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Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Cult of Obama

The Corporate Cult evolved in the United States as a hybrid of the sales force of the corporation and the religious devotion of the cult. This type of entity might be a cult like Scientology, which used the aggressive and organized sales tactics and marketing campaigns of a corporation, or it could be a corporation like Apple, whose employees earn little, but feel a sense of satisfaction at being part of a meaningful entity.

The Obama Campaign is a fantastic marketing machine. It is constantly discovering new ways to sell things to people. But the problem is that it has no actual product. A company that goes corporate cult uses some of the tactics of a cult to inflate the value of its product. But a cult has no product except the sense of satisfaction that comes from being in the cult. The only things it sells are images of its leader, emblazoned everywhere, his books, speeches and photos, and these are used as tokens of membership in the cult.

In retrospect, the Cult of Obama had much in common with other cults. Like them it recruited young volunteers on campus. Its recruitment materials leaned heavily on books by its beloved leader. It promised them that a new age was coming and that they could be a big part of bringing it about. And its vector of introduction to older viewers was through a woman who has been accused of promoting cults on her popular television show.

Strip away the politics, forget the push and pull of the election issues, wipe the polar identities of the parties from your minds and take a fresh look at the 2008 campaign. Then compare the pitch to any of the major cults in the seventies and eighties. There really isn't all that much of a difference. They're all "Transformative" movements that promise to solve society's problems by using new insights to create a wave of change that begins with "us".

Even the political angle isn't new. Jim Jones and his murderous child-abusing cult started out as community organizers for California Democrats, and leading politicians, including saintly hero Harvey Milk, covered for his crimes until the whole thing got too big and Jones got too crazy. Long before Obama, Lyndon LaRouche went the campus cult route and if you are morbidly curious, you can find videos where "LaRouche Youth", who have broken ties with their families and friends, shout insane slogans while their glazed eyes stare fixedly into the camera.

The pitch is "Transformative" but it isn't the world that is being transformed, only the participants, and the method of transformation is constant labor and omnipresent awareness of the program. That is where the Cult of Obama's retention efforts fell through. Successful cults maintain control over a core cadre and use them to expand their base, but projects like Americorps did not come close to meeting those goals. 

The corporate part of the Corporate Cult deals with adversity by redoubling the sales pitch. If sales fall, it finds more things to sell. The Obama Campaign is insanely intensifying its sales efforts, without understanding that its sales are falling because the value of the brand is failing. Many cult survivors dropped out during a similar phase when the cult supervisors pressured them to increase sales and recruitment, even as the cult was no longer relevant. When the history of this campaign is written, we will likely discover that the people on the inside were being just as ruthlessly pressured to achieve impossible goals to compensate for the failings of their candidate.

When businesses hysterically deluge you with offerings for their product, it's a sign of fear. Obama's campaign rolling out invitations to dinner with him and suggestions that you use your wedding to raise money for him stinks of that same fear. It's ingenious from a marketing standpoint, but from that same standpoint, it's also a bad tactic. The last thing that a company or a campaign wants to do is wear people out. But that is exactly what Obama is accomplishing by burning through his base for a short-term cash grab, when what he really needs is to have those people committed to him at the end.

Obama's people are clever, but not good, which is a common combination at dot com companies that go under when the trend passes them by. The Obama trend has long since gone and no one is all that excited about another four years. Like Steve Jobs debuting one more feature, the campaign has doled out gay marriage and the DREAM Act to gets its base excited about another four years. But it still isn't excited. These are features that it expected years ago and it's not in the mood to work itself up into a frenzy over finally getting them.

This is the part where the marketing consultants spend six months on a study and inform the company that their brand is done and has to either be retired or salvaged through a high-profile campaign that will reinvent it as cutting edge. But when your brand is a man, how do you reinvent him? And when your brand is "Transformative Politics" and even your staunchest supporters don't feel like anything has been transformed, how do you move the product?

Cults shift the burden of failure from the guru and the program to the participants. It isn't the man or the idea that failed, but the people.

