Against the Tortured Logic of Obama’s Placebo Presidency: A Call for the Audacity of Hopelessness

From time to time, events unfold that are so large in scope, so all-encompassing in their implications that one’s initial response is muted by an inability to categorize it all within the realm of experience. Previous reference points prove of little service. One’s image of oneself and one’s place in the world is under seize, perhaps even in danger of being torn away. One stare’s into the abyss, until the abyss removes its dark shades and makes direct eye contact. The mind buzzes; one’s thoughts scuttle in circles like stunned insects.

On a collective basis, we as a nation are living through such a time. At present, we are witnessing the descending spiral of Icarusian Capitalism; our sacred delusion of the perpetual ascendancy of a god-like market place lies broken in the dust. Malls and McMansions stand abandoned, desolate as the edifices of forgotten gods, as the come-ons of the salesmen of deregulated capitalism are churned to spittle amid a cacophony of collapsing market platitudes.

And not an uptick in public optimism, nor a surge of euphoria on Wall Street, nor the “invisible hand of the marketplace” sprinkling pixie dust will bring back the Olympian days of 2005, when the wise men of Washington and Wall Street knew the force of gravity was just a myth believed in by those embittered prophets of doom whose only joy in life is fantasizing the fall of their wealthy betters. It does not matter a damn how many dollars our present day believers of neoliberal tall tales, President Obama and Treasury Secretary Geithner, pour into the hole in the ground where the crash occurred, a bean stalk, twining skyward towards a golden, debt-negating goose, will not flower forth.

Fortunately, when false convictions fall, it is possible for a leveling of sanity to prevail. But there can be no more hubristic flights borne on waxen wings. No more multibillion dollar confidence scams from Wall Street. No more smash and grab imperial wars. No more tea parties for the dim and deranged. There is the banality of evil, and then there is the evil of banality. Both, the present era has produced in abundance. From about the late nineteen-seventies to the present, The United States all but ceased manufacturing products and went into the business of manufacturing marketplace hype, baseless fears, and illusionary enemies. Due to this economic and cultural derangement, a dark tower of self-imprisoning delusions has circumscribed our nation’s fate. Is it any wonder the quintessential dark lord of the darkest tower, Dick Cheney, will not exit the scene?

And what will foster real change? Not pleasing sound bites and rousing oratory from President Obama, then a continuance of many of the pernicious policies of his criminal predecessors. Conversely, the iron gates of Hell must crash closed behind us. The absence of light must grow so unbearable to us that we’re willing to ask how is it we arrived in this place and become willing to challenge our most cherished concepts about ourselves and our place in the scheme of things. That is the sort of “indefinite detention” the nation could use. What is needed is the audacity of hopelessness.

President Obama and the Democratic Congress could have ridden a wave of public discontent towards meaningful reform, but instead they have hugged the shore. And they seem to be surveying the property, scouting locations to build beach house retreats for their elitist benefactors and the militarist fantasists whose tsunami-sized arrogance wrought the present destruction in the first place.

Meanwhile, right-wing radio haters, like penned dogs, bark into the empty air of their meaningless day. Daily, we negotiate our way through the encompassing banalities and casual brutalities of soft oligarchy, as beneath it all churns the nebulous rage of the powerless that creates an audience for the likes of Beck, Hannity, and Limbaugh.

It is high season for those virtuosos of displaced anger, because not only the nation’s treasure, but its élan vital, has been squandered inflating the bubble-borne vanities of the ultra-wealthy up to the point of economic immolation. The elite have perpetrated an act of catastrophic clownishness so massive that it has left the rest of us stunned, and left to pick amid the debris of our exploded hopes. Bur hopes do not die pretty. Once dead, they do not rise like the redeemer gods of myth; instead, they stagger about, rotting and snarling like B-movie mummies. They leave us with our mouths tasting of ash. Our hearts choked by dry thistle.

Yet the buffoons of Wall Street and the killer clowns of our militarized Disneyland strut and swagger past the smoking ruins they left behind after their high-end looting spree. In their plundering, the only thing they didn’t steal for themselves was any sense of self-awareness. Or is self-awareness necessary when you’re obscenely rewarded for your narcissistic follies? What motivation would a high-chair tyrant have to modify his self-centeredness when he is shielded from the consequences of his bratty machinations? Why become an honest actor in the realm of human events when one can strut through life with a con artist’s inexplicable sense of entitlement?

And what about the rest of us? The financial elite, by means of their bagman in the Executive Branch and Congress, continue to plunder our hopes for a meaningful future byway of that legal larceny popularly known as the bailout, i.e., the latest transfer of wealth from the bottom upward. This is why the buffoonish tea-bagger types hoard their resentments. All they’ve been left with is a heap of fragmented hatreds. Those toxic baubles they shore against reality.

