It's probably just a coincidence, but almost as soon as I signed up for Biden Transition updates, I started getting spammed by something called the Ozy Daily Dose. At first, assuming that they were just the latest snake oil come-ons from Dr. Oz, I trashed them. But late last week, one particular email slugged The Power Brokers of the Biden Era so piqued my interest that I threw caution to the winds and I opened it.
"They may not be in the White House" Ozy teasingly dished. "but that doesn’t matter. While Joe Biden’s Cabinet picks dominated headlines this past week, the truth is that most Washington policymaking happens behind the scenes long before it lands in front of the federal agencies or on the Resolute Desk. Today we explore the Biden power brokers who may not be obvious from the outside but will play crucial roles across the country — and the world — for the incoming president."
I was duly dosed with a list of five names (including two couples) who will be operating as a kind of deep state cabinet pulling all the strings at Joe Biden's White House. In apparent order of importance, these alleged top-secret enforcers are Barack and Michelle Obama, former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and.... Kim Kardashian.
Yes, gentle readers, The Daily Dose is pure claptrap. But it is claptrap conceived by two Goldman Sachs alum-chums and spread like a social disease thanks to the lavish financing of billionaire Apple heiress Laurene Powell Jobs and other investors. It is not your ordinary spam. It is undiluted neoliberal propaganda filet of prime spam in a gold-plated can.
Before I get any further into the oligarchic power behind Ozy, their rationale for choosing the Obamas as Number One power brokers is interesting, to say the least:
The cachet they have, both with the Black community and Democrats in general, will be key in mollifying the base even as Biden potentially faces a struggle to get legislation passed through a closely divided Congress — whether or not Democrats nab the Senate with
In other words, Barack and Michelle are the designated drugs with which to anesthetize people as they're being sliced and diced into even tinier little pieces by neoliberal capitalism's relentless scalpel. Barack, in particular, is preternaturally adept at mollifying people. As he himself blandly acknowledges in the latest volume of his auto-mythography, he was able to mollify untold thousands of people with his drones. He had to mollify them in order to save them, before they ruined their own lives with all the bad choices they were making.
"In places like Yemen and Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, the lives of millions of young men...had been warped and stunted by desperation, ignorance, dreams of religious glory, the violence of their surroundings, or the schemes of older men. They were dangerous, these young men, often deliberately and casually cruel. Still, in the aggregate, at least, I wanted somehow to save them — send them to school, give them a trade, drain them of the hate that had been filling their heads.
"And yet the world they were a part of, and the machinery I commanded, more often had me killing them instead."
If only Kim Kardashian had just a hundredth of the influence that the chill and chilling Barack Obama has, we might actually stand a chance to survive the Great Mollification that the oligarchy is prescribing for us. Kim just wants to release a few carefully selected people from prison from time to time and co-opt the racial justice movement to burnish her own brand, without caring at all that her fellow neoliberals are co-opting her at the same time to put the gloss of sex and celebrity on their reign of economic terror.
The Ozy Media Empire is there to help them achieve their goal of anesthetizing the public and tamping down social movements against the most extreme wealth disparities in human history. Not for nothing is their target audience the "millennials" who are gravitating to socialism in ever increasing numbers because a government owned and operated by billionaires has nothing to offer people but a whole lifetime of debt and precarity. And not for nothing is Ozy's "power broker" listicle sponsored by Noom, a Dr. Oz-like diet and lifestyle app accused in a class action lawsuit of bilking its customers out of hundreds of millions of dollars.
Ozy is literally almost everywhere. Ozy is to media as Amazon is to commerce. From Forbes:
In addition to offering daily content through their digital platform, OZY currently powers three primetime television shows on PBS and the BBC, with a growing slate of programming in development. Their podcast, , is entering its third season, while their annual OZY Fest steps into its fourth year, merging live music and curated conversations with leaders across industries. OZY currently services 3 million subscribers, with a loyal audience of over 40 million followers.
(Now, those numbers are fudged at an even greater rate than Donald Trump inflated his own inauguration numbers. Since I am unwillingly on their email list, I am counted a subscriber. They could have gotten my name and address from the Biden team. But they could just have easily gotten it from the email list of the New York Times, with whom they partner. When they talk about the corporate media being consolidated, they certainly ain't kidding!)
Although they're as scammy as Dr. Oz and aim to be as quirkily cool as Ozzie Osbourne, the name of this media megalith actually comes from the Percy Bysshe Shelley poem Ozymandias.
Since the poem is about a "colossal wreck" of a bygone pathological narcissist whose legless and armless monument is now crumbling in the desert, you might be tempted to think that the Ozy honchos are either being archly self-referential, or that they're too ignorant to realize Shelley was insulting oligarchs.
But co-founder Carlos Watson puts his own interpretation on the poem. Shelley, it seems, simply didn't know what he was writing about. Watson says:
The poem is commonly read as a warning against outsized egos and the impermanence of power. But we choose to read it differently. To us, it's a call to think big while remaining humble. Admittedly, ours is an unconventional interpretation – because that's who we are. In a world littered with conformity, we like to see things differently.
To that perverted end, Watson cobbles together such humble trendsetters as Hillary Clinton, Bill Gates and George W. Bush to help his audience feel that they, too, are part of a progressive plutocratic movement where capitalism just keeps right on expanding. He can rewrite history and misinterpret literature and shrill his Ode to the West Wing all he wants, but we, the "pestilence-stricken multitudes," don't have to listen to him no matter how insistently he fills our email folders with his globs of gourmet spam.
Rolling Stone aptly called the most recent Ozy confab "a neoliberal nightmare." Sadly, the last two Ozyfests in Central Park (closed to the public for the for-profit occasion) had to be cancelled, in 2019 because of a capitalism-engendered record heat wave and this year because of the capitalism-enhanced Covid-19 pandemic.
To combat neoliberalism in all its insidious and odious forms, we can take heart from Percy Bysshe Shelley's immortal words of nonviolent resistance in The Masque of Anarchy:
Rise, like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number!
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you:
Ye are many—they are few!