There are the outside enemies who make enlightenment impossible. "How very much I've tried my best to give you a good life. But in spite of all of my trying a handful of our people, with their lies, have made our lives impossible," Jim Jones said at Jonestown. That is the epilogue of the Obama campaign. The one being scripted for him by the media.

Like Jim Jones, Obama has done his best to give us a good life, but the Republicans, FOX News, the Supreme Court, the Koch Brothers and powerful interests have sabotaged his efforts with their lies. And yet in the end it's not the enemies who bear the final burden, but the people who weren't good enough.

Cults demand more and more from their followers to impose upon them an unreasonable and unshakeable burden of guilt. The cult appeals to those who want to make more of their lives, and it destroys their will by making them feel like failures. The Obama campaign's endless demands of its followers have that tenor as well. Behind all the flowery words, the burden of responsibility is being shifted from his people to his supporters.

The cult frames everything in terms of commitment. What begins as a commitment to personal and global transformation becomes a commitment to the demands of the cult. The commitment is meant to be mutual, and it is occasionally even framed in terms of a marriage.

"In all our years of marriage, he's always looked out for me. Now, I see that same commitment every day to you and to this country," Michelle Obama's campaign mailing says. "The only way we'll win this election is if we can rely on one another like that."

The commitments, of course, aren't mutual. They can't be. The disparity in power is too great. The cult exists for the sake of the leader, but the leader does not exist for the sake of the cult. Once the followers realize this, the illusion of mutual commitment breaks down. And to keep them from realizing it, the cult strives to make them feel that they have not lived up to their commitment.

The cult intrudes into personal and marital relationships because it cannot allow any commitment to dwarf the greater commitment. That is why cults will arrange marriages and control whom members may marry. It may command divorces or just solicit donations to its cause at a wedding. It acts as if it knows no boundaries, but, in truth, it is setting its own boundaries. It is claiming the intimate territory of personal relationships as its own.

And yet all this only works for as long as the transformative illusion endures. When the sense that the commitment to the cult is not transformative, that the principles of its program cannot make a better world, then its power fades away and dies. The cult may amp up its marketing, but the only product that it ever truly had was intangible.

The Obama campaign never sold Obama; it sold the idea of Obama. The illusion that was more than the sum of his false biography, his chin up speeches full of momentous pauses and stolen poetry, or the typography of his posters. It was the sense of imminence, the perception of a transformative figure who could change the country and the world. That magnetic tug wasn't Obama, it was the confused mess of desires, fears, hopes, dreams and wishes that the people were encouraged to project onto him.

The essential product of every cult is the promise of global transformation through personal transformation. Years later, few people can say that their lives are any better, and while many are still willing to echo Jim Jones and blame that on outside enemies, there is no real faith that the program can work.

Whether or not Obama wins again, his cult has failed. It failed because it was not able to deliver on its promises of transformation, nor was it able to place the blame on its followers. Most of those who voted for Obama will drink the Kool-Aid one more time, but there will be little enthusiasm in the drinking of it.





23 comments:

Rick Manzo said...

Oh and tell me that the Bush Crime family worship isn't a cult? Reagan worship.
Puleese.
Many Republicans worship at the altar of those guys as if they were godlike.

Daniel said...

Those who do so would be wrong then, right? Trust but verify.

Jewel said...

I don't think I know anyone who worshiped Bush or Reagan. Reagan was popular precisely because he didn't want to control every aspect of our lives, and he didn't want the government to do it either. Bush was seen as an antidote to the corruption of the Clinton Cult. He had more detractors in his own party. If there was a cult during Bush's years, it is the cult of leftists who hated him with an unquenchable hatred.

Anonymous said...

Daniel, I am disappointed with you. Clearly you have failed to realize what Sarah Jessica Parker and other deep thinkers among the 1% have: Obama is the true and rightful head of our celebrity culture.

In a society where we celebrate programs about unwed teen mothers and watch with endless fascination vapid, over-tanned muscle heads getting drunk and "smushing" their classless female counterparts, what do you expect?

At a time when people become famous for no discernable talent, skills, or real achievement, one might argue that we have an elected leader who truly meets the times.