Tragically, when not addressed, fear and resentment will increase in intensity and can become an exponentially growing feedback loop of paranoid rage. At present, such a process has created that haunted forest of the airwaves known as right-wing talk radio. It is the voice of anger feeding off of itself, and it seems dangerously close to reaching the point of hypertrophic breakdown. It is the audio analog of a belief system in exponential decay . . . The more the rot increases in the system the more Glen Beck babbles and weeps. It is physically manifested in the cataclysmic ecosystem of Rush Limbaugh’s repulsive bulk . . . his corpulent carcass is the morbid bloat of unregulated capitalism.

Right-wing hatred is a many headed hydra that feeds on fear and desperation. It cannot be fought by attacking its spindling heads, each of its hissing mouths dripping with black poison. Instead, one must make thrusts at the noxious heart of the raging beast. But one cannot know where the heart of an external monster beats without suffering the agonies of one’s own. Accordingly, one must allow one’s heart to be broken. And don’t look to Barack Obama’s bland charm to mend it. Because the honest grief of the heart provides a point of reference, a foundation of knowledge, as to why the monster is inconsolable in its wounded fury; hence, this provides a strategic starting point as to how to fight it.

And that is why we must release the photographs of torture. Moreover, we must bring public ignominy upon the respectable psychopaths in high places who mandated these policies, plus bring a leveling of shame upon the high-flying, highchair tyrants of high finance who exploded the global economy. Our ugliness must be public like a frog. The nasty secrets must be revealed; the mortifying pictures gazed upon. Our stomachs should seize up in revulsion. The ordeal must exact such a degree of revulsion within us that we will never again allow these despicable practices to transpire on our watch.

There is a stench of putrefaction rising from beneath our feet. We must uncover the corpses laid under by empire. Being placated by Barrack Obama’s bland charm — in the same manner we were cowed by George W. Bush’s infantile petulance, amused by Bill Clinton’s brilliant, bad boy seductions, and drugged by Ronald Reagan’s stupefying 1940’s Hollywood bromides — will only defer the reckoning and render us ignorant stooges in the impersonal sweep of history. As a people, we have a choice: We can be strengthened by embracing uncomfortable truths, or we can grow enervated and enfeebled by pushing them away.

But sadly, Obama is attempting the tried and tested political trick — used effectively by Washington hacks from Watergate (“Our long national nightmare is over”) to Iran-Contra (“We cannot have another failed presidency”) — of inducing the uniquely American trait of Instant Amnesia that has, in the past, allowed the empire to stagger on, repeatedly committing variations of the same crimes, then coddling and protecting the same variety of corrupt elitists responsible, and thereby, reducing the Constitution to tatters and rendering the rule of law rubble.

But this time, the rot is too deep, the pathology too systemic. Obama’s placebo presidency will not stem the hypertrophic decay. Granted, it was good to evict the previous, psychotic tenants from the property (Although Dick Cheney seems to be stalking the place with his obsessive, media drive-bys.) but that does nothing to repair the collapsing foundation of the structure, its core eaten away by an infestation of anti-democratic termites. Rather than addressing the core issue, the deterioration of the rights and liberties granted by the U.S. Constitution, President Obama is wallpapering over the rot wrought by the national security state’s termite hive mind of authoritarian appetites, that has been, silently, and hidden by darkness, gnawing the house of state to sawdust.

Again our choice: Either open up the decay within the system to the light of day and start the process of rebuilding and renewal, or allow the republic-ravening pestilence to continue unchallenged, hence unabated, and let the nation go bughouse crazy as the house comes down around us to the strains of the insect-brain stridulations of Beck, Hannity, and Limbaugh.

Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living now in Munich, Germany. He may be contacted at: and at Facebook: Read other articles by Phil.

15 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Don Hawkins said on May 27th, 2009 at 10:31am #

    Thank you Phil thank you very much. The complex made simple for all to see. If I could I would beam this off into space.

  2. rg the lg said on May 27th, 2009 at 12:21pm #


    Your article was masterful. I enjoyed it.

    You said: “President Obama and the Democratic Congress could have ridden a wave of public discontent towards meaningful reform, but instead they have hugged the shore.”

    I disagree. No, they could not have done any differently than they did … than they have … than they are … than they will.

    It is the system … promulgated as what has become mythic in our psyche: the constitution.

    It is the system that has created the malaise. It was bound to happen. It was, is inevitable.

    Marx was right in his assessment of capitalism.

    Only collapse of the system will generate change. Not the current partial collapse … but a total, complete, ugly, blood-letting collapse.

    Whether the change is what you desire, what I desire … hopefully a good thing … or a much worse monster resembling the Orwell cast future, is the only issue.

    Thus, the alleged left, fears what it might unleash and ends up going along.

