|"Lucy, I don't like that tone. You're thinking again." (graphic by Kat Garcia)|
President Obama attempted one last desperate time yesterday to pull another fast one on the American people. But his combination of wheedling, bullying, cynical mendacity, fear-mongering, and 50s sitcom-style drollery all failed. They failed dismally, completely and irrevocably.
He used all the propaganda tools in his oratorical toolbox, trying to sell people on the rationale for the massive surveillance apparatus targeting every man, woman and child not only in the United States, but throughout the entire world. That grating, down-home folksiness combined with stentorous jingoism was reminiscent of George Bush and all the ghosts of fascist regimes past. He chose the safety of an opulently appointed room at the White House and the protective filter of a reverential Washington press corps to deliver his message. It was the usual craven Friday afternoon news dump excreted through the mouth of the big man himself. And what was dumped was this:
We spy on you, but please don't call it spying. See, we just collect all your stuff. And anyway, the problem is not with our gross violations of your basic human rights. The problem is that you people haven't gotten with the program and learned to trust us. Father Knows Best. The beatings will continue until morale improves. We will not change our ways. But we will change your minds. Our continued hold on power depends upon the continued success of our public relations scam. Your comfort and your continued ignorance are our primary concerns. So just snuggle down under your soft totalitarian covers and let us get on with it. And when I say we need to "tighten the bolts" on surveillance oversight, what I really mean is that we'll continue tightening the screws against all of you insignificant little ants.
To its credit, the New York Times has published a strong editorial effectively condemning the president for his empty promises to merely "tweak" the N.S.A. spying program while unconscionably defending its continued existence:
Fundamentally, Mr. Obama does not seem to understand that the nation needs to hear more than soothing words about the government’s spying enterprise. He suggested that if ordinary people trusted the government not to abuse their privacy, they wouldn’t mind the vast collection of phone and e-mail data.
Bizarrely, he compared the need for transparency to showing his wife that he had done the dishes, rather than just telling her he had done so. Out-of-control surveillance is a bit more serious than kitchen chores. It is the existence of these programs that is the problem, not whether they are modestly transparent. As long as the N.S.A. believes it has the right to collect records of every phone call — and the administration released a white paper Friday that explained, unconvincingly, why it is perfectly legal — then none of the promises to stay within the law will mean a thing.Good. The Gray Lady finally realizes that Barack Obama holds the citizens of this country in utter contempt by trivializing their concerns. His ability to fool some of the people all of the time is rapidly eroding. The reader comments expressed near-universal outrage. Here's mine:
That kitchen analogy not only fell flat, it reeked of the desperation of a demagogue who feels his control slipping away. The president essentially compared the Surveillance State to a henpecked husband (himself.) And we, the victims of government overreach, are the hysterical overbearing Lucy Ricardos with our silly concerns and demands for proof of his divine benevolence.
We won't be invited to the show or get a seat at the table, but he'll put up a webpage, maybe have another Google+ Hangout, invite a bunch of Villagers to meet behind closed doors, order a few more drone strikes, croon out a few more love songs, and proclaim that all is well in Happy Land, all the while reminding God to bless America.
This must be what Hannah Arendt meant by the banality of evil.