Years of our main stream media overlords having dumbed-down the public with trashy programs, negotiable values, moral equvalency, and philosophies if it feels good it is all right certainly will have an impact.

Yael said...

Daniel, this is an excellent observation. You will have hundreds of people asking themselves why THEY didn't think of it, as it's so obvious and true -- but it never occurred to us.

A cult. precisely.

GOOD JOB.

Trialdog said...

You are getting to them Daniel. They are planting racist comments (Anonymous) to make it appear your writing attracts racists in an effort to smear you. It would not surprise me if that comment came straight out of Chicago.

Brett_McS said...

The media has clearly protected Obama's personal popularity rating, which is still over 50% and well above Romney's. I wonder if it will ever hit the skids even as he loses? "He was too nice to survive the tough, dirty world of politics...".

One thing for sure, Romney will never be a cult figure. Ironic, perhaps, since many people consider Mormonism a cult.

Anonymous said...

Charming Duke-

And whose racial theories are you articulating? David Duke of the KKK actually endorsed Charles Baron a "negro" for the seat Charlie Rangle currently holds in Congress, because he is "Anti-Zionist" (do I really need to translate what that actually means?).

Agree with another poster, in that it looks like operatives are coming in here to try and smear the site with racism, babble, and sheer nonsense so it looses its clear credibility and ability to influence people. Be gone please.

As for white racism, I can remember conversations with a gaggle of old white Republican ladies falling all over themselves to vote for Colin Powell back in the day if he would have run for President. If people oppose Obama I would suggest that for the most part it is because his atttiudes and goals are very much different than their own, rather than searing hatred and discomfort with African-Americans.

Keliata said...

"The essential product of every cult is the promise of global transformation through personal transformation. Years later, few people can say that their lives are any better, and while many are still willing to echo Jim Jones and blame that on outside enemies, there is no real faith that the program can work."


Transformation is the essential product of the cult. The means and ultimate ends are a form of discorporation. Soul discorporation.

I have no doubt that people drawn into cults see this as a positive thing, self-improvement, spiritual evolution.

I've never been in a cult and had never heard the phrase soul discorporated before--until I read it in the terrifying Stephen King novel Pet Semarary (yeah, spelled that way).

Maybe that's a little extreme but I do believe it is taking place on some level re Obama.

Marcel said...

'Most of those who voted for Obama will drink the Kool-Aid one more time '
...but this time it's going to kill them.

Ezekiel 9
Then He called out in my hearing with a loud voice, saying, “Let those who have charge over the city draw near, each with a deadly weapon in his hand.” And suddenly six men came from the direction of the upper gate, which faces north, each with his battle-ax in his hand. One man among them was clothed with linen and had a writer’s inkhorn at his side. They went in and stood beside the bronze altar.

Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherub, where it had been, to the threshold of the temple. And He called to the man clothed with linen, who had the writer’s inkhorn at his side; and the Lord said to him, “Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it.”

To the others He said in my hearing, “Go after him through the city and kill; do not let your eye spare, nor have any pity. 6 Utterly slay old and young men, maidens and little children and women; but do not come near anyone on whom is the mark; and begin at My sanctuary.” So they began with the elders who were before the temple. Then He said to them, “Defile the temple, and fill the courts with the slain. Go out!” And they went out and killed in the city.

David Barry O'Connor said...

Surely, cults rise like zits, frequently during adolescence. What remains threatening are the scars. Using Jones as a parallel was good choice: What did he leave behind, but misery, death and deceived spirits.
As well, we can't afford the luxury of just citing history when our neighbors are shoving pushing to get to the 'Kewl Aid'.

Anonymous said...

"The essential product of every cult is the promise of global transformation through personal transformation."

That apply to all religions

Anonymous said...

And just like any cult member, American people will commit suicide for their leader just not to be nonPC. Why you have 60% of Jews still for Obama and we know how many were involved in the 60s-80s in cults. So sad for us, we still think that socialism is going to bring love for everyone and maybe an IPad, also peace bro in the ME.

