Last week I was traveling (off to Des Moines for family events and the Iowa State Fair). I've gotten used to reading news online. I rarely read a newspaper, expect when traveling by air or train. As I read the paper on my trip, I rediscovered the fun of turning newsprint pages. Often there are interesting layout juxtaposition of news stories, photos and/or ads that add to the experience and underscores an idea. There is an online echo of this, but it I just don't see it as often.
Above is the Opinion Page from the 8-16-12 issue of the paper. The two articles seemed to be talking about the same phenomena: the selling of a politician/leader without policies, history, background and any details about what they would do with power.
Both Willard Mitt Romney and Kim Jong-un are men of mystery. In both cases it is unclear what they would do with power, who controls them and even the basic facts of their record and their beliefs. For Willard this is odd as he has been around for decades (and running for President for most of that time)--and yet most of his life, his beliefs, his record and the basics about who he is are off the table. Tim Egan's essay on the page completely captured the hollowness of the man:
This problem of who he is, Romney acknowledged last year, has plagued him ever since he became a public figure.In a few days The GOP/Wingnut noise machine will put on a spectacle carefully crafted to give a focused group tested image of Willard Mitt Romney. Talking points will be circulated and repeated. Visuals will reinforce the message. President Obama and Liberals will be presented as existential threats to the survival of White Men and their America. Romney will be presented as the hero who can save and protect the Nation.
In focus groups, he’s described as a tin man, a shell, an empty suit, vacuous, a multimillionaire in mom jeans. And that’s from supporters.
At the convention, you can expect to hear high praise for a virtuous, disciplined, loyal person of family and faith. You will surely hear the words “turnaround” and “no apology” — both titles of platitudinous and unread books by Romney — in defense of his business acumen and unshakable view of American exceptionalism.
But I doubt you will hear anything of the real Romney because he is afraid of his own past.
It is all very, very much like the political theater of North Korea: a show put on to sell the figurehead of the elites to the masses. The other story on the page tells of how another son of a political family is being sold to the rubes as the new Dear Leader:
In my recent visit, I saw slogans extolling the new leader everywhere: “Long Live Great Leader Comrade Kim Jong-un!” “Long Live Kim Jong-un, Sun of Military-First Korea!” and more ominously, “Follow Great Leader Kim Jong-un to Final Victory!”North Korea is a State ruled by a single Party on behalf of a group of elites. The Wingnut vision for America is similar: a single Party in control of everything to benefit the elites.
Kim Jong-un has already proven himself to be a much more visible and publicly engaged leader than his more reticent father; he appears a natural politician in the mold of his still-revered grandfather, Kim Il-sung, North Korea’s founding leader. The regime is clearly trying to cultivate that image, as if to make the North Korean people forget the famine and other failures of the Kim Jong-il era and relive the hopeful and relatively well-off era of Kim Il-sung, who died in 1994. Even Kim Jong-un’s appearance, including the Mao suit, paunch and short-sided haircut, seems deliberately designed to make him resemble Kim Il-sung when he came to power in the 1940s.
But Kim Jong-un’s public image gives little indication of the political and economic policies his regime will follow.
On Monday the spin-masters of the GOP will try to re-brand and sell Mitt Romney to the rubes. It will be a spectacle. At its core the effort will be very similar to the one that the elites of North Korea are using to sell their figurehead. They'll bring in the wife to soften his image and present the cipher as a fun-loving guy. They'll inflate any international travel as proof that their cipher is a master of international affairs. And of course both North Korea and the GOP will rely on promotional videos to sell their front man.
Now wingnuts will be outraged at the idea that they are relying on the same propaganda tactics to sell Mitt the Unknowable as North Korea is using to sell Kim Jong-un, but that is the way of it. Their nominee is a hollow man who's only belief is that his birth has entitled him to lead the Nation. The elites in North Korea have a similar problem. And in both cases the more you know about the leader, the Party backing them and the elites pulling the strings, the more you know that they suck. And so, you have to invent a myth for your front man and stage manage it through controlled events and spectacles.
Next week, Mitt will have his in Florida. Expect a lot of talking points and choreographed bullshit to obscure the emptiness of Romney's beliefs and policies. The wingnuts will be celebrating that their nominated rubber stamp will follow orders, but that is all you would learn from watching the GOP Convention.
Except, you would also heard about the enemy. In fact, I suspect that most of everything said at the Convention will be some form of fear mongering about that black guy in the White House. If any of them were honest, they would drop the code talking and just called the President a nigger. But they're not honest, so we can expect more birther jokes, welfare code talks and some mixture of dog-whistles that Obama is a weak negro and others to suggest that he is a gangster scary nigga--sometimes within the same sentence. All of it will be tribal and all of it aimed at goosing white anxiety about race. It has to be this way--without a big White Fear vote, Mitt is toast. They cannot sell Romney without also selling an enemy--a boogyman who is responsible for all the reasons that their policies always fail.
For Romney, the GOP and wingnuts that enemy is Barack Obama, but he is only the target of the moment. For the wingers the enemy is always some group of "others" (Gays, women with their lady parts, immigrants, young people, old people, brown people, Democrats, Liberals, workers, etc.) guilty of demanding that the elites share power. And they always present anybody who thinks that the elites should share power as an existential threat. Much of the GOP convention will be a passion play about how these groups want to destroy the White way of life. It is a show to fool the gullible, the fearful and the hateful.
This need for an external enemy is something that the GOP shares with North Korea. For Kim Jong-um and the elites pulling his strings, their existential enemy is America, capitalism, South Korea and the West. This is the boogyman they sell to their people to justify the massive failure of their policies.
While Romney holds his coming out celebration in Florida, Kim Jong-un will travel to Iran to attend his first International Conference and give a speech. Both men and the elites behind them will be presenting themselves to the world at the same time. Both will rely on spin, talking points and stage craft to say nothing while looking like a "leader". The world will learn nothing from either man at either event. Both will talk about the great "other" they face--the great enemy of their gang of elites.
For Romney it will be President Obama, his policies and everything he believes. For Kim Jong-un it will be the same enemy.