in that paragraph I get the sense that that little extra slice of public exposure helped her get noticed and set her up for early success on her amazing media career path .
And yet nearly everyone (the Serious People anyway) calls Sarah Palin a former beauty queen - and I think she only came in second in whatever the contest was.

Sorry if this is a little OT as your main focus in your post is really Barack...

Submitted by libbyliberal on

Digging further into Oprah's help to Obama.. here are some quotes from NYT about Oprah in Iowa helping Obama:

From Jeff Zeleny:

But for 17 minutes, Ms. Winfrey delivered a testimonial for Mr. Obama arguing the nation was at a critical moment in its history that required a candidate who could heal divisions and chart a new direction. ...

“If we continue to do the same things over and over again, I believe we get the same results,” Ms. Winfrey said. Later, she added: “When you listen to Barack Obama, when you really hear him, you witness a very rare thing. You witness a politician who has an ear for eloquence and a tongue dipped in the unvarnished truth.”

[snip]

Ms. Winfrey ticked through a list of Mr. Obama’s accomplishments. When she hailed his opposition to the Iraq war, “long before it was the popular thing to do,” the crowd responded with a roar of approval.

[snip]

"I think Oprah is John the Baptist, leading the way for Obama to win,” said Dale Cobb, 40, of Des Moines, who has never participated in the Iowa caucuses before. Yet, she added, “I’m still kind of in between Hillary and Obama.”

Submitted by libbyliberal on

Oprah's Homes:

Aerial view of Oprah's Montecito estateWinfrey currently lives on “The Promised Land”, her 42-acre (170,000 m²) estate with ocean and mountain views in Montecito, California, outside Santa Barbara. Winfrey also owns a house in Lavallette, New Jersey, an apartment in Chicago, an estate on Fisher Island off the coast of Miami, a house in Douglasville, Georgia (which she bought in 2005),[55] a ski house in Telluride, Colorado, and property on the island of Maui, Hawaii. She also owns a home on the island of Antigua. Winfrey's show is based in Chicago, so she spends time there, specifically in the neighborhood of Streeterville, but she otherwise resides in California. Her Hawaii property was featured on the cover of O at Home and on her TV show.