Anonymous said...

The problem with what we might term the Obama mentality is the deliberate misreading due to extreme ideology of unchangeable human conventions and ideas, and the sense that everything can be socially engineered, including successful outcomes in life if you take away more money from some and give it to others.
A prime example is Obama's empowerment of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Middle East. Obama and his ilk believe that political power will mitigate the undesirable reality of their absolutist interpretation of the Koran and their related core beliefs and policy goals, which are against our national interests. Did that happen in Iran since the Shah? No, and it won't happen there. Its their religious beliefs, and they won't change
Obama wants to be the hip leftist President, whose "best bud"
in the Middle East is thuggish, Muslim theocrat Erdogan who has been busy undermining all the democratic institutions in his own Turkey. Maybe Erdogan suggested Obama should threaten the Supreme Court again before they make a decision? Our national interests will take 20 years to recover after the guy is tossed out in Noember.

Empress Trudy said...

To me all of this is extraneous. Politicians are hacks. Some are bigger hacks than others. The key thing to me is that Obama has accomplished nothing, nothing at all.

Edward Cline said...

Daniel noted: "The commitments [to a cult and its leader], of course, aren't mutual. They can't be. The disparity in power is too great. The cult exists for the sake of the leader, but the leader does not exist for the sake of the cult. Once the followers realize this, the illusion of mutual commitment breaks down. And to keep them from realizing it, the cult strives to make them feel that they have not lived up to their commitment."

Nazism was a cult, as well, centered on the "idea" of Adolph Hitler. I recently watched the powerful and wholly unempathic move "Downfall," with Bruno Ganz as Hitler in one of the most realistic and convincing depictions of the man I have ever seen. (The one scene from the movie, in which Hitler goes on a froth-mouthed rant against General Steiner for disobeying his orders, was the subject of countless subtitled pastiches on YouTube, focusing on mocking Obama). The movie was largely based on the atuobiography of Traudl Junge, one of Hitler's secretaries, recruited in 1942 and with him in the Berlin bunker until he and Evan Braun committed suicide. I recommend the movie to anyone interested in grasping the mindless nature of Obama's cult. The race, language and circumstances of the principals are almost irrelevant. Obama is in his own bunker, and the Tea Party and upholders of the Constitution are the artillery thumping his administration into another Berlin. But most of all, as with Hitler, it is Obama himself who is scripting his own denouement.

An army General protests the wanton slaughter of civilians and the Volkssturm as they try to turn back the Russians. Goebbels replies, "I have no sympathy. No sympathy! The German people gave us the mandate. And now you cry because your little throats are being cut."

Hitler himself is asked a number of times about the fate of the German people. He also says that they "failed him" and deserve their coming fate. Albert Speer tells him that he's disobeyed Hitler's order to destroy all docks, railroads, industrial capacity, and so forth because that would've reduced Germany to the Medieval period. Hitler is unmoved, and claims that the German people were unworthy of him. They didn't live up to Hitler's dreams. So, to hell with them.

And, much like Jim Jones's faithful followers, most of Hitler's staunchest followers commit suicide as well. The idea of National Socialism dies with Hitler. Magda Goebbels coolly murders her five sleeping children with cyanide capsules, because she won't allow them to live in a world without National Socialism.

anonymous said...

Catholicism is a cult and revolves around a person.

Anonymous said...

Well thought out article. I'm now seriously thinking of joining the cult of Knish.

Anonymous said...

Man, I hate Obama. He is a shtooonk!

Anonymous said...

This is brilliant. And true.

Judas said...

If the Sultan started a Cult, I would follow!

Big Paul K said...

Your article is 100% correct in my experience. You couldn't find someone who voted for Bush or Reagan that wouldn't take exception to something about the man or his policies. But Obama? The Obamabots are clearly Hale-Bopp type cult members. I just hope they don't commit mass suicide when their Fuhrer is shellacked in November by the silent majority who will speak VERY loudly.

Anonymous said...

In voting for Obama, people thought they were getting David Palmer. They got a Black Jimmy Carter instead.

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