    And for all of our rhetoric to the contrary we do not act. We are victims of our own fears … no better, no worse, than the fearful ‘common man’ that is denigrated as being ignorant, duped, lied to.

    All of us prefer to be duped … to believe the myths of our exceptionalism.

    Total economic, ecological, political collapse holds a very remote possibility of something better … but it will be a near thing, if something decent emerges.

    So, while I admire your words, the sentiments and the delusions (though you dream of them as potential) are something else again.

    RG the LG

  3. bozh said on May 27th, 2009 at 2:56pm #

    rg the lg,
    partial change wld be OK. But as u say even partial change won’t happen unless there is blodletting or we succeed to educate most amers and other nationals that they are ruled by gangs or gangsters with cia, fbi, army, banksters as special units or subgangs.

    thus, under such ironclad rule by despots, only change for worse will occur. Not, of course, for the gang or its subgangs but for people which produce wealth for the creme de la creme.

    the elite had declared explicitly millennia ago: ye shal never ever govern; we are the chosen ones to guide you as yous need guidance, being lazy, stupid, unruly, uneducated rubes, etc. tnx bozhidar balkas

  4. Max Shields said on May 27th, 2009 at 6:23pm #

    What happened to the economic depression and collapse and massive joblessness…seems it was just another bad film we watch on tv along with the wars…oooopppps we don’t talk about that…the US doesn’t have thousands of missiles point all over the planet….it’s all just a nasty story some complaining nihilist doomsayer cynics keep yapping about.

  5. Tennessee-Chavizta said on May 27th, 2009 at 8:58pm #

    Obama is a zionist, imperialist and warmonger.

    Obama never intended to withdraw from Iraq. He is an imperialist and a warmonger. He talked about Iraq war being “dumb” but he funded the war over and over again. He never said anything about withdrawing the private mercenaries or shutting down US bases. In fact, he has been sending his private mercenaries to Iraq as he is sending military mercenaries to Afghanistan to expand the wars. Iraqis are calling the private mercenaries “Obama’s Blackwater”. There are as many private mercenaries in Iraq as military mercenaries, if not more. No news media, including this article, talk about what will happen to the private mercenaries.

    Why is it that people constantly make excuses for Obama that if he did not do what he is told to do, he will be killed? No one made such excuses for Bush.

    I have posted comments and links of articles in many sites, forums and bloggers about Obama, his record, his flip-flops, his eternal loyalty to Israel before he was elected, predicting all these and that he will be worse than Bush. None of this should come as surprise to anyone.

  6. Deadbeat said on May 27th, 2009 at 11:10pm #

    We all know and understand all there is about Obama — that why were here. The problem is that there needs to be a real alternative. The problem is that there is none. That is why when you bring the truth about Obama to people that they are in denial. Their reaction is due to the real basis of their gut feeling that there is no alternative. Unfortunately many people don’t see themselves as the alternative and thus want to see one that is in place. Unfortuately as the Left has not provided an alternative that can capture the imagination must less the realization of the public.

    IMO, Obama is a waste of time and energy and until the Left can show some sort of cohesiveness and solidarity there will be more Obamas and Bushes.

  7. Russell Olausen said on May 27th, 2009 at 11:42pm #

    I almost had a nervous breakdown as Obama wore the purple.Its about the same as Bush, so only Bush should have the breakdown.

  8. bozh said on May 28th, 2009 at 6:21am #

    it seems to me that US is on missions achievables. I can see only one way US invasions; oops, missions, failing: that of not using dirty bombs.
    is it either that or the US war plans were much amiss?!
    neither the Left nor the Right nor combining the two will be able to win over city police, fbi, army echelons, cia, mercenaries, in order to stop the ruling class’ present wars or to prevent future ones.

    fact is that no US war had ever been prevented let alone stopped once under way. And, i am permitted to note, there were more leftists in the past than now.

    in a fascist empire like US, even a strong ad hoc unity of the Left and the Right [let’s say, 90% of usans] might not sufice to peacefully persuade uncle sam to abandon some or most wars.
    But i dare say that at this time or in next decade or two, an ad hoc union of amers may not consist of more than 10-20% of the pop.

    i think we need 90+% enlightened americans in order to wring significant changes or to prevent/stop a war.
    in this connection, we can note that 93% of spaniards were against sending spanish troops to iraq, but fascists sent the troops anyway.

  9. Max Shields said on May 28th, 2009 at 6:51am #

    Deadbeat there are alternatives. The problem is 1) traction 2) the power of the existing system 3) the fact that some want to foist an ideological frame around it rather than deal with what is and contemplate a workable alternative world.

    A workable alternative world is one that re-positions the species within the natural order. Such a re-positioning would create the dynamics that make much of what we’ve created unacceptable (like war, and corporate monopolistic capitalism, etc.). Fundamental organizing principles are essential.

