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Thursday, February 21

Cults, Campaigns and Candidates

“At this moment the entire group of people broke into a deep, slow, rhythmic chant of 'B-B! .... B-B! .... B-B!'—over and over again, very slowly, with a long pause between the first 'B' and the second—a heavy murmurous sound, somehow curiously savage, in the background of which one seemed to hear the stamps of naked feet and the throbbing of tom-toms. For perhaps as much as thirty seconds they kept it up. It was a refrain that was often heard in moments of overwhelming emotion. Partly it was a sort of hymn to the wisdom and majesty of Big Brother, but still more it was an act of self-hypnosis, a deliberate drowning of consciousness by means of rhythmic noise.”

- Orwell, 1984



Political campaigns in the United States are what is known as “Hurrah” campaigns – full of colorful signs, banners, and pictures of the candidates. Slogans such as “I Like Ike!” and even campaign songs figure into the process, culminating in the carnival-like atmosphere of the Party conventions.

Which brings me to Senator Barack Obama.

Allow me to tread carefully here. I am not endorsing the Senator from Illinois, just as I am not endorsing the Senators from either Arizona or New York. However, there’s been a lot of bilge spread around liberally by various of the chattering classes regarding the creation of a “Cult of Obama,” and I felt that it requires a bit of addressing.

Chanting Obama’s name (and you have to admit that it does lend itself well to that) or “Yes We Can!” or even “U.S.A!” or even having some overwrought audience member pass out does not a cult of personality make.

A cult of personality, according to Wikipedia, is usually created by a leader’s manipulation of the national media (and we’ve seen, quite clearly, that Senator Obama does not have power over what the media is saying about him), and is an extension of regular hero worship. People hanging on every word Rush Limbaugh spews from his flabby piehole can have their devotion qualify as hero worship or a cult of personality.

Cults of personality are most common in totalitarian regimes where the State controls the Press.

And it's fairly obvious that the last thing Senator Obama controls is the news media.

What I would cite as a possible indicator that a cult may be forming is the formation of a club or similar organization dedicated solely to the figure, along with an almost religious or fanatical devotion to that person. The SA and SS from 1930’s Germany are the best examples of this, and we’ve seen a hint of it in the youth organization that has sprung up around Vladimir Putin.

In other words, when you start seeing uniforms, start getting worried.

What we’ve been seeing around Senator Obama is, in my opinion, an indicator that a growing number of people in the United States want some sort of change. It’s the “Don’t Just Sit There, DO SOMETHING!” attitude – the feeling that the nation’s leaders need to do something, anything, to get the country back on track.

And these people don’t feel that Senator McCain can do it.

Or Senator Clinton.

So they flock to hear a message that, while it may be short of specifics, resonates with the yearning they have to DO something.

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