Branding Progress to Death
By Michael McGehee at Feb 08, 2010
In the new introduction for the tenth anniversayr of her book, No Logo, Naomi Klein writes about how when she wrote the book she didn't imagine the Bush administration and Brand Obama would make it so timeless.
She wrote about "hollow corporations" like Nike and Starbucks contract out their work while themselves mainly focusing on branding.
The book first came out at the beginning of 2000. A year later we saw a coup that brought in an administration that immeidately began hollowing out government and turning over its functions to private companies. One of the most notable events was in September 2001 when former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made his announcements to carry out extensive privatizing.
This was repeated to an unprecedent degree with the election of the center-right politician, Barack Obama, who literally won an award for his branding campaign.
There are two issues I briefly wanted to bring up about branding.
(1) On the one hand it has successfully co-opted progress in this country. People who were outraged by the Bush administration are now cheerleaders for Obama's continuation policies. I am fucking sick and tired of the excuses the liberal douches make for him.
"It's only been a year."
"Give him a chance."
"At least it's not McCain and Palin."
"He's strategically positioning himself against the Republicans."
The GOP is defeated. If they have any power it's because of the Democrats unwillingness to actual do something for the working class. Period. Blaming the Republicans makes no sense.
What could McCain and Paling have realistically done that (a) Obama hasn't done; and (b) without the Democrats approval? I mean, you can't have it both ways. If you can make excuses for Obama not being progressive when he had super majority in the Senate then why do you think McCain can be worse without it?
In 2009 we saw Obama hook for the ruling class. He didn't balk at the Wall Street Bailout or its disturbing lack of essentials needed to recover the economy. He didn't make a peep at handing the administering of it over to the very banks who were being bailed out and who caused the crisis! He has done nothing to help those foreclosed or who are at threat of foreclosure even when practical solutions are readily available. He continued the illegal embargo against Cuba despite the world, yet again, overwhelmingly calling for its end. He continued the bullshit policies targeting Iran. He is escalating the war in Afghanistan, Pakistan and now Yemen. He put pressure on Iraq's president to NOT hold a referendum the Bush administration agreed to that would give the people of Iraq the ability to vote for early withdrawal. He not only dissed singlepayer and allowed the healthcare reform to grow so malignantly pro-business that it is costing the Democrats, but he even had the audacity to make the remark in the State of the Union Address that if there is a way to get costs down and the uninsured covered he would love to hear it - repeat, he said this after dismissing singlepayer!!! He tolerated the coup in Honduras. He has done nother to help the Goldstone Report or reign in Israel. He sabotaged the climate change talks in Copenhagen. When the earthquake hit Haiti he asked the two previous presidents who oversaw the two most recent coup's to step in and assist with the occupation of Haiti. He allowed Van Jones and green jobs to be bulldozed while sticking to Geithner and Summers. He says he wants to spur job growth but judging by his actions it seems he is lying.
↑ That is just what immediately came to mind. No doubt there is considerably more to add.
All this has reinforced the problems we face, not helped to resolve it. So when others see these apparent failures and see their lives eroding they look around for a better answer. Many find it in the cheap rhetoric of right-wing pundits and politicians. The GOP and their parrots don't even need a good solution to the problems. They can coast back to success just by pointing out the bullshit of the Democrats. And it's working.
(2) That Brand Obama was used and was initially successful says a lot about the mood of the country. PR firms have honed their skills of checking the pulse of the masses. If Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck and Sarah Palin represented the mood the PR firms would have shaped Obama's campaign to reflect such. But they didn't. Folks like Noam Chomsky and Paul Street have written extensively about popular opinion polls and how the population is much further to the left than often is realized or understood. PR firms understand this and that is why Obama branded himself the way he did.
So when I say shit like this I get asked, "Well Mr. Smartypants, what's your solution?"
Well, first off, stop being dupes for brands.
Second, recognize that as the American philosopher, John Dewey, said so long ago: politics is the shadow cast by big business. Our democracy is not a democracy. It's plutocracy. The rich buy their politicians and that's that. Don't be surprised that both parties catter to them. Look into Tom Fergusson's Invest Theory of Politics.
Third, put more of an emphasis on movement building. So long as the conditions of our electoral system mean our voices will go unheard we should focus on building a force that is not reliant on corporate funding and political support. When that force is strong enough to pressure business and government we will see gains start rolling in. There is a historical precedent for this and if you read Howard Zinn's work you would know this.
That's pretty much it: don't be fools, recognize reality - what works for us and what doesn't. If in the future we abolish private donations to campaign funding and our democracy is a bit more functioning then an increased emphasis on voting might make good sense. But that's not where we are today and wasting our times voting for disappointments is time and energy that can be better spent in doing things that empowers us and actually increases our chances of success. Organize your workplaces, your churches, your schools, your communities behind a movement, not a party or a candidate.