    We are not without altneratives. We are without solidarity around them. There are movements to create a federated world government. There are local sustainable movements, there are local food system movements. There are transitional movements. Green alternative movements, there are workers’ cooperative movements…and on and on.

    Most of these “movements” have common ground and can be the basis of an alternative coalition. That said, there are powerful antagonistic structures and institutions which will tear down attempts to build a real viable alternative to the existing power structure. The means are sometimes brutal and other times tactics are simply to undermine and confuse through the media what these alternatives are about, to marginalize and turn them into subversive organizations, un-American, etc.

    So, DB rather than simply railing against the Left, acknowledge what an alternative is truly up against. Obama may sound like yesterday’s news but he’s the Imperial Emperor. He is the biggest threat to an alternative because he knows how to speak “change”, how to “appease” many whose energy we need for real change and undermine a solid movement. Obama’s “smart” bait and switch unhinges the strength of a sustained movement, fragmenting it, and diffusing its impact.

    Tom Hayden just wrote a piece on how MoveOn (the faux anti-war group) has taken its 4 million Rolodex and turned into an Obama support tool for continued war. They are not alone. Even if people on that Rolodex disagree, they are fragmented and marginalized by an “organization” that says it “speaks” for them.

  10. David said on May 28th, 2009 at 7:29am #

    You can’t change something for the better unless you first understand that thing.

    I suggest that what we now face as individuals and a nation and a world is no longer understandable. All systems such as finance, governance, education, and societies in general are too complex for a sufficient number of people to understand to create workable and effective long-term change for positive solutions.

    Thus, what you get is partial fixes, opportunism, and, in Obama’s case, yakkity-yak about hope. Only children and the ignorant fall for that line of crap about hope. The rest are simply overwhelmed as they attempt to make sense about what is nonsense.

  11. Max Shields said on May 28th, 2009 at 7:36am #

    David, I would say we need first to understand what we want. If you know that, what is and how it functions can be less important and central to building from here.

    I do think that the economic system is collapsing. It is not, currently, ending in a bang, but in a “whimper” [T.S. Elliot]. That could change. Some would argue that the slide down would likely be precipitous. The forces proping it up internally requires power in the external world (beyond US borders). That is diminishing greatly. China is problematic because it is locked in a pathology of the West. It will both keep things in a status quo, but will lose its hold and with it the financial relationship with the West. The jig is up. It’s a question of when.

    But our “job” is to nurture alternatives, for the long haul.

  12. bozh said on May 28th, 2009 at 8:17am #

    well, changing the basic structure of world governance- unchanged since egyptian ascendancy- is like changing a biker or mafia gang.
    we are ruled by gangs; gangs that behave just like a mafioso or biker gang.
    a governance on national level regulates or prescribes or shld prescribe how we behave on interpersonal and int’l level.
    alas, all governances appear to be much, too much worse on in int’l relationship than in interpersonal level.

    nevertheless, it is solely the gangs that determine the traits on both levels. The main gang, like the one in US, controls its subgangs such as city policy, cia, ‘educators’, fbi, other spy agencies, mercenaries, and army echelons, banksters.
    no other ruling gang anywhere control such awesome power to the degree that US gangsters do.
    and power is the only unversal language all gangs understand and speak.

    and we’ve had such structures for possibly 20K yrs. And we have just now noted it! And not many! So far, it seems only i is saying this?

  13. bozh said on May 28th, 2009 at 8:31am #

    in a point of time there is by necessary truth only one elightenment or knowledge. From this, a conclusion arises that we cannot afford even two movements or orgs let alone a multitude.

    we cannot afford even two political parties; armed with knowledge, why wld we need two or three orgs to represent or gaurd this knowledge?

    we have perhaps on eor two thousand orgs/movements but more carnage than ever.
    but since there is an elightenment, perforce, we shld have only one org in order for it to be promulgated.

    in reality, US gangsters being one org nearly- utterly controls just that: their ‘enlightement’! tnx

  14. jude said on May 28th, 2009 at 10:32am #

    It’s over. The clowns with hatchets have manically plundered
    the Midway. They have NO idea of what they’re about/ A nation
    whose major products are; GREED – FEAR – Arrogance / is a goner.
    Millions out of work – homes – and we have lavish parties (joking)
    going on – $536 sneakers worn giving food out at a soup kitchen –
    designer clothes etc. One might think that you’d be a little low key
    amidst such suffering? Nope instead its like the newest puppets in the
    White House have just won LOTTO. They can’t show the REAL photos
    of what was done to those held prisoner ! Many who were merely shepherds, kids, business folks turned in for the $5000 BOUNTY (taxpayer money). All should be arrested for crimes that are so despicable the President doesn’t want them shown.

  15. siamdave said on May 28th, 2009 at 6:50pm #

    under ‘seize’ ? stare’s ?